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May 6, 2009 / beidson

Let It Rain, But There Must Be Thunder: Biblical Authority As Impetus In Transformational Preaching

There is no point in preaching if it does not have power.  Those who would dare preach without appealing to the authority ofstorm Scripture are like those who want it to rain but hate the thunder.  They like pleasantness, but can’t stand all the shock and awe.

Paul spoke against this type of preaching: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).  He’s not forbidding poetry in sermons.  He’s speaking against preaching that rings in the ears but does no good to the heart because it has been emptied of its power.  The power in our preaching finds its source in the gospel story, and if we abandon this, we are of all men most to be pitied.

To be a little more clear: if our preaching is primarily about the way we need to change to the neglect of how change is possible, we are in danger.  When “5 Steps to Victory Over Lust” or “3 Leadership Principles in Jesus’ Life” are preached apart from the metanarrative of sin and redemption, we have emptied our messages of their power.  Our “Thus saith the Lord” is simply “Because I say so.”  And being gospel-centered doesn’t simply mean mentioning Jesus name or talking about the cross.  Every message must find its place within the larger salvation story of Scripture.  Our “4 Keys to Contentment” must be squarely placed on the foundation of our reconciliation with God in Christ through the cross and resurrection.  Our “Live Like Jesus” will not simply be about how to be humble; it will be about the Man who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Much preaching today is powerless.  Many preachers, in their yearning for political correctness and to please and to prosper, have not only side-stepped the gospel but have indeed subverted it.  Their sermons are catchy and marketable, but they do not scare people.  They are like little rain clouds–we are glad to see them, but we all know that something bigger must come if the earth is to yield its crop. Sooner or later we need thunder storms.

Darkness covered the land at Jesus’ death, and when he comes again, there will be peals of thunder and great wonders in the sky.  Can we not preach like this?  Do we preach the cross with sunny skies?  Do we speak of Jesus without all the mystery and fear?  We can, but our voices will be like clanging cymbals and no one will be changed.  No one runs for shelter when it sprinkles.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  Our preaching must appeal to the authority of Christ’s words to us; only these words change lives.  And we must not let our tongues hang limp, as if we had nothing to show the people about the voice of God.  Rather, we must remember that those who are preachers are prophets.  “Thus saith the Lord” is our message, and God has never spoken that somebody did not fall back in fear and amazement.  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him!”  So let it rain, but remember, it must thunder.

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