This is a BIG one! A very dangerous mistake to make as a preacher is not having a text. So often, we have good thoughts but no Bible, and this doesn’t make much for good preaching. When I first started preaching, this was me! I’d find some good illustrations, hear another sermon, and think, “that’ll preach!” But the problem is though it would “preach” (well more like perform), it wasn’t based in the Holy Scriptures.
I remember also having the problem of grabbing a verse as a springboard. I would have a message based on my thoughts and opinions and wind up using the verse more as a “phrase that pays” or as a keyword kind of thing. We can’t do this as preachers! We must expound the text and only say what the Bible says. Let’s remember we are merely men of the book!
I’d like to give a couple of thoughts on why this method of sermon preparation is a mistake. Then I’d like to provide some practical ways of how to prevent doing this in our sermons.
Why we must be true Bible preachers:
1. Because the Bible is the way Christians walk.
‘Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. ‘ – Psalms 119:2
If our sermon isn’t based in the Bible, then we are leading God’s people astray. We have to remember that the Bible is the road map that believers are to walk on, and they must have an accurate map. Imagine it this way. You have a map that was drawn by hand. The ink is smudged, the lines are crooked because the shaking of the artist’s hands and the paper is soiled and dirty. Now imagine you have a clearly printed, accurate map that was done after hours of meticulous study and accurate to the roads you are to take. Which map do you believe will be more accurate? The print map because human hands haven’t blurred it. On the same note is a sermon that didn’t come clearly from the scriptures. We will talk about this more in a moment, but our messages must start and stay in the Bible.
2. Because the Bible is our command to follow.
‘Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. ‘ – Psalms 119:4
God has given us the Bible as His love letter, commissions, and command to us as believers. The issue is that if our sermons are our thoughts and not the Bible, we will leave the listener unclear of what is commanded of them by God. We will also leave people unclear on how to do what God commanded of them.
3. Because the Bible brings praise to God.
‘I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. ‘ – Psalms 119:7
We learn and get the ability to praise from the Word of God! When we get in the book, and the book gets in us, we praise our God more! To the same token, when we blur the Word of God, we blur the eyes of His saints to praise Him. God inhabits our praise, so we don’t want flawed habitation. Now, how do we prevent making this mistake?
1. We start with the text.
We never preach a sermon starting with a thought. We should always preach a sermon starting with a passage of Bible. So this means we need to pray less for sermons and dig more. We need to pick a passage of scripture and start mining for truth! Maybe it would be a good idea to sit down and start studying through a book of the Bible, stopping every time God gives you truth and writing a sermon on it. What I do is I make a note of every truth and put it in a “Sermon thoughts” folder on my computer. When I was a much younger preacher, I’d write them down on 3×5 cards. Then I’d go back during my sermon prep time, grab a handful of them, and go to studying and putting together messages.
2. We stay true to the text.
We don’t make it say what we want it to say; we make it say what it says. We take things literally unless told otherwise. We don’t force types and symbols on the text that aren’t there. We study it in light of the culture of the time and not in light of our American culture. We must preach it and preach it through. Can I tell you there are more sermons than can be preached without taking one verse out of context?
3. We preach with truth in mind and not a remedy or a person in mind.
So many times, we get into the habit of trying to be the pharmacist fixing everyone’s spiritual and emotional needs. But really, the Holy Spirit is the pharmacist, and the only one who can remedy the problems of men with the medicine of the Word of God is Him! We just need to administer the Word and let the Holy Spirit do His work!
The bottom line is we must not just call ourselves Bible preachers. We must BE Bible preachers!