When I was growing up, my dad used to take me to the Motor Show. He is what we’d now call a ‘petrol-head’ – he loves cars, and their design, smell, power, speed. So once a year we’d go up to town, and spend a day wandering round the newest, shiniest models, and he’d lose himself in the design of the latest engine.
Most of the cars we saw never actually drove anywhere – they were glossy exhibition pieces, shined, buffed and gleaming. The engines had never
really started on a cold, wet morning. The tyres had never had to encounter actual tarmac, let alone a rusty nail. Some were concept cars, which would never be built, but would make you gasp, and dream.
But the petrol-heads loved them.
(Full disclosure – I think it’s genetic, given the way my family loves The Grand Tour).
Here’s the thing.
We preachers love our sermons. We polish and buff them – quite rightly, too. We pore over the languages, pull out the commentaries, pray through the implications. We aim to feed, lead and guard our churches, this week and every week, through our faithful teaching.
But, if we’re not careful, we behave like the petrol-heads at the Motor Show. We show people the lines, the power, the design of a passage – and hear me, those are good and wonderful things to see. People need to feel the force of a carefully placed ‘therefore’ in a letter, the subtle juxtaposition of two stories in a gospel.
But it’s not enough to admire.
The Bible drives people to repentance and faith in Christ, over and over again. It restores bust marriages, brings drunks to a place of generosity, reconciles people who have hurt each other too deeply, makes a bitter person thankful, turns an atheist into a worshipper, creates a community for a person who is shunned by society because they don’t fit it, gives someone patience, again and again. It’s the means the Holy Spirit uses to meet our deepest longings, more deeply than we ever thought possible. It’s where we see, hear, meet Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
The Bible is designed to do work, in the real, muddy world.
I hear preachers talking about their sermons as if they’re concept cars, pretty and accurate, gorgeous – but never taken for a real drive, in the rush hour, to do the shopping, in the rain. With the kids acting up in the back.
The point of a car is to go for a drive.
This Sunday, don’t just get people admire the engine. Decide right now that your sermon will do what the Bible is designed to do. Show them it, and then get them to start it, and drive it away, out of the showroom and to their homes, work, school, sports, friends. That’s what it’s for.
I wrote a ton more about applying the Bible in ‘Cutting to the Heart.’
🇬🇧You can buy ‘Cutting to the Heart – Applying the Bible in Teaching and Preaching’ at a discount from 10ofthose here.
Aussie? Koorong has it here.