All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6.7
The secular world plows ahead with its agenda of getting, spending, indulging, squandering, fretting, fuming, and fulminating against all things permanent. It has always been thus, as Solomon observes in Ecclesiastes 6.10, because this is the plight of sinful man.
So what’s our excuse as followers of Jesus Christ?
Pastors who prepare well for the work of preaching will want their words to impact the souls and lives of their hearers in transformative – and not merely comforting and confirming – ways. Preaching does not accomplish its purpose unless those who hear are convicted, converted, and conformed increasingly to the image of Jesus Christ.
Such preaching should contribute to God’s people growing in righteousness, defined in terms of love, excellence in all things beautiful and good and true, and purity of heart and life. As we are led into the Word of righteousness by the Spirit of righteousness, we should reasonably expect to increase in the righteousness of Jesus Christ as a result. People who hear God’s Word, faithfully and boldly proclaimed, find the polished silver of the image of God in their souls glowing with the gold of His glory, and radiating His presence and power into every area of their lives. Preaching is truly effective in a secular age such as ours when it bears such fruit in the lives of God’s people.
So where are these preachers? When even Bill O’Reilly and those who email him daily are crying out for pastors to stand up like prophets and proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord!” we know that all is not as it should be in the pulpits of the land. We need more preachers like Patrick, who paid his debt of gratitude for God’s saving mercy by evangelizing among the most fearsome and godless people of his day, without regard for personal safety or gain. We need pastors who are soundly theological, who can rescue Christmas, for example, from secular triviality, the assaults of atheists, and the complacency and world-conformity of believers, explaining, like Anselm, all the perfectly good and logical reasons why it was necessary for God to become Man in Jesus: Only thus could He pay our debt and save us from our folly. We need preaching that insists on justice, beginning with God’s own people, so that love for God and neighbor might be more the driving force in all our daily affairs.
At Christmas time we must remind one another that we live perched on eternity and not merely under the sun. Living from the presence of Christ begins with prayer – earnest, continuous prayer, prayer that takes seriously God’s priorities for this most foundational discipline, prayer which is exemplified and taught by those entrusted with the ministry of God’s Word. Jesus Christ, the Babe in the manger, has been exalted to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He rules the world with truth and grace, and He is determined the make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness. And He intends to do that through His people, equipped under the sound and urgent ministry of the Word and devoted to living as His witnesses in all the arenas and with all the people in their Personal Mission Fields.
So this Christmas let us redouble our efforts to be wary of the devil’s various ploys, and to resist him at every turn. Let us call on our preachers to minister the Word of our King so that His Kingdom may increase and grow on earth as it is in heaven. And let us pray for and encourage one another in lives of justice and love, so that the reality of our risen and reigning Christ might overshadow all mere sentimentality which a secular age attaches to one of our most hallowed seasons of the year.
Have a blessed Christmas in the Lord Jesus Christ!
I’d shut down once the text is read,
and wish I’d just stayed home instead.
What do they teach these guys in school?
Must boredom be their guiding rule?
When insipidity’s their claim
to weekly homiletic fame,
and sin can sit at ease, unfazed
with all the rest whose eyes are glazed,
while humor or some story take
the place of exposition – wake
me when it’s over, if you please.
The devil’s tools are such as these.
Before them lies the Word of Life:
It should dissect us like a knife
and cause our sin-sick souls to howl
to be exposed so dark and foul.
We should be ushered through the gate
of glory, crushed beneath its weight
and, lifted by a skillful hand,
there made with joy to safely stand
before our Savior’s beaming face,
secure in His redeeming grace,
and all astounded to be seen
in His eyes loved, forgiven, clean,
and fitted to His bidding do.
Instead, we are subjected to
some moral exhortation in
the name of Him Who died for sin,
which most accept too readily
since it requires no change, you see,
but serves to reassure them that
God’s fine with them right where they’re at.
The Church thus weekly sermonized
is steadily more marginalized.
The Kingdom’s coming waits until
those called to preach their calls fulfill
with courage and consistency.
Till then, they shall see naught of me.