I Want a New Drug
Preachers these days are expected to major in “moral renovation.” They are expected to provide a practical “to-do” list, rather than simply announce, “It is finished!” They are expected to do something other than—more than—lift up before their congregation Christ's finished work, preaching a full absolution solely on the basis of the complete righteousness of Another.
In his book, The Foolishness of Preaching: Proclaiming the Gospel Against the Wisdom of the World, Robert Farrar Capon brilliantly points a way out from under this moralistic mistake:
I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross—and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.
But preachers can't be that naughty or brave unless they're free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they won’t be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them, in advance and dead as door-nails, in Jesus. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone—and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness—they will be of very little use in the pulpit.
In my opinion, there are way too many “good, religious kids” in the pulpit these days pushing the idea that “proper human behavior is key to [our] relationship with God.” The compulsion preachers feel to say anything after “It is finished” is an exercise in homiletical unbelief. We think that God’s declaration of unconditional pardon—full and free—simply will not have the effect that God promises it will have; therefore, we feel the need to add something to it.
May God raise up a generation of preachers who fearlessly storm the gates of “just do it” religion with the jaw-dropping, chain-breaking, cage-rattling, freedom-inducing words of Jesus from the cross: “It is finished!” I pray for God to unleash desperate preachers who are bold enough to push the irrational logic of His grace in the face of enslaved people.
Go on preachers—I dare you. In fact, I double-dog dare you! There’s no better time to abandon your preaching to those three game-changing, paradigm-shattering words than now.