Shared with kind permission of Leadership Resources.
Preaching the content of the Bible is not enough. Content must lead to intent. The Scriptures are purposeful…they were written to a particular group of people with the intention of bringing about a necessary (from God’s perspective) change. Our noble task, as teachers and preachers of God’s Word, is to discern the original aim of the text. Of course, this requires a careful reading of the both the text and the context. Once grasped, the original aim or the shepherding intent of the text leads us to a biblically-driven application for today. God’s aim then fuels our application.
Unfortunately, we might miss God’s aim because of two blind spots.
Blindspot #1. Our Framework
Our framework is the set of assumptions or the pre-understanding that we bring to any given text. Our framework is shaped by a wide variety of life experiences including our education, our theology, our upbringing and family dynamics, as well as our church life and denominational affiliation. Each of us has a framework, which helps us communicate with others, and sort out ideas and experiences that we encounter throughout life. Our framework is an essential part of our lives, but occasionally it trips us up, for example when it collides with a biblical text.
We’ve all had this experience: we’re reading our Bible and suddenly we stop and say or think: “Hey, wait a minute. That’s not right!” Or “why did the author say that? I certainly wouldn’t have said that in that way!” Or “this is confusing….it seems to contradict my deeply-held convictions.” What’s going on when we respond in this way? …our framework is colliding with the text. The text is challenging some aspect of our framework, and we don’t like it!
Our vulnerability in moments like these is to force the text to fit into our framework. No!!! Let’s remember what we believe about inspiration: the biblical text is inspired, our framework is not. Though we might be tempted to give our framework an authority it doesn’t deserve, instead we ought do the opposite…allow the text to shape and re-shape our framework. The biblical text must rule!
…the biblical text is inspired, our framework is not.
When Jeremiah calls for the prophets to “stand in the council of the LORD”, he is underscoring the preeminence of God’s Word over and above our human framework. When God speaks in his council, he provides his perspective…his priorities…his framework. We, as faithful teachers and preachers, are to listen carefully and then subordinate our perspectives, priorities, and frameworks to his.
“For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (23:18)
Blindspot #2. Our Agenda
Like the false prophets of old, we are vulnerable to teaching and preaching our own agenda. Jeremiah excoriated the prophets of his day for speaking “visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (23:16b)
David Jackman provides a helpful illustration. If your car is your sermon, where is the Bible located? Is it in the trunk (or boot as David would say)? Perhaps you’ve moved it forward from the trunk to the back seat? Perhaps you’ve given it even greater prominence by placing it on the front passenger seat. But, is it in its proper place…in the driver’s seat? Are we allowing his Word to drive our sermon, setting the agenda for our teaching and preaching?
We may miss God’s shepherding intent either by clinging to our framework or by pushing a personal agenda. Consider these sobering questions honestly…
The transformational intent of Jeremiah 23:16-32 was for the false prophets to repent. How might this text apply to you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Since joining Leadership Resources International in 1989, Craig directed its international ministry, and as of January 2010, he now serves as President. A graduate of TEDS (M.A., Mission), Craig is a stimulating teacher and has equipped and encouraged pastors and churches throughout the U.S., Latin America and Asia. Craig also serves on the Board of Directors of TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition), an association of pastoral training organizations focused on accelerating pastoral training worldwide. Craig has authored articles appearing in several magazines. His first book, Unlikely Warriors, was published in 1992. He is also co-author of Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout.