Using Extreme Sermon Illustrations to Characterize the Human/Sin Condition.

Some say the truth hurts, the Apostle John says once you know the Truth, it will set you free. In the case of some sermon illustrations, both are true.

If you’ve been a visitor for very long, you know that I am passionate about God’s Word being preached or taught with effectiveness, and that I define effectiveness by a message’s glorification of God, fidelity to His Word, and impact on its hearers.

In that pursuit, I sometimes recommend using sermon illustrations that get attention as extreme examples of points being made. One such point is the disparity between the Holiness of God and the heart condition of fallen people apart from the redemptive work of Christ Jesus.

You no doubt know the types of Scriptural ideas I’m referencing.

 My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and my ways are not your ways,” declares the Lord.“ Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so my ways are higher than your ways,
 and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

The human mind is the most deceitful of all things. It is incurable. No one can understand how deceitful it is. – Jeremiah 17:9

From that time on Jesus began to inform his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem. There he would have to suffer a lot because of the leaders, the chief priests, and the experts in Moses’ Teachings. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be brought back to life. Peter took him aside and objected to this. He said, “Heaven forbid, Lord! This must never happen to you!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get out of my way, Satan! You are tempting me to sin. You aren’t thinking the way God thinks but the way humans think.” – Matthew 16:21-23

You get the idea.

In teaching on the subject, stories that get attention – even if they elicit disdain – can be powerful as perceptual foils to the goodness of God.

Two recent news stories are examples you might consider using.

The first is the story of a Canadian woman who is suing the family of two brothers whom she killed when she struck them while riding their bikes. She is suing the family of the boys she killed.

She accidentally killed the boys and injured two others after running them over with her SUV late at night. She is now suing the two boys and their families for $1.35 million for damages due to the post traumatic stress she has suffered since the accident, claiming the boys were incompetent cyclists.


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The boys’ father was quoted as saying, “I feel like someone has kicked me in the stomach.”

The reason the story received such notoriety is exactly the same reason it might make a powerful sermon illustration. That is, it is a tragic picture of the power of the human spirit apart from God to defy goodness.

The second story involves a woman who surrendered to police after surveillance video caught her stealing a stuffed toy from an infant’s grave, something she has apparently been doing for years. According to newspaper reports, the woman is also being accused of passing bad checks and unauthorized use of property.

Here’s the story.


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And you’ll see that video here:


Of course use such illustrations judicially so they do not have the effect of detracting from the central concept of your message.  On the other hand, when you want to get your audience thinking, they can be very helpful.