It's High Time for "X-Rated" Preaching

by John Meador

We live in an "X-Rated" world. In other words, very little is censored. It is all hanging out there for everyone to see and experience. Explicit movies and pictures sell. Whether we're talking about sex, war, violence, or politics, people want the raw edition. They want to see what has been forbidden. They want to look, then decide for themselves whether it was good or bad. This is the world we live in-it is what it is.

How do you think "G-Rated Preaching" fares in such a world? I mean preaching that covers only the safe stuff. It is preaching that avoids the controversial issues of the Word, and preaching that tries to make everyone happy. In my estimation, this kind of preaching doesn't fare too well. It introduces a "blah" factor to the service, and it fails to equip people to deal with what they have to face every day. The church of the Sixties was criticized for not taking on the issues of the day. While the Vietnam war raged overseas, and the national response created division at home, the church seemed silent. While sexual freedom began its rampage, little was being said from the pulpits of our land about such things, even though the Word has much to say about each of those issues.

Did God give us a bland Bible that is ill-suited for communicating with a world hungry for answers? God forbid we think that! 

I believe it's time for "X-Rated Preaching." That is, we need to learn to preach with very little censored. Every word, every key thought, every nuance of the passage should be laid out for all to see and experience. Explicit preaching convicts! Whether we're preaching a text that speaks to sex, violence, marriage, or money, the attention of people in the congregation will be riveted to the Word as it pierces like a sword and cuts like a surgeon's scalpel.

"X-Rated Preaching" Has Several Elements:

It is eXpositional.  By that, I mean that this kind of preaching takes the systematic or general approach of going word-by-word, and verse-by-verse through a text, unpacking the truth-and leaving no idea out. When a preacher takes his people through a book, chapter, or text, he is bringing more than what he himself chooses to bring to the pulpit. He is bringing what the Lord has chosen. It is sometimes awkward, but never boring.

It eXposes the text in every way. It exposes the culture, the context, and the people to whom it was first written. It allows the text to come alive, with specifics and examples that rivet the listener to how God addressed the issues of that day. When we "honor the text," we keep from dumbing down the power of His Word. We prevent the practice of "steering clear" of controversial issues. We equip our people to take on the tough stuff, and remind them that God has something to say about nearly everything.

It eXegetes the words of the text. The words themselves have incredible meaning. Paul noted that "All Scripture is inspired (God-breathed)" (2 Tim. 3:16). Simply, this means that every single word God gave us was a carefully chosen word issued forth by the Holy Spirit Himself as He spoke through yielded men. To exegete the words means to take the direction of the message from the actual words and the actual text. People would far rather hear about what God says about the subject than hear someone say what they think God may have said. There is nothing blasé about "thus says the Lord"!

In the same way explicit pictures leave mental images in people's minds that stay with them for many months and years, the explicit images of the Bible are designed to help people remember what God has said and done. The original languages that we work with when we prepare sermons are languages that flavor and color words in far greater ways than our own modern language.  They create a vivid imagery that God intended His people to have.

For example, in preaching through the Book of Joshua, I brought our people to one of the most unforgettable images in the Old Testament. After crossing the Jordan, God asked Joshua to circumcise the entire younger generation, then called the place Gibeath-haaraloth, or  "the hill of foreskins" (Josh. 5:3). Take a moment to think about that one. I don't believe anyone in the congregation was dozing off when I unpacked that Hebrew name.  They were all pretty much awake and most of their mouths were open at the stark picture God Himself painted. And I'm really sure that those Israelites remembered. 

Now, I could have skipped that part, but what better image could be found to remind people of the importance of circumcising the flesh of their hearts before going forward with God? (I would have never, in all my creative life, come up with that word picture. But God did.) We should never be ashamed to speak about what God has written to us. 

My point is this. God's Word is filled with creativity, powerful word pictures, and is in itself the truth that people need.  When we are as serious about using it all as He intends for us to be, people hear, remember, and are transformed by the truth we preach. 

I challenge you today to make thorough, uncensored preaching your practice. By doing so, you honor God's Word for what it is-the all-sufficient Truth that sets men free.

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