In my previous blog post, I covered four ways in which an open-air preacher can be a glory thief. First, we rob God of His glory when we accept rather than deflect praise. Second, we are glory thieves when we praise other open-air preachers without referencing God. Third, we steal God’s praise when we try to solicit praise from others. Finally, we take away God’s honor when we engage in false humility. In this post, we will examine the last four actions that steal God’s glory.
5. We rob God of His glory when we take credit for conversions.
Ephesians 2:8 states that salvation is a “gift from God.” Through the preaching of the Word by regeneration of the Holy Spirit, a sinner is miraculously born again. God rips out their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh. While God has ordained men to preach the gospel so that people will be saved, our preaching does not cause regeneration. This is the Holy Spirit’s work. We rob the Holy Spirit of His glory when we boast of conversions as if we caused the person to come to Jesus. This comes out when a preacher has a running tally of conversions as if it is a notch on his belt. We must not take credit from the Holy Spirit for whom credit is due.
Our example is the unworthy servant in Luke 17:7-10. The servant who is off out in the field plowing or keeping the sheep comes in to serve his master. He provides a meal and will eat later once his master is finished. Does this servant deserve praise, honor, and glory since he is simply following the master’s orders? Jesus answers in verse 10. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” If you are preaching the gospel on the streets, then praise God! However, you are simply following our Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations. I praise the Lord for your faithfulness, but it is the Lord who should be glorified.
When you are tempted to be puffed up with pride for the conversions in our outreaches, remember our Lord’s words from John 11:4. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus allowed Lazarus to die so that He would be glorified through Lazarus’ resurrection. In the same way, Jesus allows us to participate in the salvation of sinners, so that He would receive the honor for saving the lost.
6. We rob God of His glory when we have unrighteous anger towards the apathetic.
There are few things which test the self-control of an eternally-minded man than apathy. Multitudes of people walk up and down the streets thinking about shopping, dinner, the football game, or their vacation plans. Yet, they have not considered how they will one day die and stand before the living God who is a consuming fire. When they walk by the preaching of God’s glorious Word which exalts Jesus Christ for His free offer of salvation, they do nothing. The apathetic person continues to live life as if death will never come.
As an open-air preacher, I am tempted to become irate. How is it that they will not listen? How are they so blind to their spiritual condition? How do they live as if death is a mirage? If you are like me, you may even become sick of preaching to the lethargic. You tell yourself that they do not deserve to listen to this good news. You just want to grab them and shake them out of their apathy. Has there been a time when you just stopped and packed up for the day due to your anger?
When we have unrighteous anger towards the apathetic, we forget the grace of God which opened our eyes. We rob glory from God for our conversions. We are not better than them. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” We too were apathetic towards the glorious riches of the gospel. If not for God’s gift, then we would walk by the preaching and do little more than yawn.
When we are tempted to steal God’s glory for converting us, then remember Paul’s writing to Titus. Chapter 3 and verse 3 states, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Paul never forgot that he would still be a persecutor of Christians if God did not set His grace upon him. When we preach, we must remember that but for the grace of God we would be apathetic too. When we forget this truth, we steal God’s glory from our conversions.
7. We rob God of His glory when we tell outreach stories as if they are fish tales.
As open-air preachers, we generally enjoy fellowshipping at a restaurant after completing an outreach. On several occasions, the conversation will center on a specific doctrinal issue or a personal life situation which needs counsel. However, there are occasions when preachers will compare stories from past outreaches. This can turn into a competition over who has been persecuted the most. It is like a fish story which men tell at the coffee table. They bring up fishing expeditions from the past in order to show who is the manliest or has caught the largest fish.
In a similar vein, open-air preachers do this when their stories try to boost their credibility among the brethren instead of resulting in praise for God. In 1 Peter 1:7, Peter wrote, “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” As evangelists, our faith will be tested through the trials of persecution. The details may be different, but we share in being vilified for proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. When we tell these stories, may our goal be to bring praise and glory and honor to Christ. Refuse to give into the temptation to make you the hero of the story. Instead, make Christ the hero since He protected you from the trials of persecution for His glory.
8. We rob God of His glory when we have unnecessary division.
When ministering with other brothers, there are appropriate times to divide. If a preacher has fallen into the error of Pelagianism (denying that humans are born with a sin nature), then you must part ways. If a brother refuses to come under the authority of a local church by becoming a member, then you must warn him and move on. If a preacher continues to listen to heretical televangelists despite your warnings, then you can no longer partner together. While these division are necessary, others are based upon pride, personality differences, or immaturity.
Romans 15:5-6 says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul exhorts the Romans to live in harmony. By doing so, it will lead them to glorify God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ with one voice and not many. The opposite would be true as well. When we divide over unnecessary reasons, then we are not able to glorify God with one voice. We do it with many. This robs God of the glory of seeing His servants united in praising Him. Our preferences become more important than glorifying Jesus Christ.
If you have separated from a brother, what was the reason? Was it over bad doctrine? Or did he rub you the wrong way? Were you fighting over who would be the leader of the outreach? Did you have a miscommunication which led to a dispute? Did you offer forgiveness and reconciliation? Or did you move in bitterness? If you are a younger man, did you split from an older mentor because you were tired of being told what to do? Or you did not like his methodology? Did you stop because he gave constructive feedback on your sermon? Or he told you that you should not preach until you matured in the faith by conquering certain habitual sins?
There are many wrong reasons for division but there is only one who deserves all praise, glory, and honor. As ambassadors of Jesus Christ, may we not forget that our end goal is to bring glory to our Lord and Savior. May 1 Timothy 1:17 be the cry of our hearts so that we are not guilty of being a glory thief:
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. He is a PhD student in Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.