8:1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- What was your main takeaway from the sermon?
- Did the Holy Spirit lead you into any situations this week where you had an opportunity to put your takeaway(s) into practice?
- What impact did those opportunities have on you spiritually?
- Why should preaching be a part of our regular gatherings?
- What role should the Bible occupy in our meetings? (How do you see your answer justified in the Nehemiah 8 event?)
- The leaders read, explained, and applied the Word to the people. How should that inform our understanding of preaching?
- It seems that the people in Nehemiah 8 were eager to encounter the Word. How do you suppose that helped them to hear and apply God’s instructions? How might you better prepare to hear God’s Word week by week?
- Cory listed several reasons why he is committed to an expository style. What are some of the benefits and which seem most significant to you?
*This transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.
If you’re able to find a Bible, we’re going to be in Nehemiah chapter eight. Nehemiah, chapter eight. And in the bibles that we have here, that’s on page 400, 418, four, one, eight. Nehemiah, chapter eight. I’m going to read verses one to eight, this chapter, and I’ll give you a heads up. I’m going to skip the names. Sometimes I try to do that. It’s hard. I will mess them up ordinarily and just roll with it. But today, I’ll just skip over that, just so you’re aware. But I’m going to read chapter eight, verses one to eight, and then we will pray and get to work. This is Nehemiah, chapter eight. Starting in verse one,
“all the people came together as one in the square before the Watergate. They told Ezra, the teacher of the law, to bring out the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the 7th month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Watergate in the presence of the men, women, and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra, the teacher of the law, stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him, on his right, stood bunch of names, and on his left, a bunch more. And verse five. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them. And as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people lifted their hands and responded. Amen. Amen. Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. The Levites, and again, it’s a bunch of names, instructed the people in the law. While the people were standing there, they read from the book of the law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
Let’s pray. Lord, we have opened your word this morning, and we’re praying that by your spirit, through your word, you would speak. We commit this entire time to you, and we ask that you would have your way. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
If you’re keeping score, we’re doing a series right now on the church, and we’re looking at things that will help us understand our identity as the people of God. And we’ve been doing a few kind of bigger picture sermons lately to help us evaluate ourselves. And now we’re going to move into the practical portion of our series, where we start to look at the particulars of what we do. And so we’ll look at what do we do when we gather? What do we do when we come together on a Sunday morning? What are some of the features? What are some of the things that go into the decisions that are made as to what happens here? And that’ll happen for a few weeks, and then we’ll switch gears and we’ll look at, well, what do we do when we scatter, as we deploy you and we send you out? And what would that look like? And what are some of the things that are features of our commitments there? What do we do when we gather? What do we do when we scatter? And these will be more particular now. So today we’re talking about the word, and we’re talking about the style in which ordinarily I will preach the word. And I’m going to use a phrase, a terminology here, you might not be familiar with it. It’s called expository preaching. That’s the technical name of it. And what it means is you’re taking what the Bible says in a particular passage and you are exposing what’s there. You’re finding what is here in the scriptures, and then you are revealing that. And, in fact, maybe the best definition or the simplest one that I know of is whatever the point of the passage is that you’re looking at becomes the point of the sermon, and all things then organize in that direction, and that’s what we’re talking about. So as we gather, one of the things that we do week by week is we open the word, and I preach from the word in a particular way, and I want to show that to you.
Well, the year was 2007, and it was a very busy year for me. I was the director of a ministry that I had founded, a sports ministry, and this was year four going into year five of that. And so we were continuing to grow and develop, and we were using skateboarding and wakeboarding and potentially snowboarding to try to reach young people. And then the athletes would share their testimonies, and myself or another would preach the good news of the gospel. And so that was the ministry that I was a part of. But I had torn my ACL and had a major surgery, and this was the off season. And so I found myself at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. It was called the Passion conference. And I found myself there at the beginning of January and then my year was kind of crazy, so I’ll share it with you. I went from Atlanta, Georgia, came back home, and then I boarded a plane, and I flew to Africa. And I was in Africa for a month. And then from there, I came back home, and I jumped in my diesel jetta, and I drove to California. And in California, I went to Simi Valley, to a church named Cornerstone Simi Valley. And then I went up to Mammoth Mountain, where I was meeting with a guy who was potentially going to start our snowboarding division of our ministry. So, in Atlanta, Georgia, I’m sitting there at a conference, and it’s thousands and thousands of young. You know, my knee is broken, and a lot of things about my life in. And I’m kind of wondering, God, what are you going to do? I don’t know what my future holds. And I know that I’m the founder and the director of this ministry, but I’m not sure that this is it. I’m not sure this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. And I’m sitting there and all these young people, it’s 18 to 24 year olds, all worshipping together. And, yes, I was that age at that point. I know it was a long time ago, but I’m there, and I’m watching this stuff happen, and it’s a lot of people on stage. And then this dude gets up, and he’s an old guy, and he’s wearing, like, a baggy sport jacket, and he’s kind of got wily looking hair, and everyone else has been on stage is, like, an attractive young person, and, like, a hip person that everyone would know their name or whatever. And this guy gets up and he starts preaching, and I remember kind of leaning in, like, what is this that’s happening right here? And I’m kind of riveted by it. And as the sermon is going on, I remember having this go on inside of me. I thought to myself, whatever this is, I would give my life to this. I would give my life to doing what this gentleman is doing right here. And I’m not talking about being in front of a big audience or anything like that. In fact, if you’re familiar with my story, even that phrase seems silly, because in my natural temperament and in the way God has made me, I want nothing to do with standing in front of anybody. I don’t like the thought of public communication. I could not do it in my natural abilities. It’s just not a part of my temperament. I don’t want to be in front of two people or 20 people or 200 people. I don’t want to do what I’m doing today in my natural state, but God gave me this calling and this gift. And so here I am at this conference thinking, man, whatever this is, I would give my life to it. And I came to find out later what it is called. And it is called expository preaching. And in fact, it gripped me. And at that point, my life was really changing because as the director of a ministry, I began to feel this calling to local church work with an emphasis on pastoral or on expository preaching and helping people come to know God through his word. And so I get done with that conference and I loaded up an ipod and some of you kids are like, you’re saying it wrong, dude. It’s called an iPad. But there are these things back then that you would put music on. And I bought it from my brother, who’s a techie. So it was this huge one because he gets the most memory you could possibly get. So I buy it from him so he can upgrade and I load it up. What I find out is this guy and some of the others that were on that platform at the conference, they had these ministries where all of their sermons were available online. So I go there and I download hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sermons. The one individual had his stuff dating back to the 80s, so decades of sermons along with conferences and other messages as well. And I download a bunch of that. And then Francis Chan was a member of that group down in passion. And so I download all his stuff back to 2000 and I go to Africa and I’m listening to all these different messages and it’s just building in me this desire to do ministry in this particular way. And in fact, while I’m there in Africa serving in different ways, we go to a church called Karen Vineyard Church and it’s a missionary church. So you’ve got indigenous kenyan nationals that live there and go to that church. But then you also have all these different missionaries from different places who are a part of this congregation. And I remember while we were there for that month, they didn’t have a lead pastor at that moment. And so different missionaries would get up to deliver the sermon and they would give these expository messages. And one week it’s Nigel, and one week it’s this guy, this other guy. And they would just take turns. And I remember every week thinking, this is incredible. Like this church experience that I’m a part of in this environment outside of Nairobi, Kenya, is incredible. And this is what God is placing on my heart. Then I began my training through the providence of God. I went to Moody Bible Institute, and they’re big on this style of preaching, and I was trained in it. And I became aware of other ministries that had the similar features. And I was opened up to those things, including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where I did my graduate work. And all along the way, this passion for preaching in a particular way was being built into me. And that passion was becoming a feature of what I felt God was calling me to do with my life.
And so I want to take you to Nehemiah, chapter eight, and I want to show you some of the features of expository preaching. Now here’s the irony here. What I’m doing today is not expository preaching. And so it might feel a little bit disjointed, but it’s on purpose, and you’ll see why. I want to give you the categories so you might evaluate it for yourself. But if you’re around here for any length of time, you will come to know, oh, yeah, that is how things happen here. So let me show you some of the features here from the text that we’ve read. The first off, the people gather. Verse one. All the people came together as one in the square before the Watergate. It’s the people that are coming together under the word of God. And so we gather week by week and we put an emphasis on Sunday morning. It’s not this optional elective thing that we do as believers. This is a very important Thing to come together as one. And verse two says the priests brought the law before the assembly, that gathering of people which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. So we gather together under the word of God. There’s an individual who’s uniquely commissioned to bring forward the word. You see him in Verse one, they told Ezra, the teacher of the law, to bring out the book of the law of Moses which the lord had commanded for ISRAEL. You’ve got this Individual named Ezra, and he is called the teacher of the law, and he has the copy of scriptures. Now back then, they didn’t have a bunch know personal bibles, so he brought out the Bible and he brought it before this assembly to teach them. And he was a person who was called to do this. This was his life mission. In fact, he tells us in his own letter in ezra chapter seven, verse ten. And this is one of my life verses. This is important. Ezra seven, verse ten. It describes it like this. This is who he is and what he’s up to. Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach God’s statutes and rules in Israel. That’s his purpose in life. Study the Bible, do it, practice what it says, like, at a personal level, and then teach it to other people. And so that’s who he is. And they call him forward, and they say, you’re uniquely commissioned to do this. This is your job. This is what you’re all about. You are that person who is the teacher of the law. So bring out that book. And at the heart of this event is a book. Look at verse one. They said to Ezra, the teacher of the law, bring out the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So verse two, he brought the law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. And he opens the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them. And as he opened it, the people stood up. Now, I’m not a literalist here. When I look at these different things, I mean, we have a platform. I am elevated. You can see me. We put lights up here for that reason. We want you to be able to hear me and things like that. But we’re not literally saying everything that happens here needs to happen in our setting. There was one time I was preaching, some denominations take these things, and they say, this is what we do. I remember preaching at an event with a guest musician who was a part of a different denomination. And when they got done doing their thing, he sat down behind me. So I get up here, and I’m like, what is he doing? But he was literally doing what was here in this text. We don’t take all these things literally, but here when the book is open, the people stand up, and the principle there is, they respect the word of God, and there’s an expectation that God is going to speak to them through it. And we’ve done this sometimes, but we don’t do it very often. Sometimes when we read, we’ll ask everybody to stand. And it’s kind of like when you go to a wedding and the bride comes in to the sanctuary and the official, or it just happens because people know to do this, please rise. And everyone stands up, and all the attention goes to the bride as they come down the aisle, and it’s respect, and it’s deference and honor. And in that way, whenever we come together, even if we’re sitting here and you’ve got the Bible Open in your lap. The Principle is our hearts should be standing before God in expectation that he’s going to communicate to us. So he opens it, and all the people stand up. Then notice there’s a reading of it. Verse three. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the Square before the Watergate in the presence of the men, women, and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. There’s a reading, a literal reading of the scripture. And again, we’re not going to change our service time, eight to noon and be like, guys, we’re going to just sit here and read this thing for hours on end. But what we recognize is there’s a hunger for the word of God. And in their case, they’ve been famished from it for such a lengthy period of time that they come together and listen attentively, even for those long hours of reading. There’s a reading of the scripture. You’ll notice that this is something that we do. We recognize that in the New Testament, this is commanded. Paul says to his Protege Timothy, devote yourself to the reading of scripture. Devote yourself to doing that. So during our church service, there will be moments where I say on this page, and you pull out the Bibles and you locate it. And I read it, and you’re like, dude, I know how to read. I could do this at home. But we’re reading it together because we’re coming under the word of God, and we’re listening to it as it’s being read. And we find this to be a significant thing. Then we notice that it’s not just the reading of the word, but there’s an intention for people to understand it. Look at verses seven and eight. The Levites, all of them instructed the People in the law while the People were standing there, the law is being read. But now there’s instruction added to it. Verse eight. They read from the book of the law, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being said. There it is. This is what we’re talking about when we talk about expository preaching. The word is being read, but then it’s being explained. The attempt is to make it plain, to make it clear, so that you would understand what it is that God is communicating. That’s a big part of my job, to be able to do that, to sit with God and look at something like Ezra, Nehemiah, chapter eight, and go, God, what are you saying to your people? What do they need to hear? And how can we make that plain? So there’s an explanation and an application of the word of God, and then the outcome is that the people respond with worship and with obedience. Look at verse six. Ezra praised the Lord the great God, and all the people lifted their hands and responded, amen. Amen. Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. So it’s an event in which they recognize they’re dealing with God. And even in the reading and in the explanation, they are worshipping. They’re lifting their hands, they’re responding in worship and adoration. They’re bowing before God and worshipping the Lord with their faces to the ground, and they’re applying the scripture. Now, I don’t have a proof text for this, but if you keep reading, you’ll notice the people of God have heard from God, and they are willing to change whatever it is that they need to change for his sake. So that’s what we seek to do when we gather. We try to practice this sort of thing, where we open the book together with expectation that God is going to address us, that he’s going to speak over us, and we’re going to respond with worship and with obedience. Now, the remainder of our time together, I’m going to give you some comments on this kind of style. I’m going to give you some qualifications that I want you to be aware that I’m aware of, and then I’m going to give you six reasons why I am committed to this style of preaching. So here are my qualifications. First off, you need to know this is not the only kind of preaching. Expository preaching is a style. It’s not the only style. My preaching professor actually had me buy a book called the legacy of preaching. It was a two volume set, and it goes through historical examples of preaching and what that would look like. And expository preaching is one of many different ways in which God has communicated to his people throughout the history of the church. And God has anointed and blessed all kinds of different styles. And that’s okay. So I don’t stand up here and go ‘my way or the highway, guys, like, this is it. This is the one style of preaching that’s appropriate.’ I’m not a critic of others as well. I don’t look out there and go, oh, if you don’t do it my way, you’re doing it wrong. I don’t find that to be my calling at all, though some are very happy to take on that mantle of critiquing other people. In their style. It’s not the only kind of preaching that’s out there, and I’m aware, and I celebrate the different places and the different styles in which God communicates to his people. Here’s another qualification I have for you. This style is not for everyone. The style of preaching in which I’ve engaged in is not something that everyone gladly embraces. I had a fun conversation with somebody. They said, I love our church. I’m so grateful for it. I remember when I first started coming, I hated your preaching. It was such a departure from the expectation that it just didn’t even feel right. It’s like, man, this is boring. You’re reading in a crowd that’s looking at you. You’re reading, and then you’re just explaining what’s there. And so this style is not for everyone, especially if you’re coming from a situation where you think it could be very different. I think there’s a lot of communicators out there. You can find them on YouTube or in a lot of different places where you would look at the preaching, and it’s so dynamic, so much more dynamic than what you’re getting right now. And if that’s what you expect, then you come in here and you go, man, this is not for me. And that’s okay. But let me then give you six reasons why I have committed to this style of preaching.
Expository Preaching Puts an Emphasis on the Word of God
Number one, expository preaching puts the emphasis on the word of God. I think that this is pretty obvious and self explanatory. If you’re looking at what I’ve described here, you’re going to recognize, yeah, that’s a key feature of that style of preaching. It puts the emphasis on the word of God. It literally opens the word. It literally reads from the word. It literally explains the word and seeks to apply what is found there. So that one’s an obvious one.
Expository Preaching Expects the Word to do the Work
The second reason that I believe in this kind of preaching is because it places the expectation on the word of God to do the work of God. So expository preaching in ways that I don’t believe all other styles, expository preaching puts the expectation on the word of God to do the work of God. Let me read this to you. This is Isaiah 55. This is God speaking. And he says, for as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return, there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth. It shall not return to me, empty. But it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. God is saying, when I send out my word, it’s going to get done what I want to get done. It’s not going to come back to me not having accomplished the reason for which I sent it. So God’s word is able to do the work. His word can accomplish what we would desire as a church family. The word can actually get that stuff done in a way that our strategies and our plans cannot. I’m going to share with you a quote from Martin Luther. He was famously a part of the Protestant Reformation. And in one of the sermons in which he was talking about his involvement in it, which he was promoting some things, and they were telling him, you got to stop doing this, man. You got to stop saying these sorts of things. And he says, I am duty bound to my conscience. Here I stand. I can’t do anything else. So he would preach these messages, and then things were happening. And so in a sermon, he was commenting on that, because people are like, dude, you’re one of the key figures in this movement. And he’s able to say, essentially, I really had very little to do with it. Let’s look at it. I simplified it for you. You should read the whole thing in its entirety. But Luther says this. I think we’ll have it up on the screen. Martin Luther said,
“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s word. Otherwise, I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amstorf, the word worked so incredibly in this reformation. He goes on to say, I did nothing. The word did everything. He goes on further, he says, when we spread the word alone and let it alone, do the work that distresses Satan, for his word is almighty, God’s word is almighty and takes captive the hearts. And when the hearts are captured, the work will fall of itself.”
Here’s what Luther understood. Here’s what I believe to be true. Here’s what Isaiah 55, I think, is communicating. God’s word is able to do his work. When God sends out his word, it accomplishes his purposes. He makes things happen by his word. In fact, we understand that in creation, he made creation by his word, and he is remaking creation by his word. So expository preaching gives an emphasis to the expectation that God’s word will do the work.
Expository Preaching is a Helpful Strategy for Preaching the Whole Council of God
Third, expository preaching is a great strategy to move toward preaching the whole council of God. In the book of acts, Paul gathers together the church leaders of the ephesian church. And he has a little interaction with them because he’s going to depart and he’s not going to be with them anymore. But he gives this speech and he says a few different things. I’m going to show you a couple of verses there. But he says to the leaders, you know, you know me. You know how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable and teaching you in public and from house to house. He says, you know me. You know how I conducted my ministry. You know what I was up to. I did not shrink from telling you what was helpful to you. Then in verses 26 and 27, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. He has a category then where he’s able to say, there is the council of God. And as a preacher I did that. I declared to you that entirety of the message of God. Now, I don’t believe he means he started at Genesis one and said, okay, guys, here we go. Genesis one says this, genesis two says this. He doesn’t just walk through it verse by verse. I think what he’s talking about is he has categories in his head. For in the course of those couple of years that he’s with them, he’s able to say, I had designed my ministry in such a way that I knew you guys received the entire counsel of God, not every detail, but at least all the big picture things, so that you might know the doctrines of God and their particular application. So when I think about that, and I think about this quite often, it’s a responsibility to evaluate ministry along these terms. Is there a way in which if you’re part of Park City for an amount of time, I could say to you, I did not hesitate from giving you what I thought would be helpful, and I am innocent of the blood of all of you because I did not hesitate to proclaim to you the whole counsel of God. I shared with you everything that I knew that God was saying, and I made it plain for you. And I can say that with a clear conscience. That’s pretty wild. How would that happen? Well, I use categories like I’ve mentioned. I look at, have I talked on all these different subjects? You can go to our website and you can see them there, the different topics that we cover. Or I look at the various places in scripture and I look and I go, are there places in the bible that I am afraid to go to or that I have neglected? Are there things that I’m unwilling to do. And I look at that stuff and I evaluate the preaching ministry of our church along those lines because I want to be able to say, I’m innocent. God gave me an assignment. I completed that assignment. I helped the people of Park City to know the whole council of God. And I believe that this style is helpful in that regard.
Expository Preaching has the Ability to Teach Christ from All Scriptures
Fourth, I believe that this style of preaching helps to make Christ known in all the scriptures. Two Timothy three, verse 15. Paul says to Timothy that he was raised in a christian household and is acquainted with the Bible. Look at it. It says, from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings. And this is before the New Testament. So he’s saying, all the Old Testament documents, you grew up on these things. You went to Sunday school, you heard them, you know these things. Your mom and your grandmother taught you these things. But then here’s the surprising part. He says, these sacred writings, old Testament, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Say, wait a minute, Paul, you’re confused. He doesn’t have the New Testament. Jesus isn’t in there. He knew the sacred writings. Those are Old Testament. That’s Moses, that’s law, that’s the writings. What are you talking about? What Paul is getting at is all the Bible, all of it, cover to cover, leads us to Christ. He says, you knew this, and this is able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. So the entire Bible reveals to us the person and work of Jesus Christ. And some people will say to me, you know, I’d rather just hang out in the gospels or in the New Testament. And I get that inclination. But what I would respond to that is, you are missing things that will help you know and appreciate your savior even more, because all of the Bible is meant to lead us to Christ. And I think this style of preaching helps us to move in that direction.
Expository Preaching Allows the Holy Spirit to Make Surprising Applications
All right, here’s the fifth reason. I believe in expository preaching, because it allows the Holy Spirit to make surprising applications. Surprising applications. Two Timothy, chapter three, verse 16, says, all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the person of God might be thoroughly built up in the ways of God. So all scripture is breathed out by God and is useful. And that means that wherever it is that we’re in the Bible, that passage is profitable for you. And oftentimes it’s profitable in a way that I can’t even anticipate. And I’m going to show this to you by illustrating it with conversations that I’ve had in the last three weeks. In the last three weeks, I have talked to a variety of different people. I had a conversation with one of our elders. I had an email exchange with an online viewer, somebody who googled Park City church, got on our website, and listened to three sermons in a row. The last three sermons, I had an email exchange with them. I had a conversation with a young lady who had grown up in a catholic setting and was now exploring spirituality and has come to our church and is trying to feel her way into what she believes. And I had a conversation with her. And then I had an email exchange with a person who’s not yet a Christian, somebody who came by an invitation, came to our church, sat in a service, and then left here, and then went on our website, did all kinds of different things, and then emailed me. So that’s a spectrum from a leader in our church to somebody who’s not even a Christian yet. And they’re sharing with me how the sermons affected them. And this surprises me because in every single case, what was said to me was not what I anticipated. Like, I didn’t plan this stuff. And I do sit down and think through, how will this affect so and so? How will this affect a person like this? And I do sit there, and that’s a part of my job, and I pray over it and I think about it. But here’s what’s interesting. I have a conversation with an elder, with a spiritual onlooker online, with somebody from a catholic background, somebody who’s not a believer yet. And they all say, here’s what God did. Same sermons. Here’s what God did to me. And I go, I’m surprised. I mean, I was there for it, but I didn’t expect that to happen. The reason why is all scripture is profitable, and the Holy Spirit is able to take this and do stuff that I can’t even imagine. And that’s actually really exciting and freeing. It’s exciting because God can do all kinds of beautiful things, and it doesn’t depend on me. It’s freeing because it doesn’t depend on me. The effectiveness of the sermon doesn’t depend on my ability to imagine what you need to hear and whether or not I can do a good job of making that happen. The Holy Spirit is able to do this incredible work. And so this style of preaching allows the application to be made by the Holy Spirit and for it to often be very, very surprising, even to me. Here’s the last one. We’ll end here.
Expository Preaching Allows the Risen Christ to Speak
Expository preaching, I believe, is a clear strategy for allowing the Lord to speak into our church family and to remake us. One of my favorite definitions of preaching, it comes from Ray Ortlund. And he says, preaching is this. It is the risen Christ speaking the new creation into existence. It’s the risen Christ by his voice, through his word, by his spirit, declaring what he’s up to, his renewing work in the world, and bringing about the new creation which one day will come in fullness. He’s doing that. And preaching can be an instrument that is used by him, where he takes over. So you leave here and you don’t even think about me. That’s fine. But you think about what Christ said to you that day and how that changed you, because he is speaking the new creation into existence. I’ve used this a bunch of times, but this week it just struck me different, because we’re reading this with the kids in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The books know the chronicles of Narnia. There’s a book called the Magician’s nephew. Right? Am I even saying that right? Doesn’t matter. But we were reading it, and I came to that place that I’ve used often. I’ve just never seen it for myself. So I’m reading it. There’s two chapters where, in that story, Aslin is introduced, and he’s singing, and it’s his singing that brings about the creation of Narnia. And as he’s singing, these things are coming into existence. And the different characters who are there, they have different responses to it. In fact, there’s some who hear that, and they hate it. They hate the sound of his voice and what he’s doing. They hate this thing. Some that are kind know, maybe they disregard it. They’re not too concerned about it, but some that are experiencing the glory of what this king is doing. And Aslan is Jesus Christ in that storybook, and you can read that yourself. But here’s what I’m saying. By committing to this style of preaching, one of the beautiful things that I’ve observed is that Jesus is making the new creation by his voice. He is remaking us in his image, and it is his ability to do that that is so exciting that I stand up here merely as an instrument to be used of him. But I’m hoping and praying, God, would you make your voice known by your spirit, through your word? Would you let the voice of the risen Christ be made known to your people? And when that is happening, things are changing and God is at work. So again, sitting there in 2007, listening to an old man preaching the word of God from a manuscript, and I thought to myself, I would give my life to that. And here we are today. And that still resonates with me. The reason why I’m standing up here is because this is what I believe God has called me to give my life to. And as we gather as a church and we assemble together Sunday, by Sunday, we’re going to open the word and we’re going to expect that God is going to speak to us here through it. Let’s pray.
Lord, we ask for you to continue to minister to us by your voice. We’re praying that by your spirit, through your word, you would help us to know who we are and what we are to do. Lord, we’re continuing to look at who we want to be as a church family, and we’re praying that you would give us clarity, help us to know what our identity is as a congregation, help us to acknowledge that you want to speak to us. So let us make space for that to always happen here. Lord, we’re grateful for the variety of different ways that even today, by your holy spirit, through your word, you can be doing surprising things. We thank you for that. So again, we commit this time to you, and we ask that you would have your way. Amen. Amen.