Posted by: Moses | December 20, 2005

The Bothering

When I was younger I used to utterly despise topical sermons. When sermons did not sit well with my spirit, without fail they fit into the “topical sermon” category. As a result, I developed an unwarranted prejudice towards this style. However, as I have been exposed to more and more preaching, I have had the privilege of sitting under a multitude of excellent topical sermons.

The fact that God honoring topical servants existed made me begin to wrestle with why some sermons bothered me. My first category of watch-out-for-these-and-gird-up-your-discernment-level had fallen through. It wasn’t topical sermons that bothered me, but if it wasn’t the topicality itself then what was it?
As I wrestled through this, the Lord finally saw fit to open my eyes to a large part of the problem: most topical sermons use the Bible not as the Word of God, but as a super-powered citation. Sometimes it seems that the only reason a topical preacher cites Scripture at all is to bolster his own credibility. When a minister comes to the text with His own ideas, he is in grave danger of using the text to advance his own ideas in a dramatic reversal of how solid doctrine should be preached.

This error is incredibly insidious. Because most evangelical preachers have considerable Biblical training, many times the drive of the sermon itself is not a problem. By God’s grace these sermons sometimes bear fruit or arrive at truth. However, this is by no means a justification for such preaching; the insidious error within such preaching is a profound disrespect for God’s sufficient Word.

Imagine a herald, jogging before the King to declare His words. The crowds part and stand in respect. Every merchant pauses in his exchange, some coins drop and echo through the marketplace as silence seizes the audience’s rapt attention. The herald begins to speak.

The herald had better get his message right. It doesn’t matter if he has something profitable to say or not; his mandate is to declare the King’s message. Now if he doesn’t give the message right, the King is going to draw back His hand and deck him across the back of his head with a rather heavy golden scepter. With His herald sprawled out in the mud at his feat, the King would lift up His own voice and speak to His people.
Imagine that the people had a hand-out of what the herald was supposed to say. Imagine the herald deviating then. I can see the rage of the populace as they finally realize that their herald has been deliberately twisting the King’s words for the last twenty years. Perhaps it wasn’t such a big deal, a word here, toning down a sentence there. But they love their king! They want to know what he says, not what some disrespectful servant of His wants Him to say!

Misrepresentation of a source is a failing offense in many universities. Using someone else’s well-deserved credibility dishonestly to your own gain is flagrantly unethical. When you apply this to the Bible, the atrocity is exacerbated. Such a preacher takes the infinite credibility of God’s word and uses it to peddle his own ideas. He is stealing the Lord’s infinite credibility! In the best-case scenario his ideas are in line with God’s word and God’s grace preserves him. In the worst-case scenario his ideas are heretical and God will hold him to a high standard of accountability for leading his sheep astray. Either way, he is divinely mishandling a source. He is applying God’s credibility to his own opinions. Such preaching will receive a failing grade when that preacher stands before the Throne.

Praise the Lord that not all preaching is irreverent! Praise the Lord for His ministries in the lives of men like John Piper, John McArthur, Joshua Harris, and many others! Praise the Lord that such men reverence the Word of God and declare God’s word faithfully. Praise the Lord that they are faithful heralds. Join me and praise Him! Thank the Lord if you have the privilege to sit in the congregation of a godly shepherd! Thank the Lord even if you are not. God is good to His children; He places us where we need to be. Under such disrespectful preaching the Lord has taught me much discernment and much respect for His word, things that I probably would have taken for granted without being exposed to problematic preaching. God is wise. Praise the Lord, the God who works all evil for His and our ultimate good. What an awesome God!

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Responses

  1. Looks good. My only question is why does the button to post this comment say “Abschicken?”

  2. Well, because “abschicken” is a little known infinitive which means, “to insert ones own opinions into a discussion.” i.e. to comment. =)

  3. I think you’re making that up. That is way too out-of-no-whereish.

  4. Junk! I just saw your “list” and realized that the b-day present I bought you you already have. Crossway didn’t have Let the Nations be Glad so I bought God is the Gospel instead. Bummer. I guess I’ll take it back. Any other book you want?

    PS: I’m still not buying the abs on the chicken. They’re fake I tell you. Probably plastic surgery.

  5. Well, actually. “Abschicken” is a German infinitive for “to post, or to send.” Just to clarify.

  6. You didn’t answer my question. Is there any other book you want. Or, I thought that maybe I could “gift” you some music through iTunes. Is there a specific CD you want then? I bought the song “sea of faces” this morning.

    PS: I thought it sounded German, but I didn’t know why you would use German.


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