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Only after praying can we move on to Step 2.
The foundation of a house is crucial. A good foundation over time will support the house. A bad foundation over time will collapse a house. A good foundation anchors the house and helps it weather any storm.
Remember what Jesus said:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it”
– Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV).
Jesus is telling us that His Word is a firm foundation. The Word of God, the Bible, is our foundation.
Step 2 is to use Scripture as the foundation for your message.
When people leave your church building, do you want them applying God’s Word to their life, or your best advice?
After praying fervently for God’s help (Step 1), open your Bible. Get a word from the Word (Step 2).
Too many pastors start a sermon with a “good” idea. There is a lot of pressure for us to come up with amazing new sermons every week. So we brainstorm great ideas.
Maybe we pull inspiration from a popular book. We get an idea for a cool video or graphic. We listen to our favorite preacher and borrow inspiration from them.
Then we find a passage of Scripture that fits with the “good” ideas we have.
In seminary they call this eisegesis. It is very poor interpretation of a Scripture because you are looking to fit your idea into what the Bible says.
Instead, we need to do exegesis. This means you begin with Scripture and then pull the idea out of God’s Word.
Do you see the difference? Rather than cramming Scripture to fit your mold, let Scripture be the mold.
With exegesis you have the inspired, inerrant Word of God. With eisegesis you have your “great” idea.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight – 1 Corinthians 3:19 (NIV).
It is not our job as preachers to make cool new ideas fit the Bible, but to show how amazing the timeless truth in the Bible already is.
I helped in a large youth ministry once where it was all about the gimmick.
What is the hook? How can we get teenagers to want to come hear this message? What theme should the service be? What can we give a way? How many pizzas will we need?
Everyone took their best ideas for a cool sermon series and then found Scripture to fit it. Scripture was often taken way out of context, because the question wasn’t really, “What does the Bible say?” but more like… “What does the Bible say that could fit this awesome idea?”
It was almost as if what students were being taught wasn’t very important as long as there was a little Bible in there somewhere.
I should have taken a harder stand against this approach than I did.
We have to understand that the only thing that makes our message any different from humanistic wisdom of Oprah and Dr. Phil… is the Bible!
The Bible must be the foundation of our message. It should underlay everything we say and do. It isn’t just something we throw in to make our self-help talk a sermon.
The Bible is the very Word of God that molds and shapes human hearts in supernatural ways that no other book in human history ever has or ever will.
- Pick the main text you will be preaching the sermon from.
- Read the text. Then read it again and again and again. I recommend at least seven times if not more. While reading, write down notes of any observations you have.
- Read the chapter or two before and the chapter or two after the text so you make sure you understand the passage within its context. Ask, “What did the original author intend this verse to mean?”
- Now that you are very familiar with the passage and have made your own observations, you have permission to open commentaries, or any other study tool of your choosing.
- Capture good notes on everything you learn and observe. Ask questions. Get answers. Do the research. Study hard. Gather more facts and information than you will need.
The goal is to become an expert on this single passage of Scripture.
Know it forwards and backwards. Live with it a while. Let it sink deep into your soul. Tattoo the words to your brain so that when you preach, the Scripture will be the rock-solid foundation of it all.
Next month we’ll look at Step 3: Build a Frame – Summarizing the Passage.
[Dale Flynn and his wife, Liz, are Word of Life Local Church Ministries missionaries in Eastern MD. Dale is a Local Church Ministries curriculum editor and is the editor of this Ministering to the Minister E-Transfer national electronic Pastor’s newsletter. The Flynns make their home in Elkton, MD. Questions or comments about this article may be addressed to Dale at: DFlynn@wol.org. ]