Where preaching goes awry

This morning as I was reading through Ezekiel this phrase struck me, “. . . then they will seek a vision from a prophet, but the law will be lost from the priest and counsel from the elders.” (Ezekiel 7:26, NASB) The priests had turned away from the Law of God and could no longer bring any advice that was helpful to the people as they sought a word from God.

It’s all about relationship

PreachingInside a religious system, there is a danger that we can miss the intent of Scripture. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is about the beginning, breaking and restoration of our relationship with God. It is about relationship first. Jesus supports this understanding in Matthew 22:36-40 when he identifies love of God and love of neighbor as the two great commands.

If the intent of Scripture is to restore and deepen relationship with God, then it seems obvious to me that the intent of preaching should be to restore and deepen relationship with God. The preaching should be geared toward encouraging transformation, but too often we settle for information.

In Matthew 15:8, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13 when he says: “‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.” (NASB) The point is that we can be heavily involved in the teaching and reading of Scripture and not have our hearts changed. We can say and do all the right things but have hearts that are far away from God.

A means to an end

Ravi Zacharias has properly said, “Jesus did not come to make bad men good, he came to make dead men live.” Preaching which imparts knowledge may be helpful, but the impartation of knowledge is a means to an end (relationship) not the end in itself. Proper preaching must present Christ as the means of making dead people live.

I have been in many church services where the sermon gave me a lot of information and did not spur me on to a deeper relationship with God. Proper preaching should challenge me to see the parts of my life that have yet to be yielded in submission to God. Part of proclaiming the good news is to help me to see the need for that good news and my inability to provide it for myself.

It is only through relationship with Jesus Christ that we can become spiritually alive. This truth is at the heart of the gospel and if preaching is not calling dead men to live in Jesus, it is doing nothing of eternal value. Even if the teaching causes men to do good works or religious practice but does not cause men to come into relationship with Jesus, it is of no eternal value.

The final exam

We need to keep in mind that there is no theology test to get into Heaven. Jesus reminds us that the test has only two questions (See Matthew 7:21-23). The two questions are: am I in relationship with Jesus and on the basis of that relationship have I been obedient?

To prepare people for that test is the only proper goal of preaching.