When today’s teenagers encounter the passionate teenage love of Romeo and Juliet, they find the plot unconvincing. What was the big deal? Why didn’t they just sleep together and go back to their waring families? Why get married? It is then, that the teacher will take the time to explain the doctrine of marriage that prevailed in that day. Without an understanding of that doctrine much of the power of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy is tragically lost. The more one understands this, the greater the encounter with the power of Shakespeare’s work. The greater we understand the Biblical doctrines of Human Nature, the Fall of Humans into sin and the Need for the Gospel, the greater will be our encounter with the powerful and amazing God of the Bible.
Why is it important to preach about the Nature of Humans? Are we just bodies being controlled by an amazing organic computer in our skulls? Or is there an immaterial part to us that is commonly called the soul? Today our western culture is functionally materialistic: from the philosophers who deny creation and promote that matter is all that exists to the person in the local coffee shop who is most concerned with health and a salary and how long they will last. It seems that, for many, the material world is most real and in many cases all that is real.
When it comes to daily living, we function as though we are just wet computers. Our job as preachers is to show how having a soul should affect daily life. What others see and hear coming from my physical body reflects my inner soul and affects my soul within me. When I speak and act rudely, it not only hurts others; it hurts my soul. Since my soul will live beyond this life, I must be prepared for that inevitable future when the unity of my soul and my current body will end in the death. But, the tsunami of our materialistic culture seems to wash away the concern for the soul. We must teach and remind our people that while our physical bodies and souls are unified, both are very real.
Why is it important to preach about the Fall of Humans into sin? No one claims to be perfect. My extreme nearsightedness, my seemingly increasing forgetfulness, my lack of discipline when it comes to Blue Bell ice cream, falling short of my potential as a husband and father, not to mention my thought life, all give proof that I am flawed. Aren’t we all? Yet, there is good in each one of us. Our culture and pride lead us to think that the mixture of good and evil within us is such that one can outweigh the other. The tension comes when we begin to talk about just how messed up we are. The Bible teaches that while we may have some good in us, in the right setting we could do unspeakable evil to others. Just ask the good citizens who lived under a Nazi regime. Fortunately, relatively few of us have lived up to that potential evil, but we all have the potential. I am messed up, I am broken, I am sinful and in the right setting it will show. While we preachers need to encourage and affirm the good in people, we must remind ourselves of the evil within each of us.
Why is it important to preach the Need for the Gospel? The importance of presenting the need for the gospel lies in clearly and convincingly presenting the previous two. Because we have a soul that is broken beyond repair, we need a savior. Our culture, again, plays havoc with this teaching. Why should we trust our lives to Jesus, when other religious leaders misuse our offerings to them? How can we receive the gift of forgiveness when everything else must be earned? May our Lord grant us the creativity to clearly explain and illustrate that we must trust that Jesus paid our debt on the cross and rose from the grave to heal our broken lives.
So how do we preach these doctrines? One way is to preach a topical sermon(s) on these doctrines. Remember that a topical exposition is just like a normal exposition; the only difference is that you are presenting more than one passage. Many homileticians, such as David Allen, Haddon Robinson, and Timothy Warren, suggest that the best way to approach a topical exposition is to have one central passage and several other supporting passages. For Human Nature, start with Philippians 1:21- 26, where Paul struggles with the desire to be with the Lord or to stay on this earth with the church in Philippi. First John 1:5-10 is a great passage to present our fallen condition. It might be the only passage you need. As to the gospel, my two personal favorites are Rom 5:1-2 and II Chronicles 33. In Romans we are promised justification and peace through our faith in Christ. In II Chronicles Manasseh, the vilest king ever, is given grace.
Another strategy is to take extra care when these doctrines are part of a passage you are already preaching. If you are preaching through Philippians and come to 1:21-26, perhaps take extra time in the sermon to present the doctrine of Human Nature, or take a pause in the series and preach a topical sermon. Still another way would be a three part series on these doctrines. They build on each other and would make a marketable short series. You could entitle it: Humans – Who we are? Humans – What’s wrong with us? Humans – How God makes us right? May God’s Spirit empower us to creatively and effectively preach the Word.
About: Calvin Pearson joined the Crossroads pastoral staff in the summer of 2011. He and his wife Jan have been married for more than 35 years and have three grown children. He comes to us with 40 years of ministry experience including: directing and acting with the AD Players; pastoring in Texas and Michigan; and teaching at Dallas Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Southwestern Baptist Seminary. The Lord provided his education through Houston Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Dallas Seminary, Gordon Conwell Seminary, and University of Texas at Arlington. As Associate Pastor he assists Pastor Larry in leading, preaching, Men’s Ministry, and other pastoral ministries.