I was watching a sermon last night from Together for the Gospel. It was Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Dallas, Texas. I am often unfairly dismissive of Chandler because of a bias I have about humor in the pulpit, but clearly, he’s a powerful instrument of God to reach a generation who find that appealing. Preach Christ and it’s always a good day (Philippians 1:15-18).
I was beginning to come down with a cold and felt a little uncomfortable during the sermon until Chandler came to this point:
if there’s anything lovely anything beautiful it is the holiness of heaven that dries out the filthiness of the world. It is the beauty of Christ that compels us to say no to what is broken and grotesque in the world. Paul says if it’s beautiful if it’s lovely if it’s right if it’s good if it’s pure hang out there stay there dwell there I want to flood my life fill my life with joy bringing Jesus exalting beauty. I think John 15 is a good thing to consider what does it mean to abide in the presence of Jesus to remain to commune with Jesus – not just to know about not just to know what’s right and wrong brothers.
I will…just lay this before you: I am NOT the husband I am called to be, the father I am called to be, the pastor I am called to be, the preacher I am called to be, simply because I know a series of texts that command me to be those things. I am best at those things when I have abided in the presence of Christ, when I’ve communed with him. When I’ve gazed upon his beauty and the fuel of my soul is communing with Christ in the Word of God in the quiet so that out of the overflow of that abiding presence of Christ I bear the fruit of external moral righteousness this should be driving what we fill our minds with…Matt Chandler, “Citizens of Heaven In the World But Not Of the World,” 20 mins 12 seconds to 21 mins 41 seconds.
This is such a powerful insight. The one point of Chandler’s sermon is: renew your minds and you will be and act holy. This is so profound! Yet, the beauty and majesty of God seem like a footnote in the sermons that mention this as a tool to fight sin. The typical sermon goes something like this:
- Don’t Do Sin X Because It’s Wrong
- Don’t Do Sin X Because of ‘The Gospel’
- Don’t Do Sin X Because You Will be Judged
- Oh, and by the way, Jesus is the antidote. Just how he is, we don’t ourselves understand. Or if we do, we don’t convey the sense of Jesus as the antidote.
Reformed theology is rich with depths depending on which sources you draw from. It seems, though, that the best Reformed preachers were able to project Jesus upon the movie screens of men’s hearts. There, the sense of God’s holiness, the sense of the costliness of Jesus sacrifice, the sense of the love of God is so apparent. Where, Reformed brothers, are you preaching not merely facts about Christ but Christ. To preach Christ is more than preaching Christ’s works. It’s putting his splendor and glory on full display as a meal for your hearers. Before calling men to do, call them to smell the sweetness of the blood of Christ. Call them to gaze upon those loving wounds. It’s not just “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matt 11:28-30). Do you have a sense of the urgency in the tone of Jesus’ voice as he speaks? Do you have the sense that he would do redemption all over again for the sinners in your care if there were any lack in its perfect merits? ‘Come to me’ is to look upon Jesus as the balm of the best medicine, the marrow and the meat of the best of meals.
Suddenly your hard words about “deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) don’t seem like impossibilities. You and your hearers now understand that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” is not irrational. It is not a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and consign yourself to the lesser portion than those living in hedonism. It is the most glorious thing in all the world. How else could Paul say with “true and rational words” (Acts 26:25). Your congregation, when gazing upon the fullness of Christ’s works, deeds and desires will run, not walk to the river of living water and drink “without money and without cost” (Isa 55:1; Rev 21:6).
Gazing upon the beauty of Christ: the antidote for sin (Romans 12:1-2).
To quote Richard Sibbes, “to preach is…” what? To condemn, to burden, to command? No. While all those things may happen in a sermon, the primary task of preaching is “to woo.”