Category Archives: Sermons / Homiletics

Easter Sermon Synopsis: Sustainable Joy

Here is the outline of today’s Easter sermon, “Sustainable Joy.” Included are just a few expository comments, not the full sermon.Jesus_Resurrection_by_highigh

Main thought: The resurrection of Jesus gives us sustainable joy! How so?

I. It speaks of a new world

As Christians, we have joy in the midst of this messed up world, this sin-sick world, because the tomb of Jesus is open and empty. And that tells us that death is not the end, that sin will not always win, that God intends to and will turn things around one day, that our Savior is victorious over all the stuff we live in each day. The tomb is our glimpse into a glorious future where death is no more, where sin is no more, were suffering is no more, and where the enemies of the gospel will be defeated once and for all. As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:49, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” God is in the resurrection business – Jesus’ own resurrection demonstrates that! The resurrection shows us a new world and that sustains our joy while we wait for it to come.

II. It speaks of a unique Savior

The Apostle Paul says so in Romans 1:4. Speaking of Jesus, he writes, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the resurrection from the dead.” What he means is this: when Jesus was raised from the dead, it was as though God the Father was putting his stamp of approval upon Jesus. The resurrection was God’s endorsement, God’s proof, that this Jesus really is his Son, that Jesus really is the one and only true Savior. The thinking is simple: God would not raise from the dead a fake, or a liar, or a false prophet, or just a special spiritual teacher, because everyone would look at it as an affirmation of that person’s life, ministry, and very identity. God would not raise someone if it risked misleading people. God is a God of truth! And so, when he raised Jesus from the dead, it was as if God was saying, “Will the real Son of God, the real Messiah, please stand up!” And he did!

III. It speaks of a definitive victory

Our Lord Jesus had a definitive victory when he was raised on the third day. He did not earn some title in professional sports or lead an earthly army to victory. No, he rose victorious over sin and death. As the Easter hymn “Up From the Grave” says,

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior!
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign,
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The author of the book of Hebrews in our New Testament writes of this victory in chapter 2: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14-15).

 

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The Shed Blood of Christ: What Difference Does it Make?

Today Pastor Bill Ireland of the First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville, IL preached a good sermon at our Good Friday Community Service. Here are a few of my notes from that sermon, minus illustrations:

Main thought: Jesus shed his blood on the cross. What difference does it make?

I.  Jesus’ shed blood made atonement possible

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22 ESV).

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev 17:11 ESV).

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:23-26 ESV).

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20 ESV).

Have you acted on that potential for forgiveness? He wants  you and wants you to have assurance of salvation. Why would you say no? Why would you not tell your neighbor?

II. Jesus’ shed blood makes purification possible

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1Jo 1:7 ESV).

Real change is possible because of the shed blood of Christ. Grudges, resentment, etc. all need cleansing. The blood cleanses when you cooperate. Do not say, “I’m just like this” as a way to avoid dealing with needed sanctification.

III. Jesus’ shed blood makes victory possible

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev 12:11 ESV).

You can overcome. Victory in this sense is available NOW, in this life. Do not be satisfied with less. At the cross Jesus won our victory.

 

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The Pastor’s Clothing

How should a pastor dress, particularly for preaching and leading worship? I grew up in the Reformed Church of America in west Michigan, among very traditional Dutch people. On Sunday mornings and evenings it was the norm to see our pastors wear either black preHB Charlesaching robes or traditional suits. The exception was in the hottest part of summer where our pastors would wear short sleeve dress shirts with a tie. We did not have air conditioning in our church, and the heat was just too much for a suit some Sundays. The congregation accepted that and also knew that when more comfortable temperatures returned the suits would be back.

When I began pastoring in 1998 (in a very different denomination) I followed the same pattern of wearing a suit to preach on Sunday mornings. Why? For three reasons: (1) I was only 27 years old and I needed to convey to the congregation that I was taking my work seriously and that worship and preaching itself was serious business. If I did not convey that, then I knew they would not take “that kid pastor” seriously. I needed to earn respect. And since liturgical vestments are rarely used in my denomination, I could not vest without raising unnecessary controversy. (2) My most influential professors in seminary and my pastor in seminary all dressed traditionally in suits for teaching and leading worship, though one was committed to wearing liturgical vestments for worship whenever possible. As Professor Donald Boyd said to me, “Dress so appropriately that people do not think much about what you are wearing.” (3) The influence of my pastors during my growing-up years was (and is) still with me.

Pastor H.B. Charles, who is known for wearing black suits, wrote in a blog post last month about his experience which turns out was much the same as mine when he started pastoring, yet he was even younger:

I was a boy preacher, starting my first pastorate at the age of seventeen. I needed people to take me seriously. And I did not want my attire to be a reason mature people despised my youth.

But why has he continued to wear suits for preaching? Charles wrote,

This is how I want to mount the pulpit. I want my appearance, demeanor, and conduct to show I am on kingdom business. I want to stand up to preach like a herald for the King, not a pimp, clown, or entertainer.

I don’t have any biblical, theological, or religious reasons for wearing black suits all the time. But it is my quiet protest against the lack of respect for the dignity of the pulpit. We need preachers who look and talk and act like preachers – not fitness coaches, talk show hosts, or GQ models.

The designer jeans look is not necessarily easier or cheaper. What is cool has to be kept up with, afforded, and pulled off well. Don’t tell me that pastors who go this route do not care about their appearance – they work hard to have just the right look – and have to update it regularly. A good,traditional suit stays in style a lot longer than designer jeans.

The point is that how we dress as pastors sends messages to a congregation and triggers various responses. A preacher in cool designer jeans and an equally cool untucked shirt sends one kind of message while a suit sends another. What do I want to convey about ppastor casualastoral ministry, the worship of God, and the importance of God’s people? I want to convey reverence for God, the authority of preached Word, and the dignity of the pastoral office, and respect for mature believers. I recognize not all contexts are the same, but suits work for were I have served and do serve now.

 

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Witherington on Preaching

Dr. Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary, has written several interesting posts about preaching on his blog. Witherington is a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary and is a respected evangelical scholar. These posts come from the perspective of a man who is an academic, churchman, and former pastor. He holds a high standard for preaching and I resonate with several of his points.

Here are a couple of excerpts from The Problem of Preaching – Part Three:

The preacher who wants to be a responsible interpreter of the Bible for his or her people then must either: 1) learn the original languages that God decided were suitable for his Word to be expressed in, and 2) commit himself or herself to doing homework— studying the Word of God with the help of good commentaries, studying to find himself approved, committing himself or herself to life long learning of and about that Word. If 1) is simply impossible, then this means one must do an even better job with 2). It does not mean that one just reads some English translation and then brain storms. The contexts of the Word of God are in many ways very different from ours, and if one reads the Bible without contextual study one will read it anachronistically— reading into the text modern notions, and one’s own opinions and ideas. Frankly God’s Word deserve more respect than that. If it is the most important book in the world for the world’s salvation then it deserves careful and prayerful detailed study of it. It deserves everything we can invest in understanding it and conveying its meaning to others.

And:

I once had a student approach me in frustration. He came from the more pentecostal end of the spectrum and he was one of those people who actually considered too much learning about and of the Bible and its contexts as possibly getting in the way of being a good preacher. He said to me “I don’t know why I need to learn all this stuff, I can just get up into the pulpit and the Spirit will give me utterance.”

My response was “yes you can do that, but it’s a shame you are not giving the Holy Spirit more to work with. Don’t use the Holy Spirit as a labor saving device.

What Witherington has to say above is very true. The work required of good, biblical preaching is significant, scholarly, and time-consuming. That is why many preachers, even ones who have graduated from a good seminary where they were taught exegetical skills, rarely develop expository sermons. But the motivation to learn the skills, build the library, and put in the time for such sermons comes with a high view of biblical inspiration. If the preacher is convinced that God has spoken in His Word, continues to speak through his Word, and wants to convey to the congregation the specifics of that Word that are only revealed to the preacher through serious study, then expository preaching and the work it requires is an accepted burden of the preacher. Wrapped up with this high view of biblical inspiration is also the understanding that what God has revealed MUST be heard. Therefore the preacher must study, understand, unpack, and then organize and deliver the truths of a text for listeners.

Many preachers say that they have a high view of the Bible, but their preaching does not back up their words.

 

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