Why a Christ-centered life

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We need Real Depth In a Christian-centered living

Christ-Centered people need real depth in their lives. Christians need real spiritual depth in their lives. Every human being needs deep relationships that are hallmarked by love and trust. Church should be the outward manifestation of the body of Christ that makes Abba Father known, as he is the one who meets the deepest human needs. The lack of this depth in people’s lives is detrimental to your health, mind and spiritual well-being.

For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.
Titus 1:10‭-‬11

Abandoning the Christian faith?

It is well documented and a sore point that many sincere Christians and Biblical leaders are frustrated – both with their own Christian lives but especially with their experiences of churches. Many of those Christians are abandoning their churches and denominations. Unfortunately, some may also abandon their faith at the same time.

Churches growing for the wrong reasons

Many churches are growing substantially, but for all the wrong reasons. The Christian faith is saturated with entertainment value, charismatic, glory seeking preachers and preaching a health, wealth, prosperity Gospel. The true Gospel message is heavily diluted and lost on believers. Many things are done to try and keep people in church and to try and attract new people to church. Entertainment and compromise so often seem to be the order of the day, and going to church often seems to be a imposed duty rather than something to be looked forward to. No wonder people leave church never to return.

Why is all of that so? Because, for many Christians reality, happiness and heaven seem far too far away in time, and they seem so far out of reach. They look for earthly pleasures now and lose sight of heavenly pleasures promised to us in the after life. Church all too often seems to offer people nothing that is real for their lives in the here and now. Church does not seem to be relevant to the real world of work, it does not relate to the caring for family, and it seems bankrupt of resources for finding a meaning in life.

Shallowness

For a great many Christians, everything around church seems to be so shallow and what is found in church often seems to be merely just another form of “religion” that is no different to any religion on planet Earth. Christianity often seems to be merely about behaving well, saying the right things in the right way, and conforming to what is expected. Where is the depth? Is church really just another social club? Where is the superabundant and overflowing life that Jesus spoke of? Where is the dynamic life and vitality that should be found in his body, in his bride? Where is the taste of heaven?

But heaven is not merely a place that we get to go to when we die, and it is not just some vague hope that is entirely in the future. No! Heaven is the presence of Christ — a presence that can be experienced right here, and right now. Christ came to bring us into relationship with God through relationship with him. Happiness (and unhappiness) come from circumstances, but joy comes from the reality and depth of experienced christian relationships. First and foremost, joy comes from knowing Christ in an ever-deepening love relationship.

From this joy, all joy springs.

The value of the Bible

Can a book made up of 100s of true life events, prophecies andnpromises help you to discover this for yourself? Yes, the Bible of course. We all know that there are thousands of Christian books on the market: Christian books for men, Christian books for women, Christian books covering everything from prayer, marriage, forgiveness, Christian leadership and far beyond; indeed, the list is seemingly endless. Ten steps to something-or-other. What is needed, however, are books of real depth, not just more of the same that are sounding the same and saying the same. Too many books merely ‘saw sawdust’. Stop reading books about the Bible – rather read the Bible itself.

BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Where is the real and vibrant life of Christ? Where is the Christ-centeredness that is evident all the way through Scripture? As human beings, we are driven to explore the height, depth and width of the world around us. As human beings, we want to find out for ourselves. Why are we not driven to explore the height, depth and width of Christ?

What is Christ-centeredness?

Put simply, this is the revelation that Jesus the Christ really is the very center of everything, that it is around him that everything revolves and is focused, and that everything testifies about him and points to him, whether everything realises it or not.

Since Jesus the Christ really is the center of everything, everyone should be aware of looking at things that realise — make real — the centrality of Christ in everyday life. Of course, this requires revelation from God, and such a revelation calls us to explore and know God, even as we are known. Such a revelation will radically impact the way we live and move and have our being.

Relationship with God cannot be divorced from relationship with people. It is all about real relationships in real life. First, a real relationship with Christ, and then real relationships with other people. Human beings are relational creatures. We were made to relate to other people. We were made to relate to God who made us. The best person to tell us who we are is God through whom we were made. The best person to focus our lives on is God through whom we were made. God knows who and what each one of us is, and he calls us to live out our identities in Christ.

Transformation and fellowship

Such revelation affects our whole lives and, for example, transforms how we read the Scriptures. As one example, I have often heard it said that the early church in Acts met together for fellowship with each other, but I do not think that it was their primary purpose for being together at all. I believe they primarily gathered together to meet with the Christ who was moving and working in their midst. There was a holy fear in their midst. True fellowship, then, is Christ-centered, not meeting-centered. So the Christ-centered life makes this statement:

The aim of fellowship is to meet together with Christ, not simply to meet together with people.

That is not saying that meeting together has no value unless it is truly Christ-centered – of course not. But surely knowing Christ is what we really need and – hopefully – it is what we really want. All too often, we do not get it. We easily acknowledge in our songs that everything is all about Jesus, we often tag his name onto the ends of our prayers, and we regularly speak of salvation as being in Jesus. But it is too easy not to live Christ-centered lives in daily reality, but instead to just drift from year to year, decade to decade.

Jesus himself made clear that true life is found in him and in him alone. This is not about doctrine, teaching or guidelines. It is about actually knowing Christ and growing in love for him. He is the source of our life. The danger for us is that, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we refuse to come to him for life.

Our reaction

What is our reaction to all this? Is it to nod our heads in agreement but then carry on exactly as before? Or is it to ask the Spirit of God to radically transform our hearts and minds so that we are becoming truly Christ-centered in everything we say and do? There is so much of Christ, so much in Christ and so much from Christ. Shallowness will never discover what lies beyond the fog of unknowing.

Living Christ-Centered

As God established in me the foundation of Christ-centered living on which my own life is based, there was one certainty that I had to face: Christ-centeredness excluded self-centeredness. There is a real cost to be paid if we are to be truly Christ-centered. Nevertheless, the rewards of being Christ-centered are enormous, and the cost of being Christ-centered is truly insignificant when compared to the benefits of knowing Christ.

God’s focus is on the Son, and with the Son he gives us everything else. This is no “in the heavenlies” theology. This is what I go on receiving from God as I go on meeting with Jesus on an ongoing basis. We all need to go on meeting with Christ day-after-day so that we all may go on receiving from God day-after-day, growing into who we are in Christ.

God’s ‘yes’ is in Christ and in Christ alone. It is not in the law, it is not in good behaviour, it is not in sound theology, it is not in right belief, and it is not even in solid doctrine. I am certainly not saying that any of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they must be given their proper place. If we are Christ-centered, they will have their proper place. This should cause us to look at the Scriptures in a fresh way. We live by the word and are saved by grace.

Renewed living

When the revelation of Christ-centeredness came into my life and started its transforming work in me through the Spirit of God, I began to read the Scriptures in a new way. Everywhere I looked in the Scriptures, I found the supremacy of Christ. After all, that is exactly what the Christ himself said about the Scriptures.

For example, the apostle Peter was centered firmly on Christ. For Peter, it really was all about the Christ, even if he did not really understand that while the Christ walked with his disciples. The apostle John was Christ-centered as he wrote about the Christ who was both fully God and fully man.

This set me to exploring another astonishing truth: The whole of creation centers on relationship with its creator in the first instance, but creation also centers on relationship with humankind. Indeed, the whole of creation itself centers on relationship with Jesus the Christ. Eternal and everlasting relationship is what the new creation is all about.

The Scriptures begin and end with relationship.

 Revolutionary

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:16–17

I was staggered to realise that, when everything has been wound up and handed over to the Father, it is the man Jesus who will appear at the end of the age. I expected it to be the Christ who would appear at the very end, or perhaps the Christ in the role of one of his many other titles. But no, it is the man Jesus himself.

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Enter through the narrow gate

The story continues from healing the blind man

Jesus continues without pause from the end of His conversation with the Pharisees who disputed His healing of the man born blind in chapter 9. Here, again, Jesus uses the “Amen, amen” construction. This uses a word that has come from Aramaic is almost unchanged in many other languages. It is an expression of agreement or hopefulness when used at the end of a statement. When used at the beginning of a sentence, it implies that the speaker is presenting first-hand, absolute truth.

This is the first of three related-but-separate analogies Jesus will make using the concept of shepherding.

1. Thief and a robber

Jesus begins the first metaphor by stating that someone who climbs the wall of a sheep enclosure “is a thief and a robber.” In that era, multiple flocks of sheep would be housed in a single walled-in enclosure. The sides were high enough to prevent sheep from getting out, and wild animals from getting in. This structure would have a single opening—and this was the only intended place for the sheep to come in or out. Anyone attempting to get into the pen without using the single door was, by definition, up to no good, a thief or a robber.

In the verses that follow, Jesus will continue to explain that only the legitimate shepherd can come in and out, and only that shepherd is approved by the gatekeeper. This teaching also relies on the unique way sheep naturally learn to respond only to the voice of “their” shepherd, and not to others.

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The flock know the shepherd voice

As mentioned earlier the sheep pens of that era were constructed with relatively high walls and a single door. Individual shepherds were known by their flocks purely by voice. To get a particular shepherd’s flock out, all that shepherd needed to do was call. In response, his sheep—and only His sheep—would come out.

Because these pens were built in this way, there was no legitimate reason for anyone else to enter the pens. The single door was where approved shepherds would be allowed to come in and out, and where their flocks would enter and leave. The only reason someone would enter the pen by climbing the wall is so they could harm or steal sheep.

Jesus continues in the next verses to explain that He, and He alone, is the “approved” shepherd, and those sheep which are His recognise Him by His voice. Strangers and thieves won’t be recognised by the sheep.

Listen for the voice of Jesus and respond with “Here I am, Good Shepherd” and follow Him.

At this point, Jesus is not speaking about heaven. His analogy has a well-defined purpose, not directly related to salvation or attaining eternal life. Those who are His, as it pertains to everlasting life, cannot be stolen in the way a robber in this particular analogy would do. Rather, this symbol is about how and why certain people respond to the message of the gospel, and others do not.

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2. The gatekeeper or “the door of the sheep”

The gatekeeper was not merely minding the opening. There were often no physical barriers across that opening, since a gatekeeper was always on duty. To rest, or even to sleep, the gatekeeper would literally lay across the gap. This will be used in Jesus’ second metaphor, where He claims to be “the door of the sheep.”

The gatekeeper of the pen would ensure that only approved shepherds—those who had claim on a flock inside—could get in or out. Anyone trying to climb over the walls was, by definition, up to no good. Those allowed in by the gatekeeper were legitimately allowed to be there.

Multiple flocks would be kept in a single pen. As mentioned earlier, to get a particular flock out, all the shepherd had to do was call. The sheep, having been raised and cared for by that single person, would respond. Members of other flocks would not come in response to that voice.

Jesus uses this analogy in response to the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who stubbornly refuse to recognise His miracles and His message. In plain terms, these men don’t listen to His voice because they are not “His” flock. They are, as Jesus pointed out in other discussions, subjects of Satan (John 8:42–47).

These me did not listen to Jesus because they were not “His.” Those who belong to God recognise the voice of God. But, like sheep from a foreign flock, those who belong to the Devil don’t respond when called by Christ.

Jesus continues this analogy with two more analogies that flesh out the idea that Jesus is the one and only means of salvation, and that those who are part of God’s kingdom will recognise no other voice except Him.

Those who don’t listen to Jesus voice are, in plain terms, “owned” by someone else. As Jesus pointed out in prior conversations, such people actually belong to Satan (John 8:42–47).

This is the first of three separate analogies Jesus uses that involve shepherding. As the following paragraphs show, the men to whom He speaks—the same religious leaders who criticised His healing of a man born blind (John 9)—will predictably fail to get the point.

What’s the point?

Of course, as those not inclined to listen to Jesus in the first place, these men fail to grasp the point being made. Instead, as seen in later, they will try to write Him off as a babbling maniac.

Jesus has just finished comparing His ministry to the voice of a shepherd. 

3. I am the good shepherd

Now Jesus makes the third of seven “I am” statements found in the gospel of John. In these remarks, Jesus evokes the words spoken to Moses by God in Exodus 3:14. Jews of that era knew exactly what such claims implied—when Jesus used those words in reference to Abraham earlier, they interpreted it as blasphemy and tried to kill Him (John 8:58–59).

Here, Jesus makes a separate metaphor, which is only partly related to the one just completed. Since the doorkeeper would typically lay across the opening to rest or sleep. In that way, the gatekeeper very literally became “the door” of the sheep pen.

Here, Jesus is implying that He, and He alone, is the means by which God intends people to come to God. His comment in the next passage, in particular, is meant to state that the prior religious leaders of the people were not the “true” leaders God intended. This concept also echoes, at least subtly, the single door God placed on the ark built by Noah—the one and only doorway through which mankind was saved from the wrath of God (Genesis 6:16).

Legitimate authority in Jesus

Jesus continues to explain that, like the door—the gatekeeper—He is the one and only legitimate authority for the sheep. The religious leaders who have controlled Israel to that point are like those trying to sneak into the sheep pen, or calling to sheep which are not theirs. They are, spiritually, thieves and robbers.

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This analogy brings several layers of meaning. First and foremost, it is only through the door that the sheep can “be saved.” This uses a Greek term, sōthēsetai, which implies something being kept safe, healed, or rescued from destruction. This is very dramatic terminology for literal sheep, though the pen was their best protection from wild animals. Jesus’ statement, then, is unusually direct in its spiritual implications. Jesus is that door, and the only door, an idea often repeated in the New Testament (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Closely related to this, the door—Jesus, in this case—is what separates all sheep into two basic groups. Sheep are either “in” or “out”; they are “saved” or “unsaved.” There are no other categories, and no other options. This, also, supports the New Testament’s consistent teaching that Jesus Christ is the one and only means by which any person can be eternally saved.

Narrow is the gate to Heaven

Also, some interpreters see this as a reference to Jesus leading people out of Judaism and into its intended fulfillment, Christianity.

Everlasting life and spiritual abundance

Jesus begins His third and most detailed analogy. He has already compared the hypocritical, tradition-bound religious leaders to thieves. The purpose of a thief, so far as the flock is concerned, is only to wreak havoc; the robber causes mayhem for his own selfish gain. In the same way, ungodly people who claim to be spiritual cause suffering in others for the sake of their pride and greed (Titus 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:5).

In contrast, Jesus seeks to not just preserve life for the sheep, but to provide it. In the prior analogy, Jesus claimed that as the one and only door, He was the means by which a person could “be saved.” That Greek term, sōthēsetai, suggests rescue, protection, and healing. Here, Jesus deepens that claim by saying that His purpose is not only tied to life, but to an abundant life.

That “abundant” life means something more meaningful than material wealth and prosperity (Colossians 3:2–3; Matthew 6:25–32). It begins with salvation from an eternity of suffering the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). An abundant life is, first and foremost, eternal life. The abundant life means gaining a heavenly perspective, leading to a growing trust and knowledge of God. It means blossoming into a life full of the fruit of the spirit. While false teachers and false religions offer shallow, temporary relief.

Only Jesus brings truly everlasting life and spiritual abundance.

Humility and sacrifice

A main point of this third analogy is that Jesus is the “good shepherd,” in contrast to those who have selfish interests at heart. Jesus comes to offer life, and does so with humility and self-sacrifice. Prior statements compared some religious leaders to thieves and robbers, who purposefully take advantage of the flock for their own gain.

Here, Jesus refers to those who serve the flock, in a sense, but who are not motivated by love and self-sacrifice. A hired shepherd, for instance, is inclined to run away when the sheep are under severe threat. That hired hand is only interested in the sheep so long as he benefits; when serving the sheep means personal risk, he abandons them.

This describes those who purposefully take advantage of others using spiritual deception.

But it also applies to those who “passively” take advantage, by claiming spiritual authority or privilege without the service or sacrifice that position entails.

Eternal life

This statement is also important for its connection to a famous statement made later in this chapter. Jesus will claim that the life He offers is eternal, secure, and absolute: “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” The verb used here, is harpazei. Later one He uses this exact same root word, differing only in tense: harpasei. As the one and only “good shepherd,” Jesus will never allow any of “His” sheep to be taken from Him. Period.

Jesus is willing to lay down His life for the sake of “His” sheep.

It is important for believers to recognise Jesus’ voice and follow only Him. He is “the door,” like the single narrow gap in the ancient sheep pen. All people—like all sheep—were either “in” or “out” of this door, and only those “in Christ” can be saved.

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Jesus also reiterates a point made in His first analogy related to shepherding (John 10:1–6). Ancient shepherds spent considerable time with their flocks, from the moment of a lamb’s birth. As such, sheep were acutely tuned to the voice of their shepherd, and only theirs. Sheep would instinctively ignore—or even flee from—the voice of a stranger. Jesus’ sheep, on the other hand, know His voice and respond to it. And, as a “good shepherd,” He knows every detail about those for whom He cares.

Jesus compares that closeness a shepherd has with his sheep and His intimacy with the relationship between God the Son and God the Father. This echoes other statements in the New Testament which imply that salvation through Jesus Christ brings us into an intimate family relationship with God (1 John 3:1; Romans 8:16–17).

Controversial comments from Jesus

The comments Jesus makes controversial to Jesus’ audience. Jesus is claiming to be the sole legitimate means of salvation for mankind (John 10:1–13), and even indicating that He will bring “other sheep,” meaning Gentiles, into this intimate relationship with God (John 10:14–16). Those remarks, in and of themselves, would have been tough for His critics to digest.

Jesus again refers to His impending death. This is a point over which even His own disciples argued (Mark 8:31–33). Jesus has already implied that He is willing to die for the sake of His spiritual “sheep,” as “the Good Shepherd” described earlier (John 10:10–14). This statement goes further and indicates that God the Father has special affection for Jesus specifically because He is laying down His life for the sake of these people. This is echoed in other New Testament Scriptures (Philippians 2:9; Ephesians 1:19–21; Hebrews 2:9).

Jesus reiterates that this is not a matter of theory: He will truly die. However, Jesus also predicts that He will resurrect from that death based on authority given Him by God.

It’s not shocking, then, to see many who were listening to Jesus’ words dismiss Him as a raving lunatic. He claims to be the sole example of a “good shepherd,” with special favor from God, who will soon rise from the dead. Others, of course, point out that Jesus’ miraculous signs make it very awkward to believe He’s insane or demonically possessed.

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Here, Jesus clarifies: this is exactly what He’s saying.

Command from the Father

John 10:18: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.'”

The context of these remarks is important: Jesus is still debating with religious critics who are angry over His recent miracle (John 9). There, Jesus gave sight to a man born blind, which sparked debates that did not end well for the local religious leaders.

Now, Jesus continues to explain His role as “the Good Shepherd,” which includes His willingness to die for the sake of His sheep. That sacrificial love, Jesus says, is a reason He has special favor with God the Father (John 10:17; Philippians 2:9). It’s possible, in some sense, that those listening might have assumed Jesus prior statement was just an assumption. In other words, that Jesus was “willing” to die, not that He “would die.” Talk of Christ’s death is something Jesus’ closest followers often struggled to accept.

As He continues, Jesus makes it clear that His role as “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:10–14) and “the Door” (John 10:7–9) not only includes an actual death, it also includes resurrection. That death is entirely voluntary—it is not something into which Jesus is being coerced (Matthew 26:53). And it will result in a resurrection, based on divine power and authority (John 2:19–21). In this relatively brief statement, Jesus claims to have power over life and death—even His own—as granted to Him by God. He predicts His own death and revival.

The grand nature of those ideas may be a reason that—at least here—the crowd doesn’t seem to react with accusations of blasphemy, as they do in other passages (John 5:18). In simple terms, what Jesus says is so outlandish that it suggests two other possibilities. The audience seems torn between Jesus being possessed—the ancients’ reference to insanity—and being a miraculously-verified messenger (John 10:19–21).

Division amongst the Jews

Many of Jesus’ words were divisive (John 7:43; 9:16). To some extent, His entire existence drives separation between human beings (Matthew 10:34–36; Psalm 53:1; Acts 25:19). Jesus even claimed to be “the Door” and the sole means of salvation (John 10:7–9); that implies a division of people into one of only two categories, saved and unsaved.

The specific words referred to here are Jesus’ comments about being killed and raised from death (John 10:15–18). This conversation happens immediately after Jesus has given sight to a man born blind (John 9). That sparked a debate where Jesus laid out three shepherding-related analogies to explain His ministry (John 10:1–14). The miracle leads some to believe Jesus is a legitimate messenger of God (John 10:21), others to suggest He’s a nutcase (John 10:20).

As always, how a person responds to Christ has everything to do with their own spiritual state (John 10:1–5). Those who want to follow God will respond accordingly (John 7:17). Those who don’t will find a way to resist, no matter what (John 5:39–40). Miracles and truthful teaching ought to lead people to accept Him (John 3:1–2), but a hard heart can always make excuses (Matthew 12:31; Luke 11:15).

This passage does not say how the rest of this encounter plays out; the last verses only show the two main views of the crowd. After that, the narrative will leap ahead several months.

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Insanity or God’s work

To some in the audience, this claim is bizarre enough that they think Jesus is crazy. This isn’t the first time people have suggested that He is mentally ill. At one point, His own family tried to bring Him home, thinking He had lost His mind (Mark 3:21). His critics sometimes accused Him of insanity—considered a form of demonic possession in that era—in order to discredit Him (John 8:48–52).

Others, however, point to Jesus’ miracles and other signs to suggest He’s telling the truth (John 3:1–2). The supernatural signs, especially, make it hard to accept the idea that Jesus is a raving lunatic (John 9:16).

There are two main positions of the crowd; no particular resolution is given. After recording the basic response of the audience, John’s gospel skips ahead several months to a different incident.

In contrast, those miracles are the main point referenced by the other major faction in the crowd.

They, like others before, rightly recognise that these are “signs” meant to give divine approval to Jesus’ message!


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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath

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