There is a world of difference between preaching a sermon and living a sermon. No amount of study can compensate for deficiencies in your life. You can “study it,” but if you aren’t “living it,” it’ll ring hollow. The opposite is true as well. Jesus’ teaching was authoritative because it was backed up by his life. You can’t back up your sermons with a seminary degree. You’ve got to back it up with your life. My advice? Don’t just get a sermon. Get a life. Then you’ll get a sermon!
Let me be blunt: If your life is boring, your sermons will be, too.
If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your applications will feel theoretical instead of practical, and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving.
The greatest sermons are not fashioned in the study. They are fleshed out in the laboratory of everyday life. Now please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. You need to study to show yourself approved and rightly divide the word. So keep studying! In fact, study more. But you can’t just study the word. You need to live it. The most powerful sermons are well-studied and well-lived.
At the end of the day, God won’t say, “Well studied, good and faithful servant.” He won’t say, “Well thought” or “Well said,” either. There is only one commendation: “Well done.”
Now let’s be brutally honest: most Christians are educated way beyond the level of their obedience already! We don’t need to know more, we need to do more. That’s why I think sermons should focus on application more than interpretation. Theological doesn’t mean theoretical. In fact, as you get a life, your messages will be less theoretical and more experiential. You won’t just preach your sermons. You’ll incarnate them!
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