Below is a summary description of Pastor Keith’s convictions on sermons that guide his preaching.
A sermon must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Any words that come from my mouth are worthless without the Holy Spirit illuminating the heart of the hearers. Only God is able to convict, convert, and illuminate to bring about new life through the gospel. A sermon is not a rational exercise; it is a spiritual experience as the Spirit uses the rational thoughts presented by a preacher. The only hope a pastor has is that the more he faithfully proclaims the Word, the more the Spirit will illuminate it.
A sermon presents and explains the meaning of the text so that the author’s main point is the main point of the sermon. Some texts need more explanation than others. It is okay to find texts that address certain topics, but sermons are not the place to ask a question and compile texts to give an answer. An example of a proper topical sermon is choosing Romans 6 to preach a sermon on baptism or Psalm 13 on suffering.
A sermon declares truths about God. The goal is to have a better understanding of who God is and who we are in light of his grace and/or holiness. The hope is that as God is lifted up, all will be drawn to him. Martin Lloyd Jones described a sermon as bringing heaven down for the congregation so they experience God. Another theologian described it as dragging the church up to God with you so they see a better vision of God. Both metaphors provide a different, but correct, perspective of what preaching is supposed to accomplish.
A sermon presents the gospel from the particular texts of Scripture. If Christ and his work for us are not central to the sermon, it is not a Christian sermon. The goal is to reveal the particular sins and fallen conditions that are clear in the text, and then apply the gospel to these specific sins. The gospel provides comfort and forgiveness, as well as direction for how to live according to God’s truth. Application cannot be a list of what to do’s or what to be’s. Rather, the sermon must lead the believer to reflect upon their sin in light of the cross so their love for God grows. Christianity is not moralism, it is God’s grace and mercy confronting our sin and conquering it.
A sermon includes a variety ways of applying the texts. This means addressing behaviors, actions, habits, thoughts, reason, desires, and emotions. The whole person needs to be addressed. It also applies the texts to different walks of life: children, parents, spouses, employers, employees, retired, etc.
A sermon presents the gospel to non-Christians. This is the evangelistic ministry of gospel preaching. It also models gospel proclamation for the church.
A sermon presents the gospel to Christians. This makes sure believers are challenged with how Christ’s work confronts their self-righteousness and sin.