“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
The “message” that Jesus taught his disciples and commanded them to teach is primarily about “God”. The message is not primarily about us and how we can be healthy and wealthy and comfortable and successful. True, we are benefitted beyond measure by knowing God, but still the message is about Him, not us. “Seek ye first the kingdom of GOD and his righteousness.”
But God can be known only through Jesus Christ. He reveals the Father. We come to know God through his Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the message is about Jesus Christ.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:14, 18)
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ ” (John 14:6-9)
That’s why it’s very important for preachers to preach the Bible in the way God wants it to preached and understood: as a revelation of God and his salvation in and through Jesus Christ, brought home to our hearts by the power of the Spirit as the Scriptures are being opened to us. The Bible is not a self-help manual on how God can make you successful and comfortable in this life; it’s a revelation of who God is in the face of Jesus Christ. What we proclaim is the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ, as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
That’s why I feel very uncomfortable with sermons about financial prosperity and how to have a successful marriage and the like. To my mind that’s not really the message we are called to teach and preach. And oftentimes in messages like those Jesus is mentioned merely as a codicil, an addendum, not really as the one who is at the center of it all. Instead, it is we and our felt needs which are being put in the center. No wonder if these messages feel good!
So what are the Scriptures all about? What are we supposed to testify about and proclaim? What is the Message?
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44-48)
I conclude with a warning:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:13-15)
Why are we teaching the Scriptures and proclaiming Jesus as a means to financial gain (see 1 Tim. 6:6), as a means to satisfy our covetousness? In many sermons, Jesus is presented not as Savior and Lord, but as a financial consultant and marriage counselor and psychological motivator and life coach. In many sermons repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins are muted in order to give way to tips on how to prosper in every aspect of your life, financial, marital, psychological, emotional. Is this the message that Jesus commanded us to preach and teach? No. The message is this: God; i.e., the God who is known in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Next time we will learn more about who God is. He is light and that light was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ who himself said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness.” (John 1:1-14)
© Dennis M. Cortes 2022