Three Musts for Every Sermon
The Apostle Paul once wrote, we preach Christ and him crucified. When it comes to the sermon content is king because Christ the King is always the sermon’s supreme content. However the shape of a sermon puts this preeminent content on fullest display. So, let’s consider the sermon.
When a follower of Jesus walks away from a Sunday message believing they have heard a “good sermon” I think it’s because three things have taken place within the sermon’s structure. First, the sermon exposed the truth and beauty of God. Second, the preacher exalted Christ. Third, the message equipped the Church.
The sermon exposes, exalts, and equips. Please know I worked extremely hard to find a word that didn’t begin with an “E”. Alas I could not. After all a good sermon must also have three points that begin with the same letter. The great ones conclude with a poem.
The sermon is meant to expose the truth and beauty of God through his Word. The primary task of a preacher is to follow in the heritage of the Old Testament prophets and communicate to the people of God the words of God. In doing so there is a dual exposure that takes place. As the exposed Word of God exposes (first and foremost) the truth and beauty of God himself it simultaneously exposes our character. As in Isaiah when the prophet sees and hears the holiness of God heralded, he comes face to face with his unholiness.
The sermon is meant to exalt Christ in all things. No sermon is a sermon that does not exalt Jesus Christ as Lord. This must take place generally and specifically. Generally at the conclusion of a sermon it is Christ—not the preacher nor the congregation member—who should be at the forefront of the mind. More precisely Christ ought to be exalted as the particular hope and remedy for the condition and sin of the heart which has been exposed by the message.
The sermon is meant to equip the Church. A sermon isn’t complete if it merely exposes truth and exalts Christ. It must also build up and prepare the Church to obey Jesus and fulfill his desire for them in their particular context and witness. A sermon is not in a vacuum of space and time but meant to be given for the blessing and enrichment of the people of God. As the exaltation of Christ was precisely the remedy to the problem introduced so too the Church must be precisely equipped to live in response to the gospel, God’s character, and God’s Word that has been communicated in the exposing and exalting.
Sermons don’t exists because God’s Word lacks. Rather I believe the sermon exists because of our individual insufficiencies. Preaching is never meant to accomplish something of which God’s Word is incapable or incomplete. The preached word is a treat for the people of God to feast upon that they might taste and see that the Lord is good in every page … paragraph … and punctuation mark of the Scriptures!
This is why our congregational posture to hearing the Word preached is meant to be listening, rather than the modern desire of dialogical. We submit to God and his Word as our supreme authority. We must regularly practice receiving the word of God.
Therefore it is the humbling task of the preacher to serve the people of God through the Word of God by exposing the truth and beauty of God, exalting Christ, and equipping the Church in every sermon.
And now a poem from Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) …
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.