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Hypocritical preaching

A few weeks ago I preached on Deuteronomy 5 at our church. (audio. video.) It’s a fantastic passage where Moses takes the 10 Commandments, given to the first generation of Israelites out of Egypt, and applies them to the second generation. There was lots to say but I found what Moses does with the Sabbath command particularly interesting.

The first time the command is given, the reason to keep the Sabbath is because of creation – God set up the world that way. But in Deuteronomy 5, another reason is given – because they once were slaves in Egypt but now God had rescued them. There are a whole stack of things going on there but one reason for rest is because that’s what’s appropriate for redeemed people. Enslaved people don’t know rest; free people do. Resting is actually a sign that you’re a redeemed person.

I think this is super important for us to grasp. We can be so gripped by the urgency of gospel work that we neglect the important gospel statement that it is to rest. And by not resting, we can suggest that the God who set us free somehow can’t keep his world running without us.

Except, I am a terrible rester. Especially this semester. We have regular commitments 5 nights a week. It’s chaotic and there’s very little down time. And yet, I stood in front of our congregation and preached to them the importance of rest. What a hypocrite.

One of the tensions of preaching is that I rarely feel like a good example of what I’m exhorting others to do. More often, I feel like I’m just delivering the message and that I too am on its receiving end.

Some pastors talk about how the text has to change you before you can preach it. I’m going to put it out there: I read the passage, heard the call to rest and I still haven’t changed my busyness. It didn’t change me before I preached it. I heard it, but I didn’t do anything about it.

I don’t want to excuse my own sluggishness to repent. But nor do I think that preaching can only be done by those who have already learnt the lesson they’re preaching. I hate hypocrisy. I’m critical of others who do not practice what they preach. But I’m also one of them.

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

2 replies

  1. i so appreciate your honesty. ministers are the worst at bus-y-ness, especially on the Lord’s day. those calls to rest encourage me to keep at trying to find those moments of peace, but more than anything else they remind me that real rest occurs in eternity–with Christ forever.
    thanks for the blog.

  2. I don’t think you need to have it perfect to preach it, but you should be convicted into heading in the right direction… Careful you’re not saying “it doesn’t apply to me” – otherwise you are being hypocritical. How did you apply it to the congregation?
    I think there are seasons of busyness, but life shouldn’t be a season of busyness. Rest is about lots of things – I think Tim Keller puts it well in this sermon:

    He speaks of
    3 inner disciplines:
    + We have been slaves to insecurities, to saying “Yes”, to working… We take rest as an act of liberation that we are not defined by work, but instead in Christ
    + Rest as an act of declaration that Jesus is our Lord
    + Sabbath points to God’s work in rest. a discipline of trust

    5 External disciplines
    +Take regular Sabbath time. Hourly, Daily, Weekly.
    + Balance your Sabbath time. Do some:
    – Recreational things (enjoying God’s finished work, his creation); and Some contemplative things (do worship, tell yourself the story of who you are in Christ). Set time away from things that distract.
    – Some inactive things. Time to think about whatever thought comes, whatever feeling comes.

    +Be Accountable – seasons of overwork are understandable, but keep yourself accountable. Set limits on the length of time you will overwork for and stick to them. 6months? Don’t make this regular.
    – Inject Sabbath time into your week. Set fewer goals, take a risk in doing less. Trust God.

    + Embrace Community – help each other rest.

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