Preaching, Final I think.

Introductions and Conclusions.

So I want to just add this little bit about introductions and conclusions, but I have to say I am not nearly as strict on this as I would be other items in this series. And maybe I will explain that further down. For now…

Introductions

  • Aim – The Introduction should explain why listening to this sermon would be good for those listening.
  • Length – I would say if you are not into your first point within 2 minutes you are losing ground. (there would be exceptions to this. Sometimes the introduction needs to be longer because it needs to review, cover some ground, that you are assuming in your sermon. So how do you decide? Ask someone. Tell them what the sermon is going to be about, then tell them the massive information you want to share in the introduction then ask them if they think it will be necessary for understanding? I find using others to help me in task is really nice. They have investment, and I get good solid feedback. Usually people could do with far less information in the sermons than we as pastors tend to think. So ask someone)
  • Style – I believe that sometimes just stating flat out why people ought to listen is perfectly fine. But that is because I am not a big believer in forcing stories and such as illustrations into my sermons. If it works great, if not, keep going. So sometimes I have a story to tell and sometimes not. One time I said simply:
    • Today I really want you to pay attention to the sermon, not that I don’t want you to always, but today I know there are several in here who have had struggles with trials and suffering in the last few weeks and I want you to pay close attention to what John is doing in this passage because he gives us three ways that Christ is related to our suffering.
    • That was it. Nothing else was in that introduction. To me this is perfectly fine, and many times preferable to a contrived story illustration.

 

Conclusions:

  • Aim – The conclusion is the final call to action that the sermon was built on in the first place. Such as the sermon I had the introduction above, I would conclude this sermon with, charging the people to dwell on Christ’s role in their suffering with a few challenges to how or to any specific way I can nail it down for them.
  • Length – It is usually super short and often for me, I start weaving the conclusion into the application of my last point. And often I write the conclusion right into the application of the last point.
  • Style – I would simply repeat here what I have stated above about the style of introductions. Simple, quick, and one target to leave them with the main thought of the sermon.

Preaching, part 9

Application

It seems to me that this is the one of the most contentious portions of preaching.

  • Some seem to think that application is left for the Holy Spirit to do in the hearts of the hearers.
  • Some seem to think the application of the Scriptures never alter, or vary, even in nuance.
  • Some seem to think that the whole sermon is application.

And I am sure there are some who think about 40,000 other things about application. Well I think a sermon needs to be applied because:

  • Of Paul’s example in all his letters, where there seems to be a section heavy in theology and a section heavy in application (though he does mix it a little bit throughout)
  • Peter’s Sermon on the Day of Pentecost: Repent and believe. That is application.

So how do we make application? So I try to think about application I guess like Mark Dever, like a grid. Here is what I mean:

Who would this apply to?

First I would ask who does this apply to. Now this is not as scary as this might sound. Before I have gotten here in my explanation and proof I have laid out truths from the word of God, and somewhere in there, either in the explanation or in my application: I need to state the key truth that I am aiming at in point I am preaching, And I need to ask how does this impact believers today? How does this impact someone who is lost? How does this impact or interact with the lost world around us? How does this help or shape the church body? I might even ask who in terms of age groups within the church?

How would it apply to them?

Then I would take the who and think then how to apply it to them. For this I use another grid, that I think I got from David Murray, but I can’t swear to it.

Head – What truths need to be believed, loved, adored, absorbed and made part of this person’s life. Or what truths contradict the truths that they believe.

Heart – what attitudes do these truths demand and call for? There is at least an attitude of repentance, but there might be more, humility, worship, submission, and on and on.

Hand – What actions need to be taken? Is there any sin that needs to be stopped? Any action that needs to be started?

Examples:

If I were preaching again through John 3:9-15 and I had my two points: Jesus is the revealer and Jesus is the cure. Let’s take one: Jesus is the cure. There are a whole host of application possibilities depending on what I am trying to accomplish with the sermon.

  • To Christians
    • Head –
      • I might be stressing the continuity of the Testaments and the use of typology in order to show believers how to read the Word.
      • I might be discussing the disease of sin, its nature and affects (from the type of the serpents)
      • I might be discussing how faith in Christ is but a look towards Christ and what that looks like theologically.
    • Heart
      • I might suggest that humility, repentance, faith, believing, loving and praising Christ for his cure.
    • Hand
      • I might suggest they read a book on the topic of typology.
      • I would suggest believers test themselves to see if they are in the faith.
      • I would challenge believers to make sure if they are cured, to stop living like they are sick.
  • To those who are lost
    • Head
      • I would suggest that they believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation
      • I would suggest that they believe rightly about their sin.
    • Heart
      • I would beg them to humble themselves and call on God for salvation.
      • I would paint the picture of the cure in Christ, and plead with them to take up something so gloriously beautiful.
    • Hand
      • I would call them to trust in Christ and be saved.
  • To the lost world
    • Head
      •  I would challenge the notion that all religions lead to the same place.
  • The Church
    • Heart
      • I would suggest that the church which is built by Christ, is built of healed people and that this body is to be an army of healed people
    • Hand
      • So there should not be a mixed group of believers and nonbelievers as members. And they ought to protect the membership better.

Now I would not make all of those applications in one sermon, but I think I could legitimately make those applications. I wouldn’t make them all because some of them might not be helpful for the congregation that would be before me. And frankly I just wouldn’t have the time to develop them all. I usually feel as though I only have time to do maybe four things in a sermon point. So either I have aim at one group the whole time, or mix it up.

I will almost never fail to speak directly to lost people in my sermons, even if looking out I believe it is possible everyone is a Christian. And I will almost always try to speak to the lost world. I think this helps our people know how to communicate to those around them when they encounter them.

A final word

Some I think if you leave out illustrations its fine. The sermon will be okay, I don’t think an illustration left out will make or break a sermon. (however I really bad illustration and totally ruin a sermon)

But Application? I am not so quick to say that application can be left out. I just don’t think any of us with our desperately wicked and deceitful hearts can be left to our own devices that we will actually spend time applying the sermon to our lives. Sure there are those super students who rehash the sermon two or three times, and that is the goal, but the truth is not many of the people in our churches do that. So while we have a captive audience, we ought to connect the dots for them and plead with them to turn to Christ.

Preaching, part 8

Alright I will make this quick because talking about illustrations is just not quite as vital as some of the other posts we have tackled. And read to the end so you can see my word of caution about illustrations.

There are 2 ways I think illustrations can be used.

Illustrate your explanation

First I think sometimes it is needful and helpful to illustrate something in you explanation that might be

NEW to those who are listening

  1. New words
  2. New concepts
  3. New theological beliefs, or deeper aspects of those truths.

DIFFICULT to those who are listening

Sometimes there is a concept that is not new, but it is just difficult. And so it is good to illustrate that concept in your explanation to be sure the people listening get it.

IMPORTANT to a right view of the Bible

Often we come across important theological concepts that every Christian ought to know, For example: Justification is far more important for a Christian to understand than say the exact nature of the tongues that Paul speaks about in Corinthians.

So sometimes when it has been a while since we have discussed the concept, I will through in an illustration of that concept. Usually I have two or three ways to illustrate it and I will simply use that over and over. I think repetition helps make it stick.

Illustrate your application 

Sometimes it is important to illustration your application, because it is very handy for people to see the application you are calling them to placed in life for them to see. I think this is exactly what Nathan the prophet does for David when he tells him the story of the rich man and the poor man. He places the calling out of that sin in a life situation that David can identify with, and then uses it to say you are that man.

People need concrete examples of what the repentance looks like that you are calling them to from the passage. Because we want to deal with the specifics of the passage aimed at their life and heart. And if we believe that the heart is wicked and deceptive then we should help open people up by showing what this looks like in life.

This is also a good way to bring the various age groups in the congregation into the sermon. Because you can state the application, and then show what looks like in the life of a teenager, kid, married man, or a single lady.

Word of Caution

I long to make sure I have adequate illustrations in my sermons. However that being said, I do not try to kill myself with it. Sometimes you can’t think of anything, you can’t make anything work without it turning into some really bad analogy that actually illustrates an error you are trying to avoid.

(You know that crazy analogies about the Trinity that never work!)

Anyway, I will finish writing my sermon and the last half of the week I will just think about my sermon over and over, and I pray for God to help me illustrate it, Many a Sunday I have stepped into the pulpit without a single illustration. And so be it.

If the illustrations do not just easily come and are clear and right on target, then just don’t use them. It is far better to just explain the text without any illustrations than it is to muddy the waters with your illustration.

As a pastor your time is valuable, and if you can you should try to illustrate the sermon, but you should not sacrifice pastoral, family, and other duties to spend hours and hours trying to come up with illustrations. Let them suggest themselves and move on.

 

Preaching, part 7

So we have talking about so many things about preaching. I am about done though, I think. We will see.

Sermon is written. It has 2 points. Both points from the text, you have stated, and placed in the text. Now it is time to Explain and Prove.

Just so we are clear. to state and place the point when you actually preach should not take any longer than about 30 seconds to a minute. If you go longer than that, then you have already wandered over into explaining.

Explaining the POINT.

I have to say, that you should be explaining the point of your sermon, which if it arose from the text means you are explaining the text. So let me give an example.

In John 3:9-15 (since this is the example Cali and I keep using to discuss these things.) I had 2 points.

My first point was Jesus is the revealer. I then did three things under that point:

  1. I set the text in context of Nicodemus’ question from verse 9 and the connection of that to verses 1-8.
  2. Then I described that Jesus is the revealer and no one else is. Then in the explanation of this I went to Hebrews 1:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15-16, and John 14:8-9.
  3. Then I described how Jesus the revealer has condescended to us in his revelation. Here I spent time in verse 13 and talked about the way in which God has revealed himself throughout time. And by example taking up Old Testament examples and such.

My Second point was Jesus is the Cure. Here I centered in on the phrase lifted up, and took a journey from Numbers, back into John to other places he mentioned lifted up. And from this journey, I would draw out a few points: Christ must become our curse, Christ’s curse means we have a problem that we mus see, and Christ’s curse is our cure, if we but look to him.

So this is explaining my two points and the journey I took. Next Prove the point.

PROVE the point

When I say prove, here is what I am after. I want the people to walk away with a particular understanding of the text, and the application of that text to their life in such away that they can come back to it later and remember it when they read it.

So when I give the explanation to prove the point, I use as much information as is necessary to get the point across and prove it, but I stop short of giving them everything I have.

  • Sometimes we get into ancillary arguments that the people don’t care about it and knowing the details of will not help them at all.
  • Sometimes after giving two or three proofs of our point, we have established a pattern for them to go and search on their own. I like to give them the space to chase those things out.
  • Sometimes I totally miss the mark on this. Sometimes I think I have given enough to prove my point and I find out, nope I sure did not. And Sometimes I think something is important because of who I am dealing with in my life and so everyone needs to know these things. But that is not the truth. This is where I think the art of preaching is founded on good pastoral ministry. The more you know your people, the better you can tailor your sermon to meet their needs.

 

Conclusions

A sermon that does not seek to explain the word of God, is not a sermon but an opinion. I have found some of the greatest helps in two areas: Understanding the small words that connect phrases together and show the logical flow of the text and the connections between the testaments and epochs of God’s dealings with his people. If God is truly the same, yesterday, today, and forever, then we should expect similarities in why he works salvation for his people. Too often the sermon stops short at defining Greek or Hebrews words and stays there, but we want to do more. We want to take what God has inspired John to write and understand, as best we can, the way he was inspired by the Spirit, and then season our understanding with God’s inspiration of other authors of different times so that through the fullness of times, we might come to see what it is God is saying to us today.

Preaching, part 7

I appreciate my brother and friend Pastor Cali for his interaction on these posts. I wanted to use what he and I have discussed to fine tune what I am saying about a couple of things.

  1. The Objective of a sermon – This is a short single sentence explaining what the aim, objective, purpose, goal, outcome you hope to achieve from your sermon.
    1. You hope for it, because you pray and lean and rest on the Holy Spirit and only his work will cause the hard heart of the sinner, the rebellious heart of a saint, the discouraged heart of one of God’s children to repent. So we hope to accomplish this by God’s grace. We can’t produce in others what only God can. So an objective is just our hope and aim.
    2. You might never speak your objective sentence in your sermon. You might, and I would think by and large you should, but you might not. This objective is direction to your sermon and helps your sermon to be about ONE thing.
    3. I also use the objective to bridge the gap between Back then historical and now here today.
    4. This objective arises from the Text of Scripture itself. And here is how I would conceive of it:
      1. The Passage you are current in, has the large literary context of the chapters and verses around it.
      2. It also hast he context of the whole book that it is in.
      3. Then it has the context of the other writings by the same author, and then to the writings of contemporaries.
      4. It then has the context of the Testament and even Covenant that this passage falls within.
      5. And final the whole of Scripture forms up a context for this objective.
    5. You have studied the passage in front of you, and you have made it to all of these various contexts allowing each level to help shape the meaning of the passage in front of you.
    6. To write the objective: you start with the entire book that the passage is in first.
      1. John’s gospel’s stated purpose is so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you might have eternal life. So this must inform the objective of EVERY SINGLE SERMON from John’s Gospel.
      2. Then I go to the passage itself and think through how does this passage answer, help, illustrate, or advance the main purpose of the book. I let this also inform me of how to write my objective.
      3. Before I am done, I let the rest of Scripture, in all the various levels of context inform the objective statement that I am writing.
    7. So I write the objective, and it looks something like this for John 3:9-15:
      1. Every person can come to understand the new birth’s necessity by understanding 2 things about Jesus. 
        1. Every person stems from John 20:30-31, and the Flow of the Old Testament into the New Testament concerning all families of the earth will be blessed in Abraham, and the church’s commission to make disciples of all nations.
        2. Can come to understand the new birth’s necessity – This does not mean that they will understand it. I am not using can in the since of just learn these two truths and you got it. I am allowing what the Scriptures say as a whole concerning the work of the Holy Spirit and how we come to know anything is by the work of the Spirit in us  It is also related to Nicodemus’ question in verse 9 “How can these things be?” I could have added in the objective: believe, repent, worship and on and on, but I am trying to keep the structure lean so that it is easy to keep in my head.
        3. 2 things about Jesus. Jesus answers Nicodemus’ question by revealing two big broad categories of things about himself. Sure you could go deeper and talk with more detail about these things, but I keep it way up high. My sermon will take up explaining these two things about Jesus that Jesus himself explains. And I will follow Jesus in how he explains.
    8. But I will write the objective and let my two points rise up out of John’s gospel and then explain from wherever necessary.
  2. I think personally, that when your objective is written this way, and your points follow from that objective: which has arisen from the text, the whole of the Scriptures, your people can turn back to that passage, and say this passage is about two things about Jesus, and then they can follow the same trail I did.

Okay, I am out of words for now.

I will pick this up next week.

 

Preaching, part 6

So I have written about the pastoral burden in preaching,  outlining a sermon, and I can’t really remember what now.

But today I want to talk about 2 things in all of this. My last post I pointed out there are about 4 to 6 things you do in each point. Today I want to talk about the first two and this should be quick.

STATE THE POINT

Now I am a firm believer in no surprises or Gotha kind of moments in a sermon. God’s truth does not need our trickery. So I see nothing wrong with telling people the points you plan to cover in the introduction.

When you get to each point you need to state it. It does no good to have points that you never use or state. You wrote those points to help people follow you, and then not stating them is just a waste.

If you find stating the points seems ridiculous, and you feel like your points distract from your sermon and your focus, then you have not refined your points well enough. a refined structure, well written points, will actually feel very natural to you as you state them. If you feel awkward stating your points, try spending more time rewriting your points.

Finally, for those who find this a laborious mess, never fear. The number one best sermon I ever heard was from Dr. Sam Waldron on Romans 4:4-5. He had 3 points and each point was  something like: What does this text say about justification? What does this text say about God? What do we need to learn from this passage? (now this was not his structure, but I am showing this, because some people would think this is not a structure, but it is. So long as there is ONE underlying thing that all three of those questions is attempting to answer, support, or demonstrate.

PLACE THE POINT

If you are preaching from Joshua chapter 3, and you have 5 points. All 5 points MUST come from Joshua 3. If you want to be clear, and if you want people to be able to follow you with ease, then never have a point from another place in the Scriptures.

Now this does not mean you won’t go to other passages eventually, it is just you are preaching THIS passage.

If you are preaching from John 3 and one of your points comes from the book of Numbers, then you did something wrong with your structure or your homiletics. If in your points you don’t eventually get to Numbers, then you have done something wrong with your exegesis.

SO once you state your point, you need to show them where in the text in front of you this point is from. This helps them to verify your exegesis. And that is what we want. If they can verify your exegesis, then they can reproduce it.

I want doctrine to be hard. I want the call to repentance to be hard. I don’t want the structure of my sermon to ever be hard. If the structure fits the way the human mind works, then the doctrine can be crystal clear. Once it is clear, then the Spirit can do as he wishes in make this message an aroma of life or death.

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.