Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Deciding What to Preach Next

Every pastor has faced the question: How am I supposed to know what to preach next?

The whole of the Bible is your text. You can’t go wrong as long as you stay within its pages. But we desire a sense of clarity and leading from God in our preaching.

Here are some steps I have taken over the years to help discern where I should go next in my preaching.

  • Pray – ask God to guide you. Not just once, but regularly, repeatedly. Add fasting to your praying.
  • Read – the Bible. Read widely. Scan the whole.
  • Remember – what have you preached recently? What have you preached over the last year? If you’ve just completed a several month series in a NT epistle, you probably want to change up the genre of Biblical literature you preach next (perhaps narrative, psalms, or from the prophets). Alternate OT and NT. Change up the length of series. Change up the genre of literature you preach. Change up the emphasis – e.g., from sanctification, comfort, salvation, theological, individual application, group/church application.
  • Observe – are there particular issues facing the congregation right now? Is there a particular vision you are wanting your church to embrace? What you preach next can address these kinds of issues.
  • Wait – start early so you have time to linger over this issue. Try setting out a tentative preaching schedule for the next twelve months.
  • Recall – what has God been dealing with you about personally? Is there a passage from which God has been dealing with you of late? You don’t want to preach your personal experience, but it is possible God has been dealing with the shepherd so He can deal with the sheep under his care. Journaling as a part of my personal disciplines helps me here. I am able to thumb through my journal and observe patterns of God’s speaking to me that I might not have seen otherwise.
  • Map – map out all the sermon series you’ve preached at your current church – don’t worry about individual messages preached between series, just map out the series you’ve preached. Ask God to give you insight. Now observe. Study. What do you see? What does that say to you? Are there sections of Scripture that you have neglected? What is the spiritual result for your congregation?
  • Calendar – how much time do you have for the next series? Where will you need to break away for other preaching – perhaps Advent?, Easter?, missions conference, etc.? Perhaps there are natural start/stop points on the calendar that you need to take into account – e.g., start of school year, start of the new year, summer vacation season.
  • Sketch – start trying to project several of the ideas that come to you. Mark out how you’ll divide the book in preaching portions. How fast or slow should you take a particular book at this time?
  • Pray more – what does it seem the Lord is saying? Do any of these ideas make you especially excited? Do any particularly motivate you?
  • Decide – sometimes you just have to go with what you want to preach, what seems most interesting to you, what you’re motivated to study. But you’ve just got to make a decision. Make your decision far enough in advance that you can do the necessary pre-study to make sure you’re approaching the book correctly and can confidently plan the series.
  • Write – give the series a name/title/theme. Write out what the series is about, where it is headed, how you’ll get there, what will be the result. Be specific. Write yourself into clarity. This takes time. Let things percolate. Come back to it again and again. Map out the basic outcomes you will look to achieve during the series; plan what you want the congregation to take away from the series. Develop a logo or graphics that will carry the theme of the series.
  • Communicate – to those who need advance knowledge, those who might join you in preaching part of this series, those writing newsletters, bulletins, doing graphics work, etc.

Remember, God wants you to know what to preach next more than you do. Rest in His assured leading. Make decisions in dependence upon Him. Then move with confidence as you begin the labors that will lead to your opening the Word of God to your people in the days ahead.

Forgotten Words of the Faith: Session

New words.  Old words.  New words are welcome words.  Old words are wealthy words.  In other words we want all words!

We’ve been discussing words of our faith that have fallen on hard times.  They have been passed over as passé.  They’ve been deemed old fashioned, obsolete, outdated, and outmoded.  Unfortunately we haven’t always found new words to carry the truth of the words we’ve left at the curb.

Here’s a word we don’t hear much anymore: session.  One reason we don’t hear the word much is that is a theological word rather than a biblical word.  That doesn’t mean the truth it conveys isn’t taught in the Bible, but rather that it is a word used by thinkers-about-God to describe what the Bible does in fact teach.  In that regard it is not unlike the word Trinity.  You won’t find it in your concordance, but you’ll find its truth throughout the Bible.

When we use the word session it refers to “the session of Christ.”  Or, to put it another way, it designates the fact that Christ currently is seated at the right hand of God the Father.  Our English word comes from an Old French word which in turn came from a Latin word which described, simply, “the act of sitting.”  We still say “the court is in session,” meaning the judge is in place, seated and conducting a trial.  Christ’s session was prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 110:1), predicted by Christ when on earth (Luke 20:41-43), and fulfilled in fact as recorded in the New Testament (Mark 16:19).  Having died, having been raised, and having ascended to heaven, Christ was seated by the Father at His right hand.  “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3b).  This great fact is marvelous for many reasons.

For one thing the truth of Christ’s session puts our efforts to gain God’s favor to rest.  The fact that Christ “sat down” indicates that His work is complete, entire, finished.  “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).  We can rest in Christ’s finished work of atonement for our sins.  Christ’s session proves He was correct when He cried from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

The truth of Christ’s session puts our hearts at restAll our enemies are defeated.  God’s own power was “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph. 1:20-22).  Christ is He “who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand– with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1 Pet. 3:22).  Be at rest!  All our sins have been paid for“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb. 8:1).  Be at rest!  All accusations against us have been silenced!  “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34).

The truth of Christ’s session directs our focus“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

The truth of Christ’s session enables our obedience.  Having been seated Christ joined the Father in sending the Holy Spirit.  “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)

The truth of Christ’s session fuels our hope.  Jesus said, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).

Christ our King is on His throne!  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.  All His enemies have been put under His feet.  And He is in place to assure the application of His salvation to you.  Christ sat down.  So be at rest!  Stop striving for acceptance.  Stop worrying.  Start looking.  Start obeying.  Start expecting.  The King is in session!

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