At the end of my first full year of seminary, after having moved away from our family and church family in Georgia, while sitting in our small apartment in Louisville, Kentucky on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I received an e-mail from my grandmother asking if we would like to go to Maui for a family vacation with our entire family—all expenses paid. It did not take me long to reply to that e-mail.

We arrived to an unbelievable family reunion in paradise. During that week, my dad and I would often go on morning runs together and talk. One such morning we went down this trail and took a route that was a fairly good climb up this hill. When we reached the top it was a stunning view of the ocean and shoreline of Maui. Off in the distance you could see the crater island Molokini and hundreds of feet below you could seek the jagged rock ledges that led into the pristine waters. As we stood there amazed at the beauty, we looked into the crystal clear water to see sea turtles swimming and humpback whales jumping.

As we looked below us, there was a lone man snorkeling on the remote section, and along the side of the cliff came a whale. They got really close and you could tell the diver was completely surprised by the encounter. He came up to the surface and screamed with joy and excitement. He had no idea we were anywhere around as we looked down from way above.

When it came time for us to return, we ran back down the trail and made our way back to our hotel. As we got together with our family, I continued to tell the story of what we encountered on the hill. It was a fairly difficult climb, but it was worth it. With all of the beauty and splendor, I had a hard time convincing everyone of how beautiful it was—so I finally said, “You just have to come with me and see for yourself.” The next day, we made our way to the trail and up the climb. To this very day my mother-in-law has not allowed me to forget how I convinced her to make that climb to the top.

As we got to the top as a group, it was a joy for me to experience that moment with the family. It was the closest thing to paradise on earth that I’ve seen. The beauty of the landscape, the shoreline of Maui beaches, the large cliff edges with jagged rocks that connect to the crashing waves below, the water, the sparkle of the sun across the expanse of the ocean, the birds, the turtles, the whales, and all of it was simply breathtaking. What I had experienced on the top of that hill—I was able to gather my family together and convince them to follow me up the hillside to see it for themselves.

In many ways, that’s what preaching is like each and every week. As I approached the doxology of Romans 11:33-36 this past week, at one point in the sermon I told this story about Maui and expressed to the church that I often feel this way in my study. It’s an amazing thing to climb to the top of these biblical hills and to see something far greater than the landscape of Maui—to see and experience the beauty and splendor of God. Each week I just want to grab the entire church and say, “Let’s go! Let’s climb to the top together. You will not regret it. The climb is worth it.” And then as we arrive there—I point to God and say, “Behold our God. Worship him!”

John Calvin described preaching as expository explication. It’s the Word of God carefully explained and applied to life. It’s the work of bringing to the surface the clear and true meaning of the Bible so as to be able to apply it to the life of the congregation. The Puritans would say, “Preaching is the primary ordinary means of grace.” It is the primary way in which God has chosen to make his truth known to the world and to his Church. The Scottish preacher James Stewart said the purpose of genuine preaching is “to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” [1] It was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who described preaching by saying:

What is preaching? Logic on fire! Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one. [2]

When the preacher climbs to the top of the hills each week in his study and is overwhelmed with the God he experiences through the pages of the Bible—it’s both his sobering responsibility and his joyful privilege to take the church to that point with him to see, hear, and know God in a much better way than when they arrived. William Perkins once said the heart of all preaching is “to preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.” [3]

As a member of your local church, understand the importance of listening and engaging in the sermon each week. Don’t be left behind as your pastor passionately seeks to take you to the throne of God to see him and be amazed by him each week through the pages of Scripture. The hard work of prayer, Scripture reading, and expository listening will serve your soul well and will bring about much fruit in the life of your family and local church for God’s glory. When the church learns the thrill of worshipping God through biblical preaching—the gimmicks of modern day light shows, movie clips, rock concerts, and all of the goofy trends will become boring and sad imitations of the genuine worship of God that comes through real Bible preaching.

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