Tag Archives: Preaching

“Sharing the Light together” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“I implore you all, love with me, run with me by believing. Let us long for the country up above. Let us pant and sigh for that country up above. Let us realize that we are strangers here.

What will we see then? Let the Gospel say it now: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,’ (John 1:1).

You will come to the fountain from which you have been sprayed with dew-drops, from where a ray has been sent obliquely by roundabout ways into the darkness of your heart. You will see the naked Light itself.

You are being purified so as to see and bear it. ‘Beloved,’ says John himself, as I reminded you yesterday, ‘we are the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be; we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is,’ (1 John 3:2).

I really do sense your feelings of yearning, of eagerness, being lifted up with me to what is above. But the body which is perishable is weighing upon the soul, and this earthly dwelling is pressing down the mind filled with many thoughts.

So I too then am going to put away this copy of the Gospel. You are all going to depart as well, each to your own home. It has been good, sharing the Light together, good rejoicing in it, good exulting in it together; but when we depart from each other, let us not depart from Him.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the Gospel of John, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Trans. Edmund Hill (New York: New City Press, 2009), 550. Augustine is concluding his sermon on John 8:13-14.

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“Read and re-read” by D.A. Carson

Read and re-read and re-read and re-read the biblical book. It is a mistake to choose the book and then start reading commentaries. Read the book.

Read it in English. Read it in Greek, or Hebrew, as the case may be. I’m quite flexible. Ideally, that means you should start the process of preparation in this regard a long time before. If you have time to read it only once before the first Sunday you’re going to preach it, you won’t have absorbed a great deal of it.

I knew a man in Toronto a number of years ago (he has long since gone to be with the Lord). His name was William Fitch. He was a Presbyterian minister and a very able expositor. It was his lifelong practice not to preach any part of the Word of God until he had read it in preparation for that sermon 100 times.

I’m not laying that on you as a burden or anything! Still, some of us I suspect have managed to preach on occasion from passages where we barely read it once! We’ve read the commentaries, of course.… But read the text. Read the text. Read, read, read, re-read the text.

Start the process early. Give time to re-reading and, thus, to meditation, to turning it over in your mind, to thinking about it when you’re driving your car, to waking up in the middle of the night and dreaming about it. Partly, this is because a lot of your best insights come when you’re not trying, when you’ve just flooded your mind with the Word of God, and then you begin to see the connections and how it works. You can’t force that. It’s just re-reading plus time.

That also gives you time to start collecting illustrations and bits and pieces that fit into it just from your other reading, from reading the newspaper or reading a novel or talking with your kids or something in the church that happens. Suddenly, you’ll discover, because you have allowed a little extra time in preparation, you enrich the entire process.

Having said that, I have to tell you quite frankly that sometimes I have achieved that, and quite frankly, I often haven’t because I’m just as pressured as the next bloke. I can start my preparation the week before, the same as everybody else, but ideally … ideally.… I like to start a long time in advance. I try.

That also gives you time to pray over the text. That is, to incorporate the text into your personal prayers. In much the same way I incorporated some of the prayers of Paul into personal prayers, this can be done, of course, in one way or another with all kinds of texts.

Eschew the division of head and heart. (This a more general observation but probably still worth making.) Some of us think when we are reading the Bible devotionally we are supposed to go all fluttery in the stomach and feel very spiritual and deeply meditative and highly reverent, and then when we’re doing our exegesis we can forget the reverence and just get on with the commentaries. Fight that dichotomy like the plague.

Make your detailed, analytic, careful, competent exegesis reverent and make your devotional life thoughtful and rigorous. Eschew like the plague this common division between head and heart.

That means, then, so far as your sermon preparation goes, you will simultaneously be trying to do rigorous exegesis and biblical theology and so forth while also thinking reverently and offering up this work to the Lord and wondering how it will apply to people’s lives. It will be part of a unified vision of things that is going on all the time.”

–D.A. Carson, “Preaching through Bible Books,” in D.A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016).

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“A prayer for preachers” by D.A. Carson

“Keep revising, praying, and preparing so it is not so much that you have mastered the material as that it has mastered you. There is a way of preaching in which you project an image of being an expert. There is a way of preaching in which you project an image of having been captured.

The latter is gained partly by continually revising, thinking through, and how you express yourself. It’s also attained by where your heart is, how greatly you think of God and of Christ and of the Gospel and how little you think of your preparation even though you’ve been so diligent at it. Let’s bow in prayer.

In truth, merciful God, we discover to our shame that we are not very consistent and we often slip and slide and become intoxicated by peripheral things. O Lord God, in the pressure on our time help us to make choices that are wise, honoring to You, for our people’s good. In the midst of counseling and caring and basic administration, remind us again and again that we are called to the ministry of the Word and prayer.

With all that means for study and preparation as well as for delivery, with all that it means for explaining the Bible to a single person, bringing the comfort of the Word to someone who is ill in the hospital or in an evangelistic group explaining your most Holy Word to people who don’t have a clue, with all that it means for sermon preparation, we confess humbly that we are, at best, unprofitable servants and that what we achieve we achieve by Your grace.

Make us, we beg of You, as holy as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation. Make us workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly interpreting the Word of God. Help us so to grow in life and doctrine that others will see our progress and glorify You. Whether our charge is large or small, whether it is viewed as strategic or in some way removed from the hubbub of life, grant that our deepest concern will be for the well-being of the men and women over whom You have placed us as under-shepherds.

Grant to us the deepest desire to keep our eyes fixed on Christ Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has now sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We bless You, Lord God, for the immense privilege of Christian ministry, and in its sorrows and hurts, give us a forbearing, forgiving spirit, a persevering grace that lives with eternity’s values in view.

In its moments of triumph and joy, help us to understand that as we work out our salvation, it is You working in us both to will and to do of Your good pleasure. As we grow in love for one another, help us to eschew every hint of the green-eyed monster so we start comparing service records and sizes of church.

Help us rather to be faithful to the One who has called us to live with eternity’s values in view, to delight in faithfulness in small things, to look forward to the approval of the Master Himself on the last day: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few matters; I will make you ruler over many things.’

Have mercy on us, Your people. Teach us not only understanding but tears. Help us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, and so to show ourselves mastered by the text that our very blood will be Bibline, prick us and we bleed Scripture. This for Christ’s sake, Amen.”

–D.A. Carson, “Preaching through Bible Books,” in D.A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016).

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“In Thee we see everything fulfilled” by Charles Spurgeon

“What meant the Saviour, then, by this—’It is finished?’ He meant, first of all, that all the types, promises, and prophecies were now fully accomplished in Him.

Those who are acquainted with the original will find that the words—’It is finished,’ occur twice within three verses. In the 28th verse, we have the word in the Greek; it is translated in our version ‘accomplished,’ but there it stands—’After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.’

And then He afterwards said, ‘It is finished.’ This leads us to see His meaning very clearly, that all the Scripture was now fulfilled, that when He said, ‘It is finished,’ the whole book, from the first to the last, in both the law and the prophets, was finished in Him.

There is not a single jewel of promise, from that first emerald which fell on the threshold of Eden, to that last sapphire-stone of Malachi, which was not set in the breast-plate of the true High Priest.

Nay, there is not a type, from the red heifer downward to the turtle-dove, from the hyssop upwards to Solomon’s temple itself, which was not fulfilled in Him; and not a prophecy, whether spoken on Chebar’s bank, or on the shores of Jordan; not a dream of wise men, whether they had received it in Babylon, or in Samaria, or in Judea, which was not now fully wrought out in Christ Jesus.

And, brethren, what a wonderful thing it is, that a mass of promises, and prophecies, and types, apparently so heterogeneous, should all be accomplished in one person! Take away Christ for one moment, and I will give the Old Testament to any wise man living, and say to him:

‘Take this; this is a problem; go home and construct in your imagination an ideal character who shall exactly fit all that which is herein foreshadowed; remember, he must be a prophet like unto Moses, and yet a champion like to Joshua; he must be an Aaron and a Melchizedek; he must be both David and Solomon, Noah and Jonah, Judah and Joseph. Nay, he must not only be the lamb that was slain, and the scape-goat that was not slain, the turtle-dove that was dipped in blood, and the priest who slew the bird, but he must be the altar, the tabernacle, the mercy-seat, and the shewbread.’

Nay, to puzzle this wise man further, we remind him of prophecies so apparently contradictory, that one would think they never could meet in one man. Such as these, ‘All kings shall fall down before Him, and all nations shall serve Him;’ and yet, ‘He is despised and rejected of men.’

He must begin by showing a man born of a virgin mother—’A virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’ He must be a man without spot or blemish, but yet one upon whom the Lord doth cause to meet the iniquities of us all. He must be a glorious one, a Son of David, but yet a root out of a dry ground.

Now, I say it boldly, if all the greatest intellects of all the ages could set themselves to work out this problem, to invent another key to the types and prophecies, they could not do it. I see you, ye wise men, ye are poring over these hieroglyphs; one suggests one key, and it opens two or three of the figures, but you cannot proceed, for the next one puts you at a nonplus.

Another learned man suggests another clue, but that fails most where it is most needed, and another, and another, and thus these wondrous hieroglyphs traced of old by Moses in the wilderness, must be left unexplained, till one comes forward and proclaims, ‘The cross of Christ and the Son of God incarnate,’ then the whole is clear, so that he that runs may read, and a child may understand.

Blessed Saviour! In Thee we see everything fulfilled, which God spoke of old by the prophets; in Thee we discover everything carried out in substance, which God had set forth us in the dim mist of sacrificial smoke.

Glory be unto Thy name! ‘It is finished’—everything is summed up in Thee.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, ‘It Is Finished,’ in Majesty in Misery, Volume 3: Calvary’s Mournful Mountain (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 218-220. (MTPS, 7: 586-587)

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“This shout of triumph” by Charles Spurgeon

“The Son of God has been made man. He has lived a life of perfect virtue and of total self-denial. He has been all that life long despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

His enemies have been legion; His friends have been few, and those few faithless. He is at last delivered over into the hands of them that hate Him.

He is arrested while in the act of prayer; He is arraigned before both the spiritual and temporal courts. He is robed in mockery, and then unrobed in shame. He is set upon his throne in scorn, and then tied to the pillar in cruelty.

He is declared innocent, and yet He is delivered up by the judge who ought to have preserved Him from His persecutors. He is dragged through the streets of that Jerusalem which had killed the prophets, and would now crimson itself with the blood of the prophets’ Master.

He is brought to the cross; He is nailed fast to the cruel wood. The sun burns him. His cruel wounds increase the fever. God forsakes Him.

‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ contains the concentrated anguish of the world. While He hangs there in mortal conflict with sin and Satan, His heart is broken, His limbs are dislocated.

Heaven fails Him, for the sun is veiled in darkness. Earth forsakes Him, for ‘His disciples forsook Him and fled.’ He looks everywhere, and there is none to help; He casts His eye around, and there is no man that can share His toil.

He treads the winepress alone; and of the people there is none with Him. On, on, He goes, steadily determined to drink the last dreg of that cup which must not pass from Him if His Father’s will be done.

At last He cries—’It is finished,’ and He gives up the ghost.

Hear it, Christians, hear this shout of triumph as it rings today with all the freshness and force which it had eighteen hundred years ago! Hear it from the Sacred Word, and from the Saviour’s lips, and may the Spirit of God open your ears that you may hear as the learned, and understand what you hear!”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, ‘It Is Finished,’ in Majesty in Misery, Volume 3: Calvary’s Mournful Mountain (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 217-218. (MTPS, 7: 586)

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“If Christ finished the work for us, He will finish the work in us” by Charles Spurgeon

“There is joy to every believer when he remembers that, as Christ said, ‘It is finished,’ every guarantee was given of the eternal salvation of all the redeemed. It appears to me, that if Christ finished the work for us, He will finish the work in us.

If He has undertaken so supreme a labour as the redemption of our souls by blood, and that is finished, then the great but yet minor labour of renewing our natures, and transforming us even unto perfection, shall be finished too.

If, when we were sinners, Christ loved us so as to die for us, now that He has redeemed us, and has already reconciled us to Himself, and made us His friends and His disciples, will He not finish the work that is necessary to make us fit to stand among the golden lamps of heaven, and to sing His praises in the country where nothing that defileth can even enter?

I believe it, my brethren. He who has said, ‘It is finished,’ will never leave anything undone. It shall never be said of Him, ‘This Man began, but was not able to finish.’

If He has bought me with His blood, and called me by His grace, and I am resting on His promise and power, I shall be with Him where He is, and I shall behold His glory, as surely as He is Christ the Lord, and I am a believer in Him.

What comfort this truth brings to every child of God!”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Christ’s Dying Words For His Church,” in Majesty in Misery, Volume 3: Calvary’s Mournful Mountain (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 209-210.

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“For eternity” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Like many others I owe an incalculable debt to William Still for the way in which he invested himself in me from my earliest encounter with him in my teenage years until his death in 1997. Particular conversations with him return to the front of my memory as I think of him now—and with respect to the work of the pastor none more clearly than the occasion on which he said to me, quietly:

‘I never preach now without believing that something will be done that will last for eternity.’

With some sense of the extent to which his ministry had that kind of effect on my own life, I recall thinking ‘That is the measure of faith I too need to have.’ The words have lingered with me now for four decades and been a constant reminder to me of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s wise comment that it is not ‘many words’ but ‘words spoken in faith’ that God blesses.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, “Foreword,” in William Still, The Work of the Pastor (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, IV20 1TW, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1984/2010), 9.

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