There’s a reason why I try to preach the gospel in every sermon. Well there are actually a number of reasons, but here are two of them: 1.) the church needs to regularly hear the gospel 2.) the preacher I needs to hear the gospel. Every time God’s word presents any sort of command, or I give applications consistent with the passage, that elicits some sort of response from the hearers. And that’s good. Sermons need to be applicable and challenge the head, the heart, and the hands.
But without the message and power of the gospel, those applications will lead to despair, particularly for the preacher. Applications not couched in the gospel will leave the preacher a big fat hypocrite. It doesn’t take me very long to forget what I preached and specifically fail to apply the text in the way I’ve instructed God’s people on that previous Sunday.
The other day I preached on griping from Philippians 2:14-18. It seems from this passage that one way we can witness to a dark world is with our silence: by not griping. Well it didn’t take long for me to gripe to an umpire in a softball game from the outfield, with hand gestures indicating that the ball was not fair but foul. I griped. Without saying a word, or at least one that he could hear, I had done the exact opposite thing I challenged the congregation with my lack of silence and use of non-verbals.
It didn’t take long. And it doesn’t usually take too long for us to misapply or fail to apply the very things we’ve been challenged by in the sermon (whether hearing it or preaching it-preachers are preaching to themselves as well).
So I was definitely bummed for a bit. How can I preach against griping when I do it? I felt like such a hypocrite-which I am anyway so I don’t know why I felt surprised. But then I remembered the gospel. I will still struggle with griping, but Jesus has taken my gripes with Him to the cross. My gripes are covered, and so I can now rejoice in the gripeless one who not only empowers me but forgives me when I regularly fail.
That’s why the gospel always has to be present in every sermon. Without it people will be left with will power, guilt, despair, or feelings of hypocrisy or learned helplessness (I didn’t apply it today, therefore I can’t apply it later). Without it preachers will soon feel like big fat unforgiven hypocrites and eventually fail to make sermons applicable (if I can’t apply it, why make applications). So I try to make sure the hope of the gospel message is included in every sermon. Not just for my congregation, but for myself.
I need it because it doesn’t take me long to fail, so I always try to make sure the ultimate application is the short hike back to the gospel.