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Shepherd’s Conference (II)

The day’s second session was led by Steve Lawson. He began by sharing how much the conference has meant to him. It was a moving tribute to the conference and upon the impact it can have upon a pastor.

For his text he chose Acts 2:14-21 and titled the sermon “The Passion and the Power of Apostolic Preaching.” We need men of God to stand up to preach and herald with much love the full counsel of God. We need the passion and power of apostolic preaching to be upon our lives.

Two deadly dangers face the church as it advances into the 21st century. The first threat is the wholesale devaluing of preaching itself. In this paradigm shift biblical preaching is being displaced by other things. Exposition is being replaced by entertainment; Theology for theatrics; Unfolding drama of redemption is being replaced by just plain drama. Preaching is out, dialogue is in. Straightforward exposition is being demoted to secondary status. As bad as this is, of even greater concern is another error. It is an error that befalls even those who are able preachers. The error is that their preaching is little more than a data dump. Preaching has become clinical, cold, sterile and stagnant. It is precision without power or light without heat.

Dispassionate preaching is a lie. If the preacher is not consumed with passage for the message, how can those who hear it believe it? This is what must be recaptured by the men at this conference who are not in danger of giving up the pulpit to entertainment, but who can become listless and lifeless in expositing the Scriptures. The kind of preaching that burst onto the scene in the first century. It was powerful and passionate. Acts is full of sermons and when they are all added up, twenty five percent of the text of the book is dedicated to recording the words of these sermons. This underscores how important apostolic preaching is. It suggests to us the kind of preaching we are to emulate. It is not just expository preaching we need, but expository preaching of a certain tone and thrust. We need apostolic expository preaching. We need to preach not just what they preached, but as they preached

The bulk of the sermon was an exposition of four marks of apostolic preaching that should mark every expositor who steps into the text of the Word of God:

Bold, Authoritative Preaching (14,15) – Peter did not step forward to dialogue or lay out options. He was assertive, emphatic, confident, commanding, directional, outspoken, compelling and arresting. He stood at the fork of the road and everyone had to decide which way they would go after encountering this proclamation. Peter “took his stand.” This word means more than “arising from a sitting position” but rather describes arising in order to take a firm stand and to establish himself. He had something serious to say and wanted to be heard. He assumes an authoritative posture and stance. The other Apostles stand with him, adding to his authority. He passionately raises his voice. He is firm and sure and as he speaks he is emphatic and assertive. Peter had to be heard. You do not always need to be loud to be passionate but it is better to err on the said of being too passionate and needing to be reeled back than to have to light a fire under you to get you going. Peter spoke seriously, with gravity. He preached as if lives depending upon it and as if souls are hanging in the balance. He speaks as a man who has been given as a mandate by the Lord almighty. He does not say “it seems to me.” Instead he says “Let this be known to you and give heed to these words.” Peter is demanding that he be heard. He is not allowing people to ignore him. “He is not dogmatic, he’s bulldogmatic,” said Lawson. Every preacher must speak with the same boldness, speaking the truth in love but always speaking the truth. Where are men today who are marked and known by the authority with which they speak from the Word of God? “There are too many men in the pulpit today who are tripping over their pantyhose.” He finished this section by quoting Adrian Rogers: The problem in the pulpit today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.

Text-driven Preaching (various verses throughout) – This is the real authority of the preacher, since he has no authority apart from the Word of God. He is simply the messenger, the conduit. All authority is found in the Book. Peter weaves the message together using five different Scripture texts. There are five things Peter does as he stands to preach.

1 – Read the text. Beginning in verse sixteen he reads the text. This is where expository preaching begins for it makes God the real preacher.

2 – Explain the text. This is what the word “expository” means – simply explain the text. There is an inseparable connection between verse twenty one and verse twenty two. In this verse he now begins to explain the text of the former verse.

3 – Support the text. What Peter will now do, having explained the text, now undergirds it with other cross references. He supports the central theme and traces it through the course of Scripture. He will now give four strategic cross references that bolster his explanation. He will show that the full counsel of God speaks with unity and clarity on this truth. These serve as pillars to undergird the message.

4 – Synthesize the text. In verse thirty six he summarizes the text, bringing it down to the bottom line. He gives the bottom line conclusion that the whole sermon has been leading to.

5 – Apply the text. This cannot be an expository sermon without this step. Now comes the crescendo of the sermon. Here is the action point, the imperative voice. This sermon is so powerful that the listeners give the invitation. “What must we do?” The authority of the Word of God has been pressed to their heart, their conscience has been awakened an the Spirit has stirred their hearts. Now Peter gives the application. Here is what you must do. Expository sermons must get to the “you.” In this case: “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

It starts with the text, stays with the text, and drives home the text.

Now by this time Lawson was running out of time and had to begin to hurry.

Christ-centered Preaching (22) – Peter’s preaching was centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Peter discusses Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This is the preacher’s greatest glory and joy–to lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Heart-piercing Preaching (37ff) – “When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart.” It is only this kind of preaching that brings out this kind of result. No skit or drama or video clip or sermon series on how to have a happy vacation will bring this about. Only preaching that is bold and authoritative, that is text-driven and Christ-centered will bring this about in the hearts of sinners that they would receive a gospel would that they might be saved. This preaching brought about an amazing result, showing that God is pleased to honor the right preaching of His Word.

He finished up with the words “May you preach as if it is the last sermon you will ever preach every time you step into the pulpit. Preach as a dying man to dying men. This is the passion and power of apostolic preaching. May God raise up from this number expositors who will herald the Word far and wide.”

And that was Dr. Lawson’s speech. It was an encouraging sermon for pastors, but also a challenging one, I’m sure.

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