The unavoidable fact of our utter inadequacy

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Preachers are meant to be conduits for the pure word of God. Sometimes the pipe gets dirty and what comes out is impure. Sometimes the pipe gets clogged and the truth gets impeded. Some preachers have poorer settings: trickle, fine spray, jet. I suppose gush can be healthy, if sometimes a little overwhelming. Conrad Mbewe has a delightful setting labelled 'flow.' As one brother commented, he gets a lot said without using too many words.

mountains Brasov.jpgIt was my privilege to spend a week in Romania preaching with Pastor Mbewe at a series of conferences organised by a pastor called Sorin Prodan of Providence Church, Brasov, with an organisation called HeartCry. My previous experience of Romania has been limited to occasional contact with my good friend Pastor Mircea of the Logos Baptist Church in Arad, but I enjoyed fellowship with a variety of saints in a variety of settings, from the beauty of the plains among the mountains near the town of Brasov to the faded splendour of Resita with its once-mighty factories, preaching in a town called Bocsa as well as at the First Baptist Church in Resita itself. It was a delight to see the zeal of many of these brothers for those who are lost, and their ready engagement in healthy discussions about faith and life as those seeking to be bound to the Word of God.

It should be a blessing to travel and labour with a well-seasoned man of God, and Pastor Mbewe certainly did not disappoint. For one thing, it is fascinating and instructive to watch the way that he is approached and treated, and how he responds. However, the best thing is to be able to hear the Word of God handled by a gifted man. I heard him preach several sermons through 1 Timothy 3.16 on the great mystery of godliness, and then one sermon on Psalm 51.13 on the necessity of brokenness in a true minister of the gospel.

It was the Psalm 51.13 sermon that really got me. It was an exercise in 'flow.' With measured periods and with steady cadence, Pastor Mbewe took me apart, driving home some of what had begun to settle from 1 Timothy 3. In the 1 Timothy material, I was reminded of that testimony that we can preach Christ better, but we cannot preach a better Christ. Handling Psalm 51, Pastor Mbewe explained and applied the need for a preacher to be taught in the school of repentance if he is to be a true minister of gospel grace. This came just after I had struggled to communicate much of value in the preceding session, and a few hours before I was due to preach at an evangelistic service in the evening.

But that is where Christ draws us on. The preacher's problem is not that he does not wish to preach Christ. He feels a weight of holy obligation to proclaim the Lord. What he wrestles with is his own unfitness for the task - his own unpreparedness of soul and his inability to communicate what he longs to communicate of the grandeur, greatness, grace and glory of the person of the Lord Jesus in all his saving excellence. And yet the hour approaches when he must preach, and he is found wrestling with God for a deeper and truer sense of these things in his own soul, that he may speak as a dying man to dying men, pleading with God for the sake of those hearing to give him grace and strength to make Christ known. As he preaches, he is conscious that his colours are too dull, his brush strokes lack finesse, his portrait is accurate in degree but fails to capture the full beauty and majesty of the King of kings. When he finishes, he rejoices over what he is called to do even as he mourns over how poorly he does it. Perhaps for a while he is persuaded that anyone else would be more suitable for the task than him. And yet Christ draws him on. He cannot but speak the things which he has seen and heard (Acts 4.20). And so soon he will stand up and try again, asking that if he must fail again it might at least be because he aims high and true, revelling in and weeping over the grand task and the great privilege of making Christ known, conscious that God has ordained that his own weakness is the platform on which Christ's saving strength is displayed, that his own evident need of the Saviour is one of the most powerful persuasives to others of the willingness and ability of the Lord Jesus to deliver sinners.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2Cor 2.14-17)
And so he casts himself afresh on the Lord, confessing again that the treasure is in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2Cor 4.7), feeling the awful weight and privilege of his calling, and trusting in God to accomplish what he himself cannot: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God" (2Cor 3.5).
Posted March 27, 2013 @ 5:30 AM by Jeremy Walker
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