In Good News for Anxious Christians, Phillip Cary begins to discuss the all too common “practical” sermon. The sermon that is relevant to our lives, that tells us how to be good Christians. He turns this around in a way I had never thought about:
The underlying concept here is not relevance but beauty. If you’re a preacher or teacher, you don’t need to do anything to make beautiful things relevant to us. They wouldn’t be beautiful things unless they already had the power to move our hearts, stirring us up to love. And from love comes eagerness and diligence in the works of love–all the things that sermons telling us what to do can’t give us. What gets Christians moving in the right direction is thus not advice about how to change our hearts but teaching that shows us more clearly the reality and beauty of Christ himself. The preacher’s job is not making Christ relevant to us but helping us to see his beauty–so that we may know what is glorious, wonderful, and joyous about our Beloved.
Obviously, we ought to know how Christians ought to act, but we should be continually looking at the gospel, at the image of Jesus and not looking solely at ourselves.
So, when the preacher looks at the crowd and asks, “So are you focusing on God as much as you ought? Is he the center of your life?,” how could we possibly answer anything but “NO!?” We are sinners and can’t do anything right without Christ. We must be looking at what is beautiful, Christ, who can save us. We must stop being so focused on “how to act as Christians,” looking at ourselves because we certainly cannot save ourselves.