‘Go & Do Likewise’: The Preacher’s Unforgivable Sin?

‘Go & Do Likewise’: The Preacher’s Unforgivable Sin?

A friend of mine recently told me that he heard a sermon once that, whilst exegetically and hermeneutically ‘on the ball’, ended abruptly with the invitation for the congregation to ‘go and do likewise’. We both chuckled knowingly, sure and safe in the knowledge that every message we preach is not only biblically ‘on the money’ but applicable to the hearts and  minds of all present each Lord’s Day in myriad out workings across our postmodern, materialistic, godless society! Not for us the heinous sin of ‘go and do likewise‘. We were better than that. What a loser this preacher was!

After all, let’s break that down. Go and do what exactly? If we can assume the gospel was preached and Christ’s work on the cross held forth, then we can’t mean ‘go and do likewise’ in that respect, can we? What about His sinlessly perfect life? No. That doesn’t work either. His sacrifice for sinners once for all. No, again. Then what, exactly? At best, it is a meaningless expression. At worst, it is a highly Pharisaical, moralistic expression. It holds out Christ as nothing more than an example to follow. I am convinced more than ever that this guy is an even bigger loser!

The point of the Christian message is surely the fact that ‘we cannot do likewise’. Indeed, we can never hope to do likewise. In fact, so far are we from doing likewise that this is the reason for His coming in the first place! So, such application only seeks to even further burden the hopeless sinner and pile more misery upon their guilt. To recap, this guy is a loser and I am a ‘proper preacher’. I have to tell you it feels great being this good!

‘No more of this foolishness!” I shout (well sort of to myself and in my head – but you get the point). What the church needs more than ever is solid preaching with beautiful and poignant application. Our people need the bread of heaven but they also need to know how to butter it too! They need preaching like what I do! Well what kind of preaching is that, exactly? Preaching with sensible application. Sensible application? Preaching that is more than generalised waffle but specific, down to earth, pointed application.

Hmmm… Is that right?

The danger here is that we can end up with preaching that more or less follows this pattern every week.

(1) State the problem (The world is a mess)

(2) Show how we are the problem (we are sinners)

(3) Show how Jesus fixes the problem (Jesus died for sinners)

(4) State steps we need to take to be more like Jesus. If not that, then something very close to it (trust in Jesus and stop being part of the problem).

The problem is, I fear, that I am as guilty of moralising as the ‘go and do likewise’ guy. In fact, I dress my moralising up as ‘practical’ application. So, in my sermons we get the point of the text for the original recipients (the road to Corinth for those in the know) and what it meant for them before taking the quick sprint over to Niddrie for the big finale. The danger is that I end up sounding like a self-help guru. When really our applications probably need to contain less soundbites and moralising pointers and more emphasis on ensuring that faith is focused in the Christ of the gospel. I need to exhort my people not to try harder to please him but to love him more deeply. Then, through the convicting work of God’s Holy Spirit, surely people will begin to see the deeper applications for their own lives that a 35 minute message could never hope to adequately address.

So, to recap. That guy is a loser and I am a self-righteous, smug loser who needs to think about this stuff a bit harder in the future. I suggest you ‘go and do likewise’.