|Volume 19 Number 3 March 2017||
Sunday afternoon, I told my grandson that I was going to have to get ready for church services. He looked at his mother in a minute and said, confidently, “Paw-Paw peech.” She replied, “Yes, Paw-Paw is going to preach.” My daughter and her husband live about 40 miles from where I preach, but they have come to worship with us for Sundays since they have been married. I thought as I heard the little two-year-old say that I was going to preach, that I am the only preacher he really hears right now. I had noticed him several times before intently staring and listening to me. It was true again Sunday night. I do not know how much of what I was saying he comprehended, but he was definitely, from time to time, listening.
As I contemplated all of this, I thought that I have a true responsibility to him, especially as long as I am about the only preacher he is hearing. The more I considered it, the more I came to the conclusion that I would be a better preacher if I always preached like I was preaching for my grandson. I want many things for that little one, but above all, I want him to go to Heaven. Maybe that is a good way for me to define “preaching the truth in love” in my own mind—preach like I am preaching for my grandson. All of this led my ever-wandering mind to a list of 10 things I want to make sure that my grandson hears from the pulpit.
1 – The Love of God and His Son Jesus. I am glad that among the songs he has learned so young are the songs, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” I want him to grow up understanding the wonderful love of the Savior and knowing He cares. If I preach like I am preaching for my grandson, I will make that clear.
2 – How Bad Sin Is. I want him to understand, through my preaching and other teaching, that sin is very, very bad, and that it matters how he lives and the decisions that he makes. He needs to understand that with sin comes punishment, even from a loving God. I must emphasize this if I am going to preach like I am preaching for my grandson.
3 – I Unconditionally Love Him, But that Does Not Make Wrong Right. He needs to know that he is loved, not based on what he does or how successful he is or any other thing, but just because he is. Yet, he must also understand that that love does not mean that when he does wrong that it is alright with me. The same, of course, is true with God. God loves the world (John 3:16), but that does not mean that He accepts wrong as if it were right. I hope that this lesson will be clear if I preach like I am preaching for my grandson.
4 – How to Overcome Sin. I want to let him to know that he can overcome sin by hiding the Word of God in his heart (Psalms 119:9, 11). He needs to know it is a battle, but he can win by being faithful to God. My prayer is that if I preach like I am preaching for my grandson, it will help others overcome sin.
5 – How to Become a Christian. I do not want that precious little one to grow up without a full and sound knowledge of the scriptural plan for becoming a Christian. I want to be sure that he can never claim he did not know what to do after hearing Paw-Paw preach. I am cheating others, just as I would him, if I fail to teach this lesson. That is not how I want to do my grandson or anyone else to whom I may preach.
6 – That Christianity Is a Life, Not Just a Hobby. I want this little fellow to understand that he has to give God all or nothing. Too many think of Christianity like a hobby, “I will take part in it when I have time.” Beyond the preaching, of course, my grandson needs to see grandparents and parents who are showing him a life that is Christian in all its aspects. It is not meant to be harsh, but the fact is that I need to tell others as I would tell him, if you are not willing to give yourself fully to God, then you are wasting your time and God’s time, too.
7 – To Love. I believe that one learns to love. A child learns it from his parents (and grandparents). A person learns it by seeing it practiced. I also believe that it is necessary for me to show him by my preaching that we must love others, both by the content of my preaching and by the attitude of my preaching. He needs to know that anyone who has not learned to love will neither fit in nor be fit for the home in Heaven that God has promised to His own. May I demonstrate love and teach love from the pulpit to my grandson and to all who hear me preach.
8 – That There Are Good People Who Love Him and Will Help Him Go to Heaven. He needs to learn to seek out the kind of people that will help him instead of hinder him, and who will love him in “deed and truth” and not just in pretense. He needs to know that the companions he chooses can affect his eternity. That is a message I must make clear if I am preaching as if for my grandson.
9 – That All of Life Will Work Out Well in the End—for Those in Christ. He needs to know that he has a victory guaranteed if he serves the Lord. He needs to know that the bad times, the hard times and the times that he will not understand why they are happening will all work out for his good (Romans 8:28). I need to give this message of hope to those who may hear me, like I would if I were preaching for my grandson.
10 – That He Has to Choose the Path He Will Take. He has a good set of parents who love him and love the Lord. Ultimately, though, he cannot go to Heaven on their faith. He must choose his path. I hope that what he hears me preach will help him toward the right path, but I know he will have to choose. He needs to understand that there are consequences or rewards awaiting at the end of the path he chooses. I cannot choose that path for him, and neither can anyone else choose it for him. In my preaching, preaching for my grandson or whoever makes up my audience, I need to encourage one and all to take the right path by clearly and specifically pointing the way to that path. More than that, I cannot do.
I am going to enjoy this time right now when little 2-year-old Thomas says, “Paw-Paw’s car” so that he can ride in my car to hear “Paw-Paw peech.” I feel the burden of responsibility that is laid upon me to teach him well from the pulpit. I want to always feel that same burden of responsibility for all of those who may hear me preach.
The Extent of God’s Love
A lot of time discussing the Minor Prophets is spent focusing on their accusations against Israel. To be sure, there were plenty of accusations to go around for them. As we focus on the message of the Minor Prophets, it might be good to take a step away from the accusations and fix our eyes on God’s love for His people—even the ones receiving condemnation throughout the Minor Prophets. After all, from the beginning, God’s love for His people has been the backbone of everything He’s asked them to do.
Throughout Hosea’s prophecy, God’s love undergirds everything He relays through the prophet. For example, just after chiding them for their unfaithfulness, God spoke of His faithfulness and goodness toward them (Hosea 3:5). Take a look at the way the book ends. Hosea’s prophecy was hard-hitting for Israel, but God ended it with love. “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him” (Hosea 14:4). God’s anger would only be turned away from them if they would return to Him (Hosea 14:1-3), but His love for them was never-ending.
God’s treatment of Israel mirrors His treatment of us. In Romans 8:34-39 we can see how nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ. Well, nothing except ourselves. If we refuse to be faithful, God still loves us freely, but we separate ourselves from His love. In the words of Hosea, if we neglect to “return” to Him once we’ve departed, we effectively remove ourselves from the love of God. Nothing can do that to you but you. God’s love for us is always present, but it’s up to us to make sure we receive it openly by our obedience and faithfulness.