The Preacher of Grace


My son is almost three years old, which means he is now at the age where I can give him a rule and with evil in his eyes and a grin on his face, he will happily ignore my rules. Since he’s just a toddler, he’s not very good at being naughty and it’s usually more entertaining than frustrating.  But nonetheless, he at times shows this childlike joy in testing the limits of what is right and wrong.

Robert Capon describes good preachers in a similar way to a naughty toddler:

"I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms."

Our churches, by and large, have bought into the belief that their value, worth, and acceptance comes from their performance. By some combination of bad preaching in their congregations and influence of those outside their congregations, people have put their faith in their own performance instead of the performance of Christ on the cross.

This is the battle of the modern preacher.  We must sneak up on our congregation with a childlike joy and a grin on our face as we flush their false Gospel down the toilet.  We have to convince people who think they know the Gospel that they don’t actually trust the Gospel by convincing them to test the limits of their ill-advised belief.

We fight to pry their own works from the grips of their hands so that they might finally realize that they’ve got nothing to offer.

The problem for us preachers, though, is this is a huge battle.  And because of our own problems of trust, we are often not up for the fight.

Robert Capon continues to describe this problem:

"But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they wont be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them, in advance and dead as door-nails, in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone-and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness-they will be of very little use in the pulpit."

That stings.

How often am I addicted to the crack of acceptance?  How often do I desire a pat on the back for a good sermon over and above the worth that comes solely from Christ?  How often do I look for the validation of someone in the congregation than the validation of the one who called me to preach?

The Gospel we preach is the Gospel we need.  It’s not about our works, our performance, our skills, and our creativity. It’s about the finished work of Jesus and the trust in that message frees us to proclaim it freely, without concern for the fans or the critics, but in confidence of the one who called you.

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