Jim Cymbala: What the Holy Spirit Can Do in Your Preaching
In times like these, we need the power of God more than ever.
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Jesus said that the presence and work of the Holy Spirit resembles wind blowing in the leaves of a tree. What a perfect metaphor to describe a reality that no human can understand, much less control, but O how we long for the leaves to flutter when we preach! To that end, we spoke with Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Jim Cymbala to see what preachers can learn from his new book "Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit" (Zondervan, 2012).
PreachingToday.com: Why do preachers and their congregations need to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit?
Jim Cymbala: Christianity is in decline in America. A radical evaluation is needed of what we are doing and how we are going to turn the tide. That will require preaching that wins souls, brings glory to God, and strengthens believers to go out and share Christ. There is no hope without the Holy Spirit coming. Call it revival, call it renewal—I'm not talking about emotionalism or fanaticism—but something has to happen, and that something has to be from God's only agent on earth: the Holy Spirit.
Your book says the Holy Spirit is the forgotten member of the Trinity and the least preached about member of the Trinity. How should a pastor correct that deficiency?
It starts with time alone with the Lord to see where we are with the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit producing fruit in our lives? Is our preaching singed by his fire-like presence? In Jeremiah 23 the Lord says, "Is not my word like fire?" Without that fiery influence that burns and penetrates and removes dross and sin, our preaching is futile.
So it has to start with our walk with the Lord. Are we filled with the Holy Spirit? Are we being controlled by the Holy Spirit? Have we humbled ourselves before the Lord and let him work in us? The hardest part of the sermon is what God has to do in us, so that we can go up and preach with moral authority and spiritual power. Three points and a conclusion is not hard to do; what's hard is having a message that penetrates and gets rid of the junk that God wants to deal with.
That has to start with the minister, and then the Lord will lead. There is no formula; there is no paradigm. Everyone has their own way of preaching, but it starts with us: God, send the Holy Spirit and work in my life in a new way so that my church and my preaching resembles the kind of preaching in the Book of Acts.
So it is not enough just to pull out a systematic theology and preach on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
We have to preach about the Holy Spirit, obviously, but that can become merely intellectual. You can have correct doctrine about the Holy Spirit and not have him within a hundred yards of the church, it would seem.
So yes, preach about him. What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit? What were the promises? How could Jesus say, it's better for you that I leave? The disciples thought, No way, Rabbi. You're our teacher. You walk on water. You heal everyone. You always know what to do. It's better for us that you go?