What I am about to say should be so obvious that I don’t need to say it, but I am becoming more and more convinced that this truth is being severely neglected in churches today: The person and work of Christ must be the content and center of our evangelism and preaching. Just this past December, I attended a Christmas outreach event at a local church (here in Central Thailand) where the primary evangelistic message had to do entirely with the benefits of believing, i.e. all the good things that will happen to you as a result of believing. The speaker used many funny and engaging stories to help his audience understand that when you believe in Jesus, you can expect to have joy, peace, eternal life, and help from God. There was one thing that was glaringly absent from his message: Christ!
As part of the Bible reading plan that I am using this year, I’ve started to read through the book of Acts and in the first few chapters, we see plenty of examples of the content of preaching in the early church: Christ. In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, he basically tells his listeners that God sent Jesus, you crucified him, and God raised him, so don’t make any mistake that this Jesus is both Lord and Christ, i.e. Savior (Acts 2:22-36). Again, after the beggar is healed at the temple, Peter stands up and gives the a very similar message: God sent his servant Jesus, you betrayed him to death, you acted in ignorance but it was God’s plan, so repent so your sin may be blotted out because God sent Jesus to turn you from wickedness (Acts 3:11-26). After this Peter and John are arrested, and when examined by the authorities as to how they healed the guy, they say the same thing: this man was healed by Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, God raised, but whom you rejected, and there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:7-12).
Biblical evangelism and Biblical preaching must have the person and work of Christ at it’s center. It may be more appealing to preach about a Jesus who primarily wants to give us stuff but it is only the sinless Savior who died on the cross because of God’s grace toward wicked sinners who is worth following. A Jesus who just gives us stuff is more like Santa Claus than God. And nobody follows Santa Claus. They just get stuff from him and say, “Thanks Santa, see you next year for some more stuff.” Santa does not inspire devotion or obedience, and requires no repentance. If only the benefits of believing in Christ are preached, and not the person and work of Christ, then people are easily misled as to the nature of the true Gospel. And the Gospel is wonderful! To think that wicked people who have hated God who is so merciful and gracious could actually be forgiven and our lives redeemed from bondage to sin and from the prospect of God’s judgment, is a fantastic and almost unbelievable thought. I want to preach Christ and repentance towards Christ for the forgiveness of sins so that God and sinner might be reconciled. This is the wonderful Gospel message and this is the Biblical message. Anything less is not the Gospel.