This Sunday marks the opening of a new season in my life. I will be officially announced as Teaching Pastor for The Bridge -- a church near my home. I'll be preaching about 20 Sundays per year there (so I can still do some travel, consulting and writing). We're in the middle of a sermon series about the Fruit of the Spirit, and I'm scheduled to deal with the topic of faithfulness.
Now, my first inclination was to talk about how God wants us to be faithful. I was going to deal with Bible verses like Psalm 15:4 -- that's the verse that talks about people who keep their oaths even when it hurts. And I was going to define faithfulness in various ways. I was going to say that it's doing what you need to do even when you don't feel like it -- or keeping your word even when it gets hard -- or choosing to believe even when you don't know for sure.
But for the past few days we've been talking about a particular kind of moralism -- which I consider to be potentially lethal to a Christian's faith -- so I decided to rethink my sermon for this Sunday.
Anyone who has read this blog for very long or sat in one of my classes knows that I believe the first rule of Bible study is that it must be theocentric. In other words, when we read a Bible verse, the first question we should ask is this: What does this verse teach me about the character and nature of God?
So, I went back through all the usual verses one might use in a sermon on faithfulness and asked myself the question. Then I asked, "Why does God prefer faithfulness to infidelity?" Did he just decide one day?
I think the answer is because faithfulness is part of God's character. That's why he wants us to show faithfulness -- because when we do we're showing something of him -- demonstrating something of a family resemblance.
That also makes sense of why faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit -- a byproduct of spending time connected to God. You tend to become like the people you hang out with. So, if you spend time with God, his faithfulness will start to spread through you.
Totally changed my sermon for this Sunday -- made it less about us and trying hard -- made it more about God. Also made it look more like what I say is my theology.