Perhaps the hardest thing to know is what you don’t know. One of the huge benefits of formal education is that it tends to open your eyes to what you don’t know. However, most of the time most of us remain blissfully unaware of riches with which we have not yet engaged. This post may be attempting the impossible, but I want to suggest some areas for further study that might be just what your ministry needs to develop to another level. I will not spell out everything, but rather offer some signposts that may nudge you in a healthy direction. Obviously, you may already know more than me about some of these, but that is beside the point. I believe these are fruitful avenues for prayerful study for any of us:
- The Fall. I believe the Fall in Genesis 3 had a far more profound effect on us than we have ever realized. Too many Christians think of sin as being a list of sins. But what about the “non-sin” sins such as self-righteousness and autonomy? Too many Christians think of sin as something they did before salvation with the odd slip up now and again since. But the gravitational pull of fallenness is exerting a huge effect on us all the time. I believe we would benefit as preachers to prayerfully pursue a full biblical answer to the question, “what is sin?”
- “In Christ.” Far too many Christians, and dare I say it, preachers, see salvation as being essentially only about guilt and forgiveness. The good news that is offered in too many pulpits is entirely too thin in comparison with the richness of what is actually offered in the New Testament – that is, in the New Covenant. The context in which our sins are forgiven, and our shame is removed, and our deadness is transformed, and our enmity is reconciled, and so on, is the context of our union with Christ. Lloyd-Jones referred to this as the “ultimate doctrine” and I suspect none of us have been able to exhaust the richness of what it means to be “in Christ” – many perhaps have barely begun!
- The Spirit. Many churches fall into one extreme or another on the Holy Spirit. For some, He is an end in himself, a source of power and a sensational goal to pursue. For others, He is a reality that deserves a tip of the hat and then is generally ignored (all the while affirming his existence and importance). Have we really grasped why and how the Spirit is so Christ-focused? Have we really grasped why and how the Spirit is so concerned with communication and relationship? Have we wrestled with the Spirit’s role in the Trinity? Is he just another member of a divine committee of three, or is he uniquely involved in the union of the Father and Son? And what is that to us?
And since my self-imposed word count is more than used up, here is just one more bonus:
Covenant. What kind of covenants does the Bible describe God to establish with us? Are they the same as contracts, really?
Feel free to let any of these stir a chase in the Bible and in your study. I suspect any chasing you might do on these subjects will not be wasted, but will only enrich and deepen your preaching ministry!