Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Only Jesus Himself Will Do

Here's a question: "Why are so many church-goers weak, struggling and depressed these days?" The simple answer would be: "Well, they're not being taught God's Word." But too often these "struggling saints" are in churches that take the Bible and doctrine very seriously. So, what gives?

In the twenty-fourth chapter of his Gospel, Luke records the conversation that took place between Jesus and some disciples on the road to Emmaus. In this conversation Jesus disclosed the key to understanding all of Scripture: Himself. In essence Jesus said, "The whole Bible, front to back and side to side is about me."

In the sixteenth chapter of his Gospel, John records Jesus' last words to his disciples before his passion and death. In this discourse Jesus promised to send the gift of the Holy Spirit after he had returned to his heavenly Father. But he also revealed the purpose of the Holy Spirit when he said, "He shall glorify me." (John 16:14a)

In the law of Moses, God's people were thrice forbidden to "boil a kid-goat in its mother's milk." In other words, the Israelites were not to take something intended to nurture and sustain life and turn it into a means of slow death. As noted above, the Scriptures were given to reveal Jesus who is himself the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). The Spirit was given to reveal Jesus who is himself the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Therefore, to the extent that preaching reveals the person and work of Christ, it brings life. And to the extent that it ignores or obfuscates Christ, it brings death. As M. Craig Barnes notes:

"Protestant churches today are filled with people who have learned the right answers to the questions about the content of our faith. They know the stories of the Bible, the teachings of the prophets and apostles, and why their particular brand of church has interpreted the Bible the way it has. But in every soul the insatiable thirst for holiness perseveres. The living water that can quench this thirst is not more right information about Jesus. Only Jesus himself will do. And Jesus is not a what; he's a who. So the preacher dare not reduce the person of Christ to orthodox theology about him, or the souls of everyone in church that day will leave as parched as they arrived." (M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet)

The God-fearing Greeks in John 12 approached Philip with a profoundly insightful request: "Sir, we would see Jesus." It's high time we asked the same from those who bring us God's Word.

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