This will be a sermon reminding us about how God's Word works in us and about how sermons from God's Word stimulate learning for our progress and joy of faith.
Paul didn't get tired of his reminding work. He told the Romans that he'd been bold in reminding them because of God’s grace so that they (especially the Gentiles) would be a people of living sacrifices consecrated by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:14-18).
Paul told the Philippians that it was “safe” for them that he kept reminding them; reminders were in their best interests (Philippians 3:1). Peter thought the right sort of reminders would *disturb* his readers, as in stir them up, wake them from sleep, especially that they would have instant recall of the truth even when he was gone (2 Peter 1:12-15).
Words do work. Of course it's possible to love in word and not deed, but some deeds of love require words. Words express love and exalt love and urge embodied love. The Word of God is living and active. God's words created heaven and earth and continually uphold the universe. God's words create and continually sustain our salvation. His Word guides and grows, like light and food.
The words of truth transform us as they renew our minds. Of course it is possible to be little more than truth collectors, gathering doctrine like we gather data, organizing our theological spreadsheets rather than presenting ourselves as living sacrifices. But the eleven chapters of teaching wrapped up in "therefore" in Romans 12:1 gets unwrapped in the obedience of faith, in righteousness and joy and harmony.
As the Word teaches and transforms, there are lines drawn, not only right and wrong, but contours of beauty to behold, lines of reasoning to follow, and patterns to build upon. Sometimes building requires some demolition first. Sometimes we need more than a wet-cloth wipe down, we need walls hammered down. A preacher is not an ear-tickler, nor is the Word a feather-duster (more like fire, or like a hammer, Jeremiah 23:29). Sometimes loving words work against a previously held, even previously *loved* mental model. Of course this is true for pulling down idols, but also true for reshaping false worldviews.
These are all things the Word does, but you can have your own copies these days (*unlike ANYONE in the Bible*). And praise God! So what's the deal with scheduling a sermon for every Sunday?
There is a liturgy to the sermon. We don't believe that the best liturgy is *only* a sermon, nor that the sermon is the final aim of the liturgy. But there's benefit beyond what's *in* the package of any given sermon.
When you listen to enough sermons you learn more than just what words are used; there is learning in the liturgy of the sermon. Here are three things learned through the liturgy of the sermon.
# 1. We learn how to worship together through the living Word.
This is part of what the sermon is good for *now*. The minister of the Word (see Acts 6:4 for this sort of work and title) exults in the truth and the people exult with him. We’re not always learning how everything works, but how it feels, like flying in a plane.
It is not best to think of this as a classroom, though there are some overlapping activities. This is a place of worship, not a place to think about how to worship after class. At some point we might ask, "When am I going to use this?" The answer is in part: right now. This isn't just preparation for praising God, this is part of our praise.
The words read and explained exalt Him. “May those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” (Psalm 40:16). No matter how long the sermon, it can't fulfill, but it can further, our meditating on the Lord day and night. So the sermon from that living Word is a key part of letting the Word dwell in us richly, that is, dwelling in the Body/assembly (Colossians 3:16). Our corporate mediation on the Word starts to define us. The living Word is a communal document, the living Word forms communities.
We *are* worshiping as we receive the Word (James 1:21), as we believe the Word, as we let the Word go to work on us.
# 2. We learn how to say what we were (close to) thinking about the living Word.
For this benefit the sermon works both now and later. The minister of the Word expresses the truth and the people can better express their knowledge of it.
Not everyone is a mouth (1 Corinthians 12:19-20). Not everyone speaks the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), has a speaking gift. Not everyone should be a teacher (James 3:1). But every member of the body who is richly indwelt by the Word has a sort of teaching work (Colossians 3:16). Not all are pastors or teachers, but pastors and teachers are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12), which includes ministering the word to others, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Speak comfort, peace, perspective, admonition. Hear how the minister does it and do likewise.
Sometimes we know something but we don't know what it's called. Or we've been working on something in our minds and we're 90% of the way there, but need help with the last part. It's not just possible, but likely that lots of time you don't need a new engine, but you do need someone to show you where to bang underneath the engine to jolt the electrical contacts, then the car is purring again.
Helpful teaching provides helpful categories, names, hooks for your thoughts. For example, the comparative and integrated shelves were not hard to see in Scripture or to believe, but they are extremely useful by being named.
A thing I don't get tired of reminding us about is whether we are stimulating faith or stimulating doubt. We are all learning one way or the other through the liturgy, including the sermon part. This belongs with what we say, and a lot with our tone. Even the 2 Corinthians passage *assumes* the answer is YES to faith. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
But by caricature, and it is funny in a way, the [Babylon Bee had a resolution for Paul Washer](https://babylonbee.com/news/we-asked-13-evangelical-leaders-what-their-new-years-resolutions-were-and-heres-what-they-said) of “An increase of 15% in the number of Christians questioning their salvation.” That’s *not* actually what we’re aiming at, and not what we want the flock to learn.
# 3. We learn how to read and understand for ourselves the living Word.
This has lasting value, beyond the sermon itself. The minister of the Word shows the people by example how to go directly to God in His Word for themselves.
Beloved, I do not say these words all the time, but my life and my sermons are aimed at this. I want you to **go to the Word**. I want you to read it, meditate on it, and be careful to do it for your blessing.
> Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:12–15 ESV)
What a privilege, and what an opportunity, to have our own copies. A sermon from the Word is a feast for faith, and it’s also an example where you can get your own ideas for how to have good food at home. You might not have gone to culinary school for cooking sermons, but you can get a solid, tasty meal. That’s a feature.
I’m devoted to “the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13) so that you will be saved (1 Timothy 4:16), that you will taste that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2-3), and that the whole body will grow up in every way into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
I don't expect this to be the "final" word, and for a few reasons. No human preacher is inerrant, and we all have truth to speak to one another in love. Examine. Sharpen. Edify. Be noble as you examine and test (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21), to hold fast what is good.
You are blessed by the Lord when you delight in worshipping the Lord. You are blessed by the Lord when you delight in mediating on His Word, as one like a well-watered tree, fruitful and alive. Get you to God’s Word.
> And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32 ESV)