You Know You're Preaching When...
Preaching is an important gift from God. How important is preaching? Jesus is a preacher.1 The truth that Jesus is a preacher should point you to the weight of preaching. You can see the value Jesus placed on preaching when in His earthly ministry He said to His disciples, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mk. 1:38). Christ is the example for preachers in all things. Christ went out to preach. Have you come into the pulpit to preach like Christ? Additionally, you should see the significance of preaching in the fact that God commands ministers to do it. Paul charged his son in the faith, Timothy, with the following admonition: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 2:4). Why does God command the preaching of His word? God uses preaching in the conversion of sinners and the sanctifying and strengthening of the saints. So, how do you know when you’re preaching? Of course, you should ask this question not from motives of pride, but to know if your preaching glorifies God and edifies the church.
Preaching is a combination of certain elements. Preaching contains teaching or truth, but it is more than information dissemination. Preaching is a combination of spirit and truth, light and heat. Preaching informs the mind and stirs the heart. So, how do you know when you’re preaching? Here are a few tangible metrics you can use for guidance in the self-evaluation process:
- You know you’re preaching when...the name or attributes of God are foundational and pervasive throughout your sermon. David writes, “those who know your name put their trust in you” (Ps. 9:10). We must know the name of God. The knowledge of God’s attributes is essential for faith. We will not trust someone we do not know, but those who know God’s name will trust Him. Trusting God is necessary in justification, sanctification and satisfaction. The object of our faith is the name or character of God. God communicates His name or character to us through preaching. Paul writes, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching” (Rom. 10:14).
- You know you’re preaching when...Christ is all in your Biblically based sermon. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (Jn. 5:39). Sermons must come from Scripture, and Jesus tells us that Scripture bears witness about Him. You know you’re preaching when you proclaim Jesus from Scripture. Preaching does not suggest Jesus. Preaching demands what God demands--the exaltation of Christ. “Christ is all” (Col. 3:11). Therefore, you know you’re preaching when Christ is all in your proclamation. Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:25). Charles Spurgeon proclaimed, “The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.” You know you’re preaching when you’re proclaiming Christ as all from Scripture!
- You know you’re preaching when...you’re filled with the Holy Spirit. If you’ve really preached then you’ve been filed with the Holy Spirit. Preaching must be alive. Life is by the Holy Spirit. Living preaching is Spirit filled preaching. You know you’re preaching when the Spirit touches your tongue with a live coal from the altar. You know you’re preaching when you have the freedom and unction of the Spirit. When the Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, Peter preached the glory God in the Person of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. You know you’re preaching when you’re carried along by the river of life--the Holy Spirit.
- You know you’re preaching when...you’re heralding the gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching must be good news. Real preaching is good news--the good news of Jesus Christ. You know you’re preaching when you proclaim the good news of predesting love. You’re preaching when sovereign grace is your theme. You’re preaching when you proclaim Christ crucified for sinners. Preaching is happening when you proclaim Christ as the elect sinners righteousness. You know you’re preaching when you proclaim that the tomb is empty, but the throne is not.
- You know you’re preaching when…your wife or congregants look nervous. You’re about to preach when the car ride home flashes in your mind's eye before saying what must be said. (I am not talking about foolish speech). I’m talking about the heavy lifting of diagnosing people who do not want the diagnosis. I’m talking about the man’s work of preaching free grace to the self righteous for the salvation of their souls from hell. The world, the flesh and the Devil hate true preaching. The fear of man is a snare. Even Peter feared man at Galatia. You know you’re preaching when you wipe the sweat of the fear of man off your brow with the good news of God’s of approval.
- You know you’re preaching when...affections run over--when the tears flow in relation to the cross of Christ. On this matter, Spurgeon proclaimed, “I have found, my brethren, by long experience, that nothing touches the heart like the cross of Christ.” You know you’re preaching when the lifting up of Christ on the cross causes the tears to run down. You know you’re preaching when someone who has not been happy with you is crying under the preaching of Christ bearing God’s wrath for them on the cross.
- You know you’re preaching when you forget yourself--when the awareness of self is swallowed up in the truth of dying with Christ. You're preaching when you are no longer aware of yourself, but Christ becomes your one thing (Ps. 27:4) You know you’re preaching when you can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
- You know you’re preaching when the bread of God’s presence is served to those before you. Men love to eat, but there is a certain bread that only the new creation desires. This bread is is not like others. Its origin is heavenly; heaven is the domain of God’s manifest presence, and in God’s presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Therefore, the bread of the presence is essential for fullness of joy and the exquisite pleasures of God’s presence. Physical bread can strengthen the heart of man, but the bread of the presence strengthens our whole being. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). You know you’re preaching when, by the presence of the Holy Spirit, God is glorified through men being satisfied by feasting on God’s living word--the Christ of the Scriptures!
1. Jesus is a preacher because He is alive. Christ is the very word of God--Himself (Jn 1:1). Christ is God (Jn 1:1). In biblical preaching, Christ is preaching. Christ’s preaching ministry did not cease with His ascension. Jesus is, right now, the chief prophet. As such, He continues to preach. Paul teaches us that Christ lives in believers (Col. 1:27). Christ preaches through those ministers who He indwells by his Spirit (1 Pet 1:10-12).