8 days ago, I preached the most difficult sermon I’ve ever preached. Easter Sunday’s message on John 2:23-25 was understandably a curious choice for the day and I have received more feedback from that message than any I have ever preached in the past. First of all, anything I write here is not designed to solicit encouragement or chiding. I only want to communicate with you as your pastor, from a pastor’s heart.
Being committed to expository preaching (the meaning of the text is the meaning of the sermon) does not necessarily mean that you cannot deviate from the planned schedule occasionally, so there is a choice to be made. However, my choice is usually to simply continue on in the text even around holidays. One reason for this is that it exemplifies one benefit of expository preaching and that is the protection of the body from my own plans. Certainly the text in and of itself is difficult as it deals with the nature of saving belief, but it follows on the heels of the cleansing of the Temple where Christ prophesied about his own resurrection, which certainly would fit with Easter. Essentially, I felt it best to continue in the text knowing full well that many who come on Easter are special guests and some only attend church on such days.
My aim in the message was simply to present the weight of the text, which was to say that there is in fact a type of belief that DOES NOT save and there is a type of belief that DOES SAVE. That belief that does NOT save is based on a “spurious” decision that is marked by (usually) emotion and the focus is on the “signs” that Christ give not on Christ himself (to whom the signs point to). The object of our salvation is Christ and it is of eternal value to examine our lives to make certain that Christ knows us, which is even more significant than whether or not we think we know Christ. Matthew 7 is a difficult passage that exemplifies this fact. Many will think on “that day” that they have done much for Christ, but Christ’s response is that He did not know them. The issue here is full and complete dependence on Christ alone to save, not our works. But genuine, saving faith is marked by works. It is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone that scripture alone reveals as the only way to salvation.
I know the message was difficult and even caused some very difficult Easter lunch conversations. However, I am grateful that many lunches on that day were not around the same family talk that so often garners the very little time we have together as families. It is certainly not my intent to cause this kind of thing, but as a pastor that loves you very much it is my intent to present the whole counsel of God’s word which will cause division at times. Matthew 10 is a very sobering chapter that reminds us that Christ is offensive and often that offense is within our own families.
I pray for God’s all-sufficient grace and mercy to be applied. I know that I will fail you at times and will enter the pulpit on occasion with impure motives. I can assure you, however, that every word on Easter was spoken with love and great difficulty. Please understand, I do not feel “persecuted” or anything of the kind. I just want to encourage you and exhort you to read the passages mentioned above to remember that the Word of God is living, active, sharp and often divisive. But the Word is also the only power of God that leads to salvation (Rom.1:16; 1 Cor.1:18).
4 thoughts on “The Most Difficult Sermon I’ve Ever Preached!”
Thank you for being firm in your convictions to preach in this “expository” style. I personally love the fact that you do not avoid the hard teachings of Christ. Too many times I witness todays Christian preachers mimicking the World we live in by making it a “man” centered Gospel or watering it down to be more palatable. I pray God continues to build you up to weather the criticisms that surely will follow. The Truth of God’s Word will stand on its own! Stand firm and continue on that most narrow of roads!
I am enjoying expository proclamation more than I would have imagined, I am especially thankful for the hermeneutical ability God has given you as you exegete the scriptures and especially your homiletical effectiveness. The context of our dinner table conversations have been forever altered by the effectual result of the Spirit’s Illumination of the Scriptures and especially the soteriological exhortations on the monergistic nature of the salvific work of Christ in His propitiation of sin for the unregenerate as described in the didactic teachings of John’s Gospel.
This gives us a renewed heart and leads to a change in actions—-powerful.
Thank you for teaching the Word! (And for your sense of humor!)
I appreciate your willingness to stay firm to your convictions and preach the word. This was easily the most challenging Easter sermon that I’ve ever heard and I feel that it needed to be presented to “today’s church.”
Certainly the most important question before us is not, “Do I know God,” but rather; “Does God know me.” While we can take great comfort in the simplicity of the salvation message, (John 3:16, Romans 10:9&10 etc), I fear that in the past we may have given some folks a false sense of security. It is not reassuring to see large numbers on the church rolls who seldom give, seldom serve, seldom attend, or seldom “bear fruit.” We Baptist (including me) have been to hasty to assure folks of their own salvation based on our own shallow formulas (walking the isle or praying “the prayer.”
As for your sermons, I’m taking notes for the first time in MANY YEARS! Thanks for a reason to do it!