In his book, Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge lists ten tests to know when “the religious” is operating. This week I am walking through them for us to ponder as preachers, and in respect to our preaching. Please see the first post for a caveat regarding concerns with his books.
1. False reverence replaces loving Jesus.
“In fact, loving Jesus is considered optional. I know, it seems to hard to believe. But it’s really quite common. You don’t meet a lot of people, frankly, who are given over to loving Jesus. But they live a clean life, attend church faithfully, and are considered to be ‘good Christians.’” (172)
Is it possible to be a Christian, but to have the “being in love with God” part be an optional extra – extra credit, if you like? I am afraid this is all too common. Jesus could not have been more clear about the greatest commandment. I think John’s gospel also hints a little about the issue of loving God. But we have come to the place where people define being a Christian based primarily on praying a prayer, making a commitment, and assenting to a basic creed.
I am glad he put this one first. It is truly fundamental. If you don’t love Jesus, something is profoundly broken. Paul said so in 1Corinthians 16:22 if anyone does not love Christ, he is accursed. Let’s stop accepting alternative measures of true faith to avoid the central one.
Loving Jesus is not an option for you as a preacher, and it is not an option for those who go by the label Christian. If you don’t love Jesus, don’t preach. If you do love Jesus, then when you preach don’t just prompt a pretense of love by adding certain terminology to the creedal commitments of the church. We don’t need churches full of people who adopt an alteration of their “vocabularius receptus.” We need to help our churches be full of people who are transformed from external religious practice to real love for a Christ they discover to be so captivating and a God whose love is so transformative.