I am asked once in a while why, in my preaching, I do not give directives or even advice on living the Christian life. It is a good question especially since much contemporary preaching is concerned with doing just that. The simple answer is that I believe the purpose of preaching is not life coaching but the proclamation of God’s law and God’s Gospel in order that sin is convicted and forgiven. If preaching aims at teaching anything it is to teach the listener to hear and trust the promises of God (and the freedom those promises create) and not the constantly accusing voice of the law, even though that voice is fully justified in making accusations. The result is the freedom to be human and not religious. Theologian Gerhard Forde put it this way;
“In the perspective of the theology of the Reformation, therefore, the goal (of the Christian life) is to discover what it means to act and live in a truly human and secular fashion. For it takes faith to live a truly secular existence, faith in that “other” Kingdom which comes when and where God wills. It takes a faith strong enough to turn us around and make us look into the eyes of our fellow human beings, strong enough to make and to keep us human. And that is the point. For if it seemed useful to God to try that way, to try becoming truly human, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to try it too.”
As a pastor I do counsel others from time to time as they struggle with decisions and issues in the practical business of living. And that is as it should be. When it comes to the proclamation of the Gospel, however, I believe preaching is to be reserved exclusively for the proclamation of Christ and the giving away of His benefits to sinners. As the Christian attends to the Word of God and learns to trust God’s promises, our allegiance is directed away from sin and self toward reliance on His grace, which is another way of saying God summons us to resume the primary role for which we were created and re-created in Christ; a free and joyful obedience to the Father that is expressed in being human and caring for the neighbor and the creation.