WHY THE CHRIST-CENTERED LIFE?

THE NEED FOR REAL DEPTH IN CHRISTIAN LIFE

People need real depth in their lives. Christians need real spiritual depth in their lives. Every human being needs deep relationships that are hallmarked by love and trust. Church should be the body of Christians that caters to the deepest human needs.

However, it is well documented that many sincere Christians are frustrated – both with their Christian lives but especially with their experience(s) of church(es). Many of those Christians are abandoning their churches and denominations, especially in the West. Unfortunately, some may also abandon their faith at the same time.

A few churches are growing, but a great many churches are losing people on a regular basis. Many things are done to try and keep people in church and to try to attract new people to church. Entertainment and compromise often seem to be the order of the day, and going to church often seems to be a duty rather than something to be looked forward to. No wonder people leave church never to return.

Why is all of that so? Because, for many Christians reality, happiness and heaven seem far too far away in time, and they seem so far out of reach. Church all too often seems to offer nothing that is real for the here and now. Church does not seem to be relevant to the real world of work, of caring for family and of finding a meaning in life.

For a great many Christians, everything around church seems to be so shallow and what is found in church often seems to be merely just another form of religion that is no different to any religion on planet Earth. It seems to be merely about behaving well, saying the right things in the right way, and conforming to what is expected. Where is the depth?

Is church really just another social club? Where is the superabundant and overflowing life that Jesus spoke of? Where is the dynamic life and vitality that should be found in his body, his bride? Where is the taste of heaven? But heaven is not merely a place that we get to go to when we die, and it is not just some vague hope that is entirely in the future. No!

Heaven is the presence of Christ — a presence that can be experienced right here, and right now. Christ came to bring us into relationship with God through relationship with him. Happiness (and unhappiness) come from circumstances, but joy comes from the reality of experienced relationships. First and foremost, joy comes from knowing Christ in an ever-deepening love relationship. From this joy, all joy springs.

Can a mere book help you to discover this for yourself? Of course, we all know that there are thousands of Christian books on the market: Christian books for men, Christian books for women, Christian books covering everything from prayer, marriage, forgiveness to Christian leadership and far beyond; indeed, the list is endless. What is needed, however, are books of real depth, not just more of the same that are sounding the same and saying the same. Too many books merely ‘saw sawdust’, as A.W. Tozer once said.

Where is the real and vibrant life of Christ? Where is the Christ-centeredness that is evident all the way through Scripture? As human beings, we are driven to explore the height, depth and width of the world around us. As human beings, we want to find out for ouselves. Why are we not driven to explore the height, depth and width of Christ?

Mountains and Woman 1

WHAT IS CHRIST-CENTEREDNESS?

Put simply, this is the revelation that Jesus the Christ really is the very center of everything, that it is around him that everything revolves and is focused, and that everything testifies about him and points to him, whether it realizes it or not.

Since Jesus the Christ really is the center of everything, everyone should be aware of looking at things that realize—make real—the centrality of Christ in everyday life. Of course, this requires revelation from God, and such a revelation calls us to explore and know God, even as we are known. Such a revelation will radically impact the way we live and move and have our being.

Relationship with God cannot be divorced from relationship with people. It is all about real relationships in real life. First, a real relationship with Christ, and then real relationships with other people. Human beings are relational creatures. We were made to relate to other people. We were made to relate to the God who made us. The best person to tell us who we are is the God through whom we were made. The best person to focus our lives on is the God through whom we were made. God knows who and what each one of us is, and he calls us to live out our identities in Christ.

Such revelation affects our whole lives and, for example, transforms how we read the Scriptures. As one example, I have often heard it said that the early church in Acts met together for fellowship with each other, but I do not think that it was their primary purpose for being together at all. I believe they gathered together to meet with the Christ who was moving and working in their midst. There was a holy fear in their midst. True fellowship, then, is Christ-centered, not meeting-centered. So the Christ-centered life makes this statement: the aim of fellowship is to meet together with Christ, not simply to meet together.

That is not say that any meeting together has no value unless it is truly Christ-centered – of course not. But surely knowing Christ is what we really need and – hopefully – it is what we really want. All too often, we do not get it. We acknowledge in our songs that everything is all about Jesus, we tag his name onto the ends of our prayers, and we speak of salvation as being in Jesus. But it is too easy not to live Christ-centered lives in daily reality, but instead to just drift from year to year, decade to decade.

Jesus himself made clear that true life is in him alone. This is not about doctrine, teaching or guidelines. It is about actually knowing Christ and growing in love for him. He is the source of our life. The danger for us is that, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we refuse to come to him for life.

What is our reaction to all this? Is it to nod our heads in agreement but then carry on exactly as before? Or is it to ask the Spirit of God to radically transform our hearts and minds so that we are becoming truly Christ-centered in everything we say and do? There is so much of Christ, so much in Christ and so much from Christ. Shallowness will never discover what lies beyond the fog of unknowing.

Mountains and Man 3

LIVING CHRIST-CENTEREDNESS

As God established in me the foundation of Christ-centered living on which my own life is based, there was one certainty that I had to face: Christ-centeredness excluded self-centeredness. There is a real cost to be paid if we are to be truly Christ-centered. Nevertheless, the rewards of being Christ-centered are enormous, and the cost of being Christ-centered is truly insignificant when compared to the benefits of knowing Christ.

God’s focus is on the Son, and with the Son he gives us everything else. This is no “in the heavenlies” theology. This is what I go on receiving from God as I go on meeting with Jesus on an ongoing basis. We all need to go on meeting with Christ day-after-day so that we all may go on receiving from God day-after-day, growing into who we are in Christ.

God’s ‘yes’ is in Christ. It is not in the law, it is not in good behavior, it is not in sound theology, it is not in right belief, and it is not even in solid doctrine. I am certainly not saying that any of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they must be given their proper place. If we are Christ-centered, they will have their proper place. This should cause us to look at the Scriptures in a fresh way.

When the revelation of Christ-centeredness came into my life and started its transforming work in me through the Spirit of God, I began to read the Scriptures in a new way. Everywhere I looked in the Scriptures, I found the supremacy of Christ. After all, that is exactly what the Christ himself said about the Scriptures.

For example, the apostle Peter was centered firmly on Christ. For Peter, it really was all about the Christ, even if he did not really understand that while the Christ walked with his disciples. The apostle John was Christ-centered as he wrote about the Christ who was both fully God and fully man.

This set me to exploring another astonishing truth: The whole of creation centers on relationship with its creator in the first instance, but creation also centers on relationship with humankind. Indeed, the whole of creation itself centers on relationship with Jesus the Christ. Eternal and everlasting relationship is what the new creation is all about. The Scriptures begin and end with relationship.

“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift” (Revelation 22:16–17).

I was staggered to realize that, when everything has been wound up and handed over to the Father, it is the man Jesus who will appear at the end of the age. I expected it to be the Christ who would appear at the very end, or perhaps the Christ in the role of one of his many other titles. But no, it is the man Jesus himself.

My own new beginning began in Jesus, and it will surely find its ultimate fulfillment in the Christ. Everything really is all about Christ himself. My heart wanted to explore that as far as I possibly could. I want to be Jesus-the-Christ-centered in everything; in prayer, in Scripture reading, in doing everyday chores, in the whole of life.

This website is dedicated to the Christ-centered life. This is not just about my own books or my own teaching. Other Christ-centered people will feature here over time and come under the Christ-centered banner. I am, for example, honored to have a link to Chris Bowater’s website on my links page, and I gladly support and encourage such a Christ-centered man of God.

It was also my deliberate choice in naming the website as “The Christ-Centered Life” rather than, for example, using my own name. It is not about me – for it is all about Christ, and the site’s URL reflects that. Heaven can be now.

Garden 3