Embracing an Expositional Life
What might the purpose be for me to preach this coming Sunday on how to be a good money manager? Or a more godly parent? Or an increasingly loving friend? What about navigating tricky relationships or forgiving those that have hurt you? What if that were my starting point? Start with a human need and move from there. What if I were to focus on all the different life skills that we all need? Those would be good, noble goals. And it would be easy to figure out what the purpose might be. It would be to be good at those things and glorify God in the process. It would not be wrong to do that. And it probably would be very helpful for daily living.
But you know what? It would be possible to preach on those things and do it in human strength by human wisdom. And live that way in turn as well. Obviously it's possible to do that with any text or topic. And it would be easy for anyone who heard me to become somewhat good at the skill and miss glorifying God, which is the most important consideration. The danger lies in focusing on ourselves first instead of God. When the focus is clearly on God and what he has said, then our lives can be ordered according to his desires.
On the other hand, what would the purpose be of preaching a sermon on a sermon preached in response to gross misunderstanding of God's purposes? 0GK. Only God knows. And that's what I'm working on for Sunday. I am praying and studying to discern the main point of Acts 3:11–26 so that I can faithfully, accurately, and engagingly preach it, trusting God to do a work in our hearts that only he can do. And do you want to know what's so amazing about this whole thing? In the midst of us hearing a sermon about Peter preaching a sermon to point people to faith in Jesus and repentance towards God, God can equip us to be more Christ-honoring servants of God and in the process, become better husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, brothers and sisters, workers and managers, students and athletes, or any other role we fulfill - all to glory of God.
It's about living expositionally. What do I mean by that? I mean we live in such a way that we read the word of God, grasp the explanation of the word of God, and then do what it says in God's strength. It is why it is so good to work through books of the Bible rather than just hopping around and picking and choosing. I might pick and choose what I think is good but when we go through a book we trust God to point out what he thinks is best. When I preach expositionally - reading, explaining, and applying God's Word – I am trusting our sovereign God to give me wise words that will point us to him and I am trusting him to use his word in our lives for his glory.
What precisely is the difference between topical preaching and expositional preaching? It has to do with starting points and ending points. If I start with my need topically I am more prone to focus on me and my needs being met. If I start with God's Word in context, then I want to know what he has to say and what his desires are. Obviously my needs get met in the process but they are not the primary concern, God's glory is. I might help meet a short-term need in your life and fill a stopgap role, while missing the point of the text and the greater topic of the glory of God and what exactly God wants to do in and through our lives via a particular passage of scripture.
Expositional living is living that is centered on reading the Word, finding out the explanation of a passage, and applying that to daily life. That is done in context of following Jesus and in the context of the particular passage. That should be a less self-centered way of living. It is very easy to jump around from need to need and text to text and just seek to have our needs met. Expositional living puts the focus on Jesus Christ and him crucified, risen, and returning. It sees the glory of God as our highest aim.