Thursday, July 3, 2008

What am I to preach?

Recently, I had a conversation about what needs to be preached to a person that they might have salvation. Looking at things from a minimalist position, I amused myself with the question: Does a "Jesus loves you" bumper sticker do the trick?

Let us look at 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25 for the answer. Paul speaks often of what we are to preach, and he does so throughout his epistles. If we look at verse 23 we have the answer spelled out, "but we preach Christ crucified."(emphasis added) This is not surprising, look at Luke 24. Verse 26 sums up what Jesus wants preached about himself. Preach suffering and the resurrection, repentance and forgiveness, to everyone, in Christ's name.

Acts is no different. Peter's Pentecost sermon certainly includes preaching that Christ was crucified and made sure the Jews knew who put him there. He then preaches about the resurrection which even David foresaw in the Christ. So Peter says, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. " Again, this formula, preach Christ crucified and the resurrection, repentance and forgiveness, to everyone, in Christ's name. Funny how that works, eh?

So what then does Paul preach? Look here to Acts 13 Paul preaches in Antioch of Pisidia. He preaches the suffering and death of Christ, and his resurrection, repentance comes about with an accusation of the law from accusing the people of unbelief, and forgiveness of sins is freely offered, no strings are attaches to this proclamation, and all of this in Christ's name shown with the scripture Paul uses to show that the Christ has indeed come. The same formula. Remarkable.

Loop around now... so does the "Jesus loves you" message seem to be the prominent message which brings those to salvation. No... but it is a response that comes automatically from what Jesus himself wants us to preach. Let's put it this way. I can tell you that Harrison Ford loves you. You might even believe this. But when the message that Harrison Ford did something extraordinary for you personally, that's when you have assurance. That's when you know that Harrison Ford loves you. Stupid analogy... but it works. "Jesus loves you" can be said to a person. But unless that person hears that Jesus did something extraordinary for them: dying on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins, rising from the dead that they can be assured of their own resurrection. When faced with depravity of body and soul, they repent of their sins and reach for a Savior, then they are freely offered the forgiveness of sins in the preaching in the solid foundation of Christ crucified.

Naturally, our sinful selves want to see the cross as folly. That is what sin and the devil want to do. They want to turn us away from where Christ has assured us that we have the forgiveness of sins. That is why we preach Christ crucified, that the forgiveness of sins may always conquer the wiles of the great deceiver.

Does "Jesus love you"? Absolutely! But you can be assured of this in the cross of Christ where he established it with the forgiving blood that ran from his pierced hands, feet and side. There you can be sure that Christ loves you and will always love you!

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