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Faithful Application Of Bible Teaching Terminates On The Glory Of God

Teaching the Bible involves application – the response to what is being proclaimed.

But application that halts on the benefit to the hearer undoes the centrality of the work of Jesus. Application must find its ultimate motivation in response to the glorious God who has saved us.

Jared Wilson offers this as one of three points about faithful application of the Scriptures.

…faithful application is not about self-improvement or self-actualization. Don’t tell your people that if they do steps 1-4 this week, they’ll have a successful life or a healthy marriage or a fat bank account or any other soft legalism quasi prosperity gospel. Tell them the gospel has set them free from working for God’s approval but to working for God’s glory.

If we obeyed for credit, we deem Christ’s sacrifice insufficient. But we don’t even get to take credit. The gospel empowers our works, so he gets the glory. As Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” They’re not even your ideas!

Let your light shine before men this way: that those who would see your good works would glorify not you but your Father in heaven.

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Analysis Of 50,000 Sermons From The USA By The Pew Research Center

One of the more fascinating things I read this year was David Cook’s effort at auditing the preaching of the Presbyterian Churches of Victoria (Australia) in preparation for conducting a pastor’s conference in Melbourne.

This report from the USA based Pew Research Center computer analysed more than 50,000 sermons from a variety of churches in the USA over an eight week period around Easter 2019.
It’s interesting reading, though it provides mostly observation and doesn’t offer conclusions, except that there are differences in language, length, and Biblical referencing among various streams in the church.
That these sermons are from the period around Easter suggests that language, specific Biblical references, and themes might have their highest degree of commonality, so the differences may be all the more telling in how these churches focus on the same biblical and theological events in what would seem to be different ways.

Read the report here at the The Pew Research Center.


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Jesus Used Illustrations To Humble Pride, Not Encourage It (via Barry York at Gentle Reformation)

Illustrations, as their name demonstrates, are not the focus of a sermon’s message but serve to help important points of teaching or application be clarified and understood.
They must not distract or confuse, nor should they focus attention on the preacher or alienate hearers from the message.

This article about illustrations by Barry York is a good reminder of some basic principles.
I particularly appreciated this one:

Do not let them be boring or boorish.
If there is one place that should be guaranteed to be more lively and engaging in a sermon, it is when an illustration is given. If a story or anecdote is done poorly and does not hold the interest of the listeners, then things do not bode well for the rest of the sermon. Make them lively both in their content and presentation! Neither should the preacher seek to use the illustration in a condescending way, for instance having as its motivation an attempt to show the superiority of his church over others. Jesus used illustrations to humble pride, not encourage it.

Read the whole article at Gentle Reformation.


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In The Temptations Of Jesus, It Was The Devil Who Proffered Common Sense (via Will Willimon)

The temptation to adjust preaching from offering Christ to offering helpful advice about how to live you best life now has an old pedigree.
The temptation should be resisted at all costs. We live by the word of God alone.

From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

I’m old enough to remember when preachers were expected to be good with Scripture. These days we’re cast into the role of experts doling out advice on marriage, business, the purpose—driven life, legislated justice, and sexual satisfaction. A lot of the preaching I hear today (and not only in a former stadium in Houston) is good advice; sentimental, worldly wisdom substituted for gospel foolishness; helpful hints for homemakers; tips for the anxious upwardly mobile; common sense widely available without having to get dressed and come to church to hear it. At least Rotary serves lunch.
In the temptations of Jesus, it was the devil who proffered common sense. Sanctimonious advice, even well meaning, is a bore. Most commonsense sermons — platitudes and principles foisted upon the congregation as if the preacher were an expert on life — are offered in the attempt to help us retain control over our lives by using common sense to keep a living God at bay. Preachers ought to remember the audience’s elation when Hamlet’s uncle — tedious, bloated-with—advice Polonius — finally gets a knife to the gut.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.


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Preaching That Offers Aspirin When You Need Chemotherapy (via Will Willimon)

I hope if you hear a sermon tomorrow it does not offer counsel about therapeutic change, but an invitation to spiritual reanimation.
From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

We mainline, non evangelical, noninvasive preachers pat a congregation on the head as we murmur, “There, there, God loves you as you are. Promise me you won’t change a thing.” Billy [Graham, who Willimon invited to preach at the Duke Chapel] consistently preached the gospel of the second chance. Those in desperate need of a second or third chance require more than “progressive” sermons – Jesus just hanging out with people as they re, bourgeois conformity with a spiritual tint, offering a bit of a spiritual nudge. Buttoned-down mainline Christianity offers aspirin for those in need of massive chemotherapy.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.


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The Preached Word – Where God And His People Meet (via Kanishka Raffel)

There is something that can be anticipated when God’s people hear God’s Word preached.
Gathering should be a time of expectancy that God’s Word will be explained, and part of that explanation will be how the portion of Scripture being preached upon should be applied in the lives of hearers.
This is not the work of the preacher or the hearers, as much as it is the work of God’s Holy Spirit.

From Kanishka Raffel:

The preacher and congregation must yield to the Holy Spirit in responding to Scripture. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). As the content and purpose of the inspired text of Scripture is preached, the Spirit wields his Word in the congregation. To fail to respond would be to ‘distort the word of God’. When the Word is explained but not applied it suggests that God’s Word is merely of historical interest and makes no immediate demand upon those who hear it; or that Christian duty is fulfilled when we merely hear; or that God’s Word can be safely confined to Sunday morning sitting in church and need not trouble the hearers at other times; all of which are impossible.
It will always be right for a congregation to respond to God’s Word in repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). But the word of God’s grace that is ‘able to build you up and give you an inheritance among the sanctified’ (Acts 20:32) may call for obedience, love, effort, hope, fear and trembling, zeal, joy, praise, prayer, perseverance, contentment, endurance, patience, thanksgiving. The Spirit is the powerful presence of God in the preaching of the meaning and purpose of the words of Scripture so preachers must expect God to meet his people in the preaching, and the people must expect to make a response to God.

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The Preacher’s One Sermon (via Darryl Dash)

Darryl Dash interacts with Eugene Peterson and muses on an observation that preachers have a signature theme in their preaching, basically that they really preach one sermon, whatever the text.
Sometimes it takes preachers a while to find what their signature message is, but usually they find it. Or it finds them.
I recognise the heart of the idea in my preaching.

In his memoir Preacher, Eugene Peterson recounts a conversation with his son.
“Dad, novelists only write one book. They find their voice, their book, and write it over and over. William Faulkner wrote one book. Charles Dickens wrote one book. Anne Tyler wrote one book. Ernest Hemingway wrote one book. Willa Cather wrote one book.”
A few days later, he said, “Remember what I said about novelists only writing one book? You only preach one sermon.”
Read the rest of the post here.