Evaluating a Sermon

As a pastor I’m in to preaching sermons. But, there are far more people in to evaluating sermons (i.e. my congregation).  Here are five key questions to ask regarding evaluating a sermon.

1. Did the preacher capture the big idea of the text?
2. Did the preacher explain the structure of the text?
3. Did the preacher tie the text to the context?
4. Did the preacher preach Christ?
5. Did the preacher give proper application?

Slimmed down, here are the 5 questions:

1. Big Idea?
2. Structure?
3. Context?
4. Christ?
5. So What?

Of course, the most important question in #4. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39). Eternal life isn’t found in the Scriptures. Eternal life is found in the One to whom the Scriptures point.  And they point to Jesus Christ.

 

Behold the Lamb of God!

“The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

In the 1800’s, Charles Spurgeon was planning to preach at The Crystal Palace in London. He went to the place a day or two before the event to test out the acoustics (they didn’t have any amplification back then). So, he cried out in a loud voice, the words of John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Unknown to Spurgeon, there was a worker who was working in one of the galleries. He heard the message, was convicted of his sin, and believed on Christ. Such is an example of the power of the word of God.

Solidarity

We Americans have a very individual spirit. Ground into our very existence in our Declaration of Independence is the belief that each person has the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I’m all for these rights. I’m thankful to live in a country in which this is the case. However, one of the drawbacks to this belief is that we all think very individualistically in America. We all get a vote. Each of us has an opportunity to determine our own fate. With hard work, each person has an opportunity to thrive.

There is much individualism in the Bible. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). This is true of each individual human being that walks the planet. However, another central concept in the Bible is the concept of solidarity, which we can easily miss because of our independent spirit.

Solidarity means that we, as individuals, join in with the whole. We are all on the same ship and will be carried along together or sink together. For instance, we are in solidarity with Adam. When Adam sinned, we became guilty as well. Achan’s clan was in solidarity with Achan, so they died when he sinned. Americans tend to protest against these sorts of Biblical stories because of our individualistic mindset. Michael Horton wrote, “The concept of solidarity—human solidarity in Adam and Israel’s solidarity in Abraham and Moses, is basic to the biblical worldview, however alien to our own” (Michael S. Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011], 424).

Understanding solidarity is crucial for all believers in Christ, because we have solidarity with Christ. When we believe, we receive His righteousness. “The judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification” (Romans 5:16).

I recommend Chris Brauns’ book on the subject (when it comes out).

 

Asleep

The New Testament often uses the word, “sleep,” when referring to death. When Lazarus had died, Jesus said that he had merely “fallen asleep” (John 11:11). When Jairus’ daughter died, Jesus said, “The child has not died, but is asleep” (Mark 5:39). Paul used the same terminology to describe believers who had died. He said that they “have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Behind this metaphor in each of these passages is hope. The one who is sleeping will rise again. Indeed, those who have believed in Jesus will be raised to eternal life. So, when a believer dies, we do not need to grieve as the rest who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

What’s Important?

Our church recently celebrated our ten year anniversary.  It was a marvelous opportunity to give praise to God for His faithfulness to us over the years.

For our celebration service, I invited several families who had been at the church since its beginning to give a testimony during the service.  One theme in these testimonies came through to me: the church had served them in their time of need. Whether it was a surgery or a child who was rebelling, the fact that the church stood behind the family and helped them in their distress made a bit impact upon these families.

These testimonies help bring to clarity one of the most important things that people need in a church.  They need  a community to care for them in their time of need.  This care is a testimony to the watching world.  “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Ignoring the Warning Signs

Today marks the one year anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown on the island of Japan. The devastation experienced in that country was great. I have great compassion for the trouble they experienced. But, they were warned.

Dotted throughout the country are hundreds of stone markers along the coastline, warning of the tsunamis that may come. Some of these markers are several centuries old. One slab reads as follows, …

“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants. Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.” (source)

You can hear the wisdom of previous generations, who experienced tsunamis similar to last year’s devastation. They knew what it was like to lose house and home. They passed on the wisdom to subsequent generations. Yet, Japan has ignored the warning signs.

The Bible is equally filled with many warnings of the wrath to come. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Romans 2:5-6).

And yet sadly, many will ignore these warnings and live in the lowlands.

Lord, Lunatic, or Liar

C. S. Lewis told us that we have three options when it comes to evaluating the life of Jesus. He can either believe Him to be the Lord of the universe, a raving lunatic, or the world’s greatest liar. There are no other options.

Jesus made some audacious claims. He claimed that He, alone, was the only way to God (John 14:6). He claimed that all who believe in Him will live forever (John 3:16). He claimed that He was going to be killed in Jerusalem and then rise from dead (Matthew 16:21).

You have three options with these claims. You can say that Jesus didn’t really believe these things. Rather, He was a liar attempting to deceive others into following Him. Or, you can say that Jesus really believed them, but He was wrong. This would make Him to be a crazy lunatic. Or, you can say that Jesus believed these things and backed them up with his life, which makes Him Lord. There really is no other option.

So, let’s be done with the idea of respecting Jesus because He was a really good teacher.