8 days ago, I preached the most difficult sermon I’ve ever preached. Easter Sunday’s message on John 2:23-25 was understandably a curious choice for the day and I have received more feedback from that message than any I have ever preached in the past. First of all, anything I write here is not designed to solicit encouragement or chiding. I only want to communicate with you as your pastor, from a pastor’s heart.
Being committed to expository preaching (the meaning of the text is the meaning of the sermon) does not necessarily mean that you cannot deviate from the planned schedule occasionally, so there is a choice to be made. However, my choice is usually to simply continue on in the text even around holidays. One reason for this is that it exemplifies one benefit of expository preaching and that is the protection of the body from my own plans. Certainly the text in and of itself is difficult as it deals with the nature of saving belief, but it follows on the heels of the cleansing of the Temple where Christ prophesied about his own resurrection, which certainly would fit with Easter. Essentially, I felt it best to continue in the text knowing full well that many who come on Easter are special guests and some only attend church on such days.
My aim in the message was simply to present the weight of the text, which was to say that there is in fact a type of belief that DOES NOT save and there is a type of belief that DOES SAVE. That belief that does NOT save is based on a “spurious” decision that is marked by (usually) emotion and the focus is on the “signs” that Christ give not on Christ himself (to whom the signs point to). The object of our salvation is Christ and it is of eternal value to examine our lives to make certain that Christ knows us, which is even more significant than whether or not we think we know Christ. Matthew 7 is a difficult passage that exemplifies this fact. Many will think on “that day” that they have done much for Christ, but Christ’s response is that He did not know them. The issue here is full and complete dependence on Christ alone to save, not our works. But genuine, saving faith is marked by works. It is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone that scripture alone reveals as the only way to salvation.
I know the message was difficult and even caused some very difficult Easter lunch conversations. However, I am grateful that many lunches on that day were not around the same family talk that so often garners the very little time we have together as families. It is certainly not my intent to cause this kind of thing, but as a pastor that loves you very much it is my intent to present the whole counsel of God’s word which will cause division at times. Matthew 10 is a very sobering chapter that reminds us that Christ is offensive and often that offense is within our own families.
I pray for God’s all-sufficient grace and mercy to be applied. I know that I will fail you at times and will enter the pulpit on occasion with impure motives. I can assure you, however, that every word on Easter was spoken with love and great difficulty. Please understand, I do not feel “persecuted” or anything of the kind. I just want to encourage you and exhort you to read the passages mentioned above to remember that the Word of God is living, active, sharp and often divisive. But the Word is also the only power of God that leads to salvation (Rom.1:16; 1 Cor.1:18).