Learning the New from the Old, and the Old through the New

Biblical illiteracy is at an all time high, which is amazing considering that it’s easier now that at any time in history to either own one or read any of the hundreds of translations online.

So many Christians  prefer the love verses of the New Testament while eschewing the Old because well, it’s old and somehow irrelevant to our modern society.

I have a pastor friend who was reprimanded for teaching too much from the old testament, because the people were uncomfortable.  And when the flock is uncomfortable, the collection plate is running on empty.

Sadly his isn’t the only case of churches trying to focus solely on the New Testament either.  As more church bodies try to regain relevancy, or draw more bodies to warm the pews and fill the plates, they turn to seeker sensitive style teaching and preaching, and they don’t feel that the Old Testament is very ‘friendly‘.

Face it, God in the Old Testament does make people recoil somewhat and He seems awfully mean sometimes- and yet when they ignore it they miss how much  His love is displayed over and over again to a stubborn people. That is not much different from the New Testament, in that Jesus came as a sin offering for the same stubborn people, but by His supreme grace, it was also offered to fellow stubborn folks- you and me.

It’s interesting that the more I have read of the Old, I see myself in the people back then. They Know God, yet continually drift off on their own and time after time, God proves Himself to save us out of circumstances of our own making.

Yes absolutely, God is Love, and His Love is displayed in every book of the old, just as it is in the New. God is Righteous and does not tolerate sin, and His righteousness is displayed in every book of the New, just as it is in the Old.

If the Old Testament is irrelevant, why did Jesus quote from it? If the church has nothing to learn from or gain from the Old, why did the Apostles teach from it?

If people were willing to want to learn to be disciples instead of doing church, they’d realize how rich the heritage of the Church is found in the Old, and how much God is drawing Jews to Him in the New.

In the average church on any given Sunday, the average length of the sermon is 36 minutes. Average seems to be comparable to the term, lukewarm.

So it stands to reason that about half are even shorter.  I wonder what the average church attendee would do if the pastor preached as Paul did in Acts chapter 20?

I wonder how many pastors would be reprimanded by leaders for preaching all day and until past midnight?!

In our days church sermons for a large part seem to be written to draw the world into the church, instead of the church going into the world to teach and share the Gospel.  It’s understandable that many would want to make the Christian message more open and acceptable, yet no matter how much the messages are fluffed up, watered down or bent to conform to our ever changing world, people are still leaving the church in high numbers (in the west).

But… some say, we’ll draw more people with simple messages of love.  Maybe. But consider the Day of Pentecost- the day the Church was established.  When the Holy Spirit came down and the disciples began preaching in tongues so that Jews from all over the world understood! But what happened when Peter preached?

the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Boy that must have been some message that day. A good 36 minute long sermon on loving each other, social justice, community service, sharing the love and expecting abundant blessings…

Oh wait.

No, actually Peter spoke prophecy from the Old Testament book of Joel… about the coming judgement of Christ.  Kind of like those street preachers with a board saying “repent for the time is near”.  And three thousand were baptized and committed to Christ that day, and their numbers increased daily.

I find it interesting that many churches which preach from the whole Bible aren’t very big or fancy.  And sadly not a lot of people attend them, at least not as many as the thousands that fill those auditoriums and mega churches every Sunday.

Ask Christian folks in the Middle East, Africa or Communist countries what being a Christian means, and then ask someone from a comfortable, wealthy western church. Ask one of the Persecuted about the Bible, and chances are even if they only have one for their entire congregation- they know every word.

The church is supposed to be light and salt to a lost world, but lost people aren’t stupid. They know hypocrisy and compromise enough to see that by watering down the message, or transforming it to suit non believers, they are no longer preaching truth and in a sense, have no faith in their own faith.

The people gathered in Jerusalem that day the Church began knew without a doubt they were getting the truth, and as hard as some of it was to digest, their hearts were pricked as well as their conscience and they knew that these folks had something they didn’t- and they wanted it too.

No one likes a dim light bulb, and no one likes salt that’s lost flavor.  Yet this is what the world sees being offered to them by seeker friendly church leaders these days.

People see what’s going on in our country and world today and want to know where it’s all headed. Even if they don’t necessarily believe in God or Jesus, many want to hear the straight up message of those who claim to believe and they want to know why we believe.  They want to know what God has planned for the future, and that can be taught so clearly by looking at the past. That is done by learning the New from the Old, and the Old through the New.

Maybe when church leaders understand that, Christians would be more effective in seeing lives transformed by the truths it contains.