How to Listen to Bad Sermons

Dear Zion,
We have spent some time thinking about the importance of sermons in the regular, spiritual diet of God’s people, including how to hear a sermon, and also how to live from a sermon. But this all assumes that we are hearing good sermons to begin with. What should we do when we listen to a bad sermon?

Scripture tells us that there are some sermons so bad, we should not listen to them. When Paul soberly warned and admonished Timothy “to preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2), the emphasis must be retained: a sermon is only a useful sermon if the content is the Word of God. Paul himself resolved to “know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where the content of many (most?) sermons do not rely on God’s Word and His power, but instead rely on the preacher’s experiences, storytelling, practical suggestions, and eloquence. The preacher may even begin with a Bible passage, but the content of the sermon that follows is not coming from sacred Scripture. If sermons today were edited down to only “Christ and Him crucified,” how much would be left?

Similarly, Paul warned Timothy that there would be a time when “people will not endure sound teaching, but they will gather around them a great number of [preachers] to say what their itching ears want to hear, to suit their own desires” (II Timothy 4:3). Continue reading

Redemptive Historical Preaching: Christ at the Center

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One concept that is so helpful to have when considering how to exhort God’s people from God’s Word is that our preaching must be Christ-centered. The idea that Scripture isn’t just a book of timeless truths, morality plays, or helpful advice for living, but is instead one grand narrative displaying the promise of, the coming of, and the rule of the Messiah Jesus, has been thoroughly covered by men much better than I, most notably Ed Clowney, Sidney Greidanus, Dennis Johnson, and Graeme Goldsworthy. Their articles and books are most helpful. But occasionally, just having a handy chart around can jog your mind in the specifics.

The above chart can be downloaded here. It is a rough adaption of what Dennis Johnson adapted from Ed Clowney. I’ll try to briefly explain what the chart says, as well as how to use it below. Continue reading