Much that is artificial and unbecoming in preaching vanishes when we are eager to share the good news

I rejoice in Bernard Manning’s memorable definition: “Preaching is a manifestation of the Incarnate Word, from the written Word, by the spoken Word.” Preaching, after all, is God’s idea. It lives because he has done great things for us and spoken glad news to us in Jesus Christ. It is Christ, God’s living Word, who is the grand theme of preaching. In “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom,” cries Paul, it is always “him we proclaim.” Each sermon of mine, then, must somehow point to Christ.

But to manifest him—who can accomplish that? Only Christ himself. The living Lord is the real Author of preaching as well as its theme. It is he who calls me to follow him, who sends me to preach, and who enriches me by his Spirit with whatever gifts I have. It is not so much that I talk about him, it is rather that he condescends to speak through me.

The first thing in preaching, then, is for me to offer myself afresh to him for his use. Let me seek to be filled with the Spirit—renewed, enlightened, empowered by him in all I plan and prepare. When I can begin to pray wholeheartedly, and with an expectant faith, I feel that I am well on the way to a sermon and I find myself warming to the task.

What is the aim of preaching? Here again Manning’s definition helps to point the way. If preaching is a manifestation of Christ, then its purpose ought to be that for which Christ was first manifest. Since the end of his coming was that men might be saved, let this be my constant aim in preaching. For Christ, saving men meant not only rescuing them but also restoring them—discipleship as well as deliverance. This is the goal: to further ...

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