Last summer I had the opportunity to preach an entire evangelistic series in Macon, Georgia. The series was called "Revelations Hope" and I, along with the other students, was given an entire set of presentations to use as my sermons. The idea was, as it has always been, to present the unique Adventist doctrines (known as "present truth") to those who had never heard them before. Being a lover of present truth one would easily guess I enjoyed the experience. But I didn't.
OK, let me be fair. I didn't hate the experience. However, I found it very difficult to enjoy. There was just too much weird stuff going on. First of all, the series was marketed as "Revelations Hope" and gave the impression that it was going to be a seminar on the book of Revelation to help people understand this often confusing book. However, the series was more about Adventist doctrine than it was about Revelation and sadly enough, it used the book of Revelation sort of like a proof platform to launch into various topics that weren't in Revelation at all. But that isn't the part that really bothered me. What bothered me was that the series as a whole lacked the one thing it was meant to be proclaiming: "present truth."
Night after night I found myself editing the sermons that had been given to us. There was no way I was going to preach that stuff. It was overcomplicated. It was confusing. And worst of all, it lacked truth. Sure, the Sabbath was presented along with Daniel 2, the Investigative Judgment, the State of the Dead, etc. But I learned a long time ago that there is a difference between preaching present-facts and present-truth. As Adventists, we have historically prided ourselves in always having the right answers, but the world doesnt need right answers, it needs truth and there is a difference between the two.
It wasnt easy. At times I felt like a rebel. At times I felt arrogant. And at times I felt as though I was somehow in the wrong. Maybe the way its always been done is the right way, I thought. Maybe I am diluting the message by making them so simple and Christ-centered. And so on and so forth. But I pressed on because the truth is, I just couldn't preach those sermons. They were full of "answers" and "facts" but they didn't have truth - they didn't have Jesus. And anytime we preach present truth without Jesus we engage in one of Satans master deceptions - the dissolution of present truth.
The deception is powerful for this reason: By preaching doctrine void of Christ many Adventists think they are actually preaching Christ. In other words, none of these Christless sermons are ever even perceived to be Christless. Most Adventists never see anything wrong with them and if asked, many would say that the sermons are indeed Christ-centered. But allow me to set the record straight: Mentioning Jesus at the end of your sermon, quoting his words, or having Power Point slides with his pictures don't actually make a sermon Christ-centered. A sermon is Christ-centered when the entire thesis is drenched in the blood of Jesus. A sermon is Christ-centered when, no matter your topic, Jesus is presented in all of his beauty and majesty. A sermon is Christ-centered when it results in repentance, faith, and a greater love for God. A sermon is Christ-centered when it inspires change as opposed to requiring it. A sermon is Christ-centered when it reveals Jesus' more and not simply some biblical concept that other churches aren't teaching. A sermon is Christ-centered when both preacher and listener leave the church and they know, they just know, that they have been with Jesus.
You can preach doctrine and theology all you want. You can have the right answers and the right facts, but that doesnt make it truth. Truth is discovered only when it is found in Jesus. "The seventh day is the Sabbath" is not truth. It is a biblical fact. Jesus said, "I am the...truth" and any sermon that lifts up doctrine without lifting up Jesus does not deserve to be called present truth. Call it present facts or present answers, or present points or present information, but dont call it present truth.
The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.—Gospel Workers, 315 (1915)._________
After much editing and praying and struggling I was able to, along with my friend Michelle Doucoumes (whose Christ-centered convictions were an enourmous help!), preach the "Revelations Hope" series in a way that actually fit the Biblical admonition "If I be lifted up..." Though I still feel that there is much more work needed to lift Jesus up more in these presentations I am glad we started down that road. Here is the entire series (except for the last sermon. I dont remember what happened to it).