The preacher is constantly in the Word thinking about the upcoming sermon. Sundays come fast and the preacher has to be ready with “a word.” Mike Glenn says, “Sunday comes every 3 days.” It definitely seems that way. Because we preachers are always thinking about Sunday and due to the time crunch, it is tempting to use the text we are preaching for our own personal devotions. I don’t believe this is smart. Here’s why:
Personal Devotions are Personal. Sermons are for Congregations.
I’ve tried using Sunday’s text for my own personal time with the Lord. Invariably, for me, two things happen: (1) I default to what and how something needs to be said on Sunday; and (2) I think about how I hope “so and so” is there who needs this truth in their lives. I can’t help it. When I am thinking about the text I am to preach, I automatically think about how I need to nuance a word or phrase and who needs to hear it. It is incredibly difficult for me to critically and strictly think what the Lord wants to do in me as a result of the text. If this is the only diet I am giving myself from the Word, then my relationship with the Lord quickly becomes stale and dry. I become an expert in how the text applies to “them,” and never allow the Word to deeply penetrate me. If we’re not careful, the Bible can become a textbook for crafting sermons rather than the Word of Life for our souls.
I have to daily be reading through a portion of the Word that has nothing to do with Sunday’s sermon. This allows me to focus on how the Word applies to me and what the Lord is saying to me. A personal time with the Lord is personal. For me, I have a very difficult time separating Sunday’s text from what I plan to say in public. Walking through a separate portion of Scripture, personally, however frees me to let it get in my soul.
This does NOT mean I don’t want to apply Sunday’s truths to my life. Not at all. I do. I always – ALWAYS – need what I am preaching. I usually take Sunday morning’s to pray through the truths for my own heart and soul. This is in addition to the Lord shaping me as a I shape the sermon. However, for me to have an ongoing and personal relationship with the Father, I need to separate the two – devotionally. It is very difficult for me to divorce what I plan to say in public from what God seeks to do in me in private. Yes, allow Sunday’s text to transform you. But don’t let that be the only time you personally feed on the Word. Remember: Personal Devotions are Personal. Sermons are for Congregations.
What have you learned? Who else can shed light on this? Anyone able to do what I can’t? How do you separate the two?