I hate bad preaching. And I don’t meaning boring, uninteresting preaching. I mean sermons that deliver trash instead of truth and lay burden on its hearer rather than the freedom that is to be had at repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. Too many exhausted, obedient-with-all-their-strength believers of Jesus are fed a guilt trip week after week instead of the rest that Jesus declared was ours in him. This is preaching that kills.
So how can we tell when the sermon is a death trap rather than the gift of life that is the gospel? Look for the take away. Do you walk out confident in Christ’s substitution for you and his righteousness given to you as a gift, or do you leave with a sense that if you just try harder you will make God happy? Does what you heard seem to match Jesus’s claim that his “burden is light and yoke is easy,” or do you feel the pressure of a new list of things to do to earn your disciple status?
Now, without a doubt, apart from Christ, preaching should leave us burdened. Because if we don’t believe in Jesus, that he lived a perfect life in our place and died in our place, we only have ourselves to achieve standing before God. It’s impossible on our own. And that is where the gospel comes in. The good news that Jesus gave himself up for us in his unmatched obedience, innocent death and bold resurrection. When he claims us, he gives us his righteousness and carries us all the way home to where we appear before the throne of heaven and will here “well done” because of Jesus’s doing.
Then, Christian, you should not be guilted or burdened. If you are, run. Find a preacher that will declare the whole counsel of Scripture to you and rightly read the Bible to point to Christ.
By way of example of preaching that kills, I came across a sermon where the pastor used a text that was clearly about initial belief in Jesus to wrongly suggest it was about disciples that were not living up to the “standard of Christianity.” The sermon even ended by asking Christians if Jesus would be ashamed by them.
Now that might be a clever way to make people think they are being “convicted,” or get them to try a little harder to live up to the label “strong Christian” but pastor, it is an anti-gospel and I wish you would emasculate yourself.
So Christian, is Jesus now, or will he ever be ashamed of you? If you believe in Jesus, and have entrusted your life to him, sin and all, is he ever ashamed of you? NO. Not ever.
“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 2:11 – if your source is Jesus, he is not ashamed to call you his sibling.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 – no condemnation, no guilt, not from Jesus, and certainly not from the bad pastor.
It doesn’t matter where you have come from, what you have done, or how you have failed to walk out your faith, Jesus is not and never will be ashamed of you Christian. You are free. Your burden has been lifted. Rejoice.
Now go find some biblical preaching. Hear the gospel week in and week out. And tell somebody about the freedom and forgiveness you have found.