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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?



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Suresh Manoharan

commented on Feb 18, 2014

Yes, I am reminded of God giving water to the Israelis despite Moses flagrantly disobeying God's command by striking the Rock (mobile rock which followed the Jews in the wilderness which was Christ - 1 Cor 10:4) instead of only speaking to it (Num 20:2-12).

Steven Landers

commented on Feb 18, 2014

This is true on a number of levels. We also get so caught up in talent and delivery, and we are so worried that we have to get it right (which isn't a bad thing, because we should give our best to God). I can remember a couple of times that I got up and totally messed up my sermon. I was so upset with myself, but at the end of the day, there are times when God moved through my messed up sermons more than when I thought that I nailed it!

Alexander Drysdale Lay Preacher Uca Australia

commented on Feb 18, 2014

If we launch into moralistic tirades we are judging. "Judge not that ye be not judged" says the Lord and that we have no right to do. We certainly have to preach the gospel and all it means and we try to do this faithfully as God's servant. Mess up we may do and a church community might accept this but as a Lay Preacher you are only as good as your last sermon. We, or I anyway, am paranoid that I will let God and a new congregation down. So as we all do (?) I do my best and hope it is good enough for Jesus.

Eugene Augustine

commented on Feb 19, 2014

Thank you so much for excellent discussion. In recent times I have been asked the question.. What do I consider good preaching? .. after much bible exposition and puritanical commentary .. as one who stands in the pulpit as well..I have emphatically concluded that God does NOT need my help to get His message across.. HE USES US BUT DOES NOT NEED US!.. An attitude of servant-hood driven by humility standing in God's grace seems to produce the best results .. since Truth is exclusive by definition and absolute in existence , the one who proclaims God's truth that is closest and most accurate to God's will is usually the one most effective in disciple making! Very often , servants of God will shout the Great Commission from Matthew 28, forgetting how that passage of scripture begins.. " All Authority in heaven and earth is given to me ..".. meaning that JESUS CHRIST HAS THE FINAL AUTHORITY IN THE DISCIPLE MAKING PROCESS.. We are also subjected at times to carnal preaching which stems from pride filled objectives using hypocritical means all in the name of love! A simple example of this can be demonstrated when servants take 2 Timothy 16 out of context .. Paul writes that ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD BREATHE AND IS USEFUL ..ETC .. IT DOES NOT SAY THAT ALL PREACHING IS GOD BREATHE, AND IS USED FOR ! THERE'S A GROSS DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT IS " USEFUL " VS WHAT IS USED FOR !! This heresy has caused more emotional bruising through the airways than gracious and spiritual transformation! GOD INDEED USES SERVANTS BUT DOES NOT NEED US TO ULTIMATELY DO THE JOB.. HE SAID TO PETER THAT HE WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH .. SCRIPTURE IS SUFFICIENT! CHRIST IS KING.. HE STARTED IT AND WILL FINISH IT'S PURPOSE! GOD BLESS YOU ALL .. Would love to read your thoughts! Euge

Eugene Augustine

commented on Feb 19, 2014

SORRY FOR THE TYPO .. I WAS MAKING REFERENCE TO 2 TIMOTHY 3:16.

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