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Are we afraid of preaching news that’s too good?

I dunno, this isn't based on anything but a vague gut feeling (yeah, yeah, as opposed to my usually well-researched and even-handed analysis!)  but...

Are we afraid of preaching news that's too good?

I just wonder whether that 'honey mouthed' Puritan preacher, the 'sweet-dropper', Richard Sibbes was surrounded by a more bitter fraternity of preachers.  You can imagine them, can't you.  Consoling one another behind closed doors that their dull and tasteless offerings were the more faithful for it.  "Sibbes is nice, but you can make the good news too good sometimes.  We need to be more measured."

Now obviously we must preach judgement - I'm all for that. (As was Sibbes).  I intend soon to write some stuff about preaching hell.  But can we manage to preach judgement in such a way that the gospel is magnified?  I hope so.  (Cue enthusiastic comment from TheOldAdam!)

But yeah - it just seems like an unspoken rule among conservative evangelicals that the gospel offer we hold out is allowed to be somewhat encouraging.  We can even make it quite appealing, so long as we guard it around with enough conditions and qualifications.  But I do sense an unspoken fear of really and freely offering Christ in all His life-giving, Spirit-anointing goodness.

Is it just me or does anyone else feel the invisible hand of some well-meaning wowser keeping us in our chairs and urging us not to get too carried away but rather to content ourselves with being 'challenging, clear, faithful, helpful' and all that.  Who is that guy?  And what's the big fear?

Anyway... just a thought I had when I should have been finishing off my sermon.  Must go and make it plainer.


0 thoughts on “Are we afraid of preaching news that’s too good?

  1. Paul Huxley

    I'm preaching Zephaniah 1 tomorrow (Zeph's my favourite book, this is only my third church preach). Lots of judgement there, pretty downbeat, but I'm pretty sure the good news at the end is even better news because of what comes before.

    One of the quickest ways of making good news bitter, in my experience, is saying "if you *truly* believe". That "truly" caused me a lot of problems.

  2. theologymnast

    Pretty much. Of course, it's entirely true that you have to truly be a believer. But the way my sinful mind (and I'm sure plenty of others) took that is "Wow, I better make sure that I'm saved by stopping sinning and being really good". I think telling me to 'sin boldly' would probably have been better for me.

  3. pgjackson

    "Is it just me or does anyone else feel the invisible hand of some well-meaning wowser keeping us in our chairs and urging us not to get too carried away but rather to content ourselves with being ‘challenging, clear, faithful, helpful’ and all that. Who is that guy? And what’s the big fear?"

    I think there's something about english reserve in there. Not that that's any sort of excuse.

    But then, since it's something you're feeling Glen I'm guessing it's not that simple.

    There's something here to do with our cautiousness about accidentally affirming someone as a christian who might later prove not to be. So we do things like Paul H says above with 'truly believing.' A similar force makes us turn baptism into a work of sorts by making people wait for so long after profession before they receive it. I don't see that kind of reserve on the day of Pentecost.

  4. Glen

    Paul - I think that's a huge issue. It's the big struggle with one guy on my CE table. Every week he says 'But who here can claim to believe 100% and never waver??' It's been so important to say to him 'You are not saved by your faith - you are saved by *Christ* - and 'faith' is simply the description of the person who 'gets' that truth.'

    Pete - yeah I think baptism is a really helpful analogy for what we do in preaching. (Word and sacrament - who'da thought?!) In both you pronounce audacious promises over a people and these promises are sure not because of the power of the recipients to rightly grasp them, but by the power inherent in the gospel they proclaim.

    Hey Otepoti!

  5. Just a Simple Guy

    Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. "

    The self-righteous deserve a good Scripturally sound "beating".

    Those who have already had their souls shredded need the healing touch of Great Physician.

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