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.'