Never satisfied. I wonder if I will always feel that way about my sermons. I remember reading that Charles Spurgeon, regularly wept after sermons out of fear of having dishonored the Lord unintentionally. If the “Prince of Preachers” struggled with sermon contentment, then I can expect this “pauper of preachers” to live in the same tension. Preaching is hard and pastors are their worst critics. Unlike many occupations, results are not always immediate–fruit takes time to grow. More often than not, I feel like preaching is akin to tilling hardened soil with a broken tool. Perhaps this is God’s way of making preachers desperate for His Spirit and assuring He gets the glory whether they are or not.
The last sermon I preached was Judges 2.7-11, title, Generational Unfaithfulness. This weekly blog is where I reflect on the sermon, here are the points that I would want to repeat, reject, or reform:
From Godly to Godless: In one a generation, a faithful community can become unfaithful. The statistics don’t lie. The fact is inevitable and the reason is quite clear. Communities become godless when families become godless. Families become godless when parents (esp. Fathers) become godless. And Fathers become godless when they reject the Word of God…just like our first parents did.
From Known to Unknown: What does it mean to “know” God? In Israel, one generation “knew” him and other did not. Without doubt, they knew a lot about God, but they did not know him in any relational sense. The children watched their parents fight God’s enemies, watched their parents stand firm against intermarriage, watched their parents worship rightly…but they never learned the WHY. At some points, their parents never explained that their obedience was rooted in a fear and and a love for the Lord. Their fight in the land was not to gain God’s approval, but a response to already having received it–evidenced by their redemption. In other words, they taught their children to know God’s law without knowing God first. This can only lead to moralism, legalism, or other bad -isms, all of which lead away from God because they become gods themselves (very unsatisfying ones).
From Fight to Forget: Perhaps the greatest failure of faithful parents is viewing their families rightly. They pour all of their energies into being on mission “out there” that they never view their own homes as the first and most important mission field. The sad and scary truth is that Christians can become powerful “spiritual fighters” for the wrong things, in the wrong places, at the wrong time. All that we do to love and care for the innocent or to fight and punish evil is meaningless if we don’t FIRST protect, serve, and feed our own families. Without concern for the next generation, our fight will be for not, and our faith will be forgotten. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission will not continues through us, it will cease at us.
From Pedagogical to Personal: In the end, we are left with a simple question. What must we do to ensure the next generation knows God and fears him? The truth is that there are no guarantees, but that does not dismiss us from our responsibility to teach the next generation. But in order to really teach the next generation, we must do less teaching that describes a “good Christian” and more teaching of our own redemption from sin. In essence, it means we must share less about what we believe and more about why we believe it. It means we must speak less about what we must do, and more about what Christ has done. It means we’ll have to be honest about the fact that we are sinners saved by grace. It means we’ll have to preach the gospel and trust that a changed heart really will change behavior.
Perhaps Keller says it best.
The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace ad acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.
This also creates a radical new dynamic for discipline and obedience. First, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed because we know we won’t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness. Second, it makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of a burden. We can use it to delight and imitate the one who has saved us rather than to get his attention or procure his favor. We now run the race ‘for the joy that is set before us’ rather than ‘for the fear that comes behind us.’