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People are starving for the greatness of God,” observes John Piper, “but most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow. Thus preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul: ‘Show me your glory.’” Our greatest need, as we walk through the wilderness of this present age, is to see what the Apostle John saw on the Isle of Patmos—a glimpse of the glory of God.

Yet, as preachers we want to connect with the congregation, don’t we? We want to be relevant. We want to meet our flocks where they are. We have heard the protests for more “practical sermons.” These critics desire sermons that instruct on “how I can be a better self,” “how I can deal with stress in my life,” or “how I can be more successful.” And so, acquiescing to these laments, therapy has replaced theology in much contemporary preaching. The self has acquired center stage, and God, if He is there at all, has been marginalized. The focus has shifted from God, who He is and what He has done, to self and our activity, our needs, and our experiences. The assumption, of course, is that theology is not practical, that the study of God is irrelevant for our daily lives. But nothing could be further from the truth. What our people need is God-centered preaching.

We need to preach the Word if God’s people are ever to catch a glimpse of the glory of God (1 Tim. 4:4). It’s through the Word that the Spirit reveals to us God—His person, name, attributes, work, and glory. The Bible was given to reveal God to His people so that they might know, love, and worship Him. The Bible is fundamentally a book about God. This might come as a surprise to some. Because of our natural bent toward self, we tend to think that the Bible is a book about us. It is not. It is, from beginning to end, a book about God: “In the beginning, God” (Gen. 1:1).

If the Word is theocentric (God-centered), how can our preaching be anything other than theocentric? Our preaching is a reflection of our theology. When our theology is focused on God and His glory, our preaching will be the same. In our narcissistic culture, plagued with materialism, pragmatism, and relativism, a concentrated emphasis on God and His glory is precisely what our people need. Our minds and our hearts need to be lifted from the things that can be seen and directed to the things that are unseen and eternal. Wasn’t this the remedy for Asaph’s troubled soul (Ps. 73)? He had become so absorbed with self and the comforts of this present age that he became envious of the wicked—until, that is, he entered the temple of God. It was only as his eyes shifted from things temporal to things eternal that his mind and heart were recalibrated.

God-centered preaching, however, does not negate the need for preaching Christ; rather, it requires it. God-centered preaching must necessarily be focused on Christ, for it is only as we see Christ that we can know God (John 1:18). It is only through Christ, who is the exact imprint of God, that we come to know and love God. Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of all the Scriptures: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20). That’s why Paul can boldly declare to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2); to the Colossians succinctly state, “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:28); and at the same time acknowledge to the elders at Ephesus that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Jesus Christ is the One sent from heaven (John 6) to deliver us from this present evil age and bring us to God. He is Immanuel—God with us—and He is God for us and, by his Holy Spirit, God in us.

Only preaching that is centered on the triune God and His majesty and condescending love for sinners, demonstrated in Jesus Christ, will solicit the eternal doxology: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).

God-centered preaching exposes the things of this passing age as forfeit and rouses the soul to confess with Asaph: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25–26). It is only as God’s people catch a vision of God in all of His splendid glory that they will begin to ache for uninterrupted communion with Him and more earnestly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Can anything be more relevant to our daily lives than God-centered preaching? And can anything be more satisfying than to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?

Rev. Bernie van Eyk is pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America), in Stuart, Florida.

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Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on Jun 11, 2012

An excellent article, Pastor van Eyk. However, after challenging our people to fix their eyes upon Christ, we need to point out how biblical truths can and must move beyond theology to praxis. Renewed minds are to live out the good and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

David Buffaloe

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Excellent, excellent! Glorifying God is the reason we stand, live, move, and have our being. Oh that more Pastors would know this great truth!

David Mende

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Challenging and encouraging article! I believe that expository preaching is the best means to preach God-centered sermons.

Clyde Douglas

commented on Jun 11, 2012

This is simply superb. This is telling it as it is. We have gotten so self-centred that we forget it is all about God. When we put God first, He will look after our needs. "Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness...."

John E Miller

commented on Jun 11, 2012

This is a very good article. It is very challenging but also full of encouragement in its purpose. I cannot speak for other parts of the world but preaching on the principle of God-centred, and more specifically Christ-centred exposition of the word in my country Scotland is sadly a rarity in comparison with the past. When a land turns away from the Book that is the revelation of God's plan and purpose for mankind and the careless allowance of worldly principles are allowed in the professing church, famine follows. Scotland was once known as the Land of the Book. The blood of martyrs flowed in the streets and a great harvest of spritual growth was the result. Sadly the Bible is now ridiculed and its Divine Authority ignored. There are men standing in pulpits who do not believe the fundamental truths of the Christian Gospel and it would be entirely beyond them to preach or teach a God-centred message.

Keith B

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Good article.

Charles Williams

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Awesome article! Is there a need for personal application or is that just me centered?

Sean Van Zant

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Great article, but I would suggest you read 'Christ-Centered Preaching' by Bryan Chapell. Focusing on Christ is focusing on God.

Sean Cockrell

commented on Jun 12, 2012

When I read articles like this, I applaud and cringe at the same time. I read one comment that said expository preaching is the way to go. Sure, but when people usually stand up for expository preaching, they are referring to picking one selected text, put a box around it, then create 3 points and a poem. Yes, we need to exposit the text, but if you are doing an exposition from the pulpit, sharing all of your study (if you are indeed doing study or maybe you are one of those lazy ministers who pull their sermons from sites like this) from the pulpit, it kind of tells us that this is the only time you are teaching. There is a way to preach inductively, that captures the attention of everyone in the audience, BUT still have a theo-centric message. If a minister cannot preach a sermon that is God-Centered;that points to Christ; that peaks the interest of the Christians and non-Christians in the building. To put it bluntly, if you can?t deliver a topical, expository, inductive sermon,that points to Christ through a God centered sermon, you need to educate yourself on how to do so,or eat some humble pie and let someone else stand behind the pulpit at your church. After all, we are here to reach people, then teach people..

Jimmie Tempano

commented on Jun 13, 2012

I am sad to say, this article leaves me cold. To think that a God-centered message would leave out the cares and needs of Christians, many of whom are wounded, seems to me to have a lack of understanding of God's care for His children. I am not able to judge the author's heart but my question to him would be, "Have you ever experienced God moving and working through you? Has He ever lifted you up on wings like eagles? Have you ever seen Him heal the wounded and set the oppressed free?" You speak of God's "condescending love". Perhaps I am an ignorant oaf and don't understand what you mean. To me, the word "condescending" carries a very negative connotation. Webster's dictionary indicates an inference of patronization. God's love never patronizes me, it always draws me closer to Him and elevates me. I am sad if your article is an indication of your relationship to a warm and loving God.

David Buffaloe

commented on Jun 14, 2012

One thing that amazes me as I read back through the responses is how dull many are to actually hear God's Word. Of course God is the center if the message. But so many will not hear unless they are the center of the message. They sleep, though God is center stage in all things. It is He that made us, and not we ourselves. We live to glorify Him, to magnify Him, to praise Him. We obey Him because He is worthy of obedience. And if we suffer - and many of us suffer - we do not despair because - at the end of the day He is in control and will cause it to work out for my betterment and for His glory. I often despair as a pastor and preacher at the shallow heartedness of so many who profess Christ as Savior and Lord who, when the preacher will not cater to their appetites, tightly close their eyes and lightly snore when they should be looking upward and praising the Creator. (Isaiah 6:9-13) God replied: Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. 10 Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed. 11 Then I said, ?Until when, Lord? ? And He replied: Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants, houses are without people, the land is ruined and desolate, 12 and the LORD drives the people far away, leaving great emptiness in the land. 13 Though a tenth will remain in the land, it will be burned again. Like the terebinth or the oak that leaves a stump when felled, the holy seed is the stump

Anthony R. Watson

commented on Jun 14, 2012

Excellent article, and very insightful. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book entitled: "Christ the Center," is an excellent resource to consult on this topic.

John E Miller

commented on Jun 16, 2012

Psalm 18:35 "Thy condescending gentleness has made me great." This is the King James translation and is a most beautiful staement of the attitude of a God who is infinitely higher than we are, and I use the word advisedly and I trust accurately. He has stooped down in conescending grace to rescue sinners who otherwise would have been eternally lost. If we have difficulty in grasping that most fundamental basis of God's intervention in our sinful state we are clinging to some foolish notion of our own worth. We have none and apart from the condescending love of God, explained in Philippians ch.2 we would be headed for Hell.

Jimmie Tempano

commented on Jun 18, 2012

I find it very interesting that, on this site, you can make a comment and receive rigid judgments from supposedly brother Christians. I imagine that God really relishes those judgments and appreciates them being offered. I did a search of the bibles on my computer and could not locate the word, 'condescending'. The referenced Psalms 18:35 in the KJV I have reads as follows: "Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great." Perhaps you have an older version than that. However, the word does not appear in this version. I also find it interesting that someone would question a person's understanding of the principle of sinners being lost and destined for hell just because that person has difficulty with the connotation of a word that seems to have dissappeared from later versions and translations. I trust in the Lord for my salvation and my understanding of His word. He loved me while I was His enemy, a sinner. Why would He love me less now? His love is warm. I think the concept of patronizing is a misunderstanding of God's character. I know Jesus confronted some of the people He encountered while He was here on earth but I believe, even those rebukes were done in love and care for the person He was addressing and a desire that they would see the error of their ways and repent.

Sean Cockrell

commented on Jun 18, 2012

Right on Jimmy. King James in notorious for the language not being as closes it should be to the original text. It so far removed from our current language and syntax...I am not sure why it is used other than poetic sounding language. When I hear the word condescending, I think of someone who thinks they are better than others snubbing their noses. It blows me away to think people are teaching that the creator of the universe is someone who looks down on humans (James 1:18). Look at how the ESV translates Psalm 18:35. If you read that as condescending, I empathize because I have misinterpreted things before to.

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