You can hear something so many times it becomes white noise. The same message, even if true and wonderful, can grow old and blurry until it fades from awareness. Like elevator music it just fades into oblivion. This can even happen in the spiritual realm with the greatest of all subjects. We who have been Christians a long time, devoting ourselves to reading, praying, church attendance, etc., can become almost numb to familiar truths, Scriptures and songs. Any seasoned pastor will tell you that some worship songs need to be retired or used very rarely, because they no longer hold meaning as we mindlessly parrot the words. We have simply sung them too many times. The hardest text to preach in our culture is John 3:16. “Oh, I’ve heard this a thousand times.”
Someone wisely diagnosed this as “gospel inoculation”. It’s a real danger in the Bible belt, especially for church kids if both church and parents aren’t careful and thorough with the gospel. Bible belt kids often hear a truncated, softened message in Sunday school, and Children’s Church and Bible club, then at home and then in youth group until by the time they are 16 they have heard “trust Jesus” and “love Jesus” and “Jesus loves you” and “ask Jesus into your heart” and “accept Jesus as your Savior” so many times that they simply can’t hear it anymore. It’s white noise on a hardened heart. When they turn away, they often turn hard and fall far.
What is needed all along is a true and deep gospel that presents the bad news first, then the whole truth about Christ and His work (good news of great joy!), then calls for the biblical response of full repentance and complete trust, all enabled by the sovereign grace of God from first to last. All of Him in exchange for all of me and all by grace. Not “make Jesus your boyfriend.”
We must present a full-orbed, robust gospel about the biblical Christ, the true and exalted Christ, not the one of our imagination or the watered-down version of liberal theology and dead traditions. As the first century church proclaimed to a culture that worshipped the Caesar, so we must proclaim “Jesus is Lord!” We don’t grow bored with the real Jesus, only the truncated, emasculated and feminized Jesus.
I was recently reminded of who Christ is by reading a wonderful book called Reformed Preaching by Pastor Joel Beeke, probably one of the foremost living experts on the Puritans. In one moving chapter, he describes in great detail how Jesus Christ meets every need of the fallen human condition and does so because He is Prophet, Priest and King. The Puritans would often preach these three offices of Christ in one sermon, showing how each office met specific needs.
Beeke writes, “Preaching Christ does not lead to repetitive and predictable sermons – if we grasp the riches of Christ revealed in Scripture … Christ is the Prophet who speaks truth and illuminates hearts, the Priest who offered himself as an atoning sacrifice and now intercedes with God and the King who conquers all enemies and rules in righteousness.”
I was so inspired I wrote a song to celebrate! Well, sort of. The only problem is I can’t carry a tune if you surrounded me with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. So my song is just a poem that needs a songwriter to give it a melody and make it sing-able. (How’s that for an open invitation?) I encourage you to read it slowly and thoughtfully that your heart might be warmed to Christ and reminded of what He has accomplished on our behalf.
Blind, foolish and hard was our condition
Living a lie, and bound for perdition.
What truth is this, piercing the dark?
Christ illumined our minds, this Prophet of God.
Fallen, stained and vile were we
Sinless and spotless Lamb is He.
What love is this, enduring the rod?
Christ died for our sins, this High Priest of God.
Unwilling to be willing and slaves to sin
Heaven issued the order, now born again!
What power is this, new hearts will sing
Christ conquers His subjects, all hail to the King!
True Prophet, High Priest, and Great King of love!