What a blessing when a sermon is a testimony. If the orator has had no living encounter with the material, the parishioners shift in their chairs. If God has done business with the man, we hang on every word. It astonishes. It comes with authority (Matthew 7:28-29). It surpasses mere textual knowledge as a road surpasses a map.
The testimony-sermon is the Word of God believed, then obeyed, then blessed in obedience, then reported to the congregation. It brings practical counsel from the crucible of personal suffering. It carries “the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:29), pushing into all dimensions. It lifts off the flattened page, from the realm of Idea to the realm of Incarnation in human affairs, providing entry points for God’s “kingdom come.”
I can tell when I am hearing a sermon on a doctrine that the speaker hasn’t experienced firsthand. It’s not that he’s lying. He himself does not realize; he believes that when he lays out a homiletically top-rate teaching, he has done all there is to do.
The sermon, as it leaves his lips, makes a hollow sound on the ears of the congregation, but no one realizes that either. It is homiletically top-rate and three-pointed. They know they should appreciate it if they are spiritual, so they believe they have been well-served. They say, “It was a good sermon.” If this goes on Sunday after Sunday, a vague melancholy sets in unawares.