February 10

A boy is raised under the Old Testament Nazarite vow—the same one that Samson was raised under. He starts going around Israel 2,000 years ago baptizing people for the repentance of sins. He is dressed like a Jewish redneck hillbilly with long hair, a camel hair coat, and he eats bugs and honey. His message and actions repetitively point to Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon lived in the 19thcentury. His consistent message was Jesus. In fact, he has many quotes on the necessity of preaching Christ, such as:

  • “A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution.”

W.A. Criswell, the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, fought hard to impact his community with the Gospel. He once stated:

  • “To lift Him up, to preach His name, and to invite souls to love Him and to follow Him is the highest, and heavenliest privilege of human life.”

The Presbyterian Carl Trueman has claimed:

  • “The task of the preacher, therefore, is to take the Bible and to do two things in every sermon: destroy self-righteousness and point hearers toward the alien, external righteousness of Christ.”

Believe it or not, many books on preaching nowadays are not focused that much on Christ, but on helping people see how the Bible functions as a self-help book for their lives, or how they can be good citizens in the world, how the whole focus is to motivate (read “manipulate”) people for the pastor’s “vision”, and so forth.

Last week I quoted A.W. Strong last week, former president of the Rochester Theological Seminary. The seminary and the University of Rochester were cofounded together as Baptist institutions in the mid-19thcentury. Today, however, the university is wholly secular and the seminary is now the ecumenical Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. You go to their website and look at their mission and it’s all about social justice. There is not one iota of Jesus Christ in their mission, or in anything else you can find on their website.

But, go to seminaries that are biblically-focused:

  1. Westminster Theological Seminary’s website and they state that they are committed to “Christ-centered preaching”.
  2. Denver Seminary states that they train people to share the “redemptive power of the gospel and the life-changing truth of Scripture.”
  3. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary exists to train people to make disciples, and to see them transform by the Bible into “Christ-likeness”.
  4. Knox Theological Seminary trains people to “declare and demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  5. Reformed Theological Seminary’s missional focus is on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
  6. Toronto Baptist Seminary states that they have “A passionate conviction that living for the glory of God as it has been revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is our main business in life.”

See the theme? Biblical schools don’t point to people, to human “rights”, to social justice, LGBTQ acceptance, and the host of other man-centered foci that some of these seminary websites state. A biblical seminary will point to Jesus and Him crucified. They point to the necessity of salvation through Christ alone Who atones for our sin, and then the necessity of living holy lives for Him!

Our churches are in the same boat as many are preaching motivational speeches, or felt needs, or social justice, or whatever draws a bigger and bigger crowd. But, we preach Jesus!

  • Corinthians 4:5a For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord

But, while the examples of Christless seminaries and churches are immense, and should serve as warnings to us, we are only responsible for our church and our lives before Jesus. We must shine as lights in our dark world, not just on Sunday. We must preach Christ verbally as well as with how we live. Your pastors must teach Jesus at church, but you and I must teach Jesus in our lives in our interactions and how we live. We must point people to Him.

Do you point people to Christ?

I look back at my many years working in sales. I had people upset at me at the car dealership I worked at because I refused to lie to customers. I had one saleslady upset at me because I “stole” her customer and thus “stole” her sale. Later I came up on another salesman talking to her reminding her that she knows me and that I would never do that. And, at other times I was mocked for my beliefs. Those were areas of my life that pointed people to Christ and they saw my testimony.

But, what saddens me is all of the times I failed to point people to Christ, where my testimony was injured by my temper, or I had argued with my manager over a situation. Maybe I see those failures as bigger and more abundant than the lost co-workers I worked with did, but nevertheless, each instance of my self-sabotaging of my testimony only diminished my claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist was consistent in his testimony. In fact, Jesus stated:

  • “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!”—Matthew 11:11

John lived and ultimately died for his stand for Christ. He exalted Him, he pointed to Him, and remained humble and devoted.

I ask again, do you point people to Christ?

One last story: My wife’s aunt, the one who brought her to the Lord, is the most genuine Jesus person I know. One of the things that was annoying down in the South (and I’ve lived in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia) was the continual overabundance of “Have a blessed day”, and “Praise Jesus” language from people who were rarely sincere. But, when my wife’s aunt says, “Praise Jesus”, you can sense how deeply from the heart that came. She is always pointing people to Jesus in public, at home, and at family gatherings. She doesn’t care if her Catholic family members mock her for praying at a meal. She doesn’t care if they scoff at her. She just keeps pointing people to Jesus. She spends large amounts of time in prayer and reading, and her love for Christ pours out of her. You can’t spend 5 minutes in her presence and not know she is a passionate follower of Christ.

  1. Reflect on areas of your life that at worst point people away from Christ, or at best point people nowhere: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. Commit these to God in prayer and ask Him to help eradicate them from your life.
  2. What areas of your life point people to Jesus? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. Ask God now to increase your witness and your sphere of influence for Him.
  3. The Bible tells us that we are the clay and that God is the Potter. The Potter can do whatever He wants to do with His clay. But, the clay must not dry out and become useless. It must remain soft, flexible, and submissive to the Potter’s hands.
    1. How submissive to God is your heart today? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
    2. Do you fight Him when He works to change your character, your mindset, your passions, your focus? ___________________________________________________
    3. Do you trust Him to do what’s best for your life? ___________________________________________________
    4. “Christian” means “Christ-like”. It’s an abused term nowadays as most people are far from Christ-like. But, nevertheless, you and I should seek to be identified as Christ-like. Ask God to change you into His image.

Change My Heart Oh God—song by Eddie Espinosa

Change my heart Oh God, make it ever true.

Change my heart Oh God, may I be like You.

You are the potter, I am the clay,

Mold me and make me, this is what I pray.

Change my heart Oh God, make it ever true.

Change my heart Oh God, may I be like You.