The template I added to the top of my header now serves as the fill-in sheet to record my research. I don’t always do sermons this way – often I prep my template first, THEN read the passage.
As I research, I always continue to question if my 3 points are the right ones. This can either be a housecleaning service, or it can turn to discussing Religion vs. Ritual. My research so far is actually moving me into halfway between the points.
The important thing to be aware of is this, and here’s where experienced pastors balk. “I just spent ten minutes coming up with my sermon points, I’m not re-visiting them.”
If, as you read the text, you do not find evidence that you’re going in the wrong direction, that’s fine. On the other hand, if the evidence you’re discovering makes you question your points and you don’t change them… what does that imply? What does that mean? Will you have to stand before Jesus Christ and have to admit you simply were lazy, and thus taught the congregation the wrong application of the text?
The answer here is, if you’re getting the feeling you’re going in the wrong direction, save the sermon document with a new name, close the old one, and redo your points on the new one. You may preach that sermon later on.
If time is of the essence here (you’re bi-vocational, it’s Tuesday afternoon, you just got done with work and dinner, and now you’re in your study to begin working on the sermon), the decision to change in mid stream is not a time waster, but a future time saver. PLEASE don’t be one of those pastors who preaches the same text the folllowing week. Trust me, you have no idea how much that stresses your congregation, if you’re doing an expository schedule. “How long will we be in this book of the Bible?” They worry, and with good reason. I know of one pastor who’s been preaching in 1 Samuel for 6 years.
So… what if I turn this sermon instead to being less about tradition, but more about a relationship with Jesus Christ? What happens with my points?
Let’s go to the brainstorm section of the document. The idea here is to take 5 minutes, and write down all the words that pop into your head. Ritual, hypocrisy, commandment, legalism, pharisee, unlawful, unclean, hands, heart, soul, clean, works, faith.
That took two minutes for me, including a moment to sip some coffee, cough a couple of times because I’ve still got that irritating cough, and watch my cat paw-paw in my lap.
Make a check off as you complete each section of the sermon preparation.
“Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, And they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, Neither were they stedfast in his covenant. But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: Yea, many a time turned he his anger away, And did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; A wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.” (Psalm 78:36–39, KJV)
“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, Even a marvellous work and a wonder: For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isaiah 29:13–14, KJV)
“If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, To give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: Yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” (Malachi 2:2, KJV)
This is my text gathering session. What I’m doing here is looking in my passage guide in Logos, and following the hyperlinks. Logos, when you type a reference in the go box, will quickly search everything in your library, and will pull together cross references from every book in there. It has a separate link for the TSK – the TSK could cause this section in some cases to grow 4 times as large, so many times it doesn’t list the references from the TSK.
By the time I’ve added Luke 5:30-32, I’m convinced that the emphasis on the passage is more about Heart Vs. Hands. The Pharisees want a relationship with God where it is their works, their hands, their self righteousness. In many ways, they’re right, and in many more, they’re wrong. They’ve put the cart before the horse. There is some emphasis on walk with God. But in Galatians, we discover the revolutionary idea that the idea of the law with its demands of touch not, taste not is only to bring you to Christ.
Christ is in their midst. right there. And He’s telling them its not about ritual, it’s not about religion, it’s about the Heart!
Ah! So, my questions in the points are actually a trap! The Lord literally allowed them to ensnare themselves with their own words. He’s there not to trick them, not to defeat them in a play on words debate…
He’s there to try to lead them to repentence. It worked… the Pharisees were divided over Him. The Sadducees were not. But the common people were siding with the Pharisees, and believing upon Jesus.
Get your heart right with God, Jesus Christ is tellling them. And then the ritual things fade in importance. your focus is upon God. You’re so wrapped up in liturgy, and ritual, and trying to build a fence around the law so that no one should accidentally transgress… that you’re building laws upon laws, and blind guides that you are, you have NO IDEA you’re transgressing the very heart of the Law you’re trying to protect!
Okay, I see the direction of this sermon. I’m preaching not to the congregation, I’m not preaching to the other denominations who add things and replace things, and utterly reject things the Bible calls for… I’m preaching to everyone, in the form of the Pharisees.
And all four paragraphs I wrote above just landed in my sermon section under the “explanations” category. This is not a housecleaning sermon, it;s a heart cleaning sermon.