Sermon: The Cure for Conceit

Have you ever noticed that there’s often a big difference between what we want our reputation to be and what our reputation actually is? It’s true of us as individuals, and it’s also true of the Church. In the first few centuries of the Church’s history, Christians were called atheists. Cannibals. An incestuous cult of “brothers and sisters.” But in the second century, the great Christian apologist Tertullian said that he thought if a pagan were to bump into a group of Christians on the street, he would exclaim, “See how those Christians love one another and how they are ready to die for each other!” You see, there’s a big difference between what Tertullian hoped the Church’s reputation would be and what the Church’s reputation often was to an outside perspective. If you were to approach a stranger on the street today and ask him to describe the Church, what do you think he would say? Do you think he would applaud us for our love for one another and our allegiance to the Gospel? Probably not. What you would probably hear is something like this: the Church is full of hypocrites. Christians do not care about the poor or the sick or the oppressed, only power. All they do is fight amongst themselves about things that don’t matter!

Sermon: The Sides of Preaching

Have you ever worn anything inside out? Sometimes we’ll put
on a sweatshirt inside out because we like it that way, or it has
paint or spots on the outside, so we wear it inside out. At other
times, we wear articles of clothing inside out unintentionally.
That happened to my sister, Jeanine. She got herself
dressed for a day of grocery shopping and general errand
running. She didn’t realize until she got home later that day and
looked at herself in the mirror that her blouse was inside out.
Over the course of the day she ran into her former mailman,
Scott, at the grocery store. She saw some neighbors and other
friends—all the while wearing a blouse that was turned inside
out. “Everybody could see the raw edges of the blouse because it
was turned inside out,” she detailed. “I didn’t know when I
dressed myself in the morning that in the afternoon, I’d find that
I had made my rounds with a blouse that was inside out.”
Inside out and outside in—that’s how we live our lives,
and that’s how we live our lives as preachers, isn’t it? People—
even our listeners—can see who we are on the outside and who we are on the inside. They can see the raw edges of our lives or
the smooth seams of God’s grace in how we live and who we are.
This was Paul’s message of encouragement to Timothy as
he was eager to navigate life as he served as preacher at the
church in Ephesus. Paul reminds Timothy that church at Ephesus
wasn’t an easy church to pastor. There were heresies and
resistances that Timothy would have to engage with wisdom and
grace. Paul was reminding Timothy that as their preacher, the
church was exposed to his inside and outside self.
We may not realize it for ourselves, but we have—our
preaching has—an outside and an inside feature to it. We see this
displayed in the text this morning. Please turn to 1 Timothy 4:11-
16, that’s 1 Timothy 4:11-16. As I read the text, try to find with me
the outside and inside dimensions of preaching. That’s 1 Timothy
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look
down on you because you are young, but set an
example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in
faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the
public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through
prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them,
so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life
and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do,
you will save both yourself and your hearers.
What does this text tell us about the sides of preaching? It tells us
that preaching is outside in.