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The Music and The Dance
A core conviction for Christ-centered or gospel centered preaching, and I want to use an analogy that I use a lot whenever I teach at the seminary, but I also use it just in my own life and in my church for discipleship, for preaching, and for my personal life. It’s called “The Music and the Dance.” To do it, let me just create a very imaginary scenario.
Imagine that there’s a huge house and in this huge house, there are people living who are hearing and there’s people who are deaf. There are deaf people and hearing people in this same house. You’re like a third person looking in through a window and you see a first guy walk in and he walks over to an entertainment center and he hits a button and the room fills with music. It’s obvious that he’s enjoying the music because he doesn’t just stand there; he starts to move in time with the music. At first, he’s just kind of enjoying it and moving with the beat, but pretty soon this guy’s just full-on dancing, he’s having a great time. He’s in the room, he’s in the mood, he’s listening to the music, and he’s moving in response to it.
A second guy comes in who’s deaf. One of the deaf people in the home comes in and he looks at this first guy, and you can kind of see by the expression on his face that he thinks, “That looks really cool. I want to do that,” and so he starts trying. At first, he’s pretty awkward and it’s not very graceful, but as he really watches the other guy carefully, as he really hones in on the other guy, pretty soon he’s actually able to kind of get in step just by mimicking the other guy.
Then you see a third person comes up alongside of you and he doesn’t know who these people are so he looks at them and what does he see? Well, it looks to him like he sees two people doing the same thing. Listening to the music and dancing in response to it. Here’s the point of the analogy. Does it matter, are those guys really doing the same thing? Are they really doing the same thing? And does it matter that they’re not doing the same thing?
There’s a kind of preaching, there’s a kind of ministry, there’s a kind of Christian living that’s very much about people dancing well and doesn’t care if they can hear the music. There’s a kind of preaching and ministry that is always prescribing the steps and calling out people who are out of step and out of rhythm and telling them, “That’s not right and here’s how you’re supposed to do it,” but doesn’t really care whether they’re really hearing the music.
There’s a kind of trying to live the Christian life that we all get into from time to time. It can either be just … I mean, I’ve been at this church for 30 years. It can just be the longevity of ministry and the wear and tear on your soul, the disappointments, the death of 1,000 cuts of criticism and disappointment, and over and over again to where you pretty soon just, you’re trying very hard to dance the dance but you’re no longer hearing the music.
At the essence of what I mean by gospel centered preaching is that you turn up the music and call the dance. It’s not one or the other. Sometimes people think when we talk about gospel centered preaching or Christ-centered preaching that what we really mean is just turn up the music and don’t care if people dance, but it’s not one or the other. It’s both.
What I mean, just to clarify, the music and the dance, in this analogy, the music is this massive message of the redemptive love in Christ through the gospel and all the richness of what we have through the gospel which is not simply forgiveness or justification or heaven, but also adoption and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and all things being made new at the end of human history as we know it. It’s just this huge kaleidoscope of gracious gifts that come to us through the Incarnation, through the life, death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. That’s the music.
The dance is the whole Christian life; that life of love for God and love for people, and all of the many facets and dimensions of what that requires that are spelled out in all of the imperatives and the exhortations of Scripture. So, in this analogy, it’s not, “Turn up the music and let people just listen,” nor is it constantly calling out people who are out of step or out of rhythm, it’s both. It’s got to be both.
So, gospel centered preaching means preaching the person and work of Christ as both the motive and means to true Christian living and relating all aspects of Christian life to Christ and the gospel. The conviction that we need is that all application of scripture needs to be Christ-centered and what I mean by that is … the dance always has to be related to the music. The question then, when we’re preparing our sermons, is: how does the richness of our redemption in Christ supply the motive and means for the application of this scripture to life?
If you don’t think I know what I’m talking about, this is John Calvin and he says: “We ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God?”
Here’s Charles Spurgeon. He says: “Preach Christ, always and everywhere. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great all-comprehending theme.”