One of the opportunities my recent “retirement” has afforded me, is to visit around to various Churches in my area to see what’s going on. Sadly, with but a few notable exceptions, it has not been a very happy experience thus far. And this, for one key reason: There has been a forsaking of preaching the Word of God.
Now don’t get me wrong – in most cases, the Bible has at least been referenced. But it has been so only in the sense that the preacher had something he wanted to say – and then found a passage (or worse, just a single word which they then defined to suit their purposes) that appeared to buttress their idea. But they were far from simply going to the Scripture, ascertaining what was being said to whom, under what circumstances, and thus what the passage was meant to teach when it was written. For in truth, only then, can we rightly find out what God has taught, and thus what we desperately need to hear. Instead, I’ve heard a lot of kindly, (and yes, even sound at times) Christian advice. Advice aimed at scratching where the preacher thought the people itched. Or simply where he did. But was all centered around the idea of how the Bible can be accessed to help me live the life I want to live, and not around how God has spoken so that I might live the life He wants me to live in accordance with how I am to be His image-bearer as I approach the final destination of eternity in His presence, fully bearing the image of Christ.
The whole experience thus far has reminded me of Amos 8:11 (NIV84) “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
This last Sunday, the preacher began by reading out 4 passages from 1 John on loving. All disconnected from their context, and apart from any attempt to define love Biblically. And then he unashamedly went on to preach 4 points (out of 12) from their Church membership covenant on how they agreed to treat each other. Along the way, he kept saying that these points were Biblically based. But at the same time, he failed to show even once from whence these points as he articulated them, were derived. Just saying something is Biblical or comports with Biblical teaching in some way, is not preaching the Word of God. It is the propounding of man’s ideas using the Bible as the justification for what they want to say. And some of those ideas may be good, moral, ethical and lovely. But that is not the same as hearing what God has said as God has said it, and then moving on to how that ought to inform my soul about the God I serve, and how to serve Him as He desires. It may be a good Christian lecture – but it is not what was meant by the Apostle Paul – when inspired by the Holy Spirit – he wrote to Timothy: 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV84) “Preach the Word”.
If you are in a Church where the approach to the Sunday sermon (and other teaching venues) is to try and open up God’s Word, by what Alistair Begg calls SCEOTS (Systematic, Consecutive, Exposition of The Scriptures) – cherish it. Treasure it for what it is. Maybe it is not the slickest presentation. Maybe the music is not your personal preference. Maybe there are other likes or dislikes which can easily become distractions. Don’t let them! If the attempt, if the action week after week is to dive into a passage in understanding what the Spirit wrote through His men to particular peoples in their places and times and circumstances – and then to see how that applies to us – you have no idea how you are being fed in the midst of this very great and severe famine which afflicts our land right now. Savor that sacred food. For that alone can truly nourish your soul. It may not show you how to live your idea of a victorious, successful or more happy life – but such a steady diet will bring you to spiritual health so as to be equipped to know and serve the living and true God on your way to the Heaven He has prepared for you.
It will deliver you from death. It will open your eyes to the wonder and glory of the Christ who died for you, that you might be eternally reconciled to the Father, and fit you for an eternity with Him.