Wrestling With a Text

I spend chunks of time on Tuesday and Wednesday on sermon preparation, working through the passage so that by Thursday I can write the sermon itself. I need to give my outline to our secretary on Friday morning, so I plan my week to work accordingly.

Tomorrow I'm going to go into the office and remove all the inserts from the bulletins and replace them with new ones. Why? No, not because I seriously need counseling, but because the sermon has changed. This happens rarely, but it happened today. I spent 6-7 hours trying to wrestle a sermon into submission. I suplexed it, gave it a flying elbow, tried for a leg drop, and went for the power slam, but it wiggled out every time.

For some reason this one is a hard one. I'm in the early stages of what will probably be a longer series on Romans. I'm preaching from a great text on Sunday (1:16-17). I think I understand the concepts Paul presents, but putting them into a communicable form has been hard. I'm not sure why.

We live in a day when doctrine means little to even some in ministry, let alone the average person who will listen to our sermons. That means that phenomenal and foundational concepts like justification and imputation need to be explained in such a way that is both understandable and accurate.

In addition, our typical evangelical gospel presentation (TEGP) of "just invite Jesus to take over your life" is light years away from faith in the finished work of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you know what, it ain't just another way of saying the same thing no matter who says it.

I'm still not settled on my final draft. On Saturdays I usually tweak and prep my powerpoint slides. Tomorrow is going to be more than tweaking. But this passage is about important stuff and it is too key for my dear people not to understand. So if you're a reader passing by today, pray that God enables me. I don't believe in ripping off someone else's presentation - for moral and pragmatic reasons. If things are true to form, this one will marinate overnight and I'll wake up with an "AHA!" moment.

Thanks to Jon Trainer for including a link to some resources on justification in his blog today that I discovered right at a time when I needed a brain prod. As John Calvin would have said, "What luck!!"


jon said...

Glad it is all coming together. Just by way of comparison, I usually read text, commentaries, etc through the week and don't write anything serious down until Saturday evening. Spurgeon the Great used to do this, but I can't make people laugh and cry within a 5 minute span, and thus far they haven't asked me to speak at the Crystal Palace, nor its equivalent. Oh well.

Milton Stanley said...

I'll pray for you Peter. I'm also planning to link to your post this evening. Peace.

Larry said...

If only more preachers would spend a little extra time "wrestling with a text". Too many preach the same old canned sermon year in and year out.

It's difficult to prepare sermons that are fresh, challenging, and scriptural. My hat is off to you for taking the high road.

Peter Bogert said...

I v mouser:

I think that what keeps it fresh is preaching expositorily rather than topically. My experience, anyway.

By the way, has anyone told you that you look a lot like that guy from Mad magazine??

JP said...

Yes, I would say he does have a slight, just a slight now, resemblance to him...Who me?...worry. Thanks for the post Peter, its nice to get an insider look at the preparation of a sermon

John said...

I'll pray for you this afternoon, Peter.

In your experience, how do congregations respond to being fed doctrine? It must be tricky to hold their interest.

Peter Bogert said...

JP: You're welcome.

John: I don't feel that it is hard for them to listen. Telling them why this is important and making practical application is still a focus. In other words, the doctrine has to be fed to them in a pastoral, rather than an academic, manner.