There is a lot of preaching today that does not address the reality of our membership in the kingdom of God. Neither does it address the reality of the “present evil world” (Galatians 1:4) that we might be delivered from it. We often fall into the trap of preaching that is designed to merely provide tools to help us become better situated or more successful in this present world rather than helping us to become ambassadors of the coming Kingdom.
Not Celebrating Poverty
Please note, I am not talking about “celebrating poverty” or “making poverty a virtue” as some have accused me. I am talking about the reality that the Kingdom is our focus. Some of us will become successful down here. God will provide opportunities to some of us to place us in visible and even powerful locations like Daniel and Joseph, but that was not their focus. Their focus was the kingdom. Their focus was to do God’s will. Their focus was to be ambassadors of God’s kingdom.
I often refer to a sermon in which the preacher gave a lesson in how to get ahead at work by using the story of Joseph. His sermon title was “How to Be Successful at Work.” His points were something along the lines of, “You must be tenacious”. “You must not take no for an answer,” “You must never give up,” etc. Such sermons don’t confront the culture either inside or outside the communion of faith. It doesn’t shake the lost into a realization of their condition. It doesn’t demonstrate to the culture that it is different than the principles of God.
Virtual Debate as Preaching?
But there are other kinds of sermons. I heard another sermon once where the preacher did a virtual debate between presidential candidates on a few select topics. At the end of the discussion the people came away feeling that one party was clearly God’s choice and the other was akin to voting for the devil.
You have all had such discussions. Usually it is the Republican side that is God’s side in these discussions, but then sometimes it is the Democrats who are God’s choice. Such a mentality comes woefully short of the reality that neither side is God’s kingdom. Yes, voting is our responsibility as citizens, but ultimately we know that neither side is even a vague approximation of the kingdom of God.
The Gospel is crazy different. It is so different that it requires a change to understand it. A change called a new birth. It comes and tells a scientifically oriented society that a dead man rose from the grave and that he is still with us by an overriding spirit. It tells us that even though we see pain and heartache that is not God’s ultimate intention and all you see will be remade. It tells us that those whom the world considers “losers” are actually the winners in the kingdom of God. It tells us that being nice is not the kingdom of God; it is a radically different way of being in this world.
Let the Gospel Confront
But we often take these confrontational messages and set them aside. “It is hard for the rich to get to the kingdom” (Matthew 19:24) becomes, "Don’t worry about your riches, just pay 10 percent and you will be all right." No, we have removed the “offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:15) and replaced it with a flag being waved by an elephant or a donkey.
So go ahead, dear preacher. It may not seem to make sense, but how could the gospel make sense? A dead man raised, good triumphing over evil, and the losers are actually the winners. Go ahead and preach about one who gave his life for another. Go ahead even though it doesn't make sense. The last time some folks really got ahold of that message, somebody said that they “turned the world upside down” Acts 17:6.