I was riding home from church yesterday, and I will admit that I was a little down following the service. I have been trying a new style of preaching over the last few weeks – one that is more topical and with lots more practical application than the kind of expository/Bible teaching that I typically love to do. Unfortunately, yesterday seemed to fall flat, if you know what I mean. There are some days that you preach and you know that you connect with the people and that God is moving in their lives. Then there are days like yesterday when it takes everything within you to finish the message because you know it isn’t happening. I will confess that this happens every time I preach a message that has anything to do with our responsibilities as parents and grandparents because we have so few young families. Yesterday was especially tough because we had even fewer than normal young families. Anyway, I may be having a bit of a pity-party about that, but I don’t mean to be whining. Besides that, I’ve gone totally away from my reason for starting this. So let me get back on point.
I was riding home from church yesterday (see above for the emotional side of things) listening to another pastor’s sermon. He was preaching on prayer when he came across with a series of words: passion, priority, purpose, and place. It wasn’t the points of his sermon, and I must confess that I’m not even sure what his point was in using these words, but being the pastor that I am, I thought to myself, “That’s an outline that will preach.” So I started thinking, “What passage of Scripture would go with that outline?” Now, I want you to understand that this is absolutely the wrong way to develop a sermon. The right way is that God speaks to your heart through a passage of Scripture, you study that passage using all of the tools and gifts God has provided, let the Holy Spirit develop the message in your heart, formulate an outline, and then flesh out the sermon. But I thought it was an interesting exercise, and I wanted to share with you what God laid on my heart.
Remember the words: passion, priority, purpose, and place. I immediately tossed out the word place because I like three points. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s the way I am. Maybe that’s why my seven points yesterday were so difficult to preach. Anyway, I said, “Lord, how does that outline fit?” And almost instantly, one passage came to mind. When Jesus asked about the first and greatest commandment, the answer was almost immediate. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”
Passion – love the Lord your God. Read this carefully, my friends. If you are a Christian, this is your passion. Passion is that which you are crazy about. It is what consumes your thoughts when you are awake and when you are asleep. You work your life around your passion. You devote your energy to your passion. And the Bible tells us that our passion is God. We are to love Him
Priority – with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is our priority, to do this with every aspect of our being. Loving God must take center stage in our lives. He must be number one. First among firsts. Here is what I mean. Sonya is the love of my life, second only to God. In terms of priorities, she is number two, but she is the number one woman that I love. But how would my marriage work if I were to go to Sonya and tell her, “Dear, I love you, but I am going to put another woman ahead of you?” Well, I guarantee you that my marriage wouldn’t work because I would be dead. So what would happen if I told her, “Dear, I love you, but I am making another woman equal to you.” Again, dead! So how about I said, “Dear, I love you, but I am going to love another woman but just not as much as you!” Same result. Listen to me, when I tell you that loving God must be our priority, that means there is none like Him. He is the only God, and we love Him with all of our being.
Purpose – love your neighbor as yourself. This is it. This is the reason that God saved us – to love those around us. In answer to the question that was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The moral of the story? Our neighbor is anyone we encounter that is in need. Our love for them? It calls us to sacrificial service. That is our purpose.
Not a bad sermon. Maybe I will preach it one day soon! Hope you come to hear it!