“…the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?… Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” ~Romans 10:8-17
St. Francis is said to have said, “Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words.” Notice, he’s trying to inspire us not to use words by using words. Word are always necessary! I’ve heard people say they’d rather see a sermon than hear one. That may be true. But hearing preaching is what leads to salvation.
Preaching is not us talking about God, it’s God talking to us; it’s not telling us how to find the way to God, it’s telling us how God has come to find us; it’s not how to put ourselves in a right standing with God, it’s reminding us of the covenant God’s made with all of us that he’s sealed forever with the blood of Jesus Christ!
It’s not so much you’re a terrible sinner and you need to change; it’s more like this is awesome, so why don’t you jump in?
You are more flawed and sinful than you’d ever dare to believe and, at the same time, you are more loved and accepted by God than you’d ever dare to hope. That’s preaching! And hearing that leads to faith. It leads to salvation.
One of the most amazing things about the Creator of Heaven and Earth is his refusal to keep silent. Our God is a talker. Time and time again, when we storm off to pout like a spoiled child, when we slam the door in a huff like an angry lover, when we hide ourselves in the shadows because of our sinful shame, this verbose God comes looking for us, he comes wanting the start the conversation again, he wants to talk it out for the thousandth time. God breaks the terrible silence of our sin in the name of his steadfast love.
Adam, where are you? Let’s talk.
Elijah, what are you doing here? Let’s talk.
Paul, where are you going? Let’s talk.
Peter, come have breakfast. Let’s talk.
Allan, where have you been? Let’s talk.
Somebody gets up in front of the church every Sunday to make the same Public Service Announcement: that your worth is not wrapped up in where you came from, but in who came for you. There is no catch, there’s no limit to the goodness of God’s intentions for you. Preaching points to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the fact and the proof that we are all loved and valued by God and that this world is good and this whole thing — the world and humanity — it heading toward a very good place with its Creator.
You don’t really hear that anywhere but in church.
All of us feel like slaves to our sin. All of us feel trapped by the systems and structures of this world. All of creation is groaning because of its bondage to decay. But in Jesus Christ, all these things have been eternally defeated. It’s already been accomplished.
The Gospel is not about some spiritual battle, it’s more like a prison break! The doors to eternal life, abundant life have been flung open! The gates to liberty and freedom in Christ, with God and with each other — all those doors have been opened wide and the escape route has been cleared and paved by our Lord Jesus.
You don’t really hear that anywhere but in church. Seriously, where else would you hear it?
This kind of message is illegal in some countries, it’s been outlawed in our schools, and it’s not allowed on government property. You’ve got to get dressed up and come to church to hear this stuff.
The Scriptures confirm it: Preaching the Good News has to happen if people are going to hear and be saved. Faith comes from hearing. And the kind of hearing that leads to faith can only happen when a definite salvation word from God is proclaimed. And that word, that message, is the Word of Christ: that he alone is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead.