If you’ve lived long enough and have attended church most of your life, you are likely to have heard – or preached – a couple of thousand sermons. No doubt the vast majority of them have passed out of your memory. But perhaps one or two stand out as being especially significant.
As I was thinking back through my own experience, I can recall preachers, but I don’t recall the exact content of their messages. For example, I can recall listening to a sermon on Old Testament prophecy by Dr. Renald Showers, a professor at what is now Cairn University in Langhorne, PA. I will never forget how he masterfully explained and connected prophecies from the Old Testament, even though I can no longer remember the exact point he spoke. I remember another rather well-known guest speaker who delivered a canned message and did his best to get out of the church and move on. Again, I have no memory of his content, just his demeanor.
On a more humorous note, I also remember a night several decades ago when we had what experts later called a “once in 500-year storm” that dropped an incredible amount of water in our area. Houses were destroyed, cars were floating away – it was a mess. But my father-in-law was determined to have the evening service, not realizing the nature of the storm we were having. Being an old-school Dispensationalist, he was preaching a series on the dispensations on Sunday nights. I can remember manning the phones in my office as people were calling the church, and my friend Dale came to tell me that he had just talked with his wife and the water had completely filled their basement. Another inch and it would have spread into the main floor. Dale’s line is one I’ll never forget. While he loved my father-in-law, he was absolutely incredulous that we would have a service in those conditions (by candlelight since the electricity was out) and said, “I can’t believe it. My house is flooded and he’s preaching on the dispensations!” Ha ha – I still laugh at that.
But those are memories of situations more than memories of the content of a sermon. Probably you have similar memories where you don’t remember what was said, but you remember something about the circumstances.
The sermon I remember most might not have been an actual sermon, but I’ll label it as such. I believe it was 1998, and I was attending the Shepherds’ Conference that John MacArthur hosts each year. There were some great speakers, but the one that stood out to me then (and now) was Dr. R.C. Sproul.
He was planning to speak on one subject but someone suggested last minute that he speak on the subject of justification by faith. He brought two masterful lectures/sermons on that subject during the conference, and I’ve listened to them at various times throughout my ministry with great benefit.
What made those sermons so powerful was that I had never heard the doctrine of justification by faith presented with such clarity. He surveyed the Roman Catholic view, contrasted it with the historic Protestant view, and in the process opened that wonderful biblical truth to me in a way that no one had ever done. I had a Bible College degree and had been a pastor for 20 years at the time, but no one before or since approached that subject with the expertise and simplicity that Dr. Sproul did in those two talks/sermons.
I am writing this on October 31, 2019 – Reformation Day. Most of our culture has no idea of the real significance of this day. And to be honest, I wonder if most of our people have a real grasp of the doctrine of justification.
Dr. Sproul never knew it, but those sermons had a profound impact on at least one pastor in attendance – me. He helped me do a better job of explaining the doctrine to my people, and of understanding what it meant for my own life. For that I am eternally grateful.
I’ve looked for the sermons online, but the Shepherd’s Conference media only goes back to 2001.
Can you think of a watershed sermon or two in your own experience? Why did it make such an impact? And have you thanked God for the man he used to bring that message, and what it’s done for your ministry?