The voice of the mind must never be confused with the word of God!


I listened to an erudite TV ora-tor speaking from the prestigious pulpit of a well-known church. He had lots of words but no meaning – great know-how but no know Him. Not once did he mention Jesus, His cross, or the resurrection!

Spurgeon admonished his students that when they mounted the pulpit they should hastily climb the hedges and span the ditches until they brought the people face to face with Christ’s cross. Years ago, I determined that words slung together are not worthy of the name sermon if they do not speak of Calvary’s cross.

The voice of the mind must never be confused with the word of God. “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight” (Prov. 3:21). Too many congregations are fed a weekly helping of the thin gruel of psychobabble with a cute turn of phrase for dessert. Worse, do we know the difference?

A father wrote about sending someone to pick up his children. The father had protected his children from danger by giving them a prearranged secret family code word. He passed the word along to the appointed chaperone so that the children would recognize that this was someone with authority. Then dad’s phone rang. Junior, refusing to go because the stranger had the wrong password, wanted to speak to his dad.

“Dad, she doesn’t know our password! She said it’s little blue Elmo.”

“That’s what I told her, Son.”

“But that’s not the password, Dad.”

“What’s the difference, Son?”

“Dad, you need to learn your colors. Elmo is not blue. He’s red! The blue one is Cookie Monster!”

Often our struggle is not so much against pure heresy as near heresy, those “little foxes” as Solomon calls them that ruin our blooming vineyards (see Solomon’s Song 2:15). That’s where discernment makes all the difference. Our credibility as preachers can stand or fall on the smallest of details. (see 1 Cor. 2:14).

Spiritual discernment is a God-given gift for the people of God and it must begin in the pulpit. Ask God to help you discern between truth and near-truth and leave psychology to the psychologists. Preach the cross on which the Prince of Glory died, again and again. It’s a message with no equals!

Robert Leslie Holmes is pastor of Pittsburgh’s First Presbyterian Church and a Contributing Editor to Preaching. He may be reached at

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