Imagine a young woman approaches her manager to ask for time off. She says to him, “My biological father died yesterday. Can I have Friday off so that I can go to the funeral?”Her manager replies, “I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Of course, you can have the time off.” The young woman responds by thanking him. Before she turns to walk out of the room, the manager asks, “How old was your father?” The young woman immediately looks flabbergasted. “I don’t know.” “Oh,” replied the manager. “Were you and your father very close?” The young woman said, “Since I was adopted as a baby, I did not grow up with my father.” The manager responded, “I see. How do you come to know him?” “Well,” the young lady said, “He contacted me several years ago. He wrote me letters but I never took time to go meet him.” The manager said, “So you got to know him through the letters. What was he like? What did he do?” The young lady became sheepish. “I did not spend much time readying his letters. I read a few lines here and there, but I mostly put the papers in a file and never looked at them. But I know that he loved me and I really loved him. I felt so close to him when I received the letters in the mail. It is an experience that I will never forget.” “I don’t understand,” said the manager. “If you really loved your father, then why didn’t you take the time to get to know him?”
Many of the churches in America are like this young woman. The people in them claim to love God. They gather on Sunday morning to worship Him. Yet, few know more about the Lord beyond ubiquitous Christian clichés. How many Christians could explain the Trinity? How many could explain the two natures of Christ? How many could briefly differentiate the ministry of the Holy Spirit from the ministry of Jesus? How many Christians can define the word, love, according to God’s character? How many people could define omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent?
Why are people ignorant to God’s character and nature? The pastors are not focusing their preaching on God. If we meet together to worship the Lord, then shouldn’t we focus on knowing the Lord we worship? In an effort to be relevant to the culture, some churches have become discipled by the culture in order to reach the culture. The leaders desire to be “a church for the unchurched.” They assume that the lost do not come to church because the church is too churchy. The culture is foreign to them. Therefore, the leadership changes the church to embrace the culture of the society so that the church will attract non-Christians. The music in the service becomes based upon the stylings of the culture. Even secular music is played by the worship band to make individuals feel comfortable. The sermon is condensed to 30 minutes on a relevant topic: money, marriage, parenting, and addiction. As a result, the church practice becomes man centered as it tries to reach the unchurched man. What is the consequence? God is not the audience for our worship. Instead, the unchurched man is. The leadership seeks his approval and not God’s.
By being “relevant,” these churches have thrown overboard the eternal truths of God. In part two of the blog series, we will examine seven reasons why preaching about God makes the church relevant.
1. God is the creator.
What is a more relevant question than this: Where did I come from? Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
2. God has revealed Himself to man.
God showed His character to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” Since the Lord has revealed Himself, a person disrespects God by not studying Him. Besides this, with more light through the availability of God’s Word, we have greater responsibility for not learning about Him.
3. Christians are to be like Christ.
1 Peter 1:14-17 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” How are we to strive to grow in becoming more like Christ if we do not know what Christ is like? We must learn about God’s character so that we know what true holiness is. Then, we pursue it by the grace of God.
4. God’s Character brings comfort.
Since God is omnipresent, a Christian cannot be separated from God’s love. (Romans 8:35). Since God is omniscient, a Christian knows that His Word is true (Isaiah 46:9-10). Since God is omnipotent, a Christian can trust that He can accomplish His will (Matt. 19:26; Rev. 1:8). Since there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, a Christian can trust that he is forgiven (Romans 8:1). Since God does not change, a Christian ground his life in the promises of God’s Word (Hebrews 13:8). What could be more relevant to every second of every minute of every hour of every day of your life?
5. God’s Character reveals our sin.
John Calvin wrote in The Institutes, “Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility.”
The more we learn of God’s perfection, beauty, and holiness, then we see our wicked hearts. We join Isaiah by shouting out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
6. God’s Character reveals how He will judge.
Revelation 21:8 says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Unrepentant sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God. God will show His justice by rightly condemning them to the lake of fire. Henceforth, since God’s law flows from His character, then learning God’s character shows us the perfect law by which all men will be judged.
7. God’s Character reveals His mercy.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” His forgiveness is only accomplished through Jesus Christ’s substitute sacrifice on the cross. He spilled His precious blood for His people. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” What could be more relevant than learning about the Savior who bought you with His precious blood? What could be more pertinent than studying that salvation can only come through Jesus Christ?
God is the most relevant topic for all people. As we gather to worship every Sunday, our services should intentionally proclaim the glory of God’s character. I would challenge pastors to preach God centered expository sermons. In addition, plan a sermon series on God’s attributes. For example, Pastor Curt Daniel preached 55 messages at Faith Bible Church which I would highly recommend.
As we discuss the topic of relevance, we must ask, “What is relevant from the vantage point of eternity?” In 100 years from now, no one living today will find a movie clip incorporated into a sermon as being germane. But every soul, who has died and gone to heaven or hell, will see the relevance of knowing the God of heaven, earth, and hell.
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. He is a PhD student in Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.