Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Some days I'm not sure I know the first thing about Jesus

Last month a friend shared that he'd been teaching explicitly on grace but had implicitly taught the opposite of grace by making it too heavy and difficult, leaving his listener feeling unable to grasp it.

He'd been heartbroken to see how he'd inadvertantly perverted grace.

My friend humbly and helpfully challenged a sermon I'd preached where I'd used an overly intellectual introduction. I'd implicitly preached that the gospel is for smart people.

Heartbreaking. How does one preach the overwhelming love of Jesus while simultaneously saying that love isn't for everyone...

Some disclaimers help. I say this because I found this interesting. This might not help you and that's ok. You don't need to understand this. Self-deprecation helps - because really who am I! I'm the oddball in the room, not you...

It's not just what I say, it is the way that I say it.
Jesus didn't turn children away so why should my sermon do that?

Like Paul said in 1 Timothy 1, All I have is the mercy I've received.

I'm not a clever person who has solved a gospel puzzle. Yet my words can suggest that.

What kind of gospel do my words convey?

What kind of gospel does my life preach?

When I fail to have a generous attitude to other believers or when I fail to be finanically generous... what am I saying: I'm not generous because my god isn't? Or that I'm ok to receive divine generosity but then not show the same to others?

What kind of gospel are my words and my life preaching?

When I fail to be compassionate to my three year old son as he wrestles with his sinful heart (not that he'd describe it that way) what am I saying... it's ok for God to be my Heavenly Father to show compassion to me, but unnecessary for me to be a compassionate father?

Some days I'm not sure I know the first thing about the gospel. Or at least that's how it looks.

I want to know Jesus.


  1. Amen amen - feeling this too. Who is equal to such a task?

  2. So true Bish. Great to see it voiced, thank you.

  3. You make some very good points here, and an overly intellectual gospel is definitely a problem for a discipline like theology that ranges extensively over history, philosophy, art, and pastoral ministry. I'm just reading David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite, and as amazing as it is (and it really is) it requires all my brain power to follow the text. Are these insights not open to non-academics/intellectuals? They should be.

    However, I would say that the truth of the gospel can only be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit anyway, in spite of a preacher's best or worst efforts. It is so contrary to our nature that it takes supernatural insight to grasp it (or rather be grasped by it). This doesn't let any of us off the hook, but it does mean that the task of preaching does not fall wholly to the preacher.