The Bible is centered around the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Supreme Person and the Supreme Focus of the Bible. Christ permeates the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
With such a saturation of Christ throughout the Scriptures it would seem simple to preach Christ. Yet there are a few “counterfeit gospels” that can sneak into our preaching. Darrin Patrick lays out a few of these counterfeits in his book Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission.
“Moralism can be defined as an attempt to please God’s wrath toward sin with our good deeds. It is an enemy of the gospel because, at best, it says that salvation = Jesus + my moral effort. At worst it ignores Jesus’ atoning work altogether…Moralistic preaching, then, tends to place the wrath and holiness of God above the love and grace of God” (p 137).
“Christ-centered preaching doesn’t discount God’s holiness. It honors that holiness more than moralistic preaching because Christ-centered preaching asserts that we can’t be holy enough – only Christ was. It asserts that we are only practically holy when we understand and live in the reality of our positional holiness in Christ. It causes us to ponder and bask in the free grace of God in Christ, which motivates us toward practical holiness” (p 138).
“In relativism we create our own God and obey our own law. Relativistic preaching, therefore, elevates the love and grace of God above the wrath and holiness of God. This kind of preaching appeals to the emotions, encouraging people to follow their own hearts. Relativistic preaching produces mushy, milquetoast people” (p 138).
“Christ-centered preaching doesn’t belittle the love and grace of God; it magnifies it because such preaching asserts that God’s love and grace cost Jesus his life. It moves us outside our own subjective “law” by motivating us to obey God’s revealed law out of love for Christ, who perfectly kept the law” (p 139).
“Self-help preaching…focuses on Christ as example, forgetting Christ as Savior. Self-help preaching does not take the persuasiveness of sin seriously because it assumes that people want to obey and can obey, they just need to be told how to do it. Such preaching is not biblical because it completely discounts the reality of human resistance to obeying God” (p 139).
“Christ-centered preaching refuses to run too quickly to applications without grounding its hearers in gospel reality: we are completely sinful, but fully accepted in Christ…Christ-centered preaching goes much further than merely providing suggestions for how to live; it points to the very source of life and wisdom and explains how and why we have access to him. Felt needs are set into context of the gospel, so that the Christian message is not reduced to making us feel better about ourselves” (p 140).
“Activist preaching focuses on the corporate renewal of Christ at the expense of the personal saving work of Christ by overemphasizing the corporate work of the kingdom of God and underemphasizing the personal work of the King. Activist preaching produces cause-oriented people whose lives are not centered on Christ. Ultimately this approach undercuts the ability to effect true societal change because genuine societal change begins with a changed heart…We should work for the good of our cities, serve the poor, and fight injustice and oppression as a sign of the kingdom to come and as a sign that we know the King. But Christ-centered preaching doesn’t forsake the personal nature of the gospel in order to simply focus on the corporate aspects of the gospel. Instead it provides the ultimate grounds and larger context for the gospel-motivated mercy for the poor and oppressed” (p 141).