One Hundred Messages

One Hundred Messages

100th Message

Today’s message is a bit different from others. Today, New Year’s Eve, is a natural time to reflect on the past year and what we want for the future. This is also my 100th message at First Baptist. I number my messages for my own filing purposes, and today’s is number 100! If you’ve never missed a message, and if my sermons average about 30 minutes each, you’ve’ heard me pontificate about the Bible and God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and sin and judgment for approximately 50 hours!

That’s 50 Sunday-morning hours when you could have been having coffee and reading the news, or playing games on your phone, or watching your kids play soccer, or taking a hot bath and relaxing with a good book. Many of you, however, have chosen to come here and listen to me up to 100 times, for many hours. Today we will look at why any of this matters.

Why do I spend 20 percent of my week preparing so I can get up here with a new message week after week? And why do you get out bed and shower and come to church while most people are still in their pajamas?

Today we will take the 30,000-foot view to examine why you and I and saints around the world and through time have made this agreement to meet together each week to hear the Bible preached

Wrong Answers

Before we get to why I preach and why you listen, we need to look at some of the wrong answers to that question. There are a lot of wrong answers, wrong motivations, and wrong thinking about why the writer of Hebrews encourages us not to give up meeting together.

For many people in the Builder and Boomer generations (those of you over 65), going to church was simply what you did. It was the right thing to do, and there was plenty of social pressure pushing you to attend. God expected you to be in church, and so you went. You didn’t want to be disobedient, PLUS you didn’t want others talking about why you weren’t in church; so you rarely missed. Social and religious pressure pushed you to be a committed church attendee.

In the past 30 years or so we’ve seen a shift in why people feel compelled to go to church and also in what pastors try to provide people through the message. This new strategy to grow the church was called being “Seeker Sensitive,” and it centered on the life of the new attendee. People were willing to attend so they could learn how to be better/happier people with a better/more successful life and family. Jesus, of course, was served as part of that solution. I’m sure most of you are aware of this approach. Sadly, the church who led the way in the Seeker Sensitive movement did a study about ten years ago and reported that the entire approach failed to lead more people to a transformed faith in Jesus.

Finally, there’s another group of people who give church a try, typically for just a couple of weeks, and then they stop. It’s those people who are going through massive trials or struggles in life. Their world, their marriage, or their family is falling apart. They hope that somehow, if they show up at church, God will fix their crisis. Occasionally these people find God and find the right reasons to come to church, but they often stop coming after a few short weeks because either: (A) their issue resolved itself, so they don’t need to appease God any longer: or (B) God didn’t fix the issue quickly enough, so now they are moving on.

It’s important for us to recognize the wrong reasons for coming to church because sometimes we mistakenly invite people to church along these premises and it always backfires.

  • We apply social pressure: “You know, you really should get back into church.”
  • We offer a promise of a better life. “You should come listen to our pastor. I always feel happier after listening to him.”
  • We suggest a crisis fix: “I’m sorry to hear about your marriage. You should try coming to church with me. It can’t hurt.”

Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve said these very things before, I’m not shaming you. I’ve said these things. Sometimes they do get someone to come to church and that person has a life-transforming encounter with Jesus. Often, however, we promise that attending church will deliver something that the service, with its time of singing and the sermon, was never meant to fulfill.

So what makes these reasons for coming to church all wrong? They are all focused on the individual. They are all self-centered.

Church is All About God

The one true reason any of us should seek to come to church is to meet with and glorify God. There is something truly special when God’s people gather together to sing praise, to pray, to take communion, and to listen to God’s Word together. In this holy space, God –  the transcendent God who is above and beyond anything our minds can even imagine – comes down through His Holy Spirit and speaks to us. He knows our hearts, our fears and worries. He knows what is going to pop up in the coming days and what He needs to prepare us for.

All of us, recognizing our sin and our unworthy state, bring to God hearts of gratitude, thanksgiving and worship because of His gracious gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and His presence among us.

Coming to church on Sundays to sit with your church family is about something much bigger than you. It’s all about God and His glory. As you sit in His presence you will find yourself changed.

The Purposes of the Sermon

Now you know the wrong motivations for coming to church or inviting people to church, AND we all understand that these services and gatherings of this church family each week are all about God and not ourselves.

With this backdrop, let’s discuss the purpose and goals of these 100 messages I have shared with you over the past two-plus years. If coming to church is all about God, then why is listening to me speak for 30 minutes each week part of the deal?

To answer that question, here are the three goals of preaching most preachers have.

Inform Your Mind with Knowledge

The goal is to teach about God, ourselves, and our relationship to God – to increase your appreciation for who God is and what He has done. You need to know what His character is and all He has accomplished for you. That often also means understanding how you fail to measure up to His perfect character.

It’s more than just wrapping our minds around some philosophical ideas. The Romans of Jesus’s day were huge fans of waxing eloquent about the gods, but that wasn’t leading to any life transformation. Christian preaching, however, had (and continues to have) a specific knowledge goal.

1 Corinthians 1:20-2320Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified . . . .

God’s wisdom and the knowledge I try to share with you is much different from what the world tries to teach. The main difference is this: the world’s teaching is all about how you are the center, but Christian teaching puts Jesus and His crucifixion at the center of everything. We see this even in the Old Testament from prophets like Malachi.

Ignite Your Heart to Love

This new knowledge should lead you to a greater passion and love for God and for others. Knowledge locked in your mind never changes anything until it moves to your heart. Then your attitude changes. The way you see God and others completely clips. God becomes greater. Others become more lovable. That growing love inside you is a key aspect of what God wants for your life.

1 John 4:7-87Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

John isn’t telling us to get our doctrine straight. He is telling us to get our hearts straight. In fact, later in this passage he says that if you don’t love others then you clearly don’t love God.

What you love will determine where you focus your time and energy. Your passion will be either for God and generously serving others, or for the countless distractions of life. My hope each week is to focus your hearts more and more on God.

Inspire Your Will to Action

If your heart for God is growing, your willingness to follow Him and His teachings will grow as well. Simply knowing the doctrines about God and loving God for what He has done leaves your Christian life incomplete. In the relationship with God we have the opportunity to respond through actions.

James 1:22-2522Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 

To be clear, we can never earn God’s favor; but at the same time, receiving God’s favor and failing to respond to it demonstrates that we simply don’t care much about God. It proves that our love for Him is limited.

Instead, we are called to be doers of the Word. We are to take action. When we listen to a message from the Bible, it should motivate us to do something in our lives differently. That’s the outworking of a transformed life.

How Are We Doing?

Those are my three goals when I get up here to preach each week. Some weeks focus more on one of the three goals than on the others, but each week I want to teach you something new about God, ignite your heard with greater love for God, and motivate you to do something differently in obedience to God.

That’s my job. But you have a job to do as well. You must engage with the message. You must be more than hearers. You must listen and think and process the information. You must decide if you believe what I am saying. If so, you must be willing to let the truth transform your way of life.

I’ve stood up here and given 100 messages. Did you allow any of those to move you? Did your love for God grow? Were you willing to try changing a behavior or growing in generosity or any other way of letting your light shine for God.

God Speaks Through Me (and Donkeys)

Again, I’m not trying to call any of you out today. We’re just keeping it real and evaluating our unwritten agreement that I try to inform, ignite and inspire you and hope that you, in response, allow God’s Word through my lips to transform you.

Here’s the secret to this dance between my preparation, my typed-up notes, the words that actually come out of my mouth, and what you hear me say. This can sometimes take a wild turn, not because we get it wrong, but because God gets it right. What makes preaching powerful is that it is carried along by the Holy Spirit inside you and me. I love to quote from Hebrews 4 that the word of God is alive and active.

What makes preaching powerful is that it is carried along by the Holy Spirit inside you and me.

Sometimes, off the cuff, I say something silly that was never in my notes but is exactly what one of you needed to hear. It’s not because I’m clever or super in-tune to your emotional needs. It’s because God knows each of you better than you know yourself.

Sometimes I say “1-2-3” and then, after the service, one of you tells me how my point about “3-2-1” completely ties into your life. In your listening, the Spirit of God takes my words and lets them hit you in a unique way that speaks to your situation.

This is what makes coming to church and listening to messages from a real preacher (who actually knows you) makes a world of difference. There is something sacred and spiritually alive between the preacher’s message and the audience that makes it different from listening to a lecture or a TED talk (Technology, Entertainment and Design) on YouTube.

Just as I’m not trying to shame any of you, I also am not trying to puff myself up. I don’t have the inside track on the oracles of God. Everything I’m saying about preachers can be applied to most pastors and preachers. In fact, a verse that makes me feel most confident about my limited vocabulary and my frequent inability to find the right word is this statement by the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 2:4-54My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

I have addressed and taught about a lot of different topics, doctrines and applications over these 100 messages. Some weeks what I say might hit you square in the chest. Other weeks may feel like a miss, while the person sitting next to you tells me how they needed to hear that exact message. Regardless of the week – and regardless of my craftiness of a three-point sermon with all the points starting with the letter “I” – the power of God is what we should expect to experience when we come to church.

Unfortunately, from your view, you don’t always get to see and hear how God works through the series and messages He helps me shape and deliver. However, I love standing outside these doors after each service and hearing evidence of how God speaks to specific people from week to week. Each Sunday I walk out confident that God was able to take my feeble offering and turn it into exactly what you need to hear.


So that’s why I do what I do. Although I sometimes say something silly like “Malachi isn’t a very sexy book,” God has proved that He can speak even through the mouth of a donkey! So I remain faithful with these three goals in mind: to inform your mind, to ignite your heart, and to inspire your will.

If you were wondering, here’s how it works out today. Following are my goals for this message.

  • Inform – I want you to understand why going to church on Sundays is important.
  • Ignite – In showing you God’s part in the process, I want you to have a greater love for the God who actively speaks to you the words you need to hear – sometimes words no one else hears the same way.
  • Inspire – Ultimately I hope this encourages you to continue to make coming to church an important part of your 2024. Give God the opportunity to speak to you.

I don’t ever want to guilt you into coming to church, nor do I want to make the message all about you and how your life can be better.

YOU are not the center of this world. God is.

YOU are not the center of this world. God is. And so we should all be focused on understanding Him, loving Him and obeying Him. As we seek to know God more and to love God more, the fruit of our time spent with Him is that we will look more like His son, Jesus Christ. Isn’t that exactly what this world needs more of?


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