I had the honor of visiting your church this past weekend and was warmly welcomed by your flock. We managed with ease into the children’s ministry and found comfortable seating in the sanctuary. The sound of the choir’s harmonies caressed my arms, leaving goosebumps in its wake. As I prepared to sit under your teaching, I leaned toward the stage in eager anticipation that my Jesus would be lifted high as a serpent in the desert to a people thirsty for redemption’s invitation.
Sir, please serve me Jesus, I thought.
But I grieve so terribly—even now I tremble at the thought—that my Jesus was never mentioned in your sermon. The gospel was never applied to saints. The precious invitation of repentance was never extended to sinners. For the first time in my Christian walk, I sat at the table in my Father’s house with a fork but no feast.
I dare not presume to know why, nor would I suppose the oversight was made in ill-will. However, I was so overcome by the omission of Jesus in the sermon, I mourned for hours into the night in disbelief. I’m no pastor, I have no formal theological training, but I know when Christ is not served.
Proclaim Jesus to Congregation
The pulpit offers a space where gospel graces can collide with the hearts of God’s people in mysterious ways. We, the people of the flock, need our pastors to preach the cross of Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection through every text, every passage, every application. As Tim Keller writes, “Any sermon that tells listeners only how they should live without putting that standard into the context of the gospel gives them the impression that they might be complete enough to pull themselves together if they really try hard.”
God knows I spend every Monday through Saturday fighting the urge to pull myself together in my own strength. But sermons are a tender opportunity to offer spiritual reprieve to God’s elect—a chance to corporately acknowledge our dependence and indebtedness to a Creator who paid the price to set us free from self-inflicted bondage (Isaiah 52:3).
Sir, serve us Christ in such a way that we’re not only taught the text but shown the Savior from the text you’re preaching on.
Remember your first Love, the One who makes the application possible, the One who empowers saints to persevere by grace through faith. Soften our calloused hearts by casting out our spiritual amnesia with the kindness of God to us through Christ (Titus 3:4-7). His is an irresistible gospel, an intoxicating glory, an incomparable banquet designed to be served not exclusively, but especially, at our churches.
Proclaim Jesus to the Seekers
You might be familiar with the testimony of Charles Spurgeon, who mourned for years as a child over his desperation for salvation. One particular Sunday, Charles sat in a pew wanting “to know how I might be saved.” The sermon was preached by an under-qualified substitute minister during a snowstorm. Through his primitive oratory and botched pronunciations, the pastor explained what it meant to “Look to Christ” for everlasting life in the most basic terms. Alas, the film was peeled from Charles’ eyes, and he “saw at once the way of salvation.”
Indeed, the very Prince of Preachers came to salvation by an unlearned chap—the gospel preached free from the distracting bells and whistles of man’s academia. All Charles had to do was look to Christ to find the pardon he so desperately wanted: “Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.”
Sir, a service without an invitation to look upon Christ is a service devoid of heaven’s hospitality.
Like Charles, I sat unconverted in the pew years ago. My countenance fell when I discovered your sermon message was delivered without the invitation of salvation proclaimed to sinners. Serve food for the sheep while growing the fold—these are not mutually exclusive tasks. The Good Shepherd wastes not an opportunity to carry one of His wanderers to safety. Let the church be a place where saints are built up in quality and converts are built up in quantity, for such is the work of kingdom people (Matthew, 28:19-20, Ephesians 4:12).
The Beauty and Necessity of Jesus
Help us clasp hands with the Man of Sorrows, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of our everlasting Peace, who has made everything we sing in worship and receive in communion a source of life-transforming power. Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega: heaven forbid him to be reduced to a footnote of liturgy!
There is no more necessary proclamation than the message of reconciliation between God and man served up by the great God-Man (2 Corinthians 5:18-18). There is no more beautiful sight to behold than our Champion seated at the right hand of the Father, risen and interceding on our behalf, that we may always know we are never without hope or help (Romans 8:34). Make this beauty and necessity the message of first importance as the Apostle Paul did: Christ died for our sins, was buried, was raised, appeared to many, and is now ascended, offering sinner and saint alike redemption by grace through faith in him (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
Sir, all of life’s complexities can be tended to by the faithful preaching of gospel simplicities.
The song of Christ is to, “Come and see.” His is a beautiful, necessary hospitality of first importance—a sweet balm for the seeker and saved. Brother, serve Him up abundantly, faithfully, unabashedly. Escort us to the throne of grace, that we may know what it is for our spirits to soar as we look upon Christ in our church.
Please don’t quit serving me Jesus,