In a Nutshell…

My last post was probably a bit convoluted. The examples maybe were not the best.

What I was trying to get across is that so much of today’s pHMMMM, WALNUTS !reaching and teaching regarding the Christian faith is nothing more than ‘law’ . St. Paul  tells us that there in no life in the law…only death.

So when a person goes into a worship service and the law has had it’s way with them all week, at work , at home, and in society, the last thing that person needs is more law trying to get them to improve. It’s like pouring gasoline on the fire! That old, tired, sinful self needs to be killed off (not propped up!) and the new man or woman put in it’s place…by the gospel!

The problem is that so many churches have no idea of this. Their theologies are ‘man’ based to start with, and so they just naturally progress from there along the path of man’s efforts to become more Christlike. They don’t understand the objective nature of the sacraments and the comfort that they bring to real sinners. So the comfort they are seeking and that they need must come from themselves. It has to come from their feelings, their sincerity, their good fruits, as proof that they are really in Christ.

That we are Christians has nothing to do with what we say, think, feel, or do.  It has everything to do with what Christ has done, is doing, and will yet do…FOR US!

This is a real problem for folks in the law churches. For them, the whole enterprise is about what we say, think, feel, or do. According to St. Paul, this way of thinking about the Christian faith is very dangerous.

The question is how do we get them to realize this?

How should Christians use their money?

I was a bit disingenous with that title. This post really isn’t about how you, as a Christian, should use your money. This post is really about the proper, and improper use of the law in a sermon.

Here is a ficticious sample sermon on the use of money (which is law, remembering the principle that anything you should, ought, or must be doing, is law language):                          

“As a Christian, you should give money to help thos101 Dollars!e less fortunate than yourself. Jesus said, “give to the poor.” There is probably more you could be doing along those lines,  not hanging onto so much for yourself… for God will always provide for you all the things that you need. Jesus tells His disciples to do these things with respect to the giving of money and everything else that we own, as well. A Christian should give to be in the will of God, and show that he or she has been taken hold of by the Holy Spirit. So, friends in Christ, you have the power to get out there and do what is right.”

Was that a Biblical message?  Yes it was. It’s all right there in the Bible.

Was it a proper use of the law in a sermon? I say it was not a proper use of the law, and especially not if it was not followed up with the announcement of the gospel…the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.

Now here is what I believe to be a proper use of the law in a sermon…

” Jesus tells us to give money to the poor, to those in need, those less fortunate than ourselves. He tells His disciples that not only should they give their money, but everything else they own, as well. Are you hanging onto a little more of your money than you ought? Are you taking what you can down to the homeless shelter and making regular donations? Are you making an effort to seek out and find those truly in need and not put that extra money in a bank account or go out to nice dinners at your favorite restaurants?  Jesus expects us to give and to give generously…all the time! Well…how are you doing in the giving department? If you are anything like me, the answer to that question is…not very well. But while Jesus clearly demands that we give all, He also gave all. He gave His very life for sinners like you and me, those that for their own lack of trust in God, simply will not relinquish all that they have, or even very much of it. It was for people like that, people like you and me, that He died on that cross and asked the Father to forgive us. And the Father answered His prayer that we might live again. That our selfish aims and lack of trust in God would not be held against us.  We ought give, out of Christian charity and concern for others… we ought give. But more importantly, we ought give away the ‘good news of Jesus Christ’ and His love and forgiveness for all those that just don’t quite measure up. I you ever find youself not measuring up to the high standards that God has demanded of you, just remember that One did measure up. That One is Jesus, and He gave everything He had…for you.”

Now, in the latter example, notice how the law was not used to prod, or make better…but rather to accuse, or to expose. Once the sinner is exposed the law can go to work to kill off the old Adam who believes that what he’s doing is good enough. “I’m not perfect, but I’m better than he is”, kind of stuff. The unmitigated wielding of the law is used to crush the sinner.  Then notice how the gospel is handed over…free of charge! Nothing left to do…no more law…only the promise of what God has done for the sinner. That is the Word! And that Word, when by God’s grace, is heard by a broken sinner, can give new life. A resurrection can then take place! The gospel is actually done to the sinner…just as the Word of law was actually done to the sinner to cause the death of that sinner.

I realize that this sort of thinking with regard to preaching is certainly in the minority.

I’m just wondering what you think about this Law/Gospel style of preaching. Does this make any sense to you?

Thanks!

       – Steve Martin