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Learning Biblical Values...
Scripture: Luke 9:1-6; 4:42-44
Track 9 of 12 in the A Transforming Church . . . Lives By Transforming Values series
Running time: 32 minutes, 59 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"Preach Always: If Necessary, Use Words"

The verb most often translated "preaching" occurs 61 times in the New Testament. The verb translated "announce the good news" occurs 53 times. The noun, "good news," occurs 74 times. Surprisingly, the noun "preacher" only occurs 3 times. Likewise, the noun "evangelist" (one who announces the good news), also occurs only 3 times.

What should one make of such information? Probably this . . . it is the act of preaching . . . and the content of preaching . . . not the preachers themselves . . . that is important. The "good news" is what we preach. At its simplest, it's the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Every sermon must somehow point to Jesus. But it's not just the sermon that preaches the gospel. Our entire worship experience points to Christ. If you listen to the lyrics of our songs, if you listen to our prayers and meditations, you'll also hear the gospel.

But even if you don't "hear" the gospel in the music and in the sermon, you may see it, if you're paying attention. Often the gospel appears on the screen . . . in scripture passages presented for our reading. Carefully chosen readings, reminding us of the story, which we often share corprately in worship.

But even more so, "we proclaim (there's the word for preach) the Lord's death until He comes" when we meet at the table. In no more profound way can the story be told than which occurs in communion. Held in our hands are the reminders of the death of Jesus. Inherent in the act of eating is the promise of our participation in His resurrection.

We are blessed to hear preaching. We are blessed to see the gospel. We are blessed to read the gospel story. We are blessed to eat and drink the story. And we are called / challenged / commanded to tell the story. Indeed, we all preach, all the time. The question isn't "are we preachers?" The question is "what sermon are we proclaiming?"

A life lived faithfully before our neighbors is a sermon. A word spoken in kindness and compassion is a sermon. A gift of food or blanket or friendship is a sermon.

"Preach always. If necessary, use words." --St. Francis of Assisi

March 4, 2007 - Learning Biblical Values

Okay, they told me when the murmur settled that I could ask you to be seated so I will. The murmur seems to be settling.

If you're a regular attender at church, I'm going to give you the arbitrary definition of what that means–you're here most of the time. So let's just assume that you're here 50 weeks a year. I know that that's asking a lot, but if you're here 50 weeks a year, you think about that. You've heard 50 sermons this year. If you come to church over the typical lifetime, you could hear 2,000 or 3,000 sermons by the time you're done. That could actually bore you to death. Shorten the endurance that you'd have to have in order to do that. I got to thinking the other day while I was planning on this message how many sermons I've heard. I don't want to challenge you, it's just that I've been listening to sermons for 47 semesters.  I couldn't quite figure out exactly how to average that out because I'm not exactly sure how many students I've had in all of those classes over those 47 semesters, but I'm estimating I have probably listened to nearly 3,000 student sermons. I do know that's enough to shorten your life.

I started coming here in the summer of 1998 to preach. I have now preached somewhere in the vicinity of 800 sermons to you. It only felt like a long time. In the existing time of my preaching, I have probably preached somewhere in the vicinity of 2,100 times, most of which my wife has heard, so you can feel sorry for her if you'd like. There were times even coming here early that she would sit through two or three services. I kept wondering why she would want to do that. That's an awful lot of times to listen to a sermon.

What I'm trying to tell you is that preaching plays a really important part of what we do around here. There's hardly a service that occurs in this place that doesn't include a sermon of some kind. That's true in adult worship certainly every week. It is true in our Kidz Church, it is true in our youth services in the evenings. There are a lot of sermons preached here. It reflects the value that we place on biblical preaching and teaching. That is our core value–relevant, biblical preaching and teaching. It's why so much emphasis goes into our adult discipleship classes. It's why we encourage you so strongly to be part of a bridge community. It's because it reflects the connection between our other core values–core values like the value we place on scripture, the value that we place on discipleship, because we connect those things very clearly in the process of talking about that which is relevant and that which is biblical.

What I want to do this morning is address this by asking this question. What in the world does that mean to us? And I want to start by looking at Luke 4 and again over at Luke 9. If you want to turn there, I'd encourage you to listen for the preaching language that occurs in Luke 4 and again in Luke 9. Luke 4 is the initiation of Jesus' ministry. We see it at the very beginning of the chapter where he goes to the synagogue to preach and then we carry it out down in verse 44, excuse me, verse 42. Luke 4:42. "At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them, but he said I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also because that is why I was sent. And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea." You can see very clearly at the beginning of Jesus' ministry one of the primary things that he did was to preach. In fact, one of the most common phrases used about Jesus in all of the three synopotic gospels is that he preached, he taught, and he healed. Those three things seem to cycle together regularly. When you go over just a few chapters to chapter 9, you see his sending out of the disciples and you'll notice that same connection. Luke 9 starting in verse 1. "When Jesus had called the 12 together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them take nothing for the journey, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet as you leave their town as a testimony against them. They set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere." The emphasis on preaching and teaching that is both relevant and biblical.

Let me try to unpack that for you just a little bit. If preaching is relevant, it's supposed to be preaching about that which matters, something that you at least think matters. There are two ways of getting at that and churches typically opt one of two ways of getting at their preaching. One is to talk about the felt needs of people. What it is that happens to be current in people's lives. What are the issues that they happen to face? In fact, that's a really popular way to decide what to preach about. I went out and just did some looking. If you would be interested, here are some sermon titles and series. There is a sermon series going on at some church out there in churchland. This next week or two they're talking about living the abundant life, and what they mean by that is how you deal with anxiety and how you deal with resentment. Now those are good topics, things that we all face, issues of bitterness and being anxious about things. You could go to a church that's doing a family series. We'll be doing that later this spring. Their family series is meeting our kids' needs, understanding your wife, helping your husband. Now all three of those seem to me to be impossible. But maybe that's why they need to be preached about. I don't know. I did find a place out there. I actually have been thinking about this one pretty seriously since I located it. There's a website called sermonworld.com and for as little as $19.95 you can download sermons you never have to write yourself. I'm beginning to think that might sound ... reasonable. Of course, then I went out and typed in my typical Google search–Sunday morning sermon topics. Are you ready? Here are some that are being preached today somewhere in the great U.S. "Did You Bring Your Body to Church?" I don't know any other way to come, but other than that. There was "Prayers to the Earth." In fact, that one had an explanation saying that this particular preacher was going to talk about earth-based faith. I didn't ponder that one long. It didn't seem to me to have much grounding. Sorry. Or maybe you could try this one. This one is, the title is pretty innocuous, "Building Bridges." It was the explanation that I thought was interesting. For over two decades Dr. Tate's work has been fueled by her intense interest and passion for travel, comparative religions, ancient cultures, and goddess spirituality. Okay. Well, Sunday morning at that church you're going to find out how to be eclectic at best, syncretistic at worst, and pagan probably.

So what does it mean? It means that one of the things that we wrestle with when we preach is whether we're going to preach ... and here's the big seminary word for you ... anthropologically or theologically. Are we going to base our sermons around human needs or around God? And those out there who are trying to preach relevant sermons as a byproduct often, not always, but often preach primarily about human need. And so sermons become very much man-centered. Not that that's all bad. The only problem with that as I see it is you've gotta ask yourself what are you going to accomplish when you're all done with that. A relevant sermon about how to live financially stable lives, a relevant sermon about how to have a good family, a relevant sermon about how to meet the needs of your children, a relevant sermon about good husband and wife relationships may make you a better person. But it won't, it won't, it can't connect you to God. It can't address your deepest need.

Now you're about to get my bias, and it is clearly my bias shared by the leadership of the church or we wouldn't be doing it. My bias is clearly that all preaching ought to be theologically centered. That if you have a right relationship with God, your marriage, your finances, your anxiety, and your resentment, and all other human needs can be met. But the opposite may not be true. And so what we hope you discover as you come to our adult classes, as you come to bridge communities, as you come to our worship and hear our sermons, what we hope you pick up on fairly quickly is that they are all biblically grounded and we hope theologically sound and solid. So that once you understand how to relate to God, then you can in that context learn how to relate to one another and how to relate to the world and how to relate to your finances and relate to anything else that life happens to bring.

In the conversations I have with people, particularly seminary students, often Brent as we travel back and forth together, one of my questions about this man-centered preaching is always not what happens in the best of times, what happens in the worst of times. And the question I find myself asking regularly as your preacher is this. Is what I'm saying today going to prepare you for the day that your child dies? Will this prepare you for the day that your life crashes at its worst? Because if it won't, I don't care how much other good I might have done you. I have not prepared you for what's important. And far more important than that, will what we do here prepare you to meet God? Because ultimately that's where we all stand is to give an account before our father about our spiritual condition before him. He may or may not ask you about the quality of your marriage. He may or may not ask you how well you did with your finances, but I guarantee he will ask you this. What did you do about Jesus? And so preaching that is biblical and relevant is both ... biblical and relevant.

And so when I look at scriptural preaching, when I look at the preaching vocabulary in scripture, when I look at what the content of preaching is in the Bible, what I discover is that there was in fact a content to their preaching and their preaching was always about big issues, issues that had size to them. So they went about, for example, preaching the kingdom. That's the kind of preaching that I would like to hear, preaching about something that matters, like the kingdom of God. And when I read scripture, what I read in scripture is that God's kingdom is not about a place, it's about a person. It's not about territory, it's about a relationship with a God who governs the universe. And when I become a part of God's kingdom, I don't just enter into his territory, I submit to his sovereignty. The preaching of scripture, the preaching that is biblical about the kingdom of God is to ask people like you and me to place ourselves under the sovereign leadership of God himself. It doesn't ask about what are the benefits of being in the kingdom. It asks about what the king wants and deserves. Sovereign God, kingdom preaching, is about God breaking in to our world. It's about God coming in and addressing our culture. It's about God coming in and addressing your marriage. It's about what does God have to say about how you live your life. It shapes everything, not about me, but about him, and then my response to that.

Biblical relevant preaching is preaching that focuses its attention on repentance and the forgiveness of sin. When we come to the very end of the gospel of Luke we see that very thing spoken by Jesus after his resurrection. He says in Luke 24 as he comes to Luke's version of the great commission, Luke 24, he says in verse 46, "This is what is written. That Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." It's not popular preaching. Most biblical preaching fails at the level of being popular because it doesn't offer you something. It doesn't tell you how to have a better life. It doesn't address itself to some particular felt need in your experience. What it says is there is a God and you're not him. And that God is interested in your life. He wants a relationship with you. He wants to show you how to live your life in a way that pleases him and when you live your life in a way that pleases him, the rest of all of those things will take care of themselves. And so, biblical relevant preaching is going to call you to repentance. It's going to call you to take a look at your life and to ask yourself, are you living the way God calls you to live. It isn't going to ask you to look down the row at your spouse or to think about your children over in the annex. It's not going to ask you to think about your neighbor and what they're doing. It's going to ask you, are you living the way God calls you to live. And if you're not, the Bible word for that is repentance. And biblical preaching calls you to that.

There's a summary of a biblical sermon that occurs in Acts 10. It's the record of a sermon that Peter preached. In Acts 10:36, Peter says "you know the message God sent to the people of Israel telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all." Do you hear it? The sovereignty of God and finding peace with that God. "You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and power and how he went about doing good and healing all those who were under the power of the devil because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people but by witnesses whom God had already chosen by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Do you hear it? Biblical preaching in the book of Acts is preaching about Christ under the term that we have come to call the gospel, the resurrection, the death of Jesus, and how that is good news to all men because it reminds us that because of what God has done for us, we have the possibility of forgiveness. And in that condition have the possibility of living a life that actually does have lots of benefits.

So what can you expect when you come here to worship and whoever it is is standing up to preach? We hope that you can expect relevant biblical sermons. That means we hope you'll hear something about Jesus, his resurrection, and a call to submit your life to his lordship because we know and we hope you come to discover, that living in his kingdom is the best way to live. So every Sunday what we expect to see here, what we hope you understand that you will find here is that in this body we will preach the gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and we will allow that gospel to make its call on your life without apology. We will never ever backpedal and say we're sorry for the demands that Jesus makes. We will come to you with a bible in hand and a message to you that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself and the good news is you can have forgiveness of sin. And we trust that you will hear that in the preaching.

But we also trust that there are other ways to preach. There's more than just the pulpit. There is the table. And what you're going to hear this morning is that there are a variety of ways that the church preaches. I'm one of them. This is one of them. And you're the other. I intend to come back and talk about that in a little while. But right now I want you just to hear about this table because every Sunday, no matter what else happens, if I fall completely flat on my face and fail to preach to you biblically or relevantly, you will never leave this church without hearing the gospel because every week that we meet this table is set and this sermon is preached week after week after week. Fifty-two weeks a year we come to a table that reminds us of the death and the resurrection of Jesus and we hold in our hands the broken body and the shed blood of Christ which is the gospel, the good news. Someone died so you don't have to. So we're going to celebrate this supper together. We're going to celebrate it as a sermon, a sermon about Jesus Christ who came because he loved you, died because he loved you, was raised because God loves you, and invites you to share that life with him.

It's a scary thought, but it's the case. We not only preach with words here, regularly, we not only preach through our worship in which our music, the lyrics, and the Lord's Supper are all an attempt to tell the story. Every one of you is the preaching minister of Madison Park Christian Church because the world is watching to see whether or not your attendance here or wherever you happen to go on a regular basis is making any difference at all in your life. Because the world is looking to see a sermon. They don't listen well, but they observe quite nicely. They just want to know, does it matter? Some of you like me wear suits and ties a lot. People watch. They have some assumptions that they draw because this is who we are. Some of you don't. You roll up your sleeves, put on your boots, you may head into the shop or out into the field. But it's the same thing. It doesn't make any difference, does it? They're not looking to see what a professional looks like. They're looking to see what a Christian looks like. They're looking to see whether or not the gospel literally gets preached in the lives and the hearts of people who claim to know something about Jesus, who by virtue of parking their car on a parking lot on a Sunday morning declare this is important to me. Who by virtue of turning down invitations to go to different places because they're choosing to be with Christian people or to go to Christian events are saying this is important. Who by virtue of the fact that they have chosen to befriend you as a person, are looking to you to say is there anything different about you? If I watch you, what will I know and how will I turn out? There is nothing of any more importance than your understanding that you preach the gospel every moment of every day. Oh, you may well sit here for 30 minutes a week and listen to me, but you will spend the other 167 ˝ hours preaching to someone else by the way you live. And that's critically important because no church can reach a world that needs to hear the story about Jesus dependent upon one, two, three, or four professionals. There's no possible way that a paid staff can reach into a community of people and have the impact that a church full of preachers, a church full of missionaries, can do. Our staff will never meet the people you work with. Rarely will we run across your neighbors. But they'll talk to you, they'll watch you, they'll see you, and they will hear the gospel in your life. Paul says it this way in II Corinthians 2. "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death. To the other the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task." We are. We don't get the choice. This is what we've been called to by virtue of having given our hearts and lives to Christ we have agreed to be the aroma of Christ. We'll live our life and people will see something of the gospel. Stay with me just a second because that's the heart of our message, the gospel. The heart of the gospel is the simple story of death and resurrection. The heart of the gospel according to everything we read in scripture is the simple tale of one who was willing to die so that God could raise him up again. And that is our story. Our story is the story of one who has submitted to death so that God could raise them up as something new. That is your story. Every time people see the death of your old life and the resurrection of somebody new, every time they see the change that Christ elicits in you, every time they see the newness of your response to life and its difficulties, they hear and see the gospel alive. We are sermons. That's the nature of what happens. We preach by the way we live. And some people who are antagonistic to the gospel of Jesus will smell us as obnoxious stench. It won't matter how good your life is because the smell is going to be obnoxious to them. But others who have an open heart to what God is doing and to whom you have poured your life and demonstrated your care will smell life. So we pour ourselves into the lives of people. We make friends of people who don't know anything about Jesus. We make sure that we meet people and we preach. Oh, sometimes we even use words, but often we just live. And in that life we give people a picture of what it means to know Christ.

And so you come here week after week after week. Some of you have been doing that for years. And what we hope happens is that when you have an opportunity to encounter God, that it changes you just a little more into the shape of Jesus and you go back out into your world and people see something inviting. Some of you come and you wonder what in the world is going on here and you hear things that don't make sense and you see things and experience things that you're not sure you understand, and what we're trying to encourage you to do is just keep looking for this ... life change, death and the resurrection. Keep looking for Jesus because he is going to reach into your life, and he will do for you what this world cannot offer. The only question really this morning is what in the world are you going to do with Christ? With that message that you see and hear? If you're just now on your journey, if you're just getting started and you don't know what to do next, maybe the simplest thing is to just keep doing what you're doing while you give God a chance to work in your life. Maybe it's to come along some Christian whose life speaks to you and just ask them questions and dialogue with them and try to figure out what's going on. But if you're a little further along in the journey and you know what you need to do, then the invitation is to you to take the step and do it, to demonstrate that Christ does make a difference in your life and that you're ready for that. And if you're one like me who's been here so long you can't remember what it was like to be lost, then we invite you to remember that the change that God is eliciting in you is a lifetime experience. And so this morning we're just simply telling you here is the message of Christ. Repent and find the forgiveness of sins. Give it to him. Let him have it and he'll shape your life. Let's stand.

[Transcribed by PU4]