Preaching the Old Testament in light of Christ

Bob Hyatt on a story that's frequently misused in sermons:

For instance, the story of David and Goliath? So not about how you can defeat the giants in your life (how many times have you heard that sermon???) It's about how you can't - but God can. And it's specifically about how He does so through the weakness of the substitute - the unlikely one who stood in Saul's place, who came in the name of the Lord and the power of the Spirit and defeated the enemy of the people of God. If you read that story and see yourself in David, you are reading it wrongly. You're not David - you are the cowering Israelites who face an undefeatable foe...

But God is on the scene, sending One who can defeat whatever we face - and that's who David points us to - Jesus. The point of the story is not 'Be like David.' You can't... it's trust Jesus, the real and true David who wins the victory over death and sin.

The more I read of Scripture, the more I see that this is the way it's meant to be read - it all points to Jesus and in such amazingly literate ways as to boggle the mind. As Art said, the writers of Scripture were better writers than even they knew...

The entire post is worth reading, including this paragraph:

The Old Testament is a record of failure and the New a record of Jesus and His success where others had failed - His success and the success of the Gospel in bringing the life that the Law could not bring through obedience and the Prophets couldn't bring through their preaching.

Him We Proclaim


I have on my desk a book that challenges preachers to apostolic preaching - preaching that is "Christ-centered, redemptive-historical, missiologically communicated, and grounded in grace." If you're looking for a book that shows you how to preach in a God-centered way, then this volume is for you. It's Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ From All the Scriptures.

The author, Dennis E. Johnson, says, "If we settle for anything less than living for God as the center of our life, then we're settling for second best. We're selling ourselves short...To be God-centered is to be exactly what I was designed for."

For a sample of what you'll find in the book, you can listen to an interview with Johnson on White Horse Inn:

If the main focus of a sermon is to preach Christ, what do we do with the book of Proverbs and a host of other Biblical texts that seem to focus on wisdom for life, or our own personal growth in holiness, etc? That's the focus as Michael Horton talks with Dennis Johnson about his new book, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ in All the Scriptures.

The interview, and the book, are well worth the time.

Preaching in a culture of therapy

From Gospel-Driven Blog:

The common sentiment among many Christian circles today is,

“Don’t preach doctrine. Rather, give us something practical that is relevant to our daily life. Encourage us to live holy lives but don’t do it with doctrine (i.e., gospel). Such preaching will not help us one bit. Preach to us practically. Tell us how to live so we can go do it.”

Though never voiced, but in practice demonstrated, preaching the gospel is assumed to be too simplistic and impractical. What pastors need to understand, we are told, is that we live in a complex, fast-paced, ever-changing culture. It is naïve to think that preaching the gospel is sufficient for life and godliness. To be sure, the high priests of Christian therapy will say the Gospel is important. But, what one also needs to know is the secret of the Christian life, the secret to prayer, the secret to happier marriages, the secret for successful parenting, the secret for financial freedom, the secret of the abundant and overcoming life.

In other words, what the culture of therapy is really saying (albeit not always consciously) is, “Don’t give us gospel (i.e., doctrine) give us law (i.e., tips, principles, action steps, takeaways, secrets, etc…). However, a life based on legal principles rather than upon gospel principles will never lead to obedience. Such a life will ultimately fail in obeying God because law of any kind never stirs up one’s heart to obedience (cf., Rom. 7; Gal. 3:3).

Pastors who encounter such a legal mentality need to recognize it for what it is and remain faithful to their calling and office, which is to proclaim the gospel (cf., Rom. 1:1-5).

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When Christ is not preached

In Preaching for Revitalization, Michael F. Ross describes one of the symptoms of a congregation that has lost its love for Christ:

First, human personalities begin to take preeminence in the life of the church, over the person and work of Christ...

When Christ is not preached (1 Cor. 2:2) then a vacuum is created; people need some leader, some champion, some "holy man" to cling to other than Christ. Therefore it is essential that preaching be both Christ-centered and devoted to regularly focusing on the beauty and bounty of Jesus Christ.

Steve Mathewson on preaching God-centered sermons

Steve Mathewson, author of The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative, is blogging on how to preach God-centered sermons at the Preaching Today blog.From part one: "The vision of God is the aspect of God’s character which serves as the focal point of the text...When I preach a text, I’m trying to demonstrate that human responses to problems, temptations, opportunities, or challenges emerge from a vision of God’s supremacy and majesty."From part two: "Identifying the 'depravity factor' will help us keep our sermons from being so "God-centered" they're impossible to relate to or to apply."

The temptation of relevance

In Preaching to Convince, Ben Patterson speaks of five deadly temptations in the ministry, the last of which is to try to "make Scripture relevant" in our preaching:

This particular temptation used to be the sole province of the liberal theological tradition. But in the past few years, it has gained a number of victims in the evangelical community...The sin courted in this temptation is the presumption that it is the Bible that is dead and we who are alive...

Is the Bible relevant? Dr. Bernard Ramm once remarked, "There is nothing more relevant than the truth." The longer I preach, the more convinced I become that the best thing I can do is simply get out of Scripture's way.

(quoted in Michael F. Ross's Preaching for Revitalization)