This sounds heretical in gospel-centered circles: We might preach about the cross too much. Or, put another way, not every gospel-centered sermon must be a cross-centered sermon.
Before you stone me, let me explain.
You’re here because you care how the whole Bible points to one thing: the person and work of Jesus Christ. You probably center your conversations with other believers on the gospel. You encourage your pastor (or perhaps you are a pastor) to preach sermons with Jesus as the point, the center and the end.
But what does a gospel-centered sermon look like? Does it mean that we tie everything to the cross? I think I’m seeing a trend within the gospel-centered community where “gospel-centered” means only “cross-centered.” I hope we can move beyond that.
The gospel is more than propitiation so can gospel-centered sermons be “empty-tomb-centered”? Can they be “victory-over-death-centered”?
Don’t get me wrong – I love the cross. It’s monumentally important. It’s one of the key pieces of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it’s not the whole gospel. Gospel-centrality means more than just the cross and if our gospel-centered sermons only ever discuss the cross then they don’t explore all of the gospel. Our sermons should explore the many facets of the gospel: Continue reading
Have you connected your passage to the cross but don’t know what to do with that info? Are you standing there saying, “Hey look, this passage points to Jesus,” and your audience asks, “So what?”
You have an application problem.
Do your gospel-centered connections let your hearers off the hook when it comes to obedience? It’s easy to slip into antinomianism – preaching grace in such a way that we minimize or even eliminate obedience. That was not Jesus’ desire for us when he went to the cross for our sin so it shouldn’t be our desire in preaching.
You have an application problem.
Your gospel-centered sermons fail because it is not enough to simply find a connection between a passage and the cross. The connection must also impact the way we live.
Why does this happen? It’s easy to get caught up in finding Christ in all of Scripture and then forget to actually apply this knowledge. When we focus all on the “hunt” we might not remember what the hunt is for. When we forget the purpose we end up saying, “Look at this great fact,” without any context or application. At that point we’re simply showing off knowledge without any effect. In fact, if the gospel-centered connection has no impact on our lives highlighting it diminishes our love for the gospel.
“It is not enough to find a connection between a passage and the cross. The connection must impact the way we live.”
We must apply the text’s gospel connections to our hearers. But how do we do that? I can think of at least seven ways we can choose to apply the gospel to our obedience. But not all are created equal. Continue reading
Typology is very important to gospel-centered Bible study. It is probably the main thing people think about when they hear “gospel-centered.” But what is typology?
Typology – A hermeneutical concept in which a biblical place (Jerusalem, Zion), person (Adam, Melchizedek), event (flood, brazen serpent), institution (feasts, covenant), office (prophet, priest, king), or object (tabernacle, altar, incense) becomes a pattern by which later persons or places are interpreted due to the unity of events within salvation-history.
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, 930
Typology Foreshadows The Plan
There has always been a Plan. God the Father planned from before the foundation of the world that he would adopt us through the Son. (Eph 1:4-5; Rev 13:8) Typology is God pointing to the Plan ahead of time.
A good analogy here is to literature. Many authors use foreshadowing or symbolism as devices to help the reader understand the main point of a story. Typology is God’s use of foreshadowing and symbolism to point us to the Plan (the main point) throughout the Bible (the story).
“Typology is the name we give to the places in the Bible where God foreshadows the Plan.”
What sorts of things can be types? Virtually anything! For example, the book of Hebrews identifies many different kinds of types in the Old testament: Continue reading
When we think about the gospel or gospel-centered preaching and Bible study we most frequently focus no the cross and the theme of redemption.
But redemption is not an end in itself.
God did not save us simply so that we might avoid Hell. He did not save us simply so that we might enjoy heaven. He did it so that we might behold his glory. Paul introduces his letter to the Ephesians with the message of redemption:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…
This is a beautiful description of election, propitiation, redemption and adoption. But that’s not the end of the story.
…to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
This means we were redeemed for God’s glory. How does redemption do that? Continue reading
This post is part of a series about the gospel’s power for sanctification:
We’ve looked at how to use the gospel to kill sin and pursue righteousness. What holds these together? Love.
You do what you love.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil.
What do you love?
The issue is what your heart longs after. If you don’t love sin you won’t be inclined to sin. If you love God you will be inclined to follow after him. That is the bedrock of Christianity. I would almost go so far as to say the bible uses the term ”faith in God” to mean ”love for God.”
If God is not the most beautiful thing in the universe to us we won’t pursue him as the greatest gain. If God is not the greatest gain to us, we’re simply idolators and have no part with him.
How do we set our love on God?
How do we come to find God to be the most beautiful thing in the universe? How do we hold him to be the greatest gain? In this discussion Jesus used the term “treasure.”
Where is your treasure? (Matt 6:21) The only way to make God your treasure is to focus on the love he has for you. The love he has for us cause God to give us:
- The law to guide us.
- The Incarnation to love us.
- The cross to pardon us.
- The empty tomb to free us.
- The Spirit to adopt us.
- The promise of the future to dwell with us.
It is only by looking at the gospel that we will find God beautiful. God’s love drove him into the grave for you and me. I can’t comprehend it. It is too beautiful for words.
If the gospel is not beautiful in your eyes – if it’s beauty doesn’t haunt you – God will not be beautiful in your eyes. And sin will be a welcome sight to you. And righteousness will be a burden.
Behavior problems are belief problems. We worship our way into sin, and we have to worship our way out.
- Jared C Wilson
If this doesn’t capture our hearts something else will.
The cross wasn’t Plan B. It wasn’t God’s attempt to fix a plan spiraling out of control:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
In fact, God shouted his plan – to rescue his people at a tremendous price – from the very beginning. Let’s look to some of the major signs and symbols God gave along the way pointing to the cross of Christ: Continue reading
Why are you a Christian? Why is the building you attend church standing there? Why do we have centuries’ worth of hymns and books? Why is the Bible the best-selling book of all time?
Because we believe that in Jerusalem in the first century a man walked out of his grave.
But how can we prove that the resurrection happened? There was no video surveillance. There were no autopsy reports. All of the involved witnesses were biased.
Why do we believe Jesus rose from the dead?
It’s actually because of those biased witnesses – and specifically the way they reacted with their biases – that I believe the resurrection is a historical fact. There are two groups I want to look at: Jesus’ followers and Jesus’ opponents. Continue reading