A number of years ago, I was preaching to a group of college students. I do not remember the exact passage I was preaching on, or even the specific topic . . . but I do remember that the message was generally about a moral topic – and I was calling the students to obedience. I gave my all in the message: verses, illustrations, humor, and challenge. I walked off the stage, and sat down feeling pretty good about my message that day. The next day I had a conversation with a friend that has forever changed my thoughts about that message and my ministry in general.
My friend asked me,
“Mark, how is that message you preached yesterday any different from a message a Muslim, Hindu, or Jew might have given on the same topic?”
Now, when you read this, you might think his statement harsh. However, I would say it was loving. The relationship I had with this friend created the context for him to say hard things . . . and in this case, it was a NECESSARY thing. As a follower of Christ and a Pastor, I absolutely desire to point people to Christ, not just “moralism.”
My message that day focused on “what” we were to do or not do. In that sense, it was “right” in the direction it pointed, but it failed to take into account the “who” and the “how.” in that sense, it was more religious than Christian. All religions have plenty of “whats” but only Christianity has a transformed/resurrected “who” (identified with Christ – Romans 6:1-14), living out the “what” – obedience to Jesus our master (Romans 6:15-23), in the power of the Holy Spirit (the “how” – Romans 7:1-8:39.) Too often preachers tell people WHAT they are to do, without reminding them WHO they are and HOW God has made the WHAT even possible.
Now, I tell you that today because we are on the verge of launching a new sermon series at Wildwood (“Spiritual Life: Navigating life in the Spirit’s power.) This series will walk us through Romans 7-8 during the months of April and May as we try to understand what a truly Christian “Spiritual Life” looks like. More than just a list of WHAT’s, it is about a transformed life following Christ in the Spirit’s power.
So, as we move towards Sunday, I want to ask you a question:
“What is truly Christian about your life?”
We will talk more about this on Sunday in our 8:15, 9:30, and 11:00 service. Hope to see you there at Wildwood Community Church.