Sermon Starters

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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Fourth Sunday In Lent

Option #1: “Misunderstanding Among the Servants
Matthew 20:17-28
Rev. Wayne Dobratz

"What’s in it for me?" The question reeks of those who seek power and glory. You’d think that those who had walked and talked with the Master for years would understand the nature of His Kingdom and what serving in it entails. But today’s text tells us about: A MISUNDERSTANDING AMONG THE SERVANTS.

I. About Jesus’ Kingdom

       A. It is about blood, sweat and tears–John 15:14-16, Matt 16:21, 17:22, 23, 17:22-23; 26:2

       B. It is not about earthly glory–Ps 22:1-31; Isa 53:1-12; Mk 14:64ff

II. About when the glory comes: "We want you to do whatever we want–sit at your right and left in your Kingdom."

       A. Not in this life–Mk 14:36; Lk 12:50; John 18:36; Acts 12:2; Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; John 1:9

       B. But in the life which is to come, as a reward

             1. For faithful service in following Christ’s example–Col 3:1-4; Lk 22:23-25; John 10:15ff; John 13:12-17; Gal 3:13-14

             2. The glory that is promised–Prov 4:18; Dan 12:3; Matt 5:10-12, 10:41; Col 3:23-24; Rev 22:12

The Teacher’s Commentary reminds us: Instead of "exercising authority" as a ruler who demands and enforces conformity, the Christian leader is to abandon coercion. Jesus said firmly and plainly, "Not so with you." Force, manipulation, demand—all are ruled out in the way by which the servant leader exercises Christian authority. Outward force can produce conformity, but it can never produce that inner commitment which moves people to follow Jesus. How, then, does the servant lead? By serving! The secular ruler speaks the commands, but the spiritual leader demonstrates by his example the kingdom way of life into which he is called to lead others. No wonder Peter picked up this same theme and wrote as an elder to fellow elders, "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3). By serving, the Christian leader demonstrates the greatness of the love of God, and gently motivates others to follow him. "Whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:27-28).

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Option #2: "Condemnation, No—Confrontation Yes!"
Romans 8:1-10
Rev. Kelly Bedard

A. No Condemnation

       1. Grace misunderstood as only forgiveness and absence of condemnation

       2. Grace is much bigger than just forgiveness; theologically, it is unmerited favor

a. God is for us and not against us. He is on our side and desires good for us and not evil.

             b. His favor cannot be earned and, even if it could be, we do not have the means with which to earn it. We cannot merit it. Therefore he will freely give us things we cannot provide for ourselves.

B. "Yes" Confrontation

       1. Confrontation as a way to help people know their need, to get someone to see his/her inability to change and to see his/her need for help

       2. Reality consequences and discipline

             a. Too often in the church we protect people from the harsh realities of logical consequences that would force them to see their need for grace and what it can provide. Either we feel sorry for them and bail them out or we fear them and kowtow to them.

             b. Sometimes our "helping" may keep people from experiencing the tough realities that will ultimately lead them to the grace they need.

(This outline is taken from How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth
by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Zondervan, 2001)


1. "I think I get it. The ministry I used to go to was into winning, and you guys are into losing!" (John, a therapy patient)

2. "To encourage a powerless person to try harder is one of the worst things you could possibly do." (Cloud & Townsend)

3. katakrima (v1): damnatory sentence, condemnation

4. eleutheroo (v2): make free, deliver; set at liberty: from the dominion of sin

5. "The great danger faced by the church today is not that of 'secular humanism' but that of 'religious humanism'—seeking to serve God and to please Him in the power of our own flesh, rather than 'according to His Spirit'." (Robert Deffinbaugh)

6. There once was a girl who was the daughter of one of the royal families of Europe. She had a big, bulbous nose that destroyed her beauty in the eyes of others—and especially in her own eyes. She grew up with this terrible image of herself as an ugly person. So her family hired a plastic surgeon to change the contour of her nose. He did his work, and there came the moment when they took the bandages off and the girl could see what happened. When the doctor removed the bandages, he saw that the operation had been a total success. All the ugly contours were gone. Her nose was different. When the incisions healed and the redness disappeared, she would be a beautiful girl. He held a mirror up for the girl to see. But, so deeply embedded was this girl's ugly image of herself that when she saw herself in the mirror, she couldn't see any change. She broke into tears and cried out, "Oh, I knew it wouldn't work!" The doctor labored with that girl for six months before she would finally accept the fact that she was indeed different. But the moment she accepted the fact that she really was different, her whole behavior began to change. (Hal Lindsey)

7. "A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing; nor fear with Thy righteousness on, my person and offerings to bring: the terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do; my Saviour's obedience and blood Hide all my transgressions from view." (George Spurgeon)

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