A sense of God and His presence

What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence...I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers)

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Two Ways to Preach

I've really been enjoying Iain Murray's two-volume biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In the second volume, Murray contrasts the preaching of the Doctor with some of the other preaching taking place in London.

Many talked about "the apparent failure of the church." In response, preachers focused their message on "the supposed well-being and happiness of the hearers. Preachers were aware of what kind of sermon the people wanted and commonly they attempted to supply it." Many proposed innovations that would lead to a new day for the church. Some fell strangely silent in the first days of the war.

In contrast, the Doctor's message did not change. He felt that the problem with his fellows preachers is that "it did not start with the Bible; it only made use of Scripture to present a philosophy of religion which was not the Christian gospel at all."

Lloyd-Jones preached a different message, as seen in this address:

First and foremost we are face to face with the fact of the wrath of God...God has decided and ordered and arranged that a life of forgetfulness of Him, and antagonism to Him, shall not be successful and happy. Cursing falls upon such a way of life. The facts of life, the story of history, proclaim the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. We have sinned against God...

It is as the idea of judgment and the wrath of God have fallen into the background that our churches have become increasingly empty. The idea has gained currency that the love of God somehow covers everything, and that it matters very little what we may do, because the love of God puts everything right at the end. The more the Church has accommodated her message to suit the palate of the people the greater has been the decline in attendance at places of worship.

This is a very good example of God-centered versus human-centered preaching.