When Jesus came along two thousand years ago, he really wasn’t teaching anything new. His message of repentance had already been preached by prophets for centuries. His teachings about loving God and loving people, the Great Commandment as we call it, was not a new teaching. You can trace this sermon all the way back to Deuteronomy and the Ten Commandments. The Scribes and Pharisees had been teaching sermons on these subjects for years when Jesus came along. Yet when Jesus comes along, everyone begins to leave the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees and flock to Jesus by the hundreds and thousands? So here’s my question: If Jesus’ sermons didn’t necessarily contain much new content, what made his teaching so attractive? So irresistible? We find the answer within the first few sentences of the first gospel ever written:
“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” Mark 1:22 (NIV)
In other words, even though Jesus was teaching a lot of the same content as the Scribes and Pharisees, there was something different about the way in which Jesus spoke it. When Jesus spoke, He spoke as one having AUTHORITY. When Jesus spoke, He spoke as if he really believed what He was saying. When He spoke, He spoke with conviction. He spoke with urgency. He spoke with compassion. He talked to people rather than just preach at people. He told stories that made the Scriptures come alive. He made the Word come alive between sermons by living what He taught. He possessed moral authority in His teaching. People saw a differences in the way He lived that made His teachings more attractive. What was it that made Jesus’ teaching different? AUTHORITY and PASSION. These are the two elements that Jesus brought to His teachings in a way no other of His day possessed in the same way.
Two thousand years later, I still believe these are the two most important elements of our teaching. Authority comes in the belief of knowing that God has spoken to us, and we MUST speak for Him to His people...and they must respond! Authority comes in having experiences the truths of the Gospel so deeply, we can’t help but share them and compel people to respond! Authority then produces passion. Passion is not something that’s trumped up or manufactured insincerely. Rather, passion comes out of the overflow of a clear filling of the Holy Spirit in our teaching that both convicts and liberates. E.M. Bounds called it “unction.”
“This unction vitalizes God's revealed truth, makes it living and life-giving. Even God's truth spoken without this unction is light, dead, and deadening. Though abounding in truth, though weighty with thought, though sparkling with rhetoric, though pointed by logic, though powerful by earnestness, without this divine unction it issues in death and not in life.” - E.M. Bounds
Passion and authority is the cry of our day in our teaching. However, do you know what I see? We have too many pastors who are cool, cute, and clever, and correct in their exegesis, but lack conviction. We have too many pastors who are culturally relevant and theologically accurate, at the expense of being consumed by His Spirit. Too many pastors are saying all the right things but lack the two most important things: PASSION and AUTHORITY.
Would you like for your teaching to be more attractive? Would you love to see the crowds coming to your teaching grow? Would you like for your teaching to draw more people toward Jesus and His church? You only need to focus on two things: Authority and Passion. This week, ask God to consume You with His Spirit. Stop worrying about being clever, cool, cute, perfect, or even polished. Let go. Let it all hang out. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you in new ways with His Spirit. Pray, fast, and prepare, but then step away from your notes. Step away from the pulpit. Step down to people’s level. Don’t preach at them. Talk to them. Share your heart. Be vulnerable. Speak with conviction and clarity. Speak with unction. Speak with authority. Speak with passion. If you can and will, trust me: Jesus in and through us will become more attractive to a watching world, crowds will begin to grow, and the church with it!