Monday, September 10, 2012

Is Preaching Identity Forming A Man-Centered Theology?

I will be teaching for the next three weeks on identity at ROCK127. The past few weeks have provided a wonderful time for me to focus on who I am in God. I have absolutely delighted in hearing God's loving voice to me say, "You are my beloved."

However, I have also wrestled with some theological hang-ups. Some would say that preaching on your identity in Christ is inherently man-centered. Instead, we should focus on who Christ is and from there we will realize our place.

I used to be a huge proponent of this line of thinking. In fact, probably a year or two ago I never would have preached a sermon series like this. But I have come to a realization that is so vital and I think is key to Paul's thinking:

You cannot separate who God says you are and who God is.

When you look at what your identity is in the Bible it is always firmly rooted in who God is. Let me give you a few biblical examples of what I am talking about.

In John 1:12 we are told that we are God's child. Now we certainly can delight in the fact that we are children. But the larger picture is that God is gracious enough to adopt those who are sinners (see John 1:10-11). This birth comes from God. So to preach your identity in Christ is really to preach the attribute of God--he is a loving Father.

Again, take a look at Romans 8:1. When I preach to my youth "You are not condemned" I am not simply preaching a reality that is theirs to claim, but I am preaching an attribute of God--he does not condemn those he has justified. Further, by simple logic, I am inferring that God is a judge. He would be just to condemn us for our sin. The miraculous and beautiful thing is that we are not judged.

You cannot separate who God says you are and who God is.

They are two sides of the same coin. This is not an either/or. This is a both/and.

I realize that in today's churches we see a constant flow of unbiblical, unsound preaching that simply seeks to tickle the ears of men. However, I have noticed a trend (at least in my own heart) to elevate God's majesty and transcendence and forget God's personal affection for us. The danger in this is that we, unconsciously, begin sounding like Neo-Orthodox theologians--highlighting God's transcendence at the expense of his immanence. However, let us not forget:

You cannot separate who God says you are and who God is.

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