Each weekend, in the United States alone, millions of people gather in churches and listen to about 1 billion words in sermons. If you become a Christian and faithfully go to church, sermons become a big part of your life. In today’s post, we’re talking about why.
Since this is a big part of your life, what if we took one post to talk about the purpose of sermons and the purpose of preaching?
One of Rock Brook’s values is to Remember Why. It’s worthwhile to, every once in awhile, zoom out and remind ourselves why we make this part of our weekly life. Why is it that for 2,000 years churches have gathered together weekly and a pastor has gotten up for about 30 minutes to preach? Why did Billy Graham preach sermons? Why did Charles Spurgeon and John Calvin and Martin Luther preach sermons? Why did the Apostle Paul, Peter, John and John the Baptist preach sermons? Why did Jesus preach sermons?
That’s the big question today.
Before we answer that question, before we can understand the purpose of preaching, we have to understand the purpose for mankind. What you believe always determines what you do. What you believe about sermons will determine your faithfulness to God.
God has a purpose for everything. God never created anything he didn’t have a purpose for. He has a purpose for your life, your family, the world. One of the problems people have forgotten is the purpose or the why. Preaching has to be in harmony with God’s overall purpose for our lives.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29 NIV
God’s purpose for mankind: To make us like Jesus
There isn’t anything or anyone better to aspire to be than Jesus. He was full of grace and truth. Jesus had a close relationship with God and cared for the outcasts and the lonely. He loved kids and got righteously angry about important things. He could put up a fight, take a joke and be humble. He was all the things we love. Don’t you want those things in your life?
Jesus is the full expression of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control. Most importantly, Jesus honored God with his life.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness…” Genesis 1:26 NIV
From the very start it’s been God’s plan to make mankind in his image. But man blew it and we fell and we sinned; so God had to bring in the salvation plan. From the very start he wanted mankind to be like Him, not to be Him, but to be like Him.
God created human beings that we might know him and be like him.
“…And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18b NLT
“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” 1 Corinthians 15:49 NIV
The verse is refering to the earthly man, Adam and the heavenly man being, Jesus. What does it mean to be Christlike?
To be Christlike means to…
- Think like Jesus
- Feel like Jesus
- Act like Jesus
When we think like Jesus, we have the mind of Christ. When we feel like Jesus, we have the compassion, humility and integrity of Christ. Then we can act like Jesus in everything that we do.
How Does God Form Us Into Christ-likeness?
1. Through circumstances
The situations the problems the difficulties, the things that happen around our lives can be used to make us more Christlike. We talk about how the tests and trials in our life, if we’ll persevere, have a purpose.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son…” Romans 8:28-29 NIV
There are many other verses that talk about how God uses circumstances, but the Bible says all things work together. They’re not all good, but they are worked together for good as we are conformed to His likeness. God uses this method more than any other.
You can pray, study the Bible and all the other Christian disciplines for however many hours a week or days you can, but how many hours a day do you have circumstances?
There’s a constant molding of your life through circumstances. This is why we preach on the circumstances of life. How we can surrender to God and use the circumstances in our marriage, in our parenting, in our money, in our relationships, in dealing with difficult people, in our temptations, in our grief, in our schooling, in our jobs.
Jesus said I have come that you may have life. We preach life.
2. Through applying God’s Word to my life
“Now I commit you to God and to the Word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32 NIV
Jesus: “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17 NIV
What is sanctification? It’s a big word for becoming like Jesus. God wants to make me like Jesus, how? Through circumstances and the word. One day when we see Christ directly we will be transformed completely into his likeness.
One day: “We know that when Christ comes again, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is.” 1 John 3:2b NCV
When we see Christ in his full glory we will be instantly changed and the process will be completed. But right now, we don’t see him face-to-face, so how does it happen now?
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB
When we see Christ face-to-face we’ll be like Him. Right now we don’t see Him face-to-face. Right now we see his reflection like a mirror. That mirror is the word of God. When we look at Jesus in the mirror, read about His life, study His word, see what He has inspired, we see His reflection in the word.
The more we bridge our life circumstances to the word of God, the more we are changed to become like Christ.
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:23-25 NIV
They look intently, do not forget, and they do it. That’s the process of change.
When we look at the word, remember the word, and do God’s Word, we are inevitably changed!
According to this passage, we are also inevitably blessed! That’s the power of the cross and the power of God’s word.
The problem is, too many people want a style of preaching to get them to look at the word but not remember it or do it. Many Christians want to be hearers of the word. They want to be informed but not transformed.
The purpose of preaching must be in harmony with God’s purpose for mankind and how he’s using circumstances and His word.
God’s Purpose for Preaching
The objective of a sermon is to develop…
- Christlike convictions — Thinking like Jesus
- Christlike character — Feeling like Jesus
- Christlike conduct — Acting like Jesus
If a sermon doesn’t teach people how to live, it doesn’t accomplish the purpose of a sermon. This is accomplished through application. Jesus sermon on the mount was 90% application.
The only way your life is going to change to become like Christ is through application. Interpretation and explanation of knowledge doesn’t go far enough. To preach biblical sermons like Paul and Peter and Jesus, they must be life-oriented, not just simply increase Bible knowledge. We already know more than we’re doing. We need to act on what we already know. We have far more believers than we have doers.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
There is both a personal and corporate purpose in preaching and teaching.
One of the purposes is to change individual lives but another is to build up the church together. This is why you can hear a message on the radio or podcast, and that’s a powerful tool, but ultimately it doesn’t totally fulfill the purpose of sitting under preaching or hearing a sermon from your pastor. The person you are listening to is not shepherding the flock you’re a part of.
As you read scripture and hear sermons, you’re going to discover that there are whole verses, chapters and books of the Bible you cannot fulfill if you’re not plugged into a local body of believers. As you become like Christ you see he was in a community of believers.
“The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions.” 1 Timothy 1:5-6 NLT
“We preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ.” Colossians 1:28 NCV
The goal of preaching is the same goal that God has for us, to make us like Christ.
To do that, we have to be willing to have our beliefs molded in the church. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did I do that?” Maybe you’ve done something that was a little out of character for you and wonder why you did that.
Those things happen because you believed something at that particular moment. You believed it was the most beneficial thing for you at that particular moment. We always act on your belief. When you do something, it’s because you’re believing something at that time.
All behavior is based on a belief.
Behind every sin is a lie you are believing. When you look at your life, you see your behavior, but you don’t see every lie you’re believing. The problem with that is that change always starts in the mind.
This is taught all through the New Testament to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The way you think determines the way you feel. The way you feel determines the way you act.
Think – Feel – Act
If you want to change the way you act, you must determine the way you think. You can’t start out here with your action, you have have to start with changing the way you think. Thoughts determine feelings and feelings determine actions.
This is repentance, changing your mind. Choices lead, and feelings follow. You can’t do that by yourself. It takes preaching, the Word of God and other people in your life.
It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to happen week-by-week, gradually, through the word, through preaching, through relationships.
The battle for sin starts in the mind. To change, you must see the misconception or lie you are believing. That’s why Jesus said the truth will set you free. Trying to change a behavior without changing a belief is a waste of time. If you try to change without renewing your mind, it won’t work. We all have patterns of beliefs and habits that have been imprinted on our mind.
Those habits and beliefs are like an autopilot. Let’s say you have a speedboat and it has an autopilot feature. You decide to set the autopilot to go north. So without putting your hands on the wheel, it’s going north. If you wanted to turn the boat around, there are two ways you can turn it around.
One option is to manually grab the steering wheel and by sheer manpower. You can turn it around force it to go south, meanwhile the boat is thinking go north, go north, go north. The whole time you’re under tension because you are going against the natural inclination of the boat. When you’re under that tension, you get tired and let go of the steering wheel and it goes back to going north.
This is true in life. We learn something over and over and over from the world to where we are programmed to go one way. Then you decide you want to become like Christ, and go out and work it out yourself. It starts with a belief to internalize, first.
If you want to be changed radically and permanently, you must do it the New Testament way, and change your belief and let that change the way we feel and act.
The Bible term for this is repentance. You can ask yourself, “Have I changed my belief and mind about this?” Maybe it’s not made it to the action yet, but repentance makes all the difference. The opposite of repentance is pride. Repentance is changing the way you think about something by accepting what God thinks about something.
The applied Word of God teaches us that. When we think like Christ, feel like Christ and act like Christ, we decide to change our belief, and through the power of the cross and the empty grave, we can change.
We have to to have all three, but we start with belief. It’s not as difficult to follow and obey when our mind is renewed. It starts with belief.
Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the message,
“Look Up?” What happens when we look up… We see God seated on an unassailable throne. We see God has an unbroken track record of faithfulness. We replace self-dependency with God-ability. God gives a promise for deliverance. We respond with pre-thanks to God.
Hear the Word
Read: James 1
Each weekend, in the United States alone, millions of people gather in churches and listen to about 1 billion words in sermons. If you become a Christian and faithfully go to church, sermons become a big part of your life. This message talks about why.
Before we can talk about the purpose of preaching, we have to look at the purpose for mankind. God created man to become like Christ (Genesis 1:26, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 15:49). To be Christlike means to… think like Jesus, feel like Jesus and act like Jesus. God forms us into this likeness two primary ways. One, through our circumstances. Two, through applying God’s word to my life. When we look at the word, remember the word, and do God’s word we are inevitably changed!
God’s purpose for preaching must be in harmony with God’s purpose for mankind. So, the objective of a sermon is to develop Christlike convictions, Christlike character and Christlike conduct. Preaching bridges our circumstances with scripture so that we may be build up as individuals, and so the body of Christ may be built up, collectively. Through preaching our beliefs are molded which impact our feelings and then change the way we live.
- What’s your history with sermons? Are you new to hearing sermons or have you heard many over the course of your life?
- God’s ultimate purpose for mankind is to make us like Christ. God uses two things to accomplish that purpose. Circumstances and the applied word of God in our life. Read Romans 8:28-29, James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7 and then discuss how our life circumstances can help us become more Christ-like.
- “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25) How can the applied word of God change us? How can looking intently at the word of God and then turning away from it rob us of our purpose?
- All behavior is based on a belief. How have you seen this lived out in your life? What were you believing when you made decisions that were out of character for you?
- How do you think this sermon will change the way you listen to sermons?
Tell Someone Else
What is this message leading you to do? Who can you encourage as a result of this message?