Sunday, August 19, 2012
The Toughest Sermon To Prepare
Preparing a sermon is easy and yet it is not. It's easy because the Holy Spirit is actively helping me to prepare it. It is tough, because the same Holy Spirit is convicting me of the very things I would be admonishing others to do or not to do.
For example, the sermon that I preached last Sunday at High Praise Church. After the service, most comments from the congregation were good because it spoke to their hearts. Even Grace said it was a good sermon because it ministered to her. However, my dear wife knew the 'anguish of soul' that I had to go through just to get this sermon out. Let me explain - the sermon was about becoming a Grace Giver.
Apparently, the topic was not a problem because having been a recipient of God's grace,it should be an easy task to produce an acceptable sermon. As the sermon preparation progressed, my heart became heavier and heavier. The Holy Spirit was not telling me what to say to the congregation but was dealing with the discrepancies in my own life. Every word that I penned became sharp arrow of conviction. There were so many long pauses for prayer in between the preparation, so much so, that it took a much longer time to complete the sermon.
Being a recipient of God's grace many times over, I should be the most gracious person. The Holy Spirit showed that it was not the case - I was seldom as gracious as I should be. In many relational encounters, my inner spirit was more adversarial and not at all loving. It was warlike and lacked the ingredients for peace. It was only through self-control, social graces and the ability to mask this innate struggle that made me looked and sounded like a peace-loving person. The Holy Spirit had nothing to do with pretense and fake stuffs.
The danger of having pretended for a long time was that I somehow thought the pretense was the genuine product. It was like a story that I heard in Cambodia about the Cambodians drinking fake whisky of a particular brand for so many years that when the real whisky arrived, they rejected it.
This was not the first time that the Holy Spirit used my own sermons to convict me of sins or mistakes in my life. I remember one occasion that I had to pull off the highway so that I could weep and repent. It happened after listening to the recording of my own sermon about the difference between a 'driven person' and a 'called person'. King Saul was such a 'driven' man that he failed in fulfilling his call to be the leader of Israel. David, on the hand, was a 'called' man who took his call seriously. Even though he made many mistakes and committed serious sins, he always returned to His God for help. Acknowledgement and repentance were the first steps David took to receive forgiveness and then to his spiritual recovery. Driving that drive, the Holy Spirit revealed that my 'driven' life had to be replaced. I had wanted my church to become a mega-church that I stopped at nothing to achieve it. The Lord was not happy about aht and He wanted me to repent of that. Alone in the car, by the side of a busy highway, I sought His forgiveness.
It was because of God's grace that He allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal the present discrepancy. God had nothing to do with my pretense and wanted to remove the false display of peaceful attitude, intentions and motives. They had to be genuine or God could not do a deeper work in my life.
I should not live a lie any more. This hypocrisy had to be overwhelmed by truth. His grace and mercy provided that revelation of truth which made it impossible for me to hide behind any excuses. The light of His loving truth was powerful. It shone through every dark corner of hypocrisy and self-deception.
It was humbling but not humiliating. It was redeeming and not destructive. It a surrendering of one's will to the One whose will provides a much better proposition. It was a confession unto the grace of God and not the judgement of God.
He had reprimanded me so that I could be a better servant. He had accepted me as who I was when He saved me but now He is changing me to be like His Son. The conviction was not for the purpose of crushing my spirit but transforming it.
This overpowering experience does not mean that the Holy Spirit is done with me. No, He is not leaving me alone. Sad would be that day if He would no longer speak because I no longer have the capacity to listen. As my relationship with Him is dynamic, He will continue to guide, correct and adjust me on my pilgrimage. The journey of being more like Christ continues.
The grace provided is also dynamic and it will carry me through. This is a good feeling. I know that my Redeemer cares enough to teach and guide me. I am thankful that my experience of His grace is not just at the point of my salvation but an ongoing experience that brings joy of transformation.
"Dear friends, we are already God's children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is." (1 John 3:2)
Rev Albert Kang
20 August 2012