Self-Help Sermon

I call the self-help sermon the one which is designed to help us feel better about ourselves or to help us make something of ourselves. It is a sermon designed to help us to be more positive. Being more positive is not necessarily a bad thing. However, these sermons too often get us to focus on ourselves rather than on serving others. An occasional message about being “able to do all things” and “prospering” might be helpful if preached in the context living a life in Christ. Nevertheless, should such sermons be preached week after week?

Where are the sermons about holiness and righteous living? Why no talk of repentance? Why no mention of suffering? Why no challenge to live a Christ-like life? The Apostle Paul wrote:

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.   (Philippians 3:7-11

In the past, we had the power of positive thinking, possibility thinking, and now the law of attraction. These concepts are not the foundation of the way of the cross. Paul preached Christ and Christ crucified:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.   (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)

Basically, Christianity is foolishness to the world. Unfortunately, the world has moved into some churches and attempted to make the cross sound foolish. Time to get out of these churches. They may preach popular messages, but at what price?

We are not of this world. Rather, we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ. Paul writes:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:14-17)

Jesus prayed for his disciples:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.   (John 17:20-23)

Notice that Jesus was also praying for us that we would be one with him and with the Father. We cannot do so while holding onto the world. We read in James:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?   (James 4:3-5)

As Christians, we are called into intimacy with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else must take a back seat. Where is the excitement in the Church concerning this high calling?

One response to “Self-Help Sermon

  1. Pingback: Recently Added Pages | Preaching the New Lectionary

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