Table of Contents
The Centrality of Jesus Christ
No other life has solicited as much fascination and attention as that of Jesus Christ.
He was born into poverty. He did not spend time in palaces or castles. He never traveled much more than 100 miles. He worked an ordinary job as a carpenter. He was homeless. He wandered. He had no flashy looks. He did not attend any schools or hold any political offices. His ministry did not even last as long as one presidential term. Yet no one has had such a far-reaching impact as Jesus.
Jesus is often thought of as an epic teacher and a gentle servant – and He is those things. However, what sets Jesus apart is that He is God. He is the second person of the Trinity – God the Son – and demonstrated that with clarity and profundity (see Matthew 9:6, Mark 4:39, Luke 22:69-70, John 8:58). To study Jesus is to study God. To learn from Jesus is to learn Truth from God. To read the words of Jesus is to read the words of God. Jesus is fully God and fully man.
Living a life of flawless moral perfection, with perfect love for God and all people, He lived the life no other human could. He then intentionally went to the cross. There, He was punished for sin, being treated as sinners deserved so that sinners who trust in Him might be forgiven of sin, reconciled to God, and treated as Jesus actually deserved for all eternity.
But vindication was His, as He rose from the dead three days later, having permanently defeated sin, death, and Satan.
He came to save the souls of all who would trust in Him. He came to quench the desires of the soul for all who would embrace Him. Through His life, death, and resurrection, we worship Him as God, love Him as Savior, and follow Him as Lord.
Jesus Christ is the hero of the universe and our lives.
Just as Jesus has drawn more attention than any person in history, so the Bible has drawn more attention than any book in history.
This book (Scripture) has been the catalyst to transforming lives. It has come under fervent scrutiny and passed the tests of authenticity, unity, and veracity. This book has survived wars, bloodshed, fire, destruction, and hatred. It speaks with clarity and precision on all kinds of matters – hope, despair, sex, children, marriage, relationships, wisdom, work, heaven, hell, salvation, and God.
The Bible is God’s sole written revelation of Himself and of humanity, and what that means for us. It is one book containing a collection of 66 shorter books (39 Old Testament, 27 New Testament) originally inspired in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) over a period of about 1600 years by 40 different writers on three different continents.
To say Scripture is inspired is to say that God supernaturally used people to write exactly what he wanted without error in the original languages. These human authors represented every socio-economic class from royalty to poverty, academic to uneducated.
Scripture is the standard and authority of truth with respect to all subjects that it addresses. Therefore, we can be confident that it is totally sufficient for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). God has spoken, and all that He has said is recorded for humanity of all cultures and time in the Bible.
The Bible is God’s inerrant, authoritative, sufficient, and sole word of truth. Therefore, every other truth rests on that truth. Just as Jesus is Truth in person, so Scripture is Truth in written word.
Just as a human is born in order to grow physically, God grants salvation to the lost so that they would grow spiritually. God does not grant salvation for stagnation, but for transformation.
Every day in the Christian life is a day of growth and transformation (Romans 12:1-2). Though there is never a time on this earth in which we “arrive” spiritually (until we are actually with Jesus), growth is to be the norm for every Christian from salvation to death. The process is sometimes painful, but it is also joyful. God uses his indwelling Spirit, his word, other people, relationships, preaching, study, repentance, prayer, difficult circumstances, and more to accomplish this growth. And this growth is not reserved for the “serious Christian” only. Rather, to be Christian means to grow (Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:28).
This process is called sanctification, which involves 100% our effort and 100% God’s effort (Philippians 2:12-13). God’s goal for the Christian is not virtue so much as it is Christlikeness; it is not morality so much as it is becoming like Jesus. The growth is not abstract, but concrete, experienced and expressed in every detail of life – desires, motivations, thoughts, words, actions, private time, time with friends and family, in business, under pressure, and at leisure.
God’s goal for every Christian is that we all increasingly and comprehensively reflect the character of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
It has been said, “There is no such thing as lone-ranger Christianity.”
According to the Bible, Christianity is anything but a private venture. As you read the New Testament, you quickly get the picture that living the Christian life is a community effort. In the New Testament alone we find about 40 commands that contain the words “one another.” For example, “love one another,” “honor one another,” “rejoice with one another,” “encourage one another,” “serve one another,” and “pray for one another.”
In God’s church, Christians’ struggles and joys are to be shared one with another. This necessitates community. We cannot love, honor, or serve others unless we are sharing our lives together. This kind of community challenges the individualistic culture in which we live. Jesus is creating a people, not merely isolated individuals that believe in him.
A personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not mean merely an individual relationship with him. To be a Christian is to be saved into community. Having a personal relationship means that Jesus individually saves and sanctifies me, but he makes that happen in the community of his church: in small groups, spending time with other families, living a transparent and vulnerable life with each other, and in countless other situations in which we share honesty, integrity, humility, and encouragement.
Our sin makes this hard. We want to flee from each other in discomfort, disagreement, and hurt. It is said that sin is anti-social. But in the gospel, Jesus demonstrates something greater. He approaches us and loves us in our sin. In the church, disagreement, discomfort, and sin are not occasions for isolation, but for gospel-type love.
The diversity and struggles of community are God’s means of bringing us together and transforming us into greater Christlikeness. We strive for relationships where gossip is absent and encouragement is abundant. The church is to be a place where we use our gifts, skills, and resources to help each other and imitate Jesus. Christ desires we become a community characterized by and known for his sacrificial love.
To be on mission means that, as a pattern of life, we seek to extend the love of Jesus Christ in the gospel to our community and beyond through word and deed.
We do not necessarily have to go somewhere in order to be on mission. Because God calls us to proclaim his excellencies as a way of life (1 Peter 2:9-10), Christians are on mission wherever they find themselves. Whether at home, at work, in the neighborhood, out riding a bike, or traveling overseas, Christians get to be on mission.
Being on mission requires intention, prayer, strategy, and love. Intention, because Christ is not displayed in word and deed accidentally. We prayerfully seek ways to imitate and share the love of Jesus. Strategy is needed because in each community there are a variety of ways to meet and serve people. Not everyone is served the same way or has the same background. Love is necessary to show that the message is transforming. Christ can be shared over lunch, during a bike ride, and through acts of service.
The application is endless. The hope is that others come to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior. The purpose is to honor Jesus.