Question and Answer/Essay 1 of 3 on Practical Christ-Centeredness (Written For My Good Friend Matt Click)

Matt: What is the danger of a Christ-less Christianity (for example, in our churches and sermons and self-defined holiness), and how can we prevent it?

Brian: In order to examine a Christ-less Christianity, one must first know the biblical Christ.  For while some truly have none of Christ in their “Christianity”, others have only parts of Him, but as Christ is not divided, so to have only elements of the biblical Christ is to have no true Christ at all either.  When God graced humanity with His Word, the Word revealed the biblical Christ, and in Him, the Father.  Therefore, to confess something less than Him whom God has graciously revealed is to fall infinitely short of the Jesus in whom the sinner can be saved and the church sanctified and prepared for eternal glory.

Therefore, the danger of a Christ-less “Christianity” no matter the form it takes is that it is not Christianity in the biblical sense.  There is a clear dividing line here between many who call themselves “Christians”.  This makes understanding and intimately knowing the biblical Christ infinitely essential.  So, I will give one portrait from biblical theology: Jesus is the serpent-crushing seed of Abraham, in whom the nations are being blessed; He is Israel, the firstborn Son of God, perfectly abiding in every word of God’s law; He is the Son of the Father in the Davidic line, whose kingdom shall have no end; He is the Psalm 2 King of kings, indeed, He is the Isaianic Son of a virgin, whose name is Immanuel, “God with us”, and Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; this Son is no less than God Himself, yes, God in the flesh; and God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us such that in Him we might become the very righteousness of God – this He did by a sinless life, a cross, a bodily resurrection from the dead, and an enthronement at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so that you and I, the worms, might be made princes and princesses of His Kingdom, united to God forever.  Jesus is the God-man, Lord, Savior, and Treasure.

“Christ”-ianity, then, becomes something quite different from what many profess.  One is not able to fashion the Christ that they are comfortable with; no, they must have this Jesus or none at all.  We will either be John’s who rest upon His breast, or Thomas’ who after doubting yet worship Him with the praise, “Lord of me, and God of me,” or we will be Judas’ who look very much like the rest only to discover that He never knew us – we looked good but were devoid of Christ.

The implications of Christ-less Christianity are legion, but they may be summed up in this: it is not Christianity, but a worldly guise.  Let a man call himself “Christian”, let him wear that name loosely, and then go about his life hoping in his morality to save him.  Such morality apart from Christ is only tinsel cast upon the prison cell of sin; it only beautifies the prison, but it remains a prison nonetheless.  No, there must be an earthquake in the soul that shakes the hinges of the prison doors open!  This is the irresistible call of God to Christ alone!  Let a man pray a thousand times over, let him be baptized at one, ten, and again at the age of 50, let him sing in the choir, let him preach sermons, yes, let him be of anthropological elite, but if he has cast not his sinful heart upon the biblical Christ alone, he has only a formalized religion on his side, which are mere trifling, and less than nothing before the holy gaze of God Almighty.  So where does this leave us?

First, Paul encourages the church to test herself.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Notice that Paul is writing to the church at Corinth with this Christ-centered challenge.  The tenor of this verse really begs the question, “How could you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?”  Faith in Christ alone unites to Christ alone, and where one has been united to Christ alone, the reality and vitality of Christ’s life will work itself inside out by the Spirit of Christ.  And so as not to leave you hanging, that life will be marked by at least 4 indispensable things (John 8:42-47): love for Jesus, love for and thus obedience to His Word, holy desires for God our Father, and as an overflowing stream, love for people without distinction.  Where these are not, there is surely no Christian, and no true Church, and no possibility of any distinctive witness to a Christ-less world.

Second, much blame can be laid at the feet of preachers and teachers in the church who themselves are not Christ-filled.  Now, of course, this is a polarity, but a real one.  But what of those believers whom God has given the desire to pastor, teach, and preach?  “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2a)!  The Word of God is Christ-centered.  Jesus is the Word put on flesh, John 1:14; Christ is the goal of the Scriptures, Luke 24:27; the Bible bears witness to Christ, John 5:39-40, and so we must saturate every word of every sermon manuscript with the sweet honey of Jesus Christ.  Our sermons must be sticky with Christ.  Preach from the Old, yes, preach from the New, but preach Christ alone.  You may say, “I am topical and what has my topic to do with Christ,” or “my people are growing weary of Christ”; then, I say, dear friend, “Christ has everything to do with any topic, indeed, ‘all things were created through Him and for Him’” and to the next, “Preach Christ until they are sick of Him, and perhaps some may be saved, and if not, then at least Christ shall be honored!”  Where does our devotion land my brothers?  To Christ or the masses?  Shall we sacrifice Him again for the sake of popularity?  May it never be!  Let us preach Christ in all the Scriptures; let it be said of you: “He only preached one thing and that was Christ alone!”

Third, and though it has been mentioned above, self-defined holiness is not Christian holiness.  Christian holiness is Christ-defined.  Indeed, Christ is unto us “our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Yes, dear brothers and sisters, go to your Bible studies, to your prayer meetings, flee to the worship service where you can listen to Christocentric preaching and sing songs that magnify His name, but do not trust in them lest you fall again into that damnable pattern of the world.  Christ is our righteousness.  In Christ, God has made us positionally holy, and in Christ, God is making us practically holy, and thus, our holiness is inseparable from that greatest gift of Jesus Christ.  Do not be confused, you who grace the doors of the church building but do not belong to the church of God – God is not mocked!  Christ is your answer; flee from structures you have built for yourself to save you in that day – they will fall woefully short of eternal glory!  Trust Christ, embrace Christ alone!  He will save you in that Day!  

And to close, God has so designed redemption that only His Son could accomplish it, and having done so with infinite perfection, that only His Son was appointed both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).  Christ, then, must receive all of the glory; Christianity by definition, then, is a Christ-filled reality; herein, a Christ-less “Christianity” falls terribly short of that biblical ideal.

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