The sermon is a message from God, not an essay, or treatise, or Bible reading. It should be born in prayer, or devotion, or Bible study or in the fire of human experience. This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. Some ministers never learn it. Let me illustrate.
I did my first preaching as a member of an evangelistic team of four men, who travelled about as invited. One member of the team was older and more experienced in preaching than the others. After I had preached a few times, he came to me and said, “Ockenga, what you preach is not a message. It is a Bible reading.” I did not understand him, but all summer long he kept repeating this thought in different ways. It actually irritated me.
Toward the close of our tour I had a deeper Christian experience which shook me to my foundations spiritually and which caused me to search the Bible concerning the Holy Spirit. After I passed through a personal appropriation of the Pentecostal work of the Spirit, I prepared a sermon expressing the truth I had learned. After I preached it the first time, my friend came to me and said, “Ockenga, that’s the first message I have ever heard you give. Now you can preach!” I knew what he meant and ever since I have never been satisfied in preaching unless I had a message from God. This assurance of a divine message is essential to effective preaching.
Where does the preacher get his message, so that he literally is a man sent from God? There are many ways to originate a message.
The first is Bible study. After this experience I began to practice several kinds of Bible study. One consisted of concentrating on a particular book, by reading and rereading it, and then writing everything which came to me on each text individually. When ...1
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