Sermon illustrations


Coming to Grips with the Reality of Sin

The psychotherapist M. Scott Peck spent many years of his practice as an agnostic. He, along with thousands upon thousands of his colleagues were taught that evil was a social construct, and therefore did not exist. Some time later, Peck became a Christian, and around the same time he began questioning the standard psychological belief that evil did not exist. What he found were specific instances in his practice that demanded some alternative explanation than merely “mistaken” or “mis-guided” behavior. There seemed to be a deeper, darker dimension of human behavior that could only be described by one word: evil.

In his book, People of the Lie, Peck argues against the psychological establishment that there is a force, or forces, of evil which emerge in individuals and even in some cases, in entire societies. From a biblical perspective, these evil forces can be attributable to Satan, the demonic, or both.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Dysfunctional Greeting Cards

I’m convinced some company today could make a killing if it had the guts to market dysfunctional greeting cards. Most birthday or holiday cards gush with flowery sentiments such as, “To the greatest father in the world,” or, “Mom, you are my best friend.” Yeah, well, what if they weren’t?

What if your dad was an angry jerk and your mother abused you? What if your brother backstabbed you and stole the inheritance? Where are the greeting cards for reality?

Just once I’d like to see a card that reads, “Mom, you blew it . . . but I love you anyway. Happy Mother’s Day.” It’ll never happen. Even if such cards existed, few people would have the cruelty to send them.

So instead we shop for cards that are blank inside and do our best to scrawl some positive words. There are no easy solutions. Only godly ones. After all, on some level we all deserve to open dysfunctional envelopes since we each contribute our own family defects.

Wayne Stiles, Waiting on God, Baker Publishing Group, 2015, pp. 42-43.

The Origin of the Term “Gaslighting”

In His book When Narcissism Comes to Church, Chuck DeGroat describes a common tool employed by narcissits: gaslighting:

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that draws its name from a 1938 British play called Gas Light. In the play, a man named Jack Manningham terrorizes his wife, Bella, by making her doubt her perception of reality. Bella is comforted only by the one reality she can trust—the dimming of the gas lights that correspond with Jack’s afterhours antics.

Among his antics, Jack hides household items and blames her for misplacing them, which throws her into perplexion and self-doubt. Her only shred of sanity is in the gaslights flickering flame, and the audience is held in suspense as she vacillates between self-doubt and clarity.

Gaslighting therefore, occurs whenever a manipulative person makes another person question their understanding of what is happening and the underlying reality of that situation.

Taken from When Narcissism Comes to Church by Chuck DeGroat Copyright (c) 2020 by Chuck DeGroat. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

A Place of Revelation

On this earth, then, in our deserts, God personally reveals and names himself. When he does so, his pleasure floods our senses, his beauty engulfs us, and our God-misconceptions are devastated. He moves us from make-believe to reality. The knowledge of who he is and the never-ending implications of being his children overwhelm us.

Marlena Graves, A Beautiful Disaster, Baker Publishing Group, 2014, p.24.

Scripture Grounds our Story in Place

Our Scriptures that bring us the story of our salvation ground us in place. Everywhere they insist on this grounding. Everything that is critically important to us takes place on the ground. Mountains and valleys, towns and cities, regions and countries: Haran, Ur, Canaan, Hebron, Sodom, Machpelah, Bethel, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Samaria, Tekoa, Nazareth, Capernaum, Mt. Sinai, Mt. Of Olives, Mt. Gilboah, Mt. Hermon, Ceasarea, Gath, Ashkelon, Michmash, Gibeon, Azekah, Jericho, Chorizan, Bethsaida Emmaus, the Valley of Jezreel, the Kidron Valley, the Brook of Besor, Anathoth. Big cities and small towns.

Famous landmarks and unvisited obscurities. People who want God or religion as an escape from their place because it is difficult (or maybe just mundane), don’t find this much to their liking. But there it is—there’s no getting around it. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less, this insistence that all genuine life, life that is embraced in God’s work of salvation, is grounded, is good news indeed.

Eugene Peterson, Introduction to Eric O Jacobsen, Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith.

The Truman Show & the Cracks in Our Reality

Let’s take stock of the challenge once again: the work of spiritual transformation, by which we come to live in God in the midst of our neighborhood, is the most difficult process in the universe. This is not an overstatement. After all, it required the death of the Son of God to accomplish it. To live in the reordered reality of life in God is to have an entirely different perspective about everything. Life is turned right side up, even though it will often feel like the opposite.

The radical force of this reorientation is captured in the closing scenes of the movie The Truman Show, when Truman faces just such a transformative process. Truman was born and raised on the sound stage of a television program that he believes is real life. In fact, though, he is the only real person within his artificial world. When cracks in his apparent reality appear, Truman literally sails away, taking a considerable risk to try to get away from the peculiar, constrained and inconsistent world around him. Just when Truman thinks he has made it through the fierce storm, the bow of his boat punctures the sky. What seems like an open vista turns out to be the painted shell of the sound stage.

Reality punctures Truman’s universe, and everything changes. Truman could go back home, but he would never be the same, for his “home” is gone. At the poignant climax of the movie, Truman opens the door that will lead out into the real world. Before he steps across the threshold, the mastermind behind the TV show speaks to Truman from “the heavenlies.”

He wants Truman to stay in his world, offering him a better life than he will find outside the bubble of the sound stage. Truman asks him, “Who are you?” The producer, whose name is Christof, says, “I am the creator.” Truman asks, “And who am I?” “You,” he says, you are the star!” Truman faces the illusions that speak to him, the appearance of reality.

What he chooses as he steps through the door is the true reality. This marks the reordering of everything, and the recasting and refocusing of his life will become the rest of the story. Reality punctures the universe and everything changes. This is the work of the gospel. It’s called being born again, waking up and responding to the reality of God’s love in Christ.

Taken from The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton Copyright (c) 2007 by Mark Labberton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

See also Illustrations on Bias, Perspective, Thought/s, Truth, Worldview

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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