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.