Saturday, January 26, 2008

Preaching centred upon God


"Ultimately, preaching is a reflection of our theology of God. If one believes that God is all-sufficient, and that all things exist in relationship to him and for his glory, then preaching will center itself on God. If one has a lesser view of God, then that preacher will speak on lesser things." Daryl Dash, ht: Milton Stanley

Thinking about the preaching I do and the preaching I hear, it's all too easy for the main subject to become me or the congregation when it'd be much better if the preaching was actually about God. About his gospel, which is about him. About his Son. About his problem with us. About his salvation plan. About his glory. Easy to be desperate to find 'application' (see blown wide open - Ed Goode on Exodus 12) and things for us to do, when all that's needed is to wow our hearts with the glory of the gospel.

In Psalm 63, which my supervisior Tim opened up with me recently, I saw afresh that David's desperate situation was turned around by his memory of what he'd seen in Jerusalem. His vision of God's glory at the temple. When he would have seen the altar in front of the curtain with it's two angels blocking the way to the Holy of Holies. When he would have seen the blood poured out for the sins of the people. There he says he saw the power and glory of God. How much more we see it in the sacrifice that tore the curtain open! This remebrance turned the parched soul of David to sing out the name of God.

David could have gone soul-searching in his desperation, mulling over how he'd managed to get himself into such a situation - but instead he turned to God and the sacrifices God instituted as the shadow basis of relationship with himself. That really stirs worship. That really stirs mission. That's what Christian Unions need at this stage of a term that is often dominated by major events where the gospel of Jesus will be taught - they need the memory of the cross and they need to draw near to God and enjoy his glorious grace. Without that the mission will be fueled by effort and duty, with that it'll be fueled by delight in grace and concern for the reputation of God.

What's more useful, skills training on how to speak about Jesus or being told that Jesus is The Man, the one who came from God to us, who died to tear apart the curtain where the angels barred the way to the presence of God. The Man who walked back up the mountain into the presence of God, into the garden and who invites us to hide in him and get back into the garden with him?

He who did everything necessary to secure divine favour for people who deserve divine wrath. He who stands with an iron-rod to rule the nations. He who has eyes of blazing fire. He who has a sword coming out of his mouth. He who is called Faithful, True, Word of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lord - and has the latter name tatooed on his thigh. He who tramples the winepress of God's wrath. Something tells me that when we get a vision of Jesus-Saviour-and-Judge whether you can remember two ways to live or some other gospel outline isn't all that important.


Man-centred preaching will either become self-esteemism that tells us what we want to hear, or it'll be sin-focussed which will unwittingly end up convincing us that our sin isn't quite so bad as it actually is. By contrast God-centred preaching that cries 'Behold your God' and feeds on the grace of Christ will be reviled by sin but delighted with the gospel of Jesus. It'll drive changed living out of clear conviction about who God is and our new life in him.

As Pete Greig writes in Awakening Cry (p160): How desperately this nation needs a new generation of preachers who will proclaim the Gospel inventively, persuasively and passionately, with minds razor-sharp, tongues attuned to the culture and hearts aflame for God. A generation who will cry 'Behold your God'. A generation of preachers who say 'Look at Jesus. See Jesus. Savour Jesus.'


12 comments:

  1. Great post. Once every six months or so, I pull "Supremacy of God in Preaching" off the shelf and dedicate an afternoon to reread it, to pray through my teaching and preaching, to search my own heart and make sure that the message I deliver is not my own, but Gods.

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  2. sf,
    I think I know what you meant, but you need to understand how that sounds. Some things just sound really odd sometimes from another vantage point.

    You sound quite like you are saying that when you speak, having done that (every six months), what you say is from God? It's probably just your turn of phrase, but I really hope that isn't what you actually think.

    Rather than taking your word for it I think I'll stick to a Berean attitude and weigh up your sermons in the light of God's authority, if you don't mind.

    T

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  3. Dave,

    "which is about him. About his Son. About his problem with us. About his salvation plan. About his glory."

    You are missing creation and resurrection in your gospel summary.

    T

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  4. "That's what Christian Unions need at this stage of a term that is often dominated by major events where the gospel of Jesus will be taught - they need the memory of the cross and they need to draw near to God and enjoy his glorious grace"

    I couldn't echo this wisdom loudly or long enough. But it's also true of me, in all this activity and enthusiasm.

    How do you pray like he's your first love again?

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  5. SF's point I take, TSOGOP is very helpful in helping me to be Berean, basically what the book is about.

    Wasn't meant to be a thorough gospel summary.. you're right, such a thing would definitely need those and more.

    Yeah not just CUs but me too. I'll get back to you on praying it - time to go enjoy fellowship with the people of God!

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  6. How do you pray like he's your first love again?

    How do you get to praying or what do you pray?

    How to do it I suppose is to open the pages, see Jesus and ask that he incline our hearts to him, revive our hearts, humble our hearts, warm our hearts etc.

    I find the Valley of Vision prayers helpful for their puritan richness though the language is dated, like this on Union with Christ:

    O Father, thou hast made man for the glory of thyself, and when not an instrument of that glory, he is a thing of nought; No sin is greater than the sin of unbelief, for if union with Chrits is the greatest good, unbelief is the greatest sin, as being cross to thy command; I see that whatever my sin is, yet no sin is like disunion from Christ by unbelief. Lord, keep me from committing the greatest sin in departing from him, for I can never in this life perfectly obey and cleave to Christ. When thou takest away my outward blessings, it is for sin, in not acknowledging that all that I have is of thee, in not serving thee through what I have, in making myself secure and hardened. Lawful blessings are the secret idols, and do most hurt; the greatest injury is in the having, the greatest good in the taking away. In love divest me of blessing that I may glorify thee the more; remove the fuel of my sin, and may I przize the gain of a little holiness as overbalancing all my losses. The more I love thee with a truly gracious love the more I desire to love thee, and the more miserable I am at my want of love; The more I hunger and thirst after thee, The more my heart is broken for sin, the more I pray it may be far more broken. My great evil is that I do not remember the sins of omy youth, nay, the sins of one day I forget the next. Keep me from all things that turn to unbelief or lack of felt union with Christ.

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  7. We've printed this quote out and trying to think it through - just awesome.

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  8. Tom, surely Dave included the resurrection in "his salvation plan"?! It'd be strange reading to interpret that as exclusively the cross ;-)

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  9. I think this: The Man who walked back up the mountain into the presence of God, into the garden and who invites us to hide in him and get back into the garden with him?

    ...very much includes commitment to creation and resurrection. I suppose I could have stated it propositionally rather than telling the story.

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  10. I'll not dispute that there is implicit, or indirect mention. But I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet on this.

    In these post-Chalke days, I'd like to see us encouraging each other to be explicit about the whole gospel.

    There is a definite hardening that we need to break out from, whilst not softening our fundamentals.

    When you mention the blood and the cross, mention the resurrection and creation too. It's great to explain the whole thing, clearly and honestly. And I find that people are much more responsive to an explicit whole gospel explanation, as opposed to just a precis of everything else, other than the heart of the atonement - the wonderful blood.

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  11. You and your bonnets Tom!
    We all need to be careful about creating shibboleths about our gospel presentations and formulations. We don't necessarily need to say everything.

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