1. How good is your God?
2. How needy are your listeners?
3. How bad is our sin?
4. How transformative is God’s grace?
When our view of God is too small, our view of humanity is too elevated, our view of our sin is too shallow and our view of God’s grace as too weak, then our preaching of the Bible will always be inadequate. Let me take the first one and suggest a couple of ways our view of God can fall short of the biblical teaching:
1. When we see God as a split personality held in internal dynamic tension. You know how this one goes, God is loving, but he is also something else. It is sort of an endorsement of love, but balanced with holiness, or power, or something. Where does the Bible promote a 50:50 balance in God? I would suggest that we need to read our Bibles more and start to see how God’s “balancing” attributes actually only make sense in the context of who He is. God is not holy in an isolated separation. God is set apart in the perfection of His intra-trinitarian perfect love. This is not to say that God is somehow pro-sin, of course He isn’t. Our minds go there because we have not grasped how relational reality actually is. When justice and love become conflicted perspectives, then we will always hold back slightly on our belief in and presentation of the good news that God so loved that He gave . . .
2. When we see God as a powerful benefactor/butler who needs convincing to act. This is another common perspective. It is about taking a shallow awareness of God’s goodness and combining it with a self-centred perspective on reality. Unless the sin issue is engaged and addressed, then God’s goodness can become corrupted by our preaching into a celestial vending machine for which we need the magic technique. Put the money in the slot, request A7, then smack it on the side and give it a bump. Voila – blessings. This view of God is a corruption of His self-giving goodness . . . it was never intended so that we can be better served in our self-absorption!
3. When we see God as essentially selfish. This is also a common perspective. When our view of God’s glory is not framed in the relational wonder of the self-giving Trinity, then God can become inherently selfish. An inherently selfish God may demand glory from us, but no matter how we dress it up and mix in the fanfare, this will always fall short of the radically different God who gives Himself to us in His Word. We don’t want a sanctified version of all the other gods, we need to know God as He really is.