What shapes you as a person? What shapes your moods, character, thought processes, personality?
Friends, coworkers and family play a large role in shaping who a person becomes. But besides people, there are a multiple influences that shape who you are, how you think and how you respond to the world.
Sermons I've heard at church and those I've heard online have played a large part in keeping me a functional, sane person. I attend church to hear a sermon. I am regularly inspired, challenged and engaged while hearing a sermon. I am reminded of ideas I "learned" 10 years ago, of things I thought I knew but forgot. To hear a pastor speak on who God is, what God's intervention in the world looks like and how God has spoken through the Bible helps to clarify things and keep some kind of existential sanity.
A sermon is (approximately) a 30 minute speech that a pastor gives every Sunday at church on a passage of Scripture or specific topic. A weekly sermon is similar to a lecture given at a university on a given topic. I treat some sermons like a lecture. I take notes and try to remember those one-liners that really inspire me or give me hope. For something to stick in my memory I must write it down and/or talk about it afterward. What has helped me internalize truths from the Bible even more is audio sermons which can be downloaded from church websites or on ITunes. This means I can listen to what the pastor has said more than once.
For over 10 years I've downloaded sermons online and listened to them through ITunes and Youtube. Audio sermons that I've downloaded have helped shape my character, moods, thought processes and personality. The sermons I've included below are 5 that I've listened to multiple times. These sermons hit on concepts that I want tattooed to my brain, which ultimately change who I am. (Unfortunately sermons do not get stuck on replay in your mind like a song on the radio.) They hit on topics that are important to me-----and truths that I easily forget. The Youtube videos by Brody Holloway and Greg Farrand are two that I uploaded off of my computer because they are not found online, like many sermons given. Piper and Keller are more nationally known pastors, whereas Holloway and Farrand are both based here in North Carolina. So here they are, my top 5 sermons that can be found online:
1. Tim Keller: "Counterfeit Gods"
Keller's sermon focuses on the human heart's tendency towards idolatry. Such a statement might seems archaic or cynical; but Keller clearly defines idolatry and how it relates to life in the 21st centruy. The sermon seems to be given on the University of Cambridge college campus in England, sort of sounds like a lecture with Q and A at the end. Keller shows how people have a tendency to idolize things both good and bad in a destructive way. Even the best of things can become idols. This is presented more of a lecture than a sermon, but has been crucial for me in understanding the "why."
Favorite quote: An idol is anything more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life or identity. . .An idol is something you love more than God or rest your heart in more than God. Therefore, idols are not bad things, they are good things which you are looking to---to give you what only God can give you. They are created things which you are looking to, to give you what the Creator, if He exists, can only give you. An idol can be career, family, children, spouse, achievement, some political cause, your own physical attractiveness, romance, human approval, power, comfort, financial security-----almost anything. And all of those are good things
Part of a pastor's job is to counsel people through hard times. This sermon takes common problem and then gives some specific answers. Tim Keller's "the Cross: the Way to Endurance" is one of the most insightful sermons on how Christians can respond to grief and hard times. Keller argues that the Christian should not become callous during hard times, despite the fact that it is easy to become stoic or unemotional towards difficulty in life. Nor should Christians believe that if something tragic happens that they should always appear happy or unphased. Instead that because he explains how Jesus understood what the world was like and grieved with those who grieved.
Favorite Quotes: "Look at Jesus. Perfect relationship with his Father. Perfect peace. No sin in his heart. And he is always crying and always grieving . . .Why? Because he is perfect. If you walk a perfect person through this world, that person is going to be more into grief. . .The less self-absorbed you are, the more you know you are loved, the more you know you are accepted, the more holy you are. The less you have to defend yourself of how bad life really is. And how mean people really are."
"Getting a gospel framework enables you to handle grief. In fact it enables you to really see what's out there, what's wrong with you, what's wrong with other people. You see the sadness, you don't have to repress it. . .You have to have hope to rejoice in--- in order to really be in the suffering, otherwise you have to get away from it. You have to wrap your heart around with little luxuries and rationalizations. You can't see things as they are. Christians grieve more than other people. Because we have something to rejoice in, we find in our sufferings, we really suffer. There is a sense that Christians have a capacity for sadness that they did not have before."
3. John Piper "Ask Your Father in Heaven" On Matthew 7:10
The best sermons help us know how the words of Jesus Christ apply to today. This is a sermon by John Piper who is excellent at explaining a certain passage of Matthew. He's an older man who gets passionate when preaches and has a unique way of stringing phrases together that are memorable. Piper goes into the detail of Jesus words in Matthew 7 at the beginning of this sermon and then near the end gives insight as to how this applies life today. I downloaded this sermon in 2007 and listened to it on my IPod as I worked at Branson's Auto Service while hauling tires. The part of this sermon that has stuck with me for years is where Piper argues that according to this passage we should view God as a good Father and trust God as Father despite what kind of experience we've had with our real earthy father. God only gives good gifts to his children and Piper explains how God hears our prayers. I can't help but want to pray more after hearing this.
Favorite quote: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” The repetition is meant to say, “I mean this.” I want you to do this. Ask your Father for what you need. Seek your Father for the help you need. Knock on the door of your Father’s house so he will open and give you what you need. Ask, seek, knock. I invite you three times because I really want you to enjoy your Father’s help."
"Don’t ever limit your understanding of the Fatherhood of God to your experience of your own father. Rather, take heart that God has none of the sins or limitations or weaknesses or hang-ups of your father."
4. Brody Holloway: "Romans 12 and An Attitude of Vengeance"
We often think that the best and most important words are written down in books, uploaded onto Youtube or documented in a movie. With sermons, they are not always recorded or so they are heard for a small number of people. This sermon by Brody Holloway about Romans 12 is one of the most practical sermons I've ever heard on life. I worked for Brody for over 4 summers at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters in Andrews, NC. He's had an enormous impact on my life as a pastor and a friend. This sermon was briefly on their podcast back in 2009 and 2010 when I downloaded it.
This sermon changed how I think about forgiveness completely. It is God's job to deal with other people, not mine. Brody's sermon simply goes over the idea that we should be quick to forgive others because it is God's job to do justice, not ours. In a nation that is incessantly talking about justice on a large scale (macro), Brody talks about what it looks like for us to allow God to be the judge on a mirco scale and not take justice into our own hands(micro).
"This might come across as a blanket statement------the single greatest hindrance to the holiness of the body of Christ in terms of the way we function in terms of the ways way build community, meet one another's needs, love one another, serve one another, the single greatest hindrance to that-----to be broad-----would be pride, individual pride. But to narrow that I would say that the way that pride often fleshes itself out is in an attitude of vengeance towards other people."
“God is more qualified to judge than you are.”
5. Greg Farrand "The Honest Compassion of Jesus"
Greg Farrand gave this sermon as the pastor of Spring Garden Community Church. Spring Garden is the church I attended during my first year of grad school at UNC Greensboro in 2010. Greg Farrand had the ability to phrase things in a way that stuck with me because he explained things like a literature professor and also included stories from his own person life (which literature professors rarely do). I believe that if you really become Christ-like and follow what Jesus taught us to live by, your relationships will become richer and more functional. One of the "evidences" of the truth of the Christian faith is that it gives cohesive guidelines on how relationships function. The faith pushing individuals to be more self-less and people-centered instead of self-centered. Farrand's sermon touches on this and explains this much more clearly than I can articulate. As I said earlier, the best sermons take the words of Jesus and apply them to 21st century American life. This sermon takes Jesus words on "the speak in your brother's eye "from Matthew 7:1-5 and how it applies today.
"For some reason we have a lot of compassion for people with physical handicaps. But how do we deal with people with emotional handicaps? With people who were neglected as kids or who weren't loved on well or maybe they never understood that they were worth anything. So when you go talk to them and say "Hey how are you?" and they say "Get out of my way" or are rude to you. . .That's an emotional handicap. How do you respond to that kind of person?"
(This quote will make much more sense if you read Matthew 7:1-5) "Jesus' assumption is that our default is that the real problem is other person. We think that "If they would just get it together, my life would be so much better. If they could fix this, if they could be on time, if they could not be a jerk, if they could just get secure. . .Then I would be OK." Jesus says "Wait. . .If you think that security, freedom and joy is dependent on that other person getting their life together---your life is in trouble. Let's back it up a step. Your default assumption is that whatever you are seeing in that other person, that is a speck of dust. You've got a 2x4 sticking out of your eye. They've got a speck of dust." His assumption is that you've got 1,000 times more problems than that person. Let's just say a speck of dust relative to a 2x4 is at least 1,000 times bigger. Jesus says 'You default assumption is that when you are a conflict and you are angry with some one your problem is 1,000 times bigger.' . . .You could say "But if you really knew my husband, you would not say that." Again, I am not saying that your spouse doesn't have a problem. They have a problem, a big one. Your friends have problems, your family members have problems, they've all got big lumbermills up in their faces too. But as long as your focus is on their lumbermill, you are going to be stuck in a patter of self-righteousness and bitterness. The way to freedom is to step back and realize that you've got a lumbermill up in your face. Acknowledge that. It's hard to, but first acknowledge that your problem is bigger than theirs."