18 Sermon See-Saws

Preaching can be biblical without being balanced, without being biblically balanced. Biblical balance is extremely difficult to achieve because the preacher is so liable to imbalance. Factors which cause imbalance include:

  1. The preacher’s personality: happy or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, introvert or extrovert
  2. The preacher’s experience: the preaching he heard growing up, his conversion, professors, present trials
  3. The preacher’s models: the kind of preaching he is listening to
  4. The preacher’s preferences: academic, historical, practical, devotional
  5. The preacher’s gifts: may be very talented teacher but a poor evangelist
  6. The preacher’s fears: if I preach this then so-and-so will get mad, leave, etc.
  7. The preacher’s isolation: detached from the people, he becomes detached from real life.

A preacher is riding 18 see-saws all the time! He must balance between:

  • Old Testament and New Testament
  • Teaching Christians and evangelizing the unconverted
  • Young Christians and old Christians
  • Churched unbelievers and unchurched unbelievers
  • Old and young – different concerns and language
  • Conviction of sin and free offer of the Gospel, law and Gospel
  • Challenging the hypocrite and comforting the trembling believer
  • Narrative, doctrinal, practical, devotional parts of the Bible
  • The different persons of the Godhead
  • Ancient truths and modern life
  • Biblical illustration and modern illustration
  • Heaven and hell, promise and threat
  • Textual exposition and thematic teaching
  • Calm/quiet/slow and passionate/loud/urgent
  • Indicatives and imperatives
  • Helping to live now and preparing for eternity
  • Respecting tradition and reformation
  • God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility

How can you help the preacher achieve biblical balance?

1. Prayer: He has so many difficulties to overcome and so many balances to achieve.

2. Patience: Don’t judge him on one sermon but over a period of weeks and months. Sometimes he may have to be unbalanced to correct a problematic imbalance in the congregation.

3. Persuade: If imbalanced over the medium-to-long-term, try to gently and calmly persuade him.

8 Ways our View of the Bible Impacts Preaching

Nothing is more important for the long-term health of a Church than its preaching, and nothing more impacts preaching than a preacher’s view of the Bible.

1. The Bible is the Word of God

If we don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God, we will put human opinion and our own ideas on the same level as the Bible.

If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, we will treat it with reverence and respect. We will not dare to treat any other book or any human opinion on the same level.

2. The Bible is Inspired by God

If we don’t believe that every word of Scripture was inspired by God, we will not spend much time looking at the individual words in the Bible. We’ll tend to skim over the surface paying little attention to the details of the biblical text.

If we believe that every single word was breathed out by God, we will pause and study every precious Word of God.

3. The Bible is Perfect

If we don’t believe that the Bible is perfect and without error, we will set ourselves up as critics above the Bible rather than students under the Bible. By highlighting the Bible’s so-called “problems” we will weaken confidence in the Bible.

If we believe the Bible is inerrant, then we will stick with the Bible whatever any other source says. We will see “problems” in the Bible as problems rooted in our ignorance or misunderstanding. We will come humbly to this precious book and seek to learn as pupils.

4. The Bible is Sufficient

If we don’t believe that the Bible is sufficient in the areas it claims to be sufficient, we will not study it intensely for answers to questions of faith and life. Instead we will turn primarily to human wisdom.

If we believe that the Bible is sufficient for matters of faith and life, we will want to study every part of it, knowing that somewhere in this book is the answer to every question we need an answer for.

5. The Bible is Authoritative

If we don’t believe that the Bible is authoritative, we will not proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord!” Instead, we will venture our opinions, we will make suggestions, we will offer advice. We will put doctrine and ethics up for debate and discussion, especially in areas that cross our wills.

If we believe the Bible is authoritative, we will reflect that authority in our preaching – not with proud arrogance but with bold and courageous confidence in what God has said, just as Jesus did to astonishing effect (Mark 1:22)

6. The Bible is Clear

If we don’t believe the Bible is perspicuous (clear) then we will not preach clearly and simply. We will often use words such as “mystery” “difficult” “who knows?”

If we believe the Bible is clear in its message, then our preaching will be clear, simple, structured, and memorable. We will strive to be as clear and simple as possible even when our subject is the most profound subject or truth.

7. The Bible is Relevant

If we don’t believe the Bible is relevant, we will treat it like a historical document and speak in past tense third person. Or we will just preach the week’s newspaper headlines.

If we believe the Bible is relevant, we not begin with “What does this mean for me?” but “What did this text mean when it was originally written?” But we will not stop there. We will go on to ask “What is its message to us today?” If that was what God meant in that situation, how do I apply that to my situation today?

8. The Bible is Powerful

If we don’t believe the Bible has any power in it, we’ll study it little, preach it little, feel it little, and care little about the results.

If we believe the Bible is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, we’ll study it intensely, preach it passionately, feel it deeply, and look for/expect results (1 Cor. 1:18; Rom 1:16)


A high view of preaching can only exist where there is a high view of the Bible in the pulpit and in the pew.

Peter Enns On Raising Young Heretics

What should you do when your young child expresses doubt about the Bible, or even outright unbelief and skepticism?

When Peter Enns’ six-year-old son expressed skepticism about the talking snake and the deadly fruit in the Garden of Eden, Enns replied: “You don’t really believe in God anymore? O.K., well, tell him.” He went on to explain:

Over the years, I have been thankful to God that I didn’t correct my son’s theology, for that would have been utterly stupid. Had I shamed him or coerced him into saying the right thing (so I would feel better about my parenting skills), I would have been responsible for creating another religious drone, another one who, at a young age, was already learning to play the religion game.

I’m sure Peter Enns is a far better father than I am in many ways. And I accept that no one knows a child’s particular needs like their own father or mother. But I hope no one thinks that this is THE model for dealing with their children’s spiritual doubts and unbelief.

Humpty Dumpty
While we want our children to be able to discuss their questions, doubts, and even unbelief, with us and with God, we can’t treat this in the same way as doubting the Humpty Dumpty narrative.

“You don’t believe in God anymore? OK”


It’s not OK. It’s a sin.

But it’s wonderfully forgivable.

That’s why we don’t just tell Him our doubts and unbelief. We confess it. God will not give us or our children victory over any sin, including unbelief, unless we repent of it and ask for faith.

And to be proud of not correcting the devilish theology that naturally arises out of our children’s sinful hearts? Heresy is more fatal than heroin. And to lovingly correct our children and teach them to submit their proud intellects to God’s Word is not to coerce or shame them into hypocrisy. It’s to love their souls more than they do themselves. It’s to intervene so that young heretics do not become old heretics, but rather live by faith and ultimately die in faith.

I believe, help my unbelief
Yes, let’s encourage our children to be honest with God, to pray about everything, even their worst doubts; but to do so in a spirit of contrition and humility, and with the prayer that God will always answer: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”

How about something like this: “Well my son, I’ve had my own struggles with doubt over the years. Faith does not come easily or naturally to any of us. But to doubt God or His Word is a serious matter that we should always repent of. So, why don’t we lay this unbelief before the Lord in humble confession, and ask Him to forgive us, and also to give us the gift of faith that will enable us to believe in Him and every one of His precious words.”

Proud Unbelief
After reflecting on his son’s skepticism, Enns concludes: “I am proud of that little six-year-old, who trusted himself enough not to play games.”

“Who trusted himself enough?”

The whole message of the Bible is trust God and not yourself. To trust yourself is to play a deadly game that no one has ever won.

As Spurgeon once said, “The man who goes through life trying to be consistent with himself will find out in the end that he’s been consistent with a devil.”

Check out

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