Gospel-centered Preaching vs. “another brick in the backpack”

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Iain M. Duguid has some excellent advice for us when it comes to the focus of our preaching:

“Sermons and Bible studies that focus on ‘law’ (the demands of Scripture for our obedience), no matter how accurately biblical in content, tend simply to add to the burden of guilt felt by the average Christian. A friend of mine calls these sermons ‘another brick in the backpack’ – you arrive at church knowing five ways in which you are falling short of God’s standard for your life, and you leave knowing ten ways, doubly burdened.

In my experience such teaching yields little by way of life transformation, especially in terms of the joy and peace that are supposed to mark the Christian life. Focusing on the gospel, however, has the power to change our lives at a deep level. Through the gospel we come to see both the true depth of our sin (and therefore that our earlier feelings of guilt were actually far too shallow), while at the same time being reminded of the glorious good news that Jesus is our perfect substitute who removes our sin and guilt. He lived the life of obedience in our place and fulfilled the relentless clamor of the law’s demands, and he took upon himself the awful punishment that our sin truly deserves. As the Holy Spirit enables us to grasp this gospel reality, he frees us from our guilt and refreshes us with a deep joy that motivates our hearts to love God anew. In this way, the gospel begins the slow transformative work of changing us from the inside out. This is what the nineteenth-century Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers called ‘the expulsive power of a new affection’: the fact that profound change in our behavior always comes through a change in what we love most, not through external coercion”

(Is Jesus in the Old Testament? [P&R Publishing, 2013], 13).

(HT: Sam Storms)

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I am currently serving churches and colleges as a bible teacher, overseas and in the UK.

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