Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pictures Lie

I see men as trees, walking
(Mark 8:24)

It has been my experience that in many churches and circles of church folk, conferences, and the like, there seems to be a prevailing notion that needs to be dismissed out of hand. Too many times we are confusing illustrations with good sermonizing, in other words, we feel like a good illustration means the preacher proved his point. Friends, get this and get this good: Illustrations are pictures not proof. And despite popular opinion and cherished cliché, yes indeed, pictures can and do lie, quite often, in fact.

Pictures can and do lie because of our interpretation of them, we do not see things clearly, as the man in our text did not. We may not have the whole picture because it was manipulated. Some ministers give us bad pictures because they are using a carnal camera, or we see things out of focus through the lens of licentiousness.

Sometimes we don’t really have the big picture, only a small fraction of what is going on. How many times have we acted on incomplete evidence? Why do you think they tell the people in court to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? How many times have you seen something that looks like it is really what you need or want, but you found out that what you see isn’t always what you get? Paul Harvey has made a career of telling us the “rest of the story” behind events we thought we knew.

Of course, I just used some illustrations, didn’t I? We must remember, and not get carried away by the clever pictures someone paints for us. A scene is not a story, a frame is not a film, and a little information isn’t the whole situation. Proverbs 18:17 (NIV) says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Just because something sounds good or looks good doesn’t mean it is good. We should be like the Bereans who were examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11 – ESV).

Illustration and analogy can be effective tools in helping us understand the richness of what we are hearing or reading, but they cannot replace the simple truth. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). If you cannot understand something without a story, learn to dig deeper. It will take time, but it will yield treasure. Then you can bring others to the deep truths of the bible with illustrations of your own, and lead others to discover for themselves the riches of God’s grace. Don’t let somebody steal your heart with a Kodak moment, get the truth from God’s Word for yourself, after all, pictures lie.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

17 comments:

Paulie said...

Hey JD, thats a great one! In fact because of a conversation Melissa and I had I had half written a similar post. Same topic, different view. Thanks... Lord willing, see you Sunday!

Craver VII said...

I see Resurrected people.

Even So... said...

Indeed, Craver...I was wondering if the lack of comments was an illusion or an illustration of what people thought of this post...

Taliesin said...

A seminary professor (theology), who was speaking at a "retreat" I attended, told of a student who came up with an "excellent" illustration for a passage on which he was going to preach a sermon. Unfortunately, as he studied the passage he found that the point of the passage did not fit the illustration. He went to his homiletics professor who advised him to make the point of his message fit the illustration (because it would stay with the audience) instead of the point of the passage.

This was an evangelical seminary. And we wonder why preaching is so lukewarm today.

Thanks for the reminder, JD.

Rick Potter said...

J. D.,

This post reminds me of a situation in my own life. I have been witnessing to my best friend from high school for years. I have used many illustrations throughout this time in order to reach him - to touch some deep place within him. Over the past several years I have seen the ineffectiveness of this and began simply presenting the Gospel message. I cannot begin to tell you the difference it has made (though of course you know). God has blessed my endeavors with this presentation of the Gospel and yesterday he came by my shop to visit me. I believe he is "moments" away from repentance and confession. God bless you and others who are sharing posts like this one that has so much import.

BTW, his name is Tony - please keep my friend in your prayers.

Rick

Even So... said...

I will, Rick...to God be the glory!

ThirstyDavid said...

Excellent point, JD. I have to remember this when illustrating thing for my kids.

Incidentally, was I supposed to see Kenny Loggins?

Even So... said...

hmmmmm...much trouble with sitemeter today...its picture is lying to me right now...not to mention technorati...

Jim said...

JD, are you saying Jesus had long blonde hair and blue eyes? :)

Was it not only the nazarites that had long hair?

donsands said...

"Illustration and analogy can be effective tools in helping us understand the richness of what we are hearing or reading, but they cannot replace the simple truth."

Amen. Good post. Thanks Pastor JD.


"advised him to make the point of his message fit the illustration (because it would stay with the audience)"

The pulpits are full of human-centered speakers who are well-meaning, but they have been swimming in a pool of theology an inch deep and a mile wide: Shallow and stagnant.

Even So... said...

David...Loggins, no, it was supposed to be Messina...

Jim...of course...

Don...stangnant water is bad to drink, indeed...

Craver Vii said...

Sorry, I've been out of the picture for a bit... Things are excruciatingly busy right now; I barely have time enough to blink.

Dan said...

Great post J.D.
I have struggled a little with this myself as you know. I just get worried that if I don't have that great "picture" then they will never get the point. Like I need to help God or that His word is not enough. Although I think with children (in Christ and in age) and maybe even the elderly it is needed more than perhaps than if it were a group of mature christians. None the less balance is important... with the scales tipped toward the Word.

Even So... said...

I barely have time enough to blink.

he he he, Craver you are too much...nice to see you again...that is what I see when I did the blink test above, Christ is reflected in you, brother, have a fruitful season...

Even So... said...

Dan, you are doing better each time you do it, keep going back to the fountain and you will keep finding an inexhaustible source...

Sista Cala said...

So what about the man seeing people as trees? I heard a preacher awhile back say that the man saw men as trees because humans are styled after trees. He used the verses about being like a tree planted by the waters... to back up his idea. I didn't give it much thought since it had no bearing on my understanding of the scripture.

Even So... said...

In context: The man saw something that wasn't clear, but he knew what he was actually looking at was men, not trees, trees were what they seemed like until the real picture came clear...he could only tell they weren't trees because they walked...the healing was gradual, and Christ showed he was not tied to method...

Now in relating that to this post...we shouldn't press analogies or visual imagery too far...the illustration points us to the point, it isn't the point itself...