Faith Comes by Hearing
Following Jesus over a lifetime means there are people, books and sermons that deeply shape you. I became a Christian in the Fall of 2008 as a Freshmen at college. Quickly I discovered in myself a hunger to learn more about God. As an engineering student I didn’t have much free time to read, but I did have time to listen to mp3’s as I walked to class. And so began my habit of listening to Christian sermons, lectures, conference messages, Podcasts, etc. during my free time
Those moments of hearing God’s Word explained as I strolled across campus to Calculus II changed me. In an attempt to help my wonderful church family at North Bay better understand me, I thought it beneficial to compile a list of some of the most important sermons and lectures that I’ve heard. But a quick word of caution.
The best sermons you will ever hear, and the best sermons I have ever heard, are the ones you hear at the church you are a member of.
Peter tells elders in 1 Peter 5:2-3, “2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
Only your pastor serves “among” you, no celebrity pastor can do that.
Pastor John Beeson explains, “I love that little word “among” in verse 2. That word separates me from all of the better preachers and teachers of God’s Word as it relates to you. I’m among you. I’m a fellow sheep in this local flock of God. And he’s gifted us with each other. You bless me with the many ways God has gifted you, and I promise to do my best to bless you with the best of how God has gifted me.”
That is why, the best sermons you will ever hear are the ones you hear in your church. The best sermons you will ever hear will be spoken by men who will never publish books and never speak at conferences. But the best sermons you will ever hear will be spoken by men who know you and love you.
This annotated list of the almost best sermons I’ve heard is unapologetically idiosyncratic and the order is entirely arbitrary. By no means do I believe everything represented by each person on this list, in fact in a number of instances people on this list believe contradictory things (e.g. credobaptism vs paedobaptism)! At some point I hope to compile a similar list of books and articles that have formed my life, but for now we will stick with audio.
So for what it’s worth, here is an annotated list of the almost best Christian messages that have shaped my life and philosophy of ministry.
- Ligon Duncan – The Underestimated God (Sermon) – LINK
- Powerful, moving, convicting and Biblical. Dr. Duncan offers a insightful exegetical and practical look at the discouragement of the prophet Elijah and his encounter with the prophets of Baal.. This sermon shook me when I listened to it, and I return to it every year. LISTEN TO THIS TODAY!
- D. A. Carson
- The New Perspective on Paul (Lecture Series) – LINK
- While in seminary at TEDS, I had the wonderful privilege of having D. A. Carson as my personal academic advisor and spiritual formation group leader. I was given the advice that when picking a seminary you should really be picking professors that you want to study under. D. A. Carson is the reason I went to TEDS. I wanted to study under him, learn form him and I was not disappointed. He has a passion for the gospel, for evangelism, and is academically rigorous. Even though I’m still intimidated by him, I count him a friend and mentor.
- This lecture series on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) is an exhibition of his scholarly brilliance, gospel centrality and exegetical precision. These messages get technical at times, but for anyone willing to wade through them they will repay rich dividends, especially his exposition of Galatians 2.
- The Cross Shaped Life (Lecture Series) – LINK
- This is a series of messages from Desert Springs Church in New Mexico. Dr. Carson, alongside Fred Zaspel, explains a Biblical understanding of the cross shaped life. The cross of Jesus Christ is foundational to the life of the christian, and we neglect it to our peril.
- How Long, O Lord? Steadying Our Soul in the Midst of the Storm (Sermon) – LINK
- The blood of the lamb silences the accuser. Enough said.
- What is the Gospel? (1 Corinthians 15) (Sermon) – LINK
- Believe the gospel, know the gospel, delight in the gospel, and never assume it or naively believe you move beyond it.
- J. P. Moreland – Skepticism and Epistemology (Lecture) – LINK
- As a new Christian, this lecture helped me begin to answer nagging questions I had about philosophy and the rational grounds for how we can know anything. Dr. Moreland is clear and engaging and makes philosophy accessible to just about anyone.
- Russell Moore – Too Quiet a Riot: Why It’s Good News When Your Idols Fight Back (Acts 19:21-40) (Sermon) – LINK
- This was the first sermon I heard from Russell Moore, and wow can this brother preach! Dr. Moore is a master word smith and consistently illuminates the text of Scripture with fresh insight.
- Dallas Willard – How to Be a Morally Responsible Skeptic (Lecture) – LINK
- In a time when “skeptics” and “doubters” are often given a free pass to their skepticism, Dallas Willard holds their philosophical feet to the fire and shows that every person is responsible for their beliefs.
- Sam Storms
- Life in the Spirit (Sermon Series) – LINK
- Dr. Storms showed me how you can be a Reformed Charismatic, someone who believes in the robust doctrines of the Reformation, while also embracing the power and gifts of the Spirit. Word and Spirit go together and are complementary, they need not be pitted against each. What God has joined together let no man separate! This sermon series is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14.
- The Practical Sin-Killing Power of Christian Hedonism (Sermon) – LINK
- This message (along with John Piper’s book Desiring God), convinced me that the most effective way to kill the fleeting pleasures of sin is with the enduring pleasures found in Christ.
- Francis Chan – Prayer as a Way of Walking in Love: A Personal Journey (Sermon) – LINK
- Francis Chan practices what he preaches. This message put a passion in me to pray and to expect God for big things. May it do the same for you.
- Kevin DeYoung – On John Calvin (Sermon) – LINK
- John Calvin is a controversial figure, but someone who has deeply impacted me. DeYoung doesn’t whitewash Calvin, or believe he is above critique or error. But he rightly points out that there is much more to John Calvin than his doctrine of predestination. This message helped me embrace the centrality and power of the Word of God for ministry and made me appreciate Calvin even more.
- John Piper
- God’s Passion for His Glory (Sermon) – LINK
- I heard this message in 2009 during my winter break as a sophomore college student involved with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). It changed my life. The glory of God grabbed hold of me and has never let go.
- Holy Ambition: Paul’s and Yours (Sermon) – LINK
- At the same conference with Cru in 20009 John Piper gave this message about Paul’s “holy ambition” (Romans 15:18-24), which was his passion for missions that was rooted in God’s Word.
- Kill Sin by the Spirit (Sermon) – LINK
- In this message Dr. Piper powerfully exhorts Christians to “mortify” (i.e. kill) their sin by the power of the Spirit. This sermon was a wake up call to me to pursue holiness.
- The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God (Sermon) – LINK
- I heard this message live and in-person at the T4G conference back in 2016. Here is one excerpt that hit me between the eyes, “In Gordon Rupp’s assessment of Luther’s debate with Erasmus, he commented, “At the end of the day, Luther could maintain the great Anselmian retort: ‘Thou hast not considered the gravity of sin’” (Luther and Erasmus, 12.).“
- Sinclair Ferguson
- Studies in Sanctification (Lecture Series) – LINK
- With his characteristic clarity and Scottish accent, Dr. Ferguson explains the Biblical and Reformed view of sanctification. He avoids the errors of antinomianism on the one hand and legalism on the other.
- Six People You Meet En Route to Calvary (Sermon Series) – LINK
- Dr. Ferguson is a master at preaching biblical narrative, and this skill shines through in this sermon series. This would be a great series to prepare your heart before Good Friday.
- Sam Chan – How to Tell Your Friends About Jesus Without Becoming That Guy (Lecture) – LINK
- This is a wonderfully practical lecture about how to go about evangelism in our increasingly secular age. Sam Chan brings together a lifetime of personal evangelism and scholarly training to offer a compelling vision for sharing our faith. If this message pique’s your interest, consider purchasing his book that goes by a similar title – LINK.
- Tim Keller
- The Prodigal Son’s (Sermon) – LINK
- Totally changed my understanding of grace, sin, and salvation. I will never read the parable of the prodigal son(s) (Luke 15:11-32) the same way again.
- Blessed Self-Forgetfulness (Sermon) – LINK
- Personally, this may be the most impactful sermon by Tim Keller I have heard. His exposition and application of 1 Corinthians 3:21 – 4:7 is superb. True humility is not thinking less of yourself (i.e. “I am a loser, a failure and good for nothing!“), it is thinking about yourself less. Biblical humility is self-forgetfulness. This sermon was so popular that a booklet version of it is also available for purchase – LINK.
- Smashing False Idols (Lectures) – LINK
- Back in 2007 Dr. Tim Keller gave three lectures: Gospel Realization, Gospel Communication, and Gospel Incarnation. These messages shattered my conceptions of ministry, and gave me a fresh gospel-centered vision for how to live on mission as the church today.
- Hell: Isn’t the God of Christianity an Angry Judge? (Sermon) – LINK
- Keller always helps me understand the bible better, and his exposition of Luke 16:19-31 (the parable of the rich man and Lazarus) is no exception. This sermon is also a persuasive apologetic answer to skeptics who have objections about the biblical doctrine of hell.
- Perfect Freedom (Sermon) – LINK
- Gospel freedom is profoundly different from the “freedom” our world offers. This sermon (based on Romans 6) helped me see that, and helped me walk in gospel freedom.
- The Lord of the Wine (Sermon) – LINK
- The Wedding at Canaan (John 2:1-11) is an interesting moment in the life of Jesus, but after listening to this sermon i will never view it the same way.
- Real Friendship & the Pleading Priest (Sermon) – LINK
- Dr. Keller is a master at faithfully seeing Christ in the Old Testament. And this sermon on Genesis 18:16-33 is a superb example of Christ-centered preaching from the Old Testament.
- Does God Control Everything? (Sermon) – LINK
- In this sermon Keller does a masterful job holding in tension the Biblical teachings of God’s sovereignty, and human responsibility, while simultaneously showing how utterly necessary a knowledge of God’s control over all things is to the Christian life.
- For anyone interested in exploring more of Tim Keller’s sermons, consider diving into all of his FREE sermons that can be found here – LINK
- Greg Bahnsen – Van Tilian Apologetics (Lectures) – LINK
- Reformed Theologian Greg Bahnsen gave me a paradigm shattering look at apologetics and apologetics methodology. These lectures can get technical at times, but well worth listening to if you are interested in apologetics and apologetic methodology.
- Kevin Vanhoozer – In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship (Sermon) – LINK
- When I was in seminary at TEDS I had the privilege to study under Dr. Vanhoozer. He continues to amaze me with his theological creativity, biblical faithfulness and love for the church. This lecture offers a wonderful distillation of what C. S. Lewis taught about the imagination and the importance of the imagination for Christian discipleship.
- R. C. Sproul
- The Holiness of God (Lectures) – LINK
- Utterly changed my view of God and the importance of the holiness of God. R. C. Sproul is a master teacher who lectures with unusual clarity.
- Knowing Scripture (Lectures) – LINK
- As a new Christian I had a lot of questions about how to interpret the Bible (i.e. hermeneutics) and this series by R. C. Sproul was a massive help! His explanation of the difference between “explicit” and “implicit” interpretation still impacts how I read the Bible today.
- William Lane Craig – Debates – LINK
- Dr. Bill Craig may be the smartest and most gifted living Christian debater and apologist. Even though I hold to a different apologetic methodology (Van Tilian – see the Greg Bahnsen reference above), nevertheless his debates deeply shaped me as a new Christian. Dr. Craig taught me how to think clearly and logically. Because of Dr. Craig, I will always be on watch for the “genetic fallacy” and others errors in logical reasoning.
- Paul Tripp – Preaching the Gospel to Yourself (Sermon) – LINK
- I heard this message when I was in seminary and it completely wrecked me. This sermon caused me to rethink the grace of God and the role of suffering in pastoral ministry.
- Crawford Loritts – Enduring Faith (Sermon) – LINK
- Faith is not a one time act, it is a lifetime of persevering in our trust in God. Crawford Loritts is an amazing Bible preacher who is able to both engage your mind and stir your affections.
- Robert Smith Jr. – A New Beginning (Sermon) – LINK
- If you have never had the privilege of hearing traditional black preaching, then do yourself a favor and listen to this! This sermon by Robert Smith Jr. gave me goosebumps when I heard him preach it at seminary chapel.
- Gregory Thornbury – Cain, Abel, and Kanye: The Gospel and Pop Culture (Sermon) – LINK
- I heard a version of this message while at seminary and it got me thinking about the Old Testament story of Cain and Abel in a way I never expected. Whether or not you agree with Dr. Thornbury’s conclusions, he will get you thinking.
- Peter Williams
- New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts (Lecture) – LINK
- Dr. Peter Williams has the rare qualities of being both academically erudite and crystal clear in his communication that anyone can follow what he is saying. This lecture on the reliability of the gospels makes a powerful case that the gospels were not legends or myths, but base on eyewitness testimony. If questions of the reliability of the Bible interest you, consider reading his book Can We Trust the Gospels? – LINK.
- David vs. Goliath (Sermon) – LINK
- Preaching Old Testament narrative, let alone very familiar Old Testament narratives, is a big challenge. In this sermon Peter Williams demonstrates faithful exegesis and fresh application.
- Michael Reeves – Historical Apologetics (Lectures) – LINK
- I could listen to Michael Reeves lecture all day. He is crystal clear, witty and engaging, and has the unique ability to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of the historic christian faith. In this series Dr. Reeves surveys a number of the great church fathers (e.g. Augustine, Justin Martyr, etc.) and the role they played in defending the faith.
- John MacArthur
- Christ’s Call to Reformation (Sermon) – LINK
- Hearing Pastor John MacArthur preach on Revelation 1-3 convicted me to the core and reminded me of the indispensability of faith in Christ and repentance of sin in the life of the church.
- Sanctification and the Pastor’s Passion (Sermon) – LINK
- The passion for every pastor and team of elders ought to be the burden to see Christ formed in the people they are entrusted with (Galatians 4:19). This message realigned my pastoral passions and priorities.
- David Platt – Paralysis and Forgiveness (Sermon) – LINK
- With a group of pastor friends I heard David Platt preach this message in-person. All of us were moved and had a renewed vision for God’s heart for missions in the world. Listen with caution, because after listening to this you may find yourself on a plane to another country.
There it is. An entirely idiosyncratic list of sermons and messages that have left a lasting impact on my life.
I hope they can benefit you as much as they did me!