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The Sufficiency and Centrality of Christ
By David A. DePra
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (substance or reality) is of Christ. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that inall things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. (Col 1:18)
In whom are hidall the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)
For in him dwellsall the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Col 2:9-10)
The epistle to the Colossians states what, in effect, is the theme of the Bible: The sufficiency and centrality of Christ. But read the above verses. Paul is NOT talking about the sufficiency of doctrines ABOUT Christ even true ones. No. He is not talking about beliefs. He is talking about LIFE life in Christ. He is saying that CHRIST IN US is ALL. How much do we really know about that?
It is so easy to think that when Paul uses such phrases as, "Christ our life," that he is talking about getting saved. And it is likewise so easy to think that the Truth in Jesus Christ is a list of doctrines. But despite the fact the important of these things in their place, when Paul talks about Christ being everything, He means that He is everything to us and in us. He is literally talking about Christ as our life source, continually, in a relationship with us.
Christ is supposed to be our life because through a union with Him through death and resurrection we are alive. We are alive no other way. Through union with Christ, we have come into an eternal oneness with Him that will be progressively unfolded to us for the rest of our lives. Along the way, yes, we will grow to understand doctrines. But we will grow to know Him.
New Testament Christianity, which is the only kind of real Christianity there is, was always about HIS LIFE IN US. It was never about signs, wonders, gifts, or church committees. Some of those things come along with Christ within the purpose of God. But above all else, the Holy Spirit came to glorify and testify to Jesus Christ, and to reveal Him to us personally, in a way that will make it impossible for us to ever be the same again.
Christ the Center
For the last two thousand years, the church has been filled with heresy, corruption, and unbelief. Christ has NOT been the center. All of this, of course, was predicted by Jesus Himself. (see the parable of the wheat and tares.) This does not, of course, negate the fact that God has had a people. God is not defeated. But for the most part, the visible church the part that has the power, prestige, and the public eye has NOT been in the will of God.
Why? What is missing? Where did things get off the track? And how do we fix it?
The book of Revelation tells us as does many other places in the Bible:
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Rev 2:4-5)
In a nutshell, leaving Jesus Christ as, "our FIRST love," has been the problem. Christ as OUR FIRST LOVE LOVE. Solve that, and everything else will eventually come back to its place doctrines included. Dont solve it, and just as Jesus said, even those who are guilty will eventually lose THEIR place!
If Christ was our FIRST LOVE, we would be devoted to Him above all else. His will, His glory, and His heart, would govern us. But the moment we leave Christ as our first love, everything else collapses.
Jesus Christ never told His disciples to start a church, movement, or religion. He did not tell them to start any of those things EVEN around HIS NAME! No. Rather than start the church, those first disciples BECAME the church.
But what made them become the church? Well, they didnt form any organization, did they? They did not know of such things. Rather, what made them the church was that they RECEIVED the resurrection life of Jesus Christ from on high through the Holy Spirit. In short, they were married to their FIRST LOVE.
In this relationship with Christ we find the essence of Christianity: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) That is what Christianity IS and despite the fact that there is much behind that and involved in that Christianity boils down to CHRIST IN US.
So Christ is to be our FIRST love FIRST in the sense of having PREEMINENCE over all. Once we make Christ anything else but preeminent, everything else begins to come under corruption. And that is exactly what has plagued the church for two thousand years including today.
Once we cast a shadow over this central Truth of the centrality of Christ, we are, at best, operating outside of the mind of God. We are no longer in the flow of the Holy Spirit whose entire purpose is to glorify and reveal to us Jesus Christ. And worse, once Christ is no longer sufficient, we will run to other things for that sufficiency. And that opens the door to heresy, deception, unbelief, and all manner of corruption. This has been the state of affairs, generally, in the church for the last two thousand years.
The root problem in the church for the last two thousand years is NOT that people have failed to apprehend Biblical doctrine. No although there have been plenty of false doctrines taught in the church. The problem is that people have not known Jesus Christ. But why have people not known Him? They have not known Him because they have not surrendered to Him, or even known what that means. The two always go together.
Unity in doctrine is supposed to be the PRODUCT of unity in the Person. Thus, if we only all unity in Christ the Person, we could cover other differences with love, or they would be resolved through fellowship in Him, and everyone would come to see the Truth.
Herein we see the cause of DIVISION. Division is not primarily the result of groups believing differing things. No. Division is the product of Jesus not being FIRST LOVE in each group. It is what is missing HIM that leaves things open to division. In other words, if Jesus were central in every church, there would be real unity.
Now dont be deceived. Unity is not the goal as a THING. It is quite possible to have unity by having everyone in agreement on ERROR. Just have everyone agree on what is allowed in their group and what isnt. You will have unity. You might also have group deception. But no. Real Christian unity is the result of individuals being at one with Christ Himself in Truth. And then they can work toward being at one with each other.
Real unity happens when, as Paul says, everyone has ONE MIND HIS mind. This means that everyone is living for ONE goal the glory of God. But not, "out here." IN EACH PERSON! God wants to glorify Himself in people. The church would therefore have the mind of God if each person was working toward Christs will in each other person.
Life and Light
You and I will NEVER KNOW JESUS CHRIST and if there is nothing else you understand today, understand this you will NEVER KNOW HIM until you surrender yourself to Him. And from that can come true unity.
Now, if what you think I mean by, "knowing Him," is the ability to quote Bible verses ABOUT Him, well, then you will miss the point. And if you think that, "knowing Jesus," means to have a list of facts, information, doctrines, and teachings, which EVEN RIGHTLY describe Him and His finished work as good, right, commendable, and even necessary as this is well, then you may likewise miss the point. Knowing Jesus Christ is not the same as knowing Biblical facts about Him. Knowing Jesus is the result of being ONE WITH HIM. That starts when you get saved when you are born again. But you must grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ through surrendering yourself to Him.
John wrote, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4) A number of Truths emerge from this verse. First, there is no light except it be through knowing THE LIGHT. If you and I do not know Jesus Christ, we may be highly intelligent or educated, and even be so in the Bible, but we do not have true light. Jesus is the LIGHT. Knowledge divorced from Him may be factual, but eventually turns to darkness because it has nothing to define it. Secondly, in order to have the LIGHT, you must have the LIFE. If you dont have the LIFE of Christ in you, you will never understand God. You cannot. Jesus said, "He that is of God hears God's words: you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God." (Jn. 8:47)
And yet in this there is a process of growth. Salvation is all at once, and once for all. But then we, as mentioned, must grow. Despite the fact that I did surrender my life to Christ if I was born again, it is nevertheless a fact that I must now live out that surrender. Or, to put it another way, I came to the Cross and was born anew through the resurrection. But now I must carry my Cross and die daily. As I do, the resurrection LIFE of Christ is able to be made manifest through me.
This is the only way in which to grow by surrendering to the Cross daily. But as I do, I not only grow in LIFE, but grow in LIGHT. It is quite possible to completely sidestep the Cross for my entire life and be deceived into thinking I know Jesus because I have brains enough to educate myself in the Bible. It is quite possible to be arrogant, self-righteous, mean-spirited, and religious take your pick and to know all kinds of teaching from the Bible but to be completely outside of Gods mind for your life. It is quite possible to even teach RIGHT things we need not even discuss heresy and still be WRONG with God in His plan and purpose.
The church is filled with folks in this condition. Why? Because Jesus IN THEM is not given preeminence. Because they have refused to surrender themselves, their pride, their religious self-righteousness to Christ. They have fallen for the Colossian heresy. And they dont even know it.
Colossians is an epistle which teaches us that it is NOT sufficient to merely believe all the right things. Rather, Paul teaches us that we must be in the RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with the RIGHT Person Jesus Christ. Paul always teaches that it is important to preach, teach, and believe, sound Biblical doctrine. But He likewise emphasizes that unless we HOLD FAST to the HEAD we are deceived.
We give Christ preeminence when we seek HIM first. You will notice that I did NOT say, "when we seek things from Christ," or, "when we seek His will first." This is a subtle distinction, so let me explain. We are to seek the will of God. We are to seek THINGS our needs from Christ. He wants us to. But so many of us seek things from Christ, and the will of Christ for our lives, as something that is divorced from seeking CHRIST HIMSELF. And once we begin to do that, we are off the track.
The Truth is, God is not generally going to give us THINGS apart from a living relationship with Christ Himself. He is not going to give us a THING called, "His will," separate from the Person of Christ. In fact, Jesus said this very thing. He said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God which IS Christ in us and all of these THINGS will be added." Gods highest is that we seek Christ first, and without compromise, and if we do, everything we need in the will of God will come with the package.
If you are wondering why God doesnt seem to be answering your prayers, the key might be right here. God IS answering you. But you are praying for a THING called, "Gods will." Or worse, you may be praying for YOUR will. God says to you, "I have a will and purpose for your life." But I cannot give you it on your terms. I cannot commit myself to YOUR kingdom and YOUR will. I must first dismantle all of that. And once I do, what I want to give you is My Son. Included in that will be My specific will for you."
When I say God wants to, "give us Christ," I am not talking about salvation. I am talking about a living relationship; a growing knowledge of Christ. I am talking about a witness within you that will revolutionize, change, and govern your life. If you have always wanted the peace of God, the joy of the Holy Spirit, and the Truth, you will find if ONLY in Christ. They are not THINGS, or CONDITIONS, or separate items. They are IN HIM.
If you want to get on Gods page, begin seeking Christ the Person. That is what it means to seek first His kingdom and righteousness. How do you seek Christ? Begin by unconditionally surrendering to Him. Tell Him, "whatever it takes," to bring you into this reality of Jesus. And then when God begins to put you in places where you must choose to either believe and surrender, or refuse, believe and surrender! If you do, you will find a greater release through your DEATH of resurrection LIFE. And with that life will come LIGHT will come all that belongs to Christ.
There is simply no other method possible. IN HIM are all the treasures hidden. IN HIM we are complete. IN HIM are all things. Thus, we must become more and more one with Him not just legally or factually but experientially. That means death to all that is in us that cannot abide in Him, so that we might more fully and freely abide in Him.
Christ in Us
Once you minimize CHRIST IN US and the sufficiency of HIM -- and make something else the key, or the center, or necessary for sufficiency, things are entirely out of focus. In fact, this is precisely WHY Paul wrote his epistle to the Colossians. Read the verses again quoted at the beginning of this article. You will see how Paul is trying to bring them back to Jesus Christ. The Truth is, God wants US, and we must want HIM. It begins and ends there. The rest of Christianity is additive.
Today, as always, Christianity as a whole, is NOT focused upon Christ. Many are focus on CHURCH as a thing. OUR church as a THING that we DO and BUILD all, of course, we say, for, "Gods glory." Then we have those who focus upon what THEY SAY Christ wants to give us wealth and health. We also have those who go to the opposite extreme they say only if we are destitute materially are we truly spiritual. There are more and more today who claim to have special revelation and that you can have it too by coming to them. There are others who claim that you need a SECOND blessing, in addition to Christ through salvation, to have the, "full experience." There are also those who, despite the fact that IN CHRIST we are delivered from all the things of death, mandate that we continue, in Christ, to need deliverance. And then there are others who claim to have discovered the secret principles for living that will complete us in Christ. They claim you must be, "under authority," or, "keep the right days," or, "belong to their church," or, "believe their doctrines." In the end, all of these things deny that we are complete IN CHRIST. They are really claiming that you need something else to complete you in Christ.
The Truth is, if you are born again, you are as complete in Christ as you are ever going to be. You are complete in the One in whom is hidden all that God has. You are complete in Him in Whom all the fullness of God dwells. You are complete in He who is the reality of all that God has. We are as complete in Christ as a new born baby is completely alive. All that is necessary is IN US if Christ is in us. We merely need to grow IN HIM.
CHRIST IN US is the hope of glory. He is our FIRST LOVE. Nothing else is. There is no other, "hope of glory." The neglect to believe this, or the refusal to believe it, or the ignorance of it, stands at the foundation of all that has ever been wrong in the church. And getting back to HIM is the only solution. That is why God provided us with the epistle to the Colossians.
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