Skip to main content

We don't need hype; we need Jesus!

There’s a lot of hype flying about. Some of it is crazy hype. Some of it is ever so respectable. But yet, what these extremes have in common is the fact that they are nothing more than hype. And hype isn’t helpful.

Now, hype may seem helpful. Hype is, after all, something that gets people's attention. And so hype has the feeling of success about it. Things happen when there’s a lot of hype: people come, people respond, people are pleased. Hype then, in many ways would seem to equate to success.

But what type of success? Does what we call success always correspond to God’s blessing? Far from it. As Jesus points out in Matt. 7, even what people think of as success in terms of prophecy and miracles may not be recognised by the Lord. Or, as Martin Luther points out, "That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded and hardened.” (Heidelberg Disputation, Th.22)

For Luther, that’s the Theology of Glory. Theologians of Glory think they can interpret things seeming to go well in this world as proof of God’s blessing. “If people are coming, God must blessing”, they say. Or, “if we have a good emotional experience, God must be at work.”

“Hold your horses!”, says Luther. Actually, Luther’s rather more direct than that.

“That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.” (Heidelberg Disputation, Th.19-20)

Rather than the mistaken ideas of the Theologians of Glory, Luther calls us to be Theologians of the Cross. The Cross is where God has revealed Himself most fully and clearly. If we want to know what God is like and how He does things, the Cross is where we must look.

And when we turn our eyes to the Cross, we see that our idea of success looks different to God’s true success. The theologian of glory inside us wants to see a crown; yet God Himself dons one made of piercing thorns. Our “glory” success looks like a throne, but God’s victorious throne is a wooden, yet wonderful, cross.

As we look to the Cross, we see that God is different from us. His ways are not our ways. His wisdom is far beyond our wisdom. And it’s the Cross which is our window into His ways and His wisdom. The Cross reveals our God. Christ Crucified reveals the Father.

So if we want to see anything rightly, if we want to see anything from God’s perspective, then we have to look through the lens of the Cross. And looking through such spectacles, hype melts away. It has to. How can hype stand up in the presence of the nails and wood?

And suddenly, those things that seemed worthless in light of the hype, are now seen to be powerful indeed. Preaching the Word and administering the sacraments might not match the excitement of the hype, but it doesn't need to; instead Word and Sacrament do something much greater — they take us to the Cross, and they deliver to us the Christ of the Cross. You see, we don’t need hype; we need Jesus!

Popular posts from this blog

These are the Bones of Elisha (Declaring the Word of the Lord)

One of the most curious events in all of Scripture is found in a single verse in 2 Kings 13. That chapter records the death of the prophet Elisha, and yet, there’s still one more story of Elisha here some time after his death. 2 Kings 13:21 tells us:
So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. Elisha was dead. And yet when a corpse was thrown into his tomb hastily in an attempt to hide from marauding bands of Moabites, the man came back to life simply by his corpse touching Elisha’s bones. Even as miracles go, that one’s quite impressive.

On the Church and On Sin: With a (former) Tory MP and a Catholic Priest

What with the Extraordinary Synod going on in Rome this week, the Roman Catholic Church has been in the news a bit of late. And as a result of all this pre-synod hype in the media, two Roman Catholics wrote two of the best articles I read last week. One was an article in the Catholic Herald by a priest. The other was an article in the Spectator by a former MP. You should read both of them. (But if you're not going to read both, then please at least read the second one!)

Now, maybe that seems a bit odd. I am, after all, both a Pentecostal pastor and an Ulster Protestant. And as such, I'm convinced that very significant aspects of Roman Catholic theology are seriously wrong. I still believe that justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't read, and even learn from, Roman Catholics. Although we are justified by faith alone, it is by faith in Christ alone, not faith in the right formulation of the doc…

Money, Money, Money (Must Be Funny, in a Rich Man’s World!)

‘Not the Pentecostals! Watch out – they’ll be trying to get all your money.’
     – The reaction when a new Christian told her Muslim uncle that she’d got saved and           started attending a Pentecostal church. ‘Hello, I’m calling from [“Christian” TV channel]. We have some great deals on advertising during our broadcasts and wondered if the church would be interested.’
     – A phone call yesterday. ‘$11,150’
     – the amount one American church is appealing to raise to produce a worship album $750 plus expenses
     – an American amount recommended as a gift for visiting preachers ‘US pastors paid up to $300,000 - are Church of England vicars getting a raw deal?’
     – recent Headline in Christian Today

£5.75 million
     – the amount of money an evangelical church down south is trying to raise for               building improvements.$25,000
     – the amount two American pastors are raising to produce a six minute teaching video Money has been on my mind a bit of late. Not my …