Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Convicting Sermon

I went to MANY church retreats, mission trips and camps during my high school years. I also sat through a sermon message nearly every Sunday during those years. I remember a lot of those Sunday messages still today, and some of them are still convicting for me. Likewise, I can vividly remember most of the trips and conferences I attended and the convicted feelings I had as I returned home from each. But, I also remember the inevitable letdown that came after only a week or two back home.

I still sit most Sundays in my church building to listen to a weekly sermon. I occasionally am convicted by that message, but in truth I am convicted these days more by my own reading (both the Bible and other stuff) and prayer than anything I hear on Sunday mornings. That of course is in no way a critique of the church I attend or the pastors or their messages. It is just where I am right now. I don't think there is any "sermon" that would bring deeper conviction than the Spirit, the Bible and my own heart have brought of late. The rub here is though, that whether convicted by a sermon, an event, mission work, or whatever else I STILL haven't really done anything about it.

So then, what really is the point of our Sunday morning messages? Are they really meant to convict us of something? Are they meant to "refresh" us for another week in the world? Are they used to teach us the Bible? Maybe it's a little of all of that. Still, I ask then, really – what's the point of all of that? If all that message does is convict me of something, refresh me to deal with the world another week, or teach me a lesson from the Bible then I am pretty sure that 40 minutes or so of my life could be MUCH better spent elsewhere. No, I am NOT saying I think we should stop going to church or stop having sermons. I AM saying that I think for the most part the focus of our "worship services" might need some evaluation. And again, this is not a singular thing with my local church. It seems to be a common theme across western culture according to many of the books I am reading.

What I am getting at is this. The convicting sermon is truly important, yes. But simply being convicted is somewhat worthless if action does not follow. A real convicting sermon is one that not only pricks the heart, but it is one that actually brings hearers into obedient action in Christ's footsteps. A refreshing sermon is not one that simply allows me to "feel good" as I go back to my same old daily grind in the world. No, a refreshing sermon should open my eyes to actions I can take during my week to show Christ's actively. As for teaching Biblical truth, I really think the sermon should be more about reaffirming the truths we each read and discuss on our own. If I am only being taught Bible for 40 minutes each week (and usually less since we don't go every week anyway), then I am NOT in God's word.

For today's churches that claim to want to be Acts 2 churches, how can we really look at our average Sunday meetings and say we ARE being Acts 2 churches? Seriously, READ THAT TEXT AGAIN!!! That first "sermon" wasn't much if you look at it against our polished, prepared messages today. It certainly taught. It certainly convicted ("…cut to their hearts") the audience. It also refreshed them for living against the world. Moreover though, look at what followed that message. Not to mention the thousands who claimed Christ as Lord, but they ACTED (Acts) on it. The church sold everything, committed to prayer, and began to GO and make disciples. That is a truly convicting sermon. Conviction leading to Action.

For me right now I excuse my inaction saying that I am making plans to implement significant change in my life. And believe me, it IS an excuse. There is no doubt in my mind (or heart for that matter) that I have led my family to a lifestyle of excess. I AM convicted. I live in a convicted state these days, and it's hard. I only wish I had the trust and faith to simply act, but I don't right now. I am too afraid of what that total surrender to God looks like for me and my family. I hope and pray God helps me to overcome that fear soon and brings me to action. I am getting quite tired of being a slave to this fear. I KNOW obedient action is freedom, but I FEEL comfort in the "security" I have found in the world. Man, it sure does hurt to say that.