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Testimonies to the Power of Preaching

February 8, 2007

The reason I’ve been quite defensive lately (maybe too defensive, sorry Brant) about any challenge to the priority of preaching in the ministry of the church is not because I’m trying to protect my job.   It is because I myself have seen God make big changes in my life through the discipline of listening to other people’s sermons.   More so this last year than ever thanks to the availability of MP3 sermons online. 

Here’s one example.  I was listening this summer to John Piper preach from Luke 18 about the elect crying out to God day and night.   He challenged us to get on our knees every morning and every evening and cry out, “O God change me!”.   When I heard that something quietly happened in my heart.   I felt the simple resolve, “I’m going to do that.”  I went home and told my wife that I wanted to pray with her every morning and every evening not just about the kids, not just about the worries of the day, but about our own needs and desires to be changed by God into the image of Jesus.   By God’s grace this habit has persisted and we are praying together now more than ever and we have seen changes in our lives. 

That sermon didn’t supply me with any information I didn’t already have, but through that sermon God changed my heart. 

Now I want to invite you to share some testimonies about how a sermon changed your life.  A couple of guidelines:

1) It can’t be one of my sermons.  I’m not fishing for compliments here.

2) It can’t just be a moment where your mind was blown by some deep truth.  I want to hear about how you observably changed in love and obedience because of something God did in your heart while you were listening to a sermon. 

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2007 9:40 am

    Another example. The epiphany I wrote about yesterday? Happened last Friday while listening to a Tim Keller sermon.

  2. February 8, 2007 10:35 am

    I feel like I repeat this over and over, but here goes again . . . when we were in NM, our pastor preached through Ephesians and Colossians and it changed my life. I’m not sure it was one specific sermon, but I remember one feeling like — wow, I *get* this now! It happened at a time when I was facing the transition of ‘working woman’ to ‘mom at home’ and was having a huge identity crisis — who am I if I’m not a ‘smart chemist’? do I still ‘matter’ if I’m ‘just a mom at home’? Our pastor went through the books with a 1, 2, 3 series:

    1. This is who God is
    2. This is who you are as an adopted member of His family
    3. This is what your life looks like now

    It gave me a greater appreciation of who God is and a greater love for Him, it gave me assurance of who I am and that of all the descriptions that can be used of me that I am His child is the one of eternal value, and it gave me a desire to serve in love. Any time I find myself forgetting these things, I go back to these books and remember the significance. I had read those books before, but it wasn’t until I heard the sermons that it impacted my heart in this way.

  3. February 8, 2007 10:51 am

    I wanted to point out that your guideline is a little unfair to some of us b/c as a Christian I’ve only been a regular attendee of two churches and we’ve been here nearly 9 yrs now. When we’ve visited the in-law’s church there isn’t much teaching of scripture and I haven’t gotten into listening to sermons online or via radio.

    Still, going back to the beginning of my life as a Christian, it was a sermon preached in a tiny church in the back woods of Idaho or Washington (it was close to the border) that wetted my appetite to know more so that I went to the man’s bookstore and talked to him for at least two hours and then, armed with some tracts and scripture to review, I went home to read more until I was weeping on the floor and crying out to God to save my wretched soul.

  4. February 8, 2007 11:43 am

    Listening to John Piper’s sermons (“Let your passion be single”, “Doing missions when dying is gain”, and his pastor’s conference biography series talks) set Michele and I on a course for missions which has now put me in seminary.

    I suppose it can be boiled down to: I was woken up from the banal pursuits of a college kid to see the mission of the church and that as a follower of Jesus I had a part in that.

    Perhaps this is discounted by the “not just a blow your mind big truth thing”, but while it is a big truth thing, it has changed my heart to desire more than just living a suburban american christian life (not that there is anything wrong with suburbs or americans per se) to really desire that Christ be glorified in my life.

    Further, it has ignigted a passion in me to see and hear the Word preached. I had heard my share of moralizing and non-biblical storytelling. But Piper’s sermons changed my heart to where I can’t stand but hear the Word preached. Anything less hurts. Yes I’ve cried when I’ve heard the Scriptures abused! I never used to do that! I think this is why I’m a member at our church, too. I need the Word preached, not some slick presentation.

    So there’s two examples I guess.

  5. February 9, 2007 12:12 am

    I read this sermon rather than listened to it, but I think it still counts. It’s a tidbit from John Piper’s (he seems to be quite common in these testimonies =P) biography on Jonathan Edwards. Now, I’m not a pastor, but I don’t think Piper’s words apply only to pastors; I found his words convicting and behavior-changing:

    “Let me say it again. Our people need a God-besotted man. Even if they criticize the fact that you are not available at the dinner on Saturday night because you must be with God, they need at least one man in their life who is radically and totally focused on God and the pursuit of the knowledge of God, and the ministry of the word of God.

    How many people in your churches do you know that are laboring to know God, who are striving earnestly in study and prayer to enlarge their vision of God. Precious few. Well then, what will become of our churches if we the pastors, who are charged with knowing and unfolding the whole counsel of God, shift into neutral, quit reading and studying and writing, and take on more hobbies and watch more television?”

    And… Vincent Cheng’s exposition on The Sermon on the Mount (http://www.rmiweb.org/books/sermonmount.pdf). This isn’t really a “sermon,” but I suppose it could technically be divided into a sermon series. His comments on keeping our promises, fighting sin, and living non-hypocritically were foundational to my understanding of Christian ethics and behavior. My understanding of the place of the law in my life was clarified, and led me to much worship and growth (I think Vincent’s view differs from yours slightly… though this probably isn’t a crucial difference).

  6. February 9, 2007 1:01 pm

    In one sense reading a sermon doesn’t really count toward making our point here, because we’re trying to establish the importance of doing preaching in the public assembly.

    In another sense it does. For how much thinner would our collection of devotional and theological literature be if the leaders of the church were not required to do the kind of study that a public exposition of Scripture requires them to do?

    As regards Vincent Cheung, you asked me some time ago to check him out. I found this quote on his blog. He responded to a critic by writing,

    “If you think that something like this can threaten my ministry’s survival, I seriously question your intelligence and wonder how much confidence you can have in Christianity itself. I had no respect for you by the time I finished the first paragraph of your message. You are a weakling.”

    And after reading that first paragraph, I found that I had no respect for him. He may have a great number of points, but I have no interest in reading them. By their fruits you will know them. A student will be like his teacher, and I sure don’t want anyone to be like him.

  7. blondie permalink
    February 9, 2007 6:01 pm

    A month ago our associate pastor preached a sermon on Psalm 139. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” This verse he said usually causes us to think that God knows how many days we will live. But, it could be looked at differently. All the days formed for me….God doesn’t just plan how many days I will live, he forms my days. He forms all that will happen to me on any given day. He asked us to wake up each morning that week and remember that the day was “formed” for me. All the events of the day, good and bad, were formed for me.

    That is nothing new. I know that God is sovereign over the events of my life, but God used that thought, that teaching from his word, to give me new hope in himand in his plan for my life. That is just one of the ways that God has used the teaching of his word to give me new hope in him this month.

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