In 2010, I was working with the youth group in my local church as a volunteer, when I was asked to sub in for our out-of-town youth leader. The topic for that particular week, based on our lesson plan, was to be John 14:15-17, Another Helper, or more accurately, discussing the work of the Holy Spirit. As I began to prepare for this lesson, I really became burdened with presenting a comprehensive overview of the Holy Spirit, since He is largely neglected in our churches today. In my outline, I wanted to discuss the Holy Spirit’s role in the revelation of Scripture and then to show the young people how God had sovereignly orchestrated the compilation of His Holy Word over a period of +/- 1600 years, in 66 books written in 3 languages on 3 continents by approximately 40 different authors most of whom did not know each other and yet 1 central theme remains in each book, namely God’s redemptive plan through His Son Jesus Christ. As I was preparing to make that point, I really wanted to hammer home that the Bible is not primarily a rule book or a guideline for Christian living, in essence that the Bible is not mainly about us, but is instead centrally focused on the divine revelation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is when I came across the following video that really helped put into focus what I was trying to say. Take a few minutes and listen:
This video clip really challenged me and reinforced some things that God was beginning to show me in His Word, particularly as it related to the Old Testament. As God would have it, I presented this same lesson to a group of college-aged students and when I made the statement that the Bible was not mainly about us, but was instead about Jesus Christ, one young lady vehemently objected, stating that the Bible was indeed about us and about how we are supposed to live and that the revelation of God’s Son is just part of the biblical story that helps us live a good life. So there we have it, is the Bible mainly about us and how we should live? Or is it mainly about the revelation of Christ? This is a critical question that faces the Church today, not just our youth groups. In fact, it affects how you read the Bible, it impacts sermons from the pulpit, indeed it is a critical question that must be answered.
This particular young lady who was defending her assertion of Scripture’s man-centered purpose, certainly wasn’t alone in her thinking. In fact, take a look at one youth group lesson on the life of Moses from a national publisher of church curriculum. This is from the Implications section of the leader’s guide:
“Students should readily identify with Moses’ story since feelings of inadequacy permeate the teenage years. Many young Christ-followers often want to attempt great things for God, yet they feel ill-equipped to serve Him. Plagued by self-doubt, excuses flow freely. “I’m not worthy.” “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” “I can’t speak.” “I’m too young.” “Surely somebody else would be better at this.” Like Moses, they lack faith not only in themselves but also in God. They haven’t yet learned from experience that God equips and empowers those He calls and that it is God-reliance rather than self-reliance that is necessary to be on mission with God. How have you experienced God’s faithfulness relative to a call to serve? What personal words of testimony can you share with your students? And then there’s the issue of surrender. What a frightening concept! In order to surrender to God’s mission, we have to submit to His authority. In order to surrender to God’s mission, we have to give up control. In order to surrender to God’s mission, we have to trust God with the results. None of these things come easily for us—it doesn’t matter if we are 16 years old or 60 years old. In the end, Moses surrendered to God and took on the divine mission of deliverance. Moses may have still been plagued by self-doubt, but he finally came to the point of trusting God enough to take a step of faith. Encourage your students as they wrestle with their own doubts of unworthiness. Redirect their focus to God’s power instead of their weaknesses. How can you prepare your students to be open to God’s call?”
On the surface this sounds pretty good right? I mean it targets problems that young people are facing and uses the life of Moses as an exemplar model of how life should be lived relying on God rather than self. There are true assertions being made here, however, there are also multiple problems with this, not the least of which is teaching morality from a Christ-less, cross-less foundation. The writers of this curriculum take the young readers and insert them into the life of Moses, making them the hero of the story by challenging them to ramp up their faith to be like Moses. The problem is none of us are Moses. None of us will lead millions of Jewish slaves out of Egyptian bondage. None of us will part the Red Sea, come face to face with God as mediator, and impart the revelation of God’s divine law to rebellious people. The reality is we are not Moses, Jesus is the fulfillment of Moses. He has accomplished all that we cannot. We are in fact the rebellious people who are in bondage, not to the Egyptians, but to sin. We are the doubters, the murmurers, the idolaters. Instead of each of us mustering up faith to lead like Moses, it is Christ who perfectly leads His people out of bondage to sin. He is the Mediator between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5 Are there object lessons to learn from the life of Moses? Certainly, but they must come secondarily and they must pass through the person and work of Jesus Christ so that the motivation for our willingness and strength to proclaim the Gospel faithfully comes not from our own ability or will power, but is due first through what Christ has done for us, then through His giving of the Spirit to indwell believers, and finally through the reliance upon that Spirit. That’s the difference. It seems subtle, perhaps even nit-picking. But that’s because preaching or reading ourselves into the Biblical stories appeals to our fallen, human nature. It only sounds good and proper because it uses the Bible to do so. But what we are actually doing is stirring up our own self-centeredness instead of exalting Christ by reading of how God reveals His Son Jesus to a fallen, idolatrous world. At its heart, it’s the modern day Pharisee-ism that Jesus preached against. In fact, it was Jesus, who upon His resurrection appearance to His disciples showed them that all that Moses and the prophets had written was about Him. Luke 24:27
Just like the young lady who objected to the Bible being primarily about Christ and like the author’s of this curriculum, many, many churches and Christians focus on morality and object lessons primarily and tuck Christ in neatly at the end or sprinkle Him conveniently throughout. Could this be why the majority of our churches are a mile wide and an inch deep? Could this be why there is such a lack of interest in God’s Word? Perhaps this is why there are so many false-converts and self-righteous moralistic therapeutic deists in our church pews?
The Apostle Paul summarized his preaching ministry well as he stated, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 So too should we preach Christ, because His Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Romans 1:16