Last time we noted how Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. Paul understood that people are fully subject to their heart-level desires. They will only ever “choose” what they want to choose, but cannot choose what it is they want. The heart is the issue, and the gospel preached must offer a love so compelling that people will be drawn out of the deathly prison of their self-love.
However, the preacher at times feels the need to twist the arm and will of the listener into conformity to some set of Christian values. After all, if only people and society were more responsible, then we’d be in a better place! The emphasis on duty and morality and law all add up to a big dose of pressure. If you’ve really tasted of the gospel, this has a very empty feel to it. Yet many of us are so used to this kind of preaching that we assume this is proper Christian preaching. Bible texts become launch points for moralistic tirades.
Somewhere in the mix, however, the preacher inserts a “Jesus bit” ... typically with some reference to the cross. In terms of the biblical portrayal of the triune God and His mission in sending His Son, it is sometimes paper thin and desperately under-developed.
So let’s say that a life is marked by this kind of preaching ... what happened? Actually, many lives will be marked by this kind of preaching. They will be marked by confusion over the gospel and external conformity to legalistic pressure, and there will be significant inoculation against the transformative power of grace. Yet there will be genuine fruit. Why? Because of the pressure and arm-twisting and guilt trips? No. Because “Christ and Him crucified” was preached. God works despite us and our preaching (and we need to be thankful for that!)
But surely this should make us want to undilute our preaching? Why mix the good stuff in with a poisonous and distracting set of added ingredients? Why play into the hands of the fallen condition by promoting self-reliance and self-righteousness? Wouldn’t it be better to preach Christ and Him crucified, spelling out the implications by way of invitation to those changed by the transformative grip of God’s grace?