People want a hero. People need Jesus.

People want a hero. People need Jesus.

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.…

Jesus started his ministry with a band of misfits, mostly comprised of common fishermen. There was nothing incredibly special about these men that would be attention grabbing, nor was Jesus himself. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him (Isa 53:2).”

Yet, it was these men that Jesus hand picked to set the world on fire with the message of the gospel. It wouldn’t be a glamorous gig by any stretch of the measure. Being chosen by Jesus to spread this message of “Christ for sinners” was a sure death sentence. Crucified, flayed with knives, sawn into pieces, killed with arrows, hung, speared through, etc. etc. etc. The church knew this, and still we have Paul (in the verse above) correcting people for wanting to stand under the banner of the names of mere messengers, aka made them celebrities. Why?!

We want a hero.

Sure, we can blame the “Celebrity Pastor” phenom on American culture crazy, but that’s really not the issue here. Our problem is our nature bent on having a hero. Throughout scripture it’s so clear — we don’t want God, we want a man. In 1 Samuel we see the prophet going to the Lord on behalf of the people because they were demanding a king. What God says to him is so striking:

“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”

We want someone to tell us what to do, we want a person to lead us. Give us the strongest, most glamorous, well spoken man and we will follow him, even when it is to our own detriment and his. Meanwhile, God always sees fit to use that which is small and insignificant. I’m not saying God can’t use a man like that — he used a man like that to bring Law/Gospel theology to mainstream evangelical Christianity with a flippin’ bang. I can’t deny that and I would never want to. I’m thankful for how God used that man to show me that the Sermon on the Mount was Jesus bringing the Law down to my heart level. That sermon showed me my deep unrighteousness and need for something outside of myself for salvation– works will never be enough. I’m forever grateful for that message and I’m grateful for the man willing to stand up and preach it, unapologetically. However, he’s not the only man who has preached the gospel to these ears, and if I’m being honest, the people who have taught me the most about grace and law/gospel distinctions have not been standing behind pulpits, writing books, or have ever had a cable TV slot time. My point here is that typically the way that God works is through the most unlikely people — this message fits into the hands of beggars who will immediately run and begin to share with other beggars — that’s how the first “grace movement” began, but it’s not what our hearts prefer.

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes” – Luther

This is striking me so incredibly hard the past couple of weeks as one of the popular front-runners for the “grace movement” has been sidelined, again. People are losing their minds, again. A friend of mine removed this man’s sermons from his personal website (no one asked him to post them in the first place and no one asked him to take them down) and he’s received so much hate mail stating that this personal decision is a clear indicator that my friend doesn’t truly believe in grace.  Meanwhile, my friend is shelling out gospel messages constantly through blogging and podcasting. Clearly, these people are awestruck by a particular messenger and not the message itself. Understand that every single messenger is expendable. The only thing that is not expendable is the gospel.

God uses men to preach the word, but make no mistake about it — it was not a man who saved you and set you free. It was Jesus through the Holy Spirit reaching into your cold heart bent on saving itself, and opened your eyes to the truth that you need a savior. Not a pastor. Not a charismatic speaker. A savior. You need one man — the God-Man who was crucified for you, who was resurrected on the third day, and has sat down at the right hand of the Father and is now advocating for you.

People want a hero.

People need Jesus.

And that is why the unstoppable gospel message will continue to be spread like a wildfire through the most unlikely people. Eyes on Jesus, friends. The grace party is just getting started.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

5 thoughts on “People want a hero. People need Jesus.

  1. During Tullian’s last summer at CRPC, the church’s official podcast starts playing a series on Job that sounds like Tullian’s voice but is really not-quite-there with the theology. The Gospel message wasn’t there and it had some of those common TV preacher constructs of “God always…” From one verse. In one of my few communications with Tullian, I asked him about this Job stuff. He said that his theology wasn’t fully developed in this much older series. So, the church took some mediocre, years-old stuff and put out there, presumably because people wanted to hear Tullian.

    Part of this use of “rock-star” bugs me for two reasons. One, it assumes we were foolish in unthinkingly cherishing some teaching, because of the charm/good looks/ surfing ability of the teacher. Secondly, the term is also being used by people who don’t get our Pauline (Romans 8 at face value) gospel, but people who still literally beg for Twitter followers, blog reads, book sales, podcast listens, and conference attendance. So are numbers a bad thing?

    I still am “committed” to the latter sermons of Tullian. Especially interesting in them is the repeated profession of just how bad he is. The critics were in contrast asserting the necessity of our being good (as they are)

    All this being said, I may already be following your advice here; the fall of Tullian may have been a good thing. Now in my teaching, I’m forced to quote multiple theologians, like Keller, and listen even more carefully to the guest speakers at my church for gospel nuggets.

    Typed in a big hurry with respect and love.

    1. Greg,

      Thank you for leaving some feedback. I really appreciate your perspective and thoughts here. I absolutely agree with you. I’m not of the mind that no one should ever listen to Tullian’s sermons again. I didn’t go and burn his books I have on my shelf. lol. I’ll always love and care about Tullian and am thankful for our interactions even though this is where we stand currently. I do also believe truth coming to light is always a good thing, no matter how painful. People have been preaching this message long before Tullian and people will be preaching it long after. Tullian’s preaching of LG made me start to dig deeper on my own. Keller bugs me, lol! Have you tried reading any of the Zahl’s stuff? Have you heard of Byron Yawn? Justin Holcomb? Do you follow my friend, Lauren Larkin? She’s honestly my favorite theologian on the planet. She explains Law/Gospel with some serious mad skills man. That being said, listen to TT — you’re free to do that. I def don’t think numbers are a bad thing — I don’t think writing books is a bad thing, (I have a proposal out currently). The problem I’m addressing is more the attitudes behind the people that are revealed when this sort of thing goes down…. when they go bat shit crazy, then Houston we have a problem. People act as if T’s the only one who’s ever preached the gospel — like “If these sermons are removed how will we hear the gospel?!?!” uhmmmm plenty of other people preaching… lol. That’s my main point here. I appreciate you Greg!

      1. To clarify, my nod toward celebrity status of a speaker is not to assume everyone who listened to TT listened bc of that “rock star” feel. That would implicate myself and all of my friends. lol! Again, this is merely addressing the ones who are losing their shit over not being able to have him accessible any longer, and in process, vilifying a friend who is making the gospel available for them — they just want it from a particular source. Hope that helps.

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