Preaching at Bethlehem can be summed up in two words: expository exultation. Expository means that preaching aims to exposit or explain and apply the meaning of the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word — infallible, inspired, profitable in all of its 66 books.
The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions, and to explain what the Bible says and apply it to people’s lives. The preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables you to see in the Bible where his opinions come from. Because if you don’t see where they come from in the Bible, you will — in the long run — wind up putting your faith in a man and not in God’s word.
The aim of that kind of expository preaching is to help you eat and digest biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and will double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and will make the eyes of your heart dazzled with the brightness of the glory of God, and will awaken the capabilities of your soul to experience kinds of spiritual joy you did not know existed.
“Preaching does not come after worship in a church service. It is worship.”
Second, preaching is expository exultation, which means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people who are listening do not simply try to understand what is being explained. Rather, the preacher and the people exult over this word. They exult over what they are seeing in the Bible. Preaching does not come after worship in a service. It is worship.
I am worshiping over the word, trying my best to draw you in to a worshipful response to his word by the power of the Holy Spirit. My job is not simply to see truth and show it to you. The devil could do that for his own devious reasons. My job is to do what the devil cannot do: to see the glory of the truth, and to savor the glory of the truth, and to exult over the glory of the truth, as I explain it and apply it to you in the hopes that God would enable you to do the same. That’s one of the differences between a sermon and a lecture.
Preaching is not the totality of the church. If all you have in your church experience is preaching, you don’t have the church. The church is a body of people who minister to each other in a hundred ways with their various gifts. And one of the purposes of preaching is to equip you to do that, and inspire you and motivate you to love each other better, because pastors can’t do it alone.
God has ordained that the church flourish under this kind of preaching, which is why Paul gave the most serious, exalted charge in all the Bible to young pastor Timothy like this:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word. (2 Timothy 4:1–2)
That’s a weighty charge. So, newer person, if you’re used to a twenty-minute, immediately practical, relaxed talk, what I have just described to you won’t lead you there. I preach twice that long. I do not aim to be immediately practical, but eternally helpful. And I am not relaxed.
I am feeling myself, in my soul, on the brink of a precipice called eternity, speaking to people, any one of whom might go over that edge at any moment — ready or not. And I will be called to account for what I said there. That’s what we mean by preaching.
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