The Sermon Must Suffer!

Martin Luther once said, ‘Prayer, meditation and temptation make a preacher.’ We have little difficulty with prayer and meditation but the ‘temptation’ part we’d rather escape.

One reason why God allows preachers to suffer is that they might have the opportunity to grow spiritually and therefore to preach better. Even Jesus had to go through suffering to prepare him for his heavenly ministry (Heb 2:14-18), so why should we escape?

For a sermon to be good, the sermoniser must suffer. I wish there was some other way but apparently there isn’t. Trust me, I’ve been looking and I haven’t found one yet.

James 1:2-4 ‘Count it all joy brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’

Jame’s wisdom is paradoxical and yet profound. I’ve been a first hand witness to this promise of this verse being played out in my own life and ministry and I’m expectant of the fruit to come as a result of the testing of my faith in God.

The true preacher is known as one whom deals out to the people his life passed through the fire of thought. Phillips Brookes once said, ‘Truth through personality is our description of real preaching.’ If the truth of the word bypasses the personality of the preacher, then the sermon may become a lecture, and the preacher may become a hypocrite. If the text isn’t real to you, then you will find it hard to make it real to anyone else.

For the text to become real to you and others it must pass through the fire of a test. Don’t run from your test. Run to it, see it for what it is and embrace the spiritual growth that God wants to squeeze out of it, into you.

The Oracle!

5 Reasons to Preach the Tough Texts of Scripture

As a preacher, I’m called to proclaim the whole counsel of God, not just the bits that will attract a crowd or keep the polls heading north in my congregation.

In the last 12 months I’ve committed to preaching through books of the bible as the norm, rather than the exception. Many pulpits are filled with life-application, therapy sermons that avoid the tough texts of Scripture. However, my authority for preaching must come from the Scriptures alone (not my personality or influence) and all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16). I am an expository preacher committed to letting the text speak for itself.

The more I preach the bible, the more my congregation take the bible seriously and the more they listen, weighing the ramifications of what God’s Word is commanding. Preacher, whatever you are excited about, the people will get excited about.

Preaching through books of the bible follows the story of the Scriptures but it also forces you to deal with issues in the text that you would never have dealt with, had you adopted a pick and choose method of reading and preaching. Some of the tough texts of Scripture include: Romans 9; Phil 1:12-30; Ephesians 4:22-33; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Cor 6:12-20; 1 Cor 9:1-14; 1 Cor 11:1-16; 1 Cor 14:26-40; 2 Cor 8-9; Revelation (all of it)… to name a few.

I make no attempt to convince you that I’ve got all these texts covered or neatly packed away in my theological tool box but these have been some of the key texts that I have wrestled with over the years in my ministry and I’ve observed others doing so as well.

Here are 5 reasons you should preach the tough texts of Scripture:

  1. People are curious about what ‘that’ text really means
  2. People need help understanding how to apply the tough texts
  3. People need assurance that the bible is God’s truth to us in this age
  4. People need to hear what God says about things that displease him
  5. People need to wrestle with the mystery of God
Grace!

Why Australia needs a Great Awakening!

Australia has never had a nation wide awakening of the Gospel and it desperately needs it. Why? Because the general population is dead in sin.

Throughout history other nations like Wales, Scotland, England, Nigeria, Argentina, South Korea and the USA have been awakened by God’s Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel and the prayers of the saints.

Australia is one of the most popular and prosperous nations across the world and yet we are one of the most spiritually impoverished nations on the planet. We are steeped in materialistic comfort and spiritual apathy. We are consumed with our houses and holidays and care little for eternal matters. While we seemingly have everything, we seem to be more bored and miserable than ever before.

I had the privilege of visiting Calcutta, India in 2012 with Compassion Australia and had one of the Indian professional development program students comment, “I want India to become like Australia because Australia is heaven.” I understood where he was coming from but I thought to myself, “Ahh, you probably wouldn’t think this if you knew the spiritual climate in my nation.” I remember hearing Ps Wayne Cordeiro respond to a Chinese Christian on a ministry trip to China when it was said to him, “I’m praying that China will become like America”, Wayne said, “Well, I’m praying that America will become like China.”

There is the misguided perception that western nations like the USA and Australia have it all going on for them. While this may be true from a material perspective, it is very far from the truth when it comes to the decline in mission, church attendance and biblical fervency.

I have a strong conviction that Australia needs pastors, preachers and believers to remain on these shores and pray and proclaim the gospel and plant churches like never before. We are more pagan than ever before but never has there been such an opportunity in our history when the church can rise up and march forward into mission engagement than right now.

We are facing the same dynamics of the early church in the book of Acts. It’s in these pagan lands that the faithful, powerful proclamation of the Gospel abounds in much fruit and kingdom advancement. I refuse to believe that just because the spiritual plains seem harder here than other lands, that the Holy Spirit can’t move as he has in other countries throughout history. We have got to stop making excuses and continuing contending for the gospel, whilst we contextualize it in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart,  Darwin and beyond.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

Grace!