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A Defense for Modern Illustrations

I recently received an email that prompted deep reflection. It stated:

“You will be accountable to the Lord God Almighty on the day of judgement for each idle, worldly secular word from the pulpit in lieu of wholesome Bible examples describing the Glorious Work of My Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

There is something to commend in this comment.

Ungracious, unedifying, and even crass language can creep into the pulpit. A preacher ought not let foul language, slander, gossip, lies color his sermon. The scriptures themselves use careful language with sensitive topics. Many sins are spoken about in the pages of scripture without delving into the descriptive depths of those particular sins.

But, for the person who opens their Bible and reads the narratives of the Old Testament and the sins confronted in the New Testament, there is no shortage of shocking topics addressed.

I’ve come to expect this type of email from time to time. Why? Because I have zero issues with giving modern examples of God’s amazing work redeeming sinners. God is still in the business of doing amazing works amongst the worst of sinners.

Which Wholesome Bible Examples?

Lurking underneath this email is something that needs to be addressed:

“…in lieu of wholesome Bible examples describing the Glorious Work of My Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

This is at the heart of the glorious work of our redeemer, Jesus Christ. He saves the unsavable. If we look for the wholesome examples of Jesus, we’ll scratch our heads looking for them.

Consider the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-30), living in fornication yet transformed by her encounter with Jesus.

Should we talk about the wholesome example of the woman caught in the act of adultery?

Maybe we can talk about the wholesome example of Levi the tax collector. Just to make sure we understand, that’s like Jesus redeeming a man who would be both a corrupt tax officer and in league with mob thugs.

To be clear, there would not have been an objection to Jesus’s ministry by the Pharisees if His work was amongst the wholesome.

Jesus came to save sinners.

Jesus came to save the fornicator.

Jesus came to save the drunkard.

Jesus came to save the homosexual.

Jesus came to save the liar.

Jesus came to save the thief.

Jesus came to save the adulterer.

Jesus came to save the idolater.

Jesus came to save the covetous.

Appalled at Jesus?

The Pharisees were shocked and appalled by the unwholesome company Jesus seemed to keep. They protested to his disciples about it:

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

That’s the whole point. Jesus is the only one who is wholesome in the story.

The light of Jesus’s righteousness and holiness shines brightly against the dark veil of sin.

Biblical History

Jesus's work of redemption flows through the course of Biblical history.

Jesus saved self-righteous Pharisees like Nicodemus.

Jesus saved the leader of the money-hungry tax collectors like Zaccheus.

Jesus saved bloodthirsty Saul.

Jesus saved drunken Corinthians.

Jesus saved sexually immoral Ephesians.

Church History

The Glorious Work of My Redeemer, Jesus Christ, must not be limited to Biblical history. No, the pages of church history are filled with stories of redemption. How impoverished would the church be if we ignored amazing testimonies like Augustine's Confessions?

Modern History

But the Glorious Work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is not be relegated to ancient history. No, His work is happening today!

Jesus saved Brittnie De La Mora, the former porn star.

Jesus saved Rosaria Butterfield, the former homosexual.

Jesus saved Chuck Colson, the former liar.

Jesus saved Mark Spence, the former thief.

Jesus saved Gary Shriver, the former adulterer.

Jesus saved Justin Kunkle, the former drug addict.

Jesus saved Vivek, the former Hindu.

Jesus saved Nabeel, the former Muslim.

Jesus saved me a former fornicator and drunkard. I have experienced firsthand the radical and redeeming love of Jesus. His work in my life is a testament to His ongoing power to transform and renew.

There's no need to get into the details. But to consider it taboo to even mention the pit of sin from which Jesus saves people is to go too far.

No Whitewashing

God forbid that a minister of the gospel be relegated to placing the good news of Jesus in the “wholesome” stories of the past.

We must not whitewash the Glorious Work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, by relegating it in our minds to wholesome Bible examples.

The examples time and time again in the Bible are not so wholesome.

Why? Because Jesus came not to save those who were whole but those who were sinners. The sick needed the great physician.

Jesus stepped into the mess, not away from it.

Jesus saw the wretchedness of the sin and called it for what it was.

Jesus boldly proclaimed repentance of sin.

Jesus radically welcomed those who repented and clung to him.

Sinner, Repent and Cling to Jesus

Indeed, that was what happened at the Pharisee’s home when a woman with a reputation of being a sinner clung to Jesus. Notice the interaction in Luke 7:36-39:

36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus is still doing that work today.

Jesus still forgives today.

Jesus still redeems today.

The Holy Spirit is applying the blood of Jesus today!

Indeed, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Lk 15:10

No Sanitation - No White Washing

Reader, do not sanitize the radical nature of redemption.

Sinners need to be washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Preachers of the good news need not shy away from the examples describing the Glorious Work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

There is hope found in the examples of Jesus’s works in the lives of those around him.

There is hope found in the examples of Jesus’s work in the early Biblical history of the church.

There is hope found in the examples of Jesus’s work throughout church history.

There is hope found in the examples of Jesus’s work today.

Bryan Schneider

Bryan Schneider

Husband to Olivia. Father of Nathan, Deborah, Daniel, & Ellie. Blessed to serve Sharon RP Church (sharonrpc.org). Loving Rural life.

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