April 16, 2012

If You Can "Apply" What I Preach, I've Failed You The past few Sundays, I've found myself saying to my congregation that if they could leave a service and apply what I've just preached, then I've failed them. Sounds a bit strange, I know. But I was explaining to them why communion is now at the end of our services-- as the climactic moment not an afterthought-- instead of having it right after the singing portion of our worship, as we had done for the better part of two years. (We made the switch during Lent.) The reason is quite simple: The proper response to the preaching of the word should not be, "Oh, that's a great little insight. I think I'll go apply that." I think it ought to be, "O God, what are we going to do now?" The New Testament often records people being "cut to the heart" after one of the apostles preached. Their goal was not to give people a few tips on their marriage or a few pithy phrases to guided their business transactions. (Though there are "wisdom" books in the Old Testament that do that...there is a place for it.) The overall goal in New Testament preaching was to reveal Christ-- Christ as the full revelation of God the Father, Christ as the only Savior of the world, Christ as the true and rightful King of this world, even now! When you preach that way, people will inevitably see how far off we are. No theatrical voice inflections or guilt trips required. The Scripture is sufficient. I had a professor in my undergrad who used to say that we read the Bible so that we can "know God and become His people." When the Word is proclaimed, when we enter the story and soak ourselves in the narratives, not only is God revealed,...
Is God an Imaginary Friend? This is a new billboard in our city. While some may have a strong reaction to a sign like this, I think Christians ought to listen to what our atheist friends are saying to us because it says a lot about us. The billboard is a massive mirror of how our lived faith looks. (This is not unlike Nietzshce's late 19th-century proclamation that "God is dead", which was not a statement about belief in God but an indictment of a culture that claimed to believe in God while they had functionally deconstructed a theistic worldview.) The uncomfortable truth is that for many Christians, God is like an imaginary friend. This is especially highlighted around Easter season by the way we talk about Jesus' resurrection. Broadly speaking, Evangelicals think the Resurrection means some combination of these three things: 1. EVACUATION: Because God raised Jesus from the dead, we know that Jesus really was God, and therefore those who believe in Him are going to be taken out of this world one day and go to heaven. God, in this view, is an imaginary Fireman who will rescue us from the flames of Hell, which are even now consuming this world. 2. COMPENSATION: Because God rasied Jesus from dead, we know that Jesus was God and so we ought to listen to what the Bible says and do good things if we want to be rewarded. God, in this view, is an imaginary Santa Claus who "knows when we've been bad or good" and will compensate us accordingly with a scolding or with ethereal rewards in heaven. 3. CONSOLATION: Because God raised Jesus from the dead, we know that Jesus is God and since He ascended to heaven, we'll go there one day too. God, in this view, is an imaginary therapist--...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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