A few of us have listened to the following sermon you put on the internet. Now we have also discussed it and drawn up an analysis of it. We thought you would like to see the pros and cons of this sermon you delivered. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
Mr. Keys, Streams, The Devil’s got your Address.
Summary: (He begins with a story, and speaks generally on the kingdom of God.) You should be ashamed if the devil doesn’t know your address. When he has your address, you can expect some hate mail. (The text is 2 Kings 18. He gives a little history to set the context. He’s on the topic of Hezekiah and Sennacherib.) “Sennacherib—sounds like a fast food, doesn’t it? I’ll have one sennacherib and a side of fries.” Sennacherib set his eyes on Jerusalem. (He quotes Byron here.) The devil had Hezekiah’s address. He had a message for him. (He reads from the chosen text.) Paul says these Old Testament stories are for examples to us. Sennacherib means ‘man of sin.’ He is a picture of our enemy, the devil. Hezekiah is like the Christian in the kingdom. The devil will oppose the Christian. He will tempt, slander, rob, and afflict. Don’t blame the devil for things you do to yourself. “If you live on hamburgers, don’t blame the devil for your heart attack.” But when you become a reformer, like Hezekiah, the enemy will come against you. He that is in you is greater. We need to be aware of the devil’s schemes. Messages the devil will send us when things get tough: (A) He will try to shake your confidence in God (verse 19.) Jesus said you would have tribulation in this world. And so when that happens, the devil will send you a message. When you lose your job, or get sick, your confidence will be under attack. The devil will then say that you can’t trust God; your faith is useless; you might as well give up. The devil’s native tongue is the lie. He has liarera. It’s okay to laugh. ‘I have overcome the world,’ says Jesus. (B) He’ll tell you that God is the cause of your troubles (verse 25.) You’ve blown it, so God is doing this to you. “He sent you cancer so you can grow. Christians have been swallowing that one, hook, line, and sinker for years.” The devil sends this message so you’ll distance yourself from God. (C) He’ll brag about others that he has taken down (verses 32, 33.) Look at the televangelists and marriages I’ve brought down. I’ll do this to you. (D) When intimidation doesn’t work, he’ll cut you a deal (verse 31.) A little lie can get you out of this financial mess. Just tone it down, and I’ll leave you alone. “If you come out and meet him halfway, before you know it he’s slapped the shackles on you, and you’re on your way to Nineveh.” (He summarizes and recapitulates.) What do you do when you receive messages like these from the devil? (2 Kings 19.14-16.) When times get tough, and your enemy has your address, you lay it all out before God. He wants you to show that you trust him. Don’t just grumble. God has written you letters too. And these are for confronting the devil’s letters to you. You don’t debate the devil. Jesus said, ‘It is written.’ It helps to know what is written. (He quotes some verses that are full of God’s love to his people and their victory through his love and power.) Christians, stop reading the devil’s hate mail. Read God’s love letters. Who’s report are you going to believe? What report will you believe about your circumstance? What report will you believe about your relationship with God? (2 Kings 19.21-23.) God takes it personally when the enemy attacks you (verses 27, 28.) In other words, return to sender (verses 32-37.) Whatever the devil has sent you, it’s not too big for God. He uses one angel to put down all these hell-inspired soldiers. (He quotes some verses that speak of deliverance.) God is able to deliver you. (Worship team comes on, begins to play, while he mentions that his family is facing cancer. He speaks of prophesying over himself in song.) “You need to prophesy over yourself…Would you begin to prophesy now?”
Remarks. He has a good delivery and clear enunciation; but there is an atmosphere of pride in his address. The sermon does not take us very deep; but it is for the most part, biblical. The sermon feels like a commentary; but Mr. Keys manages to preach it a little. That said, he sometimes gets into a pitch that sounds like a scream. The outline coincides well with the title. His four points are all lifted from his text. He summarizes and recapitulates well. Many verses of Scripture are read. Listeners are challenged to read the Bible. And the quote from Byron is unexpected and fitting.
Here are the major faults. (1) Lack of sobriety. Mr. Keys does not come to the pulpit with that sobriety of mind the Bible demands of him. “When I was a child, I spake as a child…but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13.11.) Lack of sobriety is a hindrance to the Holy Spirit’s use of a man. Uttering expressions commonly used by celebrity figures is inappropriate. Illustrating God flicking his finger seems juvenile. And comparing King Sennacherib to a piece of fast food is nothing but humor for humor’s sake. It does nothing but make the people comfortable in a worldly way. There is a kind of humor that builds up. This is not it. But we can give an example of the use of humor for edification from the ministry of John MacArthur. During a sermon he compared Christian Science to Grape-Nuts (the cereal): Grape nuts has neither grapes nor nuts; and Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific. This piece of humor was instructive. And he did not labor the point. It was a memorable lesson, not just a memorable joke.
(2) Misinterpretation of Scripture. The devil may try to make you believe that God is against you when he’s not (2 Kings 18.25.) This is true. But then Mr. Keys pours his own opinion into the text, which opinion is easily shown, by a few examples, to be false. The devil might say that God is against you when God is really for you. But does God being for you preclude the possibility of a cancer being sent to you from God? Of course it doesn’t. God was for Jacob, but he injured his thigh; God was for Miriam, but he struck her with leprosy; God was for David, but he smote his offspring; God was for his only begotten Son, but it was by God’s determinate counsel that Jesus was crucified (Acts 4.28.) With all due respect to the family of Mr. Keys in their battle with cancer, it is wrong to dogmatically assert that God does not put disease upon his people. The Bible shows that sometimes he does this, and not necessarily through any agency but his own hand, which seems the case when Miriam was made leprous. “Behold, Miriam became leprous” (Numbers 12.10.) If God did not appoint this event, he at least must have permitted it. Everything that happens must be, at the very least, permitted by God, or else God is not sovereign, which only a heretic or a pagan will maintain. Even that which is permitted by God is somehow sent by him, for a sovereign God could prevent it. So even when the devil afflicts a saint, the will of God is somehow in it. The case of Job is proof enough. God was for Job, but gave the devil permission and power to afflict him. No matter what happens, and no matter by whom, it must be by God’s appointment or permission. And so Mr. Keys is wrong when he says that cancer is never sent by God. In some sense, it is always sent by God. Mr. Keys then quotes Isaiah 61.13 in support of his opinion that disease is never sent by God. And so beauty, joy, and praise are of God, while ashes, mourning, and heaviness are not. But this is untrue. There is a heaviness that is of God. There is a mourning that is of God. This is why Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are they that mourn.” Does the devil compel us to mourn over sin? No, but God does. This is why there is a blessing in it, or a godly happiness in it. In the Christian life, joy and mourning are not exclusive. There can be no Christian joy apart from this mourning over sin. And such mourning is by the Holy Spirit, who is God.
(3) Missed opportunities. When speaking on the devil trying to shake our confidence, here the way is open for the preacher to press the listeners to test that confidence of ours. Is it confidence in Jesus to save us from sin and hell? Or is it a sham confidence we have convinced ourselves of for the sake of fitting in with the church crowd? When speaking on the devil’s accusation that God is the cause of our troubles, here the way is open for telling us how God does allow or send bad things to get our attention, especially if we think we are saved but are not. When speaking of the devil bragging about who he has brought down, the way is open to suggest a self-examination to prevent a similar fall. When speaking of the devil wanting to cut us a deal, the way is open to ask us with whom we have dealt. Have we cut a deal with the devil to continue in sin? Or have we entered into covenant relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ? This sermon could easily have been more Christ-centered.
Conclusion. This is a clear, simple sermon whose points follow in good order and are easily retained. The message is not clogged with extraneous matter. The wisecracking is a hindrance, but limited to few instances. The misinterpretations are probably due to suppositions commonly held among Pentecostals. Happily, these are not dwelled upon. We do not mean by singling out his missed opportunities that we expect that every sermon should be a preaching to the lost. What we maintain is that a preacher should always be aware that unbelievers creep into churches and that false professors abound and that he therefore should fold in some preaching to the lost when he can. And this would have been entirely possible here without disturbing the flow of the sermon. What he means by ‘prophesying over yourself’ is unclear. If he means that we should remind ourselves of what God’s word says, this is proper. If he means that we should speak positive things over our lives, then this is to the purpose of empowerment by some kind of wish. And this is to treat our words, or the words in a song, as if they have inherent power to create, when we should be praying to God through his word instead. We don’t know what he means by it. And so we won’t guess what side he is on regarding the ‘word of faith’ heresy.
Mr. Keys, we confess that your sermon is better than we anticipated. We are hoping that you are humble enough to admit that you could do even better. With godly mortification, you will no doubt realize more of your potential. We do not judge your sermon except by the command of God and the example of Scripture. If you like, you may contact us about anything we have said.