The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 21 Fall 2016
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I: The Power For Preaching, Pt. 4
“The Power of Prayer”
E. M. Bounds says the following:
“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer…Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the pastor…Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to advance God’s cause in this world.” [E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (Moody, 1979), 10, 15].
The heart of spiritual power is prayer. The apostle Paul asked for prayer: “Brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” (2 Thess. 3:1). Again Paul asks, “...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – and for me, that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel...” (Eph. 6:18-20). And again, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Col. 4:2-3)
Notice in these texts, the direct connection Paul makes between prayer and preaching. Clearly in his view, the heart of spiritual power is prayer. So, with that in mind, let’s ask ourselves some tough questions:
1. Why Is Personal Prayer An Important Issue For Powerful Preaching?
To preach with renewed power year after year, a preacher needs to have renewed experiences with God and this can only be entered into through prayer. Personal prayer is the means by which we experience a fresh fellowship and walk with God. It is in private communication with God through prayer that our souls are refreshed and we rediscover over and over again the heart of God.
Nothing encourages and gives spiritual vision more than prayer and the reading of the Word. If a preacher does not pay the price of spending lots of time with God on a consistent basis, he will run dry. But when we spend time in God’s presence, God replenishes our spiritual resources and vitality. Secret prayer changes us and rekindles our passion for God. Only secret prayer keeps us sharp spiritually.
In order to have power in preaching, a preacher must be a man of prayer. Indeed, we are invited by God to come boldly and regularly into His presence to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Through prayer God reveals to us what he wants us to say to the people. This is why personal prayer is a vital issue regarding unction in preaching.
2. Why Is Prayer A Difficult Discipline To Maintain?
Prayer is a difficult discipline to maintain because our adversary, the devil, wants to keep us from it. Satan knows that there is a direct connection between private, personal prayer and power in the pulpit, and he does not want power in the pulpit. There are always things that vie and clamour for our attention. When they rob us of time in prayer, they are tools that Satan is using to draw us away from prayer and from dependence on God.
3. Why Is There So Little Prayer In The Lives Of So Many Preachers?
The major reason why there is so little prayer in the lives of many preacher is the lack of personal discipline in their lives. So many of us are lazy and neglectful in the matter of prayer. We spend time on sermon preparation, but we tend to neglect preparing our hearts through prayer because we lack discipline.
We need to discipline ourselves in preparation for preaching by studying God’s Word and by praying for God’s help and direction. Prayer requires the same kind of discipline as any other occupation that demands training and commitment. Just as athletes diligently train themselves and deny themselves the pleasures that others might indulge in so that they can be in the very best shape possible, so we, as preachers, must be committed to spiritual “training” and the discipline of prayer.
4. Why Is Prayer Like A Compass To The Sermon?
Prayer is like a compass to the sermon in that it acts as a rudder does for a ship. It keeps us going straight. It marks out the course ahead of us. We know where we want to end up in our sermon, and prayer makes sure that we go in the right direction to end up there.
5. Why Do Prayer And A Holy Life Go Together?
Prayer and holiness are inseparably linked together. Prayer keeps the preacher’s spirit in harmony with God and we can only be in harmony with God to the degree that we have holy lives. Prayer is the medium that keeps our hearts attuned to God; and to be attuned to God demands holiness of practice.
We cannot enter into meaningful, genuine prayer with sin in our lives. Therefore, the discipline of prayer keeps us sensitive to sin and anything that disrupts our communion with God. Prayer is a divine encounter with God and a meeting with God puts us on holy ground where we must remove our shoes. In prayer, we are convicted of anything in our lives that is contrary to the nature and character of God, which, in order for us to continue in prayer, we must judge and confess.
Only as we saturate ourselves in prayer are our lives made holy. And only then are we filled with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Without unceasing prayer we cannot be truly holy; and without being truly holy we cannot preach with power. We can have the best sermon outlines and do the most diligent study, but without holiness in our private lives we cannot preach the Word with power.
If our private lives are morally impure, then our preaching will be ineffective and weak. We cannot preach God’s Word with power if we do not live in a way that is consistent with that Word. The Word must be effective in the preacher’s life before it will be effective in the congregation’s life.
John Wesley wanted preachers who “fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God.”
In order to be powerful for God, we must live holy lives that spring out of prayerful lives.
A life that is weak in prayer is weak in practice and weak in preaching. A strong prayer life produces a strong holy life and, consequently, a strong preaching life. If we do not live a pure life we will not pray; but if we walk a pure life with God, we will not keep from praying.
Part II: Preparing For Preaching
Outlining the Sermon, Part 2
In order to outline a sermon we need to move from textual structure (which we have talked about at length in previous editions of this journal) to the sermon outline. The textual structure is the first step in developing a sermon outline. Sermon outlines follow the flow of thought in the textual structure and are derived from the textual structure. But there is a shift from the textual structure to the sermon outline – sometimes called the “sermonic shift.”
I. Moving From Textual Structure To Sermon Outline
The shift from the textual structure to the sermon outline is a shift from the “biblical world” (i.e. the world of the biblical author) to the “contemporary world” (i.e. the world we live in), so that the ideas we express are (1) not bound to a specific time, (2) not restricted to certain people (other than God or the Lord Jesus), and (3) not limited by particular geography or places.
In other words, sermon outlines are not past tense, nor people and situation specific. Rather, the ideas in a sermon outline are abiding principles, universal truths. What we are trying to do here is give our sermon outline a form that is communicable to, understandable by, and relevant to today’s audience, (1) by moving from the specific textual ideas up what is sometimes called the “ladder of abstraction” to arrive at general, timeless truths; and (2) by expressing these timeless truths as life-applications (i.e. applicable to our audiences).
If you don’t do this, your audience could well say, for example, “That was fine for the apostle Paul but what does it have to do with me? Why should I listen to this sermon?” We overcome this objection by outlining our sermons with main points that are universal in their truth and application for today. Thus, sermon outlines consist of main points that are oriented to universal truths (i.e. timeless principles) and focused on contemporary application (i.e. relevant to our present audience).
Every text has a message of timeless theological truth in it for today. Our task is to determine what those timeless truths are and express them as principles. This is what Dr. Walter Kaiser calls “principlization.” These principles become the “main points” of our sermon outline.
II. Formulating The Main Points Of Your Sermon
After writing out the textual outline, the next task is to write out the sermon outline. The starting point for a sermon outline is to formulate main points and sub-points. Main points form the structure (skeleton) on which the sermon hangs. They are like chapter headings in a book.
1. What Are Main Points?
Main points are one sentence summaries of each thought (idea) in the text. They are restatements of the textual structure in the form of universal principles, abiding truths. Main points answer the question: “What can we learn from the text today? What does this have to do with me? What are the abiding principles (timeless truths) that apply to us?”
2. How Are Main Points Discovered?
Main points arise from your study of the text and are derived from the textual structure you have discovered. That’s why the textual structure is the first step in developing a sermon outline. Like textual structure, therefore, the main points for sermon outlines follow and are structured around the “flow of thought” of the text.
You discover main points in the biblical text by identifying the abiding principles (timeless truths) that the biblical author is conveying, not only to his immediate audience but to us.
3. How Are Main Points Stated (Formulated)?
Main points are statements of principle whose thrust is “life application.” As Walter Kaiser puts it, main points “state the author’s proposition, argument, narration, and illustrations in timeless abiding truths with special focus on the application of those truths to the current needs of the church.” (Kaiser, Toward An Exegetical Theology, 152). They are statements of timeless and universal truth that are worded as application to the lives of our audience. They are propositions that call the hearers to some kind of response – i.e. propositions that internalize the truth.
Main points, therefore, are one-sentence summaries of each thought (idea) in the biblical text and they are formulated so that (1) they do not dilute or change the content of the passage; (2) they express the original author’s purpose and theme in writing; and (3) they reflect the timeless truth the original author wanted to convey.
How you state the theological principle varies depending on the genre of text. If you are dealing with didactic material (e.g. Romans), this is relatively simple. All you have to do is word the teachings into a propositional form (homiletical points) that call the hearers to some type of response.
If you are dealing with non-didactic biblical material, the task is more complex. In that case, you need to summarize the theme of each paragraph of your preaching passage in a single sentence that corresponds to the author’s intent and which gives the theological and practical essence of what that paragraph is about. Figuring out what the paragraph is about can be very challenging in, for example, narrative material.
4. What Are The Characteristics Of Main Points?
Because main points are universal and timeless biblical principles, each main point (1) should be expressed in either the present or future tense (not past); (2) should be stated in full sentences (i.e. contain a full “principlized” idea so that the sermon is fully understandable from the points alone); (3) should not include names of persons (except God or Christ) or places; and (4) should not be a description of past events, since that leaves the sermon in the realm of ancient history without relevance to our audience.
These biblical principles, then, form the outline of your sermon. By doing this, you bridge the gap between the ancient world of the biblical text to the contemporary world of our audience. That is essentially the difference between a textual structure (world of the text) and a sermon outline (contemporary world).
In the next edition of this journal, I will show you how to test your main points and then give you examples of sermon outlines compared to their textual structure. When you actually see it in these examples I think you will see the benefit of doing the hard work in developing a sermon outline from the textual structure.
Meanwhile, in the following devotional article by Dr. Stephen Olford (“The Communion of the Gospel”) you will see how he has worded his main points as statements of universal, theological principle which he has developed from the textual structure itself.
Part III. Devotional
“The Communion Of The Gospel” (1 Cor. 1:26-31)
By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford
Continuing his teaching on division in the church, Paul now proceeds to show how strife and contention can result not only from wrong notions about the character of the gospel, but also because of wrong ideas concerning the community of the gospel.
In His divine sovereignty and inscrutable wisdom, God has so designed the appeal of the gospel that man can merit absolutely nothing by responding to it. For this reason, the community of the gospel consists of a company of people who have learned that no flesh should glory in the presence of God. It was because of their failure to see this truth that the Corinthian Christians were vying with one another under the banner of their respective party leaders. The Apostle however, deals with this problem by describing God’s method of calling, choosing, and controlling the community of believers in Jesus Christ. So we see from a study of the verses before us that:
I. God’s Selects His People Through The Simplicity Of The Gospel
“For you see your calling brethren that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Using the imperative mood, Paul invites his readers to survey the church at Corinth and observe those who constituted its membership. Quite obviously there were very few within that community who might have been termed “wise,” “mighty,” or “noble.” And this, of course, has been true of the church of Jesus Christ right throughout its long history. The implication is clear and plain:
1) The Selective Simplicity of the Gospel Does Not Appeal to Many People of Intellectual Attainments: “…not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). There is a natural tendency in the unregenerate person to think independently of God. As we have seen already in our consideration of human wisdom, there is that about it which is “earthly, sensational, and devilish” (James 3:15). Unless a person is prepared to repent, or change his mind in favor of God’s wisdom, he can in no wise be saved (see Matthew 18:3).
To corroborate this, it is significant to recall that one of the only times we read of our Savior rejoicing in spirit, during the days of His ministry, was when He looked up to heaven and exclaimed, “I thank you O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Matthew 11:25-26).
The fact is that heaven has decreed that the world by wisdom cannot know God (1 Corinthians 1:21). This unqualified rejection of the philosophical approach to eternal things is in order that “no flesh should glory in God’s presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29).
2) The Selective Simplicity of the Gospel Does Not Appeal to Many People of Influential Achievements: “…not many mighty…are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). There is a natural tendency in the unregenerate person to work independently of God. The word “mighty” is a general term for people who have gained a place of influence through their own achievements. Now unless this pride of influence is crucified in the church of Jesus Christ there is always lurking trouble. We are all familiar with a character by the name of Diotrephes, whose love of preeminence in the church at Ephesus created nothing but strife and contention (3 John 1:9). Indeed, because of his place of influence he not only attacked the beloved Apostle John, but also refused to entertain within the assembly those who were associated with this man of God. Indeed, there is a strong implication that he actually intercepted one of John’s letters so that it was never read to the members of the church. All this serves to illustrate the corrupting influence of uncrucified power. For this very reason not many “mighty” are called; and God has willed it so in order that “…no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29).
3) The Selective Simplicity of the Gospel Does Not Appeal to Many People of Imperial Ancestry: “…not many…noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). There is also a natural tendency in the unregenerate person to live independently of God. Most commentators are agreed that the word “noble” applies to family connections and indicates those of noble rank. While there are outstanding exceptions, as we shall see, it is true to say that very few of noble rank ever seem to be attracted by the gospel.
In Paul’s day there were great personalities like Dionysius of Athens (Acts 17:34); Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Crete (Acts 13:6-12); the noble ladies of Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:4, 12); and not least, the Apostle himself, who were called into the fellowship of God’s Son. We all know of people like Count Zinzendorf, and Madame Guyon, who have added to that illustrious company of the redeemed.
Lady Huntington, an English woman of great distinction, who was converted under the preaching of Rowland Hill, a flaming evangelist, once remarked that she owed her salvation to the letter “M.” By way of explanation she went on to add that if the text read, “Not any wise, mighty or noble,” she could never have been saved; but as we know, Paul says, “Not many wise, mighty, or noble.” There have been some in the past, and there will be some saved in the future, until the church of Jesus Christ is complete. But the fact remains that by and large, the simplicity of the gospel does not appeal to those of imperial advancements. And, once again, God has willed it so that “no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29).
Anyone with knowledge of church life will know of the strife and contention and division which are caused through a carnal desire for recognition. It is only when we realize that we cannot think, work, or live apart from God that true humility and consequent harmony will prevail in the fellowship of God’s people. Now Paul turns to another emphasis of this same subject and points out that:
II. God Elects His People Through The Supremacy Of The Gospel
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). To teach man forever that no flesh should glory in His presence, God has designed that His electing grace should demonstrate the utter supremacy of the gospel. In other words:
1) God Has Chosen to Save Foolish Humanity. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise…” (1 Corinthians 1:27). The word which Paul uses to describe humanity here is the one from which we derive our term “moron,” which means, “dull,” “sluggish,” “silly,” or “stupid.” But in His grace God picks up such material as this and so transforms it by the redemptive work of Christ so as to confound the wise of this world.
Human philosophies can never explain the miracle of regeneration. The psychologist may attempt his analysis, the doctor his diagnosis, and the scientist his experimentation, but all three ultimately are confounded by the transforming change which takes place.
2) God Has Chosen to Save Feeble Humanity. “…God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Here is a further characterization of men and women who know nothing of the saving grace of God. Paul speaks of them as “weak” – a word which means “strengthless” or “impotent.” And we are reminded that “…when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6; see also Titus 3:5).
Man is utterly powerless to work out his own salvation. Never was this more evident than in this highly civilized age in which we find ourselves. Philosophy has failed to answer the great questions concerning man’s supernatural origin, purpose on earth, and final destiny. Likewise, the scientific method has proved to be totally inadequate to cope with man’s basic problem of sin. With all the creations of his inventive mind, man has made the world even more problematic and destructive. But once again, this is where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ supremely triumphs. Through the message of the cross God takes feeble humanity and confounds, or puts to shame, the things that are considered mighty in the estimation of the world.
3) God Has Chosen to Save Fallen Humanity. “…and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:28). Here Paul employs three expressions to describe the utter “falleness” of humanity. “Base things” carries the thought of that which is low-born, and therefore morally worthless. Things which are “despised” represent that which is contemptible. “Things which are not” conveys the idea of the nonentities of this world.
What a hopeless picture of fallen humanity! And yet the Lord Jesus, by His saving cross, takes up such men and women and uses them to bring to naught the things that are – which being interpreted means that Christ, by His creative work in man, exposes the utter futility and worthlessness of that which natural man considers as powerful and important.
So we see that in “the word of the cross,” there is an instructive gospel for foolish humanity, there is a redemptive gospel for feeble humanity, and there is a creative gospel for fallen humanity. Out of all these types of lost men and women God constitutes His community of saints. What a wonderful Savior we have!
But Paul has one more aspect of this truth to share with us. In the closing verses of this paragraph he shows that:
III. God Protects His People Through The Sufficiency Of The Gospel
“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). For those who do respond to the selective and elective gospel, there is a full sufficiency in the Lord Jesus Christ. The revelation of the wisdom of God, as seen in Christ, has made available:
1) A Salvation for our Past Needs. “…Christ, who was made to us…righteousness…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). This means our justification. In Christ we attain a state of life impossible otherwise or elsewhere. It is the assurance of pardon for sin and peace of heart. More than this, it grants us a standing before God that no devil in hell, no man on earth, or no angel in heaven can assail.
2) A Salvation for our Present Needs. “…Christ, who was made to us… sanctification …” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Dr. Campbell Morgan points out that sanctification is “a purification through separation.” It is both positional and progressive. It is the very life of Christ indwelling us moment by moment. And since all the fullness of the Godhead resides in our Savior, there is no demand upon our lives which is not adequately met by the sufficiency which is in Christ.
3) A Salvation for our Pending Needs. “…Christ, who was made to us…redemption …” (1 Corinthians 1:30). “Redemption” here means “final escape from all bondage.” This particular word occurs in the New Testament ten times, and on every occasion it refers to the future and not to the past or the present. Paul is speaking of the same thing when he says, “…now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). This is the sense in which Christ is made unto us redemption. This is the assurance of ultimate deliverance from all bondage and limitation, when Christ releases us from the very presence of sin. That is the day when He will fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it might be conformed to the body of His glory.
Here is the sufficiency of the gospel by which God protects the community of saints. Paul’s purpose in presenting this truth was to remove man’s basis for boasting. So he concludes with that remarkable quotation from Jeremiah 9:24: “…let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord…”
Conclusion: That which divides a church is the carnality that glories in human knowledge, influence, or reputation. But the Apostle Paul has taken pains to show that no man has anything to glory in, save in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was cradled in a manger, disciplined in a carpenter’s shop, tested on the highways and in the homes of His own people, glorified through crucifixion and resurrection, and then sent worldwide through the lips and lives of common people. To recognize the Savior in this sense is to be leveled to a common ground, united in a common life, and to be satisfied in a common glory. As it is written: “…He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
Part IV: Sermon Outlines
Title: Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:10-18)
Point #1: The Good Shepherd Works Personally for His Sheep (10-13)
1. He gives his sheep life abundantly (10)
2. He gives his life for the sheep sacrificially (11-13)
Point #2: The Good Shepherd Relates Personally to His Sheep (14-18)
1. It is an intimate relationship (14-15a)
2. It is a costly relationship (15b)
3. It is an extensive relationship (16)
4. It is a secure relationship (17-18)
(1) The relationship is as secure as the Father’s love (17)
(2) The relationship is as secure as the Son’s power (18)
1, Jesus is the good Shepherd who died for us
2. Jesus is the good Shepherd who lives for us
3. Jesus is the good Shepherd who is coming for us
Related Topics: Pastors