A Preacher’s Manifesto: Ten Commitments That Drive Biblical Preaching

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I hope you’ve read that my blog is now at http://peltononpreaching.com/.

However, in case you didn’t know about the change, I wanted to let you know.

Also, I have recently published my first book. It’s a mini e-book titled, A Preacher’s Manifesto: Ten Commitments That Drive Biblical Preaching. You can read a brief description about it at my new blog address. The book is available through Amazon.com and also Smashwords.com.

Thanks for thinking about preaching with me.

New Blog Address, Plus a Christo-centric Reading of the Lord’s Prayer

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This is my final post at this address. Lord willing, all future posts will be found at: http://peltononpreaching.com/. For some time I’ve been considering moving from the free WordPress setup to the paid version. This will allow me to keep unwanted advertisements out of the blogs. The self-hosted version will allow me to make resources available to the readers. It will take me some time to figure out how to utilize the site, but I’ll work at it some. I hope you are able to find your way to the new address. Thank you for spending time with me thinking about preaching.

Because I do not want to waste your time, I thought I would also give you a look at a Christo-centric reading of the Lord’s Prayer I learned from N. T. Wright’s, Simply Christian. My Theology Readers’ Breakfast is currently reading this book. In his chapter on prayer, Wright discusses how the prayer is a reflection of Jesus’ life. Wright writes, “The prayer is, so to speak, Jesus-specific….The ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ as we call it, grows directly out of what Jesus was doing in Galilee. And Gethsemane, too: the prayer looks directly forward to what he achieved in his death and resurrection. The prayer is therefore a way of saying to the Father: Jesus has (in the image he himself used) caught me in the net of his good news. The prayer says: I want to be part of his kingdom-movement” (p. 160).

Notice that this is a very different reading than simply saying to our congregants, “Pray like Jesus.” No doubt this is intended to be a model prayer. We are to follow Jesus’ instructions, “When you pray, say…” However, Wright helped me see a way to read Jesus’ model prayer Christologically. Prior to reading Wright, the only Jesus-specific aspect of the prayer I would have seen is the fact that Jesus instructed us to pray this way.

But, it is our relationship with Jesus that requires this prayer; it is His sacrifice that guarantees God will answer our prayer. We know God answers this prayer because Jesus provided the way for daily provision, pardon, and protection to be delivered. It’s not that saying, “pray like this,” is not biblical; it’s just not biblical enough.

Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation in the Church.

Preaching the Perfect Example Text: Martha and Mary

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In Luke 10:39-40 Luke tells us that “Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving.” This might be the perfect example of a preaching portion that functions as both a good and bad example to follow. (You probably can think of others in Scripture that function in a similar way). It’s pretty simple. We say to our folks: “Follow Mary’s example and avoid Martha’s example.

The key, of course, is communicating what was wrong with Martha. She’s described as “distracted with much serving” in v. 40. Undistracted serving isn’t a problem. We need lots of that in the faith-family. Then, Martha crosses the line even further when, according to Ryken, she “stopped serving and started scolding” Jesus. Martha actually instructs Jesus! Can you imagine?! It’s a great time to ask our folks to monitor their attitude while they’re serving. How do they feel about others who might not be serving quite so much?

It’s easier to communicate what was right with Mary. O how we need God to develop more and more congregants who listen to the Word of God with a view toward adjusting their lives accordingly!

The Martha’s in our churches need an adjustment. Their adjustment is one way they worship during and as a result of the teaching of this narrative. I can hear my prof, the late Howard Hendricks say to the Mary’s in our churches: “May your tribe increase.” This Text is a great way to balance worshiping and serving. Because, if you’re only learning and never serving, then you’re not really learning at the feet of Jesus.

Faith in Christ creates Mary’s, not Martha’s. So, even though the narrative means something through good and bad examples, we do not dismiss our folks by saying: “Go and be like Mary, not like Martha.” Instead we spend a moment explaining how the Christ-crucified creates Mary’s posture and adjusts Martha’s posture.

Preach well for the glory of God.

Preaching Jesus’ Gospel: The Parable of the Compassionate Samaritan

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Luke 10:25-37 records Jesus’ discussion with a lawyer who tried to test Him. Good luck with that, right?

Back in October of 2013 I mentioned the need to explain why Jesus always seemed to preach a works-based salvation. The parable of the compassionate Samaritan (I had to call it that in light of my previous post) requires such theological effort on our part. The lawyer asks, Jesus, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Most of us would have answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Most of us wouldn’t have answered the way Jesus did: “Do [the law] and you will live” (Luke 10:28). So, when Jesus ends the session with, “You go, and do likewise,” (v. 37) He’s giving us some theological work to do.

That may require a major point or move in the sermon not contained in Luke 10. We say something like, “In order for anyone to be able to perform like the compassionate Samaritan in a way that will be accepted by a Holy God (that last part’s the key), they must first experience the compassion of God-in-Christ-through the Spirit. Whenever a person sees Christ dying for them, their hearts are warmed and they have the desire and capacity for such compassion displayed by the Samaritan.” Or something like that. The point is that that point or move is a necessary element of a sermon. Otherwise, Jesus’ teaching will sound like salvation by works.

I suggest that this point or move in the sermon should occur before you spend time helping people flesh out what it might look like in their world to display such compassion for their neighbors. Remember, the section of the sermon where you give them five ways to be a good Samaritan isn’t moralistic self-help when delivered in the context of the Gospel.

You can probably think of other angles on this too.

Preach well for the glory of God.

Try Giving Jesus’ Parable A New Name

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Familiarity with a preaching portion can sometimes hinder communication. This is especially true with some of Jesus’ famous parables. Luke 10:25-37 records the parable of the Good Samaritan.

You probably already knew this, but near the end of my workweek I realized that the adjective, good, did not occur in this parable. Jesus does say in verse 33, “…when [the Samaritan] saw him, he had compassion.” The lawyer admits in verse 37 that the Samaritan was the “one who showed…mercy.”

So, at the beginning of the teaching time, I gave the faith-family as assignment. I asked them while we were studying the parable to attempt to rename it. I asked them to help me remember this when we concluded the sermon so we could hear their attempts.

In this case, it’s an important assignment. Jesus ends the parable with: “You go, and do likewise.” Go and be good is a bit broad, a bit vague. When we rename the parable from The Good Samaritan to something like The Compassionate Neighbor, we help everyone move a little closer to specific acts of worshipful obedience.

You can think of other familiar sections of Scripture that could use some renaming. Lord willing, we’ll see another example in the months to come when I tackle Luke 15 and the parable of the Prodigal Son. You’ve heard it said that familiarity breeds contempt, but I say to you that familiarity breeds ambiguity.

Any time I’ve tried this renaming exercise, I’ve always found that it enhanced communication. It’s a simple, yet effective way to add to your exegesis and theological analysis.

Preach for the glory of God!

Why Did Jesus Always Make It So Difficult?!

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No matter who Jesus encountered, He never made it easy for them to become a disciple. Remember how he handled the rich, young ruler? In Luke 9:57-62, two of the three men stated their intention to follow Jesus (Jesus asked one to follow Him). Jesus made it difficult for both of them. As I’ve studied the gospels over the years, I noticed that Jesus always made it more difficult than I would have. When I detect some interest, I’m too quick to seal the deal. It has made me wonder if I should be careful not to make things sound easier than they are in my preaching.

Robert Schuller once said, “I want to attract [the non-Christian listener], and so I use the strategy that Jesus used. I preach the way Jesus preached” (cf. Modern Reformation, 11, no. 1, 2002, p. 33). Sounds easy enough.

Rick Warren wrote, “Anyone can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart” (The Purpose-Driven Church, p. 220). Sounds easy enough.

In Luke 9:57-62, we don’t know how the three men responded to Jesus’ difficult demands. We do know that Jesus was not afraid of making difficult demands on those who were interested. I don’t want to push people away needlessly or make becoming a disciple harder than it is. However, I do not want to make it too easy, either. Maybe the best thing I can do is preach the Text. Sometimes it’s, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31). Other times it’s, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Happy New Year. Preach well.