The Danger of Sensationalistic Preaching

Recently, I’ve grown fascinated with John Broadus, most know for being one of the founding members and later a president of my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  He’s also known for penning one of the greatest preaching manuals in our nation’s history, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (hardcover | Kindle ). 

One of the warnings he gave his students was on the danger of sensationalistic preaching, that is, preaching that strictly appeals to the emotions of the listener rather than to the mind.  Beecher Johnson, contributor to John Broadus: A Living Legacy, defines this as

… using any means to gain the ear of, or have an effect on, the audience that does not honor the sacred nature of God and the things of God or ensure singular focus on the spiritual and theological message of God in the text (216).

In the mid to late 1800’s to even now, preaching that is rooted in emotion rather than revelation of Scripture fails to honor God and will fail to change lives in any substantial way.

In that same book, Steven Lawson gives a warning to churches today:

Pressure to produce bottom-line results has led many ministries to sacrifice the centrality of biblical preaching on the altar of man-centered pragmatism.  A new way of “doing” church is emerging.  In this radical paradigmatic shift, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics (Famine in the Land, p. 25, quoted in A Living Legacy, p. 213). 

Pray for preachers of the gospel, that they rely on the testimony of Scripture rather that the shifting sands of sensationalism.  That’s what the world and the church most needs. 

What is the Biggest Hindrance in Prayer Life and Corporate Life?

I’m convinced convinced that one of the biggest hindrances of personal prayer life in the corporate life of the church is the religion of common sense, which is what the dictionary defines as: “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.”  In this definition, we see the adjectives of good and sound.  So, based on common, conventional wisdom, decisions are made based on personal experience and the experiences of the collective herd.

Yet, while God certainly gives the knowledge that can fuel common sense, to be sure, God often has a way of leading that stands outside of the conventions of common sense.

Oswald Chambers puts it this way:

Faith in active opposition to common sense is mistaken enthusiasm and narrow-mindedness, and common sense in opposition to faith demonstrates a mistaken reliance on reason as the basis for truth. The life of faith brings the two of these into the proper relationship. Common sense and faith are as different from each other as the natural life is from the spiritual, and as impulsiveness is from inspiration. Nothing that Jesus Christ ever said is common sense, but is revelation sense, and is complete, whereas common sense falls short. Yet faith must be tested and tried before it becomes real in your life.

When relying on common sense, we rely less on faith in trust.  Instead of relying on what God sees, we confine ourselves to only what we can see and know and experience. Yet, all of us are touched by sin and the fall–“all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Therefore, we must pursue the glory of God in all our decisions, not operating by fear, but by faith in the promises that Christ gave His church.

Common sense is helpful.  Yet, let’s not use it in place of prayer and the pursuit of Christ and His Will.

(ADDENDUM:  After writing this post, I can across another post with some interesting memes of a ‘Common Sense Jesus.’  Thoughts?)

The Bumper Sticker Theology of Coexist: Is This Possible? Yes and No.

I see these bumper stickers proudly stuck on vehicles all across this great country of ours.  “Coexist”–a desire for tolerance of all religions in this country.  

This piece of art was designed by Piotr Mlodozeniec, whose basic coexistence design uses three symbols that stand for Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  Thus, each of the letters represent a different religion or philosophy:

C – The symbol of Islam

O – The peace symbol or pagan/Wiccan pentacle.

E – The male/female symbol, recognizing the equality of each.

X – The Star of David and represents Judaism.

I – The symbol for Wiccan

S – The symbol for Chinese yin-yang.

T – The cross is used to represent Christianity.

Granted, the challenge of communicating everything you wish to communicate on a 12 inch bumper sticker is asking too much.  Interpretation is in the heart of the beholder.  

But if tolerance be the issue, we certainly understand that the need for clarity of this definition.  

Does tolerating someone mean being willing to agree to disagree, all the while making the case for the veracity of their philosophy?  

Or does tolerance mean that everyone is right–even if two philosophies or religions are diametrically opposed to one another in means and ends? 

As fellow citizens of our country, and as fellow imagebearers of God (Genesis 1:26-27), I happily coexist with my neighbors who hold to different beliefs that I do.  But how I long to recapture in our society the original meaning of tolerance: sharing your views, sharing how you believe the other is right/wrong, and still being friends or at least civil to one another.  

Each of the philosophies outlined in this bumper stickers may certainly coexist, at least in a democratic society.  But to say they must coexist because each are inherently correct?  Given the differences in starting point, means to salvation, and the end results–we must remain intellectually honest and say without hesitation that this argument is weak with little foundation.

So when you see this bumper sticker, what comes across your mind?

What Does The Lord Require of You? (Hint: Harder Work Won’t Work)

Anytime we join a group or any sort, requirements are put forth in order to identify and remain with that group.  We sign contracts, make agreements, give our word in various manners.  Gang members have signs and ways they wear their clothing to show loyalty and identity.

In religion, this is no different.  The Buddhists have their Eightfold Path (know the truth, say nothing to hurt others, practice meditation, control your thoughts, resist evil, free your mind of evil, work for the good of others, and respect life), the Muslims have their Five Pillars (Shahada, Prayer, giving charity, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca).

On the Mormon website, we see how one’s sins are atoned for.  This is from the LDS website:

Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives

In Moroni 10:32 of the Book of Mormon:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. “

In each of these previous examples, we see what you must do in order to obtain righteousness before God.

  • “… we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  • “...if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.”

For Micah, one of the key passages in this book is Micah 6:1-8, specifically verses 6-8.  Let’s stand and read this together.

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

In this passage, we see what the Lord requires of us.  This seems to pile on more commands in order for God to receive us–but this is not the case.  We must understand at the beginning why this question would arise in the first place.

Like at so many other times in Israel’s history, they obediently observed all the worship practices prescribed by Yahweh, but was He pleased?  Again, the issue of going through the motions in times of worship, and failing to take what they’ve learned of God and apply it to their lives is not an issue that simple stayed in the days of Micah.  Sadly, every generation of believers and those who identify with His people do this very same thing.

Yet, we must ask ourselves these questions, look at what is happening in Micah’s context, and then look at what can be done to rightly approach our Lord God. And it puts forth a question again: what does the Lord require of us? Why is this question so important?

In verse 6, this question of how to approach the Lord must not be scooted over.  At the end of the day, as the apostle Paul notes,
we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what  he has done in  the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians  5:10).  Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

So the questions continue:  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?   Was this prescribed in the OT for atoning for sins?  Yes-if the motive is right.

But even with this, God gives clues that the outward offering of sacrifices would not be sufficient.  In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command in his dealing with the Amalekites, and Samuel the prophet came to inform Saul that God’s hand was taken away from his kingship.  He did not obey fully.  When Samuel saw the sacrifices offered, even in the midst of Saul’s obedience, he cried out:

Has the LORD great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of  the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption as iniquity and idolatry(1 Samuel 15:22-23).

To presume upon the Lord what is right and what is wrong in our lives, without consulting and obeying what he says is sin.  You are not worshiping the God of heaven and earth, but worshiping another that may seem like God to you.

So they began to conclude:  what if I thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil?    No!  Doing more, and offering more sacrifices will not work.  Harder work will not work when it comes to our relationship and how we approach the living God in worship!

How about this: I give my firstborn for my sin!  No!  No! No!  Harder work won’t work.

John Calvin in his commentary says:

They see that they whom God convicts and their own conscience condemns, cannot rest in safety. Hence they wish to discharge their duty towards God as a matter of necessity; but at the same time they seek some fictitious modes of reconciliation, as though it were enough to flatter God, as though he could be pacified like a child with some frivolous trifles.

We all fall into this trap, don’t we?  Men, when you’re married and your actions have displeased your wife, what do you do?  Wash the car?  Vacuum?  Flowers? You can do all those things, but if the actions and the heart do not change, what will all those things do?

You can come to church more, sing songs loudly, join teams, do missions work, give generously–but harder work won’t work when it comes to approaching our Lord.  Again, these do not prove your love so God will love you.  We do this because God has shown His love to us.

9 Marks Journal for Summer 2014 is Out: Biblical Theology

image

The most recent 9Marks Journal is out, and looks tremendous: Biblical Theology: Guardian & Guide of the Church.  Here’s an introduction:

Churches, as much as ever, need to know who they are, where they come from, who their ancestors are. Are we not children of Abraham? Doesn’t our family tree include Moses and David, Rahab and Ruth? Are we not all adopted heirs and coheirs with Christ? Sons of the divine king?

Biblical theology is not just about reading the Bible rightly, though it begins there. It serves to guard and guide the local church. It maintains the right message, defines the task of the messenger, identifies imposters, tells us what we do when we gather, and sets the trajectory of our mission. It answers the question, Who are we, as the church in the world?

Those are some of the topics this issue of the Journal will explore. The goal here is not so much to trace out the Bible’s storyline, but to show how knowing that storyline locates the identity and work of the church in the grand sweep of history.

Click here to read online or to download in various formats of your choosing.  I think I’ll download it for Kindle right now.

Can a Christian Remarry If an Unbelieving Spouse Deserts the Marriage?

One of the hotter topics under discussion in the church is this:  is a Christian allowed to remarry if an unbelieving spouse deserts the marriage?  The discussion centers around 1 Corinthians 7:15:  “ But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”  Not enslaved?  What does this mean?

Let Matthew Henry speak to this:

But, though a believing wife or husband should not separate from an unbelieving mate, yet if the unbelieving relative desert the believer, and no means can reconcile to a cohabitation, in such a case a brother or sister is not in bondage (v. 15), not tied up to the unreasonable humour, and bound servilely to follow or cleave to the malicious deserter, or not bound to live unmarried after all proper means for reconciliation have been tried, at least of the deserter contract another marriage or be guilty of adultery, which was a very easy supposition, because a very common instance among the heathen inhabitants of Corinth. In such a case the deserted person must be free to marry again, and it is granted on all hands. And some think that such a malicious desertion is as much a dissolution of the marriage-covenant as death itself. For how is it possible that the two shall be one flesh when the one is maliciously bent to part from or put away the other? Indeed, the deserter seems still bound by the matrimonial contract; and therefore the apostle says (v. 11), If the woman depart from her husband upon the account of his infidelity, let her remain unmarried. But the deserted party seems to be left more at liberty (I mean supposing all the proper means have been used to reclaim the deserter, and other circumstances make it necessary) to marry another person. It does not seem reasonable that they should be still bound, when it is rendered impossible to perform conjugal duties or enjoy conjugal comforts, through the mere fault of their mate: in such a case marriage would be a state of servitude indeed. But, whatever liberty be indulged Christians in such a case as this, they are not allowed, for the mere infidelity of a husband or wife, to separate; but, if the unbeliever be willing, they should continue in the relation, and cohabit as those who are thus related. This is the apostle’s general direction.

Is Home Just Where Your Stuff Is?

Today, we make the final trek back to Denver, where we reside. While we miss family in Kentucky, most of us are ready to get home.

Home. God has us in South Denver for this season of our lives. Our prayer is that this would stand as a good long chapter in the book that God has penned for us.

I recently wrote about my feelings regarding the lack of homeland I have, and that my home is my family, my church, my pulpit, and my Jesus. But I do have a domicile, a place to lay my head to rest at night with my bride by my side, my dog at the end of the bed, my children in the beds, ready for the next day God gives.

Home also foreshadows the heavenly home we will have for eternity, safe in our Father’s care and protection.

Home. Almost there.