Friday, June 24, 2011

Indicative Preaching

"Too many sermons are written 'in the imperative mode', whereas the religion of the Bible  'is written largely in the revealing language of the indicative mode' . . . The power of the religion of the Bible is to be found in its affirmations" (Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 57) (HT: Doug Wilson)
It is to the point where some in the pew do not think that have actually heard preaching unless you give them a list of "to do's" or imperatives. 

We can be good little Pharisees from the pulpit, we load down the burdens, but we forget the yoke of our master is light.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Sadly today, for too many, church is a place of religious performance. It is place not where we find a Jesus who relieves burdens but a place that adds burdens. “Do this! Be this way! Act like this!”

I once had someone tell me: “Pastor, you need to apply God’s Word by giving people 1 thing they can go home and do that week.” The idea wasn't just "give them an imperative" it was even more that we haven't faithfully applied it unless I give them something to do.

Why would I want to do that? Yes, we should be doers of the Word and not hearers--but if Jesus makes the burden light--why should I make it heavy every week by offering “ten steps” --I might as well say “here are ten burdens to make you feel like you are not good enough." And when imperatives our given, they should be grounded in the indicatives of the gospel.

While preaching should correct, rebuke and instruct, the true motive for serving Jesus comes from the wondrous release of the burdens-- I cannot motivate anybody by adding more of a burden than Jesus. If ever sermon is just a tip on how to do something, I am giving good advice for carrying your burdens not actually showing Jesus as the relief of your burden.

This is of course not to deny the need for imperatives in preaching, but as Stott puts it, the power of the gospel comes in its indicatives.

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