Preparing the Way
April 25, 2023 - Les Kovacs
My sermon this Sunday certainly struck a chord with many of you, and I thank you for your warm and encouraging words during our fellowship time after the service. One question I was asked was this: To whose “orthodox” opinion I was comparing the “unorthodox” teachings of John and Jesus.
My response is that John and Jesus’ teachings ran counter to the commonly held beliefs of their day. The people, and in particular the religious leaders, felt that as long as they held to the Law as handed down from God to Moses, which would have included various sacrifices for atonement for their sins, or because they were descendants of Abraham, they would be considered righteous in God’s eyes. This would have been the prevailing religious orthodoxy of the times. Therefore, when Jesus, and John before him, taught that no amount of sacrifices made by humans was enough to expunge their sins, but only a heart-and-life changing belief in Jesus, the Son of God, whose sacrifice alone was sufficient to cleanse us of our sins, this would have been seen as highly unorthodox because it went against the accepted teaching of their day.
In our modern western culture, traditional Christian beliefs no longer hold sway as they once did, outside of actual practicing Christians. In secular society, the whole concept of sin is considered passe, as just another restriction on our freedom to do as we please. In secular society, the word “inclusion” has come to mean like-mindedness and excludes anyone with a different viewpoint. In secular society, all worldly spiritual practices and all faiths are promoted as being equally valid, which effectively invalidates them all. In secular society, “self” centered ideologies accept shifting expressions of “self” and reject our identity in Christ because it is believed that everyone’s own truth is unique unto themselves, and therefore there is no absolute truth. This is the prevailing orthodoxy of our day. Therefore, for Christians to teach the absolute truth of our salvation by Jesus Christ is highly unorthodox because it goes against the beliefs of society in our day.
In both these cases, the Gospel of Christ is unorthodox because it runs counter to the prevailing orthodoxy of our respective societies. Within the wider western culture that we live, Bible-preaching Christians are no longer considered to hold the “right opinions” (as derived from the Greek words “orthos” and “doxa”) because we don’t espouse the same secular worldview.
There was a time only a few scant decades ago when Christianity was the dominant influence in our society. People went to church regularly. They declared themselves Christian on their census forms. The Ten Commandants were prominently displayed in public buildings. The Lord’s Prayer was recited in schools every morning. In those days, before the rise of “self” promotion, we were orthodox in the commonly accepted meaning of the word. But those days are gone. Only within the confines of Christianity are we orthodox, as opposed to liberal and progressive, because we believe and preach the undiluted Gospel of Christ once handed down (Luke 1:2). To everyone else, we are unorthodox.
Questions for you. Do you believe that all Christians are called to share their faith, or do you believe only clergy are called to it? Does the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) apply to you? Are you comfortable declaring that you are Christian?
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.