I don’t know about you, but I go to church to hear the Law competently applied to my life so that it may reveal to me just what a violator of it that I am, which serves only as a setup for the point for which corporate worship was established, to hear that the Lord Jesus Christ has provided all that God the Father demands, on which the first man, Adam, and this man, John Chitty, have failed to deliver: Jesus Christ obeyed God’s Law perfectly and earned eternal life, then he offered himself up to receive the consequences of that which I do deserve . . . death! But that’s not all! Jesus didn’t remain dead, he rose on the third day, God thereby testifying that Jesus is his Son and that sinners are redeemed! My death is conquered in his, and his super-abounding life and grace now reign forever! Therefore, to bring things full circle, I desire to renew my faith in that Christ and renew my repentance from my sin, seeking to obey now, not out of a desire to earn anything (for I will continue to fall short, even in my obedience), but to gratefully render glory and honor and praise to my Savior.
That’s what I go to church to hear.
What do you go to church to hear?
Pastor C. J. Mahaney wrote a great exhortation to pastors in Preaching the Cross, pointing out to them that this is job number one. I want to share it with you so that you, too, can know what to expect along with me.
“As we watch our doctrine, we must never forget that which is central to our doctrine: the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you fail to keep the gospel at the core of your life and ministry, you have ceased to watch your doctrine closely. ‘The preachers’ commission,’ writes J. I. Packer, ‘is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary’ (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness,
(Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 286.)
“In all our preaching, we must never lose sight of the hill called Calvary, where the Son of Man was killed in our place. Regardless of the text or topic at hand, there must be some view of Calvary in every sermon. Your congregation should experience the amazing and comforting sight of the crucified Savior each and every time you preach. They sould anticipate the sight of Calvary in every sermon, and rejoice when it comes into view. And all the more, when the cross is not immediately obvious in the text. ‘Where is the hill?’ they should be asking. ‘Where is that blessed hill on which our precious Savior died?’ We should exalt Christ’s finished work in our sermons so as to comfort the converted and convict the unbeliever.
“Spurgeon’s example should inspire us: ‘I received some years ago orders from my Master to stand at the foot of the cross until he comes. He has not come yet, but I mean to stand there until he does’ (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Old, Old Story,” The Spurgeon Archive, http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0446.htm (accessed July 2006)). Let us stand with the Prince of Preachers, gentlemen. As we preach the whole counsel of God, let us keep the cross central–by doing so, we will indeed be watching our doctrine.”
If Christ crucified is missing in the sermon, everything else loses all relevance! No matter how practical. Practical minus the gospel equals impractical (the Law kills–the Gospel gives life!)