(This originally appeared in the July edition of the Grapevine. The Grapevine is the monthly magazine of Hardwick Baptist Church, Stockton-on-Tees)
“Sir, we would see Jesus”
“Sir, we would see Jesus”
This is what the Greeks say to Philip in John 12. I’m not sure where the tradition originated but it’s also what’s written on plaques in many pulpits around the UK.
Every time a preacher enters the pulpit he is reminded of his responsibility, to preach Christ.
Now that might sound obvious to us. Of course a preacher needs to preach Christ to the congregation. Isn’t it simple? Doesn’t it happen everywhere?
The short answer is, no.
Let’s deal with the preachers first.
If the preacher is to show the congregation Christ, he needs to work hard on the text. Why? Because, whatever passage he is preaching, he needs to take the people to Christ. The Bible is ultimately all about Him.
In some books it is easy to preach Christ, the New Testament all falls into this category. Some chapters of books make this easy too, think about Isaiah 53 or Psalms that are quoted in relation to Jesus in the New Testament, or think about The Passover. But, in others it’s not, and you’ll know which bits I mean.
That’s when it is all too easy for the preacher to preach a nice moral lesson, which is true and Biblical, but misses out Jesus.
That’s when the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon are so stinging, “No Christ in your sermon sir? Then go home and never preach again until you have something worth preaching!”
On the flipside, the danger is that in trying to make sure his sermon is not just a nice moral lesson, the preacher tags Christ on the end of the sermon or shoe horns Him in, or allegorizes a passage to say something that it doesn’t.
(NB - Allegorizing means taking every detail and spiritualizing it. For example saying Noah’s Ark was made of wood and the cross of Jesus was made of wood and getting to Jesus that way)
Preaching Christ is the aim, and it will be hard work at times, but it is will also be worth it.
Every sermon should leave the congregation saying that they have seen Jesus, because, as the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “Every story whispers His name.”
What about the challenge to the congregation?
The Bible is full of warnings about false teachers who will tell people what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim 4:3). They will use fine sounding arguments (Col 2:4). They’ll even look like nice people (Matt 7:15).
What they preach though isn’t the gospel of Christ but something much more palatable, easier to follow, less challenging.
I think it is all too easy listen to, and accept preaching, that is not all about Christ without realizing it. Lots of sermons contain good morals but fail to set forth Christ.
Without Christ in the sermon, anyone could be preaching it. Christ is what makes a sermon Christian.
The number of quotes I see on twitter and facebook from famous preachers, that Christians tag and like and share, which have no gospel content but are merely positive thinking or motivational quips is quite shocking.
We need to ask ourselves, do we lack discernment? Would we know a bad sermon in terms of theology if we heard one? Would we balk at the idea of a sermon that gave us some good morals to live by but didn’t present Christ?
If someone consistently speaks of God or Christian-sounding things like joy and patience and even forgiveness without speaking of Jesus, then we should be wary at the very least.
And when someone does speak of Jesus, are they speaking about Him on His own terms or in ways that they want to give people false hope and false ideas?
Let’s constantly be praying for Jesus to be preached.
Let’s have discerning minds that check what we hear from the pulpit, read in books, watch on Christian TV channel, or listen to on the internet.
Let’s have open Bibles and ask the Spirit to make us people who not only delight to hear Christ being preached, but also know when He isn’t.