Good Preaching

“That guy can really preach” he told me as he recounted last Sunday’s service at a local church. “It was powerful to see how everyone responded at the end.” I interrupted him after a few minutes and asked “What was the sermon about and what Scripture did he preach from?” “Oh” he said “he used a whole bunch of Bible verses, you couldn’t narrow it down to just one passage. That’s what I like, a preacher that uses lots of Bible.” So I asked again “What was the title of his message?”"Uh, I don’t guess he ever gave us a title” he said with a smile “he just preached what God put on his heart. And boy, it was a good one.”
This is a typical conversation here in the “Bible Belt” about how successful last Sunday’s sermon was. The preaching was really good and the alters were full but nobody really remembers what was said during the message. Except for a few jokes or a funny story. Sadly, it could very well be true that jokes and stories are all that’s worth repeating from many worship services. “That guy can really preach” can mean just about anything around here. He’s loud, he’s animated, he’s funny, he’s simple, he draws a crowd, he’s short, he’s educated, or he may simply fill the alters at the end.
You see, most people don’t have any biblical concept of what preaching is. We just have our own preferences that we have been conditioned to look for in a preacher. David Clark always said “In the South, we’ve been trained to watch preaching instead of listening to sermons.” I’ll never forget a song leader telling me his job was “to light a fire in the church and fan the flames till he could pass the torch on to the pastor. Good preaching starts with the flow of the Spirit.” What does the “flow of the Spirit” even mean? Sigh…
Biblical preaching is reading the Word, explaining the Word, and teaching the hearers how the Word applies to their lives today. 2 Tim 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” Not Shouting and spouting random verses, old cliches, or telling us what God put on you heart. Good preaching lays the Bible before the hearers and explains their responsibility to it. If you can’t remember the content on Monday, how good was it?

Man Made Mandates

In Romans 14 Paul gives instruction to brothers in Christ who happen to disagree on diet, days and drinks. Some eat the meat of pagans and some think it’s a sin to do so. Some keep special holy days and others don’t. Some only drink water while others enjoy wine. This chapter has been made famous for dealing with “weaker brothers.” Paul’s advice is not to force someone to do something they are not comfortable with. Don’t push alcohol on the teetotaler nor think less of him who does drink. Don’t mandate or forbid holidays. The same goes for the food you eat, avoid it if it makes someone else uncomfortable. That is how the weak and the strong can get along in the same body. By the way, it is the strong who have liberty to do such things and the weak that forbid it. So as the strong and liberated let’s not flaunt our freedoms.
I encountered some weaker brethren this week in social media. They were mandating that Christians not allow their children to attend public schools. Because the “clearly biblical” thing to do is home school or private school. While there were no clear Bible references given to support the sinfulness of parents sending their kids to public schools. Many bad examples from around the country were sited as to the failure of governmental education. Basically if your children attend public schools you are a weak Christian at best and you might not be saved. Or so they said.
This legalistic approach to education is a text book weaker brother moment and here’s why. The Bible is not cut and dried on the methods of educating your children, save that the parents bear the responsibility. The Bible does not condemn governmental services or our use of them. Every school district is as different and every set of parents. This is why a binding statement in Scripture can’t be found on this subject.
So how should a strong brother respond? We have the liberty to decide for our family the educational system that best suits our needs. It we choose in home, private, or public it’s none of their concern. Nor do we hold the right to force our preferences on them, it their choice as well. Problems will only arise when one brother tries to force the other. Be strong, don’t do it.

No Absolutes

We clearly live in a society that does not like absolutes. Conversations are filled with statements like these: “you can’t know right or wrong, what’s right for one maybe wrong for another.” ” No one knows what is right for me to do since they don’t know me or how I feel.” “We can’t be sure about anything because there is so much science hasn’t discovered yet.” Some people claim to be unsure of their own gender. A few even claim there gender changes from day to day. Never mind that science discovered there to be only two genders (both evident at birth) many millennia ago. But hey, who are we to set up such absurd absolutes as male and female?
The problem is not merely that the facts haven’t been given to this wishy-washy generation. Its that our society does not want facts. They would rather operate on feelings. If you feel OK about something then its OK for you to do it. Who are we to judge how someone else feels? After all, insensitivity and hurt feelings are the worst things anyone can experience in our society. The problem with feelings is that they can change over time but absolutes never change. So a society built on feelings tends to become very fluid and eventually falls further than anyone ever imagined possible.
Before you try to take the high ground and distance yourself from the responsibility of these societal leanings. This attitude didn’t start last night, we’ve all been programmed this way. Consider these phrases that have been around for years: “Follow your heart” “Trust yourself” “Whatever makes you happy.” At least four generations were raised hearing this message from parents, schools, friends and the media. Is this not “feelings” driven advice?
No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one wants to hear about the negative consequences of their own actions. When a society lives without absolutes, it ends up as in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
As Christians we embrace absolutes. We have an absolute ruler in Jesus Christ. We have absolute truth in the Bible. Therefore we are not free to live our lives based on our feelings. We base our lives on Christ and his Word. This is what makes Christians stand out in an ever changing world.
A word of caution is in order here for every believer. Just because you embrace Christ and his Word does not mean you can force others to feel the same way. Some Christians want to legislate moral absolutes. You were not forced to accept the absolutes of Christ and Scripture by legislation, but rather by the Holy Spirit. So why try to force others to your position when the Bible calls us to exemplify it every day among them? I Peter 2:12. “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The absolutes of Scripture apply to Christians and when we embrace them we demonstrate His lordship in us.