Christianity 201

May 10, 2020

Christocentric Conversation

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings
Phil 3:10 (NIV)

For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
2 Cor. 4:5 (HCSB)

And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.
I Cor. 15:14 (NLT)

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
1 Cor. 1:2 (NLT)

Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more.
Phil 1:21 (GW)

For it is in closest union with Him that we live and move and have our being…
Acts 17:48a (Weymouth)

Now this is eternal life–that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
John 17:3 (NET)

He must increase, but I must decrease
John 3:30 (var.)

If you get to know someone over a period of time you should start to see an emerging pattern of the values they hold to be important. But sometimes, after ten years of writing and editing Christianity 201, I’ll discover a topic which is very near and dear to me which I’ve never covered here. Or I’ll be speaking with someone with whom I’ve had dozens of conversations, and they’ll tell me I never mentioned that particular term before.

One such word is: Christocentric.

It’s a preacher word, to be sure, and I’m not a preacher; but I believe strongly in Christ-centered preaching, when even with a particularly obscure Old Testament passage, the pastor infuses the message with the Christological element or application. The same is true of my preference for Christ-centered worship songs, and Christ-centered fellowship.

A few years ago, I got to test my commitment to that ideal.

It was a simple discussion with a man who is a member of a Christian denomination that many of my friends would say doesn’t represent “the real thing.” We talked about various things, and many spiritual practices and doctrines were mentioned which had the potential to easily hijack the discussion, or prove to be red herrings that would have simply consumed much time and yielded nothing productive.

So I kept coming back to the things Jesus said and the things Jesus taught. That’s actually not easy for me because I’m a sucker for all those other debate subjects. I love a good argument. There. I said it.

But it wasn’t the time or place. It was a time to focus on Jesus, and draw the conversation back to Jesus every time it threatened to go off in a different direction. I even explained my strategy out loud a few times; something to this effect: No one will be won to Christ by clever argument or reasoned persuasion or skillful rhetoric; but rather, they will be compelled to follow only when they have looked directly into the face of Jesus and been won by His love.

It was the best conversation of this type I’ve had; and I think the feeling was mutual, especially inasmuch as we ran 90 minutes. He was in 70’s and I probably should have offered him a chair, but he was as caught up in the discussion as I was. But I had to work hard to keep the discussion from going off the rails.

And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Mark 8:29 (NASB)

…So again, today’s word is “Christocentric” meaning Christ-focused. Take this word and make it yours and then whenever it’s your turn to control the conversation, bring the focus back to Jesus. Ask people the question below.  The way people answer this speaks volumes as to their relationship to the Lord. But, sometimes the tables are turned, so always be ready to give your answer to this question:

What do you think about the Messiah?
Matthew 22:42 NIV

What do you think about the Christ?
Matthew 22:42 NET


Jesus at the Center – Israel Houghton – Studio version.

 

April 16, 2015

Today’s Word: Can You Say Christocentricity?

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings
Phil 3:10 (NIV)

For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
2 Cor. 4:5 (HCSB)

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
1 Cor. 1:2 (NLT)

Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more.
Phil 1:21 (GW)

For it is in closest union with Him that we live and move and have our being…
Acts 17:48a (Weymouth)

He must increase, but I must decrease
John 3:30 (var.)

By their blogs ye shall know them.

If you read someone’s blog over a period of time you should start to see an emerging pattern of the values they hold to be important. But a year after starting Christianity 201, I discovered that I had never used a word here which actually ranks high in my list of spiritual priorities.

The word is: Christocentric.

It’s a preacher word, to be sure, and I’m not a preacher; but I believe strongly in Christ-centered preaching, Christ-centered worship songs, and Christ-centered fellowship.

That very day, I got to test my commitment to that ideal.

It was a simple discussions with a man who is a member of a Christian denomination that many of my friends would say doesn’t represent “the real thing.” We talked about various things, and many spiritual practices and doctrines were mentioned that could have easily hijacked the discussion, or prove to be red herrings that would have simply consumed much time and yielded nothing productive.

So I kept coming back to the things Jesus said and the things Jesus taught. That’s actually not easy for me because I’m a sucker for all those other debate subjects. I love a good argument. There. I said it.

But it wasn’t the time or place. It was a time to focus on Jesus, and draw the conversation back to Jesus every time it threatened to go off in a different direction. I even explained my strategy out loud a few times; something to this effect: No one will be won to Christ by clever argument or reasoned persuasion or skillful rhetoric; but rather, they will be compelled to follow only when they have looked directly into the face of Jesus and been won by His love.

It was the best conversation of this type I’ve had; and I think the feeling was mutual, especially inasmuch as we ran 90 minutes. He was in 70’s and I probably should have offered him a chair, but he was as caught up in the discussion as I was.

…So again, today’s word is “Christocentric” meaning Christ-focused. Take this word and make it yours.

What do you think about the Messiah?
Matthew 22:42 NIV

What do you think about the Christ?
Matthew 22:42 NET

February 28, 2011

Christ-Centered Accountability

Sometimes I think I need to try harder to make this blog live up to its name. Then there are topics like this one, where I feel maybe this is more like Christianity 301 for some people. Stay with me here…

Tullian Tchividjian, who, not that it matters, is a grandson of Billy Graham; and who, it does matter, is the pastor of Florida’s prestigious Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has a couple of articles I want you to link to today.

The first one, on the surface of it anyway, looks at “accountability groups;” the kind of small group thing that Tullian says end up more focused on our sin than on our Savior.  In so doing, he says, they actually may be making people feel worse.

All the “good stuff” that is ours already in Christ settles at the bottom when we focus on ourselves more than Jesus (after all, Peter only began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on his performance). John Owen said, “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” And what is the gospel? Not my work for Jesus, but Jesus’ work for me…

He says that we need reminders, not rebukes; and we need to get away from the mentality that says we need to fix people.

What Paul did for the Colossians is what we all need our Christian brothers and sisters to do for us as well: remind me first of what’s been done, not what I must do. So, while rebukes are sometimes necessary, reminders are far more effective in the long run.

Take 3-4 minutes to read that article, in its entirety here.

Now, I’m sure that someone reading this is going to say, “But I’m a part of an accountability group, and it has been most helpful to us; and I’ve encouraged others to do the same.”

Tullian wasn’t knocking the groups per se, but rather the tendancy of some to move in a specific direction. But it caused quite a stir, and in the comments section he offered this clarification:

…It’s not accountability in general (I mention the friends and family that continue to help me grow) but the kind of accountability groups like the ones I specifically mentioned (believe it or not, these are much more commonplace than you may realize!) that end up being more of a hindrance to our growth, than they are a help. These groups foster the kind of guilt, legalism, narcissism and morbid introspection that are antithetical to growth in the gospel. It’s very telling, for instance, that in Galatians 5:4-5 the Apostle Paul describes falling from grace, not in terms of immorality or godless living, but legalism.

I call for accountability in this post, but a certain kind of accountability–the kind that forces us to reckon with the scandalous nature of God’s unconditional love for us because of Christ’s finished work on our behalf. I believe in the need to repent and to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).

I can personally attest to the tendency of certain groups to get off their original focus and away form their primary design.

Take 2-3 minutes to read the follow-up article on his blog.

Here’s a parallel observation that didn’t form part of his article, but which I believe applies here:

Lots of men (and some women) struggle with online addiction to websites with sexual content. Many groups work very hard to try to help such people wrestle themselves away from such internet locations. It’s not easy. But some take another approach and stress the character of God, in particular his omnipresence. The idea is that if you really, really, really believe that God is with you; that he is right next to you as you sit at your computer; you won’t go to those sites. This approach is effective for many people.

Even here it’s easy to remember the illustration and miss the point: That remembering the character and attributes of God is possibly more effective than simply calling on God’s power to help us break free of a controlling habit. The latter will work in many cases, but remembering the character of God gives us a greater reason to want to make a rapid life change.

September 1, 2010

Words that Refresh

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The sheer arrogance of naming this blog Christianity 201 never ceases to amaze me.   What on earth was I thinking?

Certainly I was thinking that I would create something as an alternative to my other blog; I would create something more Biblio-centric, more Christo-centric.    I would, as the blog’s header says, “dig a little deeper.”

But I am amazed at how much one man’s “deeper” is another man’s “boring.”   While some theologian types salivate over a discussion of some tertiary doctrine, and others start hyperventilating at the discovery of a lost document by an early church father; others can’t get past the second paragraph before their mouse is clicking them off to a Christian dating site, or an online vendor of Christian t-shirts.

The love and grace and mercy of God should never be boring.   But theology for theology’s sake can be dry and lifeless.

Instead, God’s word should be the opposite to dry; the Bible should contain words that refresh us.    It’s the world which is the desert; it’s the company of God’s people sharing God’s word that is the oasis.

Which brings us to rather strange place, Amos 8:11

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.    (NIV)

The Message Bible couples that verse with verse 12:

12People will drift from one end of the country to the other,
roam to the north, wander to the east.
They’ll go anywhere, listen to anyone,
hoping to hear God’s Word—but they won’t hear it. (The Message)

Instead of clicking away from things which we think are boring, we should take an extra moment to consider what it is that gets the writers, the bloggers, the theologians so energized.  With Amos’ readers, we should also consider a world without the availability of God’s Word.

So my goal here is to “dig” a little deeper; but to try at the same time to keep it fresh and to keep it energized.    The truths of God’s word are like water to the thirsty, like food to the hungry.    To try to draw you into an excitement about the things in God’s word which can be found once you scratch the surface and start looking closer.

If catchy headlines and worship videos cause people to stop here who would otherwise find the doctrinal bloggers boring; then that’s good; as long as the day’s topic gives them something to consider, and perhaps builds an appetite for discussions they might have thought dry and lifeless, but start to consider as real and vital and exciting.