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10 Questions Every Preacher Should Consider Before Preaching on Sunday

10 Questions Every Preacher Should Consider Before Preaching on Sunday

I have been a pastor for almost a decade. I spend between 12-15 hours each week thinking, researching, and writing before I deliver the first words in my Sunday sermon. The process of writing my sermon goes through a lengthy journey each week.  I contemplate several questions from Monday to Friday which force me to edit and re-edit my manuscript. There is no perfect sermon, but a sermon that goes through revisions and asks import questions has a much better chance of communicating with clarity than the self-assured preacher who engages the sermonic task with nothing more than academic lenses.

I have compiled a list of ten questions I ask myself each week at some point or another.

Question #1: Is this language clear? When you write a manuscript ( as I do) you have an opportunity to carefully consider the language you use. I make a habit of reading my sermon out loud which leads me to realize that certain phrases do not convey the idea clearly. A well-written sermon does not necessarily mean a well-delivered sermon. Reading my sermons out loud causes me to re-write and look for other ways to explain a concept or application more clearly.

Question #2: Is there a need to use high theological language in this sermon? Seminary graduates are often tempted to use the best of their training in the wrong environment. People are not listening to you to hear your theological acumen. I am well aware that some in the congregation would be entirely comfortable with words like perichoresis and Arianism. I am not opposed to using high theological discourse. Words like atonement, justification, sanctification are biblical and need to be defined. But extra-biblical terms and ideologies should be employed sparingly. Much of this can be dealt in a Sunday School class or other environments. High theological language needs to be used with great care, and I think it needs to be avoided as much as possible in the Sunday sermon.

Question #3: Can I make this sermon even shorter? As I read my sermons each week, I find that I can cut a paragraph or two easily, or depending on how long you preach, perhaps an entire page. This is an important lesson for new preachers: not everything needs to be said. Shorter sermons–which I strongly advocatea–force you to say what’s important and keep some of your research in the footnotes where it belongs. Preachers need to learn what to prioritize in a sermon so as not to unload unnecessary information on their parishioners.

While in seminary, I once heard a Presbyterian pastor preach the equivalent of three sermons in 55 minutes. I remember thinking, “If he finished now it will be a great sermon.” 40 minutes went by, and I thought, “If he finished his sermon now it will be all right.” After almost an hour I turned to my wife and said, “I pity his congregation.” Mistakes happen. Preachers lose track of time and people are generally very forgiving. But when this is a frequent occurrence it becomes a detriment. Preachers may turn into apologists for the Puritan era when they preached two-hour sermons. My response to this is very simple: “You are no John Owen!”

Question #4: Will my people hear a message about a great God or a convenient God? Sermons that do not lead people to serve God more faithfully have not fulfilled their purpose. The sermon needs to urge people to live more like their Lord and God. They can contemplate God, study or learn more about God (these are important), but if they leave uncertain as to how to serve their God more faithfully, the sermon has not pierced deeply enough. God’s people need to be consecrated by the Word of the Lord, pierced by the sword of the Spirit into action. Communicating only details about God can leave parishioners with a convenient God that demands knowledge but no sacrifice.

Question #5: What can I teach that will increase my people’s knowledge of the Bible? Every preacher must know: your people will remember between 1-5% of your preaching ministry throughout their lives. There is no statistic about this, the evidence is borne by daily experience. Exegesis of a verse in Hebrews will be forgotten perhaps before the sermon is over, but hermeneutical principles will remain if they are communicated succinctly. One common interpretational phrase I have used in many of my sermons is, “The Holy Spirit does not waste his breath.” This phraseb communicates that every detail of the text matters. I want my people to know in every sermon that every word in the Bible is meaningful and put in there for a reason. Many other principles will encourage God’s people to love their Bibles and learn more about it in their own studies and meditations. They may not remember my careful exegesis, but they will remember that the text is to be cherished.

Question #6: Do people follow me from point A to point B and C? I have heard my share of disconnected sermons over the years. Sermons need to have a message that is connected throughout. Themes and illustrations need to be connected to the central message. If illustrations have no purpose in the development of a sermon or if they are only used to get a laugh, people will inevitably leave confused and uncertain of the illustration’s purpose. Preachers need to be very aware of how point A connects to point B. Paragraphs need to smoothly transition, otherwise, you are beginning a new sermon altogether, and people are left wondering what the main point is. This is why manuscript preparation can help with transitional statements. On my last sermon, I repeated this phrase several times, “The future belongs to the child.” In fact, I generally title my sermons after my main point.

Question #7: Is this sermon going to connect to particular concerns of my people? I firmly believe that sermons need to connect in some way to everyone, from the young convert to the university professor. The more you preach, the more you begin to see people in your congregation with unique needs. When a pastor says “I have no one in mind when I preach,” he is likely ineffective in his preaching. Pastors are shaped by their conversations, counseling, and context. People I pray with and meet each week come to mind when I make applications. Of course, we need to be careful not to use the pulpit to deliver a privatized homily. A sermon on divorce the week after a congregant was divorced is unwise. Preachers need to consider the need of his own flock. For instance, “Does my congregation have a tendency to pride in their intellect or status?” A preacher is always preaching locally, though he can minister broadly. New Christians need to see their pastor’s words as applicable and rich to their own unique situation and this requires a good dose of wisdom and knowledge of particular needs in the congregation. Pastoral application becomes richer when there are pastoral encounters and engagement with the people. It is important to note also that we have our failures and shortcomings, but these should not keep us from addressing them corporately.c

Question #8: Is my argument persuasive? The sermon ought to leave the listener convinced that the Bible’s claim is right and true. Arguments can be phrased differently in every sermon. Some arguments will be demonstrably more persuasive than others. The preacher’s role is to give enough context and substance, so the main point becomes attractive. Persuasion is a difficult skill and needs to be considered again and again, which is why sermons need to be revised several times before they are delivered. One common problem is pastors trying to persuade people to death. Sermons are not commentaries. A preacher does not need to make his congregation turn to several Bible passages. A sermon is not an informal Bible study. Make your point. Make it desirable and succinct and move on.

Question #9: Where is the Gospel? A Gospel-less sermon is no sermon at all. Ask yourself, “Where is the Gospel?” Will my people be saved from their sins and misery after hearing this word? Will they find hope in Messiah Jesus? Will the broken-hearted see Jesus with greater joy? Will the single mom find refuge in Jesus and his Kingdom? Preachers cannot end a sermon in the desert. The Gospel is promised land. The sermonic journey takes the parishioner from darkness to light; death to resurrection.

Question #10: Is my application too general? Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” My closing question is a question about how my applications speak to my congregation. There are a thousand ways to speak the truth, but not many ways to speak the truth in love. Application is truth in love. Love your congregation by applying specifically and carefully. It is one thing to say Trust God, it is another to say, Believe his promises in the middle of your cancer. Generalities sometimes are inescapable, but try to escape them as much as possible when applying the Word. If there is one part of the sermon that deserves great concentration, it is in the application of the Word to God’s people. Pastors should read good counseling books. Pastors should know their people well in order to apply God’s truth in love (see #7).

You may consider each question every Sunday, and after some time these questions will be a natural part of your sermon preparation each week. Not all sermons are created equal. Just delivering content is not the goal of preaching. Preaching is an art, and we can all learn to grow.

  1. By this I mean sermons no longer than 30 minutes  (back)
  2. I think first used by James B. Jordan  (back)
  3. I hope to address pastoral fears in another post  (back)

Inconsistent Pro-Lifers

Is it possible we have become inconsistent pro-lifers? Advocates of the dominion mandate, but traitors to it at the same time? Lovers of children, but keeping them from Jesus’ benediction? We need to strive for consistency in this important matter. So we must ponder how we answer these questions: How do we as a church encourage new mothers? Do we provide them meals to ease the new challenges they will have? Do we welcome children into our church with the same joy Jesus did in the Gospels? Further, what about the elderly among us? Are they simply inconveniences? Have we given thought to how we can learn from their wisdom? What about the younger folks in our church: have we listened to their concerns? Or have we simply separated them from the rest giving them over to their specific millennial set of interests? There are times when activities for certain age groups are good and right, but has that become our norm, rather than the exception? If our desire is not incorporation, but segregation, in what sense can we foster a culture of life when we have developed a culture that disintegrates family structures and church life? Is it possible, I ask once more, that we have become philosophically and practically inconsistent with the agenda of life we treasure so deeply?

Die Before You Die: Meditations on the Death of a Friend

Die Before You Die: Meditations on the Death of a Friend

It was the always precise C.S. Lewis who urged in Till We Have Faces to “Die before you die, there is no chance after.” This briefest of Lewisian homilies reminds me of our Lord’s words in Luke 9: “For whoever tries to save his own life will destroy it, but whoever destroys his life on my account will save it.” This biblical and glorious paradox certainly underlined Lewis’ statement. Lewis had experienced the death of his mother at an early age. He saw the vast wrath of war as he lost close friends. When he wrote of death it was not merely a result of research but from a deep experiential pain. His book A Grief Observed is an apologetic for dealing with pain when those closest to you die. When his wife, Joy, died, he wrote: “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

My family, and especially my wife, who knew Melanie Branch so well, grieve today. We grieve because someone whose life shone so brightly the Gospel of Jesus was removed from this earth. She no longer grieves, but we grieve in her absence.

Today I stood outside the chapel with many others because there was no more room in the chapel. Many had come to bid farewell to a life well lived. My dear brother and pastor Rusty Branch stood bravely and broken to eulogize his bride before the cloud of witnesses. He offered a parallel between the three virtues of classical Christianity, namely, truth, goodness, and beauty and their manifestations in the life of his bride. His bride of 15 years, offered in her 38 years of life, a Christian manifesto of truth in her search and determined hope to see others embrace a biblical vision for the education of their children. She left an astounding legacy. My family is a recipient of this investment she made in her life. In the name of truth, she died before she died. She sought truth not for self-aggrandizement, but self-giving.

This dear sister not only breathed truth into the life of others, but she also embraced goodness. She was good in the sense that she embodied the good. Anyone who knew Melanie–even from a few encounters–understood her lucid view of the good life. It was not replete with “work harder” banners, but with a sincere “God has been good to us” theology. It was rich, simple, and unfading. Melanie died before she died by showing that goodness is the art of bestowing a glorious image of our Lord to others in the midst of pain.

Most powerful were her husband’s point about her beauty. Though she was overwhelmed by the choking power of cancer, yet her love of the Triune God provided a life-filled, hope-saturated example of beauty. While her body slowly died, she sought after the beautiful. God’s image becomes even more sobering and precious as his saints begin to see the life to come through the eyes of faith. The beatific vision becomes clearer and the eternal glass that separates life and death become less distinguished. She embodied beauty in life and God robed her with his beauty in her death.

I did not know Melanie as well as many, but the multitudes who came to witness this lovely saint speaks more than words. They all shared similar stories of a woman who endured the unspeakable pain of seeing a disease overtake her little by little, but who died for others before she died.

May the God of all peace comfort her husband, Rusty, and her children, Emma Rae, Elizabeth, and Allen. Your wife and mother died well. She died before death. She was a faithful servant. Her job is done. She will die no more.

Mother’s Day and Child-Birth

“The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the servant.”

It was through the seed of a woman that Messiah came and bound evil. Our hope did not appear out of nothing. The Virgin Mary conceived our hope. In I Timothy, we have the cryptic words of St. Paul, who said, “Women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” This is a re-telling of Genesis 3: Women will be saved through the new Adam birthed from a mother’s womb. However, this salvation comes through faith, love, and holiness.

Moreover, I cannot think of a richer way to express the self-giving nature of motherhood, except through this triad of faith, love, and holiness. A mother’s faith is her salvation. Her love is her armor, and her holiness is her perseverance. Salvation comes through the glory of self-giving, even in the act of childbirth. It would demand the faith and love and holiness of millions of women through history to have confidence that a Messiah would arrive on earth through one of them.

We live in a day where motherhood is despised. We take a day to honor them, but truly what meager attempt to honor those who offer so much? Being a mother is now considered by many to be an interference in world economy. The United Nations began a decade ago an assault on motherhood saying that having children is keeping women from finding their fullest potential. As the world, the flesh, and devil go so go the United Nations. We need to realize that in our day any role that has been established by God will be confronted by evil, and such is the role of motherhood in our society.

So how shall we then live on this Mother’s day?

First, we live honoring our mothers. We rise and call her blessed day after day after day. Children, if you want to live a long and fruitful life, honor your mother with your words and actions.

Secondly, we care for our aging mothers. We have seen several examples at Providence of sons and daughters caring for their aging mothers until her last breath. This selfless act is refreshing in an age where many mothers die alone in their homes or nursing homes.

Thirdly, I encourage those of you whose children are no longer at home to function in a motherly role towards our young, soon-to-be mothers and wives. If there is ever a time when young ladies need the wisdom of our mature ladies, it is now.

Fourthly, for those who grieve today because of the recent/past death of a mother or a mother/figure, we grieve with you. When the ancient Israelites grieved the loss of a loved one, they told stories; be refreshed by the memories of your mothers.

Fifthly, for those who grew up without mothers, this can be a difficult day as they watch everyone celebrating their moms.  On this day, find comfort in the love of God. He spreads his wings over you as a mother cares for her own.

Finally, let’s together honor mothers and their love of Christ and the Church, our heavenly mother. Let’s sing their praises and shout at the mountaintops. Providence Church desires to be a place where diaper changing, doing the dishes, educating, singing while cooking a meal, writing a letter of thanks, kissing and hugging children, disciplining children, equipping younger mothers are all activities that are praised and not mocked. Happy Mother’s Day: Your labors in the Lord are not in vain!

 

Life, Liberty, and Happiness: A Meditation for the 4th of July

Life, Liberty, and Happiness: A Meditation for the 4th of July

We are nearing the 4th of July. It is a time of joy and celebration. And we hope to satiate our hunger tomorrow with good drinks, good food, and good friends. But beyond all the fireworks, parades, and the good and healthy national festivities, we will also remember that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Sovereignty is good. It is right. And I believe there was much wisdom in that threefold pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. Undoubtedly we have not followed those principles too well in this nation. We have despised life by disposing of unborn infants, we have forgotten that God has set us free from ourselves and from the tyranny of sin, but we have also forsaken the liberty given to any nation whose God is the Lord. Therefore, we receive the just punishment we deserve, and that means the majority of our politicians and their policies. Washington has become a place of secret handshakes, unwarranted transactions, political elitism, sophist rhetoric, and cowardice. And finally, the happiness that we should certainly pursue is largely devoid of any form of Trinitarian rationale. Happiness–which is the pursuit of righteousness– without Nature’s God is temporary and unsatisfying.

We are first and foremost heavenly citizens. Our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness are not granted by this nation, but by a heavenly nation that this country has largely ignored. But this should not be the case. We are not pessimists. We know that even in the darkest moment of this country’s history, God is still on the throne, and He did not hit the pause button on his kingdom advance.

Be good citizens of this nation. Sing Psalms so loudly that the enemies will think there is an army of giants coming at them. Speak truth so firmly that Washington will be unable to shut her ears. Stand strong that nothing will deter you from marching on. Love so convincingly that godly marriage would be honored. Obey the Lord your God and petition his mercy that God would spare. True patriotism rejoices when our country does right, and weeps when she chases after false gods.

James Jordan on Paedocommunion

James Jordan on Paedocommunion

Brian Moats went through the trouble of transcribing this long quote from James Jordan’s lectures on paedocommunion (well worth the read):

“”Think back to the garden. Adam and Eve…this time they don’t sin. They have a child. Does the child grow up knowing the Lord? Yes. The child, from the womb, is bonded in. Bonded to the mother and to God, just like John the Baptist who leaped for joy in the womb when he encountered Jesus. John as a fetus encounters Jesus as a fetus, and John LEAPS for joy….that’s a response of faith. People say, “do you believe children can have faith,” and I say, “Man I believe a FETUS can have faith!.” John the Baptist had faith in the womb. Now, I don’t know how much intellectual content it had, but he recognized Jesus. His heart had faith.

…back to Adam and Eve. The children would have grown up naturally knowing the Lord. They wouldn’t have to make a decision. Now, as they grow older they become more self-conscious in that relationship. Sin is what destroys this whole pattern of life…these bonds. If salvation means anything, if we are Trinitarian in our view, then I submit that to mean that these bonds [of father and son,community] are restored.
Our children do grow up knowing the Lord. Now, is that because we are MADE righteous and so our children are conceived without sin. NO. They are conceived in iniquity. They are born in sin, they are born dead. But the pattern of redemption follows the pattern of creation, and God baptizes our children and puts them in a relationship with himself. They may grow up to be an Esau and they may break this, but they start out inside by baptism. We don’t baptize our children because we presume they are regenerate. We baptize our children because we presume they are unregenerate… baptism is our claiming the promise.

Salvation, by implication, restores these relationships. It’s not just an individual thing. The Holy Spirit comes and we would expect then that God would put our children into a relationship with Himself just as if Adam and Eve had not sinned their children would have grown up in a relationship with God. And that’s what we find, of course. Have you ever known 4-6 year old children in Christian families who didn’t believe? If the parents went to church and brought their children along? And prayed [and discipled them]? Have you ever known small children who don’t believe? No. They do! They may get to be 13 or 14 [etc] and rebel, but when they are young they receive the faith of their parents. That’s God’s way. If God didn’t want it that way he wouldn’t have caused us to come into the world as little kids. There is nothing wrong with that [being a kid]. We think, somehow or other, there’s something wrong with that…for a child to believe what his parents tell him. That’s not wrong, that’s God’s way! If God didn’t want it that way children could pop into the world at the age of 20 who could make his own decision. Think about this. God’s way is for children to start out believing what their parents say, and then then begin to get to the point where they move away from their parents by degrees. First of all, there are terrible two’s where the child moves a little bit away. Then there’s terrible five’s, then there’s adolescence, and then eventually the child is out of the home. And each one of these defines a new stage and a new relationship with the parent. These stages are real. At each stage the child relates less to the father and the mother and more directly to God. That’s what we want. Children relate to God as Father. When they reach adolescence they begin to relate to God as husband. And that’s why they get involved in a passionate need to have a relationship with God the son that is like a spouse, for the same kinds of reason that they start to look for someone of the opposite sex. God puts them in a stage of life where they want a complementary relationship. Before that time they relate to God as a Father, they just climb into his lap. That’s not wrong. It’s just a different stage of life.”

Pleasing God

Pleasing God

Guilt. Shame. Pain. While we undergo these emotions from time to time, some undergo them more consistently. This endless cycle is stifling. Sometimes these are the result of deep sin in our lives. Guilt, shame, and pain can be gifts of God to bring us back to our theological senses. But usually they are the result of a poorly thought view of God.

In the Fundamentalist traditions guilt serves as an antidote to a life of poor discipline. If you didn’t read your Bible, here is a good dose of guilt to get you back on track. Sons and daughters will receive a healthy dose of guilt theology in their first 18 years. The intentions, though noble, are usually disastrous. Pastors and parents instill a vision of perfection; a vision that is unattainable. Children grow up then with a profound sense of worthlessness. Pietism becomes a form of life. Pleasing God becomes wishful thinking.

The other element is shame. We feel ashamed often. Like Adam, we try to hide. We hide knowing fully well that God knows our ways and even the hairs on our head. But still we hide. It is the common reaction of those who have done wrong; and of those who think they have done wrong. Adam sinned and he knew it. But sometimes we do not sin and do not know that we have not sinned. Do you see that point in the list of negations? Sometimes we do not sin, but our view of God causes us to think we have. This leads to shame. Sometimes there is genuine shame. We ought to feel shame for our wrong-doing. We should not boast in them. But I am referring to the false shame many of us are prone to feeling. We flee from God. We act naked when we are fully clothed. We bombard ourselves with false accusations. But in reality we are being self-deceived.

Finally, we feel pain. Helpless pain; a kind of mental dark room. The pain is real, but the reason behind the pain is not. I remember a friend who faced tremendous stomach pain before bed because he feared that God would harm him for something he did long ago.

All of this comes from a genuine desire to please God. But in the process we have formed an image of God that is not scriptural. Further, a view of God that can literally cause pain.

The Christian life is replete with difficulties. The Christian is already the center of abuse for what he says and believes. His life is a direct contradiction to most of the philosophies of this age. Yet, we build on that difficulty with unreasonable expectations. We run around wearing ourselves. We fail to see the shalom of God. We have no rest. We view God our Father as God our tyrant. DeGroat observes that “God’s faithful commitment to bringing about peace in our hearts opens up the possibility for us to relax into the arms of the faithful, attentive, emotionally available Father.” a

How do we please God? We begin to please Him by knowing who He is. Far from a God that dances around your grave, He is a God who dances with you. He does not seek your death. He is your life. Our cares matter to Him. We cast them in full assurance that He sees them and will answer them well.

We can please God with our lives. Our minds can be renewed. We can become God’s pleasing sacrifice (Rm. 12). We are to be daily models of repentance, as Luther once stated, but then there is also freedom through the Son of God. In Him, our guilt and shame was placed. We are united to Him in our pain because He has already endured pain for us.

  1. Chuck DeGroat, Leavign Egypt, 116  (back)

Husbands and Headship: The Art of Dying

We live in a culture that views headship as abusive. In the Bible, however, headship is central to the stability of the home. Protestant and evangelical men need to see this headship in the context of the great covenant responsibilities that come with that role. The man who views his headship cavalierly views his role in the home with un-biblical eyes.

I have met many men who come to see the need for headship in the home, and have made the necessary changes to their husbandry. Some of these men came to these convictions late in life, and therefore, the changes occurred too quickly; especially for their families. They went from rarely reading the Bible themselves to requiring family devotions with a 45 minute sermon. Dad went from barely feeding his family spiritually to stuffing his family. Children grow up dreading the evening “services”, and the wife, on the one hand, gives thanks to God for the change in her husband, while on the other, wondering if God misunderstood her prayers.

God knew all things, of course. The problem is sinners have made an art of over-reacting. Pastors need to watch out for these types and bring their enthusiasm to a proper balance.

But the Church is not suffering because of over-zealous husbands/ fathers; she is suffering for the lack of any zeal in husbands/fathers.

In particular, husbands are called to meet the needs of their wives. He is the provider, sustainer, and the one called by God to make his wife lovely. The wife is lovely when the husband beautifies her. Jesus is the head of the Church and part of his ascension task is to make his bride beautiful (Eph. 5). He comforts her with words of affirmation. He protects her for physical and spiritual abuse. He is her Boaz and David; a redeemer and king. The home serves as the castle. Pastors usually know when he enters a home whether it is being beautified or whether it has lost its beauty. I am not referring to neatness and tidiness; I am referring to the grace of a home. When that pastor leaves, he may have just left a pretty tomb with dead man’s bones. Grace makes a home, and the husband is the grace-giver. How he speaks, how he communicates, how he rebukes, how he seeks forgiveness; all these things demonstrate and encapsulate the type of headship he is embodying.

The husband is a resident theologian. He may not be a vocational theologian, but his actions and speech are the word and deed that his family will hear most often. When the husband lives a life of constant hypocrisy, his lectures will become dull and lose meaning. When his life demonstrates humility and the virtue of repentance, then his lectures, even the boring ones, will sink deeply into the fabric of the home.

The evangelical husband is a lover of truth. Truth keeps him from abusing his headship; truth keeps him from prioritizing his friends over his own family; truth keeps him from isolating himself from the Christian body; truth keeps him from turning headship into abuse. He must be, as Douglas Wilson once observed, “a small pebble that somehow by the grace of God pictures the Rock that is Christ.”[1]

The responsibility of being the head of the home is the responsibility of many, but the practice of some. Headship implies dying for your wife, and many prefer to see their spouse die than themselves. So men, let’s die together for our wives, and let’s show the world that death brings life.


[1] Wilson, Douglas. Reforming Marriage, 39.

 

Imitative Theology

We are imitators by nature. God made us this way. We are, after all, image-bearers. To copy is human. We know this in a very profound way when we become parents. Children very early on begin to reflect our temperament and repeat our most cherished lines ( a frightening idea at times).

My daughter recently put diapers on her set of Curious George monkeys. She saw my wife changing our little one time and again, and of course, she did what she thought was normal: imitate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, not always. Sometimes it is the sincerest form of idolatry.

Many have made fine contributions to the nature of idolatry in our day. Beale’s labors on a theology of idolatry is the most sophisticated demonstration of this. Professor Beale argues that idolatry is theological imitation. People become what they worship, and in this becoming, they are transformed into lifeless idols. They cease to hear and to see. They become imitators of death (Ps. 115:4-8). They transfer trust from Yahweh (life) to idols (death). And in this transfer, they become theologically de-humanized.

Imitation of the Triune God is the sincerest form of honor to that God. Other imitations are just cheap expressions of idolatry. You can only serve one master. Choose you this day.

Not a Primitive Philosophy

Will Willimon writing for the Christian Century asserts that truthfulness is most clearly seen in its practical force. “How shall they know you are my disciples? When you love one another.” This was Jesus’ simple response. At the same time we must not forget that truth is contextualized in history by the writer of history. Life cannot be divorced from truth. Life is formed and lived out by truth if it is to be lived out accordingly. Pagans may conform externally to the law, but manifest “enlightened self-interest” in their actions. The Christian faith, on the other hand, sees truth affecting both external and internal motivations. These motivations are self-less and are shaped by the God/Man who was the embodiment of truth Pilate wondered about. As Willimon concluded:

Christianity is not another philosophy  or some primitive system of belief; it is a community  of people who worship the Jew whom Pilate sent to the cross.

This devotion to the Jewish Messiah is what enlivens the Christian truth and what changes the world.