When I was training to become a minister at Westminster Seminary California, our professors would exhort us not to preach sermons that could be delivered in a synagogue or mosque.
This was not said to attack people of different faiths, but to distinguish and clarify how Jesus makes Christianity unique. The fact is that every world religion teaches some form of self-improvement – what we must do to receive favor from God. As Tim Keller likes to say, Christianity is something different altogether.
Sadly many Christian sermons, preached by ministers who truly believe that they are saved by grace alone in Christ alone, utterly fail to preach Christ. They are delivered, heard, and received as a stirring call to self-improvement. These sermons may even focus on Jesus, but they present Jesus to us as an inspiring teacher and example (like Moses, or Mohammad, or Buddha), not as Savior. At best, they may present Jesus as Savior to non-believers, but teacher to believers. Some sermons may even talk about the love of God, but in the end the message of God’s love does not relieve us of our guilt; it only makes us feel guiltier (I should be more motivated to love God if I really believe that God loves me). The gospel is not a motivational story. It is a rescue story; and it never stops being a rescue story.
Westminster Seminary California has recently posted several helpful resources to help us understand and appreciate Christ centered preaching.
Watch Dr. Michael Horton explain the meaning of the word “Gospel” and the importance of distinguishing it from the “Law.”
Listen to Dr. Dennis Johnson’s interview about his book, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures.