A little longer post today, but I have been reflectiong on it for a couple days now.
We are preparing to Celebrate Christmas, and Emmanuel, God with us. From his birth in a manger onward, Jesus became central to the identity of the church. Christians have always agreed that the church is all about Jesus—her very existence, identity, purposes, and functions are all completely bound up with this person who is at the core of it all. He is our Founder, Redeemer, Lord, and our Head.
If Jesus is God’s will in human form and the perfect expression of his nature, then we cannot bypass him and still remain in the Faith. Even our understanding of God is fundamentally changed by his birth: Whatever we now seek to know about God must pass through the lens of this particular person—Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is “the Father’s ‘summary statement.” Or as we put it in theological language, “Jesus is preeminent.” To get a feel for the importance of this, listen to Paul who in order to communicate something of the revelation derived through Jesus and this meaning on the church, had to resort to some pretty dense theological statements.
13 "He [God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by and through him all things were created everything in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he existed before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the ecclesia (church). He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col.1:13-20)
The ecclesia (church) therefore ought to be the one place in human existence where Jesus is to be taken with the utmost possible seriousness, enough to make him central to absolutely everything Christ-ian. For all Christians salvation depends on identifying with Christ. Christian Identity follows from Christian faith. Who could deny this? And yet, the church has consistently failed to fully represent Jesus in the world. As Alan Hirsch puts it, “One can perhaps say that any church is dysfunctional to the degree that it lacks focus on Jesus. In other words, the lack of Jesus ethos and presence lies at the root of all dysfunctional religion.”
Religion has a way of marginalizing the central role of Jesus in the life of his people—apparently he is too difficult to deal with. You might think that all this is basic Sunday School and goes without saying. But it’s truly astounding how churches forget their very nature and purpose as Jesus’s people.
Jesus is, and must remain, the defining criterion for everything important about the church. Where else can we go to gauge whether we are truly Christ-ian people and we are truly witnessing to the Jesus revealed the Gospels? Are we really consistent with the ethos, teachings, model, and agenda of our Founder?
Paul states, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1Cor.3:10-11
Therefore, any attempt to circumvent or diminish the "preeminence of Jesus" in our lives (individual and communal), means that we inevitably end up with something far less than what God intended through us first place. We are either defined by Jesus or we are not. And history is clear when we are not defined and shaped by Jesus, other cultural and spiritual forces quickly will fill the gap and we move to becoming a false, illegitimate, and toxic religion.
By declaring our identity in Jesus, we clarify the most important aspect of the church…that it consists of the people who are redeemed by Jesus, who belong to Jesus, are led by Jesus, and are willing to be defined by Jesus in every way possible.
"We are being transformed into his image from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2Cor.3:18).
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the one who's identity will define our Christian faith, take some time today to reflect on, "Am I willing to be defined by Jesus in every way possible?"
Please share your thoughts or comments.