March 3rd, 2019

Luke 4:14-21

I’ll never forget an interview I had with a search committee that was considering me to be their pastor. As the interview began, committee members asked all the usual questions. They wanted to know about my conversion, my call to ministry and my belief in the Bible. Then, after all the usual questions, one of the members said, “Brother Gene, when you stand in the pulpit to preach, do you preach with the anointing of the Spirit?

I knew what he wanted me to say. He wanted me to say, “Why of course I do!” But instead of telling him what he wanted to hear, I asked him a question. I asked, “What do you mean by preaching with the anointing of the Spirit.”

I think my question sent him for a loop because he started stuttering as he responded. “Why, ah, ah, you, you, you know what I mean. Ah, I mean when you preach, do you get all fired up?”

That’s what I thought he meant. So this was my response to his question. “Sir, I do my best to preach with the anointing of God, but I don’t believe it’s got anything to do with getting all fired up.” (I didn’t end up going to that church for some reason, but that was okay.)

Now don’t take me wrong. I know all about “fired up” preachers. My Dad was one. He was an East Tennessee mountain preacher and when it came to getting all fired up, he could smoke it with the best of ‘em. My Dad was one of those preachers with the “Holy Hiccup.” You know what I mean by the “Holy Hiccup" don't you?” After dad would work up a good sweat, he’d take off his coat and let ‘er fly like this: “And the Lord said, HA. We gonna’ shout it from the mountain, HA. We gonna’ tell it in the valley, HA. We gonna’ to climb the tree and shake the limb, HA . . . until ALL God’s people fall on their knees.”

Now please don’t think I’m making fun of those kinds of preachers. I’m not. My father was one and I believe he was anointed, but I don’t think his anointing had anything to do with his Holy Hiccup preaching.

Let me tell you something I’ve learned, and strangely enough, I learned it from my mountain-preacher dad. In his later years he taught me this truth. He said, “Gene, blazing isn’t always anointed, and anointed don’t always blaze.”

Let me say that again. “Blazing isn’t always anointed, and the anointed don’t always blaze.”

So what does it really mean to be anointed by the Spirit of God? If anointing doesn’t mean workin’ up a sweat and cuttin’ a holy fit, what does it mean?

I think the best place to ask that question is in the presence of Jesus Christ. If anybody ought to know about anointing, Jesus ought to know.

In our text today, Jesus talks about being anointed by the Spirit of God. Let’s hear what Jesus says about Holy Spirit anointing as we read Luke 4:14-21.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In this text, Jesus claims to be anointed with the Spirit of God. In verse 18 Jesus says, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach.”

Yes, Jesus claimed to be anointed, but what did he mean? Jesus explains what he meant in the rest of the verse.

Jesus went on to say, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach loud and hard until I work up a sweat. No, that’s not what Jesus said.

Maybe Jesus said, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to shout Hallelujah and jump synagogue pews. No, I don’t believe you’ll find that in today’s text either.

Listen to what Jesus said happens when the Spirit of the Lord anointed him. Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

You see, when the fire fell and Jesus was anointed, Jesus didn’t break out in some ecstatic fit. When Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God, the Spirit caused him to roll up his sleeves and serve a world in need. When Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God, the anointing sent him on mission.

When the Spirit of the God anointed Jesus he went on mission,
- to feed the poor and to visit those in prison.
- to lift up the broken and minister to the blind.
- to encourage those who were victims of a racially oppressive society,
- to proclaim freedom to those enslaved by society’s powerful.

Yes, when Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God, the anointing sent him on mission to the poor, the lonely, the broken and the oppressed, and when the Spirit of God anoints our hearts, we will find ourselves doing the same. When the Spirit of God anoints our hearts we can’t help but go on mission.

Now do you see why I said, “Blazing isn’t always anointed, and anointed don’t always blaze.”

Sometimes blazing people are anything but anointed by the Spirit of God. Take, for instance, Adolph Hitler. From what I’ve seen of Hitler’s speeches, Hitler could blaze with the best of em’. Millions of people were moved to action by his blazing, passionate oratory. Few gospel evangelists were more passionate than Hitler, and often when Hitler spoke, he used the Bible to justify what he said.

So I ask you, did Adolph Hitler get all-fire-up? You bet he did. But was Hitler anointed by the Spirit of God? No way! Blazing isn’t always anointed.

Likewise, the anointed don’t always blaze. Think about Mother Teresa. When Mother Teresa died, people from all over the world grieved the loss of this anointed woman. No one doubted Mother Teresa’s anointing, but though she was anointed, seldom did she blaze. At no time did she draw great crowds by her fired-up, red-hot oratory. People measured Mother Teresa’s anointing, not by the emotion in her voice but by the compassion in her heart.

“Blazing isn’t always anointed, and the anointed don’t always blaze.”

Now before someone misunderstands me, let me clarify what I’m trying to say. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who get all fired up with their religion. I think, for many, emotional religion is a very natural thing and The Spirit’s anointing may lead you to express your religion in some kind of emotional way. And if that’s the case, more power to you. In fact, I find myself to be one of those more emotional people, and as I said earlier, my father was a very emotional preacher, and I’m convinced he was anointed by God.

So don’t misunderstand me. I’m not condemning emotion in religion. I’m just saying that Holy Spirit anointing and emotional religion aren’t necessarily the same thing. Holy Spirit anointing isn’t evidenced by some emotional display. Holy Spirit anointing is evidenced by a person’s life of service. You can whoop and holler all day long, but if you don’t reach out and meet the needs of the lost, the poor, the oppressed and the rejected, I’m not sure your anointing is all that impressive.

While I seldom do the cooking at my house, I’m the official keeper of the charcoal grill. And for me, there’s nothing more frustrating than charcoal that never gets hot enough to do anything.

In the old days, we didn’t have self-lighting charcoal. When you’d light the charcoal you’d have to use lighter fluid. When you’d first put a match to the fluid, the charcoal would burst into a spectacular blaze, sometimes 4 or 5 feet into the air. But charcoal chefs know that a big blaze doesn’t mean a thing. Sometimes after the big blaze goes out, all you’ve got left is lukewarm coals.

Master charcoal chefs are always more impressed with steady, glowing embers than they are with a sky-high blaze. Glowing embers get the job done. A sky-high blaze is often nothing more than a show. In the end, what really counts is getting the job done. If the charcoal doesn’t get the job done, it doesn’t matter how high it blazes.

The same is true when it comes to the anointing of God. People who are anointed by the Spirit of God are those who get the job done. Oh, sometimes when God touches us with his spark, we spontaneously burst into a sky-high blaze and people crowd around so they can watch us burn. But the Master is not nearly as impressed with the sky-high blaze as he is with the folks who become the steady, hot coals. These are the truly anointed, not because they once blazed up, but because they continue to glow.

So if you claim to have the anointing of God, show me more than just the blazing fire of your spirit; show me the work of a compassionate heart, because in the end, blazing isn’t always anointed and the anointed don’t always blaze.