Tuesday, August 11, 2009
By Mike Gilbart-Smith
Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as "preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture." However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all.
1) The point of the passage is misunderstood: the ‘Unfounded Sermon’.
This is where the preacher says things that may or may not be true, but that in no sense came from the passage, when understood correctly. This can happen either by carelessness with the content of the text (e.g. the sermon on "production, prompting and inspiration" from the NIV of 1 Thessalonians 1:3, though each word has no parallel in the Greek) or carelessness with the context (e.g. the sermon on David and Goliath, that asks ‘who is your Goliath, and what are the five smooth stones that you need to be prepared to use against him?’).
If a preacher is not deeply mining the truth of God’s Word to determine the message of his sermons, they are likely being driven by his own preferences. For "When someone regularly preaches in a way that is not expositional, the sermons tend to be only on the topics that interest the preacher" (Nine Marks, 41). Thus the congregation doesn’t receive all that God intended. The lesson? Preachers must give themselves to thoroughly understanding the text before setting out to write their sermons. A cursory reading is not enough. Preachers must allow God to determine the sheep’s diet so as to prevent an insufficient feeding.
2) The point of the passage is ignored: the ‘Springboard Sermon’.
Closely related is the sermon where the preacher has understood the center of the text, pays lip service to it, and then becomes intrigued by something that is a secondary or tertiary point, fixing his attention on that for the remainder of the sermon. What he says does come from the text, but is not the main point of the text (e.g. the sermon on John 3 that focuses primarily on the lawfulness of Christians drinking alcohol).
3) The point of the passage remains unapplied: the ‘Exegetical Sermon’.
Some preaching that claims to be expositional is rejected as boring and irrelevant…and rightly so! One could just as well be reading from an exegetical commentary. Everything that is said is true to the passage, but is not really a sermon; it is merely a technical lecture on the passage. Much might be learned about Paul’s use of the Genitive Absolute, but little about the character of God or the nature of the human heart. There is no application to anything but the congregation’s minds. True expository preaching will surely first inform the mind, but also warm the heart and constrain the will.
4) The point of the passage is applied to a different congregation: the ‘Irrelevant Sermon’.
Too much preaching promotes pride in the congregation by throwing bricks over the wall towards other people’s greenhouses. Either the point of the passage is applied only to non-believers, suggesting that the Word has nothing to say to the church, or it is applied to problems that are rarely seen in the congregation that is being preached to. Thus the congregation becomes puffed up, and like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable ends up thankful that they are not like others. The response is not repentance and faith but, "If only Mrs Brown heard this sermon!" or "Umpteenth Baptist Smorgsville, Pennsylvania really ought to have this sermon preached to them!"
5) The point of the passage misapplied to the present congregation: the ‘Misfit Sermon’.
Sometimes the hermeneutical gap between the original passage and the present congregation may be misunderstood, so that the application to the original context is wrongly directly transferred to the present context. So, if the preacher does not have a correct biblical theology of worship, passages about the Old Testament temple might be wrongly applied to the New Testament church building, rather than being fulfilled in Christ and his people.
6) The point of the passage is divorced from its generic impact: the ‘Doctrinal Sermon’.
God has deliberately spoken to us ‘in many and diverse ways’. Too many sermons ignore the genre of a passage, and preach narrative, poetry, epistle and apocalyptic all alike as a series of propositional statements. Whilst all preaching must convey propositional truths, they should not be reduced to them. The literary context of the passages should mean that a sermon from the Song of Songs sounds different than one from Ephesians 5. The passage may have the same central point, but it is conveyed in a different way. Such diversity is not to be flattened in preaching.
7) The point of the passage is preached without reference to the passage: the ‘Shortcut Sermon’
Another sermon might have wonderfully appropriate application to mind, heart and will, yet the congregation will leave unaware of how it is appropriately applied from the text. The opposite of the exegetical sermon, this kind of preaching shows no exegetical ‘working’ at all. Though the Lord has set the agenda by his Word, only the preacher is fully aware of that fact. The congregation may well end up saying, ‘what a wonderful sermon’ rather than ‘what a wonderful passage of scripture’.
Expository preaching is so important for the health of the church because it allows the whole counsel of God to be applied to the whole church of God. May the Lord so equip preachers of His Word that His voice may be heard and obeyed.
Monday, August 10, 2009
God smiled upon our worship and His Word; and one came forward today - by Christian experience. To God be the Glory!
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Here's the manuscript:
I want to start off today by asking you a question that Max Lucado queries in the opening section of his book, ‘Just Like Jesus’. He asks, and I ask: What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you?
What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, and assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes his boss, your family becomes his family, and your pains become his pains? All of this, with one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn’t change. Your circumstances don’t change. Your financial condition doesn’t change. Your schedule isn’t altered. Your problems aren’t solved.
Only one change occurs: What if, for one day and one night, Jesus were to live YOUR life with HIS heart? Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. For one day His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.
What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family—would they see something new? Your coworkers—would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy in you? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ’s heart than from yours?
And what about YOU? How would YOU feel? What alterations would this transplant have upon your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets in a different way? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you’d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?
Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours? Would you still plan to do tonight what you did last night when nobody was looking? Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?
Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. And what you will see is what God wants and what God desires. Simply put, GOD wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus”. Philippians 2:5 conversely says, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’.
God’s plan for you is nothing short of a new heart. If you were a car, God would want control of your engine. If you were a computer, God would claim the software and the hard drive. If you were an airplane, he’d take his seat in the cockpit. But you are a person, so God wants to change your heart.
Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Mark it Down: God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you to have a heart like his.
If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this:
God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way.
He wants you to be just like Jesus.
Get That: God loves you just the way you are. If you think his love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think his love would be deeper if your thoughts were, you are wrong again.
Never run the mistake of confusing God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are.
Paul says in Romans 8:38-39, “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn him. Ignore him. Reject him. Despise him. Disobey him. He will not change. Our evil cannot diminish his love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it anymore than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed. God’s love never ceases.
God loves you just the way you are, but (get this) He refuses to leave you that way.
When my son Kai was a toddler, I used to take him to a park not far from our house. One day as he was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached us. I purchased him a treat, and when I turned to give it to him, I saw that his mouth was full of sand. Where I intended to put a delicacy, he had put dirt.
Did I love him with dirt in his mouth? YES. Was he any less my son with dirt in him mouth? Absolutely not. Was I going to allow him to keep the dirt in his mouth? No way. I loved him right where he was, but I refused to leave him there. I carried him over to the water fountain and washed out his mouth. Why? Because I loved him.
God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, son,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.” And so he cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for life’s dirt over the delicacies of life. We may even pout and proclaim “I can eat dirt if I want to!” Which is true—we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to experience the joy of His love and the gift of His grace!!!
That brings us to Grace-Full Living. Moreover, that brings us to this wonderful text! The epistle of Paul is written to the Galatians to defend the message of grace and defy the message of the Judaizers; who were a group of charlatans and false teachers; who claimed that Paul was no real apostle; who also claimed that the message of God’s grace was not enough. Paul hears that the false message has infiltrated the region of Galatia, writes this letter; and says to his critics, enemies and his friends – the message that we proclaim is Christ plus nothing else. The ultimate expression of the grace of God, according the Paul, is the virgin birth, perfect life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- He says in verse 16 that we are justified.
- Justification doesn’t say that you didn’t commit the sin; but it affords the opportunity to be treated as if you are NOT guilty.
- Justification doesn’t erase what we’ve done; but it allows us to be treated as if we haven’t done it.
- Tabula Rasa, which means, that God wipes the slate clean.
- Paul says that we aren’t justified by our works.
- C.H. Spurgeon said, “Human nature’s way of salvation is, “Do, do, do.” But God’s way of salvation is, “Done, done, it is all done.” You have but to rely by faith on the atonement that Christ accomplished on the cross.”
- We’re justified by faith!
- He says it twice in verse 16 and then again in verse 17, that ‘we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.’ The Second Person in the Godhead.
- One of the amazing truths of the Bible given over and over again is you can never be good enough on your own to earn heaven. Because once you sin one time, you can’t brag to a perfect God how good you are. I mean, you don’t impress the engineers of Boeing with your paper airplaine. You don’t brag about how far you can drive a golf ball in the presence of Tiger Woods. You don’t look Michael Jordan in the eye after shooting a jump shot and say, “I got game.” And you certainly can’t boast about your goodness in the presence of a perfect, holy God.
- We can not please God with our obedience/beauty/intelligence/perfectionism, because we’re not obedient enough.
- You can’t earn your way to salvation; you need an inside man. And Jesus says, ‘I’M YOUR INSIDE MAN.’
Illustration: Have you ever been cheated on? I was notorious for getting cheated on. I remember the first time somebody cheated on me.
- The scripture reveals that you are a love-breaker automatically.
- In your sinful, depraved human reality…you cheat on God every day of your life.
- From the moment we exit our mother’s womb…we are thinking about ourselves and not thinking about God.
- In our cleanest state we are filthy to God.
- In our best moral state we are immoral and unethical to God.
- Titus 3:5
- And when we are saved….we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
- Our past is erased
Our sins have been forgiven
Our history has been nullified
Our past mistakes have been annulled
We are justified.
And if you are saved….you have been forgiven.
Someone has said that:
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.
YOU HAVE A NEW HEART!!!
Now all of that is the GOOD NEWS. But let me give you some BAD NEWS. Well, I won’t say it’s really BAD NEWS…but I will say that, at first glance, it doesn’t look like shouting material. Here it is: YOUR NEW HEART IS LIVING IN AN OLD BODY!!!
“When I would do good, evil is present with me”. (Romans 7:21)
2 Co. 12:7 Paul says there was a ‘thorn in my flesh…”.
Our flesh is not saved
Our flesh is at enmity with God
Romans 7:18 says, ‘In my flesh dwelleth no good thing’.
Look at verses 18 and 19
I. THE POWER OF GRACEFUL LIVINGA. It Is a Personal Decision “I”B. It Is a Passionate Defense “am”C. It Is a Painful Display “crucified”
D. It Is a Partnership Declared “with Christ”
- Everything hinges upon Four Words in verse 20: I no longer live…
- The whole notion that living totally changes.
- Kraig’s priorities are no longer first place
- Not about my visions, my dreams, my goals
- In other words, every aspect of our lives now rests in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- My life is no longer validated
- Acts 17:28 “In Him we live, move and have our being”…
- You’re talking about a man who had it all together (Paul)
- We no longer live unto ourselves
- What is living?
- How do we define living today? We always talk in terms of material things, money, clothing, food, tangible.
- In the economy of God it’s about what you do with Christ.
- Christ lives in me….
- He is not saying that he’s committed suicide.
- The activity that I now live in the flesh, I do as a result of Christ
- Everything that now makes sense….it is all because Christ did for me.
- Look at how many times he uses the word, ‘Live’.
- It is all a matter of living a life for Christ
- What does it mean to stop living?
- Question: What if somebody told you to just ‘stop living’.
- Living just enough for the city
- Jesus has so many statements about living
- Jesus says, ‘Lose your life’.
- Are you ready to stop living so that you may live?
- Living it all.
II. THE PASSION OF GRACEFUL LIVING
A. You Are a Vessel for Christ. “ No Longer I that lives”
B. You Are a Vault for Christ. “Lives in Me”
- Akon in an MTV documentary. Talking about going to a 4d movie with Michael Jackson. Fans begin to run towards him…If you knew who was standing next to me!!!
If you knew who is lives IN you
- 1 John 4:4, ‘Greater is He that is in you…’
C. You Are a Vine for Christ. “Live by Faith”
III. THE PURPOSE OF GRACEFUL LIVING
A. It Is to Glorify God’s Son
You no longer matter when it comes to Spiritual Matters. He Does!
B. It Is to Magnify God’s Son
IV. THE PLEDGE OF GRACEFUL LIVING (VS. 21)
Verse 21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
- The Judaizers wanted to mix Law and grace, but Paul tells us that this is impossible. To go back to the Law means to “set aside” the grace of God.
- Peter had experienced God’s grace in his own salvation, and he had proclaimed God’s grace in his own ministry. But when he withdrew from the Gentile Christian fellowship, he openly denied the grace of God.
- Grace says, “There is no difference! All are sinners, and all can be saved through faith in Christ!”
- But Peter’s actions had said, “There is a difference! The grace of God is not sufficient; we also need the Law.”
- Returning to the Law nullifies the Cross: “If righteousness came by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Law says DO! Grace says DONE! “It is finished!” was Christ’s victory cry (John 19:30). “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8).
In the movie The Last Emperor, the young child who is the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” his brother asks. “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy emperor replies. To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten (H.B. Charles).
- Jesus Christ reversed this pattern: When the servants erred, the King was punished. Isaiah 55:4-6 says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (Ibid)
- Paul says, in a nutshell: DON’T TAKE GOD’S GRACE FOR GRANTED!!!
- God’s grace is so amazing!!!
- Grace = Charis = Graciousness = Gratitude = Gift…doesn’t matter…it’s ALL GRACE!!!
- Bonhoeffer….cheap grace/costly grace…doesn’t matter…it’s ALL GRACE!!!
Sickness…suffering sorrow…solemnity…in the dirt….doesn’t matter…it’s ALL GRACE!!!
Look at how we use the word (Phil Yancey).
Many people "say grace" before meals, acknowledging daily bread as a gift from God. We are grateful for someone’s kindness, gratified by good news, congratulated when successful, gracious in hosting friends. When a person’s service pleases us, we leave a gratuity. In each of these uses I hear a pang of childlike delight in the undeserved.
A composer of music may add grace notes to the score. Though not essential to the melody–they are gratuitous–these notes add a flourish whose presence would be missed. When I first attempt a piano sonata by Beethoven or Schubert I play it through a few times without the grace notes. The sonata carries along, but oh what a difference it makes when I am able to add in the grace notes, which season the piece like savory spices.
In England, some uses hint loudly at the word’s theological source. British subjects address royalty as "Your grace." Students at Oxford and Cambridge may "receive a grace" exempting them from certain academic requirements. Parliament declares an "act of grace" to pardon a criminal.
New York publishers also suggest the theological meaning with their policy of gracing. If I sign up for twelve issues of a magazine, I may receive a few extra copies even after my subscription has expired. These are "grace issues," sent free of charge (or, gratis) to tempt me to resubscribe. Credit cards, rental car agencies, and mortgage companies likewise extend to customers an undeserved "grace period."
I also learn about a word from its opposite. Newspapers speak of communism’s "fall from grace," a phrase similarly applied to Jimmy Swaggart, Richard Nixon, and O. J. Simpson. We insult a person by pointing out the dearth of grace: "You ingrate!" we say, or worse, "You’re a disgrace!"
I read this week about a baseball game that one day took place. It seems that the Lord’s team was playing Satan’s team. The Lord’s team was at bat, the score was zero to zero, and it was in the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs. The Coach and the Lord stood by observing the game. As they watched, a batter stepped up the plate whose name was LOVE. Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because “love never fails.” The next batter was named FAITH, who also got a single because faith works with love. The next batter was named GODLY WISDOM. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass….ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly wisdom never swings at what Satan throws. The bases were loaded. The Lord then turned to Coach and told him He was now going to bring in His star player. Up to the plate stepped GRACE. Coach said, "He sure doesn’t look like much." Satan’s whole team relaxed when they saw Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To the shock of everyone, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen. But Satan was not worried, as his center fielder let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing on the ground. Then it continued over the fence for a home run! The Lord’s team won. The Lord then asked Coach if he knew why LOVE, FAITH, and GODLY WISDOM could get on base but could not win the game. Coach answered that he didn’t know why. The Lord explained, "If your love, faith and wisdom had won the game you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, faith and wisdom will get you on base, but only My GRACE can get you home."
I HEAR THE SAVIOR SAY, “THY STRENGTH INDEED IS SMALL!
CHILD OF WEAKNESS, WATCH AND PRAY. FIND IN MY THINE ALL IN ALL.”
JESUS PAID IT ALL, ALL TO HIM I OWE SIN HAD LEFT A CRIMSON STAIN
– HE WASHED IT WHITE AS SNOW.