The Spirit’s presence when we preach is more than an attractive option. Moreover, the Spirit is not the sole property of preaching’s often fanatical fringe. Instead, He—the Spirit is a Person, not an It—is an imperative part of any sermon worthy of the name.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified” (Isa. 61:1-3).
There, in one paragraph, is Isaiah’s justification for being a preacher. Then, in case we missed it in Isaiah, Jesus took up Isaiah’s words in His first temple sermon in Luke 4:18-19.
The apostles, too, were empowered by the Holy Spirit; and on Pentecost we read that those who heard them preaching, “were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?'” (Acts 2:7-8).
Paul recognized this personally, as each of us must personally. To the Corinthians he wrote, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:5-6). Are you listening, dear preacher? “God…has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.” If that was true for Paul then surely it must be true for us. Is it not time we gave up control and invited the Holy Spirit to sit in the driver’s seat and take the wheel?
A sermon without the Spirit never will be effective long-term. Only when we open our lives to His lordship and His leadership can we hope to be what we surely all dream to be for Jesus’ sake.