The following are words from the last few minutes of an address R. C. Sproul gave to the 2008 graduating class of Westminster Seminary California.
“[In a sermon late in his life, Luther] wondered, why is it that [despite gospel preaching] people are still spending their money on indulgences and on what Luther called the Pope’s second-hand junk [i.e. relics]. He said, the Pope is like a decoy duck, sitting on a pond with a great bag of tricks, seducing people with this nonsense. He wondered why it is that people ignore the Word of God and exchange it for Joseph’s pants.”
“…What relevance does that have for us today? We don’t see the evangelical church of our day rushing to depositories of sacred relics. Nobody’s looking for Joseph’s pants. Rather we have invested our time, our energy, and our money in more contemporary ways to improve the gospel. We look to programs, to Madison Avenue methodologies, to entertainment, to pop psychology, even to the establishment of Starbucks in the church to improve the gospel.”
“Why do we do this? I think people in the church today are looking for exactly what they were looking for in sixteenth-century Germany. They went to Trier, they went to Aachen, they went to these relics because they believed the relics had power. Every pastor wants to have a powerful ministry. And so we look to the latest program, to the latest method to give us a powerful ministry, forgetting where the Lord God omnipotent has put the power the in the first place.”
“In the first chapter of Romans, Paul introduces himself as a slave of God, one who’s called to be an apostle, and for what mission is he set apart? For the gospel of God. IF we look at that text carefully, we will see that what Paul says is that he has not been consecrated to preach a gospel about God, but rather the text means that it is the gospel that belongs to God. It’s God’s gospel.”
“We will inevitably be tempted by decoy ducks on the pond to seduce us into thinking that we can improve upon the power that is in the gospel. It is, however, our task to diligently and faithfully preach the Word of God, which Word he has empowered and has promised will never return unto him void. We don’t need anything more. We can’t improve on that in any manner.”
This excellent address can be found on pages 188-191 of Always Reformed.