4 Things Sermon Prep Should Always Include

sermonprep

Every pastor develops their own style for writing a sermon: some prefer isolation in a quiet environment; others enjoy group dynamics and discussion. Some outline and some manuscript, others simply read, study, and get up with just the Bible in hand. Whatever your style is, here are 4 things that your prep should always include:

1. It should be founded in Scripture
There are many great books available, which contain great truths found in scripture–some of them by Christian authors – but they are not the inspired Word of God. There are many great blogs and articles available online for pastors to read and enjoy and even learn from, but they are not the inspired Word of God. There are many movies with clips that express deep emotions that pull at our hearts and move us to tears, but they are not the inspired Word of God.

When I come to prepare a sermon, I must always start with the primary source: The Holy Bible. There is only one book penned under the authority of God by eyewitnesses and those who gave their lives for Christ. There is only one book preserved down through the generations by the hand of God and nearly identical in every way now to its original in the days of old. This is where life comes from – the Word of God – and I must caution myself to never to build a sermon from anything else.

2. It should begin with prayer
Prayer is simply talking with God. He is the Head of the Church, so before I go and get fancy ideas about the flock that He has entrusted to me, I should sit down and spend some time talking to Him. God alone knows the needs of those in the church; He knows them better than I ever could. He alone is the only one who can speak life, hope, and redemption into the hearts and souls of those who come on Sunday (or Weds, or whenever you all meet). He also knows me better than I do, and is the only one who can reach into my heart and soften it.

That said, there are two questions that I ask God before I begin a sermon: “‘What do you want to teach me from this passage, Lord?” and “How do you want me to teach from this passage, Lord?” Both of these questions correctly place me under God’s authority. The times that I have failed to begin with prayer are the times that my heart has been hard towards His leadership and His voice, because of that I have struggled. If I cannot listen and obey, how can I expect to lead my flock to listen and obey?

3. It should involve repentance
Every sermon needs to contain the Gospel and a call to respond; otherwise, it is not a sermon but a nice talk. I want those who hear the Word to receive the Word, repent of their sin, and walk in the newness of life with Christ as their Lord. I want those who are in Christ to hear the Word and be convicted of their sin as well, remembering their need of and love for their Savior, Jesus. As a pastor, I am not above this. If the messages I preach contain the Gospel (they should!) and a call to respond – have I evaluated my heart in light of that call? Is there sin in my life that the passage reveals to me? Do I need to repent and respond to Christ’s love and mercy and holiness? Yes, and I need to do it before Sunday morning. I must let God show me the log in my eye and respond accordingly.

4. It should end with worship
I am compelled to worship the Lord as I write my sermon. I worship Him for providing a savior, for providing a way out from temptation, for providing a body of believers to keep me accountable and encourage me, for the Word of Life, for the Great Commission that I can play a part in, for a community in which to serve, and for the breath and life I have. No one in scripture who encountered the Lord responded in any way except worship. If I have indeed sat down with the Word of God, spoken directly to the Lord, and allowed Him to work in my heart, then worship is the only right response. Then and only then am I prepared to write the sermon, for I have allowed God to teach me first so that I, in turn, may teach others.

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4 Things Sermon Prep Should Always Include

50 Shades

50 shades

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

From the very beginning of time in the garden Satan has tempted man and women with the 50 shades of grey between good and evil, between life and death.   He whispers in our ears and hearts and paints shades of grey in our life; “Does God really love you?   “Did he really say not to partake?” “Don’t you want to know what it’s like?” “Don’t you want to be like God?” “If looks good, why not eat?” “Your choices won’t hurt you.”

The reality is that your choices do have the potential to hurt you (and others). If you choose to sin, to ignore God in any area of your life, you are choosing one of the shades of grey between life and death.   The world speaks about the enticements of pleasure, of sin (though it won’t call it sin), and continually places before you 50 shades of grey between life and death.   It will echo the voice of the serpent in the garden and you will be encouraged to do what feels good in the moment with no thought for the long-term consequences for your life, your family, or your soul.   This can be clearly seen when a book that promotes sexual sin, abuse of women and self-gratification becomes so widely popular that it is turned into a movie. This book, and this movie are of no benefit to those who call Christ Lord.   Yet, the book isn’t the root of problem it’s just a symptom. The problem is in your own heart – it’s your own desire for sin and sins desire for you. “..sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you.” (Genesis 4:7)

If the world speaks about the enticement of sin so freely then the church must talk more passionately about the beauty of holiness, of the detriment of sin, and must continually place before the world the need for repentance and the righteous grace of Christ. There is no grey area in faith – it is Christ or not. You do not have the liberty to choose sinful behavior when you have been purchased at the cost of the life of Jesus. “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) God has said to us, “I set before you life and death…therefore choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 20)

Christ follower, you must recognize the voice the tempter in you own life and flee from it. His desire is to cause you to choose one of the shades of grey and by doing so to step away from God. “He (Satan) was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) What is it that tempts you? What is it that causes you to choose sin? Is it pride? Is it lust? Is it selfishness, greed, money? Is it a need for relationships? Do you find yourself drawn to sin when you are tired? When you are angry? When you are overwhelmed? “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:7-9)

Christ follower, you must not just recognize the voice of the tempter and flee from it; you must also recognize the voice of the Lord and run to it! Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden after they sinned – they suddenly knew that the grey area was not where they should be and were scared of what that might mean for them. However God demonstrated a great grace to those first sinners. He sought them out, called them by name, and put in place a plan to redeem them (and all of us) from our sin.   Christ has died for your sins – every lustful thought, every lie, every moment of pride. Small and large, public and private, words, thoughts and deeds – Christ has paid the high price on the cross.   He willingly offered His life to redeem you from the 50 shades of grey you so willingly choose. Those shades of grey only lead to spiritual death – and Christ knowing that, and loving you even in your sins, gave Himself so that you can move from death to life. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13)

Christ follower, you must repent of your sin regularly. Let Christ move in your heart forgive you and free you! “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Having been freed, then don’t let sin entangle you any longer. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2) In Christ we have the hope and knowledge that there is nothing that can separate us from Him. He is a good Lord and Friend to sinners.   “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Romans 8:38-39)  

Christ has not called you to life lived in shades of grey He has made you, called you, redeemed you to live in holiness. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16) He doesn’t just command you to be holy and leave you hopeless: He will enable you live a holy life. He will enable you choose life over death! “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (1 Philippians 1:6)

Take action and choose life! Which of these steps are you wiling to take today?

  • Pray to God and ask Him to forgive you of your sins and fill you a desire for holiness.
  • Ask Him to encourage your soul.
  • Ask Him to provide solid friendship with other Christians who can keep you accountable.
  • Purposefully seek someone out who is walking with Christ and ask them to keep you accountable.
  • Be honest and transparent with your accountability friend/group. (Men with men, women with women.)
  • Ask God for a teachable spirit.
  • Let your pastor know you are struggling.
50 Shades