What do you do with a building that has “seen better days? There are two possible responses. You can either refurbish it or demolish it and rebuild something new.
The experience of becoming a Christian is often presented in the guise of being a refurbishment job. The scenario goes something like this:
- Your life is not so good. You know that things are not what they should be. There seems an aching void in your life.
- If you receive Jesus Christ into your life then your life will be freshened up. You will be what you should be.
- So someone receives Jesus Christ into their life and they know a complete life now because Jesus Christ has come in
This is a complete misrepresentation of the Christian message. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a “refurbishment” message. Rather it is “demolition and renewal” message. John the Baptist was the man who preached in a demolish and rebuild fashion. Consider this account of him in Matthew 3:1-12
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”’
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
‘I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
In this passage we see how:
- John was direct. He commanded people to repent and place themselves under the rule of heaven. There was nothing attractive about John or where he was, but he preached and people came. They came confessing their complete unworthiness. They were demolished by his preaching; so much so that they confessed their sins and were baptised.
- John was challenging. He would not countenance any thought among his hearers that they might just view his message as a refurbishment message to freshen up their lives. He challenged the religious scribes and Pharisees to truly display a changed life.
- John pointed to Christ. He indicated that the Lord Jesus Christ was the one who would bring true life and hope. Blessing is not found in ourselves and our self-improvement, but in Christ and in him alone. He is the one who separates the wheat from the chaff.
- He preached to divide. He preached to show people that they were either wheat or chaff. All are chaff without a change and without embracing of Christ. All are wheat with the change of repentance and the embracing of Christ.
Is our preaching refurbishment preaching or demolish and rebuild preaching?