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myk habets: is it all about jesus?

I learnt explicitly at a very early age in Sunday School that Jesus loves me and that he was the answer to everything: every sorry, every question, every prayer, and every problem was answered in Jesus Christ. That is why we pray to him, sing to him, worship him, learn about him, and live for him. It’s all about Jesus was the clear message from Sunday school. And my childhood teachers were right!

I learnt implicitly at the later stages in life they call adolescence and adulthood that it is all about me and that I am the answer to everything. I leant that I must have faith, I must trust, I must have quiet times, I must love, I must do good works, I must be moral, and that I must go to church and do the things required of me. And my adult teachers were wrong! (Note: this is an exaggeration for sake of emphasis – I have had many great adult teachers, pastors, and mentors.)

Somewhere along the way the church has lost sense of its love affair with Jesus. Yes we still sing to him and pray to him and seek to do what he would do (WWJD!  🙂 ), but along the way Jesus has been displaced for something else. Jesus has become a talisman, a good luck charm, a moral example, or some sort of guru of the faith that we are meant to somehow emulate. And this has infiltrated our pulpits no less than our music and ministry.

In a recent work by Alister McGrath, he writes:

If there is a heartbeat of the Christian faith, it lies in the sheer intellectual delight and excitement caused by the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is one whom the church finds to be intellectually luminous, spiritually persuasive, and infinitely satisfying, both communally and intellectually. While Christians express this delight and wonder in their creeds, they do so more especially in their worship and adoration.
[Alister McGrath, Heresy (London: SPCK, 2009), 17.]

By ‘worship and adoration’ McGrath makes clear he means our preaching and proclamation no less than our music and prayers. He then goes on to work through the great creeds and confessions of Christendom like Nicaea and Chalcedon to show how these are not some arid and dry relics of dogma from an age that was in love with philosophy. Rather, these are living documents which witness to Jesus Christ in ways which are faithful to Scripture and should be preached and proclaimed as much today as yesterday. I believe McGrath is right.

Jesus is alive and well and reigns from the throne of God in his heavenly session. I want to suggest that all preaching and proclamation from every Christian pulpit needs to reclaim this central fact. This leads me to this thesis: in light of the resurrection of Jesus the central task of Christian preaching is to proclaim that Jesus is Lord because Jesus lives. And it is this very proclamation which makes a sermon a sermon, as opposed to a talk or an oration. Do we self-consciously preach the reality of the resurrection every Sunday in every sermon? This form of preaching is declaratory and convictional, it announces a living way for all people, it heralds truth as person in the face of all competing claims to intellectual allegiance, and it announces the fullness of life where before there was death. Christian preaching of this sort puts the stress on what Jesus is doing, not just on what he has done; on his faithfulness, his acceptable worship, his working in the world by his Holy Spirit through his Church. And in the process, it draws us up into union with Christ so that we learn to participate in his ministry, in his worship, in himself.

“…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Cor 15.14). If it is all about Jesus, then let us proclaim this every week, every sermon, on every occasion the Lord is gracious to let us speak for him. Then we will be agents of Good News and heralds of the Kingdom of God. Maranatha!

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Myk Habets teaches systematic theology at Carey Baptist College and is Director of the R.J. Thompson Centre for Theological Study. Myk was an itinerant preacher for over a decade but now, with his wife Odele and two children, he attends Windsor Park Baptist Church.

3 Comments

  1. Geoff New says:

    Hi Myk. I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you! It reminded me of James Stewart’s thoughts on this very issue:
    “When Henry Ward Beecher began his ministry, he was baffled by a disappointing absence of results and an almost total lack of response. . . . But one day the thought gripped him: “There was a reason why, when the apostles preached, they succeeded, and I will find it out if it is to be found out”. . . . it was the proclamation of the mighty acts of God. There were two [mighty acts of God], which in reality were not two but one. “Christ died for our sins.” That was fundamental. At the very heart of the apostles’ message stood the divine redemptive deed on Calvary. But this literally crucial event was never in their preaching isolated from the other which crowned and completed it, forming as it were the keystone of the arch. In the terse language of the Book of Acts, they preached “Jesus and the Resurrection”. . . . the Resurrection – so far from being dragged in or tacked on to the Gospel of the Cross – was implicit in every word the preachers spoke. . . . But now let me raise a question. What is the most characteristic word of the Christian religion? Suppose you were asked to single out one word to carry and convey the cardinal truth of the Gospel, what word would you choose? I suggest it would have to be the word Resurrection. That is what Christianity essentially is – a religion of Resurrection.” (James S. Stewart, Preaching (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1955), 54-56, 7).

  2. Stu Print says:

    During April and May of this year, I lost my way a bit as a Pastor. But in early June, I believe God showed me very clearly (through my rugby team) that I had lost my focus. I observed that my rugby team brought people from all walks of life together. It included affiliations to four Wellington gangs. Yet we were united as a team because we were centred on a love for rugby, (and drinking alcohol). It made me aware that a church community has to be centred on a love for Jesus. And for the church I pastor, that starts with me. Since then, this mindset is constantly being shoved in front of my eyes. At different events I have been to, I have been told to ‘Keep my eyes on Jesus’. I have been reminded that our faith journey is about ‘Encountering Jesus’. Your message is just one more example of the Holy Spirit reminding me that it is all about Jesus. I am finding it intriguing as I prepare my messages how often I now find myself thinking about, and wanting to share, how the Christ event imacts both what I am preaching and the effects on our lives. Now I’ll be considering how the risen Jesus imapcts my messages.Thanks Myk.

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