One of my greatest concerns in the times in which we are living is seeing more pastors, theologians, and the rank and file Christian allowing cultural pressures to influence them more than the influence of Christ from the Scriptures. As I am currently looking for a church to become a part of I am astounded by how many “protestant” pastors can preach a sermon that neither begins or ends with Christ. As a matter of fact, most of the sermons I’m hearing could be preached by a non-Christian, and in what even passes for “church” God doesn’t even have to show up at all.
I would urge, plead, and even pay preachers to read this book. What people need – including Christians – is more of Jesus – His death, life, teachings, work as Prophet, Priest, and King – in short His person and work. Jesus said that all of the Scriptures pointed to Him (that means all of the Old Testament and New Testament, see John 5 and Luke 24).
In this book we have some excellent examples of former students of Dr. Edmund P. Clowney who preach in the Christ-centered mold. The book has a good balance in that it incorporates sermons from the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and Several New Covenant genres. Before each sermon begins there is a brief tribute to Edmund Clowney demonstrating how he influenced the preacher in his pursuit of personally loving Christ and preaching sermons that show us the Savior’s Person and work on our behalf.
In Part 1: “The Law” we have the following sermons –
“Living in the Gap” based on Genesis 17:1-14 by Joseph V. Novenson
“The Girl Nobody Wanted” based on Genesis 29:15-35 by Tim Keller (this is my favorite sermon in the book – it is a masterpiece on how to preach Christ from the Old Testament and how to apply it to our lives in the 21st century)
“Lord and Servant” from Genesis 43 by Brian Vos
“Rock of Ages” based on Exodus 17:1-7 by Julius J. Kim
In Part 2: “The Prophets” we have these sermons –
“Surprising Love:” on 2 Samuel 9 by Charles D. Drew
“Thorns and Fir Trees” based on Isaiah 55:13 by the late Harvie M. Conn
“No Condemnation” from Zechariah 3 by Iain M. Duguid
In Part 3: “The Psalms” we have only one sermon (I would have liked to have had at least two or three from this large section of Scripture including “Lament” and “Praise” genres) –
“Beauty in the Sand” by William Edgar based on Psalm 90
Part 4: “The New Covenant” we have the following sermons –
From Luke 1:5-25 “When God Promises the Impossible” by Dennis E. Johnson
“Soul-Ravishing Sightings” based on Luke 9:28-36 by Joseph F. Ryan
Arturo G. Azurdia III preaches the final sermon in the book based on Hebrews 1:1-3 entitled “The Greatness of God’s Ultimate Word.”
I highly recommend this book for all preachers, and for those who listen to preachers and love Jesus. I would encourage you if you are reading this review, to ask your pastor if he has read this book, and if not, to get him a copy – to encourage him in preaching in a more Christ-centered manner. Christ-centered preaching is hard work. However, when you hear it, or do it – you sense the presence of God in a powerful way. When I started preaching in Christ-centered manner it was as if a huge millstone was taken off my back. I think most preachers want to please God and help their flock from God’s Word – but they have not been well trained in Biblical Theology, or in Christo-centric preaching.
Edmund Clowney and all the preachers represented in this book are preaching to give glory to God and to let their hearers experience Jesus in worship. I think most preachers today are preaching to be liked, and meet felt needs – but no one can meet our needs like Jesus – and what we need more than anything is what these preachers do in this book – lead us to worshipping Jesus!
I constantly find myself when listening to modern preachers asking the question, “Where’s Jesus in this message?” Edmund Clowney always asked, “Where is my Savior?” His primary concern was always to reveal the presence of Christ in all of the Scriptures – since this is what Jesus mandated. I believe that if you ask these questions of yourself, or your preacher and Jesus is nowhere to be found, then it is not “Christian” preaching. What we desperately need today is to hear Jesus speaking to us from the Word of God by the voice of his heralds. All the preachers in this book do a wonderful job of leading us to the presence of Jesus and to worshipping Him.
Other Books that I would recommend to help you in Christo-centric preaching are:
Edmund P. Clowney’s: “Preaching Christ in All of Scripture;” “The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament;” and “How Jesus Transforms The Ten Commandments.”
Alec Motyer’s “Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ.”
All of Tim Keller’s books (e.g. “King’s Cross” based on his expositions on the Gospel of Mark). And anything by Sidney Greidanus (e.g., “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”), or Graeme Goldsworthy (e.g.,“Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture”).
I hope that this movement of Christ-centered preaching continues to spread, and grow and bring about a new reformation of the gospel, and the desperately needed revival that is needed around the globe.
I read over 100 books this past year, so I thought I would share my top ten books that were actually published in 2011. This next year I will be reading another 100 plus books (God willing) and one of the themes for the new year will be to read as many of the “Views” books as I possibly can (I have 70 of these books already at last count). The most important book I will be reading is the Bible. I will be using Robert Murray McCheyne’s Bible reading plan and the One Year Bible as well. Therefore, I hope to read through the Bible three times. I hope that God blesses your intake this next year and that His Spirit will illuminate your mind and saturate your thinking, emotions, and activity with a Christ centered and Holy Spirit empowering to live for His glory. All the books below (and more) were reviewed on Amazon.com and here on my blog.
10) Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You by Brian Hardin. He will really motivate you to get into the Word daily – which is arguably the most important discipline for you to maintain.
9) All In: From Refugee Camp to Poker Champ by Jerry Yang with Mark Tabb. This was one of the most spontaneous picks I ever read – I bought it because it was cheap! However, it was a gripping story of a Christian refugee coming to the USA and winning the biggest Poker prize in history and the astounding way he was and is a testimony for Christ in his lifestyle and giving. Jerry Yang is an amazing person who places Jesus first in every aspect of his life – even playing poker! I was surprised at how much God’s sovereignty and providence was brought into the story – not just the families escape from Cambodia, but also in the refugee camp in Thailand and then all the details that God worked out for him in the USA.
8) Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ by Robert A. Peterson. I always enjoy reading anything related to Jesus. This book was not easy reading, but very rewarding in that it mined the depths of the atonement and opened my eyes to riches to be found in Christ that I had never seen before.
7) The Essential Commandment: A Disciple’s Guide to Loving God and Others by Greg Ogden. This book is the third workbook in this series of outstanding discipleship workbooks. This one focuses on the application of the Ten Commandments. I highly recommend all of Ogden’s books on and for discipleship – He knows how to make and help you make multiplying disciples for Christ.
6) Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian. I loved this book perhaps mainly because I could so identify with “rediscovering” that beauty of the gospel after going through so many trials and tribulations in recent years. Tullian clearly articulates the doctrines of justification and sanctification and how they are both grace based and emphasizes the “nowness” of the gospel in your life.
5) Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture by Jonathan Morrow. This is a fantastic book that combines the biggest ethical and cultural issues of our times, and interviews with Christians who are experts in these areas – who have thought deeply about the issues, and are actually penetrating culture with their Christian views and actions and making a difference for the glory of God.
4) Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham. Actually this wasn’t that great of a book – but it was written by one of the most used vessels in God’s arsenal in world history. This may be Graham’s last book that he will write before he goes home to hear those words we all long to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” I was brought to tears in reading this book because of this man’s integrity and faithfulness for the cause of Christ.
3) For Calvinism by Michael Horton. One of the most misunderstood doctrines so clearly and effectively articulated by one of the finest theologians of our times. A cogent and balanced defense of what the Scriptures teach about the doctrines of grace.
1) Tie for 1st! Forever by Paul David Tripp and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. Essentially anything that Tripp or Keller writes on anything trumps just about everything outside the Bible itself! These two writers have a great grasp on the gospel, Biblical Theology, and how to communicate these two elements with great relavency in the 21st Century. I’m sure I would also be including Keller’s “King’s Cross” here as well – but I haven’t read it yet!
Honorable Mentions (Most of these could have easily been in the top 10 too, but you gotta draw the line somewhere!):
Historical Theology by Greg Allison; Being George Washington by Glenn Beck; Reflections on Words of the New Testament by Vine and Benoit; Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology – Various authors); Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support by Brad House; What is the Mission of the Church? by DeYoung and Gilbert; Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church by Walter C. Kaiser; More Than Ordinary: Enjoying Life with God by Doug Sherman.