Then if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There he is!” do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and great wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand…
2 Peter 3:3
knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
Today, it is so easy to access sermons, youtube, church libraries, church websites, etc. I’m sure if you look hard enough you could find a sermon that justifies almost anything you want to hear. But, just because a pastor of a church has said it, does that make it true? Of course not. How do you know if a pastor is a true prophet of God?
First things first, if you are looking for a sermon to justify your actions or opinions, your motives are incorrect and therefore, you will probably find what you are looking for but it will not be by the Holy Spirit’s prompting and therefore not of God.
This message is for those of you wondering which pastors you can truly trust.
Yes, you must look at the statement of beliefs and what he says about Jesus. (1 John 2:22)
Yes, you must look at whether he uses the gospel effectively. (Galatians 1:7)
Yes, you must look at whether his character qualities glorify the Lord. (Matthew 7:15-20)
These are all true, but I would like to go deeper into the components of a sermon you may not have noticed.
Motivation and Conviction
A pastor’s message should both convict you and motivate you, if you have one without the other, the pastor is not doing his job.
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus. whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?
A conviction is a harsh realization of your sin. When a pastor uses this in his sermon, it should be based on the word and left open for the Holy Spirit to drive the point home (which is why you get that “cut to the heart feeling”). It is not a comfortable feeling.
Without motivation, we do not experience grace, hope and a demonstration of love. We are left asking “what’s the point?” Often those who preach conviction without motivation, are too preoccupied with tradition to develop a deep relationship with God. They are seen as very negative, judging and hesitant to change.
Acts 2:38, 39
…And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children…
Motivation is hope. A pastor will use this to bring encouragement to his congregation and to show God’s love for us. We cannot fully understand hope, grace, and love without conviction.
A pastor who does not convict his congregation leads his congregation astray by promising prosperity when that is not God’s plan for us. It does not line up with our purpose. “And he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
A motivational pastor that is not willing to convict, will lift up his congregation with bible verses of encouragement. He will become very popular among us but he will develop a crop of misguided, fragile believers without a deep understanding of who God is.
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus. whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.
When you combine both conviction and motivation, you become aware of your sin, exactly how to overcome it and why. Through this approach, you will gain a deeper understanding of God and desire for His teachings. Through, Acts 2:36-39, I have demonstrated how conviction and motivation used separately are taken out of context and the true meaning is distorted but when added together, the full picture can be seen.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
God has called us to be uncomfortable, to take up our cross daily and follow him. He has not promised that it will be easy and he has not promised that we will see a reward for our choice on this earth. What He has promised though, is that it will be worth it.