What Am I Hearing in This Sermon?

Are the sermons you hear Christ-centered or Man-centered?

Get your pad and pencil or pen ready the next time you sit under the preaching of the Word of God, and see how you fare with the following three questions:

1. Is Jesus mentioned in this sermon?
2. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs?
3. If so, what are the verbs?

Among other considerations, there are two primary objectives that must be communicated in any sermon:

  • Indicatives (What God or Christ does for or to sinful and/or saved man)
  • Imperative (What sinful and saved men are to do for God and Christ)

For example, the Law (what God is and does, and so what man ought to be and do) is imperative, and the Gospel (what Christ has done for sinners) is indicative.

In Christ-centered preaching, the logic will flow from indicative to imperative; from what God does, in Christ, to what man ought to do. We derive the proper motive and power to perform the imperatives of Scripture from the proclamation of the indicatives of Scripture.

Whenever the focus of the sermon is imperative, what we can or should be doing, and the indicatives of God’s work on our behalf rates as a secondary concern in the sermon, we unintentionally slip into thinking we’ll earn the indicatives (that which God grants by his grace) by performing the imperatives (that which God gave us to prove to us we must rely only on his grace). This is the danger of man-centered preaching.

Is Jesus mentioned in the sermons you hear? If he is, is he the subject of the verbs; is he the one doing the work, or is Man? If Jesus is the one doing the work, what work of his is being proclaimed? Is he proclaimed as our Problem-Solver, Example (WWJD), Therapist or Sugar Daddy? Or is he proclaimed as our Creator, Redeemer, Advocate, Mediator, Judge, Prophet, Priest or King?

The reason this matters is because “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Salvation is an all-encompassing work, including not only our justification, but also our sanctification and our glorification. Preaching on sanctification is vitally important; there is much for us to do, in dependence on God’s gracious empowerment, to grow in sanctification, but this is not achieved by majoring on detailing all the imperatives alone, but the imperatives of preaching, what we normally call “application” of God’s Word, must be built on the foundation of the indicative of the Gospel preached alone.

So, don’t forget to ask these three questions the next time you hear a sermon, and may it provoke you to pray that your preacher makes the Gospel plain to instill faith in the lost and to strengthen the faith of the saved.

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4 responses

  1. Fundamentally Reformed | Reply

    Great post!!

    You have captured the essence of Christ-centerd preaching very well. The sad truth is that most of the sermons you hear in fundamentalism (IFBx style) are man-centered. The imperatives are stressed while Christ’s indicatives are ignored. The connection between the two is misunderstood and rarely mentioned. This is extremely detrimental to the spiritual lives of countless followers.

    May Christ be exalted and majored on more and more. May we all be filled with hope and joy by filling our gaze with His glorious indicatives on our behalf!

    Thanks,

    Bob Hayton
    Rom. 15:5-7

  2. John D. Chitty | Reply

    May I add my “Amen!” to your last statement?

    Thanks for commenting. I’m sure you noticed it doesn’t happen around here a lot yet. Most of my audience lead productive, purposeful lives, so if I can get them to read at all it’s a blessing. That’s alright with me; at least I’ve got a place where I can get this stuff off my chest with the added bonus of not having to recover anything if my computer crashes! (Just kidding)

    I likewise admire your post, thoroughly intend to keep up with it as well. Haven’t had the time to read your bio, but I just discovered it. Are you a pastor? I figure that’s where most of these great former IFBxer’s find the time to wax eloquent day in and day out. As for myself, I’m a Bible College drop out. You can get the man out of Bible College, but you can’t get the Bible Colege out of the man.

    I’ll be glad to have some vocal company to stroll through the TULIPS with. OOh! I hope that didn’t come off the way I fear it may have! Oh well, “Bosom Buddies” is on in the other room . . .

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  3. Fundamentally Reformed | Reply

    Bible College Dropout,

    LOSER! Okay, just joking. I did finish Bible college, but still have the bills to pay….

    No, I am not a pastor. I would like to be one day, though. I have a job working midnights in a customer service position on the phone. It gives me much time for blogging as a great job perk. You can learn a bit by just reading my profile page it includes a mini-bio, as I call it.

    I read all of your blog tonight, and I plan to link to and comment about some of your posts on Christ-centered preaching–great stuff!! I feel sorry for you in trying to read all my blog! I tend to be wordy, but at least I post on a variety of topics.

    Great to have another blogging acquaintance out there. Let’s just not hold hands in the Tulip Garden, okay?

  4. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Deal.

    Enough of that.

    I’d be wordier myself if I had the time.

    Loser, signing out!

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