Ever reached late for a fancy dress party and upon arrival in your frilly loin cloth and ‘Jonah’ T-shirt some one whispers to you, “Didn’t you get the last minute memo this morning that it would be a black tie and suit evening party?” That is when it really hits you square in the face. What was I even thinking to get into a loin cloth? I must be a naive goat. That is one of the first hiccup steps to maturity from juvenile delinquency.
Speaking of maturity, I recently listened with gleeful excitement like a fly on the wall as the young man, Matt Chandler addressed a pastor’s convention. Matt for those who have never seen him on TBN or Christian television is a young pastor in Dallas, Texas. He was diagnosed with a primary malignant brain tumour. He has walked out of major brain surgery, endured the depressive rigours of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But behind the pulpit he is still as fit as a spring chicken and as authentic and gospel driven than ever. He seemed to give me a punch in the kidney the moment he included agnostic and buddhist in the same sentence with ‘Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’. As he went deeper in the Word, and mentioned the Law of God I didn’t see the round house kick nor the whiplash that knocked me flat on my face. One would have expected a watered down luke warm conversation but his boldness and youthful relentlessness was only matched by admirable simplicity in dwelling in the Word of God. Matt Chandler from what I heard, is back!
For some of us who have grown up on suave, all frills and gospelite preaching or rather what Matt calls ‘Art Dealer Evangelism’ literally turned the volumes of the online sermon down and cowered behind the pew seats as he took no prisoners but rightly divided the Word of Truth.
And how that double edged sword did cut!
Pulling no puches he launched into the deep with: “I, unfortunately, with a great deal of sorrow have walked away from the idea that all of you are men and women of the Word. I’ve just come to find that a lot of you are really good at clichés and really bad at tying in the Word.” That was just the warning shot as the room grew very silent and the air could be cut with a knife. He surgically delved further with clinical precision:
“If you’ve preached a lot of moralistic deism and haven’t trained your people in what the Gospel is, then you will find them doing a slew of different things to try to mortify their sin and grow in godliness, most of which do not work and have no power,” Chandler stated. “When you say … ‘this is how you modify your behaviour,’ you’ve doomed your people to a cycle of silliness that will last for the rest of their lives. [It will] end in them never really loving God fully and trying to mortify their flesh by weapons of their flesh and in the end only flesh wins.”
“I’m not naive. I’ve been around for 15-16 years now. Some of you are not the godly men and women you’re pretending to be right now. Your hearts are dark.” “If God loves you, He’s going to expose you … and ruin your world for the sake of your heart,” he stated frankly. “Or maybe in God’s passive wrath, He’ll let you continue to be an idiot and you’ll join that terrified group of men and women in Mathew chapter seven who say ‘didn’t we do this?’ and have Jesus respond with ‘what does that have to do with me?'” –Christian Post
To almost deafening silence Matt went through his testimony, The Law , Atonement and even talked about a T-shirt of deer panting for water. Oh yeah, there was also that illustration about a lion. My minds eye at this point seemed to rewind to the previous year’s convention where Matt Chandler called out “that goat”. Mr. Chandler had preached on the Prodigal Son. He had painted the scenario of the elder son standing in the face of a gracious father celebrating the return of a prodigal son. He warned the church was like the elder brother defiant in a tantrum saying,“You never gave me a young goat!” What goat you say? Quit fighting over secondary issues to the gospel. Affection for Jesus Christ wanes where the gospel stops being primary and secondary doctrines rise up to take its place. This, Chandler claimed, was what the church is doing. They are crying, “We want our goat!” and then turning various moral stances and practical convictions into a goat of favor which they can use against the world saying, “Look what we’ve got. Look at how we live. Do x-y-z to be holy like us.”
However from the tone of this last sermon it seems Matt had come back single minded. Put to death every murky desire and wrinkly habits. Put to death “that goat”. Not with a donkey jaw bone but with the sword of the spirit. The gospel should remain the centrality of our focus. No body at the end of the convention complained any more. So no body even said we still want our goat!
But, I am not naive!