“You need to love more!” “You shouldn’t lie!” “You have to give more!” Sounds about right, doesn’t it? No one would be jumping out of their seats shouting “blasphemy!” if they heard the preacher saying these things. But the truth is, when these imperatives are void of Christ and His gospel, shouting blasphemy may in fact be appropriate. Such sermons are nothing more than talks that focus on man’s behaviors or feelings and result in nothing more than rebuking people into temporal modification. In other words, do you struggle with anger? Well such preaching would say stop being angry, it’s a sin, and God doesn’t like it when you’re angry! It fails to dig deeper and cause a person to consider the why of their feelings and behavior. It fails to challenge one to wrestle with the idols in their lives or the false beliefs that they hold. It fails to consider their lack of dependency on the person and work of Jesus in confronting these sins. Instead, such sermons preach morality. “Good Christians must and must not…” And the preacher leads his people into a life of legalistic spirituality where man and what he must do matters more than Jesus and what He has done.
What’s wrong with these sermons besides being ineffective and a waste of time? It lacks Jesus and His gospel. Such sermons might as well be preached in a mosque or a temple, because the person and work of Jesus is irrelevant to what is being taught.
Moralistic sermons attack the symptoms, Christ-centered preaching addresses the cause. Moralistic sermons focus on man’s effort and failures while Christ-centered preaching focuses on Jesus’ work on the cross and His victory. Moralistic preaching causes one to focus solely on the gap between them and God, but Christ-centered preaching reminds us how Jesus has filled that gap. Moralistic preaching calls people to produce their own righteousness while Christ-centered preaching calls people to trust in Christ’s imputed righteousness. Moralistic preaching treats Jesus simply as an example of who we’re called to be, Christ-centered preaching declares Jesus to be the source of our change. Moralistic preaching leaves us trying to keep the law, while Christ-centered preaching causes us to die to the law and live by faith in Jesus.
May we never be satisfied with Christ-less, gospel-less preaching and teaching. May our mouths never instruct others to trust in themselves rather than Jesus. May Christ and his work never be just be peripheral to our message. May our preaching and teaching make much of Jesus and remind us of our condition apart from Him.
May our desire and approach reflect Paul’s:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV)