Contrast For Clarity
A preacher’s job is to help people understand. Understand the meaning of a biblical text and understand how it applies to them. Oftentimes, especially if you are preaching to “churched” people, biblical truths being proclaimed are nothing new to the listener’s ears. They’ve heard it a million times before. Familiarity with a truth, however, does not mean the truth is being applied and practiced.
When your people know the truth but are far from applying the truth, contrast. Contrast what the Bible means to what the people are actually doing. Help them see, in other words, that though they “know” the truth of the text, they are far from really understanding it and/or applying it. Use phrases such as, “Now, what I don’t mean is . . . ” Or, “If this is true (a biblical truth), then why do we do . . . ?” Or, “If _______ is the result of this biblical reality, then why aren’t we seeing _______?” Contrast what the Bible says and what the people who know the Bible to say with what is actually happening and being emphasized among the people.
For instance, recently I preached a sermon on the importance of making disciples of Jesus while making disciples with Jesus. The majority of the room weren’t phased by that declared truth. They knew and agreed that this is precisely what the Bible teaches. Being that it was the Sunday prior to Vacation Bible School, however, I asked (in light of the purpose of the sermon) what was the point of Vacation Bible School. What usually gets emphasized every year is the number of kids who “get saved.” Yet, I had just said the goal is about making disciples. I proceeded to say how if we see children pray a prayer, sign a card, and get baptized ONLY we have failed. Jesus never said go and make converts. He didn’t say to follow Him and He would make Christian converts. The goal is to make disciples who make disciples. From there I helped show how the goal of making disciples changes our approach to Vacation Bible School.
In your study, think through how your people will hear the truth(s) you aim to communicate. If it is something they know to be true, but aren’t yet applying it, contrast. Contrast what the Bible teaches to what they are doing. Contrast what the Bible says to what is normally understood. Contrast what the Scriptures are clear about to what culture demands. Contrast biblical results to your congregation’s results. In other words, contrast for clarity.