We have just run a series of 13 articles on the subject of justice. These all sprang from a sermon on Proverbs 21. That one sermon prompted 13 articles reminds us of two things. First of all, it reminds us of one of the reasons why we run the faithroots website, there is a limit to how much you can cover in one single 30-minute sermon. We encourage Bearwood Chapel members to follow up Sunday teaching by using faithroots as a resource, by doing personal study picking up recommended reading, through 1-1, family and small group conversation and by prayerful obedient application to daily life.
Secondly it reminds us of how rich expository preaching and teaching is. This is why I prefer expository teaching and see it as the primary diet of church preaching over and above topical preaching. Expository preaching means that we allow God’s Word to drive the agenda of the church not our personal preferences. Expository preaching should never be dull, merely academic and certainly not irrelevant. It should be practical and rich in application.
This is what we have seen by looking at Proverbs 21 and the following up on the application. The main point of the sermon is that we need to rely on God’s justice, specifically his justice as seen on the Cross. This justice gives us hope to face the final day of justice knowing we are justified by and in Christ through faith.
We then went on to see that this leads to a concern for God’s justice in daily life taking up one practical example of justice within marriage. We saw that this was analogous to other relationships including church relationships and the workplace.
From there, our follow up articles have shown how rich this application is. It is relevant to evangelism and apologetics as we see that justice starts with God and is enacted at Calvary. We have discovered a public theology application as we have thought about race, class, immigration, poverty, the legal system etc. We have seen how it has a pastoral implication for daily life.
So, if expository teaching is so rich, relevant and powerful, here is the challenge. Because the preacher can only do so much, what responsibility do we take for applying what we hear to or lives. Does the work of the sermon stop when the church service finishes? If we are to fully benefit from the sermon then there does need to be this ongoing work of allowing God’s word to take root in our lives. Here are some ways we can do this.
1. Take time to pick up on the theme of the sermon and use it as you pray for yourself and for others this week.
2. Consider giving time during a home group to talk about what you have learnt and how you are applying it in your life
3. Share what God taught you with a friend who wasn’t at the service. This may be another Christian who attends another congregation (find out what they heard from God too) or who wasn’t able to make it that week, your children (this will get you thinking about how to communicate it to them) or a non-Christian friend (practical pastoral application can have an evangelistic power).
4. Pick up your note pad, write down the main application. Remember that other applications may be analogous (e.g. as we saw, no-one goes into the perfect marriage fully compatible but must go in to it ready to faithfully love…similarly no-one goes in to the perfect job/workplace). Now start to brain storm. Can you think of how it will be analogous to other situations you may face.
5. Take time to reflect on how you respond to God’s Word this week. What type of hearer are you? In previous articles we saw that at different times we will respond as culprits, victims and faithful followers. So, for example, if I am an asylum claimant I will respond to a message on justice as victim. This means I can be encouraged that God is the one who judges rightly. However, it may be that I hear it as a manager who was unfair in my dealings with an employee this week -now I am prompted to repent. This may be humbling as I head to the office ready to make amends on Monday. Finally, some of us are living faithfully, perhaps we have spoken up for what is right this week, perhaps we have dealt with difficult rebellious teenagers with firmness, fairness and compassion. A message on justice should encourage us to keep going and keep trusting even when it is tempting to give up. Now why not try that with this week’s sermon?