Ecce Homo

Paul tells the Galatians “before your eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3:1). Paul’s ministry was one that set the crucified Son of God–his hands and feet pierced, his bloodied head calling out for the forgiveness of his enemies–on display. This is how Paul rebuts those who having begun by faith would be perfected by the works of the law (3:2-6). The remedy for those who err from Christ is not to give them good theology so that they might find their way back to Christ. It is to give them Christ on the cross, the suffering servant. Begin at this spring and good theology can flow. To behold him crucified is death to all religious striving.

The Turning Point of Everything

When God raised Jesus from the dead, that event was the divine declaration that he really had been his Son all along…. The resurrection was the “vindication” of Jesus, his “justification” after the apparent condemnation of the court that sent him to his death. But the resurrection is, for Paul, for more than an event which conveys truth concerning Jesus. It is the beginning of God’s promised new age, which now awaits fufillment when victory is won over all enemies, including death itself, so that God is all in all (1 Croithians 15:28), when creation itself is set free from its slavery to corruption and decay, and comes to share the liberty of the glory of God’s children (Romans 8:18-26). The death and sresurrection of the Messiah are, for Paul, the turning-point of history–Israel’s history, the world’s history, even (if we can speak like this, not least in the light of the incarnation of Jesus) God’s history. The gospel message, the proclamation of Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord, summons men, women and children–and, in a manner, the whole creation (see Colossians 1:23)!–to discover in Jesus, and in his messianic death for sins and new life to launch God’s new creation, the fulfillment of the single-plan-through-Israel-for-the-world, the purpose through which, as a single act with a single meaning, sins are forgiven and people of every race are called into God’s single family.

–N.T. Wright, Justification, p. 206.

No Preaching Suits

Sinclair Ferguson gives ten helpful commandments for preaching. Here’s the eighth, Find Your Own Voice:

“Voice” here is used in the sense of personal style—“know yourself” if one can Christianize the wisdom of the philosophers.

That being said, finding a voice—in the literal sense—is also important. The good preacher who uses his voice badly is a rara avis indeed. Clearly, affectation should be banned; nor are we actors whose voices are molded to the part that is to be played. But our creation as the image of God, creatures who speak—and speak his praises and his word—really requires us to do all we can with the natural resources the Lord has given us.

But it is “voice” in the metaphorical sense that is really in view here—our approach to preaching that makes it authentically “our” preaching and not a slavish imitation of someone else. Yes, we may—must—learn from others, positively and negatively. Further, it is always important when others preach to listen to them with both ears open: one for personal nourishment through the ministry of the word, but the other to try to detect the principles that make this preaching helpful to people.

We ought not to become clones. Some men never grow as preachers because the “preaching suit” they have borrowed does not actually fit them or their gifts. Instead of becoming the outstanding expository preacher, or redemptive-historical, or God-centered, or whatever their hero may be, we may tie ourselves in knots and endanger our own unique giftedness by trying to use someone else’s paradigm, style, or personality as a mold into which to squeeze ourselves. We become less than our true selves in Christ. The marriage of our personality with another’s preaching style can be a recipe for being dull and lifeless. So it is worth taking the time in an ongoing way to try to assess who and what we really are as preachers in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

On Oprah, that’s where

“On the other hand, those who have a less masculine outlook (low M), be they men or women, tend to flock to the church. This may explain why so many gay men are drawn to church, while lesbians avoid it. A study published in the Jorunal for the Scientific Study of Religion found that “gay men were significantly more active in religious organizations [as a percentage] when compared to heterosexual men.” The author notes that gay men are similar to female heterosexuals in their religiosity and attend church”‘without having to be dragged to services by female partners–as is the case for heterosexual men.” Yet “lesbians and female bisexuals have very low rates of religious activity.”

Why do so many effeminate and gay men attend church? Maybe becuase the church is one of the few institutions in society where there’s no pressure to act like a man. In fact, men are encoruaged not to. Where else in our society can a man express his feminine side and be applauded for it?”

–David Morrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, p. 73

Idols are Excuses

From a post by Toby Sumpter:

“It occurred to me as I finished my sermon yesterday on the Second Commandment that the reason God prohibits carving other images to bow down to and serve is because they always function as excuses. They are lifeless but they demand our time and energy. You must light candles in front them, burn incense to them, bow down and say your prayers to them or through them, but meanwhile your wife needs help with the dishes or your husband could really use some encouragement or your children would really be blessed by a good wrestle or a book or just attentive conversation.”

Read the whole thing here.