10 Biggest Big Ideas – 5. Faith

So what are the biggest recurring ideas underlying the whole sweep of Scripture?  I am enjoying tracing out a few thoughts on ten of the biggest.  So far I’ve pondered our triune God, His wondrous creation, our profound fall, His glorious grace.  Now to the mechanism of our restoration:

5. Every person in every situation stands at a fork in the road, free to trust God’s good word or to orient their hearts after the words of another – for the just shall live by faith.

In that garden the first couple were presented with a lie.  It was a lie about God’s character: He cannot be trusted to determine what is best for you.  It was a lie about human status: you can be like God.  And in God’s apparent absence it was a battle of words: His word versus the lie.  It has been ever since.

Every person in every narrative of Scripture stands at a fork in the road.  We stand continually at that same fork in the road, whatever the situation.  The question remains the same.  Will we trust the good word of God, or the forked tongue of the serpent.  The truth versus the lie.

What is God’s solution to the great problem of sin?  It is His grace.  Yet it would be no solution if that grace were forced on people.  They freely chose to love another.  So God offers His word and invites us to trust, drawing our hearts from the magnetic captivating grip of self-love to respond to His self-giving love.  Faced with the lie, gripped by the lie, saturated in the lie, we are invited to trust His Word.

Faith?  Seriously God, will you make it all dependent on fallen ones trusting in your Word?  Yes.  The word of God’s promise can be trusted.  The Word of God’s presence calls us to trust.  Just as the serpent skewered and lifted up was a solution for snake-bitten sinners, so the snake crushing elevation of Him who knew no sin becomes for us the focus of a trusting gaze.

So faith is absolutely the antithesis of works.  Works can never be a ladder out of death.  Only God can raise the dead, so He calls humanity not to work, but to trust.  Faith is not the answer to what must I do?  Faith is the answer to the cry, I can do nothing!

God is God, we are not.  God is good, we are not.  And God is ours, if we will trust Him, His word, His provision, His grace.  Faith is trust in His Word.  Faith is gaze on His gracious provision.  Faith is the bond that brings us into the fellowship of our Triune God.

May our preaching of His Word offer opportunity to trust in His goodness, both for those dead in sin, and for us who now having been made alive are delightd to do the good that He prepared beforehand for us.

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Preaching Controversial Theological Issues – Part 1

In different church settings there are different theological issues.  The kind of issues that may polarize a group of believers, or at least some within the group.  It may be the Calvinism/Arminian debate.  It may be some aspect of eternal security.  Or perhaps differing positions on the millennium.  Maybe there are both dispensational and covenantal proponents present.  Or conservatives and charismatics.  There are many such issues that see Christians diverge from each other.  What do you do when you are preaching a passage that could spark division among those listening?

Know your listeners. As best you can, know the people to whom you are preaching.  If you are a visiting speaker and consequently don’t know them so well, let that be a red flag before you wade into some theological controversy.

Evaluate the choice of passage. It is not automatically wrong to preach a potentially controversial passage, but it is worth thinking it through.  If you are preaching a stand-alone message, perhaps it would be better to preach another passage.  But if it is part of a series, do not avoid the tough passages.  People need to ear the whole counsel, including the parts that may make them uncomfortable . . . but it is fair to say that it is worth evaluating whether you, the passage and this particular occasion are a good combination for this to occur.  If it seems appropriate to preach the passage, then:

Preach the passage. If we preach the passage before us, we remain on relatively safe ground.  It is once we start adding theological labels and make a presentation of a position that we veer off into a mine field.  If you preach the passage and say what it says, then people can see it for themselves and are less likely to become contentious.

Preach wisely. Even sticking in the passage does not guarantee unity.  Be wise in your choice of words.  There may be a whole string of possible words to state a point in your particular passage, but some will definitely ignite a reaction, others might be just too much, others are safe.  Again, sticking with the terms of the text is usually better than importing terms from theological tomes (for various reasons).  We are not afraid of theology, but sometimes it is wiser to do theology without people realizing it.

Tomorrow I will complete this post with three more suggestions.  Feel free to comment now or after the next post.