Just Give A Good Sermon Please

Is God behind your sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

During this past week, I caused a controversy on my Facebook page over this idea I am writing about. My friend Brian Chilton over at Bellator Christi disagreed with me on this. My stance is the idea of Christians hearing from God is not normative. He disagrees. We’re planning on having a written debate on this. While we do disagree, we disagree as fellow Christians and want to build up one another’s ministries still.

As a seminary student, I hear several sermons. As a Christian, I have heard them all my life. I am also often on the lookout for evangelical catchphrases as it were. These are things we say that can make us sound spiritual, but I think do more harm than good.

One such statement I hear from many pastors is in some way attributing their sermons to God. They will say that God laid this on their heart or that God revealed this to them in the Bible or any number of things. The idea strikes me as saying “This isn’t just me saying this. This is God. You’d better pay attention.”

I don’t think many would be so brazen, but if that’s not what the words mean, then what do they mean?

Now suppose one of you says “Well, there was one time someone gave me a specific word of knowledge that I am certain came from God as no one else could have known X about my life.”

I am not saying that cannot happen. God will do what He wants. I am saying it is not normative. I have a number of concerns with this kind of talking.

For one thing, I think we wind up treating God too casually. I have no reason to think God will fill in for pastors when they don’t do the work of preparing a good sermon. It often treats God as if He were on speed-dial or something.

Second, consider Pastor A is at a church that is heavily Calvinistic. He’s preaching today on the sovereignty of God and God gave Him a message about how He universally selected the elect to be saved and we need to get rid of this idea that our free-will is what saves us. It is all God from beginning to end.

Pastor B is at another church that is heavily Arminian. He’s preaching on the role of God in evangelism and saying God gave Him a message on how we need to appeal to the free-will of people we are evangelizing to. We need to let them know they have a choice.

At least one of these two people is wrong.

Third, if we have young Christians in the audience, they can think something is wrong with them if they’re not hearing from God when everyone around them seems to be doing so. What is wrong with me? Why am I not having this experience? Does God not really love me? Maybe I’m not really a Christian.

Fourth, we tend to become very egotistical with this kind of approach. It’s all about what God has for me. How about what we have for God? It can lead to so many people trying to interpret every event in their life as if it is a coded message from God. I remember my ex-wife would used to get so caught up in wondering what a dream she had meant.

I would tell her, “Honey. If you spent as much time trying to interpret Scripture, which you know is from God, as you do these dreams, which you don’t know are from God, you would be far better off.” I stand by that today. People often read personal events or sometimes global events trying to find a hidden message from God.

Remember the talk about the blood moons years ago? What happened? Nothing. There was also the fear over Rosh Hashanah that one year. What happened? Nothing.

If only Christians got as excited about reading their Bibles as they did this stuff.

This brings us to the fifth concern. For my readers who are Protestants, we often say we are Sola Scriptura. The Bible is the final authority. We don’t go with a Pope who claims to speak for God ex Cathedra.

Except many of us claim to do just that. We claim we have something that God has told us. The end result often is we neglect the study of the Scriptures to pay more attention to what God has for us today.

A sixth concern is people can make foolish and major decisions because they think God is telling them something. How many of us have heard stories about a couple getting married not knowing what they were doing because God told one of them they were to be married? It happens. Meanwhile, I still remember back in the days of chat rooms seeing a girl once who talked about all her life how she wanted to be a missionary. When asked why she didn’t go, she said “I wasn’t called.”

This was a woman then who had a heart for the lost and wanted to serve people and yet didn’t go out and try because she didn’t receive some “call.” Never mind that when Paul tells Timothy the criteria for deacons in the church, being called is not one of them. When he goes on his second missionary journey, there’s no indication that Silas was called to join Paul. There’s not even a word from God to go on the journey! Paul just suggests they do so!

So pastors out there, when you claim God has shown you something or told you something, I immediately get skeptical. (And 1 Kings 13 gives me good grounds for that!) You see, if your message is good and if it is true, does that change somehow if you say “God gave it to me?”

On the other hand, if your message has problems in it and you attribute it to God, then you have attributed error to God. You have said that God has revealed, shown, spoken, etc., when He has done none of those things. That is dangerous territory.

The solution is really simple. Just work on your sermon and give it. Be hesitant to claim to speak for God. If you are right, it doesn’t change the truth content. If you are wrong, then you can be making false attribution to God and/or leading people into error with divine authority.

It’s not worth the risk.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


On Pop Christianity

Is there a danger in how we portray Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was browsing Facebook and saw a post from someone on how they were angry with God because they listened to Him and that led them to having their lives in chaos. They mentioned things like what God had been telling them, leading them to do, following parents and using courtship for dating, etc. All of this sounds like what we have in much of modern Christianity, and all of it leads to ideas like this. Many times, it fails to deliver. Whether this person will become an internet atheist or not, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised it starts there for many since I see many atheists online critiquing this kind of Christianity.


This kind needs to be because as far as I’m concerned, it’s completely foreign to the Bible. Many of us think that it isn’t. We think we’re supposed to be able to hear the voice of God. We think that there is a personal plan for each of our lives and we have to find that plan. We look at modern prophecies and dreams and take them more seriously than Scripture.

We take it so seriously that really, why should we even consider Scripture anymore? If you were hearing the voice of God on a regular basis, wouldn’t He just tell you what you need to know? This is also along the lines of people saying that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s terminology I also don’t use. It’s not found in Scripture and the relationship one has with Christ is not like the relationship one has with anyone else and if you make it that way, you won’t raise up the other relationships, you’ll lower the position of Christ.

What we have produced with this mindset is a culture of Christians that are examining every feeling they have to see which one is from God and which one isn’t. How do they know? That’s a good question. Interestingly enough, it seems like the ones that are from God always match with what it is that the person already wants to do. It’s not a shock that many if they don’t get disappointed with things going wrong and become atheists, instead wind up with divine authority given to everything and they become New Agers.

A number of you, like me, are Protestants, which means this is even more ironic. We often say we don’t trust the Pope speaking ex cathedra, but we think we are the Popes in our own lives. We can truly recognize the voice of God. We can thus speak with divine authority.

Keep in mind that in all of this, I’m not saying this can’t happen. I’m not saying God is incapable of speaking today. He’s God. If He wants to, He can. What I am contending is that this is not meant to be normative in our lives today.

“It’s not?! Well, what about Moses and Joshua and Peter and Paul and all these others?”

Yeah. Let me point out a simple fact.


It’s part of our modern arrogance that we all think that the life of Moses is meant to be our life. It’s not. You’re much more likely to have your life be like the life of Joe Israelite wandering through the wilderness. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn from Moses’s life. You should. It means that Moses’s life is not your life. Moses was exceptional in his time. He is still exceptional today.

You also aren’t Paul. You are to imitate Paul, sure, but your life won’t be like his. If you think it will, then go touch your handkerchiefs and deliver them to sick children in the hospitals so they can be healed. Perhaps even more, if you think you are supposed to live like Paul, then go out and do the missionary work in hostile territory until your list of sufferings can compare to his in 2 Cor. 11.

Of course, when we say our lives are to be like theirs, we often mean in all that good stuff we like. We don’t mean in the suffering. That would be a bit too inconvenient.

So what is God’s will for your life then? That is a surprisingly easy question to answer. God’s will is in Romans 8. It’s to conform you to the likeness of Christ. That’s it.

But who am I supposed to marry? What am I supposed to do with college? What am I here to do?

You have great freedom in those decisions. Consider marriage. A more important question to start with is “Should I marry?” That depends on your desires. If you’re like many of us and would be inwardly burning without marriage, then you should marry. Yes. The desire to have sex is one of the reasons to marry. We look at that as shameful in the church today, but it’s just what Paul said in 1 Cor. 7.

From there, you have some criteria. The person must be a Christian and they must be of the opposite sex. It should be someone it is possible for you to marry. They must be single as well. From there, you have great freedom.

And after you marry, what is God concerned about? It is not about what kind of person you married at that point. It is what kind of spouse are you going to be. It’s easy to think about what your spouse should do for you. It’s harder to think about what you should do for them. After all, that requires change and risk on your part.

What about college and career paths? What do you want to do? What can you do? What do you have the ability to do? Is what you want to do moral? If so, go for it. It doesn’t also have to be ministry. You can do ministry without having an explicit career in ministry. I also see no reason to think that if you really like architecture and want to be an architect, that you can pursue that path and get before God one day and He’ll say, “You sinned in your life! I wanted you to be a dentist!”

At this point then, it’s not about what kind of field you go into. It’s about what kind of worker are you. How will you serve? The advice to slaves applies to us. Serve your masters as if you were serving Christ. Naturally, you don’t do anything immoral, but you do try to be the best that you can.

If someone comes to you with the “God told me” message about you, be very suspicious. Of course, it can be a real message. There are times true messages like this have been given, but unless someone says something explicitly that they could know no other way, be cautious about it. Go back to Scripture. It’s the source you can trust.

Doing so will also help you to take yourself a little bit less seriously. Not everything that happens in your life is a personal divine message about you. Sometimes, things just happen. The universe does not revolve around you. The focus of your life is what you’re doing for Jesus. It is not so much what God is doing in your life. It is what you are doing in His.

In Christ,
Nick Peters