There’s a classic commercial where a kid goes to various friends to find out how many licks it takes to get to the centre of a Tootsie Pop. Each confesses that they’ve never made it to the centre without biting it first. He finally finds Mr. Owl and asks him. The wise bird gives it three licks and then bites it because he can’t wait to get the centre…which is bubble gum.They couldn’t wait to get there because the centre was glorious. (For those of you near my age and watched any amount of TV, go to youtube and you’ll remember this vintage commercial!) Anyway…
I think if you asked a lot of people, Christians included, what was at the centre of their belief system, you’d get a lot of different answers. What needs to be at the centre is so glorious. Who needs to be at the centre is so glorious.
If you listened to a lot of sermons, you would get a lot of different answers, directly or indirectly.
If you go to a church web-page, they may tell you that something very precious is at the centre of their church. You may hang with them for a while and find that something other than what they thought was at the centre, is genuinely not at the centre.
The gospel needs to be at the centre of church world. The gospel needs to be at the centre of our lives. The gospel is at the centre of the Bible. You will find lots of gospel-centred books and Bible studies and Sunday School curriculum. C.J. Mahaney wrote a little book a number of years ago called ‘The Gospel Centered Life.’ (I spell it the American way because that’s the way it’s spelled in the title.)
Listen to how one church web page describes gospel centred: ‘In the most basic of terms, we would define gospel centrality this way: Jesus is the hero of God’s story. God is doing a work of glorifying himself by making a world of worshippers. In so doing, he has set Jesus squarely at the center of that work. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God has bestowed on all those who believe in him the eternal benefits of a relationship with himself. We understand that all of this is from Jesus’ work alone. That is why he is our hero. So we talk about him, celebrate who he is and what he has done, seek to treasure him more and more, and offer our lives to him in obedience. Functionally, you could ask the question about any situation, “What does the gospel say about that?” In other words, does the work of Jesus’ death and resurrection, or the heart behind that work, affect how we approach a situation or function within that situation? We like to use the saying, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves daily.” This means that we must always be reminded that Jesus is the hero of God’s story and that his heroic act has real implications for my life today.’
So when it comes to preaching, we are to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2). When Jesus was tromping down the road to Emmaus with a pair at the end of Luke it says  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27 ESV) So He talked about the Old Testament in light of Himself.
So when I’m preaching a passage, I always have to get to Jesus…to the cross…to the gospel. There have been a lot of sermons that I have preached that never got there. I say this to my shame. But as I have spent time with gospel-centred preachers and gospel-centred writers and seen the Word of God and preaching in light of Luke 24:27, I am the better for it, and so are my sermons.
A lot of things are picked up not from what is said but from what is not said. If we hear from the pulpit, ‘don’t do this’ or ‘do that’ but it’s divorced from the gospel, you are hearing the same thing that you may hear in a half time pep talk or what you hear from self-help gurus and what you may even find in some pulpits on Sunday morning.
Too many sermons tell us to do something or to avoid doing something but disconnect it from the gospel. ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘do that’…but there is a disconnect with the cross. Everything that we do, as believers, is connected to the gospel. The gospel empowers us to do something or to not do something.
We can lift up Old Testament saints and New Testament saints and historical saints and contemporary saints and focus on their behaviour but never get to where the power comes from. You should be more like David or Daniel or Paul or Joseph or Esther or Spurgeon or Moody or Luther but if there’s a disconnect with the gospel that is nothing but pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps religion.
The gospel is much more than turning from sin and turning to Christ on your day of salvation. The gospel is so much more. The gospel empowers us to live differently.
Please take the time to watch a couple of short video clips to clarify what I’m trying to say: