In my preaching class, we talked about illustrations briefly and shortly after I read in our main textbook about them. Some striking things were brought to my mind’s eye, highly exalting the power of illustrations in my mind’s eye.
So as an exercise, I’d like to begin coming up with as many illustrations of texts as I can to exercise the muscle of imagination. I’ve chosen Romans 12:1-2 as a text for one of my sermons this semester. Here’s the text:
 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern waht is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2, ESV.
The idea of an illustration is to grab the hearer before the hourglass of their attention runs out. Here’s an attempt:
There he is, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe fills the temple. Brothers and sisters, to read Romans rightly is to see God. You see him exalted like the stateliest king in the most beautiful garments. The trumpets of angels’ voices resound a thundering “Holy, Holy, Holy” so that your whole body and the ground around you trembles. If you read Romans rightly, you will climb upon the altar, lay yourself down and ask the Lord to light you ablaze that the incense of God’s glory may fill his temple. It will be the greatest delight to your soul to do so. You will say what Paul says elsewhere, “even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise, you should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Phil 2:17-18, ESV).
So that was a bunch of word images but I’m not sure how to bring it home to people’s business and their bosoms as Joel Beeke says. How do I bridge the gap between what lights me up for God and that which would light up the average man, woman or child?
Imagine, if you will, that you are charged with making for a king the most sumptuous meal of all time. It has the very best meats, sauces with the highest quality ingredients. Its aroma was to fill the king’s house and fill him with delight. It was to fill to the full and provide for yourself honor and glory from the king. Our lives are not so different than preparing the greatest of all meals. Our pure worship is the king’s food, and we must, indeed it ought to be our greatest honor, delight, and fear to prepare such a meal of obedience through our lives. That is what Romans is about. There is a key to preparing the meal found in these verses. Let me tell you how to cook the king’s – that is the Lord’s – food. Let’s gather the ingredients, turn on the stove and get cooking. [Proceed with sermon]
“Don’t be that guy” I could also open up the sermon by just lifting up Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:21-35 about the unforgiving servant and say, Romans 12 is the story of you, Christian, as the servant whose million dollar debt was forgiven. The first two verses of chapter 12 tell us how as forgiven servants we can pay the Lord back with our gratitude, rather than the servant of the story who forgot his master’s kindness.
A man was caught in a plot to overthrow the ruler of the country in a gruesome plot. He is dragged in handcuffs and prison garb into the courtroom. Before him stands the judge, known only for the strictest interpretation of treason and terrorism. The man is sensible, caught red-handed he knows his only fate is certain death. Suddenly the judge stops the court proceedings and says the king has just made a pronouncement! The prisoner here has just been pardoned from his death sentence. Not only that he is invited to the king’s palace. The prisoner is stripped of his prison garb and given the most stately outfit. He is rushed in to see the king. The ruler says, “the result of treason is death but the free gift of the king is adoption into my family and life of joy. Welcome to my family. I adopt you and you will rule with my only son.” This is the Christian life. Believer this is not a fairy tale. If you read Romans chapter 1-11 right, this is your story. Pardoned from sin, you are not only forgiven but adopted. You are a share of the inheritance of the kingdom of God. These two verses are the answer to the only thing the man could stutter before the king: “what do I do now?”
What if you were a captive prisoner of a ruthless people. You were conditioned to believe you were one of them and lived in harsh slavery and you yourself did terrible things by your portion with them. Suddenly, an invading army sends a commando to rescue you and your people. You are brought back to their nation, given full citizenship, a high paying job and you are reunited with your loved ones. Your one task, imitate the king and forget your old ways. All you have to do is look at the king, look at what the king has done for you. Naturally, as you do so, you become like the king and the king delights to invite you into his inner court. This is Romans 12:1-2.
Just a few haphazard attempts to get at it. I’m not yet adapt to seeing things present in people’s lives as good illustrations. I’m praying the Lord will make me adept at it though.