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Why do you preach? When I ask this question, here are some of the typical answers I receive: “God called me to preach,” “I don’t want to do anything else,” or in my case “I’m not qualified to do anything else.” We preach for a number of well-intended reasons but ultimately we preach for the spiritual growth of believers. Gospel preaching is not an exercise in hearing ourselves wax eloquent; rather, gospel preaching is for the edification of the body of Christ. Therefore, preaching must consistently challenge the believer’s thoughts, attitudes, and actions. In Anointed Expository Preaching, Stephen and David Olford have put forth three stages of application that I have adapted here (p. 256).
First, the preacher must present a consistent request for repentance. As biblical truth of the Christ life is presented the believer will be confronted with thoughts, attitudes, or actions that are not consistent with the Christ life. Repentance is necessary, therefore, to restore a right relationship with God. Not only does the sinner need to repent but the saint does as well.
Second, the preacher must present a consistent request for renewal. Consistent daily living outside of the will of God makes a believer dull to the presence of God in their life. A consistent call for renewal challenges the believer to walk in obedience to Christ rather than self. Jesus said, “If any man wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23). Each day believers are challenged to deny self and allow Christ to be Lord. Such a challenge implies daily biblical renewal.
Third, the preacher must present a consistent reminder of reality. Believers live in a world that is hostile to them and their Lord (Jn. 17:14). Yet, believers are left in the world as a witness and testimony to Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:8). Believers must be consistently reminded of whom they represent in the world. Believers represent the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15). It is crucial that preachers instill in the hearts and minds of believers this important fact before challenging their behavior. Of this Jim Shaddix writes,
Shepherds need to be concerned with the way people think and feel before they worry about the way they act. As the Spirit of God within an individual grows more influential, he begins to affect the person’s conscience. It is far more important for the shepherd to teach people to ‘think Christianly’ than to act rightly. Acting rightly will only help them in the immediate and the specific situation. Thinking Christianly will enable them to view every situation in life with the mind of Christ, even those situations which neither the preacher nor the listener has yet to fathom” (The Passion Driven Sermon, 115).
Believers do not simply represent themselves, a church, or a denomination but Christ the Savior. Christians must live the Christ-life and not simply agree with it in principle.