Preaching, part 5

What to do with the outline? And what I mean is, you have the burden, you have your points, what do you do now?

There should probably be about 4 or 5 things in each point depending on how you look at it. I will just listen the 4, 5, or 6 things and then will break one down over the course of the next few days.

  1. STATE THE POINT – simply state the point. Even if you have already stated the point in your introduction, still state it again. You might need to use a theological term in your point, if so before I would move into the next parts you might need to define that term.
  2. PLACE THE POINT – Now I need to show to those that I am preaching to, where in the text I am getting this point from. It can be as small as a word, and as large as the rest of the passage or maybe even bigger. But this is not explaining yet, this is just simply calling their attention to what they need to look at.
  3. PROVE THE POINT – You make an assertion, now you need to use that word, that phrase that passage and by explanation prove that God’s Word is truly saying what your point says.
  4. EXPLAIN THE POINT – Now I just said by explanation. This is one of those points that might just be folded into the prove part, or it could be a separate steps. Perhaps you can prove that your point does indeed come from the phrase you pointed out. However, that might still leave what that meant to the author, unspoken. So you might have to do some explanation.
  5. APPLY THE POINT – Here you are seeking to bring what a text meant and how that text was applied into today, to help people live out the truths there. You might have to explain more even in this step.
  6. ILLUSTRATE THE POINT – Now like Explanation, illustration is something that might need to be done inside another step or it might need to be on its own. Illustrating can do two things.
    1. First it can help shed light on the explanation of the passage. So sometimes it is easier to explain a concept with a story, than it is with just a lot of philosophical terms. One example here: Using the story of Lazarus as an illustration of Regeneration or effectual calling.
    2. Second, illustrations can help place the application in life, so the body can clearly see how living out these truths would, could, should impact their own lives.

Okay, so I will start writing about each one until I am done, then we will move on to introductions and conclusions.

Preaching part 4 –

People think a certain way, and the goal is God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to form God’s people because God’s people hear God’s Word and are convicted by God’s Spirit. The western mind is best served when we aim at the one meaning of the passage, and the best way to do that is with a sermon outline with focus, application, and parallelism in the assertions being made.

So I have been writing on preaching and I apologize to those who do not preach. I am not trying to run you off. I just have a lot to say about this subject. So just please bear with me.

What really is an outline?

So this morning I started to write another blog on preaching, and I was struck with several thoughts that I think are important to say, so I have decided that this series will have to suffer with a bit more length.

I want to put forward what it is I am doing with my outline, or to try to answer the question, what exactly is an outline, because I continue talking about what I do with it.

So in my opinion an outline is better displayed than defined. So let me share with you what I think are the key essential elements of a sermon outline. And when I say essential elements, I honestly believe that if you do not use these elements then you do not have a sermon outline. You might be preaching a sermon, but you don’t have an outline.

Assertions

The major points of an outline are nothing more than truth assertions. Or let me say it this way: the points are nothing more than truth claims. They might be the kind of claims that are declaring truth or they might be the kind of claims that are pressing action based on truth. Either way, they are truth claims.

Parallel

I also believe that the points or the assertions ought to be parallel in nature. I think this is the hardest part for most pastors because making the points parallel seems easy. Here is the problem. When you seek to make your points parallel you can easily do that just with playing with the words, however what can happen is you can lose sight of the point of the passage because in an effort to be parallel you change a declaration of truth into some sort of action without warrant. So when I say parallel, what I mean is that each point needs to form like a pillar underneath the main objective, thesis, or aim. (whatever you call it)

For example:

If you are preaching from John chapter 6 about Jesus feeding the 5000. It would be easy to turn some or even all of your points into actions related to say the boy who shared his lunch or the disciples obedience to Jesus in serving the people. However, from our exegesis we know that this would be wrong headed because all Scripture is about Christ Jesus right? So I think the only action you can call people to base on the first part of John 6 is? Right – believe.

So when you make your points parallel the passage has to suggest to you what that parallel is. And by the passage I mean the VERY PASSAGE YOU ARE READING.

Focus

Now this will get me into trouble. I also believe that if you are preaching a sermon from say Romans chapter 9, then your points of your sermon MUST be bound to a phrase or passage in Romans 9. If you have 2 points from Romans 9 and third point from Exodus, this is not a sermon outline, and I would even call you out for abusing the text. WHY Because we are after understanding the passage in front of us.

Now if you preach 3 great points from Romans 9 and you never go to Exodus, then I know your exegesis is faulty, and you are not teaching people how to read the Bible. BUT your point MUST be from the text of your passage.

Let me give you an example. I heard a preacher once preach from Matthew 19: 1-12 on divorce. His three points were something to the effect of:

  • With God there is marriage
  • With God there is a proper divorce
  • With God there is forgiveness.

Now don’t fixate on whether divorce is right or not. And if you try to help my theology here, I will just delete you. Because I didn’t preach this sermon. But his final point about forgiveness while true in the Bible as a whole, is no where to be found in the current passage. Maybe small traces of it, in phrases like: yeah no I still don’t see any.

To me this ought not be. Every point you make from a passage has to come from that passage.

Application

I think every point has to already be pointing towards application in the way that point is written.

Now I have 2 crazy people on either side of me.

  • The Anti-make-sure-application-is-in-the-sermon-because-theology-or-the-Spirit-or-something-else-is-more-important people
  • And the application-is so-important-that-I-will-sacrifice-good-exegesis-to-make-a-point kind of people.

I think these are pendulums and we need to find a balance. I think by and large the greatest kind of application we fail to give credence to is the application of: you need to believe this. When we preach sermons about the nature of who God is, who Jesus is. The vast majority of our application is going to be: believe this, love this, lean on this truth about who God is. Is God faithful, rejoice in that truth.

Too often application has turned into a free for all we have to give people something tangible to do. And so belief feels so wrong. Because it doesn’t seem tangible.

But like the sermon outline I wrote yesterday notice how the application is suggesting itself.

  1. Let your love be molded by the cross
  2. Let your love be focused on her spiritual good
  3. Let your love be aimed at the glory of Christ and his church.

In each case, the application hinted at is simply this: submission to Christ and his Spirit as they work in you to will and work for his good pleasure. There is a parallel nature in these points because each speaks about the love of the husband. These are assertions because each asserts that the husband is to love, and there is some other truth asserted as well.

If we are to preach so as to be CLEAR. I honestly think that a sermon outline with these qualities will be our best bet. Sure there are times I have violated all of these guidelines, and God worked and used the sermon. But I do not think there is a better approach to sermon outlining if the goal is clarity for the people. People think a certain way, and the goal is God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to form God’s people because God’s people hear God’s Word and are convicted by God’s Spirit. The western mind is best served when we aim at the one meaning of the passage, and the best way to do that is with a sermon outline with focus, application, and parallelism in the assertions being made.

Preaching, part 3

So I have talked about finding that pastoral burden of a text, and I have tried to demonstrate sort of what I mean. Now I want to talk about the organization of the sermon to best accomplish the goal: That when the sermon is preached it is as though God is speaking because we are best representing the message of that passage.

Structure

I would argue that using some sort of Structure in a sermon is necessary for a couple of reasons:

  1. Few people if any can maintain uninterrupted continuous thought on a subject without some sort of structure that helps them break the thought up into units.
  2. Even logical syllogisms have parts to them that can be identified and explored in more detail.
  3. Even Paul used structure in many of his letters. To the degree that we can even trace his thought fairly well now.
  4. Even in Creation God structured all of creation into smaller units. God did not have to do it that way, but because of truths he was reveling to us in creation, he structured his work so that we might understand it better.
  5. Even in Redemption, God structures his work again. Whether we use the structure of the Trinity to see the work of God, or we think of only the work of the cross in both its accomplished and applies aspects, the work of redemption is structured.

Now whether or not you are convinced that you should structure your sermons or not, doesn’t matter to me. But I will say, I never listen to anyone preach who just rambles. I just can’t. My mental faculties are not what they used to be, and I can’t make heads or tails of a running narration sermon. And honestly, I don’t think too many people can. So you need to use a structure.

But what kind of Structure?

You can use simply the grammar of the passage to help you structure your sermon, but I think when you allow  the grammar to guide the structure of the sermon, you will end up with a sermon that is not necessarily informed by both the gospel or the pastoral burden that is inherent in the text.

For example if you preach from Psalm 1 and you simply structure your sermon about the righteous and the wicked, you could very well lose two ideas:

  1. Christ is the point of all Scripture.
  2. The Psalms had a particular purpose in the life of God’s people which serves us today as well.

Or perhaps someone might preach from Ephesians 5 where husbands are to love their wives. After recounting things like

  1. Sacrificial Love
  2. Providing Love
  3. Protecting Love

While this outline could work, you have to take care not to let your outline color over the large context related to the application of this text. The large context of Ephesians 5 has two huge points:

  1. God’s powerful, wonderful work in our redemption chapters 1-3
  2. The call to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called which includes being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Any sermon on husbands loving their wives that never mentions Ephesians 5:18 is just asking to be a moralistic sermon devoid of the gospel and devoid of the power in the Word of God.

So I think a better way to structure your sermon is to keep the big context, both of the book, the testament, and the whole of the Bible in mind as you make your points. So let me give an example from Ephesians 5 again.

Objective: Every Christian husband can walk in a manner worthy of his calling by allowing the Spirit to do three things with your love.

  1. Let your love become molded by the cross of Christ.
  2. Let your love become fixed upon her spiritual good
  3. Let your love become aimed at the glory of Christ and his church.

This outline starting with the objective: tells you what this sermon is going to be about and keeps front and center those large contexts necessary for understanding the book as a whole. Then it drives you to think about things the right way.

So what do you think. What else would you need to know?

Preaching, part 2 again

Alrighty then. So you have the passage in front of you, properly exegeted. What does the burden look like specifically? I gave one example, I thought I would give a few more examples.

  1. So when you preach from John’s Gospel. John has a burden and point and big picture he is after. He tells us in John 20:30-31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” So every single passage is pregnant with purpose, and that purpose is to demonstrate that this man, Jesus, is the Christ the Son of God, so that you might believe and believing you might have eternal life. While I absolutely believe in the application of this book for believers, I whole heartedly believe John’s inspired purpose is the preaching of the gospel to the lost for their salvation. So no passage can be interpreted outside of that huge burden and intention. Which makes arguments against John 6 being applicable to our day laughable (but I digress).
  2. 1 John 5:13 tells us that, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life.” Pastorally speaking there are those who can live with doubt that they have eternal life. (I think 2 Peter suggests this very thing as well when Peter says, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten  that he was cleansed form his former sins.”) So when you go to preach from 1 John, this burden for the people to KNOW that they have eternal life, weighs in to every single sermon. While there is all sorts of good theology taught in this small book, that theology serves the pastoral purpose of helping those believers who are struggling with knowing that they have eternal life. The flip side is this burden is also aimed at those who believe that they have eternal life, but have nothing at all in their lives to commend them.
  3. Finally example from the Old Testament. Now here this is a little more tricky for a lot of pastors. Let’s take the book of Exodus. Now Moses wrote this book to God’s people. He wrote this books it seems for the purpose of reminding God’s people year after year, of the redemption that God had accomplished and the worship that God demands. Broadly speaking I think the themes of redemption and worship are the center of this book. So you would expect from what I have said, that perhaps the burden of this book is for us to see the redemption with which God has redeemed us and learn the worship that God demands of us. And, you would be right. However the trick, I would say here is that we are not Israel, we are the church, and it is clear that the Old Testament is clearly all about Christ and the redemption he has made for his people. So while the burden in the sermon is on the purposes of Moses, those purposes have to be finally made clear by the inspired New Testament authors who show us how these things were pointing forward to Christ his redemption and his worship. So even here, we are after that burden of the pastor who wrote these books so form up the points and message of our sermons.

So I hope this is helpful to give a little more detail with what I am talking about. Next time I will deal with how to form my sermons from this information and how at times I violate these things as well.

Preaching Part 2

SO the second thing about preaching that I think about is this.

What was the author trying to tell the people who would read the letter?

Now in most cases we call this the author’s intent.

However, for years now I have called this the pastoral burden. What do I mean?

That passage was written for a particular group of people for a particular reason. Whether it is the Old Testament or the New Testament, each passage had a reason for its existence.

And it is that word right there: reason. That makes all the difference in the world.

You see you can take a passage, look at the Greek or Hebrew, parse the sentence, draw your arcs, create your flow diagrams, and even chase out your typology. But without the reason for that text’s existence, the data you gather from these various tools, instruments and rules, leaves you without a cohesive whole.

I have called that cohesive whole: the pastoral burden. After proper exegesis, built on proper hermeneutics, bringing this passage into today can only be done, when we discover what the pastoral burden is of the passage.

I ask questions like:

  • What spiritual good was expected in God’s people, who read this passage?
  • Upon hearing this passage and the doctrine of this passage, what part of the life of God’s people was this aimed at? Was it aimed at them as a whole or individuals? Was it aimed at their thinking or their behavior?
  • In what way does Paul use this doctrine right here?

An example might help. Romans 8:28-30 is a passage that so many people love. This passage speaks at least in part about the doctrine of predestination. But the passage is not simply giving a good theology lesson. That doctrine is being used for a specific reason namely way Christians should view and handle suffering.

Another way to say what I am saying is this: the doctrine does not end on itself, but serves the greater purpose of drawing our heart to worship through living life pleasing to God.

This was Paul’s pastoral burden, and when we preach I think a sermon should share the same pastoral burden as the writer we are interpreting. If we don’t, then I think we miss the chance to help God’s people see how practical doctrine really is, and we miss the change to show them how to read God’s word rightly.

So what is the pastoral burden of the passage?

Preaching, part 1

I have been thinking a lot about preaching. Partly because that is what I do for a living.

Now there are two parts about preaching to think about, or maybe three.

  1. Preparing to preach – writing the sermon, planning the sermon
  2. Then preaching – the actual talking part.

My thoughts have been on the first. So I thought I would share a few thoughts.

Preaching I think should still be a monologue. What I mean is we are expecting in the preaching moment to hear one person talking. And if the pastor is doing what he should, then one person is truly all we will hear.

This one person talking should be God and God alone.

The Pastor studies and writes his sermon so that when he speaks it is as though God is speaking through him because he has so accurately interpreted the passage before him that God’s voice in the text is unmistakable.

Since we expect a monologue, the idea of turning the preaching moment into an interactive time with dialog between people and pastor, just seems a bit off. I know people need to ask question and digest, but I suggest that the preaching moment is not the time for that.

God is speaking in His word, and we puny humans need to be quiet and listen.

Fragile, Bold Confrontation

(Caveat – Often I am a chameleon. When I hear someone say we shouldn’t confront people I am usually the rabid sounding individual quoting Paul’s confrontations of sinners in his letters, calling them out in some harsh ways. But sometimes when I hear people calling others out and they seem to have no gentleness or no purpose of redemption. I veer off to the other side. So Today is the other side for me.)

We are fragile creatures.

Our sinful nature makes us extremely fallible. We can get things wrong in relationship to reality, and we often do. We can call something wrong that is not wrong, all because we lack the divine quality of being infallible.

Our sinful nature also makes us extremely wicked. We love the darkness. We love what is wrong. We love ourselves to the exclusion of others. We use others for the sake of our selves and all because we lack any sort of righteousness.

Even our best actions as humans are fully tainted with sin. Even our best prayers as Christians are still tainted with sin. Altruism is a pipe dream; pure motivation a farce.

This is what makes we cringe about the current state of calling people out. I understand the lost world, those who are without God in the world, calling out whomever they want, whenever they want, with or without evidence, with or without kindness. I get that.

What causes me to cringe is how often Christians call out others with an air of superiority that doesn’t seem to take Galatians 6:1 seriously. And specifically I have in mind Christians calling out Christians. (knowing full well we can only talk about professed Christians in both cases)

  • Maybe my problem is that words written on a page or post sound more harsh in my head than they should. Maybe I am just too emotional when I read that stuff.
  • Maybe I just can’t tell the difference between attacking the problem versus attacking the person.
  • Maybe I am just extremely fallible myself.

Here is what I think is true and should be kept in mind:

  • We can know the truth from God’s Word and not left with the platitude that is just your interpretation. We can have verifiable interpretations and so they are most weighty.
  • Veering from that truth is dangerous spiritually for everyone involved.
  • People need to be called out in their behavior  and belief deviations. Scripture does not give us an out on that.
  • But I also believe it should be done in a spirit of tenderness with a watchful eye towards your own behavior and belief.

If what we as Calvinists believe is true about depravity, then how is it that so many Calvinists are so bold to call out sin with no seeming fear that their very rebuking is tainted with ten times the amount of sin.

I don’t think this makes us weak to confront with fear and trembling, I think it makes us honest about ourselves and the possibility that we have got it wrong. A spirit of gentleness is not a spirit of ooshy gooshy let’s all love each other. It is simply the patient, kindness of a rescuing confrontation over a simple outing and shaming.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness, Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:1-5

The Acts of God, Repeated

I think it was called Encounter, a 4 inch tall devotional magazine for teens. It has a short passage of Scripture to read everyday and a small devotional thought written by someone in the SBC.

This is how I read the Bible growing up. Today I don’t recommend that people read the Bible this way.

  • It chops up the Bible too much
  • Which makes it hard to see the overall story
  • Which makes it hard to stay away from moralism
  • Which is not good, precious.

Today I would encourage people to read consecutively. Read through books of the Bible. Read through sections of books, read through a Testament. Read Both Testaments together. Just don’t chop it up.

One good reason?

Let me quote from Francis Foulkes:

…we find in the Old Testament the hope and the conviction, not only that the past acts of God will be repeated, but that in the future they will be repeated on a scale greater and more wonderful than that of the past.

Foulkes was lecturing on the nature of God’s Acts in the Old Testament, setting up an argument for the use of typology for interpretation. (those of you that I just lost, just keep reading. It will be fine. I promise it won’t hurt too much.)

Just read his quote again:

Not only that the past acts of God will be repeated.

God has acted similarly in every generation. For example:

  • He rescued Adam and Eve from certain death because God himself provided a sacrifice to cover their sin.
  • He rescued Noah and his family, from certain death by providing both a safe haven and a sacrifice of the wicked people of the earth.
  • He rescued Isaac from certain death because God himself provided a sacrifice fit to take Isaac’s place.
  • He rescued Israel from bondage to Egypt as he himself provided the blood sacrifice through the lives of the Egyptians.
  • He rescued Israel from sure destruction, as God by his anointed king, takes the head of Goliath, the enemy of God’s people.
  • He rescued Hezekiah and Israel as God himself offers a blood sacrifice of the Assyrians and sets his people free.
  • And in Christ Jesus, God rescued his people by himself, providing the perfect sacrifice for the sin of his people, so that they might be set free. While Jesus destroyed both the work of the devil and the wisdom of men.

God’s acts will be repeated. But it is that last half of that quote that is most significant.

in the future they will be repeated on a scale greater and more wonderful than that of the past.

Christ is the fulfillment of the acts of God, so to understand any act in the Old Testament I need to look through the lens of Christ, the gospel and the massive rescue God has secured for us in Christ.

So that means we should not read the Bible chopped up. But read it consecutively. I am sure that is more to that, but at least this we should do.

Time off

It doesn’t take long for a few days to turn into a few months.

That is what has happened with my writing. I had decided I needed to take a few days off, but those days turned into a couple of months. So why?

Well let me show you.

So we cleaned out the shop. Set it up for woodworking, and I have done a couple of projects. One is a plywood cart for all my cutoffs and extras. The other project is a bike rack.

So yeah, this is what I have been doing. I hope that now that the intense get the shop set up is over, I can get back to some reading and writing. And maybe show you a project every now and then.

See ya soon.

Reading the Old Testament

Christians, take up the Old Testament and read it.

Too many Christians fail to read the Old Testament. For some reason, they find it foreign, unusual, or even distasteful.

But what many fail to realize is that every time Jesus said something to the effect of, “it is written” he was speaking of the Old Testament.

There was one famous pastor who recently made the claim that the early Christians didn’t have a Bible. While that is true in the sense that Crossway didn’t have a market in Jerusalem selling calf-leather bound printed copies of the 66 books of the protestant Bible, his statement is complete absurd and betrays a distaste or perhaps a disrespect for the Old Testament.

Luke 24:44-49 says this:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Here the modern Christian’s bias against the Old Testament is rebuked, outlawed, and displayed as plain silly for 3 reasons.

  1. Jesus himself used, read, trusted, depended on, and relished in the Old Testament. Here after his own death and resurrection he is concerned not with recounting the events of the Old Testament, but he focuses in on what was written in the Old Testament.
  2. Jesus is also using the Old Testament to explain recent events. His own death and resurrection needed clarification and definition. He gave those things by teaching from the Old Testament. He could have just easily said, ” This is what it means I declare.” But instead he had already declared and he was sharing that declaration with these disciples.
  3. Jesus it he center of the Old Testament. We can’t overlook the fact that Jesus says, “everything written about me.” Jesus understood that the Old Testament was valuable, but it was valuable not simply because it could explain human condition, but because it centered on the person of Christ.

Christians, take up the Old Testament and read it. Read it with a view to helping you understand what happened in Jesus’ Life, but use the New Testament to help you properly interpret the Old Testament. But please read it.