Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. However, it is often portrayed to be all about keeping to certain standards of behaviour. Why does this happen? And how do we make sure that our focus is always upon Jesus Christ.
The Need of New Life
There is something attractive about living in a nice social environment where people lead good lives and there is an acceptance of wholesome moral standards. The danger is though, that we can start to think of this type of society as being “Christian” because certain levels of behaviour are found there. We delude ourselves when we reach this conclusion. What actually tends to happen in these circumstances is that the reality of sin is camouflaged. It is still there, but it is not as obvious as it is in a society where there is open sin and rebellion.
The Providing of New Life
Whether sin is camouflaged or out in the open does not alter the fact that it is there in both cases. Accordingly, what each society needs is the proclaiming of Christ. Because each individual needs to receive Christ to save them from their sins. The mission of Jesus stands as summed up by Paul that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15b). It was this message which gripped the early church. So it is observed that in the Book of the Acts when the first messages of the Christian era were proclaimed they were about Jesus Christ. Jesus was the focus and goal of their ministry
We read that Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there (Acts 8:5). Further when Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch we read that he told him the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35b). Then of the converted Saul we read that at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20). And Paul, looking back at his ministry among the Corinthians said that I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).
The focus of the Christian message then (as it should be now) was that we have need of one to rescue us from our sins, one to transform our lives that we might lives for the pleasure of God. That one is Jesus Christ. To preach moral reformation is in the end futile. It is like putting perfume on a corpse. The perfume makes it smell nicer, but does not alter it from being a corpse. So it is with this world. It stands condemned in its sin; we all personally stand condemned in our sin. Improvement of morals does alter the essential condition of the world. Thus, although we are called to stand for godly standards, we should never think that these standards will save society. It is only Jesus Christ who saves.
The One who does save is Jesus. That is why we find the early church focussing on the proclaiming of Jesus Christ as the living resurrected LORD. When the Word says, as it does concerning Philip and Saul, that they were preaching Jesus Christ, there is an assumption that they were preaching a message which showed people why and how they needed to know Jesus Christ. In doing so they would show people their sinfulness. They did NOT preach that the people were sinful and needed to live a good life. They preached that they were sinful and needed a Saviour. They preached Jesus Christ, and so must we.
It is sometimes said that someone who has a nice character and is generally kind would make a good Christian. But this fundamentally misrepresents the transformation that everyone needs. The non-Christian has a nature which can never please God. We all need a transformation and that only comes when we believe the gospel and submit to Jesus Christ as LORD.
The Living of New Life
Moreover Jesus Christ is the One that we, as Christians, need as well. There is a tendency among Christians to think that once we become Christians all we now need to do is to live a good life. But to be a Christian is about the life of Christ being lived out through us. Paul says to the Colossians Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:2-4). Jesus Christ is our life. We need to continually realise that the Christian life is not about attaining moral standards, but about having the flow of Christ’s life through us. We therefore need to preach Christ to ourselves, to one another, and hear Him preached in our services. As we have emphasized the need to focus on Christ in all realms of our lives we need to continually remind ourselves of the danger of subtly slipping away from our focus on Christ. We must remember that to know Christianity is not life; Christ is. And introducing people to church is not the key issue. Rather, introducing people to Jesus Christ is the big matter.
Let Christ then be the focus of our lives and of our preaching. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ (Col. 1:28). May it be so to the glory of God.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church of November 2011)