The More Things Change

Okay, so I’ve been re-reading a lot of Lloyd-Jones while on vacation! But what he said and wrote on almost any topic bears repeating in our own time. As I read The Doctor’s thoughts on preaching and the church I cannot help but observe how relevant he still is.

Observing the “feel good preaching” that was so prominent in the church of his day Lloyd-Jones wrote:
“It is made perfectly clear in the pages of the New Testament that no man can be saved until, at some time or other, he has felt desperate about himself…Present day preaching does not save men, the churches are not getting converts. There is something even worse than that about the situation as I see it, and that is that present-day preaching does not even annoy men, but leaves them precisely where they were, without a ruffle and without the slightest disturbance…The church is regarded as a sort of dispensary where drugs and soothing mixtures are distributed and in which everyone should be eased and comforted. And the one theme of the church must be ‘the love of God.’ Anyone who happens to break these rules and who produces a disturbing effect upon members of his congregation is regarded as an objectionable person.”

Of Lloyd-Jones’ preaching, Iain Murray writes:
“Modern preaching, Dr. Lloyd-Jones believed, had gone fundamentally wrong. He saw the main proof of that fact in the failure of the pulpit to recognize that he first work of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin and to humble men in the presence of God. He knew that any preaching which soothes, comforts and pleases those who have never been brought to fear God, nor to seek his mercy, is not preaching which the Spirit of God will own. The truth is that he was going back to a principle once regarded as imperative for powerful evangelistic preaching, namely, that before men can be converted they must be convinced of sin.”

Finally, this from the good reverend Spurgeon:
“In the beginning, the preacher’s business is not to convert men, but the very reverse. It is idle to attempt to heal those who are not wounded, to attempt to clothe those who have never been stripped, and to make those rich who have never realized their poverty.”

The more things change the more they stay the same. In our own city we see the pastors of evangelical churches buying into the notion that if men and women are going to come to Christ then he must be made more palatable than the writers of Scripture were able to manage. Jesus is presented, if he is presented at all, as the one who will fix marriages, fix kids, and may even provide a job promotion. This is far from the Jesus of Scripture who is pleased to save those who turn to Him in desperation. Rather, this is the Jesus of man’s own undisciplined felt needs. He is the Jesus who offers many gifts but makes no demands. He is the Jesus who makes no exclusive claims to Lordship and would never offend the sensibilities of modern people by calling attention to their sinfulness. Unfortunately, while this Jesus is certainly palatable, the popular Jesus simply cannot save.