Having been asked by some to explain the manner in which I prepare a sermon, I felt to write this little article. As I seek to experience further sensitivity to the Lord's leading in this regard, here are some tips I have come to understand. Take them for what they're worth. I understand God deals with various ministers in varying ways.
First of all, a
calling from God to preach is absolutely necessary. Many want to preach, who have never been
called of the Lord to preach. A preacher does not become a
preacher simply because he wants to do it for a living as in other
professions, since he was impressed by other preachers and wants to do
such a thing as well. Some people think the only ministry is
preaching, when in fact it is only one of dozens of various
ministries. And it is a dangerous thing to preach when you are
not called to do it, because God will not anoint you and He will judge
you on that Day for your failure to do what he actually did call you to do.
Secondly, a working knowledge of scripture is important. While I may often use typology and symbolism in the bible in my sermons, I have seen folks contrive symbols that the Bible does not warrant, for example, due to these men not having a good working knowledge of scripture, first. And all sorts of nonsensical ideas are proposed as God's Word as a result.
The bible school I attended, was a local church school which strongly impressed upon we students to follow the leading of the Spirit. I will ever be grateful to the Lord's hand upon Rev William Bustard who conducted this school. He has been a mentor to me ever since those school days until the day he left this world and went to be with the Lord.
The manner in which I have found the Lord to speak to me the most is when I sit alone with a Bible and a notebook and start explaining in my own words the scriptures I am reading, and marking those thoughts in my notebook. After I left school, with the background knowledge of the need to be led of the Spirit as taught to us, I began seriously studying each book of the New Testament on my own. Hours would fly by each night as I took, for example, the book of Galatians and a purchased, blank-paged hard-cover notebook (for durable safe-keeping of the studies I was about to make). I still do this to this day. I went from chapter 1 verse 1 through to the end of Galatians. I sought to learn the point of the entire book.
We often hear preachers take one or two verses from a book and preach about them, but those truly inspired ministers who do this have already studied the entire book and learned the main point of that book to enable them to use verses from it without taking them out of context. I was inspired by the Lord to seek knowledge of the point for each New Testament book. Each book of the Bible has a main point to it. Once again, I would start at the first verse, and write out the thoughts in each verse in my own words. This not only helped me gain an understanding of the entire purpose of that book, but it also embedded the scriptures into my heart and mind, so that I was able to recall where the Bible stated something later in my studies.
After doing this with several New Testament books, I began to notice that Paul, for example, wrote much of the same points in Galatians as he did in Ephesians. I no longer had to rely upon someone's given word to that effect, but knew for myself such points. I was then also able to correspond certain thoughts mentioned in more than one book, with one another, so as to piece together a more perfect picture of the overall point mentioned similarly in each book. For instance, when something mentioned in Galatians was also addressed in Ephesians, Paul would stress one aspect of the thought in one book more than the other, and vice versa with other thoughts. Reading them both from each book with each account in mind would display a more perfect understanding of the thought!
Ministers who do not gain a thorough understanding of each book will not be able to garner understanding to prepare good sermons. Even Jesus said that the Spirit of truth would bring back to the disciples' remembrance the things He said to them. Now, if the Spirit would bring back to our remembrance something Jesus said, we first have to get those words of Jesus and the apostles into our hearts by studying them like this beforehand. And this proved true in my own experience. As I would study another book in this manner, putting it's words into my own words, suddenly scriptures would come to my mind from other books that I previously studied. And this was the work of the Lord! I began to experience a supernatural leading of the Spirit through the scriptures, and thoughts for sermons would come to my heart! It was astounding! My human mind would not have been able to correlate these scriptures together on it's own. And it all started with going through each book verse by verse and writing their thoughts down in my own words. I was often unable to write fast enough to keep up with the thoughts that were flying into my spirit as I studied. And the great thing about having such a notebook, is that I could refer to it later, and sort of gain a "jump-start" on another thought, by reading something that God inspired me to write beforehand.
I presently have dozens of such notebooks full of thoughts the Lord gave to me.
After I had this working knowledge of the bible in my heart through these writings, I began to sense the Lord giving me understanding as to meanings in many Old Testament stories that came to be understood as types or shadows of the truths the Lord and the Apostles taught in the New Testament. Paul distinctly stated that Old Testament events were recorded as "ensamples" for us today in the church. Jesus said the law and prophets spoke of Him! So even in cases where we could not imagine how an Old Testament story points to Jesus, I knew it did in some measure and would read and re-read, and write the thoughts in my own words, until something "clicked"! That is how I describe it! Something just "clicks" in my spirit and heart, and I know I am onto something. More about this later.
At this point I must mention that in order for the Spirit to lead us in our studies, we cannot bypass a scripture simply because we already do not know what it is talking about. I think many ministers preach the same old same old because they only approach a scripture that someone else already taught them. But God wants to teach us as well!
Now, we must be careful in this, because many wild and nonsensical thoughts have been contrived by people who claimed God told them those thoughts in their studies. That is why it is always good to be careful to realize that we may be wrong about our thoughts, and sincerely and truly seek God to correct us. And one of the ways God does correct us is through "bouncing" ideas off other preachers. And commentaries are often very helpful, although we must keep in mind God did not inspire all commentators to write what they did as He did the writers of the Bible. I must honestly say, although this may sound abrupt, only a fool would disregard everything a commentator said simply because it is written in a commentary and not the bible. If one is against commentaries, then one ought to be against preaching, because preachers give their thoughts in their sermons about scripture to the same extent commentators write their thoughts. The only difference is that one form is written and the other form is spoken!
God inspired His entire Word, the Bible, for a good reason! He took effort to inspire men of God to write those words down. We ought to never think that parts of the bible are unnecessary and not worthy of detailed study. Make it a rule in your heart forevermore -- if it's in the Bible, God wants you to thoroughly know it. I don't care if it's endtime prophecy or the manner to pray! If it's in the Bible, God expects you to know it thoroughly. Many disregard any study of prophecy, for example, since they feel it's not as important as salvation. However, it's inspired Word of God, and how dare we insult and trivialize any part of God's Word by saying we'd rather study only other issues and not these as well?
Since God wants us to know the whole book, it is incumbent upon us to ensure we prayerfully seek understanding in scriptures which we do not presently understand, and not brush these scriptures aside. The Spirit can only lead us if we have faith that He can! So we must know He wants us to now these scriptures, and that He can reveal them to little old "me". I have the same Holy Ghost inside me that inspired the men to write those words of the Bible. And I must be able to trust God to lead me into greater understanding. All the great inspired teachers and preachers who so awesomely teach His Word had to start somewhere, themselves!
I have come across many apostolic ministers who are simply fearful of getting into "uncharted territory" of scripture. This brings to mind another thought about being "Berean".
In Acts 17, Paul preached to two groups of people called the Thessalonians and the Bereans. Each are and region reacted differently to the gospel. Some were more open minded than others, and could therefore receive truth much more easily. The Thessalonians were dreadful people who simply closed their minds to Paul's message, since they never heard it taught to them before. The Bereans, however, were different. When they heard Paul preach something they never heard anyone else ever teach them, something different than what they were taught, they did not close him off. They considered he might be onto something and compared what he said with the scriptures! Now, the only scriptures they had was the Old Testament. The New Testament was not even written yet! But the point is the same for us and the New testament. When we hear something not formerly taught to us, and different than what we've been taught, do not be afraid to consider it may be truth, and our former thoughts error. That is possible! After all, someone is wrong about something! In fact, I dare say there is some error in what we believe somewhere, due to well-intended teachers who were in error. Some may say the Bible states what they believe, but in reality, and any opposition to their thoughts s opposition to the Bible. In reality, they are claiming their interpretation of scripture is the only one anyone can accept. So they need to realize that people are against their interpretation of the bible, and not the bible, itself.
Any time I feel I have received insight about a scripture I never heard before, I always make it a point to be open to later be corrected by the Lord. In fact, I pray to that end! I pray that if what I feel is of God is incorrect and actually not of God, that The Lord correct me. Do we not believe He is a prayer-answering God? If so, then do not be afraid of getting into false doctrine, if you have prayed for God to correct you. Some people are so afraid of getting into false doctrine that they do not search into any teaching or thought that they have not already been taught. In effect, they regard their teachers who taught what they believe to them in more respect than the Lord! Yes, people have gotten in false doctrine and have strayed from truth, but this cannot be grounds for us to not believe God to correct us if we're wrong, and to proceed into thoughts we have not been taught before.
But let me make a
strong and grave warning along with this. Anything written in the bible
as being necessary for salvation cannot be considered as something that
is not plainly stated in plain language by the writers. In other words,
we cannot look at these BASICS as scriptures that hide an actual truth
mysteriously in it's words. There are two categories of scriptures. One
is the BASICS for salvation that will never contain hidden messages
that even a fool cannot understand. The second category is scriptures
that are not speaking of salvation, and are stories, or accounts, of
events, or even visions, that can and
do hold an understanding that
is not explicitly stated in those very verses, that symbolize something about the basics.
In other words, if I am trying to see the relevance of an Old Testament story's purpose of being a shadow of some kind of truth that Christians are to live by, I cannot interpret that story and preach a message saying it is telling us something that the New Testament did not explicitly teach in plain and simple form. One young man once felt the Lord's sacrifice occurred in order to, at least in part, stop the suffering of poor animals dying in sacrifice. Such a thought is simply absurd. There is no explicit teaching along that line saying one purpose of Christ's cross was to spare animals from suffering in sacrifices year after year, as though it was partly an animal rights cause. That is an extreme case of obvious folly, but you get my point.
Let me insert another point in this discussion. The bible teaches a principle of reproduction in Genesis 1 when it mentions fruit trees yielding fruit after their kind whose seed is in itself. Spiritual workings work much like this principle of fruit bearing it's seed within itself. In other words, exposure to preachers and teachers who clearly have spiritual insight will incite or plant a seed within another person to minister in similar manners. I do not know how many times I have heard a minister speak in a very inspired manner, only to find myself receiving one thought after another in a spirit of revelation. Another person's sensitivity to the Spirit can affect you and usher you into the same spirit of revelation. And this brings to mind a personal experience of having read books by insightful authors. One who comes to mind immediately is Watchman Nee.
writings contain very much insight and spiritual revelation. Nee's
writings opened an entire universe, as it were, of spiritual insight
that I had never witnessed in my young years as a Christian from any
other minister at the time. His works left a mark in my heart, as I am
sure all can say about various ministers whom they've heard or read.
After having been blessed beyond measure in reading his works, and
thoroughly enjoying his keen sense of revelation receptivity, I began
to notice myself entering such experiences of insight. It was like
entering into this universe of spiritual depth myself, after journeying
through it with Nee. I am not saying I agree with everything Nee wrote,
but I am saying he did indeed have an undoubtably keen sense of
revelation inspiration as evident in his works.
TO BE CONTINUED...