Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Is it Christian?

In seminary, our theology professor encouraged us to evaluate preaching by asking the question, "Do you have to be a Christian to say what he's saying?" In other words, could an unbeliever give the same message? If the preaching is moralistic, a character study, a collection of stories or merely the opinions of the speaker, then it is not good preaching. It may not even be Christian.

I thought of this quote this morning at our early men's Bible study (5 am). We are studying 1 John and as we were discussing 2:1-8, on of the men made a comment on verse 4 that I thought was very good. He said, "If you took this verse out of context, you would really misunderstand the passage." Here's 1 John 2:4: Whoever says, 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

We talked for a while about the context and agreed that the grace of 2:1-2 is essential for a right understanding of this obedience. This obedience must be a fruit of God's prior work for us in Christ. What John is describing is the work of God that we are set free to do in obedience and love, not wages that we must do in order to earn our peace with God.

This reminded me what the Lord said He would do for His people as He gave them the Promised land, that they would enjoy ... houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant.... This is true with Christian obedience as well: We benefit from the grace that God gives as we love Him and others and serve him in gladness. It is all of grace. Even our best works make us greater debtors to His grace in Jesus Christ.

Christian proclamation must be focused on what only we have, namely, Christ and the true gospel. This is particularly true for preachers, but it is also true for all Christians all the time. When we are faced with challenges at work, we must turn to the cross. When we discipline our children, we must point them to the root of sin and the glory of the cross. Whether we are encouraged or discouraged, we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day and make it our aim to make gospel application in everything.

In every area of life as Christians, we should be asking, "Is it Christian?"


Jim said...

Hi Terry

Just to clarify - you are not saying that preaching about good morals or studying a character of Scripture is NECESSARILY bad preaching. Both of these things can be done in an expository fashion that honours God.

stauf46 said...

Agreed, Jim. The problem comes when these things are done as an end in themselves without reference to the difference that the Promised Deliverer makes.

I'm not opposed to morals or studying characters or systematic theology, etc., but I am wary of Christless Christianity.

Jim said...

With good reason. Take "Christ" out of "Christianity" and all that remains is inanity.