Imagine if I were to ask you to take out a piece of paper and draw a picture of Oreo, my pet from when I was a kid. I will not tell you anything about him. For all you know, he could be a dog or a cat or a hermit crab or a penguin. Even if it’s just a mental picture, take a moment and try.
What if I just say it louder? “DRAW A PICTURE OF OREO! TRY HARDER!” Did that help you at all?
Saying it louder doesn’t help because you still know nothing about Oreo. (By the way, he was a small Jack Russell terrier — part dog, part devil.) Better by far would be for me to show you a picture of Oreo so that you could have the best opportunity of drawing an accurate picture of him.
That’s a pretty ridiculous example, but that’s how a lot of contemporary preaching is. Preachers often call people to be Christlike and to have faith in Christ, but sadly their sermons are sparse with any description of Jesus — who he is or what he did.
Ultimately, the way to see Jesus is to encounter him in the pages of Holy Scripture, and sitting under the preached Word is uniquely suited to that task. I believe that the preaching of God’s Word is a kind of verbal portrait-painting, and the aim is to paint the Lord Jesus as he appears in the words of the Bible.
I believe the Apostle Paul makes that same case in 1 Corinthians 1:21, that “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe,” which is to say that preaching has the power to convey the message of salvation. And he describes the effect of faithful preaching in 1 Corinthians 4:6 where he writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’
Really, the whole Bible is preaching one unified sermon — it’s painting one unified picture—and the sermon of the Bible is a crystal-clear picture of who Jesus is and who we are in light of him (to mix the metaphors).
Seeing Jesus is not a mystical experience that can be achieved through transcendental meditation, nor is it an ungoverned construction of your own imagination. These methods result in a Jesus-portrait of our own invention. Instead, we need to encounter the biblical Jesus and see him as he’s revealed in the pages of the Bible. That’s the only Jesus who can save. What do you think of when you think of Jesus? Surely there can be no more significant question.
It’s my hope that the Holy Spirit would enlighten the eyes of your heart (Ephesians 1:18) and reveal to you the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, so that you might worship him, love him, and live for him.
Garrett Walden is a pastor at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, and he's a 6th grade teacher at Auburn Classical Academy. He's an Auburn University alum living in Opelika with his wife and three kids.