by Donald W. Raub
It matters little whether we preach one point, three point, or seven point sermons. We can do topical or expository style preaching, but the question on every preacher's mind should be, "Is it God's message for this audience at this time?"
For the past 55 years, I have used these "styles" with varying degrees of success. The sermons lasted from 10 minutes up to an hour and 45 minutes. They were preached in 11 states to people of different denominations. Some were evangelistic, others pastoral. The content was the same, but the application was always different as no two congregations are the same. Attitudes and needs change also, but Spirit-filled preaching will accommodate those differences. Even with all our human frailties, we should strive to make a presentation which is as exciting as any TV program, This is possible only if the sermon is exciting to the preaching. Any healthy preacher who "drags" himself into the pulpit, devoid of enthusiasm, needs to find another profession, because God is exciting, His Word is exciting, and His work is exciting. We must convey this excitement to the audience. To do this, we must reveal:
1) God's secret plan of salvation. For thousands of years, His plan was hidden. Except for "hints" given through Scripture, the totality of His plan was seemingly unknown, or at least not understood. The miracle birth of God's only Son, Jesus Christ, began to reveal His hidden plan. Even then, most could not grasp the "secret". Jesus preached a glorious Gospel of peace, healed the sick, fed the multitudes, cast out demons, and raised the dead; still, the majority of people did not understand. Only after the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, were humans able to comprehend the majesty of the Gospel. From that time to the present day, God has used Spirit-filled men and women to reveal His secret; the "Crucifixion" and "Resurrection" always taking center stage. What an exciting message for the human race!
2) God's righteousness is without flaw. God not only appears righteous and declares Himself righteous, He is righteous. It is the essence of His nature. Why is this important? The answer is that we cannot see our own filthiness until we see His righteousness. Isaiah did not know how "unclean" his lips were until he got a glimpse of the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:1-7).
3) God's Expectation is without variation. Jesus said to His disciples, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). The righteousness of the Pharisees was based on their interpretation of the law. It fell short of God's expectation.
While no one is above the law, we as Christians should be beyond the law. In other words, we must get past (not avoid) the law, and into the territory of grace. This is best explained by a comparison of law and grace. God's law teaches us to "respect" and honor Him as the only true God. Grace teaches us to "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30). The law teaches respect, the grace of God teaches love.
4) God's Transformation is required. Saul, later named Paul, could not have become an apostle without his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road and his being filled with the Holy Spirit three days later as Ananias laid hands on him (Acts 9:17). We often downplay "experience", yet the transformation of the Apostle Paul is recorded three times in the book of Acts. There are others who consider "experience" as ultimate maturity. Both concepts are wrong. Paul's experience occurred at the beginning of his ministry, but he continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.
Without experiencing God, we would be maturing in sin; without maturing, we would remain life-long babies in Christ. Neither is recommended.
The world needs preachers who know the plan of salvation, have tasted of God's righteousness, understand His expectation, experienced His transforming grace, and are capable of communicating this message to the hearers.
Donald W. Raub is a pastor from Tylersport, Pennsylvania