Acts 29 Boot Camp live blog: Russell D. Moore

Communications Staff — November 11, 2009

Preaching and ambition: “Speaking Past Demons: Christian Preaching as Expository Exorcism”

Moore began by reading 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6.

Paul is saying there is a human condition among sinners where we seek to evade the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. The reason why we, sinners, seek to evade it is because the light of the glory of the Gospel is hard for us to look at. We want to hide from that voice that says, “Where you are” like God did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The key element to good preaching is not going to be about technique or making sure that you are managing information. It is that you know what you are doing.

Preaching is not simply communicating information. It is an act of exorcism. When the Gospel is being preached it is preached in the context of demonic beings in the heavenly places who have blinded the minds of unbelievers — that veil that hangs over the face, that blindness of the spiritual eyes. That blindness is not just depravity. There are personal beings actively about the business of destroying people.

So, when you engage in preaching you are engaging in spiritual warfare in the heavenly places because you are challenging the rule of spiritual forces.

Boring preaching is not just ineffective, boring preaching is Satanic.

When you are standing up to preach, you must stand up to preach knowing what you are up against.

We must get specific and concrete in our preaching. We think that by being general and vague we are spreading the net of our preaching to cover more people. In reality, we are allowing people to escape the voice of Jesus to escape the Word of Jesus.

Interpretation

When I prepare for sermons, I realize how little I truly believe the Bible, how so often I bring nothing more than self-justification to my own study of the Bible.

Before you can address your people, you have to realize that the people you are preaching to are experts at avoiding the Word of God. Even people who have never heard the Word of God before.

Part of what your job as a preacher of the Gospel is to tear down with the Word of God the illusions that you have built around yourself and your people have built around themselves. You must take the texts that seem familiar and make them scary. And you must take the texts that seem scary and make them ordinary.

Take the doctrine of the election: some people think the doctrine of election means God sits people down in a room and says, “1, 2, 3, 4 – the fourth is elect.” In reality, the doctrine of election is one of the least scary doctrines in all of Scripture. The doctrine of election in Scripture is about God pursuing even the one sheep as far as He has to to save them. The doctrine of Scripture is a reassurance to the people in our congregation that there are not any kinds of people that cannot be saved.

The doctrine of election says to your people, “how many of you came to the Gospel the first time you heard it?” Some do. But most people hear it and hear it and hear it and then one day they finally believe. For most of you, there was a moment when you finally believed and the moment was not when a new piece of information was presented.

If you are effectively preaching, you are telling your people about the doctrine of election: “You already believe this.”

On the other hand, there are passages of Scripture that are familiar and comfortable to people. The Beatitudes for example. People want to croche the Beatitudes and place them on the wall.

Part of your job is to show people that they may not know exactly what the Beatitudes are claiming.

All of us, when we read what Jesus is saying is, “yeah, that is for really good and spiritual sayings and Jesus understands that I am not able to understand those who have forgiven me.”

You have to come in and think, “how am I trying to evade this text?” and “how are my people trying to evade this text?” and think about how people are believing illusions.

Illustrations

Sometimes we think of an illustration as a break or a pause in the flow of our teaching. But that is not what illustrations are about. Illustrations are about spiritual warfare. Illustrations look for the walls in people’s hearts, the walls used by spiritual forces of evil, and looking for how you can break down those walls.

Example: Nathan with David and David’s sin with Bathsheba. Nathan does not approach David straight on and say, “You have had sexual relations with this woman and you are a sinner.” That is not what Nathan does. Instead, he uses a story to present a picture and then he turns it on David and says, “You are the man.” Jesus does the same thing in His parables.

When you are illustrating as you preaching, you are coming in and refusing to practice cunning. You are showing your people what the Scripture is talking about.

It is better for you, in order to reach people, not to read Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” (unless people are asking you about it). It is better for you to read fiction, so that you can better understand human nature. And as you do this, you should be going through the pages of Scripture, so that you are aware of the strategies of the enemy.

You should take time, when you are in line at the coffee shop, to listen to people and engage them in conversation, so that you can engage real people in real situations in your preaching.

Application

You have some preachers who think application is: “Here are four things you can do.” There are other people who want me to move in the opposite direction of that and just say: “Cling to Christ. Cling to the Gospel.”

But what you are doing with application is not that much different than illustration. All the way through your sermon, you want to be saying, “No, no, no: I am preaching to you. I am saying these things to you.” You are loving your people enough to apply, not with vagueness, but hitting on a particular situation and a particular instance the text of Scripture. When you do this – apply with specificity – you are better able to get at the universal truths that the Bible is speaking to.

Paul does this by asking why there are lawsuits among the Corinthians. He hits on specifics and that shows people universal truths.

You are spending time looking for how people could evade your application, looking for how people are not getting it, and you hit that and apply that with the weight of what you are saying.

You have to be paying attention to your people so that they know clearly what it is that you are saying and what it is that you are not saying.

If you are preaching the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a lot of people who seem to be believers are doubting that they are believers, then you are not communicating well what you are trying to say. By applying specifically and concretely you are making sure that the Word is heard.

I don’t care how big your congregation grows to. Do not get rid of one-on-one pastoral counseling. You can’t do that with everybody. But you need to be one-on-one with some people in your congregation for the sake of your pastoring. You need to know how you are being heard.

Delivery matters

You can falsify a statement that you saying by the way that you say it. Working on your delivery is not about being a peddler of the Word of God; it is about removing the distraction that comes with boring people of hearing the Word of God.

If you are standing there with the authority of Jesus and there is a weightiness behind what you are saying, then you are pleading with them, begging them, as if Jesus were begging through you, “Be reconciled to God,” then you have to have passion in the moment.

That is going to look different for different people depending on how you are made. But if you are not charged with adrenaline for the content of the Gospel and you do not have compassion for a people who are held captive by Satanic powers then you are not living in light of the reality that you have the text of Scripture that — when it is clearly heard — brings people out of captivity. If you understand this then you can’t help but be moved to have a joyful, exuberant, weighty passion for the Word of God.

We are living in a demon-haunted universe and part of what of the preaching of the Gospel is supposed to do is to awaken people to the horror, but also to offer to them the freedom of the glory of the children of God that comes through the open preaching of the Gospel. You are not giving people enough information to enable them to make a good, cognitive decision. Nor are you giving people moral principles, of which the first step is the Gospel.

What you are doing is giving them the glory of God in the face of Jesus so that when the light breaks through the text, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”

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