What if the people of God actually believed the central doctrines that bind them together? I want to ask this question, beginning with the core values of the church that I work for, but ultimately dreaming about the church as a whole. I want to see a people, united by God, come to full belief in the things of God, so as a personal exercise of hope and reflection, I want to draw out these lines of thought. The question I will start with is this: what if the church, the body of Christ, actually believed in the centrality of Christ? (I’ve added headings to help me orient myself, hope they help you too.)
What does Centrality of Christ mean?
The most appropriate place to begin in answering this question is to define the doctrine of the centrality of Christ. Jesus is not just a man that lived around two-thousand years ago. He is not just a prophet, not just a good teacher, or even just the savior of mankind (although He is all those things). He is God, through Him all things were made, and all of history points to Him as supreme. Jesus is the center of all scripture, the center of all life for the Christian, and holds an eternal place of glory and worship.
Scripture supports this claim both directly and indirectly. This is to say that it is outwardly stated in verses like 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 which says “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” or in John 1:3 which says “Through [Jesus] all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” These verses directly state the centrality of Jesus, but the story of the Gospel can be seen throughout the redemptive history of God’s people. Whether in stories like a lamb being provided to sacrificially take the place of Isaac on the alter, or the lamb’s blood saving the children of Israel and setting them free from their slavery in Egypt, the representation of God’s plan to save humanity through Jesus can be clearly seen all throughout scripture.
What is the basis for response?
If this is true, what does that mean for Christians, for those who claim to be followers of Christ? What would it look like in the church and the world if God’s people actually lived like they believed this truth?
To a certain degree all Christians must believe this to be saved. If salvation is by faith alone in the redemptive work Jesus on the cross, then to receive that salvation He must be placed at the center. We must point to Jesus alongside the writer of Hebrews as the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Unfortunately, our culture’s view of believing something differs from what the Bible seems to claim true belief is. We view belief as a purely cognitive issue. If we can reconcile our way of thinking with an idea, we will say we believe that. This is not the picture that the scriptures paint. John 3:36 says “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” This text reveals a fundamental link between faith and obedience, namely that those who truly believe in Jesus will obey Jesus. This is not to say that good works will get you into heaven, but that saving faith in Christ will ultimately align your will with His and manifest itself in your life through the very way that you live.
An answer to the original question:
It is from this point that I think I can finally begin to answer the question I started with. A person that truly believes in the centrality of Christ will center their life around Christ. At first glance this seems like a cop-out answer. Well of course, that answer is in the question, duh. This is not nearly as simple of an answer as it seems at face value. To center your life around Jesus means an all of life response to who Jesus is, what He said, what He did, and the way that He lived. A person who believes this radically loves those around them. They will see themselves in light of what Christ did for them, and will be stirred to treat others with the empathy of someone who knows what it is to be saved. A person who believes that Jesus is central to their very life and being will go into the world and love the broken, they will make disciples, they will reflect the life and work of Jesus. They will believe Jesus when he said “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). A person who believes this lives a radically transformed life. When you meet these people, you know that they know Jesus intimately.
This radical love in the body of Christ is infectious. A Jesus-centered people reflects Christ in their own community inwardly, and and reaches to the world around them outwardly. The church that collectively lives out the life and work of Jesus is a place that people cannot help but feel welcomed. A body of Jesus people that views Him as the center of everything does not conform to the culture of the world, but understands that the love of Christ transcends all culture. They go into their neighborhood, city, and world as ambassadors for Christ, sacrificing their own cares and comforts for the advancement of the Gospel and the needs of others.
If the church were like this, what would happen? Reading the Gospels, Jesus and His disciples could not get away from the crowds of people flocking to His radical love. The church today does not look like that. People are constantly turned away from the body of Christ because they feel judged, or because they simply don’t feel welcomed into the community. A church centered around Christ is broken people who come together to collectively acknowledge their need for more of Jesus. It is not an environment where people feel like thy need to pretend they have everything together, but where they feel welcomed to worship God in community. I want so badly for this to be true of the people of God. I desperately hope that the church will become the most hospitable people in the world because they are so in love with the the person of Jesus and desire to imitate Him.
Please join me in praying for true belief of this truth in my own life and in the lives of God’s people! Pray for the continued sanctification of the church to become wholly reliant on the person and work of Jesus in all of life!