Jump Start # 2781
2 Timothy 2:2 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
The sermon is an extension of the preacher. His thoughts, his talents and his personality go into making and shaping the sermon just the way it is. Some sermons are short. Some are long. Some are all business, to the point. Others have stories, quotes and illustrations. Some sermons step on our toes. Some bring a tear to our eyes. Some we never remember and others we can’t forget. Some are easy to follow and very logical, point one, point two and point three. Others are like listening to a story and it takes a while to figure out what it is all about. Some sermons use a ton of verses. Others look at only one, but it’s a careful and detailed look.
I read something the other day about sermons. It was written by a young preacher. He claimed we got it all wrong. The way we preach these days is not the way it was originally done, was his thinking. He was advocating dropping the sermon and having more intimate and casual settings where things were not so structured and people could just talk. He claimed that our model of preaching came from the Romans and not the early Christians. His proof for that was what he read in a book.
I tend to think that this young guy is all wet. Jesus, the greatest preacher, didn’t follow the model he was pushing when the Sermon on the Mount was preached. Paul didn’t follow that model at the Mar’s Hill sermon. Even back in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah that model was not used. The law was read. Words were explained. Sense was made of the Scriptures. That sounds pretty much like our typical Sunday sermons. It’s rather odd and strange that someone would go to a book that tries to explain original preaching yet does not look at actual sermons found in the Bible.
So, all of this leads to this question, “What is a sermon supposed to do? What’s the point? What’s the purpose?”
First, a sermon isn’t supposed to be a vitamin that gives us 100% of our daily spiritual needs. That’s not the point. If the only time we are opening our Bibles is Sunday during a sermon, then we are cutting our own legs out from under us. The sermon is just one of many, many tools that can help be learn, grow and become as God wants. It’s not the only tool in the toolbox.
Second, a sermon can change our lives. It did for Peter’s audience in Acts 2. There, the sermon connected the dots between prophecy, Messiah and Jesus. Once those dots were connected, they could see and they believed. They repented and were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.
Third, a sermon can change our thinking. We can come into a church building pretty sure about things and in the course of a few minutes realize that what we thought was true, really isn’t. It can make us realize that we haven’t forgiven someone. It can open our eyes to the way God wants us to walk and think. It can help us get our priorities in the right order. Sermons can do that.
Fourth, a sermon can fill our hearts with hope. Hearing about the promises of God, learning about what happens after death, understanding grace, and seeing the joys of Heaven can lift our spirits and prompt us to live better and holier. There isn’t much hope these days. Gloom and doom seem more common than anything. What’s wrong is obvious. One wonders if there is anything right. A sermon can show us that God came into this world and changed eternity for those who will love Him and follow Him.
Sermons are not intended to compete with TV. We preachers are not stand up comedians. Having the audience on the verge of clapping, shouting and filled with excitement is not the drive of sermons. For those looking for that, they will bounce around from place to place, until they find it. And, what they will find is cotton candy theology. It looks great. It tastes wonderful. But there’s nothing there. One doesn’t even have to chew cotton candy—it just melts in your mouth. So tasty and so wonderful. And, so is cotton candy theology. No doctrine. No warnings. No truths. Just good times. Just building foundations upon the sand. And, when the storms come, and they always do, cotton candy theology doesn’t offer any help. Hard to laugh through a funeral of a young person. Hard to laugh when you are standing in the shadows of a Job, or hiding in fear with Elijah.
Paul told Timothy to preach the word. He didn’t say, “Preach yourself.” He wasn’t preaching politics. He wasn’t preaching social reform. He wasn’t preaching about all the ills of the Roman government or Roman society. He was to preach God’s word. It was God’s word that would save their souls. It was God’s word that would change their lives. It was God’s word that hope, faith and love are built upon.
Preach the word—that’s what was done back then. That’s what needs to be done today.