In my reading today I came across the following observation from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
I am increasingly convinced that so much in the state of the Christian church today is to be explained chiefly by the fact that for nearly a hundred years the church has been preaching morality and ethics, and not the Christian faith. It is this preaching of the ‘good life’, or being ‘a good little gentleman’, and of viewing religion as ‘morality touched by emotion’, as Matthew Arnold put it, that has been the curse. Such men have shed the doctrines; they dislike any idea of atonement, they dismiss the whole notion of the miraculous and the supernatural, and ridicule talk about re-birth. Christianity to them is that which teaches a man to live a good life (Life in the Spirit, 19).
Those words are from one of his sermons he gave about 50 years ago! Even at his day MLJ observed and warned against preaching that is mere moralistic and ethical, and devoid of any doctrinal substance. When I hear such exhortation, I somehow think of guys like Joel Osteen in our day, though he certainly is not alone in this. He just happens to be the posterboy of today.
Currently I am preaching through Ephesians on Sunday mornings at Sovereign Grace. I am just a few passages away from the “marriage text” (i.e., 5:22-33). I say “marriage text” because that is a typical pre-understanding of most people. I don’t know how many times I have heard sermons on that text or at marriage seminars/conferences that completely negate some of the major theological themes in Ephesians, namely the nature and work of Christ and the church. In fact, Paul even states in verse 32 that “this mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” – just in case you and I miss the whole point of the passage.
However, we have missed the whole point of the passage by simply giving pep talks about marriage when there is a theological disconnection from its doctrinal foundation. What is so Christian about telling the guys to love their wives? That’s no different than what a Mormon can say! That’s no different than what you’ll find at the “self help” section of your local Barnes and Noble or from a “marriage guru.”
I am getting sick and tired of preaching that is so Christless and/or devoid of any doctrinal substance, especially in the media. By the way, why is it that so many “preachings” in TV are so off-the-wall or wrong? I mean who support such ministries? And I am getting sick and tired of watching so called Christians who 1) do not know what biblical preaching is (perhaps because they have never heard one), 2) desire everything else but sound expositions of God’s word, and 3) simply complacent.
I certainly do not claim to be the prince of preaching. I just want to be faithful to the text. That means making God look so glorious that I and my listeners want to treasure him alone.