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You've just heard a moving sermon about the life and teaching of Christ. The pastor concludes with three points: Be good. Be disciplined. Be like Jesus. You leave church with new resolve to love your neighbor, resist temptation, and read your Bible every day. Then you mutter curses against your neighbor who never mows his lawn. You give in to temptation. You snooze through your alarm and forget to read the Bible. Dejected, you return to church for another stirring exhortation to live like Christ. You fail again. Your faith dwindles. The cycle repeats.

Is it possible that a sermon about Christ might not be Christ-centered? That's the belief of pastors and scholars who advocate Christ-centered biblical interpretation and preaching. They teach that Christians sin when they fail to believe and apply the gospel of Christ's death and resurrection. Moral exhortations to live a more godly life fail to deliver moral transformation.

Many people think Christ-centered preaching is essentially allegorical, the preferred method of many early church interpreters, who found allusions to Christ even in the scarlet cord Rahab hung out her window (Josh. 2:18, 21). But it's really more akin to the law/gospel distinction made by the Reformers. Law brings us under conviction of sin, while gospel points us to the work of Christ and calls on us to trust.Consider the progression of the book of Romans, for example. Paul begins with the problem of sin, then testifies to the work of Christ, and later works out the implications for living in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

You'll find Christ-centered theology and application in the books and sermons of Tim Keller. For a brief primer, see the seminar he taught with Ed Clowney, "Preaching Christ in a Postmodern ...

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