On a Today’s Theocast: Covenant Theology and “Glawspel,” we interviewed Pat Abendroth on his journey through Covenant Theology. Pat referenced a quote by Sinclair Ferguson on how we have been improperly taught to read the Bible. The following paragraphs were taken from “A Preacher’s Decalogue” under point three, “Don’t Lose Sight of Christ.”
Me? Yes, me. This is an important principle in too many dimensions fully to expound here. One must suffice. Know and therefore preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). That is a text far easier to preach as the first sermon in a ministry than it is to preach as the final sermon.
What do I mean? Perhaps the point can be put sharply, even provocatively, in this way: systematic exposition did not die on the cross for us; nor did biblical theology, nor even systematic theology or hermeneutics or whatever else we deem important as those who handle the exposition of Scripture. I have heard all of these in preaching . . . without a center in the person of the Lord Jesus.
Paradoxically not even the systematic preaching through one of the Gospels guarantees Christ-crucified centered preaching. Too often preaching on the Gospels takes what I whimsically think of as the “Find Waldo Approach.” The underlying question in the sermon is “Where are you to be found in this story?” (are you Martha or Mary, James and John, Peter, the grateful leper . . . ?). The question “Where, who and what is Jesus in this story?” tends to be marginalized.
The truth is it is far easier to preach about Mary, Martha, James, John, or Peter than it is about Christ. It is far easier to preach even about the darkness of sin and the human heart than to preach Christ. Plus my bookshelves are groaning with literature on Mary, Martha . . . the good life, the family life, the Spirit-filled life, the parenting life, the damaged-self life . . . but most of us have only a few inches of shelf-space on the person and work of Christ himself.
Am I absolutely at my best when talking about him or about us?