Preaching Christ

Just read a wonderful blog post about preaching to the depressed, but I think this is for everyone as well. David Murray goes through 8 ways preachers damage those who are depressed by preaching anything other than Christ. I may be so bold to say, that some of those ways damage everyone. Sometimes I feel damaged by them. This is worth reading, here is the most beautiful part of the post:

And that really brings me to the best way to preach to the depressed, and that’s to preach Christ. Preach His suffering and sympathizing humanity. Preach His gentle and tender dealings with trembling and timid sinners. Preach His gracious and merciful words. Preach His beautiful meekness. Preach His miracles to demonstrate His power to heal. Preach His finished work on Calvary. Preach His offer of rest to the weary. Preach the power of His resurrection-life. Preach His precious promises: ”A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.”

Preach Christ! Preach Him winningly and winsomely. Preach Him near and ready to help. Preach Him from the heart to the heart. Preach Him again, and again, and again. Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.

Bring me to Christ

cold-heartWe enter the new year carrying our resolutions under our arms. This year will be better. This year I will  be better. I want a new me – slender body, social butterfly, intellectual power that will knock your socks off. The new me will be able to handle criticism and flourish in social situations. The new me will be able to quote Nietzsche and be able to pronounce his name correctly. This year will ultimately be about me. I have plans all wrapped up in my resolutions – I know the books I need to read, the people I need to contact, the strengths I need to cultivate, the serving that needs to be done. I have a tick list to make myself better and achieve ultimate Christian status. I will give to God more than I have before. I will strive, conquer, achieve. Strength will be my battle armour.

Goodness. How exhausting. To be honest I am not one for resolutions, I don’t like the idea of setting myself up to fail. Call me a half empty glass, but honestly, slender bodies, social prowess, intellect and striving to give back to God all that I have isn’t going to fulfill me. It isn’t going to bring me everlasting joy. The reason I think they are going to make me happy or a better Christian is because I believe the lie that Jesus isn’t enough. This lie seeps in and dulls my heart. The affections of my heart are dull.

Paul says to the Corinthians in 2Cor6v12 – “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections”. Our own affections stop us and it’s not because they are too passionate, but they are as CS Lewis says –

““It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…”

Our passions and desires are dull and weak. We easily go after broken cisterns in search of something that will fulfill us, but we find dust and dirt instead of a fountain of living water.

Its funny, we often say that we know the Gospel, but yet we easily forget Christ. If we didn’t forget Christ so easily it would be evident in the affections of our hearts. I can tell you that my heart is often cold and it needs to be awaken. The danger for us is that often we try to awaken it with the whip of the law, a list of things to do, resolutions to keep, steps to guide us. As this whips us into action, we can only move around slowly like cold muscles trying to work out and all too soon they rip and tear.

What the Christian heart needs then is simple: It needs Christ. Bring me to him. He is my great physician, my wonderful healer. He is the fire that warms my heart and sets it ablaze. Bring me to him and not to a list of things to do. Tell me of Christ and not law. Tell me of Christ and not a step by step guide on how to live as a Christian. For if my heart is aflame with the love of Christ and my very being filled with the Spirit of Christ then I will walk in step with His spirit.

Please speak of Christ to me. Bring me to him. Not just once but every time I see you or hear you. I beg you because he is my daily bread and my living water. He is the one I need above all things. And I know you need him too. So then let me bring you to him. Let me bring you to your saviour and King. Are you weary? Brokenhearted? Then come to him who gives you strength and binds the broken heart. Are you downcast and in darkness? Then come to him who has felt your downcast and has suffered it but who brings light in the darkness. Do you feel ashamed? Come to him who takes your shame and puts it to death.

O Preacher bring me to Christ. Bring all of us to Christ. Preach of him and only him. We need it or we may go out cold.

Collection of Webs (24)

So what has caught my eye on the web over the last couple of weeks? Well let’s have a look:

“You can’t have a child” – facing the consequences of infertility or singleness – a great blog post over at Woman in London. A real heart-rending issue and she writes really well about it.

Preaching in a Vacuum – a Post by Mike Shaw about how Preachers are preaching to a certain culture and group of people.

The God who Gives to Give – Dave Bish posts about “the Father who gives authority to his Son, and the Father gives people to his Son, and then the Son gives Eternal Life to people.”

Evangelism: It ain’t Rocket Surgery – Written by Glen Scrivener on why Evangelism isn’t actually that hard.

And for the last link, I found this video on the Power of the Pentatonic scale – its is truly brilliant:

 

Appeal to our emotions with Christ

Emotions in Christianity are quite a strange thing. We often say that it isn’t about how we feel, but it is about the how we hold on to the truth, that emotions don’t play a part in our faith. Although often that is expressed more in the sermon then in the sung worship where we appeal to our emotions to “press into God”. I think we get a little mixed up, I think I can get a little mixed up. Sometimes we can think that emotions are not important in Christianity and they should be put on the shelf.

Are emotions important? Well Richard Sibbes says:

“We are not as we know, but as we love… our affections are those things which declare what we are” “If we have Religion only in the brain and not in love, we shall be stripped of all. Satan will rob us of any truth.”

Jonathan Edwards says:

“If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart”

Affections within Christianity are of most importance. We are told in the bible to feel joy (Phil 3:1), experience sorrow (2 Cor 7:8-11),thankfulness (Col 3:15-17) to love and be zealous (Rom 12:9-11)…

Most often in preaching the appeal is to our character and knowledge, the appeal is for us to change. We read the bible to get quick fixes and we listen to sermons to “fill us up” for the week. We use worship for some display of emotion … But my heart will not change unless its been encountered with the fire of Christs love. And worship will not overflow if my heart is cold and my week will continue to trudge along with a dull heart. The answer? Its not all about emotions and how I feel? … mmm

On one part no. Your salvation and how God sees you is not based on your emotions. AT ALL. But how about your affections towards Christ? How are they? Do you love him? Are you enjoying him?

What if you heard how wonderful Christ is? That his love for you is far greater than you can imagine? That you can come to him in what ever state you are in and his love will place fire in your heart and warm you up. That he died for you not because he hates you, but because he loves you and you can have life in Him. Have you seen how beautiful he is and how his radiance shines and how he lavishes his love on you, his bride? Oh yes, he gets angry but only when you throw that love away and prostitute yourself to idols, he wants your heart, he wants you to come to the fountain of living water where you will never be thirsty again. Do you know him? If you do not know this Jesus, then someone needs to tell you…

So I plead, preacher, that you appeal to our emotions and preach the wonderful Christ who died for us, speak of his love with such passion and joy and deep love that I cannot help but see him and have his love burn in my heart. I will encounter Him with such worship and such zeal and passion, not because I am “pressing in” but because the Spirit cries “Abba Father” and Jesus has already pressed into the Father for me and I will just enjoy him, sitting in his love and having my heart melted.. Preach Christ and not morality or how to be a better christian or some mysterious power “god” and you will see a different church.

Emotions are important. The church won’t do mission without Joy and love in Christ.

And there will be times when we don’t feel like we are in a good place and we can’t say we are enjoying Jesus. And yes we must remember the truths, but we must cling to Christ. He does not stamp on the bruised reed. It’s not about feeling happy, but it is about coming to Christ as a bruised reed and knowing that his love is there for you and as I have heard from a friend – When you don’t desire God, Jesus desires him for us… cling to Jesus and let your heart be warmed, however long it takes.

Related Post: Affections of the heart

Offer them Christ

We have just had our team days in the South West and it has been a wonderful whirlwind! It was a lovely two days of good food, prayer and laughter. But also two days packed with wonderful seminars on how to preach Christ. It has really challenged me with how I present Christ and whether I would rather hold out a “To-do” list of how to be a better Christian instead of offering them Christ.This may seem an obvious thing and we say, “We are Christians, obviously we offer people Christ”…

But the more I think about it, the more in our evangelism and often in our church preaching we would rather offer “this is what a Christian is…” instead of saying “Look this is beautiful Jesus, look at him”… We are tempted to say to the struggling Christian – “Pray harder, read your bible, press in harder, find more joy in God” instead of saying – “yes you are struggling, but look to Christ… yes I know you are finding it hard, but LOOK TO CHRIST!”…

How beautiful and wonderful Christ is. He has done it for you.

You are not David battling with Goliath (1 Sam 17), you are not the good Samaritan (Luke 10:33), you are not in the garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father (Luke 22:40)…

Instead you are the brothers that scoff at David (1 Sam 17:28) , you are the beaten man  on the floor (Luke 10:30) and you are Peter falling asleep (Luke 22:45-46).

Look at Christ.

Bish has put up the recordings on his blog, check them out. Bish says:

“Breath-taking reflections on how its better to have the Scriptures than to be in the room with the resurrected Jesus like Thomas… the way that the word of God doesn’t need experts but creates heralds… a wonderful clarity on the character of the Triune God and the Father’s shining, loving, giving word. It’s 6.5 hours of training material but I’d highly commend it to you.”