Pastor Shepard's most recent Sermon
Friday, July 4, 2008
Satan never wearies in his vicious and deceitful attempts to hinder the advance and progress of Christ’s kingdom amongst men. He is ever “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it” (Job1), in his relentless and unmerciful attempts to destroy the souls of men. His hunger and appetite to “devour the souls of men”, are never satisfied as he “roams about like a roaring lion” (1Pet.5:8).
Though none who bear the name and image of Christ upon their redeemed souls are spared his vicious and deceitful attacks; those who have been called to the forefront of the battle for the Kingdom of God are subject to his greatest assaults. If he can silence, or destroy, the messenger of God, he knows he gains much ground in this spiritual conflict. And though we know, as well as all saints, that his days are limited and his eternal defeat inevitable, yet, until that divinely appointed time he can wreak much havoc amongst the ranks of God’s children.
The divine exhortation to “be sober and to be vigilant” (1Pet.5), is one which every true believer must seriously and humbly adhere; Especially those men who have been divinely called and equipped to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and to “feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Yet I fear that our adversary has gained much ground against such messengers and ambassadors for Christ.
With the perils of these latter days and the danger of spiritual apathy abounding everywhere, many preachers of the Gospel have been compelled to constrict their time in prayer, study and oversight of God’s church. Driven from their studies, where they should be giving themselves to prayer and to the study of God’s most Holy Word, they are constrained to spend much time “entangling themselves in the affairs of this life”; thus entering the pulpit unprepared to equip God’s children with those divine truths necessary for their walk and fellowship with God.
Our great adversary realizes that if he cannot totally silence the pulpit, he can cause much devastation and havoc by weakening its voice. And when the message from the pulpit is weakened by lack of quality prayer, mediation and study of God’s Word, God’s people become spiritual weak and frail. Unable to sufficiently “put on the whole armor of God”, they find themselves to weak to resist his temptations and suffer under his fiery darts.
If it is “the engrafted word which saves our souls” (James 1), then only when that same Word comes from the pulpit with great fervency and unction of the Holy Spirit, shall it ever truly be engrafted deep enough into our often cold and indifferent hearts. And it is only when that same blessed Word of God has first been engrafted into the heart of the messenger himself, that he shall be enabled to preach it with such fervency and unction of the Holy Spirit.
And yet, though a messenger of God, his heart is no different than any other. He struggles against sin and temptation like that of all other true believers. He too, often faces a cold and indifferent heart. He wrestles with his own weaknesses and infirmities like that of all believers. He struggles often in prayer, and is greatly humbled by his own unfaithfulness and failures. The weight of the ministry, the caring of the souls which God has placed in his care, and the burden of the souls of lost men all contribute to the great weight of responsibility God has laid upon him.
He trusts not in any vainly believed merits of his own, nor does he believe that the success of the Gospel, the preserving of the church and even the saving of men’s souls are dependent upon him, or his ministry. But, the divine calling which God has wrought within his heart has created such a great burden for the glory of God, the edifying of the saints and the salvation of men’s souls, that he, in some strange and mysterious way, shares the burden of His Master as if it were his own.
To such a work, one must give himself wholeheartedly and continually. To “entangle himself with the affairs of this life” will only prove to make him unprofitable and unable to glorify God by successfully equipping God’s saints and preaching the glorious Gospel with power and unction. May God’s people be ever in prayer that God raise up more “laborers” and that those laborers can give themselves wholly to that blessed and divine calling. For if the pulpit become weak and unsound, then the adversary will have greater success against the saints of God.
These thoughts do not exclude or ignore the sovereignty of our God, but merely stress the responsibility of man. These two go hand in hand and should never be separated by our inability to see the compatibility and harmony of them working together. The church of God must awake and see the perils which confront her today, and strengthen the hands of those by whom God has ordained to edify, equip and strengthen her; for though Christ Himself is the Cornerstone, it is upon the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” which she is built, that being the Word of God.
And if “faith cometh by hearing (preaching), and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), then let the voice of the pulpit be strong, fervent and lively, for our hearts are often so cold and indifferent. Let not the trumpet give an uncertain sound, for who shall then prepare himself for battle? (1 Cor 14). But let it give a certain and strong sound, for then God’s church shall be fully equipped to glorify God, seek sinners, edify one another in love and resist the devil by that faith which comes from the truths of God.
May God be honored and glorified in strengthening our pulpits with faithful, diligent, humble and devoted men. And may the church of God be committed to support, encourage and ever intercede on their behalf.
Friday, June 6, 2008
It is no secret to the diligent student of God's Word that the church of God is suffering under the famine from which the prophet Amos speaks. Throughout our country we can find the Word of God being preached everywhere (whether in pretence or truth only God knows), and yet, one cannot deny the manifestations of such a spiritual famine of "hearing the words of the LORD".
Spiritual apathy, indifference and worldliness have greatly infiltrated the ranks of God's elect, and have brought great spiritual famine upon many. They march to Heaven, yet with little effort and zeal. They attempt to sing the songs of Zion, yet, their voices are weak and frail. They pray, yet their prayers are but sounding brass.
Beloved, this terrible famine is upon us, and if God be not pleased to turn our captivity and heal our land, we shall all suffer under the torments and agonies which come from such spiritual famine. What! To listen to God's precious Word and yet NOT TO HEAR its truths? Not to know of its power, as of days gone by, when it ravished our hearts and filled our souls with great delight and joy!? Not to hear the voice of my Beloved, as He speaks to my heart through His Word? To lose the comfort of the Spirit of God as He guides me into all truths and reveals to my heart the things of Christ!?
Is this not reason enough to bow our hearts and our souls before God and pray that He might spare us from such an agonising and fearful famine? Do not our hearts tremble at the thought of losing those precious impressions of Christ upon our hearts and having nothing but the dredges of this evil world and our own sins to feed upon? What horror! What devastation! What sadness!
Oh Beloved! We have great need of the Spirit of God to stir up our hearts to seek God! God is sovereign and no man can stay His hand or give Him counsel. Yet, He Himself has ordained prayer, repentance and confession as divine means for His children to return. These are not gifts or merits of our own, but divine virtues and graces imparted into every true believer at conversion. To these divine means must we flee, for each is anchored in the Author and finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ! Each of these divine means has its effectual power in the perfect redemption of Jesus Christ and therefore are honorable and accepted before the Father!
Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
Three times in this Psalm (as though speaking to the Godhead three) the Psalmists humbly confesses that unless God turns us (for the hardness of our hearts make us unable to turn ourselves), and cause His face to shine (enlighten our hearts and our minds again to His blessed favor and unmerited grace), we have no hope. Yet, that faith (which is a gift of God) would work mightily in the humbled and contrite heart of the Psalmist, as he cries "and we SHALL BE SAVED"!
Let us greatly lament the great indifference of our hearts and the spiritual apathy which has so influenced our ambition, zeal and devotion for Christ. And let us pray that God would turn us and cause His face to shine upon us; for then shall we be saved from such terrible famine, and our souls shall be renewed with fresh manifestations of His infinite mercy and grace!
May God be merciful to us and hear our prayers!
Monday, March 31, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there the Risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I Am,
The King of glory and of grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God,
With Christ my Savior and my God.
Vikki Cook / Charitie Lees Bancroft