We aspire to be a Christ-centered people. Everything about who we are and what we do is interpreted and understood in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is the primary core value from which all others flow. More than anything else, we desire to be a Christ-centered people.
Or, to use the language of Scripture, Jesus is our life.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul focuses on the centrality of Jesus. The church in Colosse was wrestling with a controversial approach to spirituality. It seems that there were some who were trying to synthesize strains of Judaism and Greek philosophy with Christian teaching. The result was a piecemeal approach that left a lot of people really confused, which prompted Paul to write his letter.
It seems that the Colossians were enamored with mysterious knowledge of the spiritual world. There were some in Paul’s day who claimed to have superior spiritual knowledge based on their participation in certain mystical actions, such as the worship of angels or the observance of a variety of rituals as a way of offering protection from the spiritual forces of darkness.
Paul’s response to all of this was to focus on Jesus.
Paul says that God commissioned him to serve the church by making the word of God fully known: “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him…” (Col. 1:26-28).
Paul counters all of the false teaching in Colosse by pointing to the real mystery, which is Christ in you (plural), Christ in us, Christ in the church. Paul would not have the Colossians blinded by controversy. Instead, he would have them see Christ in their midst, at the center of their lives, moving among His people. He goes on to name Christ alone as the mystery of God, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2-3). To a people who idolize special knowledge and mystical religious experience, Paul says, “Christ at the center is enough! To know Christ is to know the mystery of God!”
And throughout this letter, Paul repeatedly returns to this theme. In some of the Bible’s loftiest language to describe Jesus, it says all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col. 1:16-17). He points to Jesus as creator and sustainer of all things, but he also says all things were created for Him. Jesus is the telos, the goal of creation. Everything is by Him and through Him and for Him.
And Paul points to the cross as the place where everything changes. Col. 2:13-15, He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Our life in Christ culminates at the cross.
When a criminal was executed on a cross, it was customary to nail a list of his crimes on the stake. (Think of the sign they placed above Jesus’ head, John 19). At the cross, Paul says, we should see Jesus being crucified but the sign above his head lists not his crimes (for he has none) but ours. We recognize our own handwriting describing in great detail the debt of our sin: our lust, our gossip, our theft, our anger, our pride…all of it is spelled out there on the sign above his head like a crown of sins. And literally, the Word in Col. 2 says this record of our debt is blotted out, erased. Our crimes are covered by the blood of Jesus, which marks the cross as the place where we transition from death to life. It all happens at the cross, for the cross defines who we are.
And this leads Paul to say in Col. 3:3-4, For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. I love that phrase, “Christ, who is your life.” You’d be hard pressed to find a better definition of Christianity. Paul doesn’t say Jesus is a part of your life; he doesn’t have room for any such compartmentalizing of your life. To be a Christian is to make Jesus your life.
Okay, so let’s put all of this together:
A Christ-centered life is a cross-shaped life. To follow Jesus is to be defined by the cross. But we need to really reflect on what this means. Even Jesus paused for a moment when it came to the cross. He prayed, “Father, would you remove this cup?” The Scriptures show Jesus in anguish with sweat like drops of blood. Yet, in the end, He prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
In that moment, Jesus essentially said, “It’s not about me. It’s about You, Father. It’s about what You want.” That is the shape of the cross – even before He was nailed to it, the cross defined Jesus.
So we would do well to ask: Does the cross define me? Selfishness vs. sacrifice
To be defined by the cross is to recognize what Jesus affirmed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a profound truth that makes all the difference: it’s not about me. From the very beginning of the biblical story, selfishness has always been alluring. So often we are tempted to say, “It IS about me!” I want it my way; focus on my comfort, my security, my rights, my sense of entitlement, my desires, etc.
But a Christ-centered life is a cross-shaped life. And a cross-shaped life declares, “It’s not about me. It’s about God.” Aren’t you thankful that Jesus was willing to say, “It’s not about me.”
There is a collective way to hear these words as well. Paul is speaking to the church here, so we’re right in saying that Jesus is our life. The life of the church is wrapped up in Jesus. We’ve attempted to capture this in our mission statement: we begin by saying we are followers of Jesus. As we’ve heard this morning, all things are created by Him and for Him. So that means that the Mayfair church exists for Jesus.
And that necessarily means that the church doesn’t exist for me. There’s something much greater going on here. Again, “It’s not about me.” The Bible says the church is created for Him. The church exists for God’s glorification, not for our gratification. The church doesn’t exist for you and me and for our glory; it exists for the glory of God.
The problem is that so much of church life in this nation boils down to my gratification. How do people normally go about choosing a church? “Well, I liked the preaching, I liked the children’s ministry, the seats are comfortable, they serve good coffee, the temperature is just right.” Every one of those has something to do with our gratification. And if that’s where we focus, guess what? We won’t be a Christ-centered church. We’ll be a self-centered church.
And what do people say when they decide to leave a church? “Well, I didn’t like the preaching, the children’s ministry, the seats are lousy, the coffee is bad, the temperature is too hot.” And all of that misses the point. The church exists for God’s glorification, not for our gratification.
What does it mean for Christ to be your life? One final verse from Colossians gives us an answer. Col. 3:12, Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. These are qualities that are found in Jesus. We can summarize this by saying we are to put on Christ, clothe ourselves with Christ.
The New York Yankees have one of the most iconic and unique uniforms in professional sports. The Yankees were the first team in professional baseball to use numbers to identify individual players. Originally, these numbers were based on the individual player’s position in the lineup, so Babe Ruth wore #3 because he batted third; Lou Gehrig #4, because he was the cleanup hitter; etc. But when teams began including individual player names on the backs of their jerseys, the Yankees refused. To this day, no individual player names are included on either the Yankee home or away jerseys. You’ll find the team name and those trademark pinstripes, but not an individual player’s name – because the name on the front of the jersey is the only name that matters.
The same is true of us.
By saying that we aspire to be a Christ-centered people, we’re saying that Christ is our life.
Is Jesus your life? Or is He just a part of your life?