One of my elders used this familiar phrase Sunday – you know the one. “Preacher, you quit preachin’ and gone to meddlin’.” It’s a sad day when preaching meddles in our marriages, meddles in our work ethics, meddles in our use of money. Of course, that elder was kidding. But I like the phrase because it says something important. There is an idea out there, not quite said but believed nonetheless, that preaching isn’t supposed to actually demand lifestyle changes, commitment, or repentance.
It’s not supposed to suggest that some actions are morally wrong, or that if there are true teachings there must be false teachings, too. It’s not supposed to proclaim that there is a right way and a wrong way, or worse, that there is just one way, one truth, and one life (John 14:6).
That’s so exclusive! We need to include all kinds of lifestyles!
Talk about theology, or esoteric subjects like how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. But don’t talk about the sin within the audience. Demand change in worship, but don’t demand change in hearts. Criticize the church, but don’t criticize the sin in the lives of those who hear. Point out hypocrisy in church leaders, but don’t point it out in us!
“Heaven has only one sermon – repentance,” says Charles Hodge, “Sinners cannot return to God with their sins. The good news begins with bad news! Peter’s first command on Pentecost was “repent” (Acts 2:38) (Gospel Advocate, October, 2002).
Sometimes a sermon’s intent is to inspire; sometimes its intent is to motivate; sometimes its intent is to comfort. And sometimes, beloved, its intent is to bring about repentance.
“In those days, John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea, ‘Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is near!'” (Matthew 3:1,2, ESV).
So in a word, if it isn’t meddling, it isn’t preaching!