Don’t Preach ‘Sola Bootstrapsa’

bootstrapsStephen Colbert once said:

I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible — I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical.

That’s a funny reminder that pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is an idea based on an impossible task. Yet too often preachers ask people to do exactly that, forgetting how central Christ is to moral behavior. With good intentions, they encourage and exhort their congregation to do good and moral things like: “Serve others before yourself,” “Manage your time and pray more often,” or “Do what Daniel did in the face of trials.” Clearly, these are good things, but they preach it without relating it to the work of Christ. We are left to believe that if we just pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, doing good by our own merit, then God will be pleased. Bryan Chapell, author of Christ-Centered Preaching, says:

Sola bootstrapsa messages are wrong, and faithful preachers must not only avoid this error but also war against it.

They’re more than wrong. They’re anti-gospel. They’re sermons from hell. We cannot please God by our own merit. We have to fight that lie.

Again, I understand that preachers are not intentionally trying to leave Christ out, but they are leaving Christ out. Chapell says it best:

Preachers may protest, “But I assume my people understand they must base their efforts on faith and repentance.” Why should we assume listeners will understand what we rarely say, what the structure of our communication contradicts, and what their own nature denies?

Amen. We need to hear more about Christ. Here are three biblical reasons why:

  1. All scripture is about Jesus
    In Luke 24:27, it is revealed that throughout the Old Testament, starting with Moses, the scriptures are referring to Jesus Christ. Some would say that every passage in scripture relates to the work of Jesus Christ in some way. Chapell teaches that every passage is either predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory for the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ and/or resultant of the work of Christ. If all scripture relates to Christ in these ways, then surely you must preach about Christ in every sermon, to some degree.
    (See this 4-minute video for more on Luke 24:27.)
  2. All scripture is about how Jesus saves us
    In 2 Tim. 3:14-15, Paul says to Timothy that all scripture is able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This makes sense if all of scripture relates to the work of Christ which our salvation is based on. All believers come to faith through knowledge of the gospel and all believers need to hear the gospel regularly.
  3. Paul only peached about how Jesus saves us
    In 1 Cor. 2:2, Paul says that he wanted to know nothing among the Corinthians except for Jesus Christ and him crucified. John Piper clarifies:

    It does not mean that the only thing he mentioned in his 18 months in Corinth was the cross, because again in this letter he scolds them for not understanding other things too.
    I think what it means is that whatever else he knew, whatever else he spoke about, and whatever else he did, he would know it and say it and do it in relation to Christ crucified.

    We should follow the apostles example and try to preach primarily about Christ crucified, rather than the wisdom of man.

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