Is It Really "All About Jesus"? (Pt. 2)

The phrase, "It's all about Jesus" is used a lot these days. Another common phrase is, "gospel-centered". What do these phrases really mean? They are used by many different preachers whose preaching ministries can sometimes be significantly different in consistent message and emphasis. At the heart of the meaning is often the confession that the Bible is all about Jesus. Preachers might say things like, "The Bible is all about Jesus, not just a bunch of rules" or, "The Bible and all of life is gospel-centered."

So, what does "It's all about Jesus" mean? For starters, it means the whole Bible revolves around Jesus. In order to not oversimplify that, we should say this does not mean when studying the Bible you should ignore the original meaning of a particular text that was written in a particular time for a particular people. It does mean, however, that at all times one should keep the broader biblical story in mind. Every single verse and passage and book lays in the grand story that is "all about Jesus". Every word of our Bibles is "all about Jesus".

With that being said, what does "It's all about Jesus" mean? For one person, "It's all about Jesus" means life is all about being like Jesus. For another person, "It's all about Jesus" means life is all about believing in Jesus. Yet for another person, "It's all about Jesus" means life is all about being on mission to make Jesus known to non-Christians.

If you agree that the Bible is "all about Jesus", there are two basic meanings someone could have when using that phrase. For preaching purposes, it means when preaching from the Bible there are two basic ways sermons will be shaped by how one understands that phrase.

On the one hand, "It's all about Jesus" can mean the Bible is all about us living for, obeying, worshiping, praying to, telling others about, and loving Jesus. Rather than merely talking about being a good person and doing the right thing, this approach says we ought to be good people and do the right thing for Jesus' sake, glory, and honor; maybe it even emphasizes we become better people and do good things by Jesus' present power in us. So where is the emphasis here? 

To sum it up, this first approach says the Bible is all about...us...living for Jesus. Sermons shaped by this understanding will have as their constant focus, continuous emphasis, and major theme the lives of listeners. Listeners will continually here about all they should be and do in order to make much of Jesus. "It's all about Jesus" means "It's all about you living for Jesus".

On the other hand, "It's all about Jesus" can mean something totally different, something we will argue is more true to what the Bible is actually about. This second understanding says the Bible is all about Jesus' life, His living, His dying, His rising, and His ascending. This approach says the Bible points to, emphasizes, creatively repeats, and continuously fills out a story that is not about you, but Someone else. This understanding says the Bible is about something that is already done, not something you need to do; it is about Someone else and things done by that Someone else. 

After His resurrection Jesus spoke with two disciples who did not understand what the Bible (the Old Testament) was about. "And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27). Jesus goes through all the Scriptures, showing how they point to His life, death, and resurrection. Where is this emphasis?

When Paul described his ministry to the Corinthians he climactically said, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). The emphasis is obvious here.

When talking about his daily life, Paul said, "...And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). The emphasis here is not on Paul doing anything but rather continually resting in what has been done for him (and for you). The focus is Jesus, not Paul.

To sum it up, this second approach says the Bible is all about...Jesus...living, dying, and rising for us, to God's glory alone. Sermons shaped by this understanding will have as their constant focus, continuous emphasis, and major theme the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Listeners will continually hear about all that has been done for them by Jesus. "It's all about Jesus" means "It's all about Jesus for you, as a gracious gift".

The Bible really is all about Jesus. It is as simple as it sounds. Who we are and what we do is never enough. The Bible calls us sinners and that is bad news. Your listeners need to hear the bad news, that they are sinners. Christians need to be guided by God's Law and to be reminded that they are not enough; they haven't met God's standard. But they need a better, more powerful, final Word. They need the Gospel. The Gospel is what the Bible keeps coming back to, again and again. That means your sermons should too. 

 

Is It Really "All About Jesus"? (Pt. 1)

How many times have you been in a conversation and had to ask someone, "Wait, what do you mean by that?" Words and even phrases can mean different things at different times and we often need clarification while talking with friends, listening to sermons, or reading books. The phrase "I have the right to bear arms" can mean I have the right to own guns or I have the right to own the arms of bears. One is normal, the other is strange. Clarifying phrases can make a world of difference. There are two clarifications of vital importance for you as a preacher.

What does "Bible-based sermon" mean? We will explore that in this post, which will set us up for our next post: What does, "It's all about Jesus" mean?

For someone to say they are a "Bible-preaching" church or they preach "Bible-based sermons" can mean many, many different things. If "Bible-based sermon" means any sermon that contains biblical texts, whether read, quoted, explained and/or referenced, this means a "Bible-based" sermon might not even be a Christian sermon. For instance, the Pharisees, who hated and rejected Jesus, preached and taught the Old Testament Scriptures, their Bible. However, they are well-known in the New Testament as having emphatically rejected Jesus, the One the Old Testament was all about. If "Bible-based" preaching means merely quoting or reading biblical texts, the Pharisees preached wonderful Bible-based sermons.

But do you want to preach those kinds of "Bible-based" sermons? Would you have gone to their church to hear their sermons? 

The problem with the Pharisees was that they had no idea what the Old Testament was about. Their sermons were heavily steeped in the Old Testament, yet they were antithetical to the Old Testament. They are better labelled "Bible-users", not "Bible-based". Their sermons were dead wrong. This means we must clarify what it means for a sermon to be "Bible-based". It means when visiting a church, the claim to be "Bible-based" needs to be clarified, for the Pharisees would have said the same thing.

A Bible-using preacher is not necessarily a Bible-based preacher. A Bible-user may read, quote, and even explain a text, but they miss the point of the text in some significant way. This issue really comes down to preachers properly interpreting the Bible and then preaching what a particular text means in light of proper interpretation. Hermeneutics is too big of a topic for this post, so instead of blogging an entire hermeneutics course, we would like to offer two major steps take in order to rightly handle the Bible when preaching.

First, let the Bible drive your sermon preparation each week.

The temptation preachers always face is to bring their own thoughts, feelings, and gut intuitions to the biblical texts. In doing so, we bring our own sermons to the Bible. But as you know, we look outside of ourselves for revelation from God in the Bible. Sermons are nothing more than the preaching of the Bible. Preparing a sermon that is not driven by the Bible is a contradiction in terms. If you drive sermon preparation then you may become a classic Bible-using preacher, but not a Bible-based preacher. We have blogged about this here

Secondly, and more focused for the purpose of this blog and our next blog, don't be like the Pharisees.

Let's say it positively: keep in focus at all times what the Bible is all about. The best way to use the Bible but not be based in the Bible is to isolate texts from the context of the Bible as a whole. But if you understand what the whole point of the Bible is, you can preach each part properly. In order to rightly interpret a random passage halfway through the Bible you need to understand it in the context of the book in which it is in. And in order to rightly interpret a random book halfway through the Bible you need to understand it in the context of the entire Bible. The big idea of the Bible is what every 8 year old in Sunday School understands: Jesus.

So, what does is it mean that the entire Bible is "all about Jesus"? You might be surprised. See you in 2 weeks.