In addressing the trend of more “practical preaching,” Michael Horton in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel for the American Church says that our intuition tells us that upon hearing more messages like that we’ll improve.  When our diet consists of these type of messages, exhortations to follow Jesus, we typically don’t.  Horton writes:

But bring me into the chamber of a holy God, where I am completely undone, and tell me about what God has done in Christ to save me; tell me about the marvelous indicatives of the gospel – God’s surprising interventions of salvation on the stage of history despite human rebellion – and the flickering candle of faith is inflamed, giving light to others.

The law guides, but it does not give.  For all who seek to be acceptable to God by their obedience, love, holiness, and service, the call to obedience only condemns.  It shows us what we have not done, and the more we hear it properly, the more we actually lose our moral self-confidence and cling to Christ.  It stops our inner spin machine that creates a false view of God and ourselves, (pg. 132).

Horton says that the “proper preaching of the law (commands in the Old and New Testament) will lead us to despair of ourselves, but only so that we may finally look outside ourselves and look to Christ.”

7 comments
  1. Why does teaching about practical steps for life necessitate a lack of acceptance of our total depravity before God? Does it not make sense to teach the whole of scripture? James clearly states, “I will show you my faith by what I do.” I certainly take that to mean living my “clinging to Christ” will reveal itself through my practical life. I'm really confused at Michael Horton's motive behind these statements. Does not both the Old and New Testaments clearly lead us to specific lifestyle choices, directions, actions, steps, principles, etc.? Didn't Paul say that the Law condemns and that we are no longer under condemnation? If anything we need to have a deeper sense of practical application of the gospel…to reach a lost and dying world for Christ.

  2. “Horton says that the “proper preaching of the law (commands in the Old and New Testament) will lead us to despair of ourselves” (Horton)

    I am wondering how this person can say something like this when he likely knows little about the use of the Jewiah Law (halakah). I just find this funny (and ignorant) in some odd ways…I think it's a Horton interpretation of the law that he is speaking from.

    I am not saying anything about his use of the 'Christ' – no problems there – just his use of the law as a tool to find desperation in ourselves…believe me – don't need a law for that.

  3. He's just saying what Paul says about the Law. It isn't anything new. Remember that Christians and Jews do not see the law the same way.

    Also, I tried to elude to it in the post, but he isn't just referring to the Torah, but when he says “law,” he's talking about the imparatives (commands) in the New Testament as well.

  4. “He's just saying what Paul says about the Law. It isn't anything new. Remember that Christians and Jews do not see the law the same way.” (Shane)

    That's the part I study quite a bit on because 'why is that'? If one says the 'messiah idea' then they are wrong – Jews developed the messiah idea and still to this day have various forms/ideas concerning it. So messiah idea cannot be what changed it – exists in both faiths.

    Paul was a Jewish person was he not? Studied under Gamliel? Why his interpretation of the law so different than what was actually taught in his time? Or is it Paul that is even the problem? Is it current strands of interpretation or even 1st century leanings away from Judaism (differentiation)? I always wonder this stuff.

    And it is a matter of interpretation I think – because understanding the way the Jewish faith uses the Torah does change one's view of what the NT may be saying about it.

  5. I meant to say when our diet consists of these types of sermons only. He isn't saying not to. His main point in the whole book is to make sure that we do not get law and gospel confused as the emergent church does and the prosperity gospel does, etc.

  6. Once again, I encourage you, if you havn’t already to listen to the series by Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney that is free on itunes from RTS. It is called Preaching Christ in a Post Modern World. It is so good. Even if you only listen to the first one.

    It has literally brought tears to my eyes at times.

    And it sounds like you are on the right track. Any way you will come start a Church in Brighton CO?? We need a good Church here. (Just kidding with you)

    Oh, I am finally reading Christless Christianity. Next, try to get Putting Amazing back Into Grace. A Better Way is good too.

  7. Once again, I encourage you, if you havn’t already to listen to the series by Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney that is free on itunes from RTS. It is called Preaching Christ in a Post Modern World. It is so good. Even if you only listen to the first one.

    It has literally brought tears to my eyes at times.

    And it sounds like you are on the right track. Any way you will come start a Church in Brighton CO?? We need a good Church here. (Just kidding with you)

    Oh, I am finally reading Christless Christianity. Next, try to get Putting Amazing back Into Grace. A Better Way is good too.

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