Our Dilemma

“…if you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they’ve got, the God you end up with is the God shaped by the blank. The real God specializes in taking the blanks in people’s lives and pulling and tugging and turning them into a new shape.” – N. T. Wright as quoted in “Mere Mission” in Christianity Today, January 2007, Volume 51, Number 1, p. 38-41.

N. T. Wright is right about this one. Trends toward seeker-sensitive and seeker-sensible preaching stress meeting the non-Christian at the point of his “felt need.” The felt need is the thing that the non-Christian thinks is practical for his life. The felt need is useful advice to make his life easier.

The problem is that all too often the preacher ends up using the Bible’s moral requirements as practical advice for living. This is not entirely wrong-headed, but the preacher forgets that what he is preaching is God’s law. These are God’s requirements. Man’s duty. And it is a duty that we cannot fulfill (Matthew 5:48, Romans 7:21-25).

The moral duties would often be the right thing to teach if the good news of Christ’s gospel was preached right along with them. The news that, when we don’t follow the Bible’s advice, we have a substitute who followed all of the advice for us: Jesus Christ. We can trust Him, turn from our sins, and get credit for all He did. (Romans 3:21-31) We can be free from the guilt of our sin. We can begin to follow all of the good advice knowing that, even if we make mistakes along the way, we can be forgiven (Romans 4:1-8).

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