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Sermon Illustrations on preaching

Background

God’s Word and Calvinism vs. Arminianism

It has been my earnest endeavor ever since I have preached the Word, never to keep back a single doctrine that I believe to be taught of God. It is time that we had done with the old and rusty systems that have so long curbed the freeness of religious speech.

The Arminian trembles to go an inch beyond Arminius or Wesley, and many a Calvinist refers to John Gill or John Calvin as an ultimate authority. It is time that the systems were broken up, and that there was sufficient grace in all our hearts to believe everything taught in God’s Word, whether it was taught by either of these men or not.

If God teaches it, it is enough. If it is not in the Word, away with it! Away with it! But if it be in the Word, agreeable or disagreeable, systematic or disorderly, I believe it.

Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon delivered at Exeter Hall, London.

Regarding my Preaching

I came to this resolved principle, that I would preach wholly and altogether sound and wholesome words, without affectation of wit and vanity of eloquence. . . . I . . . have continued in that purpose and practice these threescore years. I have preached what I thought was truly edifying, either for conversion, or bringing them up to eternal life.

 Thomas Goodwin, Works, ed. J. Miller (London: James Nichol, 1861), 2.1xivf. Cited in J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 74.

Stories

Big-Godder or Little Godder?

Donald Grey Barnhouse, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, tells the story of his revered professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, Robert Dick Wilson, a renowned scholar of astounding linguistic ability. About twelve years after Barnhouse had graduated from the seminary, he was invited back to speak at the chapel. Professor Wilson was present for the service, and afterward he approached the speaker with these words: “if you come back again, I will not come hear you preach. I come only once. I am glad that you are a big-godder. When my boys come back, I come to see if they are big-godders or little-godders, and then I know what their ministry will be.”

When Barnhouse asked for an explanation, Wilson replied, “Well, some men have a little god and they are always in trouble with him. He can’t do any miracles. He can’t take care of the inspiration and transmission of the Scripture to us. He doesn’t intervene on behalf of his people. They have a little god and I call them little-godders. Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear Him. You have a great God, and He will bless your ministry!

C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms : Volume 2 (Teach the Text Commentary Series): Psalms 73-150, Baker Books, 2017.

What We Preach

A strong church once inscribed these words on an archway leading to the churchyard. Over time, two things happened: the church lost its passion for Jesus and His gospel, and ivy began to grow on the archway. The growth of the ivy, covering the message, showed the spiritual decline. Originally it said strongly, “we preach Christ crucified.”

But as the ivy grew, one could only read “we preach Christ”, and the church would preach about Jesus as a great man, but never his crucifixion (and resurrection). The ivy kept growing, and one could soon only read, “we preach.” 

The church also had even lost Jesus in the message, preaching religious platitudes and social graces. Finally, one could only read “we”, and the church also just became another social gathering place, all about “we” and not about God.

David Guzik, Adapted by Stuart Strachan Jr.

Analogies

Location, Location, Location

As in buying real estate, three principles are crucial to understanding a person’s words: location, location, and location. We cannot make sense of what someone says unless we understand the context in which his or her words were uttered.
To use the real estate comparison, Jesus—in his speaking—did not just move into an empty part of town and begin to build all the houses himself. He moved into a neighborhood already built up: in fact, one that had been occupied for many centuries by the same people—his people, the Jews.

William W. Klein, Become What You Are: Spiritual Formation According to the Sermon on the Mount, 2006.

A Red-Hot Iron

“Teaching is no joke, sonny! … Comforting truths, they call it! Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterwards. Besides, you’ve no right to call that sort of thing comfort. Might as well talk about condolences! The Word of God is a red-hot iron. And you who preach it ‘ud go picking it up with a pair of tongs, for fear of burning yourself, you daren’t get hold of it with both hands. It’s too funny!

Why, the priest who descends from the pulpit of Truth, with a mouth like a hen’s vent, a little hot but pleased with himself, he’s not been preaching: at best he’s been purring like a tabby-cat. Mind you that can happen to us all, we’re all half asleep, it’s the devil to wake us up, sometimes — the apostles slept all right at Gethsemane. Still, there’s a difference… And mind you many a fellow who waves his arms and sweats like a furniture-remover isn’t necessarily any more awakened than the rest. On the contrary. I simply mean that when the Lord has drawn from me some word for the good of souls, I know, because of the pain of it.”

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

What We Preach

A strong church once inscribed these words on an archway leading to the churchyard. Over time, two things happened: the church lost its passion for Jesus and His gospel, and ivy began to grow on the archway. The growth of the ivy, covering the message, showed the spiritual decline. Originally it said strongly, “we preach Christ crucified.”

But as the ivy grew, one could only read “we preach Christ”, and the church would preach about Jesus as a great man, but never his crucifixion (and resurrection). The ivy kept growing, and one could soon only read, “we preach.” 

The church also had even lost Jesus in the message, preaching religious platitudes and social graces. Finally, one could only read “we”, and the church also just became another social gathering place, all about “we” and not about God.

David Guzik, Adapted by Stuart Strachan Jr.

Humor

A Red-Hot Iron

“Teaching is no joke, sonny! … Comforting truths, they call it! Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterwards. Besides, you’ve no right to call that sort of thing comfort. Might as well talk about condolences! The Word of God is a red-hot iron. And you who preach it ‘ud go picking it up with a pair of tongs, for fear of burning yourself, you daren’t get hold of it with both hands. It’s too funny!

Why, the priest who descends from the pulpit of Truth, with a mouth like a hen’s vent, a little hot but pleased with himself, he’s not been preaching: at best he’s been purring like a tabby-cat. Mind you that can happen to us all, we’re all half asleep, it’s the devil to wake us up, sometimes — the apostles slept all right at Gethsemane. Still, there’s a difference… And mind you many a fellow who waves his arms and sweats like a furniture-remover isn’t necessarily any more awakened than the rest. On the contrary. I simply mean that when the Lord has drawn from me some word for the good of souls, I know, because of the pain of it.”

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

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