Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)
You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
When you think of a good sermon or Bible study, what do you think of? When you think of a solidly spiritual person, what comes to mind? In both instances, is your thought limited to the Scripture and those clearly written and revealed commands of God? Or, in your thoughts, to you slip to a sermon or event that takes people beyond the Scriptures and into the mystical?
It is significant that, in Moses’ reiteration of the law to the people of Israel before their crossing into the Promised Land that he so quickly reminds the people, at God’s behest, not to add to or subtract from his law. Why should the people not add to the law? Anything they add to God’s word is more than God said. Anything the people take away from the word of God is less than what God said. Thus, for the people to live in accord with their Lord, they must live in accord with the written word of God, no more and no less.
If this was true in days when the canon of Scripture, the authoritative and complete Bible, had not yet been put together, how much more true must it be of us today? If God told his people early on that they can only please him if they follow his commands, how much should we, who have the completed canon, recognize that God wants us to live in accord with and treasure the Scripture? We have the very words of God.
So, what makes a good sermon? It should be that a good sermon exposes you to and helps you to understand the clearly written commands of God. IF the sermon goes further, teaching you things that do not directly relate to the Scripture, you should be suspicious. If the sermon teaches you the same things that you could have learned in a secular psychology, management, or financial class, you should be concerned. Yes, the secular world sometimes stumbles upon truths that God has already revealed in his word; but we should be very careful to demand from our pulpits the clearly opened, clearly taught, and clearly applied word of God—no more and no less.
What about the question of who is a spiritual person? Let the same standard apply. If a person you know constantly claims to hear things from God that are not written in the word of God, watch out. If a person you know ignores the written word of God, watch out. Those who please the Lord are those who have such a high view of his word that they do not add to it or subtract from it. Those who would please God will study, meditate upon, apply, and obey his word.
Christians, we have been given a treasure in the word of God. Jesus told us that the one who loves him will obey his commands (John 14:15), and his commands have been written for us in his word. Jesus will not command us to do anything that is not already in his word. God has given us all that we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3), and we must live that Godly life in constant contact with the treasure that is the written word of God.