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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Watered Down...

Imagine your outrage if you found out the local gas station was watering down their petroleum. You're paying $3/gallon for gas mixed with well water. You'd be irate.

What if you went to pour milk on your cereal, and discovered the farmer had diluted it down with water? You'd probably be indignant.

Now suppose you had medication you needed for your health. The pharmaceuticals are already making money hand over fist. But suppose a company decided to make even more money by thinning out the medication. You're health is at stake. Think that would get your ire up?

I remember discovering this during the winter. My truck is now at the point where it regularly needs topped off with antifreeze. I stopped into a parts store to buy a couple gallons to keep in the truck. To my surprise, the only thing available on the shelf was 50/50 (a mixture of antifreeze and water) for about $5/gallon. Now, our store didn't even sell 50/50, and the straight 100% antifreeze was only $3.98/gallon (I remember, because with tax it was $4.25). How was it that people were willing to pay a dollar more for half the product? At first, it bothered me and I was a little upset. But, what could I do? I walked up to the counter and paid my five bones.


Boy, we'll get mad when it's gas, milk, perscriptions or even antifreeze. But why such apathy when it is the gospel that is getting watered down?

How is it possible that we can consider a pastor good if they refuse to speak of sin and repentance? How can we not consider a pastor negligent in his task if he does not open the Scriptures? How can some think you can actually preach Christ without having to preach a text? How can we think that a pastor is simply "fulfilling the calling God may have specifically directed for his church" when it is void of Christ, the gospel or Scripture?

I'll be honest. 2Timothy 3:13 is not that hard for me to understand. I get that there will be men who deny the true calling to pursue their own desires.

2Timothy 4:3-4 is the hard one for me to understand. How is it that we can be so outraged when we receive a dilluted product in areas of minutiae, but have such complacency when it comes to the words that give life!


I guess it is a lot like antifreeze. It's worth something when it's hot or cold, but pretty much worthless when it is lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).


  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger Noel said…

    My wife does not like skim milk. She says it is watered down milk. Skim milk is just what I grew up drinking. I didn't know anything different until I tried 2%, and boy there is a difference. There is even hesitation or refusal to switch because of the difference.

    I think this applies to the maturing process in the Christian. If you grew up in a watered down church and knew nothing but the watered down stuff, you would be resistant to the full strength gospel. Not only do these people need to be reached by giving them the full gospel, they also need to be "reprogrammed" (for lack of a better word) or taught so that they can see the full truth found in Scripture. May we not be a 50/50 mix of Christians, but a 100% soldier of the cross.

  • At 12:16 PM, Blogger Zach Doppelt said…

    great post. I agree, but the biggest challenge is the fact that those who are watering down the gospel have well thought arguments on why they believe they are doing nothing of the sort. they have thoroughly convinced themselves that they are doing God's work, and they believe others are just militant and divisive. what is plain to some is hidden to others.

  • At 3:22 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    I think it's possible to preach Christ without preaching "a" text.

  • At 4:30 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    and by what authority would you then preach Christ?

    (or are you simply saying by preaching more than one text? my point was that this man did not think it necessary to preach even one text to preach Christ.)

  • At 4:57 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    What if every single idea you included in your message was a Christological truth found in scripture but you didn't specifically reference any particular texts?

  • At 8:16 PM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…

    Preaching without exposition is questionably not preaching at all. Too many books to cite would agree. Preaching Christ without citing texts is a bad plan. We are servants of the Word. Our people need to be taught how to go to it. They need to know that we're not wandering from it. In my experience, when preachers don't say specifically where they get their ideas about Christ, the flock doesn't say specifically where they come up with their whacked out departures from Him.

  • At 8:37 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i'd agree with darby.

    what would be your motivation for not specifically mentioning any texts? do you not want the people to find it too?

    i know you do brad.

    frankly, i think this is one time the attorney side is getting the best of you. i can't imagine you ever preaching a message and it not being focused on Christ. but i just as much can't imagine you preaching a message that wouldn't be laced the whole way through with Scripture.

  • At 9:20 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Are you, Mr. Livingston, referring to books of the Bible, or to non-canonical books?

    I suppose I'm most interested to find out how the scriptural pattern of preaching (as exemplified in particular in the preaching of the apostles) would measure up to the standard you're setting forth.

  • At 9:41 PM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…

    I was referring to books on preaching. I understand your desire to know the "scriptural pattern of preaching." I would question how much of that pattern you'll get, because I don't think the Bible is a preaching textbook. The Bible does provide narratives of "preaching" events. Take Stephen in Acts 7. The guy preached a biblical theology of the entire OT through the lens of Christ. The result was execution. Stephen didn't give chapter and verse (for obvious reasons), however, his hearers would have been very familiar with where to find his quotes. My question is this, "If one has the Bible in its current form, what would ever justify not using it as such?"

  • At 9:52 PM, Blogger Brad said…


    Pardon my continual answering questions with more questions: just trying to find the root of any disagreement (it's that lawyer side of me again), but you would agree, would you not, that the scriptures are the only authoritative standard for distinguishing between proper and improper preaching?

    BTW, have we met in Caribou country before? I distinctly recall foolishly stirring up a "djl" about a year ago.

  • At 10:03 PM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…

    Nope, wasn't me. I don't get stirred up, just shaken. :)

    Yes I would absolutely agree with that. That's why I spoke earlier of books on expository preaching that derive their position from exposition of Scripture. My point is that one would be hard-pressed to assemble a theology of preaching from the apostolic pattern because there's so little of it recorded. Not to mention that it's sometimes dangerous to directly apply narratives in a didactic way.

  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Then shake it we shall.

    How else, then, might one gather a preaching-judging standard from scripture, if not through actual scriptural examples of preaching?

    How, for example, do you make a scriptural argument that true preaching requires actual scripture quotations? (I'm sure you don't mean that a message is not true preaching unless chapters and verses are cited.)

    And whatever this non-example-based standard might end up being, wouldn't the examples at least have to refrain from violating it?

  • At 7:48 AM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…

    I don't think it's a matter of "requires" but a matter of "really good idea since they're available now and weren't back then." Our context is different now as well because most of the addresses in Scripture were not to gentiles, but Jews, who would have known Scripture like the back of their hand. All I'm saying is not quoting Scripture when it's codified now is like driving through the desert with your air conditioner off. Did people in the past drive without the aid of air? Yes. But it doesn't mean they didn't wish they had it. Otherwise, it never would have been invented. I'd recommend Christ-Centered Preaching by Chapell or Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Goldsworthy or Him We Proclaim by Dennis Johnson or Inspired Preaching by Boyd Luter or The Supremacy of God in Preaching by Piper if you're really curious, and not just contentious.

  • At 8:04 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i'm enjoying this interaction...brad and darby.

    (incidently, darby will be at the preaching workshop...wink/wink brad)

    but brad,

    you still haven't answered my issue. i cannot fathom you preaching a message that was not Christ centered and Scripture saturated. (and by saturated, i don't mean just allusions to the text, but direct references and reading from the Word).

    do i have you pegged wrong?

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger Brad said…


    Hey, I'm just a layman; you're supposed to pull the scripture references out of all those books for me!

    Nice air-conditioning illustration.
    I do agree that it is a good idea to cite specific passages in preaching, if for no other reason to make your message more clearly authoritative.

    I am, however, willing to contend for the notion that the examples of apostolic preaching (both in narrative and in the forms of the epistles)are the primary standards by which preaching ought to be judged, and I hope I'm not being contentious in doing so.

    You said that preaching without exposition was arguably not preaching at all. It seems to me that, by that standard, much of the preaching of the apostles and of Christ himself was arguably not preaching at all. That's a conclusion that makes me more than just curious; it makes me uncomfortable.

    I am, however, quite willing to hear scriptural arguments to the contrary, and I do truly wish I had the time to read all the books you've recommended.


    I honestly can't see myself ever preaching from a pulpit without specifically referring to the text. But if you look, for example, at my last post, you can see that I don't always do so in every context. Perhaps I should rethink my approach.

  • At 10:37 AM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…

    Brad, thanks for your humble reply. I hope you know I wasn't accusing you of being contentious - I just didn't see your point. I think I do now. I see why you may be uncomfortable with what I said. So I'll defend it.

    By exposition, I just mean "giving the sense of the text." That's all. Rather than imposing on it what isn't there, or making it do what it isn't designed to do, the preacher exposes what is there, and seeks to achieve what it is designed to do. In Nehemiah 8:8 we read: "They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." Exposition is giving the sense. From a Christian perspective, Luke 24 must shape our "sense-giving" more than any other text because in it, Christ claimed all Scripture for himself. Stephen preached that very well in Acts.

  • At 3:31 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    With that I can fully agree, and, viewing the matter in that light, can also see a good reason to make both a comparison and a distinction between apostolic preaching and non-canonical preaching:

    All preaching requires delivery of God's rather than man's words. For the apostles, God's words came from the Old Testament scriptures but also by direct revelation from Christ. For preachers living after the apostolic age, however, the scriptures are the sole source God's infallible word, therefore everything they preach must be brought from them rather than to them.

    Thanks for the sharpening, sir.

    Danny, I hope you know that my failure to register for your seminar has nothing to do with any lack of interest on my part. I hate not being able to take the time for it. God bless your labors there!

  • At 3:51 PM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…


    You hit the nail on the head Brother. The apostles weren't just preaching Christ. They were revealing what would eventually be the subject of our preaching. So there is, of necessity, a difference. That is not to say we don't have much to learn about preaching from them nonetheless.


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