4 Jesus: Keep the Christ in Christianity

Defining the Group By Its Center

If we choose to, we can treat those passages about Jesus as mere positional truths. You know, “Jesus is preeminent in the ‘invisible’ church regardless of whether He seems to be reigning supremely in what’s visible around me. That’s all that matters, anyway.”

Certainly it is true that none of our folly will ultimately dethrone Jesus or deprive Him of His rights as Lord of the Kingdom. Yet once we see the real Jesus in all His Glory, “high and lifted up with His train filling the temple,” how could we be satisfied with restricting Him to theoretical Headship over the church?

Here is one practical way to give Jesus His due: Let’s begin defining the local church, not by some arbitrary boundaries of our making, but by its center—Jesus.

Remember, that is how Jesus Himself defined the kind of church that would break down hell’s gates, binding and loosing on earth heaven’s authority. “On this rock,” He said—the rock reflected in Peter’s revelation of His identity—“I will build My church.”

We can start by insisting that Jesus take the center position of our own personal lives. We can declare war on everything inside our hearts that opposes Him. We can love Him. We can in trust yield to Him everything—father and mother and brothers and friends and fields—for His sake and the gospel’s. We can seek a continuously increasing revelation of Jesus to us and in us, all the time resting on His grace and provision rather than frantically attempting to achieve a righteousness of our own.

We can also hold up the same standard for those around us. We can turn up the spotlight as brightly as we can on the One who should be the center and focal point of any gathering of Christians—Jesus, their Lord. We can insist on wholehearted yieldedness to Him—not a flawless life, though we would wish it so, but a heart that is unwilling to lower the standard to accommodate our failures.

And do you know what? Interesting things will begin to happen! Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.” There is a powerfully compelling attraction to the crucified Messiah, the enthroned sacrificial lamb, for all who have a heart to be saved. When Christ becomes the light, men and women will be attracted like moths to a flame—if they have a revelation of Him, or are desperate to come to know Him.

There will also be a division of sorts, for there was never a more “divisive” man than Jesus! “Do not suppose I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” (Mt 11:34-36). While some will be drawn to Jesus as if by magnetic attraction, others will be repulsed just as powerfully, and so there will be a separation. The group will find its identity in the pursuit of Jesus and its distinctiveness in His character. Our own life together will begin having such an effect as Jesus truly becomes our focal point: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life” (2 Cor 2:14-16).

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