Failing to Preach Christ (Continued)Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Yesterday, I remarked on four distinct things which must be true of the preacher who would preach Christ and Him crucified. These were essence of a paragraph written by McIlvaine in his book, Preaching Christ, on page 17. Regarding the preacher's tendency to preach Christ only when He comes up in the passage being exposited, the author says,
"And in the general course of his work, we may look in vain after such evident fondness of heart for views which most intimately and directly look unto Jesus; such habitual feeding of the flock in pastures watered by the river that proceedeth out of the throne of God and the Lamb; such strong tendency, when subjects not directly testifying of Christ must be handled, to keep them as near to him as possible, and to return from them as soon as possible to others of a nearer neighborhood to the cross; such desires to illuminate all subjects with light from 'the face of Jesus Christ' as proves the preacher's determination 'to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Of the thoughts above, the one which peaks my attention the most is the statement, "such strong tendency, when subjects not directly testifying of Christ must be handled, to keep them as near to him as possible, and to return from them as soon as possible to others of a nearer neighborhood to the cross." In my own preaching, this where the error ocurred so often. The exegetical details of the text which were profitable for preaching, and from which I should not be ashamed to proclaim (according to Paul in Acts 20), did not lead me or the hearers to the cross. I made no connection for them between the truth I was preaching and its source in Christ nor target of Christ. This is what McIlvaine means when he speaks of illuminating "all subjects with light from 'the face of Jesus Christ'."
This leads me to my favorite quote by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. It is the footer on the this blog everyday. "The ultimate concern of the preacher is to preach all biblical revelation in relationship to its source in Jesus Christ. How can I maintain my integrity as a Christian preacher if I preach any part of the Scriptures as if He has not come?"
I desire to criticize no expositor. I simply deplore my own attempts at preaching in which my Savior has not been high and lifted up. For me, the reason was simple. The "evident fondness of heart for views which most intimately and directly look unto Jesus," as McIlvaine says, wasn't there. There was evident fondness of heart for exegetical detail, for digging deep, for doing hermeneutics right, for doing homiletics right, for getting my form and outline right, for getting authorial intent right. But there was no effort to connect the truth to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
"In the ministrations of such a preacher as we have in mind we miss that habitualness of the testimony of Christ, that special love for all the region round about Gethesemane and Calvary, the atonement and the intercession, and the great gifts of the Spirit purchased thereby; we miss that constant tracing of all spiritual life and consolation in its every influence and fruit, to Christ as the life, and that careful binding of all spiritual affections and duties upon him for support and strength..."
Tracing it back further, you would have found that there was no evident fondness in my heart for Christ, period. I verbally assented to Him as the source of all revelation, as the pinnacle of all truth, as the target for everything we do. But strangely, there was a vast separation between what I said personally and what I did in the study or said corporately in the pulpit. Bottom line, if He is missing from personal devotion (not devotions, as in quiet time), then He will be missing from exegesis and exposition. If He does not consume us inwardly, He will not consume us outwardly in our preaching. God help me and help us all to give the preeminence to His Son in our preaching as He has done in history and in all things.