The preacher settled in for his first sermon at his last church. He had reached an age when life imparted its truth and he now felt compelled to be direct in his delivery. He decided he would choose for his last appointment the text from John, chapter 14, verse 6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” He knew the depth of these words from Jesus would provide ample sermons from various perspectives and multiple texts. This, he thought, summed up Jesus’ ministry.
On this first Sunday, the church was full. Everyone was excited to hear and see the new preacher. They had heard much about him. Comfortable might describe their preconceptions based on advance notices of how he would fit with the congregation. Each thought he would preach a good sermon and life would remain much the same.
He began talking about the way. He talked about how Matthew described Jesus’ ministry, how the Lord “went through Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and disease.” Well, the congregation had heard all this before and pretty much the church was obedient in trying to do as Jesus did. Subsequent Sundays found church attendance at normal levels, less than the first Sunday, but then, people were living their lives. Each was comfortable.
As his tenure progressed, the preacher moved on in the text. Having laid the groundwork with “the way,” he began preaching about “the truth.” Slowly, his tone changed. He became more serious, he told fewer anecdotes and jokes. His head and voice lowered. He made more direct eye contact, his words became persistent and insistent.
His sermons changed but expressed the same message. The preacher thought and said in so many words “A man can only find truth in opposition to himself, a recognition there is something pure outside himself, not of his true nature. Truth comes when the man knows he is not the good and noble man he perceives himself to be. It reveals itself then when the man now strives against his lesser nature, this offense he no longer wishes to exist, but which he can’t let go. Simply, a man cannot know truth until discovering he is bad, then attempts to be good. And when seeking this good, he comes across the only nature in reality expressing purity, the life of Jesus Christ. Against Christ, all sin within comes to light.”
Hearing the preacher’s message, folks became uncomfortable. Attendance dwindled. No one spoke out loud, but each thought the preacher had gone too far. After all, each thought themselves to be a good person or some would think, I’m not really bad. Each voted with absence.
By his last Sunday, one person sat in the front pew. Seeing no one else in attendance, the preacher looked at his congregant and said, “Well then, since it is the two of us, what shall I say?” His congregant said, “Tell me of the life.” Responding, he said, “The life is freedom from, from your old life, from a comfort separating you from Christ, a life of blessed assurance.” With this, the lone churchgoer said, “This, I believe. This, I want.” The preacher laid his hands on him, prayed and blessed him. The service ended.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).