Summary: Chuck Swindoll says, "Much of our religious activity today is nothing more than a cheap antiseptic to deaden the pain of an empty life." (PowerPoints available - #268)



(REVISED - 2015)

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ILL. Chuck Swindoll wrote, “Much of our religious activity today is nothing more than a cheap antiseptic to deaden the pain of an empty life.”

Can that possibly be true? Well, have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I come to Church? Why do I sing the songs? Why do I listen to the sermons? Is it because my life is so empty that I’m searching for something to deaden the pain? Or is it something more than that? Why do I come to church?”

Sometimes people say, “I come to church because it makes me feel good! I go home feeling much better after being in church.” But shouldn’t there be something more than just a good feeling?

In this congregation, we strive to present the truth of God’s Word. So you’re not going to hear just sermons designed to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. because sometimes the Word of God convicts, & it is like a sharp sword that cuts & performs surgery on your inner being.

You see, our goal when we preach is to comfort the disturbed, & to disturb the comfortable. Sometimes we don’t succeed in doing that. But nonetheless, we’re dedicated to preaching the Word of God.

So some Sundays you may leave here not feeling as good as you did when you came in, because God has forced you to look deep inside yourself.

PROP. So this morning, let’s think about the kind of preaching & teaching that is more than sermons that make you feel good.


A. First of all, what is the foundation of Biblical teaching? You’re right. The

foundation is the Bible. The Bible is to be the basis of our preaching & teaching.

We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. So we’re not going to debate that. Instead, we seek to learn from it & to be guided by it.

Listen to the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-16. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned & have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, & how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

“All Scripture is God-breathed & is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

B. Now we’ve always said that we’ll speak where the Bible speaks, & be silent

where the Bible is silent. The Bible speaks about some very controversial things, & we’re obligated to speak about them as the Bible speaks.

You see, my opinion doesn’t count. Yours doesn’t either. The only thing that really counts is what God says. So we need to speak where the Bible speaks, & be silent where the Bible is silent.

As we read just a few moments ago, Paul wrote to Timothy, “…the holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise…”

And James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all…” The problem is that most of us search for wisdom in wrong places.

ILL. That reminds me of the guy who was in a bookstore looking for a particular book in the Education section, but he couldn’t find it. So he asked a clerk, “Do you have the book titled ‘Man, the Master of Woman’”? She thought for a moment & then answered, “You’re looking in the wrong section. You’ll find that one over in Fiction.”

C. Paul also says that the Word of God is useful & practical for daily life. It shows

us how to live. You want to know how to have a better marriage, how to raise kids right? You want to know how to live a good, full life? Then go to the Word of God & learn from it.

But the problem is, not very many actually read it. So the result is that we’re raising people virtually ignorant of the Word of God. The Generation-X’ers, the Millennials, & those who are coming after them have almost no familiarity with the Bible or its teachings.

ILL. Rich Atchley says that if you went to the average university campus today, & asked students if they know a verse of Scripture, most would say that they do.

If you had asked that question 25 years ago, most college students would have quoted John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Almost everybody knew that verse then.

But no longer. Now most would reply with, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

Atchley says, “The whole focus has changed. Twenty-five years ago the focus was on the truth of God’s love. But today, surveys reveal that practically everyone is convinced that there is no absolute truth. So the emphasis has switched from truth to tolerance.”

And that leaves them feeling free to do anything they want without worrying about what God says about it. As a result, we’re being told that we must not only tolerate what others do, but now we must accept & embrace it, too.

Isn’t that what we are hearing today - that we must condone abortion & embrace homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable lifestyle? You see, it is no longer enough just to tolerate it, now they insist that we must approve of it, too.

We’re approaching a whole new level of ignorance of the Bible. People simply don’t know. And it is our responsibility as a Church to seek to make people hungry for God so that they will want to know what God’s Word has to say.

SUM. Long ago, the prophet Hosea said, “…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). And that fate could be ours, too.


A. Secondly, Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-2 to be diligent in preaching the Word. He said, “In the presence of God & of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living & the dead, & in view of His appearing & His kingdom, I give you this charge:

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season & out of season; correct, rebuke & encourage – with great patience & careful instruction.”

How are we to present the Word of God? Well, here are 4 of our responsibilities:

1. First of all, it is our responsibility to be prepared.

Recently I have discovered some of my limitations, what I can & what I can’t do very well anymore. So sometimes I have to put in even more effort just to present God's Word to you on Sunday mornings.

I would suggest to all teachers & preachers that we ought to consider the opportunity to share a message from God’s Word as our most important task of the week. And it deserves our best effort.

It deserves more than just a few minutes on Saturday night, or shooting from the hip on Sunday morning. We need to be prepared to present the truth in a way where the seed can grow in the fertile soil of the heart.

2. Secondly, we need to speak concisely & simply. Do you realize that many

commercials on TV today are written so that 4th graders can understand them? The producers believe that if they aim at a 4th grade audience, then most adults will be able to understand. So we need to be concise & speak simply, too.

3. Thirdly, we need to be loving. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) is probably one of the most important guidelines in the Bible.

ILL. Olin Hays said, “You cannot preach the love of God with a clenched fist.” Yes, we have to tell people that they are sinners. We have to tell people that there is a real hell. We have to tell people that they need to repent of their sins & be saved. But always do it in love.

4. Fourthly, be open to the Holy Spirit's leading. People have asked, “Do you still get nervous when you preach?” The answer is “Yes.” I still get nervous when I preach, but maybe for a different reason today.

I used to get nervous because I was afraid that people would not like what I said or how I said it. I think I’ve matured beyond that now. I’ve learned how to accept criticism & rejection perhaps in a healthier way.

But I’m still nervous because I realize the awesome responsibility that is mine. And sometimes I think, “God, what can I say to these people that will help them live their lives for you?”

We need to realize that whatever good happens, happens not because of us, but because of what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. We’re like cracked pots, vessels that are marred, but God keeps filling us with His Spirit & blessing us. So we need to be open to the Spirit & to what God wants us to do.

B. And it’s not just preachers & teachers – you have responsibilities as listeners, too. If you’re one who sits in the pew or in the Sunday School class each week, you have responsibilities too. So here are some things you can do:

1. First of all, pray for your preachers & teachers. Pray for their purity in

thought & in life. Pray for their integrity. Pray that they will have discernment, presenting those things that God wants to communicate through them.

2. Secondly, be fair with your leaders. They’re human beings & they make

mistakes, too. Help them bear their burdens. And keep on praying for them.

3. Thirdly, be a good listener. We have to work at that today because our culture has trained us not to be good listeners. Our attention span is very short. God has given us the equipment to listen, but we have to fine-tune it to be a good listener.

4. No. 4, you, too, need to be open to the Spirit’s leading. Realize that God has a word for you today. I’m convinced that when you come to God’s house, if you’re a listener & open your heart to Him, God has something just for you, & He will help you make the decisions you are facing. So be open to the leading of His Spirit.

Acts 17: 11 says, “Now the Bereans…received the message with great eagerness & examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

I encourage you to become like the Bereans, receiving the message with eagerness & examining the Scriptures daily, so that you will know God's will & guidance for your life.


Finally, Paul told Timothy to apply the Word of God & to do the job God had for him to do. 2 Timothy 4:5 says, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Now what happens when we do that? When we do the work of an evangelist, when we really do discharge all the duties of our ministry, when the church really becomes what God wants the church to be, what happens? The result will be seen in changed & transformed lives.

My greatest concern is that we’re not doing that very well in our nation today, & children are growing up ignorant of the Word of God. So let’s apply His Word to our lives, & make sure that His will is made known.

ILL. John Maxwell tells in his book, “The Leader Within You,” the story of the building of the Great Wall of China. They built it so high that no enemy could get over it. They built it so thick that no enemy could break through it, & so long that no enemy could get around it.

They built this gigantic wall that still exists today. And then the people of China sat down behind the wall, feeling that their kingdom was secure.

But in the first 100 years of the existence of the Great Wall, China was invaded 3 different times. The enemy didn’t come over the wall because it was too high. They didn’t break through or tunnel under because it was too thick. But each time China was invaded, the enemy came through gates that had been left open for them.

Those who guarded the gates had been bribed. And while the people of China sat comfortably behind the security & the safety of the wall, they failed to teach their children integrity & patriotism. So they sold out to the enemy. And the enemy invaded their land. What a lesson that should be to us!

If we just sit down & lean back, indulging ourselves in all our comforts & conveniences, & fail to teach our children the lessons of morality & integrity from the Word of God, our land will be in danger - & the enemy won’t have to fire a shot to win.

CONCL. Let’s make sure that we apply the Word of God. Let’s make sure that our children are learning the lessons that we have been talking about this morning, & that they also will come to know God & love His Word.

So preaching must be much more than just "feel good" sermons that we hear from time to time. It is the application of the Word of God that changes lives & makes them different.

This morning God wants to continue the work of changing you & me, making us into the kind of people we can be. And by giving our hearts & our lives to Him, that change can take place.

If you have a decision to make this morning, we extend His invitation to you. We pray that you would respond to it as we stand & as we sing.