I spoke with a young married couple after service today. I’m currently teaching on marriage and the selfless roles God calls us to in it, and they had a question. From the outset the husband, an affable gentleman, informed me he was not a Christian and that his wife was. He simply wanted to know if I believed they could still have a good marriage if he, as a non-believer, was still soundly committed to being selfless toward his wife. While we had a meaningful conversation I was struck by something he said pertaining to my message.
He agreed with some of what I said about marriage (e.g., being selfless and loving to your spouse) but disagreed with the why and how of marriage – Jesus and his grace. Basically, in his eyes, my message was good until I leveraged it in the gospel.
It was the best compliment of the day.
It reminded me that if you preach messages which only prop up the things we should do without standing those things upon the essential posts of Jesus and his work of grace, then you may actually be preaching something else than the gospel. If unbelievers can agree with everything you say because you only call them to a morality they either already have or likely could conclude by common sense, I would argue your message is far from being Christ-centered. The imperatives of Christianity (what we do) should never be divorced from the indicatives of the gospel (who Christ is and what he has done for us). It’s the indicatives that make the difference between a message rooted in Christ or merely in morality. The difference is not only huge, but eternal.
It also helps us see that sometimes the best people to evaluate how gospel-oriented our messages are, are the ones who’ve yet to receive that gospel.
So, how much of your sermon would a non-Christian have agreed with today?