I received a Christmas card from my LCMS district office today. Outside or in, the name of Jesus was nowhere to be found. Period. The message of the Gospel had been supplanted by some chintzy little thought about all mankind enjoying some sort of brotherhood. Something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But fuzzy on the inside can also be an indicator of gangrene. Take Jesus Christ out of the equasion and there ain’t no brotherhood.
My point is not to be ultra-critical. Honestly, it just astounds me. It’s like a congregation I know. They have a mission statement that doesn’t mention the name of Jesus, either. It’s all about seeking the lost and serving the saved. Now how’s that going to happen without Jesus?
Things like that–they don’t just baffle me. They really make my heart sick. What are we doing here? I mean, really. What are we doing? Every time I turn around we seem to be selling out our theology, one little piece at a time. I don’t get involved in the politics of Synod. Some have argued to me, unsuccessfully, that I should. I do, however, get righteously pissed off when we start selling out the Gospel–when the church starts taking Jesus out of the picture.
Gospel reductionism is killing the church. I’m not the first to say it, and God-willing I won’t be the last, but when you start on the GR track all you’re left with is moralism and quaint little one-liners. I’ve seen it firsthand. I know a guy who sees nothing wrong with plagiarism in the pulpit. In fact, it’s been his practice for his entire ministry. He’s just never written a sermon. The internet just makes it easier for him. He doesn’t see anything wrong with it. He did have a problem with stealing someone’s words and reprinting them as his own, but preaching them isn’t a problem because, “the Holy Spirit works through preaching.” But wait. There’s more. Preaching isn’t even all that important, because no matter what you preach the Holy Spirit is going to make the hearers hear what he would have them hear.
So for my next sermon, “Your potatoes and you: success in the family garden.”
Yes, in the sense that we cannot control how God causes His people to hear Law and Gospel in what we preach, it’s true. But “preaching” pithy little moralisms with at best a cursory tack-on mention of Jesus doesn’t do what preaching is supposed to do. No Jesus, no cross, no resurrection–no Gospel, no comfort, no dice.
But this is GR. The god of GR is a god who only loves. This god has no opus alienum, only the opus proprium. But wtihout the terror of the former there is no comfort in the latter, and this god becomes the god of moralisms and just being nice to everyone and feeling good. It’s a god of “New Testament principles” and other such tripe. It’s the god who would have pastors concentrate on expanding the parking lot instead of proclaiming to His people the whole counsel of YHWH.
Thus it is written [1 Sam. 2:6-7]: “The Lord kills and brings to life; He brings down to hell and raises up; He brings low, He also exalts.” Isaiah also beautifully portrays this allegorical working of God when he says [28:21], “He does His word — strange is His deed; and He works His work — alien is His work!” It is as if he were saying: “Although He is the God of life and salvation and this is His proper work, yet, in order to accomplish this, he kills and destroys. These works are alien to him, but through them He accomplishes His proper work. For He kills our will that He may be established in us. He subdues the flesh and its lusts that the spirit and its desires may come to life.” LW 14.335
This is the God that we are to preach–not some toothless old man who just invites you to sit on his lap and tells you “it’s all just ok. Go be nice to Billy.” This is the God who really hates sin and really punishes it. This is the God who actually comforts His people with real salvation and real victory–over real sin and real death. Preach this God, for the sake of Christ and His Church.