Jesus at the Center
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As Christians, we aspire to pattern ourselves after Jesus. We desire to be godly, meaning that we live in a manner which honors God, which is based on the knowledge of His Word, and with the awareness of, and reverence for, His constant presence within us. In short, we strive to live in a way which is pleasing to Him. The question is: How do we do that effectively? What steps can we take to help us to live godly lives?
The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, a young man he was mentoring, telling him that he should train himself for godliness, that he should pursue it, as there is great gain in doing so (1 Timothy 4:7, 6:6, 11). The Greek word Paul used for training was gymnazō, which the English word gymnasium comes from, and which means to exercise vigorously. In other words, Paul was saying that Timothy should put effort and exercise into growing in godliness.
Living lives which reflect Jesus’ light and love to others, living in accordance with God’s will, being attuned to the Holy Spirit, making godly choices, cultivating a close relationship with our Creator, all of this requires effort on our part. Paul was making this point when he told Timothy to train in godliness.
How do we train for godliness? By applying ourselves to doing those things which put us in a position to receive God’s blessings and strength; by doing what is necessary to align the inner attitudes of our heart with God’s Spirit, Word, and will.
Living a God-centered life isn’t something that happens on its own; it requires effort and commitment on our part. It calls for spiritual growth, which will contribute to developing such a life. As we mature in our faith, as we walk closer with God and as we live in alignment with His will, we are inwardly transformed, which in turn manifests itself in our outward life, helping us to be more God-centered and Christlike.
It logically follows that if we want to be like Jesus, we will want to follow the example of how He lived, especially in regard to communing and connecting with His Father, and doing our best to serve as an example of God’s love and compassion to others.
There are various avenues which God uses to help us grow into Christlikeness. The first is people—our loved ones, spouse, friends, coworkers, teachers, mentors, and even those who oppose us. All of them can be catalysts for change in our lives.
Another avenue of change is circumstances—the challenges we face, whether with health, finances, losing a job or getting a new one, moving locations, or any other things which require stretching and moving out of our comfort zones. God uses circumstances to bring change and growth to our doorstep. When He uses people and circumstances to bring spiritual growth, He is using outside influences which are generally beyond our control.
While we have limited control over the outside influences and circumstances which draw us closer to God, each of us can make a decision to take action for the purpose of inward spiritual change and growth. How deeply we dwell in communion with God, how open we are to His influence, how much we choose to do His will, how dedicated we are to maturing in our faith, are things that we each decide.—Peter Amsterdam
Living a Christ-centered life
What does it mean to live a Christ-centered life? A Christ-centered or Christocentric life can be described in the following way: A life that is focused solely upon a commitment to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as Lord and Savior. A life whose sole purpose is to honor and glorify Him forever. The Westminster Catechism states: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever…
To have a Christ-centered life is to make Him the absolute center of your attention, energy, time, and thoughts. … “But how can my life be centered upon Christ,” you ask? You read the Scriptures. You pray, focus on the attributes of God, Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross. Fall in love with the Psalms. Realize that we are going to fail, over and over again … however, God does not.
Some lyrics of a song I heard while I was writing this said something interesting to me. They said: “Love is when all your happiness, sadness, feelings are dependent upon another person’s.” Thinking about it, I feel like that’s actually somewhat true … at least the action of love. My reflection of this lyric is that all of our happiness, sadness, and feelings should be dependent upon God. Our hopes, joys, pain, should all be centered on who Christ is and what He has done for us through His sacrifice.
What matters in this life anyway? Is it our house, our cars, our electronics? … Well, to best answer that, let’s look at what Paul said to the church in Philippi: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).—Chris Voeltner1
The true temple
If we want to get right inside what John means when he speaks of Jesus embodying God’s love, the best way is to reflect on what John does with the theme of the Temple. And to understand that, we need to grasp the significance of the Temple in the memory and the scriptures of the people of Israel.
Let’s begin with John’s most dramatic Temple scene (John 2:13–25). When Jesus enters the Jerusalem Temple, he drives out the animals and overturns the money changers’ tables, disrupting the sacrificial system. The point was not simply that the animal sellers and money changers were turning his Father’s house into a market, though that was true as well, as Jesus says (John 2:16). The point was that the Temple was now under divine judgment and was going to be replaced.
This had been true half a millennium before, in Jeremiah’s day, and Jesus echoes Jeremiah’s warnings and promise. But this time the replacement would not be a building of bricks and mortar. The Jerusalem Temple would be replaced with a human being:
“Destroy this Temple,” replied Jesus, “and I’ll raise it up in three days.”
“It’s taken forty-six years to build this Temple,” responded the Judaeans, “and are you going to raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the “temple” of his body. So when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scriptures and the word which Jesus had spoken (John 2:19–22).
He was speaking about the “temple” of his body. There is one of John’s main clues to the meaning of his whole book, but also of the gospel as a whole. Jesus is the true Temple. He is the ultimate place where, and the means by which, the living creator God will come to live in the midst of his people, at the heart of his own creation. He will embody the living presence of the true God. He will be, so to speak, God’s love enfleshed.
Many Christians in the modern world wonder why that is so important. Many have become used to thinking that you don’t need buildings to worship God, and that’s true. But the answer is that, throughout the Old Testament, the ultimate promise of God was not that one day he would snatch his people away from the present creation so that they could live with him somewhere else. The ultimate promise was that he would come and live with them. This is what divine love looks like.—N. T. Wright2
A prayer to make Christ the center of our lives
Lord, help me to love You with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind and with all of my strength. Teach me what it means to be about Your business. Not my own! In whatever happens today, I surrender my life, my time to You. All I ask is that You come and lead me on in my worship and service to Your Kingdom. When the day is done and I move on from it, I pray that my strongest memory will be of You, the nearness of Your love, the power of Your Presence.
Jesus, You are the One who died and gave me a reason to live and a way to live. You are the One who broke the chains of death and the power of the grave when You came forth victorious over death, hell, and the grave. I praise You for the powerful hope resident in me because of Your resurrection. You are not dead anymore, so help me to be “alive” with great passion, proclaiming Your great love to the people I meet on my journey of life.
As I move through the day, help me to keep this thought present in my mind: “This day is not about me; it is about You.” Let my choices bear this out. This is my opportunity to stand up for You, to open my mouth and speak to others about Your great love, as well as Your grace, mercy and kindness.
I know that You know my needs before I ask. But I ask because I am Your child. You have given me hope through faith, and dreams as a promise of my future. I believe You! And I know that Your hand is with me, for me, and upon me for Your glory and for my good.
May Your will be done in my life today.—Dennis Langford3
For a worship song, “Jesus at the Center of It All,” see this link.
Published on Anchor January 2023. Read by Jerry Paladino. Music by Michael Dooley.
2 Broken Signposts: How Christianity Makes Sense of the World (HarperOne, 2020).