Sermon illustrations


Admiration often Leads to Disappointment

For some reason I have always had a tendency to be a hero worshiper…Unfortunately I carried this tendency into my life in the church. Even those I learned to love and admire let me down. From an early age my dad introduced me to famous preachers, and I began to look up to them. I hero-worshiped many preachers.

But little by little I began to get a different picture of some of them. I began to hear stories of inconsistent living, their upholding high standards for their followers but living hypocritically in secret. Some of these people became friends, some very close friends. I learned a long time ago—years before we went to England—every person I began to admire a little bit too much sooner or later disappointed me.

R.T. Kendall, Totally Forgiving God, Charisma House Publishing.

The Judas Goat

The idea of spiritual goats in a church has always been intriguing to me…They gave opinions to questions they were never asked and sought attention to soothe their feelings of neglect… Then, in every congregation, there was always the Judas goat. Few believers need to read the résumé of Judas Iscariot, the personally chosen apostle of Christ who willfully chose to betray the Savior…Judas entered the flock as a sheep, but the agenda in his heart exposed him as a goat. The Judas goat was the name of an actual goat especially trained to work at a slaughterhouse.

The process works as follows: In the case of sheep, the goat is trained to associate and become familiar with the sheep in the field—eating with them, lying down with them, and generally gaining their trust. After many months the season arrives for leading the sheep into the slaughterhouse. As the stockyards open, the sheep, in an innocent manner, will follow the Judas goat into specially marked pens or into the back of trucks and, in some instances, into the slaughterhouse itself.

The outcome for the goat differs from the sheep—because as the goat leads an entire flock into the slaughter, a special gate is prepared and opened for only the goat, enabling the goat to escape the final gate that leads the others to their deaths. The goat will escape the slaughter, returning to the field where he will begin this deceptive process again with a new flock of sheep.

Perry Stone, The Judas Goat: How to Deal With False Friendships, Betrayals, and the Temptation Not to Forgive, Charisma House Publishing.

Nowhere to Hide

To me one of the most terrifying scenes in all of literature is in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is a traveling salesman who feels that he is largely a failure. His self-pity leads him to regularly cheat on his wife in his travels. He rationalizes as men do—“I have a hard life” or “the affairs don’t mean anything”—and so on. Perhaps his only consolation in life is that his son Biff idolizes him, but one day Biff shows up at his hotel room and catches him with a woman, and it’s just an excruciating scene.

At first, Willy tries to swagger and he says, “Now look, Biff, when you grow up you’ll understand about these things.” And Biff just stares at him. And then Willy tries to bully his son a bit and tells him to forget the whole incident, saying, “That’s an order!” But when Biff finally runs away, calling him a “liar” and a “phony little fake,” Willy falls on his knees, his soul stripped naked of all his rationalizations.

When I read that scene, I just shiver. All of his excuses simply melt away before Biff’s guileless, innocent eyes that can finally see things as they really are. Willy sputters and spins—but his cynicism and self-deceptions and false justifications fall away and he is left there, soul-naked, before those honest eyes.

Timothy Keller, The Two Advocates (Encounters with Jesus Series Book 7) Penguin Publishing Group.

R.C. Sproul & The Social Pariah

The pastor R.C. Sproul was studying in the Netherlands in the last 1960s and randomly struck up a conversation with a Dutch woman. The conversation was a common, enjoyable interaction, but when it was over someone nearby came up to him and asked, why were you talking with that woman?

His response was something to the tune of, why wouldn’t I? And their response was quite telling. It was because she had collaborated with the Nazi’s some 30 years go. She had become a pariah, an exile of sorts, in her own city because of a decision she had made decades before. This was the kind of animosity that one could expect when you collaborated with a foreign power despised by the local population.

Now working for the Nazis is no small matter, and it was probably quite understandable for people to resent her decision to work with them. But does that also mean she should never be forgiven? 

Stuart Strachan Jr.

See also Brokenness, Deception, Evil, Loyalty, LyingReconciliation, Revenge, Sin

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Betrayal. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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