Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Provision: An Example of Sound Preaching (Not Just a Seminary Lecture)

Visiting New Georgia Baptist Church this past Lord's Day, I confess that-upon seeing that the sermon was from the opening verses of Luke 2-I was initially disappointed. My first thought was a complaint that most churches preach this same text every year. Then, when I looked at the points on the outline in the sermon (which were printed in the bulletin, and which are re-typed below), I thought, "How did anyone EVER get these points from this text?" HOWEVER, despite this unjust negativity on my part, Dr. Keith Stell preached this familiar passage in such a way that it both challenged me personally, and-I believe-provides an example of how sound preaching should differ from a seminary lecture.

The following is the outline of the sermon that Dr. Stell provided (in bold-face) with some of my notes from the sermon:

The Provision (Luke 2:1-20)

The Glorifying Response to the Christ, Jesus...

I. We Must Respond Personally (vv. 15-16)
A. The shepherds, like all of us, were not seeking a Savior.
B. The shepherd were considered to be very low in society.
C. The shepherds spoke words to one another, that were based on truth, with urgency.
D. The shepherds' words led to action.

II. We Must Tell Others Intentionally (v. 17)
A. "Virtual nobodies" were given the privilege of announcing the Messiah.
B. The shepherds, pointing to Christ, carried the message of salvation.

III. We Must Remain Amazed Intimately (v. 18): Are we, like those who heard the testimony from the shepherds, amazed at the good news?

IV. We Must Retain Hope Purposefully (v. 19): Do we, like Mary, repeatedly think of the truth we have heard and what God had done in our lives?

V. We Must Worship Unashamedly (v. 20)

TWO OBSERVATIONS REGARDING PREACHING, prompted by the above sermon:

1. Sound exegesis is the basis of sound preaching. The main point of the passage must be the main point of the sermon. Luke 2:1-20 is focused on the birth of "a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Dr. Stell's sermon was focused on this truth as well.

2. Whereas (at least some) seminary lectures may begin and end with sound exegesis, sound preaching must go beyond exegesis by urgently applying the text to the congregation. Through looking at what the text says concerning different responses to the message of Christ (with no overly imaginative flights of fancy), Dr. Stell challenged the congregation to consider specific ways that we should respond to the gospel.

a. I've heard at least one objection against preaching that emphasizes application. The objection runs thus:
'The people in the congregation have such diverse issues in their lives that if I try to preach specific application, some people will think that the text does not apply to their lives, while others will think that I am trying to personally single them out. Therefore, I should just explain the text and trust the Holy Spirit to make application.'
b. However, consider the biblical model of preaching, as seen in the form of the New Testament epistles. The same gospel is proclaimed in 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Philippians, yet it is clear that the audiences for these books need the gospel applied in different ways. The (largely) warm and encouraging epistle to the Philippians would have been out-of-place if written to the Corinthians, who stood in such need of correction. This should cause the preacher to consider: could your sermon be preached with no change whatsoever, at any time whatsoever, in any congregation whatsoever? Or are you-like the apostolic community who penned the New Testament-bringing a specific word from God that is focused on teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training (2 Tim 3:16) the particular congregation before which God has placed you?

c. Finally, consider the personal example set forth by the Apostle Paul. With a clear conscience, Paul could tell the Ephesians, "I did not cease day or night to admonish every one with tears" (Acts 20:31). Speaking of preaching the gospel, Paul wrote, "We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20 NASB). What is not evident from my meager notes on Dr. Stell's excellent sermon is that he issued a heartfelt call for the congregation to respond to the message of Christ, following the examples of how the shepherds responded to the Messiah.

DEAR BROTHERS: let us never allow our proper view of God's absolute sovereignty-let us never allow our necessary dependence upon the Holy Spirit-to prevent us from following the apostolic example, pleading with sinners to be reconciled to God. To fail in making a specific plea to the people God has placed before us is to misrepresent the serious nature of the coming judgment, in light of which the gospel is our only hope.

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