Preaching As Praise
Like many of you, I am in the midst of preparing to preach a sermon this week as we begin a new thematic series at Redemption Hill called “Spending Time.” I am preaching Psalm 90 on “The Currency of Time.” It is not something I have to do. It is something I get to do. I look forward to encouraging people to spend time as a treasured gift by offering each and every moment as an act of worship. But that begs a question: How can I prepare and preach this sermon where every moment is offered to the praise of God? Here are four ways I plan to praise God through preaching:
I will NOT Worship Preaching
To paraphrase another preacher from Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards: every earthly good we experience in this life is designed to point us to the greater glory of God. Worship leads us to look beyond the good of the shadows to the glory of the substance. Worship leads us to look beyond the good of the scattered beams to the glory of the sun. A friend of mine says worship is enjoying created things, including our God-given work, by treating them as windows. We don’t look at windows; we look through windows. “Idolatry looks at the world. Worship looks through the world to its source.” So, the world is our window for worship! A conversation with friends, the pleasure of sex, a good cup of coffee, a Red Sox victory, and preaching a sermon are all windows we should look through to worship God. Preaching a phenomenal sermon will not ultimately fulfill us, nor will the comments on social media. Only God. [quote]Preaching a phenomenal sermon will not ultimately fulfill us, nor will the comments on social media. Only God.[/quote]
I will Practice what I Preach
The great questions preachers must ask are: Does this truth grip my soul? Does this text own me? Is it burning in my heart? G. Campbell Morgan, one of the great preachers of 20th century England, once said: “I cannot see how any one can really handle these things until he is handled by them… when his text handles him, when it grips and masters and possesses him, and in experience he is responsive to the thing he is declaring.” So one practical sign of whether or not I am worshiping is how immediately I allow the truth to change my life. We should not wait until the sermon is preached to begin living it. That is why Morgan went on to say: “I don’t think any preacher can lift his hearers above the level of his own experience.”
I will Delight in the Task of Preaching
When I’m preaching, I’m breathing. There is nothing more life-giving than being who God has made us to be and doing what God has called us to do. Sure, we should feel the immense weight and magnitude of the responsibility. That’s why some have called preaching a “burdensome joy.” “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16) At the same time, there is immense freedom when we are running in the lane God has assigned us. Usain Bolt is alive on the track. I am alive with a Bible in my hand telling someone else the story of God. [quote]I am alive with a Bible in my hand telling someone else the story of God.[/quote] And by the way, this is just as true over a cup of coffee as it is from a stage. Preaching is breathing. Breathing is worship.
I will be more Concerned with Prayer than Perfection
After five years of getting in a groove of preparing and preaching sermons, my biggest regret spending too much time “perfecting” my far from perfect sermons and too little time praying over my far from powerful sermons. That’s right: I need to pray more and prep less, or perhaps, prep more by praying more. [quote]I need to pray more and prep less, or perhaps, prep more by praying more.[/quote] Prayer is preparation. Why do we preach? So that the life-giving truth of God will give life to everyone who hears, including us. But the goal is beyond us. That is why we pray. Only God can change a life. Only God can make a sermon effective. That is why we should make prayer the great business of our preparation. Measure what you desire to happen as a result of your sermons against the intensity of your prayer life for that to actually happen. [quote]Measure what you desire to happen as a result of your sermons against the intensity of your prayer life for that to actually happen.[/quote] Does it hurt? Me too. That’s why the words of Jacques Ellul floor me: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to the violent who lay hold upon it. But this violence is not accepted by God unless the person practicing it is ready himself to bear the shock in return. . . . Whoever wrestles with God in prayer puts his whole life at stake.”
Looking through the window of preaching, putting truth immediately into practice, receiving life-giving joy in the task, and going hard after God in prayer are four ways I plan to worship God in the joyful task this week. Who’s with me?