I guess I typically preach about forty sermons a year and sermon preparation is part of my weekly routine. However, occasionally a passage comes along which brings home some of the key questions that preachers face but often remain in the background. This week, I’m preaching on Luke 17:20-37, as part of our sermon series in Luke’s gospel. Apart from the question of, ‘why did I pick these verses’ when I put the series together late last year I sit here confronted by a number of challenges:-
- How much exegetical information is helpful to the congregation? Too much information and people will find it hard to see the wood for the trees. Does it really matter who is taken and who is left? What difference does the choice of translation ‘the kingdom is within you / among you’ make? I am often struck from people’s feedback afterwards that many people assume preaching that makes frequent reference to particular verses in the sermon is ‘Biblical’ whereas sermons that make few explicit references to the text are seen as less so; despite the fact that many of the best expositions of the passage might be the ones which make fewer references.
- What are the key issues? In terms of the Luke passage, what is the kingdom of God and how does it relate to the Son of Man? And supposing I focus on the kingdom of God, what can usefully be said in the time available that doesn’t either tell people what they already know or become overly abstract and theoretical.
- What is God’s word to this congregation, though this passage? Preaching is about bringing God’s word to the congregation, it isn’t simply about exegesis, it is not teaching per se, nor about motivation or instruction, rather it carries a prophetic edge.
- How does this resonate in people’s lives? Most good preaching has some application to people’s lives; perhaps by reorientating them towards God, or transformation towards Christlikeness, or some practical steps in discipleship. Much of this is about what God does, through the Spirit, in the congregation but preaching ought to move and feed people. Perhaps, the sermon should be followed by questions and answers, or small group discussions that encourage people to apply the sermon to their own lives and the life of the church.
- Does my use of images help or hinder preaching? Most weeks I preach with a series of powerpoint images on the screen. [I try not to use powerpoint for bullet points, and don’t usually have words up except for the text of the passage as it is read]. Good images, like good preaching illustrations, help people to see the point being made. Bad images, like too many funny jokes, detract from the nature and purpose of preaching.
- Does thinking about the mechanics of preaching paralyse the sermon preparation process? Probably, but thinking about it occasionally might encourage my preaching to be exegetical rather than eisegetical, show a decent grasp of hermeneutics (even if that is not apparent to the congregation) and a prayerful desire to be an instrument that God can use.
Anyway enough questioning and analysis for one day, I’ve a sermon to write. For anyone interested, the sermon should be available by podcast next week, (go to itunes and search 'poynton baptist church').
Inclusion or Exclusion!
Some people have an Idea that God is inclusive for mans eternal destiny, that all religions and all people will be saved. That God will allow all of mankind to enter into heaven because everybody is good so God must be fair and include everyone! It is true God does love the whole world but God is exclusive about mans eternal destiny without the Savior. To keep this simple man has a problem called sin in which man refuses to believe that there are eternal consequences for having sin, which is a one way ticket to hell. God is holy and he will not allow anyone with sin to enter into heaven. God is hurt and angry about our sin, we have broken his laws. But God is just and good and he knows our need so he provided a solution to our problem. His solution to our problem is to have our sins removed by having our sins placed on someone else, a sacrifice for us; paying for the penalty of the sin we have in our lives. So that someone else would get the penalty of Gods wrath and separation on him that was meant for us. So God sent his son Jesus on a mission from heaven to earth as our sacrifice to die on the cross on our behalf after this happened three days later Jesus came back from the dead, alive. But that’s not all remember I wrote that God is exclusive about mans eternal destiny without the Savior? The only way that Gods promise can be applied to your life is for you to turn from your way of thinking and know that your sin offends and hurts God and call on the Lord Jesus who’s alive to save you. Your sins are then transferred to Jesus for what he did at the cross, dying and being abandon by God because of your sins, for you and because Jesus arose from the dead he is alive you can now enter into a relationship with God. Will you call out to Jesus to save you? It’s your choice to enter in exclusively with God’s grace for you. Where will you want to spend eternity after hearing Gods promise for you?
If the answer was yes that you do want Jesus as your sin bearer, Savior, and you do believe God raised Jesus from the dead you can pray with your voice.
“Dear Lord Jesus save me.”
Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.