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Preaching Determines the Level of Faith
by Tom Brown

            As important as the Scriptures are, the actual determining factor to people’s faith is what they hear in their pulpit at church. Actually, this is what Paul meant when he wrote, Faith cometh by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). He was actually referring to the word that was preached not the Word that was written, for he writes, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14-15).

            Protestants, Catholics and non-denominational churches all use the Bible in their sermons, but you can see the difference between the churches—what they believe and practice. How is that possible? It’s possible because what is preached in the churches is more important to the faith life of the congregants than what is in the scriptures. The Bible can say one thing, but if the minister says something else, then the members will believe more in what the clergy said that what God’s Word says.

            This is why an important step to receiving from God is to be part of a church that actually teaches and practices the Word of God and refuses to add man-made tradition that could affect negatively your faith. You may come to the conclusion that every thing I write in this article is biblical, but if you go back and continue to hear sermons that undermine your faith, then eventually, the Word you receive from this piece will be uprooted.

            Much of what is taught in the pulpit is not biblical. When preachers say that tongues is of the devil, or that healing passed away, or that casting out demons were for a superstitious people, then you know the sermon is not the Word of God, and so you will not have faith to receive from God listening to those lies. Don't sit in a church of unbelief. A church is the sum total of all that is preached behind their pulpits.

            You must be like the Bereans who "were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). They did not blindly accept Paul’s teachings. They were open-minded yes! but not gullible. They "examined the Scriptures" not just a few times, but "every day to see if what Paul said was true."

            Often people think they don’t have the time or education to examine the teachings of their church, but you are responsible to believe correctly the things of the gospel. You have no excuse. You can’t argue, “But God, it’s not my fault that I misbelieved the gospel. It’s my churches fault for lying to me.”

            No! You have the Scriptures available to examine. If the Bereans, without the printing press and access to a lot of biblical material, could examine the teachings of Paul in light of the Scriptures, then so can you. Let me give you some examples how a church’s teaching can undermine your faith.

Do all Speak in Tongues?

            One religious lady wanted to argue with me about speaking in tongues. She said, “You Pentecostals all speak in tongues, yet Paul asked, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ It is clear from Paul’s teachings that not everyone will speak in tongues, so you are wrong if everyone speaks in tongues.”

            Instead of explaining the difference between tongues as a “public ministry” gift verse tongues as a “sign” of the baptism in the Spirit, I decided to approach it from another angle. I knew the denomination she was from and that they did not believe in tongues at all. So I asked her, “Well, according to your argument, there should at least be some people who speak in tongues, so how many in your church speak in tongues?” After trying to side step my question, she admitted that no one spoke in tongues in her church.

            Why didn’t anyone speak in tongues in her house of worship? They did not because they were not taught that it was a gift from God. Even though speaking in tongues is available, some will not experience it because they have not heard that it was for them.

            The apostle Paul encountered some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

            They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)

            The gift was available to them all this time, but they failed to receive because they had not "heard" that there is a Holy Spirit. Some have heard of the Holy Spirit, but they have not heard that they could receive Him in a personal way just like they received Christ, and that God would empower them as witnesses when they receive this power.    Faith comes by hearing the Word, so Paul preached the Word to them, and when they were ready he "placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all" (Acts 19:6-7). All twelve spoke in tongues. Not one failed to receive the gift. Tongues are a sign gift for all.

            Once a person receives tongues as a sign gift of the baptism in the Spirit, then they can use it in a private, devotional way in prayer.  You may never be used to speak in tongues as a public message to the congregation. If you did, you or someone else would have to interpret it so that others will be edified.

            Most praying is done privately, but there are some prayers that are public. The same is true of speaking in tongues. Some tongues are messages from God. "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God." (1 Cor 14:27-28).

            If you have a message in tongues that can be interpreted, then you may do it publicly, but if not you should "keep quiet in the church" yet, you can still speak silently to yourself and to God.

            "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1Cor 14:18). Paul spoke much in tongues, "more than all" of them, but he did not use it often in the church. This means tongues can be both a private, devotional verbal communication to God like prayer and a public message to the congregation.

            Tongues have therefore a two fold purpose: a message to the people for public edification and speaking to God only for personal edification. "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself" (1 Cor 14:4). Personal edification occurs when you do "not speak to men but to God" (1 Cor 14:2).

            I’ve said all this to show the reason people have not received the baptism in the Spirit with the confirmation of tongues. They have not received because they have not heard the Word of God that produces faith. "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" (Gal 3:5). You get the Spirit by "believing what you heard." Conversely, if you haven’t heard, you cannot receive. The lady I mentioned did not receive tongues because she was taught against it. Of course, speaking in tongues is in the Bible, but faith comes usually when we hear it taught in church.

Working of Miracles

           Paul not only included the giving of the Spirit by faith, but God’s willingness to "work miracles" because "you believe what you heard." You have not seen God’s miracle power because, like tongues, you have not heard from the Word on this topic. You might have heard despairing remarks on the subject. You might have been told to stay away from “healers”.

            You may have forgotten that "In the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing" (1 Cor 12:28). God has given some to work miracles and others with gifts of healing. It is biblical, but some doubt God’s appointed ministers.

            Where are these ministers to be found? "In the church God has appointed." I find it amazing that some could argue that miracles and healings have passed away, yet they should have considered that God appointed in the church these ministry gifts of miracles and healings. God does not just perform miracles and heal, but He has given some the ability to bring the miracles and healing to others.

            Conservative Christians will sometimes be open to the possibility that God could still heal and perform miracles, but they have difficulty believing that God could "appoint workers of miracles and those with gifts of healing." They balk at such a thought.

            Many have come into my meetings and have witness people being healed and delivered from demons, yet they are very skeptical that God should choose to use me to do them. The fact is it is God’s prerogative to put miracle workers and healers in the church. He did not ask your opinion if He should.

            I have found that only the truly believing people receive from God. Occasionally, I have seen skeptics healed, but generally the rule is that people have to believe in order for them to receive health and miracles from God.

            Here is a case in point:

            Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.

            When the Sabbath came, Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

            “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

            Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. (see Mark 6:2-6).

            Just like in our day, the people questioned a man’s God-given ability to work miracles. They could not envision Jesus, whom they grew up, with being able to do miracles. They knew Jesus. He was a hometown boy! How could he do miracles? "And they took offense at him." Because of the "lack of faith Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them."

            If the people stopped Jesus’ power to do miracles, then can not you do the same today? When you question a person’s anointing to heal, cast out demons and perform miracles, you show your doubt, and your doubt will cut them off from God’s miracle supply.

            People often question the anointing on ministers because they have not heard that God appointed in the church these officers. They know about teachers and administrators, but they have not heard about "workers of miracles" and "those with gifts of healing."

            Now that you know about these ministers, you can now have faith that God could use them to bless you. Until you know about them, you cannot have faith to receive them.

Cheese and crackers

            One of my favorite illustrations that can drive home this point is Mr. Robinson. Robinson was a man who lived in a third world country. He heard about abundance in America, so he saved up everything he could to purchase a boat trip to America. As he boarded the ship, excitement filled his heart.

            Since all he could afford was the ticket, he took along some cheese and crackers. At morning he took his cheese and unwrapped it, grabbed a dull knife and sliced a little for his stale crackers. He ate it. At noon he did the same. During dinner time he repeated the process.

            Soon the trip became tiresome. He became so hungry. Finally, he could hold it back no longer; he left his cabin and took a peek in the dinning room, where the rich passengers enjoyed ham, sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy. His mouth drooled. But after watching them eat, he went back to his cabin and began to eat the cheese and crackers.

            At lunch he did the same; he peered through the windows of the dinning room and watched in envy the people consume their meals. Succulent ham and perfectly carved roast with mash potatoes satisfied the people, but not for Robinson. He shrugged his shoulders and headed back to his cabin to eat the cheese and crackers.

            Dinner was no different. This time he got closer and actually entered the dinning room. The odor of the food took him to heaven. Oh, it smelled so good. He watched the people break open the crabs and dip the sweet meat into the savory butter. Robinson wanted to eat the food so badly, but too bad for him, that he was so poor that he could only afford the ticket.

            After the trip was over, Robinson quickly gathered his belongings to exit the ship, when the Captain noticed him, “Excuse me, sir. I make it a habit to know all my passengers by name through having a meal with them, yet I do not recall seeing you in the dinning room.”

            Robinson’s eyes fell, he blushed, “Sir, I did not eat in the dinning room.”

            “Why, did someone offend you?”

            “No, sir,” Robinson continued, “You see, I only had enough money to buy the ticket, and I did not have enough to purchase any meals.”

            The Captain looked shocked, “But sir, did you not know that the meals were included in the price of the ticket?”

            Many are like Mr. Robinson. They got the ticket of salvation that Christ purchased for them. They know one day they will cross this world into the next, but in this life they often go poor. They do not realize that the death of Christ provided not only a trip to heaven, but a wonderful banquet of blessings for us to enjoy.

            God has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5). But through neglect of the Word, many do not know that the baptism in the Spirit, divine healing, prosperity and deliverance has been included in the ticket of salvation. You are told that everything will be yours in the life to come, but for now, you must sacrifice.          

Inheritance Now  

            The Hebrew writer makes it clear, "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant" (Heb 9:15). The "promise eternal inheritance" is not simply given in the age to come, but, rather, it is given "now that Christ has died."

            Can you imagine a rich uncle dying and you hear the will read, “I bequeath my entire estate to your name, and when you die, you get the inheritance.”? Of course that sounds ludicrous. It is not your death that releases the inheritance; it is the death of the testator that puts the will into effect.

            Yet Christianity has often preached a “pie in the sky” religion: One day, when you die, you will receive all that God has for you. Notice the emphasis is on the death of the testate and not the testator. Christianity is really about the death of Christ, not of the Christian. You don’t get the inheritance because of your death, but of Christ’ death!

            The Hebrew writer continues: "In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living" (9:16). A will is in force "when somebody who made it dies", not the beneficiary’s death. You are beneficiary of Christ’ death and you receive the inheritance now, since Christ already died.

            During the time when China cracked down hard on Christians a woman took her two daughters to a house meeting. A soldier stopped them and asked the mother where she was going. She did not want to lie and yet she knew if she told him that they were going to Church then she would have been arrested and forced to reveal the location of the church.

            She wisely responded, “My brother has died, and we are going to hear the reading of the will.”

            Praise God! She knew more about Christianity than most western Christians. That is the message of the Bible. This is why in the front of your Bible it says, Old Testament and when you move past it, it says New Testament. A testament is derived from the phrase, “Last Will and Testament.” The Bible is the testament that Christ left. It reveals what He provided for you through His death.

            Good preaching behind the pulpit will reveal your inheritance in Christ.

 

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