Thursday, October 02, 2008

Preaching as Food for the Soul

Good, gospel-orientated, expository preaching is like manna from heaven. Listening to it will fatten the soul. A lack of it will lead to malnourishment and spiritual death. The parallels of preaching and mana do not end here, and I think that it would be very encouraging for Sunday School teachers and pastors to remember that.

Manna is a Hebrew word that literally means, "What is it?". That's what the children of Israel said when they first found it lying on the ground (Ex. 16:15). According to the Scriptures, this sweet heavenly bread was only good for a day. They had to go every morning and gather it, and on the day before the Sabbath they had to get a double portion.

Preaching is a bit like that. Most Christians have heard many, many sermons. I have heard hundreds if not thousands. I have personally preached hundreds of times and taught as many expositional lessons. I should be full of wisdom and truth by now since I have purposefully listened to great preaching and teaching and I have tried heard to teach and preach the Scriptures accurately.

Much to my dismay, however, I can remember maybe a dozen sermons. I cannot even remember my own sermons. Sometimes, when I am preaching a text I have preached on before, I read my own notes and listen to my own preaching and it feels as if I am listening and reading someone else. It is an amazing phenomenon. It simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. It is encouraging because I sometimes glean 'new' insights or marvel at things that I have said. I wonder where I got that from, and I wonder why I forgot it. That's the discouraging part. If I have forgotten so much of my own preaching and teaching about the Bible, and if I have forgotten so much of what others wiser than me have said, what, do you suppose, the average listener retains?

So I have to conclude that God has designed preaching primarily for short term nourishment. It has lasting effects to be sure! And sometimes particualarly powerful words (to individuals) will stick for a lifetime. But primarily, the encouragement seems to be just enough to last us to the next sermon and lesson. To keep us healthy from meal to meal, and to keep us coming back to the banquet table of God's Word and the fellowship of the saints.

This is why we never 'arrive' or we can reach a point where we have heard enough sermons and lessons to quit listening. It would be akin to a man feasting on a magnificent meal and exclaiming, "At last! At last! I have eaten the perfect meal and I never need to eat one again!" Such a person would surely die of starvation. Christians who neglect God's Word and the fellowship of the church will certainly suffer the same fate as this foolish man would. So be with the Lord's people on the Lord's Day and give heed to God's Word. It is as essential as eating; without it, you will starve.

1 comment:

Even So... said...

I believe I read John MacArthur say something about how he really didn't want his sermons themselves to be memorable, just effective, that the growth that comes from preaching actually happens without us realizing exactly how.

In my mind the Sunday sermon is where we get our is important, it directs us, and we never stop receiving it...I would never get bored having to check my mail every day if I knew there was a check for me in it! How much more the riches of heaven through the Word of God preached!