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Friday, October 30, 2009

Internet Sermons

I've been working with pastors through the years, and been privileged to hear several of them confess their own sins from time to time. Often the focus is on blatant sins such as pride, lust, greed, etc. But there are other things in a pastor's life that can be wrong in God's eyes, and they need to be dealt with just as much as the blatant wrongs. A good example can be sermons.

How could a sermon be sinful? There are actually several ways. For starters, the sermon could be wrong. Preaching heresy is openly condemned by God in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Oddly, taking sermons of others and preaching them yourself can also be wrong. On the surface, it doesn't look wrong. In fact, it seems as if it should be right. But when pastors have talked about it, they're often ashamed to admit the fact that they preached sermons that they got off the Internet. Their shame proves that they know it's wrong.

You see, a pastor is a modern-day prophet. He is called and anointed by God to speak for God. When he preaches, he should be giving his audience an anointed Word from God Himself. Whatever preaching "style" he tends to needs to be exposing the truth. (And of course Jesus is the truth.) Simply put, a preacher is a conduit through whom God speaks. Our culture doesn't embrace that notion though. We seem not to expect that as listeners either. This may explain why we don't listen very well to the preaching we have!

The book of Jeremiah gives us a view of just one of the times God spoke directly about those whom He has called and anointed as spiritual leaders. Let's take a look at something he had to say that has a very relevant application in our Internet-powered "information age."

In Jeremiah 24:30, God says, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes, declares the Lord, I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The Lord declares ...'"

So what is God saying here? Simply put, He doesn't want the prophets whom He's called to use the words that He may (or may not) have given to another prophet. He doesn't want the prophets to speak on their own either.

Who are the prophets? A prophet is one who speaks for God. It is really that simple. So the preacher in the pulpit is a prophet. And God wants to reveal Himself to the audience through that preacher. God wants that man to speak an anointed Word from the Father Himself. It is to be supernaturally inspired - and not borrowed from another through whom God may have also spoken.

Those who preach are to turn to God and ask the simple questions. "Lord, what do You want to say through me? Would you please give me Your words - whatever it is that You want these people to hear?" The preacher should be on his knees before it's time to deliver the sermon, asking God, "Father, please quiet my mind and my heart. Control my tongue and speak through me. Let me speak only words that You want spoken ... words that honor You and fully serve You alone."

It is shocking the number of sermon sites on the Internet. You can subscribe to them, search in them for topic, etc. It would seem that it is becoming quite possible for a preacher to never actually write a sermon. He only has to turn to the Internet to download great sermons and then be a great speaker to deliver them with pizazz.

But let's be clear here. The Internet may be fine as a research tool. It may be fine to even use the sermons of others to research things. But God has been clear - we are not to preach the sermons He has given to others.

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