Book Review: Preaching



I should probably start this review by first acknowledging that I am NOT a preacher…nor do I believe that God has called me to be a preacher.  I am grateful that God has blessed me with the calling to teach His word in a variety of settings.  My life has been radically changed through the good news of the gospel…brought from death to life in fact!  My purpose in reading Preaching by Timothy Keller is to make sure that I am making the most of every opportunity…especially in the midst of the these evil days reminiscent of Ephesians 5:16.  As I speak and share God’s word publicly and in smaller groups…my prayer is to share out of the overflow of what God is doing in my life and never out of some obligation to come up with something that will be pleasing to the ears of those who listen.  May I always be faithful in learning from God more than I am teaching about Him!  Thank you Lord for your faithfulness as I stumble and fail in this area more often that I’d like to admit!

This book is an excellent read for anyone that has the privilege of teaching the Bible in any setting.  I can certainly see how it benefits the one that would stand in a pulpit every Sunday.  I’m grateful to say that my pastor embodies much of what Timothy Keller refers to in his book as he refers to the fact that people can tell if your preaching is an authentic outlet of the Spiritual growth in your own life.  What a great specific thing to pray for your pastor!

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • In the end, preaching has two basic objects in view: the Word and the human listener.  It is not enough to just harvest the wheat; it must be prepared in some edible form or it can’t nourish and delight.  Sound preaching arises out of two loves—love of the Word of God and love of people—and from them both a desire to show people God’s glorious grace.
  • To reach people gospel preachers must challenge the culture’s story at points of confrontation and finally retell the culture’s story, as it were, revealing how its deepest aspirations for good can be fulfilled only in Christ.  Like Paul, we must invite and attract people through their culture’s aspirations—calling them to come to Christ, the true wisdom and the true righteousness, the true power, the true beauty.
  • Preaching to the heart and to the culture are linked, because cultural narratives profoundly affect each individual’s sense of identity, conscience, and understanding of reality.  Cultural engagement in preaching must never be for the sake of appearing “relevant” but rather must be for the purpose of laying bare the listener’s life foundations.
  • You may want your listeners to take nots on much of the sermon, but when you get to Christ, you want them to experience what they were taking notes about.
  • We tend to think of the Bible as a book of answers to our questions, and it is that.  However, if we really let the text speak, we may find that God will show us that we are not even asking the right questions.
  • A steady diet of expository sermons also teaches your audience how to read their own Bibles, how to think through a passage and figure it out.  Exposition helps them pay more attention to the specifics of the text and helps them understand why different phrases mean what they do within the story line of the Bible.  They become savvier and more sensitive readers in their own study.
  • The richness of Scripture means that there are always new things to see and find.
  • Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can.
  • A classic formulation of the gospel and its relationship with life is this: that we are saved through Christ alone, by faith alone, but not by a faith which remains alone.  True salvation always results in good works and a changed life.
  • Because legalism does not grasp God’s grace, it distorts the law from its proper function as a guide for our lives, a way to become our true selves and to please God—and instead turns it into a burdensome system of salvation through which we obligate God to bless us.
  • Because antinomianism does not grasp God’s loving grace, it also sees the law as an obstacle to freedom and personal growth rather than as the great means by which God grows us into both.
  • Only if we preach Christ every time can we show how the whole Bible fits together.
  • Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ—so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right—can we help our listeners escape the spiritually bipolar world of moralism.
  • Know the main point of the author and spend time there.
  • When you see Jesus Christ being poor in spirit for you, that helps you become poor in spirit before God and say, “I need your grace.”  And once you get it and you are filled, then you are merciful, you become a peacemaker, you find God in prayer and wait someday for the beatific vision, to see God as he is (1 John 3:1-3).  The beatitudes, like nearly everything else in Scripture, point us to Jesus far more than we think.
  • We adapt and contextualize in order to speak the truth in love, to both care and confront.
  • Six practices for preaching to and reaching a culture:
  1. Use accessible or well-explained vocabulary
  2. Employ respected authorities to strengthen your theses
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of doubts and objections
  4. Affirm in order to challenge baseline cultural narratives
  5. Make gospel offers that push on the culture’s pressure points
  6. Call for gospel motivation
  • When the preacher solves Christians’ problems with the gospel—not by calling them to try harder but by pointing them to deeper faith in Christ’s salvation—then believers are being edified and nonbelievers are hearing the gospel, all at the same time.
  • The process of sanctification, of growth into the likeness of Christ, is also, then, the process of becoming the true self God created us to be.
  • The very theme of the kingdom of God, when preached properly and fully, directly challenges yet fulfills the late-modern desire for freedom.
  • The gospel is socially and motivationally transformative.  (Generous Justice by Tim Keller)
  • Christianity is at the same time both far more pessimistic about history and the human race than any other worldview and far more optimistic about the material world’s future than any other worldview.  Our future is a renewed material universe with resurrected bodies—but of course resurrection always comes after death and destruction.  There is no reason for Christians to believe that every decade and stage in history will be better than the stage before, but we believe that all is being brought infallibly to a glorious end.
  • Try to remember that you are at odds with a system of beliefs far more than you are at war with a group of people.  Contemporary people are the victims of the late-modern mind far more than they are its perpetrators.  Seen in this light the Christian gospel is more of a prison break than a battle.
  • For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:21
  • If you preach to the heart, you need to preach from the heart.  It’s got to be clear that your own heart has been reached by the truth of the text.
  • If your heart isn’t regularly engaged in praise and repentance, if you aren’t constantly astonished at God’s grace in your solitude, there’s no way it can happen in public.
  • You need to vary whom you talk to in order to learn about various trends in thought.
  • No civilized society has put more emphasis on results, skills, and charisma—or less emphasis on character, reflection, and depth.  This is a major reason why so many of the most successful ministers have had a moral failure or lapse.  Their prodigious gifts have masked the lack of grace operations at work in their lives.
  • The temptation will be to let the pulpit drive you to the Word, but instead you must let the Word drive you to the pulpit.  Prepare the preacher more than you prepare the sermon.
  • You must be something like a clear glass through which people can see a broken but gospel-changed soul in such a way that they want it for themselves.
  • If you proclaim Christ and not yourself and let God’s Word come to people through you, you can also become a voice, like John the Baptist did.  It doesn’t matter if in yourself you feel weak.  All the better.

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