Feb 6, 2007

SEW sends convicting message

by Dave Thompson, News Reporter
The musicians played softly in the background. The students stood for the closing of the service as James MacDonald climbed the steps to the platform.

The subdued strains created a sweet atmosphere of worship as he offered his final words.

“By God’s grace, I’ve kept my promise — I’ve not wasted your time,” he said, recalling the pledge he made to students during Monday’s convocation.

“You do the things that we’ve talked about this week, you can make a large, large difference in your relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said, adding that “that’s what Spiritual Emphasis Week is all about.”

MacDonald’s messages found a welcome home in the hearts of many of the students in attendance. Sophomore Ashley Gillman talked about the impact that the week had on her.

“James MacDonald really impressed me in the first (convocation), where he said, ‘I don’t care if you guys remember who I am, this message is from God,’” she said.

MacDonald’s message of personal revival centered around Hosea 6:1-3, in which the prophet exhorts believers to come back to God. In part, it says, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us….(His) going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (ESV).

In his opening message, MacDonald laid out a blueprint of what his messages and the entire tone of Spiritual Emphasis Week would be.

Monday night’s message,  entitled “God on the Throne: A Picture of Power,” saw MacDonald speaking on the holiness and the set-apart nature of God.

That night held special significance for some of the Liberty community, as alumnus Meredith Andrews, who led worship during her time at Liberty and now sings for MacDonald’s church, announced on Wednesday night that her brother came to know the Lord following Monday night’s service.

Tuesday’s message was a combination of two sermons on sin and repentance.
“You can’t handle it,” he said. “You say, I don’t want to go in the dirt — well, we’ve got to go lower, or we’re not going to go higher.”

At Wednesday’s convocation, what would normally have been his message on Christ’s atonement and gift of grace was set aside for another sober, convicting message.

“I’m not going to preach grace to people that I haven’t preached sin to,” he said in closing on Tuesday night, noting that he wasn’t even sure of the exact message that he would preach.

He decided on a sermon regarding the acceptance of suffering and a warning against growing bitter and losing the opportunity for repentance.

Wednesday night provided the uplifting message that the previous messages had all alluded to, though it began with the sober announcement that “God has made no provision for you to live the Christian life.”

“I definitely was filled (Wednesday) night. I feel like my cup has been filled to the top again,” said Gillman. “I don’t want it to be an emotional thing. I want it to last.”

Liberty sophomore quarterback Brock Smith, who also attended the Wednesday night session, was particularly impressed by the way MacDonald addressed the spiritual realm. “A lot of people don’t really believe in…spiritual warfare,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how people react to what he said.”

The main text of the message was Romans 7, in which Paul speaks of the sinful nature that still lives within him.

Even so, several other verses were explored, including Ephesians 5:18, which admonishes believers to “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.”

Following the message, MacDonald offered a prayer over the congregation, but the worship team continued to play for another half hour. Afterwards, a contingent of students stayed in the sanctuary for a time of prayer and silent reflection.

Furthermore, Liberty students were not the only people who were touched by MacDonald’s messages.
Tyler Veak, an Instruction Librarian at Liberty whose only experience with Spiritual Emphasis Week was Wednesday’s convocation, was very much impressed by MacDonald.

“That was one of the best messages I’ve heard,” he said. “The way that the Christian responds to trials is probably one of the most important things to learn.”

Contact Dave Thompson at dbthompson@liberty.edu.

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