Even a cursory reading of the first letter to the Corinthian Church produces an understanding that Jesus is the center of our life, our practice and our message to the world. In chapter 1 and verses 22-23 we read, “for we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness”. In Chapter two Paul makes this message the emphasis of his personal ministry, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Just for good measure after God’s correction in the first letter Paul reminds them all yet again of the calling of the church and its ministry blueprint in II Corinthians 4:2-5
2But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.3But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
The center of Paul’s ministry was Christ Jesus and the emphasis, was Christ the Lord and Christ crucified (which includes the resurrection see I Corinthians 15). One very serious issue Christianity in America is facing is that our center and emphasis has shifted away from that which Paul based his life and ministry on. We have become those who preach our intellectual, philosophical and theological views on various Biblical things that we find important (while throwing Jesus name into it a bit), instead of that which the Church in Acts of the Apostles preached and taught. This modern ministry paradigm has left the masses wanting and departing the church. Only a few years ago the Assemblies of God published a troubling statistic that over 180,000 teens to young adults would leave the church in the next 10 years and return no more (not anywhere). In typical human fashion a statistic like this clobbers leaders with how we become more relevant. We rush to start more young adult ministries and pour money in youth ministry designed to make teens what many parents seldom happen upon in being followers of Jesus, instead of looking for the root of the issue.
The root I am speaking of can be seen clearly in the theme of the book, “Has Christianity Failed You” by Ravi Zacharias. In the introduction the author intimates those who feel Christianity has failed them have never been failed by Jesus (Who cannot fail), but by the Church. I would agree. Anyone who truly meets Jesus and places their trust in Him will feel no lack from His person, power, or provision. Jesus is fully satisfying. As we are looking at a shrinking church with unsatisfied followers and a world that sees our faith as insufficient, we must realize what our lack of Christ centeredness has produced.
We still make converts but to what is the question? Our teaching and practice makes converts to our ideas, our religious philosophies, our pet doctrines and our distinctives. In a generalized sense we make converts to ourselves using Jesus name as the seal of God’s permission. This creates two things. In the first place it creates people who have faith in things Christ related, but not Christ necessarily. We make disciples of theological systems and philosophies; “I am a Calvinist” or, “I am Armenian”. We create followers who have faith in their denomination as being the right one. Have you ever heard this statement or one like it, “Well they go to that Baptist Church down the road. At least they go to church”. Isn’t that nice? We create those who trust in their distinctives to the point of division. We demean those who have a differing distinctive, painting them as less Christian or not even in the Kingdom of God. I personally believe that emphasizing these other things instead of Christ crucified, arises from a fear of being caught as wrong or a fear of being unable to answer the big questions that God has yet to provided answers for. Therefore we highlight those things we see explaining God, who is past finding out, in ways that make us feel comfortable. We should learn well the truth in Colossians 2:9 where we read that Jesus is the fullness of Godhead in bodily form. All that we can see and know of God we can find in being fixated on Christ and dare I say Christ crucified. For those who would say I am purporting a faith and practice devoid of doctrine, just hold your horses, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Himself is the living and breathing doctrine of God. Paul exhorted Timothy to teach the doctrine and heed it himself for in doing so he would keep himself and those who heard him (Timothy 4:16). Doctrine is good, life giving and essential as long as it is filtered through the Doctrine of Christ.
It is quite interesting how often we miss the lessons the Bible teaches us to avoid these issues. One of those lessons relevant to our discussion is found in I Corinthians 1:10-13…
10Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
God’s message through these verses has seldom been heeded for any real length of time in the Church, since its beginning. In this scripture Paul is speaking of the divisions and elitism our modern ministry paradigm produces without emphasising Christ crucified. This is the second area we need to address if we will see a turning in our day. Sadly we seem to be the epitome of what Paul is speaking of and can see it through the division that exists in the Church in America. This division is enlarged by the force with which we debate one another instead of rallying around Christ the Lord and Him crucified. We must be careful to not see force of argument about our theologies, philosophies and distinctives as the power of God. Paul warned us that even our biblical arguments would destroy if not desired and instituted by the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 3:5-6). How can we turn the tide and harness this power and life that will revive the Church and satisfy the soul dead in sin? We focus on the truth we read in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Christ crucified), for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believes to the Jew first and then to the Greek”. The word for power in the Greek means force, miraculous power. Simply put things that can only be produced by God. If we search the Word of God we will find them in numbers untold. If we look outside our narrow scope we will see they still happen the world over where Christ crucified and Christ Lord are the heart focus of the church. This miraculous power is seen in the of new birth in Christ, the greatest miracle of God and the normal product of preaching Christ crucified. When the church grasps this truth and focuses it energy on it, Jesus who is Life brings life to His Church and the lost around them.
What are you in love with? What do you serve? What do you spend your time propagating? What do spend your time studying? For the Christian any answer other than Christ Jesus the Lord and Him Crucified is to illustrate a need for a new fixation; a Christ fixation. Remember all we need to know can be found in Him, and no position on the elect, gifts of the Spirit or worship style has paid the price for your redemption. Remember well that not Tozer, nor Piper, nor Sproul, nor Schaffer, not the Assembly of God or Southern Baptists, or Christian and Missionary Alliance was crucified for the sin of all men. It was Jesus the Lamb of God who has crucified. It was Jesus who is the Word of God by whom all things were created that was crucified. It was Jesus the one who healed all manner of disease and still does that was crucified. It was Jesus whom changes those He comes in contact with that was crucified. It was Jesus the King of the whole universe, the Almighty God, the Rock of ages that was crucified. It was the One whose voice is as the sound of many waters that was crucified for you and the whole world world of lost men. Maybe, just maybe we should be listening to the His voice, for His doctrine.