Friday, February 1, 2013

Should We Always Preach Jesus in Sermons?

A university prof and ministry friend recently posed this question on Facebook:
Do you think Jesus needs to part of every sermon? And if so, why?
People responded on both sides of the issue. Some spoke about different gifts and passions when it comes to preaching, like if a pastor feels called to be an evangelist, they should share Jesus more than a pastor who didn't have that calling. Others shared analogies about not necessarily needing every sermon to be about Jesus, just like a basketball coach might focus on a particular workout or set of skills and not mention the basketball. Still others mentioned how the book of Esther reveals truth about God without ever explicitly mentioning God's name (though I'd argue that the theme of Esther is more about unfaithfulness to God, hence the lack of His name). Another stated that all of the Bible points to Jesus, but not all of the Bible mentions Jesus.

I'll lay my cards on the table: I strive to preach Jesus. Every. Single. Time.

Here are four reasons why I preach about Jesus in every sermon:

1. The whole Bible reveals Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, the beginning of creation to the end of time and history, the entire story of Scripture finds its pinnacle and is permeated with Jesus. This comes down to what one believes about Scripture, and my assumption with the canon is that Jesus is there, active and present. Every verse finds its roots in Him (really, in the Trinitarian God), and he is described as the Word of God.

2. Jesus preached Jesus. The amount of times that Jesus refers to himself in the third person is staggering once you begin to look for it. He calls himself the Son of Man, the Son of Godthe Christ, and the Messiah. All of the New Testament writings speak to the good news of Jesus as the Christ. Looking through all the sermons of Acts, I couldn't find an example of a sermon that doesn't preach Jesus. The closest: Paul's sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17, where he never directly says Jesus's name, but the entire sermon is about him and his resurrection.

3. The Gospel is always good news. The good news should never get old. Christians who have been followers of Jesus for decades still need the gracious reminder of the beauty of the gospel of the kingdom. Preaching the gospel is not simply an evangelistic task to be used for outreach to non-Christians; it's good news for everybody. After being a Christian for more than twenty years, I still need to hear the gospel, to be sanctified and transformed and refreshed and renewed.

4. Why not preach Jesus? Is there any sermon or context where choosing to not share about Jesus or the good news of the kingdom would be better for the hearers? One could make a legitimate argument that a sermon series through the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, or any number of Old Testament wisdom literature could be a good expository sermon series and not mention Jesus. I would argue that the same series would be better for not only mentioning Jesus, but culminating in the good news of the kingdom and how those Old Testament passages point to and stem from the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us. I'm not talking about casual conversation, teaching of a class, or leading a small group discussion; the question is about preaching a sermon, and in that particular context, why not speak explicitly about the Christ?

Tim Keller recently wrote this in a blog post about preaching:
I think it may be possible to say that every sermon should have three aspects or purposes. First, you need to preach the text in its Scriptural context; second, you need to preach Christ and the gospel every time; and finally, you need to preach to the heart. Put another way, you should preach the truth, not just your opinion; you should preach the good news, not just good advice; and you should preach to make the truth real to the heart, not just clear to the mind. The first is often discussed under the heading of expository preaching, the second is often called Christ-centered preaching, and the third is usually named “application” (though I think each aspect contains more than these traditional categories might imply). (Emphasis mine)
I look at the description of Paul's ministry in Acts 28:30-31, near the end of his life and imprisoned in Rome:
He welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
That's the kind of ministry model I want to embrace. (Minus the Roman prison and execution part. Unless that's God's will. Then...okay, I'm in.)

What do you think: should we always preach Jesus in sermons? Share your thoughts in the comments.

3 comments:

  1. Amen, it's not a sermon or "preaching" if there's no Jesus :)

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  2. Joel, I agree with you. If you do not preach Jesus or mention Jesus, why preach? It is all about Him, Him Who? Jesus is His Name and everyday His name is the same.. He will not change and as long as there is life on this earth His name shall be praised. Oh yeah, what is His name? JESUS! I love Him and I am so blessed to be on the Lord's side. Keep preaching Jesus, keep teaching Jesus, He is coming back again and He is looking for prepared people who have Sold Out for Him. Him Who? JESUS...Thank you for all your words of encouragement and keep lifting up the Name of Jesus.

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  3. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginnning and the End.(Rev 22:13) Through Jesus all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made.(John 1:3)- PERIOD. If a pastor believes this, then how can he not include Jesus in every sermon. To not to preach Jesus in every sermon is no preaching at all and should not preach, at all!

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