The Expository Files

 

A Word to Preachers and Teachers


{From The View, Feb. 24, 2008, published by the Folsom Point Church of Christ.}

  There are a couple of general principles that I try to follow in my preaching, though I am far from 100% successful. First, I want to make sure that I am communicating that this is God’s world, and thus center every sermon on God, not man. The practical effect of that is to present solutions to the problems that we face in terms of what God thinks and how God wants us to deal with them. 

A second principle I try to follow is to be practical; that is, to point out that the word of God (His divine power) has, as Peter says, “granted unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) But this latter principle can lead those of us who preach and teach down a wrong path, if we’re not careful.  

In “An Efficient Gospel?,” Tim Keel offers the following warning: In a modern world, we tend to reduce the complexity and diversity of the Scriptures to simple systems, even when our systems flatten the diversity and integrity of the biblical witness. We reduce our sermons to consumer messages that reduce God to a resource that helps the individual secure a reduced version of the "abundant life" Jesus promised (John 10:10). 

The last thing we want to do is to minimize the meaning of the gospel in any way. The gospel is good news, but it is good news primarily because it offers a way of salvation. Salvation implies that one is lost and needs saving. The gospel is not just a handbook for getting along better in the world. The gospel assumes our “lostness” and provides a way to be found (saved). When our lessons, presumably from the gospel, become nothing more than a reduction of the gospel to neat little “take home” messages, we have betrayed our trust as preachers and teachers. It struck me that this may well be a modern version of being “ashamed” of the gospel (see Rom. 1:16; 2 Tim. 1:8, 12). It seems to me that this point needs to be especially impressed on those who are facing the pressures commensurate with starting a career and raising a family while trying to live as faithful Christians. It’s easy to fall into the trap that Keel mentions in his book: to reduce the “complexity and diversity of the Scriptures to simple systems...consumer messages that reduce God to a resource.” This time of life is a time when one is most concerned with seeing the scriptures as “relevant” and thus people in this age-group may tune in more readily to sermons and teaching that is more man-centered than God-centered. For those of us who preach and teach (including some in this time of life), the challenge is to present practical and helpful material without minimizing the gospel message. We can and will do that only when we return time and again to the basic premise that we are all lost sinners who need to be saved. All our practical lessons must be subsumed under that basic point. That means our sermons and lessons will balance practicality — the usefulness of the ideas presented — within the context of the gospel message: God loves us, even though we “fall short of His glory” and has shown us the way to a more abundant life (meaning a place of safety in His kingdom). 

The practical conclusions we draw may or may not make our life on earth better; they may or may not solve our problems. Embracing the gospel may not make you a better business man or more financially prosperous — after all, adherence to the gospel has, historically, caused a much earthly pain as pleasure. But the gospel will always humble us and make us more godly because it always leads us to the same conclusion, regardless of our station in life: that without God, we are nothing.

 

By David Posey
From Expository Files 15.3; March 2008

 

 

 

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