Pastor, do you think that this coming Sunday you will be preaching your most important sermon ever? That may seem like a strange question to ponder. After all, what makes this Sunday more special than any other? Well, please hear me out.
Answering The Call
In 2017 this was very much my thought. I was applying for a pastoral position at a church in my home country, South Africa. I had been living in Dubai since 2008. The UAE was, and is still, a very special place for me and my family. It’s the place where I came to faith. I met my wife there – even though we grew up about 20 minutes away from each other in South Africa! We also got married in Dubai. It’s where our children were born. And it was the place that we had called home for almost a decade.
So, what brought me to back South Africa? The short answer: God.
So, what brought me back to South Africa? The short answer: God. He moved my heart towards the place of my birth. My wife and I both felt that God was calling us back to South Africa. I applied for a position and shortly was on a flight to go and spend a week with the church I applied to.
The process included me preaching at their Sunday gathering.
The Most Important Sermon I’d Ever Preached
To make the best use of the time on my eight-hour flight I worked on my sermon. As I sat in the dark of the plane, illuminated by a single overhead light, I remember thinking to myself just how important this sermon was going to be. This sermon could determine whether or not I was accepted for the position. This was going to be the most important sermon I had ever preached.
I remember thinking to myself just how important this sermon was going to be
Fast forward to the following week, I was on my way back to Dubai. I did not need to work on a sermon and was enjoying the many channels of entertainment that Emirates offers.
But rather than being engaged with whatever movie was playing, I found myself thinking back to the very first sermon I had ever preached.
But Is This Really True?
My first sermon hadn’t been for a job application process. Nor had it been in a large church gathering or a youth service. It had been in a small little house, in a village just outside Bangalore, India. There were about 15 people there. Most of them were actually part of the mission trip. In this little two-room house, with the aid of candlelight and a translator, I preached on Luke 5:17-26.
As I reflected on that evening I had to stop and ask myself whether that first sermon really was less important than the one I had just preached as part of my job application.
I began to realise that every time I get up to preach God’s word, I’m preaching the ‘Most Important Sermon.’
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I began to ask myself: “What is the most important sermon I have ever preached?” I began to go over all the sermons I had preached, from my days as a youth intern to my first time in the pulpit in the main service, to sermons as a guest preacher. I tried to see if a particular sermon stood out. Could I claim for any of those countless sermons the title: ‘Most Important Sermon’?
Every Sermon Is ‘The Most Important’
The more I thought about this the more I began to realise that there wasn’t one. None jumped out as being the most important. This wasn’t because all the sermons I had preached had merged into a blur of times and places. Rather, I began to realise that every time I get up to preach God’s word, I am preaching the ‘Most Important Sermon.’
4 Reasons Why…
Let me suggest four reasons as to why I believe this is the case.
1. This Is God’s Word
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul encourages this young pastor with the glorious truth that, “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus, when we get up to preach, we aren’t just delivering a message. We are proclaiming the very words of God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth!
As you allow the inspired text to drive your sermon, while rightly applying it to those before you, God is addressing His people.
This Sunday will be the most important sermon you will preach. For you have the weighty responsibility to honour His word rightly. You are tasked with working hard so that God gets all the glory. You are not just preaching your own thoughts and ideas. As you allow the inspired text to drive your sermon, while also rightly applying it to the people before you, God is addressing His people. This leads me to my second reason.
2. These Are God’s People
Come Sunday, you are going to be preaching to God’s people; the bride of Christ. Consider 2 Timothy 3:16 again. After Paul encourages Timothy with the truth that all Scripture is God breathed, he follows it up by saying that Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the Christian may be completely equipped for every good work.
God’s word shapes his people.
God’s word shapes his people. He builds his church, encourages his people, cares for his flock, and exhorts them. We need to ask ourselves these sorts of questions: “What is the point of this text? How does it apply to the people God has entrusted me to deliver his message to?” God’s word, through the Spirit, will shape and grow his church.
3. There Are Lost Sheep
There are people sitting in your congregation, week by week, who do not know Christ. They have not yet surrendered to his Lordship. Too often the only time we think about the unbeliever is when there is a planned alter call. Therefore, in much preaching today the unbeliever isn’t acknowledged or addressed. But if we believe that God’s word is alive and that all Scripture points us to Christ, then Christ needs to be in what we preach every Sunday. For is only Christ that saves.
There are people sitting in your congregation, week by week, who do not know Christ.
We need to call people to repent. We must urge unbelievers to faith in Christ, pointing them to what he accomplished on the cross. Let us be bold in proclaiming the gospel truth. For we are not only calling people to repent, we are not merely holding out the glorious truth of the gospel to outsiders. We are also reminding believing members of the gospel so that they would “hold fast the confession of our hope” (Hebrew 10:23) and “remember their first love” (Revelation 2:4).
4. Preaching of The Word Brings New Life
While the work of regeneration is always the work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot separate the work of God’s Spirit from his word. The two are not mutually exclusive. Consider Ezekiel 37. God commands his prophet to preach to the dry bones. As he was preaching, the bones began to join together. Sinew, muscle and skin covered the bones but there was no life in them. Not until Ezekiel had prophesied again, did breath come into the bodies and give them life.
The Spirit that brings new life and the preaching of the word go hand in hand.
It’s important to note that the Hebrew word for ‘breath’ is ruach. It is the same word that is used for the ‘spirit’ or ‘wind.’ But what is the significance of this? The Spirit that brings new life and the preaching of the word go hand in hand. You can proclaim the word faithfully. But unless the Spirit of God acts nothing will happen.
In the same way, people are raised to life by the work of the Spirit through God’s word. At times this happens through reading God’s word. But more often it results from the proclamation of His word. As Paul says in Romans 10:17, “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”
This is your most important sermon. Until next Sunday.
This Is Your Most Important Sermon
So, as you prepare to preach this Sunday, even if it’s on an online platform, this will still be the most important sermon you will ever preach. It is God’s word you are proclaiming, so that his people are equipped, and unbelievers can hear what Christ has done for them and be raised to new life through the Spirit. This is your most important sermon. Until next Sunday.