Finally, how is listening to preaching an opportunity to behold God’s glory?
a) I think my new understanding of what preaching should be is partly due to my new understanding of what the Bible is. In hindsight, I’d say I used to think there was “the gospel message” that we have to believe in order to be saved, and then the point of the rest of the Bible was basically to give us instructions for how to live to try to avoid making God angry with us. But (probably my favourite passage in the Bible) Ephesians 2v4-9 says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Since I’ve properly understood that the reason God saves us is for his glory, I no longer see the Bible as being mainly about me (how I can be saved and how I should live), but it’s really about what God has done and is doing to display the immeasurable riches of his grace.
In the Bible Study last Sunday, Robert said the Bible we should not view the Bible as a collection of mottos. I absolutely agree. I now see the Bible as kind of like God’s autobiography, documenting and explaining how he’s revealed and is still revealing his glory throughout history. So I think preachers have a glorious job. It’s their job to help people see what aspect of God’s glory he’s revealing in whatever passage of Scripture they’re preaching on. Why would they ever want to talk about something other than what’s in the text, when the text contains something so glorious?
b) Finally, what happens to us as we listen to sermons where the preacher exposes us to God’s revelation of himself in his word? 2 Cor 3v18 says “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” As we behold the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into his image. It’s been said that “the fundamental message of Christianity is not ‘behave’, but ‘behold!’” So although the Bible does obviously contain commands for us to obey, and I do think preachers should show how God’s word applies practically to our lives, I don’t see it as the preacher’s job to challenge us to behave better. I see it as the preacher’s job to expose us to the glory of God so that we’re transformed into his image.
John 3v28-30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I don’t want to pick on people who say about preachers “he was good today, wasn’t he?” but I think if the preacher was really doing his job properly, we wouldn’t be saying how good the preacher was, we’d be talking about how great our God is. I’ve read a couple of illustrations of this that I found helpful. One was that if you visit the Grand Canyon, your enjoyment of it could be heightened by having a tour guide describe some of the details of the Canyon, but you wouldn’t want him to stand right in front of you, blocking your view, while he tells you how much he knows about the Canyon. You’d much rather he stand beside you and point out what he’s describing so you can see it for yourself. Another writer noted that the Bible sometimes uses food as a metaphor for God’s word, e.g. Jeremiah 15v16, and he compared preachers to waiters in restaurants, where the food is the Bible, and God is the head chef. The waiter’s job is not to draw attention to himself but to help you enjoy the food. If the waiter messes with the meals prepared by the head chef, he’s gonna be in trouble. And you don’t give the waiter the credit for cooking the meal; the chef is the one who deserves the praise.