It is well known that a diet of junk food is not healthy for the body. It promotes obesity and disease. It produces listlessness and passivity. There is also, I suggest, junk food for the mind. It produces spiritual and intellectual lethargy.

Let me provide an example. A friend of mine, a pastor of many years, decided to leave the church because of ecclesiological pragmatism that stifled spiritual growth. He saw that “success” in the evangelical church merely required four aspects: a concert-feel worship service, simple practical how-to preaching on popular topics using humor with a non-confrontational challenge, a fun-clean-safe children’s ministry, and a similar teen meeting concurrent with the adult service. I wonder if you have observed a similar kind of pragmatism in your churches.

Indeed, it seems that most preaching today stresses application― ecclesiological pragmatism―and ignores the theology or biblical rationale for the application. The result is often just busyness and rules. But the real motivation for the Christian life is knowing the truth. That reality motivates us, producing transformation, creative thinking, and godly ethics.

Many Christians, I think, want to develop their minds in a distinctly Christian fashion and grow in discernment. They struggle with a sense of intellectual dissonance. They experience conflict between what they hear (or do not hear) in church and what they observe in the world. They express boredom with insipid sermons. They lament teaching that stresses “how-to” knowledge but rarely “why” or “what” thinking. They hear applications but they want more biblical rationale, more worldview.

I believe that our souls are hard-wired, so-to-speak, with something called the indicative-imperative dynamic. There are three parts of this formula: an indicative statement about an essential truth; a literal or grammatically implied “therefore” which points to the expected response; and then an application or demand.

A simple example is 1 John 4:19. “We love because he first loved us.” Most sermons today simply respond to the demand of the congregation―give us an imperative. They say, in effect: “Just tell us how to do it. Tell us how to love. Be practical. Do not bore us with teaching that forces us to think or evaluate ourselves or our culture. Do not explain to us in depth how or why God first loved us as the rationale for how and why we should love others.”

Another example is Deuteronomy 6:4–5. The indicative is expressed in verse 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The imperative is provided in verse 5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

This passage tells us what is important in verse 4: an absolute, transcendent, sovereign creator, the Lord our God, called Yahweh Elohim, is God alone. It also indicates a relationship between this creator and his creation. God is our sovereign Lord, and we are his human servants. Because of this, he communicates with authority, and we must listen and obey. The imperative in verse 5 tells us what to do. We must devote all our being and resources to his honor and service. The proper response to God is total devotion in thought, desire, and behavior―assuming we understand in depth the indicative in verse 4.

The church needs solid teaching that includes both the imperative and the indicative, not simply intellectual fast food. As disciples, we need to learn in depth. We need mental piety. Or, as Alistair Begg comments, “When the Bible is truly taught, then the voice of God is truly heard.”

Indeed, we must hear God’s voice speaking―educating, reproving, and inspiring us through his word. Then, Lord willing, follows transformation in every area―because the truth (not spiritual junk food) will set us free to love God with our minds, to serve him, and to bless others for the sake of the gospel.


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