A Waiting & Wondering Audience & The Preacher

God has blessed me with many opportunities to preach since I first sensed His calling on my life to serve Him. In villages, towns, cities and at times in other countries around the world, I have sought to “preach the Word.”

In Luke 3, we are are given an overview of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist. Primarily, it was a preaching ministry and the one drum John kept pounding was the drum of REPENTANCE.

In Luke 3:15-18 we are given an “audience analysis” and a “preacher perspective” by Dr. Luke, the author of this amazing gospel.
The Audience (a.k.a. congregation, people, listeners)
1) They were waiting expectantly. Praise God for those who come to hear God’s word and wait expectantly for God to use the feeble spokesman for the day. Where possible, I have met in pre-service prayer times, as those gathered called on God to speak through His word. I left that prayer time in eager expectation, not for my part, but in faith looking to God to illuminate our minds as the Word of GOD was to be preached.
2) They were all wondering in their hearts. People ask a lot of questions – some openly, others within the confines of their hearts. The Holy Spirit stirs up interest, convicts of sin, creates curiosity and has been testifying to these individuals who they are and who God is. In Luke 3, the people are wondering about the preacher–could he (John) be the long anticipated Messiah, the one they had prayed would come, the one still anticipated by senior saints like Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38)

The Preacher
John, anticipating their queries, publicly declares who Christ is and who he is in relationship to Christ. That’s the calling of every preacher – Preach CHRIST! The apostle Paul told one church, “We preach NOT ourselves but CHRIST and HIM crucified….” (2 Corinthians 4:5)
John contrasts himself and his ministry with that of Jesus (the Christ.)
John baptized with water, BUT JESUS would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
John may be considered powerful, BUT JESUS is more powerful.
John will preach the need for Repentance and Refining, BUT JESUS is The Refiner.
John (as cited in a parallel passage) must decrease, BUT JESUS must increase.

John rounded out his message with further words of exhortation and included the gospel as he preached. “….and preached the good news to them…..” I enjoy watching and listening to news. I read newspapers and have my favourite announcers. They are proclaimers of news….good, bad and everything in between. Gospel preachers have good news to proclaim. The good news (the GOSPEL) is God’s answer to the bad news (we are sinners.) Preachers fail their audiences when they simply become moralists and suggest that some Biblical character is worth emulating.

I close with the comments given to me as a young preacher many years ago in Northern Ontario. I had been invited to come as a guest and I chose a passage from the Old Testament. On the way out that morning, several people spoke (as is the custom) to the visiting preacher (namely, me). One young woman was very direct and God has used her comments in my life to this day. “Thanks for coming,” she started. “Thanks for preaching the Word!” she continued. “But you said NOTHING about JESUS!” Wow….I had been found out….my sermon was about Abraham but unlike the infamous C.H. Spurgeon, from the story of Abraham, I did not “make a bee-line to the cross.”

John the Baptist’s preaching….since he was more of a PREACHER than a PASTOR reminds me of the task at hand when I prepare sermons. Like John, I must know who I am, but even more importantly, who JESUS is! HE must INCREASE, I must decrease.

The painting accompanying this post is a 1634 artist’s concept of John the Baptist preaching in the desert (Bartholomeus Breenbergh).

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