By John Blase
Three points and a poem. That was the go-to structure of most of the sermons I sat through in my youth. The preacher (I grew up Baptist, and Baptists have preachers) would find three main points, or hooks, in a passage, and hang his thoughts on them. Then he’d select a few lines from a poem as a sort of wrap-up to everything. These lines were the coup-de-grace, the mercy blow designed to cause us to engage in self-examination, and respond publicly and accordingly during the invitation (a.k.a, tons of verses of “Just As I Am”).
I guess the Baptists stole this sermon approach from Stephen though. Just so you know, Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 was his last, his coup-de-grace designed to cause the listeners to look at their hearts. They did, then picked up stones and killed the young preacher, just as he was.
Here’s the outline of Stephen’s sermon.
- THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND (WELL, IN 400 YEARS) – As Stephen started his sermon (and it was a doozy), he went straight for the jugular. He talked about how prominent the LAND had become in the mind of his audience. To be fair, Israel had to wait a long, long, long time for the land God had promised Abraham. But the land became a “thing” overshadowing the Giver of the “thing.” In other words, the land had become an idol. This did not sit well with God.
- WHO’S YOUR DADDY? – Near the end of those long 400 years, the children of Israel got sloppy and blurred their worship of the one, true God by constructing TEMPLES for the many false gods of war and sex. Those temples took on the nature of a “thing” or idol. God their Father wasn’t pleased with this behavior, but He let them continue on and suffer the consequences of their wandering.
- EYES BUT DON’T SEE – Interestingly enough, the Israelites had a tabernacle of the covenant LAW with them all that time, built to the exact specifics God had provided to Moses. And while for a season it did represent the presence of the Almighty, it was not the Almighty. It was a “thing” that eventually became an idol, and we know God demands no other gods/idols/things before Him. In fact, that was the very first line written on the tablets of the Law, they just couldn’t see it.
DON’T FENCE ME IN (closing poem; use expressive voice)
However, the Almighty does not live in houses made by carpenters or masons, never has, never will. As the poetic prophet wrote:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things?”
Let us pray.
Written By John Blase