The Roman Road and the Romance of Words

The Roman Road and the Romance of Words

reblogged from: Posted by Ravi Zacharias on August 11, 2015

In our time, the story goes on as means change and the battle rages for the ends. Our calling matters. An imagination that runs away from reality too often and too far will run out of the means of generating awe within the soul. That yearning cries out from within, and who our teachers will be will shape our longings and our fulfillment.

Romans-road-and-romance-of-words-webYears ago I remember an event that was a landmark moment in human accomplishment: watching and hearing the American astronauts’ voice after they went round the dark side of the moon. The best description was made by one who captured the moment from earth. I can’t remember who said it, but I was young enough to immediately memorize it: He spoke of watching earth rise “garlanded by the glistening light of the sun, against the black void of space.” ‎What an awe inspiring description. That was real, and that is language befitting the sight. A few short years ago, two astronauts visited us at our office and presented me with a framed picture of their flight into space and a CD of one my messages that the pilot had taken with him to listen to during his time in space. I so treasure that gift, just to think it floated in a spaceship for days. It is overwhelming to think of the incredible strides science and technology have made. The world spins with new thought patterns and capacities.

I thought of all this just a few hours before writing this. Why? I did a first in my life. I watched two movies on the same day. As one who may go to just one movie a year, this was a landmark for me. While in Jakarta, on an off day from writing, a friend took me to see them. The first was a Chinese film based on a true story called “Little Big Master,” about a small elementary school in a village of Hong Kong. The school had been built in 1950 but was dying four decades later, reduced to five students, and if one more student was lost the city council was going to shut it down. A young woman with a burden for children’s education applied for the headmaster’s position and was determined to save the school. The family life from which these children came brings emotions to the surface. The stirrings are deep, the story riveting, the production very simple, at times almost amateurish. But people in the theater were not hiding their tears. I was also profoundly moved. Without giving it all away, the school still stands today. The teacher’s simple testimony was that it was her calling. She had to do it at all costs. And the cost was huge for her. The postscript told us that she is still the headmaster there today.

It brought back memories for me because when I attended school growing up in Delhi it was all in tents. I was a terrible student but my teachers saved the day for me. I am so indebted to so many, principally my mother, and then, more educated and intelligent friends, my culture, and in the years to come, my professors and books: Norman Geisler, Carl Henry, John Warwick Montgomery, John Stott, J.I. Packer, Gleason Archer, and Kenneth Kantzer among many others. What memories, what power in their dedication and teaching. Once I started traveling, books became my instructors: Muggeridge, Chesterton, Lewis, James Stewart, Os Guinness (now a colleague), G. Campbell Morgan, F.B. Meyer, F.W. Boreham, etc. I learned, I memorized, I repeated, I transmitted. Today my soul has been shaped by my teachers. Nostalgically, I wish I could return to school. But the high-noon of youth is gone. My only regret is that I wish I had not just memorized what I learned but put it down in written form so that I could recover it with precision when needed … although with the recent flood in my study when we were away, I would have lost it all anyway. Thirty years of notes were washed away. A huge loss. How we learn and from whom we learn shapes our thinking. How we store and how we preserve are equally important.

The second movie I saw was “Mission Impossible.” Thankfully, the title confessed the strained credulity required to enjoy it. Here there were no tears, just brilliant drama and the impossible made scintillating. The genius of cinematography is the winner here, not the reality. (This also took me back to my youth. Indian movies specialized in the impossible made spectacular, such as one storyline where the Taj Mahal was stolen every night and returned to Agra the next day.) When we left the theater, the thirteen-year-old with us captured the story better than I did. I would have to see it two or three times to get it all. But for the young man it was another day at the movies. To him, this is the astronaut’s voice. Technology and science have reshaped the mode of instruction. The young can look beyond the story to the medium, and the method becomes the genius.

In the first movie it was the person. In the second movie it was the means. The world has changed. The “garlanding of the earth” is not romantic enough; rather, the bright lights of technological genius hold us entranced. What I lost by losing my notes may never be lost with the movies. The one lifted us above the clouds; the other brings what’s in the clouds to us. But one wonders whether a few years from now we may not even need to go to the movies. Will there be implants in the brain to rewind or fast forward? Who knows!

The Roman road and the medium of a common language have both changed, to say nothing of the romance of words. Alexander the Great is not needed to conquer the world and bring unity in diversity. The visual world has done that. But there was another difference between the two movies that is timeless. In the first movie there was a real hero who lived and worked with health-sacrificing dedication to win the soul of a generation. In the second movie the nail-clinging strength of an actor holding on to a plane about to take off is a reshaping of the imagination. Both have their place. But there is a difference. In the first, there is the strength of values that works through the darkness to change the future. The second was changing the future without presenting any corrective to the darkness within. Granted, that was not the purpose. For technology, maybe that is the real Mission Impossible. But there is a world of power within those means. Chesterton reminded us that God is like the sun: you cannot look at it. But without it you cannot look at anything else. As our means improve, our ends had better stay noble.

Therein lies the deeper difference behind the two stories. In the second, the ends justified the means. In the first, the means had to justify themselves. In our time, the story goes on as means change and the battle rages for the ends. Our calling matters. An imagination that runs away from reality too often and too far will run out of the means of generating awe within the soul. That yearning cries out from within, and who our teachers will be will shape our longings and our fulfillment.

And oh yes, I must add a footnote. I wonder what the actors were paid for that performance? Frankly, I don’t begrudge them that. They entertain the masses. But I know the answer to this from the story itself. The teacher’s salary at that school was so meager that she was nicknamed by the amount of her salary. And her job included janitorial responsibilities because she was the sole employee. We pay handsomely to be entertained. As for our teachers? I shall not comment because it won’t make for a happy ending. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. For where our treasure is‎, there our heart will be also.

Measuring Greatness

Without rigorous examination of our hearts, we won’t be able to discern whether we are pleasing our Master or following an inner longing for validation.

The prophet Jeremiah addressed this question directly: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go” (Jeremiah 45:5). Jeremiah makes clear that God’s measurement of greatness is much different from the world’s. Note that he doesn’t say, “Do not be great. You’ll get spiritual brownie points for false humility.” No, as Jesus Himself says, greatness is measured in how well we serve others.


by Gary Wilkerson | August 10, 2015

John the Baptist would not let himself be distracted from leading a life of great consequence.

The gospel of John tells us, “A discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness — look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him’” (John 3:25-26, ESV). John’s followers were speaking of Jesus. Evidently they had theological concerns about Him. Maybe they had heard about His miracle at Cana and thought He had mishandled the cisterns.

John wasn’t going to be distracted by the debate. He knew that something greater than doctrinal sticking points was at stake. He answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). In other words: “Can someone work a miracle like this if he hasn’t been sent by God? That kind of power comes only from heaven.”

What John says next is powerful: “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ . . . He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28, 30). John’s focus in life was clear; his holy calling was centered completely on Jesus. For that reason John the Baptist was known as a great man.

The problem for many of us today, in our success-driven culture, is that we seek great things for ourselves. Well-intentioned ministers seek to build a Twitter following. Christians want to be heard even if it means having fifteen seconds of stupidity on YouTube. We may convince ourselves we are pursuing things for God, but is Jesus really our focus? Without rigorous examination of our hearts, we won’t be able to discern whether we are pleasing our Master or following an inner longing for validation.

The prophet Jeremiah addressed this question directly: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go” (Jeremiah 45:5). Jeremiah makes clear that God’s measurement of greatness is much different from the world’s. Note that he doesn’t say, “Do not be great. You’ll get spiritual brownie points for false humility.” No, as Jesus Himself says, greatness is measured in how well we serve others.



by Michael Catt on October 21st, 2013

The following is an excerpt from Oswald Chambers about preaching from his book Disciples Indeed (1958, 2002; Marshall, Morgan & Scott). His words are penetrating and insightful. “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5)


A personal testimony feeds you from hand to mouth; you must have more equipment than that if you are to preach the Gospel.

The preacher must be part of his message, he must be incorporated in it. That is what the baptism of the Holy Ghost did for the disciples. When the Holy Ghost came at Pentecost He made these men living epistles of the teaching of Jesus, not human gramophones recording the facts of His life.

If you stand true as a disciple of Jesus He will make your preaching the kind of message that is incarnate as well as oral.

To preach the Gospel makes you a sacrament; but if the Word of God has not become incorporated into you, your preaching is “a clanging cymbal” (rv); it has never cost you anything, never taken you through repentance and heartbreak.

We have not to explain how a man comes to God, instead of bringing men to God, that hinders; an explanation of the Atonement never drew anyone to God, the exalting of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified does draw men to God (see John 12:32).

Remember, you go among men as a representative of Jesus Christ.

The preacher’s duty is not to convict men of sin, or to make them realize how bad they are, but to bring them into contact with God until it is easy for them to believe in Him.

No man is ever the same after listening to the truth, he may say he pays no attention to it, he may appear to forget all about it, but at any moment the truth may spring up into his consciousness and destroy all his peace of mind.

The great snare in Christian work is this—“Do remember the people you are talking to.” We have to remain true to God and His message, not to a knowledge of the people, and as we rely on the Holy Spirit we will find God works His marvels in His own way.

Live in the reality of the Truth while you preach it.

Most of us prefer to live in a particular phase of the Truth, and that is where we get intolerant and pigheaded, religiously determined that everyone who does not agree with us must be wrong. We preach in the Name of God what He won’t own.

God’s denunciation will fall on us if in our preaching we tell people they must be holy and we ourselves are not holy. If we are not working out in our private life the messages we are handing out, we will deepen the condemnation of our own souls as messengers of God.

Our message acts like a boomerang; it is dangerous if it does not.

A good clear emotional expression contains within it the peril of satisfactory expression while the life is miles away from the preaching. The life of a preacher speaks louder than his words.

There is no use condemning sensuality or worldly-mindedness and compromise in other people if there is the slightest inclination for these in our own soul.

It is all very well to preach, the easiest thing in the world to give people a vision of what God wants; it is another matter to come into the sordid conditions of ordinary life and make the vision real there.

Beware of hypocrisy with God, especially if you are in no danger of hypocrisy among men.

Penetration attracts hearers to God, ingenuity attracts to the preacher. Dexterity is always an indication of shallowness.

A clever exposition is never right because the Spirit of God is not clever. Beware of cleverness, it is the great cause of hypocrisy in a preacher.

Don’t be impatient with yourself, because the longer you are in satisfying yourself with an expression of the Truth the better will you satisfy God.

Impressive preaching is rarely Gospel-preaching: Gospel-preaching is based on the great mystery of belief in the Atonement, which belief is created in others, not by my impressiveness, but by the insistent conviction of the Holy Spirit.

There is far more wrought by the Word of God than we will ever understand, and if I substitute anything for it, fine thinking, eloquent speech, the devil’s victory is enormous, but I am of no more use than a puff of wind.

The determination to be a fool if necessary is the golden rule for a preacher.

We have to preach something which to the wisdom of this world is foolishness. If the wisdom of this world is right, then God is foolish; if God is wise, the wisdom of this world is foolishness (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Where we go wrong is when we apologize for God.

If you are standing for the truth of God you are sure to experience reproach, and if you open your mouth to vindicate yourself you will lose what you were on the point of gaining. Let the ignominy and the shame come, be “weak in Him.”

Never assume anything that has not been made yours by faith and the experience of life; it is presumptuous to do so. On the other hand, be ready to pay the price of “foolishness” in proclaiming to others what is really yours.

People only want the kind of preaching which does not declare the demands of a holy God. “Tell us that God is loving, not that He is holy, and that He demands we should be holy.” The problem is not with the gross sinners, but with the intellectual, cultured, religious-to-the-last-degree people.

All the winsome preaching of the Gospel is an insult to the Cross of Christ. What is needed is the probe of the Spirit of God straight down to a man’s conscience till his whole nature shouts at him, “That is right, and you are wrong.”

It is the preacher’s contact with Reality that enables the Holy Spirit to strip off the sophistries of those who listen, and when He does that, you find it is the best people who go down first under conviction.

A great psychological law too little known is that the line of appeal is conditioned by the line of attraction. If I seek to attract men, that will be the line on which my aggressive work will have to be done.

To whom is our appeal? To none but those God sends you to. You can’t get men to come; nobody could get you to come until you came. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Many of the theological terms used nowadays have no grip, we talk glibly about sin, and about salvation; but let the truth be presented along the line of a man’s deep personal need, and at once it is arresting.

Some of us are rushing on at such a headlong pace in Christian work, wanting to vindicate God in a great Revival, but if God gave a revival we would be the first to forget Him and swing off on some false fire.

“ . . . not slothful in business,” i.e., the Lord’s business. Don’t exhaust yourself with other things.

Beware as of the devil of good taste being your standard in presenting the truth of God.

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:16); that is the way we do know men—according to our common-sense estimates. The man who knows God has no right to estimate other men according to his common-sense judgment, he has to bring in revelation facts which will make him a great deal more lenient in his judgment. To have a little bit only of God’s point of view makes us immensely bitter in our judgment.

Beware lest your reserve in public has the effect of God Almighty’s decree to the sea—“Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” I have no business in God’s service if I have any personal reserve, I am to be broken bread and poured-out wine in His hands.

If you are living a life of reckless trust in God the impression given to your congregation is that of the reserve power of God, while personal reserve leaves the impression that you are condescending to them.

We should give instruction unconsciously; if you give instruction consciously in a dictatorial mood you simply flatter your own spiritual conceit.

Have you never met the person whose religious life is so exact that you are terrified at coming near him? Never have an exercise of religion that blots God clean out.

Remember two things: be natural yourself, and let God be naturally Himself through you. Very few of us have got to the place of being worthily natural, any number of us are un-worthily natural, that is, we reveal the fact that we have never taken the trouble to discipline ourselves.

Don’t be discouraged if you suffer from physical aphasia, the only cure for it is to go ahead, remembering that nervousness overcome is power.

Beware of being disappointed with yourself in delivery; ignore the record of your nerves.

Learn to be vicarious in public prayer. Allow two rivers to come through you: the river of God, and the river of human interests. Beware of the danger of preaching in prayer, of being doctrinal.

When you preach, you speak for God, and from God to the people; in prayer, you talk to God for the people, and your proper place is among the people as one of them. It is to be a vicarious relation, not the flinging of theology at their heads from the pulpit.

Always come from God to men; never be so impertinent as to come from the presence of anyone else.

How do interruptions affect you? If you allot your day and say, “I am going to give so much time to this, and so much to that,” and God’s Providence upsets your time-table, what becomes of your spirituality? Why, it flies out of the window! It is not based on God, there is nothing spiritual about it, it is purely mechanical. The great secret is to learn how to draw on God all the time.

Whenever you are discovered as being exhausted, take a good humiliating dose of John 21:15-17. The whole secret of shepherding is that someone else reaches the Saviour through your heart as a pathway.
Beware of making God’s truth simpler than He has made it Himself.

By the preaching of the Gospel God creates what was never there before, viz., faith in Himself on the ground of the Redemption.

People say, “Do preach the simple Gospel,” if they mean by “the simple Gospel” the thing we have always heard, the thing that keeps us sound asleep, then the sooner God sends a thrust through our stagnant minds the better.

If any man’s preaching does not make me brace myself up and watch my feet and my ways, one of two things is the reason—either the preacher is unreal, or I hate being better.

A joyous, humble belief in your message will compel attention.

Sermons may weary, the Gospel never does.