“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 ESV)
The Apostle John wrote his Gospel with two goals in mind. First, he wrote it to make a declaration about who Jesus is. Second, he wrote it for you, that you might believe in the name of Jesus. All four Gospels were written with the same hopes for the reader. Since this is the case, then why are so many sermons and Bible studies from the Gospels devoid of any mention of these two goals? Why do they instead focus on moralistic advice, or felt-needs, or purpose driven practicals.
In Matthew 10, we see a story about Jesus healing a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She thought that if she could only touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, then she would be healed. What is the main point of this story? Is it about learning what it means to take risks for God? It seems silly to me as I am writing, but I have heard this passage preached in this manner. Instead of focusing on how amazing our Lord is, and that faith in Him is what can heal us all, the attention is turned towards the self, and how God will use us if we are willing to take risks. It turns a story about the greatness of God into a story about our own potential for greatness.
This narcissistic hermeneutic of reading ourself into the Gospel texts has become the norm in many Christian circles today. The world of Southeast Asian missions is no exception. Many poorly thought out, yet popular Christian books have been translated into Asian languages. For too many national pastors, these kinds of media become some of their primary resources for preparing sermons and Bible study materials.
Many missionaries have been trained to read themselves into the Bible as well. This type of man-centered hermeneutic gets passed on to the people they minister to. As a result, the four books of the Bible that most explicitly speak about the identity and mission of Jesus are drained of their life-giving power. Instead the Gospels are used to fire off moralistic imperatives that send spiritual shrapnel into the souls of men and women.
For the plenary session entitled “Proclaiming Christ from the Gospels”, we will explore this issue deeper and look particularly at the passage in Luke 10:25-37, where Jesus shares the story of the good Samaritan. We will see how this teaching directly impacts our sinful hearts and points us to a Savior. We will clear out the pieces of shrapnel from our souls and begin to build on the only foundation that can stand: the Rock, Jesus Christ.