Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Preaching: Not About Good Advice

There are plenty of people out there willing to give you good advice. From Dear Abbey to Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura we have plenty of people out there who will give us advice on how to live. The problem is that it isn’t God’s advice. Sure we can find Biblical passage to support some of it, but that doesn’t mean that it is God’s advice.

In an attempt to be relevant and to meet the need of their congregations too man preachers build their messages around the good advice of people like Dr. Phil rather than building their sermons on the text of God’s Word. Haddon Robinson wrote a chapter entitled The Relevance of Expository Preaching for the book Preaching to a Shifting Culture. In it he writes:
“It is one thing to find insight and direction from a text and to demonstrate how it gives God’s perspective on the current approaches to a problem, but it is another thing to find one’s basic ideas in the humanistic disciplines and then baptize those insights into the faith unconverted. A sermon urging care for the environment, for example, may look to the natural sciences to make us aware of what is happening to the air, forest, seas, and animals, but also turns to the same sources for the diagnosis of the problem, and the motivations for acting to solve it. We’re sure that Christians should be concerned about polluted air and depleted natural resources so any verse or two about creation being God’s handiwork is all the scriptural support we need for what we want to say. The Bible is actually incidental to the sermon.

“Other sermons on more personal issues such as grief, guilt, anxiety, or loneliness often depend on the insights of counselors or psychologists to analyze the situation and to show how they should be handled. We too easily buy into the assumption that the members of the social sciences can give us all the help we need. Of course the Scriptures work well enough for religious matters, but when it comes to the business of living they aren’t much help. When it comes to those issues we want to believe we can fix things ourselves; there is no need or use to call in God” (pg. 81; emphasis added).

There is no doubt that we can find good advice from the wisdom of this world, but are we called to offer people good advice? To be honest with you if I am called to offer people advice on how the can have a better life or purpose in their life then I am in trouble. Dr. Phil does that far better than I can and people don’t have to get off their living room couch.

Preaching has to be more than offering clich├ęs and advice about finding our best life now. The wisdom of this world is incapable of making sense of the trials and hardships of life. Consider what James wrote in his epistle:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:2-5; NASB).

Life is not a walk in the park. Everyone experiences hardships and struggles, they are an universal experience. James points out, as do other Biblical writers, that trials serve a purpose: they help us become the people God created us to be. James says for us to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In the very next verse James writes; But if any of you lacks wisdom. Why is wisdom important? Why not strength? hope? or relief? Isn’t because only through wisdom can we discover how to use these hardships in our lives? Simply enduring hard times isn’t the answer, it is how we choose to respond to those trials. In order to make the right choice we need God’s wisdom.

The pages of the Bible contain God’s wisdom. If we neglect the study of it and the preaching of it then we cut ourselves and others off from the wisdom God wants in our lives. So the purpose of preaching isn’t to impart good advice to people so they can have the life they always wanted, but to share God’s wisdom so people can make the right choices as they journey to become the people God created them to be.

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