Faithful or Faulty Preaching?

30 12 2011

Truth Matters Newsletters – December 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 12 – Faithful or Faulty Preaching? – Rev. Robert Liichow

 Discernment Ministries International

 Faithful or Faulty Preaching?

 It is my prayer that this particular article makes our entire readership pause and take a hard look at what passes for preaching in today’s pulpits, especially our own pastors. I am not referring to the style in which the message is delivered. Every pastor has a unique God-given personality, thus the “aroma of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:15) given off varies from person to person. Delivery style is pretty much a synthesis of personality, observed behavior, training and culture. Some preachers are animated, jovial and demonstrative; others are more somber and stately. Preaching style is never an issue biblically speaking. One may or may not be appreciative of the manner in which the news is delivered, but to the mature (2) ultimately it comes down to the message itself and not the messenger.

 One thing that separates truly confessional Lutheranism (3) from every other denomination is the focus of every sermon preached from a pulpit. This is quite a statement to make I know, but allow me to buttress my comments upon the following foundation. As many of our readers know this author has been around the block spiritually speaking: (1) I was raised a child in the United Presbyterian Church, 2) joined The Word of God charismatic community {shepherding/discipleship movement} in Ann Arbor, 3) was a member of the Pentecostal Church of God, 4) preached for the Church of the Brethren, 5) did pulpit supply at Calvin East Presbyterian Church, 6) was a staff minister at Grace Community Church (church growth Baptists), 7) Associate pastor at Greater Faith Christian Center (Word of Faith church), 8) helped found Eastside Community Church (Southern Baptist), 9) pastor of Word of Life Fellowship (charismatic), 10) joined St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 11) Teaching/Preaching Elder at Jubilee Christian Church {apostolic movement}, 12) currently members of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, English District. (4) These are only the groups I have worked for and with, the list of places we’ve visited would fill the page. I share this to prove “I’ve been around” and while I have obviously not been everywhere nor have I heard every pastor, however I have taken a pretty large sampling over the years and things have not gotten better in pulpits over the years, in fact, I suspect even worse than when I began my search for the purity of the gospel over twenty years ago.

 The manner in which one approaches Holy Scripture will shape and form the content of the sermon preached. Modern American evangelicals view the Bible as a divine book of instructions on how to live a life pleasing to God. I grew up with this acronym for “Bible” — Believers Instructions Before Leaving Earth. I grew up reading the Bible as the inerrant user’s manual for Christian living. Is this wrong? No, not really, the Bible is filled with God’s law, what He demands of people, and His wisdom for daily life. The central focus of all Scripture however is Jesus Christ and nothing else.

 Sadly the vast majority of sermons preached on Sunday fail to pass the litmus test given in the very Bible these people claim to faithfully proclaim. Due to the abovementioned errant approach to the Bible God’s people end up being fed a consistent diet of what can only be called “preaching the Christian and not the Christ.” Sermons are all about Christian living, how to have a successful marriage, stewardship series, spiritual gifts and human potential. For example, America’s most famous and favorite preacher, Joel Osteen can be seen daily on television. Mr. Osteen preaches to a mob of over forty thousand (40,000) each week in his stadium. One can listen to Joel’s sermons and not hear anything about the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes Osteen does not even mention His name let alone proclaim His virtues. He preaches how to be a successful upwardly mobile self-actualized individual of incalculable value. Joel is an easy target. How about your church? What is preached from your pulpit as the sermon? Is it some topical message taken from the Bible? Is the message geared on giving you something to “do,” to work on, steps to better yourself, a principle to enact, a habit to break or start? All these types of messages are derived from reading the Bible as a rule or guidebook.

 There is another way in which to approach the bible, it is the manner which Luther brought back to its rightful place in the Church. Luther saw Christ in the Scriptures from beginning to end and that is what shaped what he believed confessed and taught. This does not sound all that revolutionary to our ears today, but this is precisely because of Luther! In Luther’s day the sermon to God’s people was rife with superstition, nonsense, error, heresy and in many cases was presented to God’s people by an uneducated and untrained clergy (sounds exactly like our situation today). There was plenty of “law” directives in what to do, when and for how long being proclaimed but where was the Gospel? Where was Jesus Christ in this proclamation?

 Upon a closer inspection of the scriptures Luther began to see what we take for granted today and all willingly pay lip service regarding its validity, by this I mean the Christocentric nature of the scriptures.

 Luther saw:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 1

 Eternal life is not in knowing the scriptures, it comes from knowing the Subject of the scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ, He Himself is eternal life. All of the Bible points to Christ either in His forthcoming, His incarnation, death burial and physical resurrection — they testify of Christ!

 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeded from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. 2

 As a former charismatic extremist I got an “A” in Pneumatology and folks the bottom line is very simple; the Spirit of Grace always and only glories Jesus Christ. Anything that points anywhere other than the Person and work of Jesus Christ is simply not the Holy Spirit in operation. Simply listen to a “sermon” by Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen. Listen to how much of the focus is upon themselves, what happened to them, virtually nothing about Jesus Christ.

 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 3

 Jesus Himself instructs these disciples to open their eyes to see that the scriptures concerned Himself! The Bible really is, as silly as it sounds, “His-story” from Genesis to the book of The Revelation of (who?) Jesus Christ!

 What do we read in the Book of Acts concerning the message declared? Did Peter get up and preach “three steps to a better Sabbath rest” or “five keys to answering Pontius Pilate?” No he preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified (Acts 3:35-37). Before being stoned Stephen boldly declared Christ to his executioners (Acts 7). The original message was revolutionary then and it still is where it is faithfully proclaimed. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scriptures, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water, and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? 4

 Philip did not proclaim the joys of celibacy to the eunuch but was able but was able to preach Christ from the text the man was studying. Philip could not have preached Christ if he had not seen Him there, after all the Jews read the same text for centuries and never got who it was referring to.

 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 5

 The Apostle Paul said that all he focused on instilling in these disciples was Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He did not try to persuade his hearers by enticing words or with a strikingly handsome physique. He did not preach his experience in heaven, he allowed the Gospel, the power of God (Romans 1:16) to be the anchor of men’s faith. We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), tell me then what kind of faith is being developed that is not taught about Jesus Christ?

 Some spiritual adepts might say “well preaching about Jesus and Him crucified is fine for babes, but I understand that truth and now I am ready to go onto deeper truths.” The thinking of such people indicates that Jesus is nothing more than a piece of their inner greater cosmic puzzle.

 Those who think they no longer need to hear about their desperate condition before a holy God (Law) and the gracious provision given by the father in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of their souls (Gospel) are people who do not recognize the seriousness of their sin and the glory of our redemption from it.

 If you stop to think about it all the people running around with “WWJD” bracelets are often functionally illiterate regarding exactly what Jesus did do and does for them right now. The vast majority of the sermons they have heard all their lives surround various aspects of Christian living and not the Christ who supplies the grace to enable all of us to live for Him.

 As one hears about Jesus in the Gospel’s preaching faith in Him is birthed. Through this knowledge, which has become a living faith and koinonia with the risen Lord now forms and directs our reactions to life. Issues cease to be a speculative pondering about what would/might Jesus do but the believer knows what Jesus did on the cross for us because he has been fed a diet consisting of Christ Jesus.

 The truly productive Christian life has to be nourished on Christ Jesus, in fact He and Him alone is to be the foundation of our existence:

 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 7 Matthew 7:23-27

 Jesus is the “Rock” (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 10:4) that if we are established on Him then when the storms of life strike us (and they will) we will survive them due to our foundation. How are we established on the Rock? Through the foolishness of preaching (1Cor. 1:21) Christ . . . . Nourished on knowing Him, who He is, what He has done, and what is He currently doing for His Church.

 Read what our Lord says concerning the content and topic of the Scriptures on the following page:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. (13) Luke 4:18-21

 The text was and is about Jesus, it is not about financial prosperity, physical healing or lifting oppression as separate categories of truth. All these blessings are ancillary to the One producing them, the Lord Himself.

 In closing ponder this additional fact when considering what passes for preaching today; biblical prophecy. Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies, meaning HE, Jesus, is the specific focus of these prophecies. Any prophetic words yet to be fulfilled refer to His return, His Second Coming. Biblical prophecy is concerned with our Lord. Ergo any preaching about prophetic events must logically find their loci in Christ Jesus.

 Is what is being proclaimed from the pulpit focused on Jesus Christ or is the message or the “series” being preached about anything else but Jesus? D.M.I prays that you are being fed a solid diet of God’s Word, our Lord Jesus when you gather together for worship.

 

Copyright © 2011 Robert S. Liichow

 

End Notes

 

1. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS: Discernment Ministries International uses the SAME “scale of judgment” FIRST on ourselves; next on our own local communion & denomination and LASTLY others. I say this lest anyone think I am writing about “other pastors.” No my friends, I am writing this for you to examine your own house FIRST then apply it to those we wage war with. Judgment begins in the House of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17) and we are not hypocrites and hold ourselves and brothers to the same standard we hold the heretics to.

 2. The spiritually immature often get “caught” as in enamored by the personality/charisma of the preacher and really never hear what he is proclaiming. Others are turned off by a speakers manner and fail to receive whatever was to be their portion of that service’s “manna” from them.

 3. I am a member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod and as an ordained minister I feel free to speak of what I know. Sadly, within our own ranks there are many congregations being led by pastors who are not genuinely faithful to their confession and vows as Lutheran pastors. My wife and I have the distinct good pleasure to sit under an excellent pastor who is faithful to our Lord and the call on his life and through him we have met many other great men of God, all is not lost, but it is getting very dark outside.

 4. These are not in amy chronological order.

 5. If history describes Paul correctly he and I share what is nown as “faces best seen on radio.”

 6. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Jn 5-39-40

 7. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Jn 15:26-27.

 8. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Lk 24:25-27

 9. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Ac 5:41-42

 10. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Ac 8:34-36

 11. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), 1 Co. 2:2-5

 12. The Holy Bible English Standard Version, (Wheaton Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt. 7:23-27

 13. The Holy Bible English Standard Version, (Wheaton Standard Bible Society, 2001), Lk 4:18-21.

 

 

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