I would like to share the three major things I’ve learned at RZIM and will bring with me to Chestnut Grove. I had intended on preaching this message in chapel, but didn’t get the chance. So here goes:
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
1. The Need for Translation – “to prepare God’s people…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.”
The goal of Christian preaching, teaching and apologetics is not mind-control – it’s discipleship, moving people from a place of ignorance to a place of knowledge—not just in the head, but in the heart.
Lewis said it this way: “You must translate every bit of your theology into the vernacular. This is very troublesome and it means you can say very little in half an hour, but it is essential. It is also of the greatest service to your own thought. I have come to the conviction that if you cannot translate your thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts were confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood one’s own meaning.”
2. The Insistence of Truth – “Then we will no longer be infants…blown here and there by…the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the TRUTH in love…”
Christian preaching, teaching and apologetics is primarily concerned with the Truth—the God-man Jesus Christ. His existence, His undeniable historical and eternal reality, must lead us to the conviction that Christianity matters, that it has substance and weight to it unlike anything else. It should not even be called a “faith” or “belief” because it is the default setting of the universe. The Christian worldview is as reality is.
Lewis borderline commanded this understanding and foundational component to our preaching. “One of the greatest difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of Truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true but because it is good. And in the discussion they will at every moment try to escape from the issue ‘True—or False’ into stuff about a good society, or morals, or the incomes of Bishops, or the Spanish Inquisition, or France, or Poland—or anything whatever. You have to keep forcing them back, and again back, to the real point. Only thus will you be able to undermine (a) Their belief that a certain amount of ‘religion’ is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
3. The Person, Jesus Christ – “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
Words do not win the day, nor do actions. In fact, every meaningful human contribution to the Kingdom of God is rendered meaningless if not for Jesus. I came here a tired man, weary from battling the challenges of the pastorate, tired from the rejection of God’s word, miserable from expending my energy to try and convince a dying world that it is, indeed, dying. I came in part to get away from my tiredness, and also to learn “the art and science of Christian persuasion.” I wanted to be able to learn those airtight arguments that would leave unbelievers (and annoying elders) speechless before the power of God.
In short, I wanted a weapon to fend off what made me weary.
Instead, I was reintroduced to the Person who gives me strength. Sometimes we lose sight of Him.
Again, Lewis: “One last word. I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality—from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself.”