I remember hearing one preacher say confidently that what our nation needs is to be moralized. I suspect he didn’t understand what he was saying. Moralizing is a danger in preaching, not because we don’t want to see society transformed, but precisely because moralizing won’t do the job. Pressuring people to conform to certain standards won’t generate holiness in our churches or our land any more than pressuring a tone deaf choir to sing in tune will lead to sweet music.
Here are a few key thoughts to ponder on holiness and preaching:
1. People don’t make themselves holy, God’s Holy Spirit makes people holy. It is so tempting to pressure people to conform to some standard, but we must preach out of a conviction that God changes lives. The clue is in His title, the Holy Spirit. This reality should influence our pre-preaching prayer, our content and our manner in the pulpit.
2. When we only present holiness as being “set apart from” something, it can sound so sour and empty. What passes for holiness in many churches is so sour and strange that it seems a million miles from the wholeness of life and love we see in Jesus as we read the Gospels. True holiness is not pinched, it is fully alive. True holiness is not a barrel of vinegar, it is a feast of true and abundant life.
3. God’s holiness is not sour, it is infinitely beautiful and attractive. When we present God as a celestial killjoy, we misrepresent the God whose abundant heart created and infinite generosity created unfettered joy and vibrant life. God’s holiness is not the sterile hygiene of an operating theatre, it is the fullness of the rich loyal love He enjoys within the Godhead…
4. God’s holiness is not balanced against His love – it is the reality of His loving Tri-unity. Too often we offer strange balancing acts that seem somewhat foreign to the presentation of Scripture. God is not infinitely loving, but only 50% that way. It is not true that He is love (but also something else, with the “but” being an adversative). God is love. And that love is perfectly faithful, loyal, pure, just, righteous and holy.
The list continues tomorrow…