Friday, August 24, 2012

A good word or The Good Word...

One of the most distressing changes in vocabulary has been the watering down of the word Gospel.  Gospel was once a word that immediately framed everything in terms of the cross and empty tomb.  It was once a word defined by specific content and not simply an attitude or principle.  But this word has been hijacked so that it means everything and therefore nothing at all.  It has become a generic word which was as specific as it could be.

I was listening to a sermon from another Pastor in my District and it came up in a discussion with a third Pastor.  It was interesting how differently we heard the same words.  He heard the Gospel all over the place.  I did not hear it at all.  What he heard was good advice for couples loving each other but finding that love difficult.  What he heard was good words about the difference between being in love and loving someone.  What he heard was a needful voice to address marriages more and more threatened by false expectations, self-centered definitions, and growing separation and divorce.  What I heard was hardly different from the stuff you might hear from Dr. Phil (not a Gospel preacher last time I checked).  What I heard was a discussion of love that did not define love in Scriptural terms (not that we loved God but that He first loved us and gave His Son....).  The only Scripture was the usual (the LOVE chapter).  The sound track could have been put together by Barry White (google him up if you are too young to know that name).  But there was no Gospel.  In fact, more than the Gospel gone awol, love was turned into a decision, a choice, a responsibility, and a job.  Apart from God in Christ, perhaps that is exactly what love is.  But in Christ we know love as gift, grace, mercy, blessing, sacrifice, and death that gives life.  But we did not hear that Gospel.  We heard only the generic gospel of the good that we woulda, shoulda, coulda done and how great it would have been if we had... and how it is not too late to start.  But that message does not belong in a Church nor should it be heard from a pulpit.

The good book in this sermon was not Scripture.  The good book was a marriage manual (The Five Love Languages).  Love may come from God (at least that was acknowledged in this sermon) but when it comes to us it becomes a choice, a decision, and a role we willingly take up.  If we love to get love, we are bad.  But if we love to love, then we are good.  Now, that said, the sermon assured us that if we began to heed this advice, we would end up with better husbands (though still with a beer belly) and better wives (though still not the beauty we imagined when we first married). 

My point is not that so much false doctrine may be preached from the pulpits in church body on Sunday morning but that Scripture is not being preached and the Gospel is not being spoken.  It can be true and sound good and even been needful counsel or adivce for people, marriages, and families under threat, but it is just a word unless it speaks Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  What do we preach?  Paul is unwavering here.  No other Gospel can be told but that Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified -- this is the wisdom and power of God.  Not pop psychology.  Not helpful hints to better relationships, marriages, families, jobs, lives, etc... 

It so often sounds as if we are narrow minded and judgmental when we criticize such sermons.  But we are only being as narrow as God is narrow -- for what He has given His Church to speak and that word He has called Pastors to teach is repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.  Anything else may not be terrible but it is an essential betrayal of the Pastor's calling and the Church's witness.  We don't need good words.  We need THE Good Word that is efficacious, that is powerful enough to do what it says, and that is faithful enough always to accomplish God's purpose....  We don't need gospel preachers.  We need the Gospel preached.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Sadly, there are those out there that wonder why the sermon always ends up in the same place: The death of Christ for the forgiveness of our sin.

Sadder still, they are not all Evangelicals. They are "confessional" Lutherans.