Will this sermon help my hearers understand this passage better? This assumes you preached a passage, which I would argue, is a prerequisite for biblical preaching. Explaining a passage means more than reading verses and their meaning. The passage must be explained within its context. This helps avoid misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Scripture. Taking a verse out of context (even when making a good point) is just as manipulative as a newsroom reporter broadcasting a short sound byte apart from an entire speech. In both cases, meaning can be easily manipulated.
Will my hearers know more about what the Bible says or what I think? In other words, what was the source of ultimate truth and authority for my sermon: God’s word or my ideas? Your ideas are important. However, use them to communicate Scripture rather than using Scripture to prop up your ideas. At the end of the sermon, will your audience be compelled to obey you or to obey God?
Does my message point to Christ as the ultimate fulfillment and hope for the passage? Every portion of Scripture directly or indirectly presents a sin problem that can only be solved in the redeeming work of Christ. Jesus said all of the Old Testament Scripture testifies of Him (Luke 24:27). The same is true of the New Testament. Since Christ is pinnacle and focus of all Scripture, it stands to reason that He should be presented as the pinnacle and focus of every sermon. That does not mean that a short evangelistic “add on” must be tagged on the end of each sermon. Rather, Jesus should saturate the entire message.
Will this sermon lead my audience to act in their own power or by faith? This question should help avoid moralistic preaching. Moralism is basically a “do right” message. There is nothing to differentiate a moralistic message from a secular motivational speech. Both urge the hearer to muster up their strength and do the right thing. However, the heart of the gospel lies in the fact that we cannot please God apart from faith (Hebrews 11:6). He must transform us and work within us. That is not to advocate a lazy or passive faith (which is not biblical faith). Instead, like Paul, our message must encourage listeners to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” (Philippians 2:12).
Have I removed everything that might distract from the message? Sermon preparation requires great amounts of editing and reediting. Much great information will be left on the cutting room floor each week. Remember, the point of your message is to present God’s Word. Anything that may distract from the message should be removed –even if it is interesting, intriguing, and appealing. Whether it is a really interesting story, a cool fact learned in Seminary, or a genius analogy –if it is likely to take away from the central message, let it go. Better to be simple and clear than fancy and ineffective.
Has this message moved my heart? As much as possible, preachers should resolve to not preach a message until it has moved their heart. We need what Jeremiah referred to as “fire” in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). What comes from the heart goes to the heart. You should preach the message to yourself so many times that you can communicate the message in one simple, but powerful sentence from your heart.