National Pastors’ Conference 2022
Plenary 2: The Centrality of Christ in the Early Church
Facilitated by CB Samuel
I didn’t catch the introduction of Mr. Christian’s piece, this second segment. But I sort of picked up where he started, as he started talking about finances, sharing stuff like,
‘When you have a party, call people who don’t/won’t call you back.’
‘In our society we don’t care to know the poor people… but Christ mentioned in one instance that the poor man’s name was Lazarus, while the rich man was… well, just ‘the rich man’.’
Tweetable, I thought. And I guess I will tweet these later. But it was all apparently an introduction to what he really wanted to share – staying in the theme of Christ-Centrality, but this time in the Early Church, specifically.
One thing before moving forward – He mentioned how, in the Kingdom of God, there is only one constitution: the words of Jesus Christ. I would say that the Constitution is Jesus Christ, the Living Word. He is not merely read and spoken and written and listened to, but lived, just as the hearing the Word brings faith forth.
Actually, another thing I wanted to clarify – that is, that Christ-centrality is NOT us trying to copy Christ…
But there’s a thought, huh. Because I just googled, I was pretty sure the words ‘imitate me’ were mentioned in the Bible… and it was actually Paul who mentioned to the Corinthians twice: ‘imitate me, as I imitate Christ’; and this is Paul, who was very precise with his words (and very long in his compound sentences) – meaning he could have easily just said, ‘imitate Christ’, or ‘imitate Christ, because I do’.
The thing is, if you’ve been following all of this drivel (thank you, by the way), you know I’m not one to talk about how we should imitate or copy people. You’ve probably heard me say that if, say, I try to copy someone, then I would be insulting my own intelligence, and that person’s intelligence as well. But maybe the point here (beyond speaking about imitating Paul, which I will clarify in a bit), is to point out that we shouldn’t be trying to imitate Christ, more than we should imitate Paul… who I believe has a definitive grasp on complete trust in the Lord.
In the words of the legendary Brian Cox as Ward Abbott in the Bourne Supremacy, ‘Does this scan? I mean, at all?’ – We imitate Paul by way of our complete trust in the Lord, who we believe is alive in us. We imitate Paul by way of our rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything, as he says this is the will of God for us through Christ.
So okay, Christ-centrality is our living in complete trust in the Lord – which entails rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything, which, incidentally, is in pattern with copying or imitating Paul, as he copied or imitated Christ.
I’m sorry, I thought I’d go through all that, because, in the process of explaining his perspective on Christ-centrality, Mr. Christian told us about his visit to Mother Teresa’s residence. He said he only saw a chair, a table, a rosary, a Bible, and one change of clothes. From that he quoted how this embodied, how ‘foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest’.
Not sure how he got to that but he’s certainly very into integrating the suffering Christ into his Christ-centrality proposal. And considering all we’ve been talking about in this article so far, I saying this: Christ suffered for sure, and we may suffer as much or more, sure, but it’s not to say that we stop at the suffering, or focus on it – no, Christ had His eyes on the prize, and on the joy set before Him. It’s no surprise that we were part of this joy that He was excited about… therefore, in OUR suffering, we have the opportunity to celebrate Christ, who won us, and whom we won; in OUR agonizing, we have the privilege to enjoy Christ, who, by His finished work, poured out exceeding joy into our hearts!
So okay. It’s Christ-centrality. Mr. Christian didn’t mention anything about this coming against self-centeredness… and maybe, considering his audience, he thought he didn’t need to go there.
But we will, for the sake of maybe clarifying our own perspective on Christ-centrality. I mean, look at it in terms of how we view self-centeredness: this, to me, means that we would prioritize ourselves over others. That we would trust and depend on ourselves over anything else. Replace ‘self’ with Christ, and you have something way beyond just copying Christ. Christ-centrality is much more, and much less than that.
Okay enough of that.
Mr. Christian went on to share his words on the same Christ-Centered aspects, as seen in the early church… and here, I just have to share how I enjoy his eye in the specifics as laid out in Scripture. See, he quoted Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
I was pretty amazed by how he pointed out something I haven’t seen before – that it was only after the Holy Spirit has come upon them, only after they received power, that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and so on and so forth. Take note that at this point the disciples had already seen Christ do all of the miracles He did while He was alive, they saw Him crucified and they heard His last words, and they even saw Him resurrected… but it was only AFTER the Holy Spirit’s descending that they would be witnesses.
Mr. Christian pointed this out, just to say that we are in need of the Holy Spirit – rather, we, who have already received the Holy Spirit through the finished work of Christ, have the critical help, and not just help but power on high – to be witnesses, or if I may be so bold, for us to be living, walking, witnesses. I like to point out that Paul has said in other Scriptures that we are temples of the Holy Spirit – and on top of everything I’ve mentioned this entails, you can add to that, that we are living witnesses and testimonies to Christ and His finished work.
Christ was aware of the Holy Spirit at work, in His own life before His crucifixion. He quoted prophecy being fulfilled, but it was all preceded with one line: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…’ And I sort of put two and two together here, by saying that the difference between the Christian movement and the Church institution is the Holy Spirit.
There was more to unwrap here, but now as I’m trying to encode it all here, I think I’ll just stop at these two points:
(1) If we were to impose ‘Christ-centrality’, it’s done by our preaching, and not only preaching, but living Christ and His finished work.
Consequently, (2) it’s the Holy Spirit behind our movement, moving us beyond being merely institutionalized.
Until my next post, God bless you.
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