4 Jesus: Keep the Christ in Christianity

Conspicuously Absent

Read the book of Acts with this question in mind: What was the message? You will find a variety of approaches rather than a canned, textbook method. But you will find this constant: a bold proclamation that Jesus is alive. Sometimes the speakers fill in a few details from His life. Often they mention His ascension. They describe Him as the appointed judge of all men, the source of salvation, and the giver of the Spirit. Of course Paul and the other apostolic witnesses always “glory in the cross.” Never do they offer a bloodless gospel! No, they proclaim “Christ and Him crucified.” Yet their testimony is likewise always of a living Jesus, the Lord of this and every moment, a force who cannot be ignored!

There are a few approaches you won’t find the apostles using, however:

“Follow these five steps or those four spiritual laws and you’ll go to heaven when you die.” The focus was on beholding the Lamb of God—not the plan of salvation—who takes away the sins of the world. The person of Jesus was the issue.

“God has a wonderful plan for your life. If you’ll only accept Jesus as your personal Savior, look at all the benefits you’ll receive.” The apostolic gospel was not man-centered at all. It was thoroughly Christ-centered. We often think to persuade people to “accept Christ” by dangling the benefits of Christianity in front of their noses, in hopes that they will later come to a place of greater commitment as their faith grows. The apostles’ approach was refreshingly different. Jesus Himself was the only bait on their hook. It was those who swallowed Him whole—often in the face of persecution—who received those wonderful teachings about the good things we have in Christ.

“Poor Jesus is standing outside the door of your heart, just begging to come in. Look at Him, all battered and torn, out there all alone. How can you stand to keep the door closed?” No way! Our first century brothers never presented a pitiful picture of Jesus to play on our guilt. They proclaimed a victorious Christ and demanded unconditional surrender to Him. Again, there was a greater emphasis on what Jesus gets out of the gospel than on what we get out of it!

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