These, says Tim Keller, are core beliefs every preacher must hold about the Bible. But once a preacher holds these beliefs with a good conscience, how does he move on to produce sermons that draw his hearers into greater depth of biblical theology, greater passion for the lost and most of all, greater love for the God of the Bible and the Saviour who makes Him known? I think it’s not a matter of moving forward so much as digging deeper.
As I watched this short interview between Keller, Carson and Piper, I was reminded that there are no shortcuts in discipleship. Every now and then I run across a preacher who seems to approach his task with a sort of mechanical arrogance: do this, then this, then this, and, “Voila!” you have an excellent sermon! No. Wrong. Preachers are first and foremost disciples–sinners themselves, saved by grace and being transformed into the likeness of the One who saved them, as they look upon His glory revealed in the Scriptures they study. Discipleship is about learning. Learning to see the glory of Jesus as He reveals God in the pages of Scripture. And this glory threads throughout the pages of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, like veins of gold in mountain rock. But like that gold, it is not mined without digging for it. Continuing self-discipleship, for preachers, is hard work.
I loved the part in this video when Piper talked about having a new vision for the glory of God as the end of all things (taking the idea from Jonathan Edwards, The End for which God Created the World), and then the discovery of finding that thread all throughout the chapters of the Bible as he began to dig for it. Maybe then the most apt symbol for the work of a preacher is not the pulpit, but the spade? Or the pickaxe?