One of the things we’ve talked about in our Faithroots Live group is preaching that convicts. We’ve seen how we can preach about sin but not really speak to the heart. We end up doing one of the following:
1. To denounce others -so that our audience enjoys the performance and sense that we are speaking for them against an outside evil. We don’t speak to people.
2. Speaking about sin but in a kind of lecture type way. It may be interesting to listen to but it does not touch on the individuals concerned.
3. Bash people over the head with generalised condemnation. They feel the weight of it but it is like being hit with something blunt. They go home with sore heads but untouched hearts.
We want preaching about sin that convicts, that cuts to the heart. So for example, if I’m preaching on John 10 and I get to the point where Jesus says “You are not children of Abraham but children of your father the devil” well then I can
1. Denounce current religious and political leaders who fit that bill.
2. Explain why Jesus tod the Pharisees that this was their nature giving all the historical and theological context.
3. Tell the congregation that they are all sons of the devil, that they are hypocrites, liars etc.
If I just do any of these three things I am likely to miss the mark.
But what if I say something along the lines of:
“Here Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders of his day. They had all of the bible prophecies about him, they were seeing his miracles and hearing his good and wise teaching. Their response was to plot to kill him. They hid behind their physical ancestry -descendants of Abraham. They thought this meant God was pleased with them, they were his children. However, their attitude to Jesus betrayed their true self.
Now if I were to tell you that you were really a child of Satan, not God, then you would be deeply offended, I’m sure. You’d say ‘But Dave, I’m noting like those religious leaders. I don’t hate Jesus, I’m not plotting to kill him. In fact, I’ve never plotted to kill anyone.”
I would feel exactly the same. And yet when I look at my life, I see some deeply unpleasant things. I know that I have held grudges against others, let my closest friends down, said things that have wounded fragile emotions. I know that I don’t always do well with the truth. I don’t like to hear the truth about myself and I worry about telling the truth about others. I can try and minimalize the seriousness of those things but Jesus is very clear that it’s not just what I do and it’s not just the extreme things that are bad. It’s what’s in my heart.
And when I think that those things aren’t too bad, when I say that I am basically okay, that I can get by, that I can basically be okay with God if I come to church, say my prayers, do some good works then I’m saying that there was no need for Jesus to come and die. I reject him and his mission. At that very point I identify with those religious leaders who rejected him.
Do you identify with that? I’m sure we all do. We may not think of ourselves as wicked, monsters. We may not be murderers or thieves and yet in those quiet moments our consciences betray us and remind us that we are not right. We need God.
Well here’s the good news ….”
Now for another example. The other day Sarah and I visited City Church, another local church in the Birmingham area. Neil Powell was speaking on Ecclesiastes 5:10.
“Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!”
Neil gave a model example of how to speak on this verse in a way that convicts to the heart.
First of all, he used an example from contemporary culture. He quoted a contestant from the Apprentice. They had said that they wanted to be a billionaire, to have an empire, to have verything, fame, money, power.
We laughed at the ridiculous hubris of it all.
Then Neil followed up “But we all want that don’t we. We all care about money. Another rich person was once asked ‘How much is enough money? And they answered ‘one more dollar.’”
Neil showed us how whilst we may laugh at the extreme and ridiculous examples, there’s that desire in each of us for more. He went on to show how trust in money id futile and leads to despair. He didn’t just talk about money, he didn’t spend his time denouncing the bankers and stockbrokers in the City, he didn’t simply shout at us for being greedy. He spoke humbly, lovingly and truthfully to our hearts.
That’s what should be happening when we preach. God through His Holy Spirit as Scripture is opened, read and expounded should speak to hearts, convicting of sin brining repentance and faith.