It’s tempting for preachers (and parents) to think that knowledge is the solution to the problem of disobedience. Is a husband unfaithful to his wife? He needs a good whack of truth to the head. Is your teenager trying drugs? A pamphlet on the danger of narcotics should do the trick.
To be sure, knowledge is important. Preachers trade in truths, and parents can only hope to teach their kids what is true. We are all supposed to spend our time thinking about what is true (Philippians 3:8).
Yet, truth is not enough. If we only have truth, we miss the mark and become pedantic lecturers, driving people away from God.
Zack Eswine writes about this in his excellent book Sensing Jesus. Sometimes, he says, we “believe that another is choosing a course of action because he or she simply isn’t clear on what is right.” We think the solution is explaining what’s right and plain, and then they will do the right thing.
That’s not enough, he writes:
While our first step should always include making sure things have been made clear, most of us know from our own lives that often it is not a lack of clarity that troubles us. Often we already know the right thing to do, and we will still choose otherwise…
The Bible simply does not teach that if we say the right words, right things will follow. Jesus taught us that the self-centered heart is tamed not by human will but by God’s intervention. No one was more plain, reasonable, and clear than Jesus, and they crucified him.
Some implications for all of us:
- Make things clear, but understand that this is only the beginning.
- Pray that the truth would not just become clear but precious. In other words, pray for the Spirit to do his work.
- Recognize our limits. We play a role, but only God can change the heart.
- As preachers and parents, we need to learn our roles: as preachers and those who pray for what only God can do; as those who not only show the truth of God’s Word but the beauty of it; as people who want to capture not only the thoughts but the affections of the hearts of those we’re trying to reach.