What is the goal of preaching?
What I've tried to say to you this week is that it is important to keep Christ in our Christian messages. That sounds so simple but as you think on the implications of not only what I've been saying, but perhaps what I've done in the past and what you've done in the past, you recognize that it's very easy not to have Christ in our messages.
If we're going to speak with the voice of Jesus, we must keep the message of Jesus plain, and talk about the importance of keeping Christ in a Christian message. I talked more specifically about how we do that and though I recognize we're just scratching the surface of how one exegetes scripture -- looks at scripture -- through new lenses to see redemptive truth wherever you are, hopefully, that at least gives you some avenues now to go down to think about: How can I go anywhere in scripture and still think redemptively?
Let me just review because I think it is really the most important thing that I say. What are those two lenses that you can use to approach virtually any text and think redemptively? The first lens is the question: What does this text that tells me about the nature of God that provides redemption? And the other lens is the question: What does this text reveal about the nature of man that requires redemption? Just asking those two questions: What does it tell me about God, what's his nature/character; what does it tell me about me, what's my nature/character? Those two questions force us to think in redemptive terms.
The goal of today's lesson is: What's the impact of all this? If it's important and we have some means to begin to analyze scripture, what will be the impact? My goal today is to help you understand how Christ-centered messages affect the Christian life. What's the impact for us daily?
The real subject, if you will allow me to put it this way, is simply to ask, what's your theology of change? What do you think changes people -- how you preach, how you proclaim, how you counsel even how you parent, typically has the goal of "I'm seeking to see the Lord change these people." But what is your ultimate theology of what does change people?
We think about what will stimulate holiness and the necessity of doing that through Christ-centered messages by asking first the question, what makes people more holy? Particularly as we're thinking about approaching redeemed people, what makes redeemed people more holy: the threat of condemnation or promise of grace?
Now that's not a new question as a review of Romans 6:1 will assure you. Remember, people thought Paul was talking too much about grace, and therefore, should we continue in grace that sin may abound? Obviously talking about grace has concerned God's people for many centuries, yet the question is still debated in every generation of believers: How much can we talk about grace? How much is good, how much actually leads to licentiousness?
There really is an amazing account of Bradford, the Puritan, when he was in prison facing death, debating with the Anabaptists -- now this is interesting -- they're both in prison facing death and they're debating theological questions on the nature of grace. And the Anabaptists were saying to Bradford, "You can't keep assuring people of the love of God. If all you do is keep assuring people of the love of God, they will do whatever they want." What was Bradford's response? No, if you keep assuring people of the love of God, they will do whatever he wants.
Now, it's a fundamental understanding of how human nature functions, particularly in the heart that has been regenerated by God. Recognize however the concern with the idea of assured grace is similar to that surrounding perseverance, that is the "P" in TULIP. People are concerned. If we tell people they do not have to worry about rejection, what's to keep them on the straight and narrow? Such people reason, "We cannot tell them God will never reject them or they'll just do what they want." 'Once saved, always saved' is equated with 'have perseverance, will party.'
The same reasoning asks, "What reason will God's people have to be holy if all you do is keep assuring them of grace?" So, I'll ask again, what better leads to true holiness: the threat of punishment or promise of grace? Which will make people more holy?
What do our standards say? We can start perhaps just thinking hopefully in an orthodox way. Hopefully, we're on track here -- Westminster Confession chapter 20. This is the chapter on Christian liberty. The confession says, "The liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel consists [in this:] their freedom from the guilt of sin, [their freedom from] the condemning wrath of God, [their freedom from] the curse of the moral law; and in their being delivered from the... dominion of sin... [so] also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him [here's the key phrase], not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love, and a willing mind."
What will enable people to serve God? Because they are delivered from fear by their liberty under Christ. So what now constrains them? They are not constrained by slavish fear but a childlike love and willing mind. It goes on to say, "...a man's doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourages one, and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace [that is, the simple fact that there's still obedience does not mean we're not under grace]. Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ [notice what now constrains] subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done."