This week I've been listening to sermons from the web on Luke 14. I'm preaching on it on Sunday. It's Jesus at a banquet. He heals on the Sabbath, He teaches about not taking the seats of honour, He calls people to invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to dinner and He speaks of the kingdom as a great feast. Wonderful stuff.
But do you know, in all the sermons I've listened to from the web, what's been the number one application of Luke 14?? Quiet times! From both UK and US pastors, the predominant take-home message was 'make sure you get alone with God every day.' I'm not going to name names but I listened to some big hitters. And they preached on the feast. The feast where Jesus tells us to throw feasts and then speaks of the kingdom as a feast. And what's their conclusion: 'We need to get on our own more!' ??! Usually the logic was: Don't take the places of honour => Therefore Get humble => Therefore get on your knees => Therefore commit to quiet times.
Now there were two notable exceptions: John Piper was good. And so was the Australian (obviously!) Mike Frost. (Those two aren't usually positively lumped together but there you are). But the rest took Luke 14 and boiled it down into some very individualistic applications.
Now I'm all in favour of ensuring that our doing flows from a lively relationship with Christ. But why does that equate to 'getting alone with God'?? I mean how do we get from the feast to the prayer closet?? Are conservative evangelicals that afraid of getting our hands dirty in mission, in rubbing shoulders with the poor, crippled, blind and lame? Are we that individualistic and moralistic?
Anyway... I do think a healthy relationship with Christ means talking and listening to Him daily. But why is the quiet time the touch-stone of evangelical spirituality? Why is it the default application for every sermon? (I say this against myself) Why do we reach for the privatized exhortations so readily?
And how many times have I heard Robert Murray McCheyne's daunting challenge:
What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is and no more.
I mean it's right to be challenged by that. But is it true? And is it right to aim for this as the very model and highpoint of Christian maturity? What about: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
I dunno. Bit of a rant really. What do you think?