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Redemptive Preaching

February 6, 2007

This week’s dose of Classic Materials comes from a more modern ‘classic’: Christ Centred Preaching by Bryan Chapell. Whilst the early sections of the book give some of the clearest homiletics instruction you’re likely to read, the final third (“Developing Redemptive Sermons”) is worth the price of the book.

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Here is an exerpt for you to chew over today. Ask yourself whether Chapell’s admission is one that you need to make – perhaps for last Sunday’s sermon!

“Ultimately, the issue all preachers must confront is what they believe to be the relationship between people’s conduct and God’s acceptance. Are we holy for God’s acceptance, or are we holy because of God’s acceptance?

I did not understand the importance of that question until after several years of pastoring. Despite my good intentions, an honest assessment of my congregation revealed many who seemed far from the Lord. Their spiritual emptiness was all the more discouraging to me because the church was almost two centuries old.

Most conscientiously observed a community code of conduct – they were faithful to their spouses, dressed modestly, had respectable occupations, and did not drink to excess or swear in polite company. Outward conformity to accepted Christian conduct was definitely expected and consistently exhibited.

Attitudes, however, were not so exemplary. I could not understand how people who were so knowledgeable about God could be so bitter, so guilt-ridden, so often depressed, so cold to one another, and so intolerant of the faults of newer Christians.

Then I began to realise that the problem was not so much them as it was my preaching – and the preaching of others like me. I was using shame and fear to motivate people to obey God. What I had to confess was that though my messages often secured changed behaviour, my ministry seemed to produce little spiritual maturity.

Works righteousness had jumped into my ministry without my even knowing it. I was implying (if not directly stating) that we become acceptable to God by being good enough. No wonder the people were so hard and bitter and cold. I was teaching them that if they just offered God more filthy rags, he would care more for them.

What a cruel God I had painted for them. What a merciful God I had denied them by teaching them that God’s love was dependent on their goodness.”

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