INTRODUCTIONAs a republican I studiously avoided watching the recent royal wedding. Then however, just after praying for growth in discernment in my life, I found myself bombarded with comments about the sermon of Bishop Michael Curry.
An Adelaide newspaper said he’d “turned the Church of England into Hillsong”, the Archbishop of Canterbury was quoted on Sky News saying the sermon “blew the place open” and proved “preaching is not a past art”.
Then whilst I was watching “Talking Footy” the compere criticised the preacher for mentioning “love” 68 times, only to find one of his mates criticising him!
This will go down as one of the most famous sermons in modern times. But was it a genuine Christ-centred gospel related message fitted to the rare context, or just what you would expect from the head of the notoriously liberal Episcopal Church in America (ECUSA).
Phillips Brookes defined preaching as “the communication of truth through personality”. What was the truth-personality mix in the Bishop’s sermon? I worry that lacking mature discernment many Christians are left clueless about the spiritual dynamics of much preaching (Heb 5:13-14 ESV).
Theological liberalism evaluates the Bible as something less than the Word of God written.
In its place the values and beliefs of contemporary culture become the court of final appeal. A cutting summary of liberalism from the 1930’s remains essentially true today,
Liberals speak loudly of the love of God for all his children, by which they mean everyone, but never tolerate the conviction that God has fiery wrath against sin1)Heb 12:29 ESV; Rev 14:10 ESV.
The latest evangelism slogan from ECUSA is, “Don’t feel bad, God loves you.”
Curry’s sermon spoke of love paired with fire, but liberal Anglicans refuse to consider divine love could be revealed through fiery punishment (2 Thess 1:7-8 ESV).
The bottom line is that liberal theology is fashioned by its response to human pain; hence the heavy emphasis on social justice. Michael Curry is a vigorous advocate of the rights of same-sex people in the Church, openly paralleling the exclusion and bigotry experienced by gays with that of blacks.
Describing his attempts to change the attitudes of the Anglican Evangelical bishops from African, Curry comments, “I wanted my brothers to know that our actions would bring them (L.G.B.T. folk) real pain. I said, anytime anybody is excluded, it hurts.”
The African brethren were not persuaded, after all development aid from ECUSA is tied to accepting their theological agenda on homosexuality. Hardly unconditional love! The common human experience of love and the pain of exclusion are the matrix through which liberal theology interprets the world.
So Curry’s “All you need is love.” message is not essentially different from the Beatles hit song of 1967. But the love of the cross is essentially different from a normal understanding of love.
Liberals affirm that the cross reveals the sacrificial love of God, but vehemently deny that Christ’s pain on the cross has anything to do with a punishing God. This would be “divine child abuse”.
Liberals refuse to accept that pain suffered through racial prejudice, God made black people, is not just like the anguish experienced by gays whose sexual expression is rejected by the Church.
There is suffering to which blame is attached, and suffering which is blameless.
In a fallen world only Christ’s suffering is completely blameless.
The deepest relational agony of the cross is not something Jesus has in common with other humans. The death of Jesus is uniquely God as-a-human suffering, and suffering innocently but as if he were a sinner deserving of divine wrath2)Rom 8:3 ESV; 2 Cor 5:21 ESV.
The final revelation of the love of God for his elect children is that the Father pours out his wrath on his Son in our place so that he cannot be named be named “Father” by Jesus (Mark 15:34 ESV).
Christ dies exclusively as one who takes into himself the fire of a holy love which must destroy every element of an old creation polluted and perverted through sin (2 Pet 3:10-12 ESV).
The meaning of “love” to God’s heart is tied comprehensively to the cross as a place of sin bearing3)Rom 3:25 ESV; 5:8 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV.
Liberal preachers elevate love, but in denying to Christ the unique pain of his sacrifice they blind themselves to the saving power of his atonement.
All who do this strip themselves of the ability to discern the messages of the Spirit4)Heb 9:14 ESV; Jude 1:19 ESV.
Should the great and glamorous circumstances of a royal wedding sharpen or dull our spiritual sensitivities5)Ps 45 ESV, Rev 19 ESV?
Since marriage as such points finally to the matrimony of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32 ESV) every marriage should sharpen our spiritual hearing (Heb 5:11 ESV).
Most likely however the sweet atmosphere of a young couple in love blinded millions of Christians to a crucial element of the love of the Groom for his people revealed exclusively in scripture.
Psalm 45 ESV testifies that the betrothed Messiah wars against his enemies with sword and bow. This is more than metaphorical language because in the climactic wedding scene of scripture Jesus rides with his Bride against their foes clothed with a robe “dipped in blood” slaughtering with the sword of the Lord (Rev 19:13-16 ESV).
The blood is not Christ’s, but the blood of enemies shed on the Day of the LORD’s fury (Isa 63:1-6 ESV).
Having taken the wrath of God into himself on the cross the one true Husband shall destroy all those who would destroy his Bride (Rev 11:18 ESV).
The perfect union between Christ and Church is the ultimately purpose for which God loving created all things. Only through the lens of the true cross and Christ’s final husbandly triumph can we discern what is/is not a message from God.
Love is all we need.
This is not however the love of common experience but God’s love uniquely revealed in the fire of the cross. Worryingly, the enthusiasm of many sincere Christians for the royal wedding sermon points to an unconscious heart spring of sentimentality that places cultural convictions about “love” above Christ (cf. Prov 4:23 ESV).
A clandestine liberalism is spreading even through nominally Bible-believing churches. Many Christians are being assimilated to societal values without knowing it; our discernment is shot.
Jesus told a parable of a man who turned up at a royal wedding without the garment of invitation; challenged by the King he was rendered “speechless” and cast into hell (Matt 22:11-14 ESV).
In the End many will be unaware that only garments washed in the blood of the Lamb can gain them entry into the eternal nuptial feast (Rev 7:14 ESV).
From Hillsong to High Anglicanism millions of regular churchgoers will find themselves excluded, and it will hurt, forever.
They will be left outside, not because they are “bad people”, but immersed in a feel good culture that’s invaded Western Christianity they are not in union with the wrath bearing Groom who in the End will pour out dreadful judgement on all those who oppose his purposes for his Bride (Rev 6:16 ESV).
If the royal wedding sermon didn’t lead you closer to this Jesus it was merely part of a fantasy undermining our ability to see in the Spirit (Rev 1:10 ESV).
If preaching is “Truth through personality.” we’ve had plenty of dynamic personality in the sermons of our day.
But since Jesus, and especially his cross, is the Truth (John 14:6 ESV), I’m afraid we’ve had less and less of the truth that “saves to the uttermost” (Heb 7:25 ESV).
Please pray for an intensification of discernment in your own life and in the churches.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 24. May, 2018 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Heb 12:29 ESV; Rev 14:10 ESV|
|2.||↑||Rom 8:3 ESV; 2 Cor 5:21 ESV|
|3.||↑||Rom 3:25 ESV; 5:8 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV|
|4.||↑||Heb 9:14 ESV; Jude 1:19 ESV|
|5.||↑||Ps 45 ESV, Rev 19 ESV|