Originally Published in Today Magazine
Bob Buchanon, editor
A Christ-Centered Life
By Bob Buchanon
What a different world this would be if only we were willing to speak and act in such a way that those about us could see Christ in us! Maybe we need to pause and look again at the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount-- “Let your light shine before me, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
I have always enjoyed sharing the short story about a little crippled boy who tried to earn some money by selling fresh fruit and candy at the passenger gate of the railway station. One day he was hurrying as fast as his crutches would permit and the passengers were rushing through the gate. A business man accidentally hit the basket, sending oranges, apples, and candy in all directions. He stopped only long enough to scold the boy for being in the way.
Another man who was passing by saw the boy’s distress and began picking up the fruit. As he put it into the basket, he placed a dollar bill in the hand of the boy, smiled, and said, “Better luck next time.” With that kind gesture, he went his way.
“Hey, mister,” called out the boy, “are you Jesus?”
“No,” answered his new friend, “I’m just one of His followers.”
I can’t help but wonder at times, “How many people have watched my life, know of my faith, and feel they have seen Christ?” When we leave a crowded room, what is our main concern? Was I dressed properly? Did they like my jokes? Do they think I have a pleasing personality? Or did I wonder, “Did they see Christ in me?”
The apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians might well be titled, “Living a Christ-centered life.” It’s a short epistle (only four chapters), but Paul gets right to the issue of how that Christ is the very heart and core of the Christian’s life. In another epistle, he had said we were baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3). Here in Colossians he says if we are “in Christ” and Christ in us, we have access to every spiritual blessing which God intends for His people today. Or, as Paul expresses it in Col. 2:10, “Ye are complete in Him.”
You show me a man or woman who professes to be a Christian and I’ll show you a person that should be at peace and full of joy, love, and contentment. Wherever you find one who is unhappy, or who feels incomplete, or who lacks any assurance, or who is unfruitful in righteousness, you can mark it down that he or she is not living a Christ-centered life.
THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Too many Christians I know look too much to the church and expect the church to fulfill their every spiritual need. Many preachers and/or elders have encouraged this type of thinking. Many congregations plan enough activities to keep a family at the meeting house every night of the week. They feel this will keep the member strong and spiritually alive. Yes, the church is the body of Christ, but it is not the source of spiritual life and power: it is but the reflection or extension of that power. The real source of spiritual life and power is Christ! The reason many congregations are filled with good Bible students, members that are hospitable and friendly is because the members are living Christ-centered lives.
There are others who lean on their own wisdom and knowledge for spiritual life. Now don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that wisdom and knowledge are wrong, per se. I’m just saying that human wisdom is vain and deceptive and spiritually bankrupt. And it is possible to have great Bible knowledge and still be unsatisfied. Some of the most miserable people one can meet are those who have a knowledge of the Bible but whose heart and life are not yet committed to Jesus Christ. “In Christ,” Paul says, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Several years ago I engaged in a radio debate with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the well-known atheist. She has memorized more passages of Scripture than many Christians I know. She knows all of the facts, but knowing about Christ and knowing Him are two different things! I have also met some in the church whose minds are filled with Biblical knowledge and facts, but their hearts are cold and empty because Christ is not the center and motivating force of their daily lives. To paraphrase what Jesus told some of the Jews in John 5:39-40, “You need to study some more. You think you know the scriptures, but they are testifying of me and you don’t even know me.”
And then, there are still others who think that they can find spiritual life in religious activities and a multitude of good works. I’ll make the same observation here that I did with wisdom--I’m not saying that good works are wrong. It is just that this route can prove very vain and illusive. One can “go through the motions” and still not feel happy and complete. One might attend every service of the church, perform countess good deeds, and be the largest financial contributor in the congregation--but, without Christ, all is empty and vain. With Christ, however, every religious act is meaningful and edifying and fulfilling.
In view of these things, we need to stop and very seriously ask, “What does it mean to live a Christ-centered life? Can the world see Jesus in me?”
THE THEME OF OUR PREACHING
The great story of the beginning of the Lord’s church is given in Acts 2. In that first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit-empowered apostles preached Christ. They showed from the Scriptures how that He had fulfilled prophecy. He was the Messiah the prophets had foretold. The apostles proclaimed his death, burial, and triumphant resurrection. They preached His ascension and exaltation at God’s right hand, reigning on David’s spiritual throne as King of kings and Lord of lords. As a result of that powerful message, around three thousand souls were “pricked in their heart” and cried out, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter told them to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (verse 38).
Throughout the book of Acts, we note that Jesus was always the theme of the preacher’s message. In chapter 4, we find Peter and John preaching boldly in the name of Christ. “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom we crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (verse 10). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (verse 12). Then in Acts 8:5 we read: “Then Christ unto them.” Verse 8 says, “And there was great joy in that city.” The joy wasn’t brought about because the circus was in town, because there was to be a large pie supper, or because the preacher was going to do magic show at some fellowship hall. The joy was brought because Christ was being preached! In Acts 8:35, we find Philip reaching Jesus to a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority. As soon as this man heard the message of Jesus, he wanted to be baptized immediately. They stopped the chariot in which they were riding, got out, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him into Christ. Verse 39 then says the eunuch, “went on his way rejoicing” Why was he rejoicing? It wasn’t because he was converted to the preacher; he was converted to Christ.
A NEW LIFE
And yet, we must not only be baptized into Christ, but we must also come forth from that watery grave to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Paul told those brethren at Colosse to “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). When a person is buried with Christ in baptism, dies to the old life, and is raised up a new creature in Christ, his entire value system and outlook on life is changed. That’s why Jesus called in being “born again” (John 3:3-5). No longer does he live for earthly or material things. His affections are now transferred to Christ and heavenly things. He will present his body as a living sacrifice, “holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1). He knows that this world is passing away, and that earthly treasures offer no real or lasting security. The life which we now live here, even if we should live to be 200 years old (which we know that we won’t), is but a moment in comparison with eternity. The Christian’s goal and hope, therefore, are to be found faithful in Christ at His coming, and to be able to spend eternity with Hm in the heavenly home.
Living a Christ-centered life, then, is to live with that eternal goal continually in mind. This earth is not our home, we are just passing through. Read again Colossians 3:2.
The inspired writer of Hebrews 12:1-2 likens the Christian’s life to the running of a foot race. In order to run this race successfully to the finish, we must do two things: First, we must lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us; and, second, we must look continually to Jesus as our help and sustainer, for He is the author and finisher of our faith.
Anything which might hinder, hold us back, or slow us down, must be cast aside. For some, this might be close friends or family that do not desire to live as Christ would have them live. For others, it might be involvement in a worldly amusement or sporting event. For others, it might be a habit (drinking, smoking, crude jokes, immodest clothing, etc.) which cripples their influence as a Christian which holds you back and keeps you from running the best race possible--it must be sacrificed and laid aside if it would keep you from attaining the crown of life.
The invitation to accept Jesus is an invitation to whole-hearted commitment. He doesn’t want half of you, He doesn’t even want 99% of you. He wants all of you! There is no real Christian commitment unless it is wholehearted; for anything less is not true commitment. Can the world see Christ in you?