The Message…not the Messenger

by | 30 Mar, 2018 | 0 comments

Preach the Gospel. Die forgotten.

I don’t think Zinzendorf could’ve said it any better. 

It’s the Message…not the messenger.

The Biblical Messenger

A non-believing friend of mine was reading through the Bible, go figure. He came to me astounded at the nature of character of the people that God used, particularly in the Old Testament. He found it preposterous that God would use a philanderer, a polygamist, an adulterer, or a prostitute to accomplish His will.

In my friend’s mind, as a moral man who paid his taxes and didn’t beat his kids, God should use “good” men. What he really meant was that he himself was a “good” man, virtue by comparison.

God’s messengers are but men, fallible men.

Paul’s murder of Christians prior to his conversion is well documented. Even after conversion, we see glimpses of his sin, his flesh. He himself speaks of his own weakness and fear. (1 Corinthians 2) We see his abrasiveness, his arrogance. He not only confronted Peter “to his face” but felt the need to tell the Galatians about it. This would be the equivalent of calling out your pastor “to his face” and then bragging about it on social media.

Peter was fickle, indecisive, falsely humble, then shamed by his denial. God raised him up and empowered him to proclaim boldly, fearlessly, though we still see evidence of his weakness.

Thomas doubted.

Yet God raised each of them up, in their weakness, to deliver His message to an unbelieving world.

It’s the Message, not the messenger.

The Frailty of Men

In the Message delivered of the messenger, we see the contrast between the power of God and the weakness of men.

We see the power of God contrast with the fear of men, with the limited minds of men. Luke writes that the Pharisees were astounded when they saw all that Peter and John did. They knew that they were common and uneducated and because of this, they knew that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) Peter and John were not religious leaders, not Pharisees, not Sadducees. They were fishermen with no training, no advanced degree…but they had been with Jesus.

It’s the Message, not the messenger.

Other religious leaders measure up the same.

Martin Luther opposed the Catholic church at his own peril and spear-headed the Reformation. He even translated the Bible into German, one of the first versions in a popular vernacular. Yet, Luther maintained distinctly controversial views. His very last sermon, preached days before his death, resonated with anti-Semitism. He also struggled with mental illness: depression and anxiety and was known for being cantankerous and confrontational.

Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, preached the Gospel to thousands upon thousands over the years. Yet, he himself suffered with depression, anxiety, and obsessive guilt and shame. As he reminds us, “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

There are no mighty men of God.

There are no great men of God.

There is but a great God, who raises up men to accomplish mighty deeds in His name.

Any supposed mighty man of God would agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.

It’s the Message, not the messenger.

Validation

We want to validate a message by the messenger.

This validation is legitimate in some instances. I would never take the orthopedic advice of my friend in ministry but if my other friend, an orthopedic surgeon, recommend me for an MRI, I’d listen. His credentials as an orthopedic surgeon validate his message to me.

A lawyer in court seeks to discredit a witness and thus discredit their testimony.

Yet, we seek to apply this validation in other ways, particularly with social issues.

I cannot comment on abortion because I am a man. I’ve never been pregnant nor had an abortion. I cannot comment on racial issues because I am not a minority. My opinions on many topics hold no sway because I possess no advanced degree in the associated field.

This is a subset of the ad hominem logical fallacy.

The problem becomes when we try to validate God’s message by the messenger.

In 2005, I attended my first church in many years as a New Year’s resolution. They were between Pastors, so someone called an elder, whatever that was, gave the message. They had no pastor, no minister, no reverend…no professional. I subsequently discounted everything this man said. I validated the Message by the messenger or in this case, invalidated the Message by the same.

This is the same phenomenon that gives rise to the celebrity pastor.

I attended a friend’s church a few years ago, a mega-church satellite campus. As we sat their listening to the piped in message from the pastor at the main campus, I couldn’t help but wonder that from the several hundred folks sitting there, they couldn’t find a single man to preach the Gospel. They seemed focused on the messenger, not the Message.

It’s the same mindset that leads churches to refuse to hire a preacher without a PhD behind his name. This man could preach the wallpaper off the walls, love God and people, be an effective communicator, an organizer, an inspirer. Yet, without the validation of a doctoral degree, they discount any Message delivered by him. 

But it’s the Message, not the messenger…and thank God for that.

Validation with Purpose

The Message, the word of God, is enduring. It is imperishable. It is unchanging. It is never fading, unstoppable, good, ultimately life-changing. (Psalm 119:89, Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 13:8, Isaiah 40:8, Job 42:2, Acts 12:24)

It requires no validation.

The Resurrected Christ, the Risen King validates the Message for all time. It requires no further authentication.

And because of this, I can rest in my own frailty, my own weakness.

Every single time I stand to deliver the word of God, the Enemy whispers in my ear. “You’re not worthy. You’re not worthy. If these people only knew what you had done, they’d never listen to you. You are covetous, an idolater,” to which I respond…

I was never worthy.

It’s the Message…not the messenger.

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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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