Monday, January 01, 2007

The Devil's Sermon

When I read sermons like the one below from the past, I can not help but to think of today's Evangelical condition and how closely the sermons of today's church growth movement and the on-going word-faith movement, and the new emerging church movement line up with the devil's sermon.

"I wish you to consider the devil in his own pulpit, delivering his own message. I wish you to think of him at his very best, when he brings into play all of his marvelous ability. I wish you to see him as the greatest strategist of the world, as the most consummate villain that imagination or experience has ever created. How wonderfully versatile is this devil! How marvelously subtle! So far as pulpits go, the devil has no need to trouble himself as to hospitality. Every vantage ground is his pulpit. One of the noticeable things in connection with his ministry is the fact that he always seizes upon influential and important agencies. He does not cast his power in weak places. He watches for the strategic opportunity, and always uses the important institution or the great personality.

Now when the devil mounts his pulpit what is his text? His text is this: Give the people what they want. It seems plausible. It seems reasonable. One hesitates before denying the truthfulness or of the message. Give the people what they want. Now, the devil's message is summed up in one word - "selfishness." Now, friends, there is not a more subtle or more refined message than this which the devil brings to the world today. It is the secular message of today, what is secular? It is whatever is done for yourself to the exclusion of other people, or at the expense of other people. It matters not whether it be good or bad. If your business is being conducted for your own good and at the expense of society, it is a devil's business no matter what that business may be. Whatever is unselfish is divine; whatever is not sacrificial is satanic. Whatever is satanic is secular. Now here is the devil's message: "All that man hath will he give for his life." Therefore, use all of your gifts, all of your talents, all of your accomplishments to minister to physical existence.

Now, the second part of the devil's sermon is very close akin to the first: "Use your spiritual gifts, your peculiar endowments, your faculties and powers, whatever they may be, for vulgar and spectacular ends. The people want to be surprised; they want to be startled and amazed, and then they will rally to your standard. Here is the second part of the devil's message; Hugeness is greatness. That which is startling and surprising and amazing is the glorious thing. When we come to learn that nothing is worth while, nothing is great that is not based upon an ethical foundation. I think of Calvary, with the cross of Jesus Christ on its summit, as the mightiest eminence upon which this world has ever looked. What makes it great? That which makes Calvary great is the sublime self-sacrifice expressed on that cross. This same devil said to Jesus, "Come down from the cross and we will believe you to be the Son of God." It was a temptation in another form, and yet the same temptation suggested by him in the wilderness, namely, cast yourself from the pinnacle of the temple. If Jesus had come down from the cross he would have exploited the spectacular, He would have degraded the cross into a miserable theater of the picturesque. There is nothing great except that which is moral. All else is simple vulgarity. All else is nature standing aloof from the moral interpretation placed upon nature by man.

The third division of the devil's message, and is the peroration as well, consists of the emphasis placed by him upon things divorced from all ethical significance. Seeking kingdoms, thrones, positions, promotions. These in themselves has no inherent value in it. The only meaning of any office is the opportunity which it gives you to serve your fellow man. Why seek one for itself? The difference between ambition and aspiration is this; Ambition is seeking things under the mistaken notion that they have some value in themselves. Aspiration is that fine quality of the soul, that divine insight, which enables us to see the realities behind the things. Do not let the devil's preaching allow yourself to be prostituted and dishonored but stand on the proclamation of the Gospel as the direct antithesis to all that is materialistic, to all that is spectacular, to all things without moral relationships and without ethical ignificance."

Excerpt taken mostly from a sermon called "The Devil In The Pulpit" by E. L. Powell ( 1860-1933) found it the book titled "Great Southern Preaching" edited by Charles M. Crowe, The Macmillan Company 1926

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