Reasoning is a critical part of preaching the gospel. God says through the prophet Isaiah “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Isa. 1:18). It is not going too far to say that the primary job of the evangelist is to reason with his hearers.
All throughout Acts we read things like, “And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but [Paul] went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:19). Oh to have heard one of those sermons. We can see Paul’s reasoning powers clearly enough in the book of Romans but to have seen that logic set ablaze during the preaching event would have been a sight to behold.
Reasoning is basically the process by which we draw conclusions from a premise or from a set of premises. If I told you that the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 then from that premise you could conclude that the Yankees did not (among other things).
In preaching, reasoning is essentially exposition. You take a biblical text in hand and you expound it – or, if you prefer – explain it to your hearers. You want to help them draw conclusions about what you are saying. Take for example Jesus’ statement “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). How could a text like this be expounded?
On this particular day in San Francisco I spent quite a bit of time explaining to my hearers what slavery to sin entailed. For example; sin has dominion over people. It rules them. In other words, no man just flirts with pornography. If he looks at it at all he is bound by it. It controls him and masters him. Or take the liar. No liar lies once, but whenever the need for falsehood arises and until truth is no longer recognizable. Such is the nature of sin - to exhaust itself like a parasite on its host.
Secondly, sin is deceptive. It is patient and spreads the net slowly. I once saw a documentary on wolves in Alaska - how the hunters caught them. They would stick a knife - blade up - into the ground and place a piece of meat on it. The wolf would lick through the frozen meat and eventually start lapping the knife itself. Finally it would bleed to death. This is always the goal of sin - to slowly lead its victim to death.
Finally, sin is hard. “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked” (Isa. 48:22). Most slaves will say that their lives are hard. The slave to sin is no different. Oh what a burden jealously is. Oh what a horrible taskmaster is pride and covetousness. Oh what a hard bargain sin drives and what diminishing returns.
So this is how I preach on the streets of San Francisco. I reason with people; and if they have followed me this far; that is, if they are willing to reason with me (and some are) then I give them the Glorious News: “But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). (!!!!!!) Oh what a glorious gospel!