“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?
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