On November 1 Michael Horton released, and Baker Books published, a book titled Christless Christianity. WTS Books has available on their website as a PDF the table of contents, the forward by William Willimon, and the first chapter, “Christless Christianity: The American Captivity of the Church.” I’d encourage anyone reading this blog to check out the PDF and see if Horton is on target or not.
The majority of the first full paragraph on page 17 (page 9 of the PDF) describes our recent experience in a local (IFB) church over the past year, up until several months ago. Exhortations to “do” without any grounding in the gospel or the finished work of Christ were the norm. Is this not legalism in its “purest” form? I counted at least one run of three weeks where Christ was not even named in the Sunday morning service: not in prayer, not in the hymns, and not in the sermon. Not even named. How do we worship him we do not speak of?
This next quote is going to sound really harsh, but there are times that the truth is just that, harsh. On page 124 of his book Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Graeme Goldsworthy writes,
Any sermon, then, that aims to apply the biblical text to the congregation and does so without making it crystal clear that it is in Christ alone and through Christ alone that the application is realized, is not a Christian sermon. It is at best an exercise in wishful and pietistic thinking. It is at worst demonic in its Christ-denying legalism.
How about you? If you’re a pastor or a teacher in a church have you ever exhorted your listeners to action without the gospel? I’ll admit that I have, unfortunately. And if you’re not a pastor or a teacher, as many of us are not and never will be, what about in your own life? Do you ever question your thoughts and the motives behind what you do and how you do it? If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior are you living out the gospel on a moment by moment basis? Or is it something that you believed “back then” and you’re now busily working your way to your eternal reward?