Why Did God Have Me Preach a One-Sentence Sermon?

by Roger Barrier

Hi Roger,
I am intrigued with your “One-Sentence Sermon.” I remember hearing about it but I was not there. I would like to hear the story and I’m sure others would too!

Dear Kathy,

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” said Jesus in Matthew 6:4. Anyone who desires to see and hear from God needs a pure spiritual heart.

Cultivating a pure heart involves not “grieving” God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Few things impair our ability to hear His voice more than a heart soiled by sin.

Cultivating a pure heart also involves not “quenching” the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We quench the Holy Spirit when we say “no” to His inner voice. Few things mature enhance our ability to hear God more than saying “yes” to His promptings. Saying “no” causes our inner spirits to shrivel, shrink and darken.

Most of us want a pure heart to see and hear God—at any price!

For many years Julie and I opened our home every Saturday night and invited anyone from our church family to meet with us for prayer.

One Saturday night I had a deep impression that God was saying to me, “Roger, in the morning, I don’t want you to preach your usual sermon. I want you to walk to the microphone and say, ‘It is not possible to be content in your sins and really be a Christian.’ Then walk off the stage.”

“That was strange,” I thought to myself—and promptly dismissed it from mind. Ten minutes later the same overpowering impression arose. I replied, “But, God, why would I want to do that? My sermon is ready to preach! It’s a good sermon.”

God said, “No. Tomorrow, I want you to walk to the microphone, and say, ‘It is not possible to be content in your sins and really be a Christian.’ Then walk off the stage.”

When the prayer meeting was over, I said to Julie, “The strangest thing happened to me tonight. I had this deep impression that God told me not to preach my sermon tomorrow.” I repeated His instructions to her.

She replied, “You’re not really going to do that, are you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Sleep came uneasily that night. I value my sermons highly. I never want to do anything stupid or desecrating or unholy during my preaching.

The next morning when the clock alarm sounded Julie’s first words were, “You’re not really going to do that, are you?”

“I don’t know.”

When I gathered with my staff for our early Sunday morning prayer time I thought to myself, “I’ll tell these folks what I intend to do. That way it won’t be a total shock.”

I sensed God say, “No, Roger. You may not tell a soul.”

The first service began. Soon, it was my turn to preach. I walked to the pulpit and said, “It is not possible to be content with your sin, and really be a Christian.” I walked off the stage. Our worship leader whispered nervously as I passed him on the way off the platform, “Where are you going? Where are you going?”

God said to me, “You can’t say a word.”

I walked off the stage, down the stairs, out the side door, around the church building, into my office, opened the door, went inside, closed the door, and fell on my knees and wept: “Oh God! Oh God! How could you do this to me?” I had humiliated myself.

Later I learned of the pandemonium in the worship center: “What happened?” “Did he retire?” “I think he had a nervous breakdown!” Finally, our worship leader led a couple of songs and dismissed the crowd.

I had to repeat my “performance” for two more services that Sunday morning. Everyone in the final service knew what was coming. But, I did my duty. I did what I felt God told me to do. I preached my one-sentence sermon.

I would like to tell you that hundreds of people came to know Christ as a result of that sermon. I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t know of a single soul who received Christ or whose life that was changed because of my one-sentence sermon. I can’t. I did not receive a single note or email about my actions that day. No one ever mentioned it to me at all. It was as if my one-sentence sermon never happened.

Several months after preaching the one-sentence sermon I heard God deep in my inner spirit explaining that my one-sentence sermon was for me—not for the church. Was I willing to hear Him speak at any price—even to the point of my personal humiliation (see Isaiah 20)? That sermon was not only a test, it was a time of strengthening and maturing my inner-most spirit. After all, I was praying to become a spiritual father at any price.

Of course, God does not ask every Believer to preach a one-sentence sermon. But, I do believe that Jesus Christ engineers multiple opportunities for His children to grow and mature dramatically by their positive responses to the speaking of His voice deep within.

Well, Kathy, that is the story of the one-sentence sermon. It was somewhat unusual; however, one of my preaching mentors would certainly have enjoyed it. He once said to me, “There is no such thing as a bad-short sermon.

For example, I’m sure that the people in our third service loved the one-sentence sermon. They were first in line at the cafeteria that Sunday!

Thanks again, Kathy, for asking the question. I hope it helps.


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