Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fixing What's Broken

For awhile now, I have noticed the increase in the use of broken or brokenness in discussions on the condition of people’s health, families, relationships, etc. Even with the increased knowledge and insights of various scientific and humanitarian endeavors, the human condition continues on a continual path of disarray, deterioration, and destruction. In recent weeks I have heard a couple sermons rightly describing the multiple examples in John 11. Following the narrative, one is presented with several examples as experienced by those in Bethany—debilitating sickness, earnest longing, dwindling hope, followed by death, grief, lament, and finally resignation—all within the span of a week or so. Those examples and others like them throughout Scripture provide a rich resource from which to draw and describe sin’s devastating effects. That being stated, I have also noticed the increased trend to ignore the cause of brokenness. In other words, an otherwise well-crafted presentation pointing out our dysfunction and need for rescue never gets to the underlying cause.

Why would someone fail to mention the root cause of the problem? Is there no desire to effect real change? Is there no expectation that change can be effected? Perhaps the pastor is tempted to soften the immediacy and severity of the condition in order to appeal to a mixed group, thinking that believers do not need to be reminded of the cause, and believers will not accept the explanation. Or perhaps the pastor simply fears giving offense, which is so easily taken in this culture. Whatever the reason, the net result is that, in spite of any passionate offering of Jesus as Savior, the gospel, as defined in Scripture, is never actually given.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. (1Co 15:3–5)
Christ died for sin, so without conveying that part of the message, there is no gospel. While Jesus may be offered as a savior or the savior, in effect that Jesus merely saves from our circumstances and feelings, but not our sin. We are offered a good therapist, or a moral example to admire and emulate, not One who transfers from death to life and cleanses from all unrighteousness. In an attempt to be relevant, nothing of substance is offered. All are left to wallow in the mire of their sin.

Instead of a veiled or milquetoast presentation offered in a way that salves the conscience, better to be forthright and forceful to all concerning sin, righteousness, judgment, and abounding grace. Friedrich August Crämer, rightly understanding that the force of Law and Gospel is not to be softened or otherwise nuanced based on audience but delivered for full effect, said:
Preach the Word, which is the power of God! Picture in vivid colors the deep misery of sin, so that the hearers become alarmed at their sinful state. Then preach also the Gospel in all its sweetness, pointing the people to Christ crucified, so that they come to a living faith in their Savior.*
This he directed to believers that they be reminded of the depths of misery from sin and be spurred to share Christ as “givers who will not look on their contributions as great sacrifices, but who will thank God that they are considered worthy to help in the spread of the Gospel by which they have been saved.” Yes, all are to have their sin made apparent that repentance and refuge might be sought in Christ. May our pastors be so caring that the message goes forth boldly and clearly to deliver the cure.

*  Quoted in The Lutheran Pioneer, Vol. 31.8, August 1909.

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