Jesus said: “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE — No one COMES TO THE FATHER except THROUGH ME!” John 14:6
If you profess to be Christian, let’s make something very clear — You MUST believe that Jesus Christ was the concrete, full reality of God in the flesh; that he was crucified and resurrected to atone for our sins; and that there is no other way. Take Christ, in this understanding, out of the equation and you are not a Christian. Period.
We live in a relativistic world aimlessly flailing about for truth. It is nice, cuddly, and friendly to say we are all going to heaven or all religions lead to God. That’s nice, but frankly, it lacks any authoritative foundation for truth. We can’t just “decide” what is true. (On a side note, some “universalists” have done some very well-grounded research on God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ covering everyone. They may not be that far off and I would not put them in the NON-Christian category. However, other “universalists” that entirely take Christ out of the equation or place him on the same level as other major prophets — Joseph Smith, Muhammad, etc. — these people would be considered NON-Christians).
Paul’s instruction to Timothy applies today: “Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.”Without question, I am “liberal” when it comes to discussing most issues surrounding the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t command it as a rule or live it as a principle, I am open to talking about any contemporary issue. However, I refuse to deny the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ. How can one say they are a Christian when Christ isn’t central?
Based on “Vintage Church” by Mark Driscoll, here are some central truths that we MUST profess our faith in if we consider ourselves Christians.
1. Jesus repeatedly and emphatically declared himself to be God: “Again, the high priest asked him “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Also read Matt 26:63-65, John 8:58-59, John 10:30-33)
2. Jesus came as God in the flesh to dwell among us: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and ONly, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (Also see Phil 2:5-6, Col. 2:9, 1 John 4:2.
3. Jesus existed as fully human — which was added to his divinity. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim. 2:5
4. Jesus forgave sins, which only God can do (Read Mark 2:1-7) and lived a sinless existence.
5. The Spiritual realm (demons) often were the first to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God.
“Sadly, it is too common for churches not to speak of Jesus, which is a tragedy akin to a wife rarely uttering the name of her own husband. In our day when there are innumerable contradictory beliefs about who God is, Christians must be clear that their God is Jesus Christ alone so as to communicate the same central truth that Scripture does. No matter how many verses are used, the Bible has not been rightly understood or proclaimed unless Jesus is the central focus and hero.” — Driscoll.
Jesus is central. Jesus knew so. His disciples knew so. Paul knew so. But it is not enough to just provide a lashing on those who deny this claim. We need a positive spin, a way to actually discern truth and ethical decisions as “Christians” and not just as practical atheists (those who deny centrality and supremacy of Christ).
I love this quote by Glen Stassen: “Jesus sifted and interpreted Scripture and understood his role in God’s redemptive plan, in light of the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a warm, disciplined relationship with God.”
Or, another summary. To be a Christian is to be confessional (Rom 10:9), to experience a regenerated heart and a new life as a Christian, and to be missional, seeking to bring about change into the world.
Or how about this one from Paul: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:5-11
So, if we profess to be a Christian, we can determine truth through the following framework.
First, our basic, core conviction must be in agreement with the above truths about Christ. If you deny that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth, and life, forget it. Not a Christian. I just can’t understand how you can be a CHRISTian and not believe CHRIST is central and supreme and God in the flesh.
Second, we can look to the principles that Jesus professed or embodied. To say that we must “love our enemies” is not a specific rule, but a principle. To determine truth or how to come to an ethically sound decision, we must look to the principles that JESUS lived or embodied.
Third, we look to the RULES that Jesus taught. Certainly, there were specific rules Jesus commanded. For instance, he quoted a Commandment: “Thou shall not kill.” That’s a hard and fast rule. Another one: “If a Roman soldier asks you to carry his pack one mile, I tell you to carry it two miles.” This is a specific rule for a specific situation.
Fourth, we look to the Immediate/Gut response. As followers of Christ, we will begin to reflect and mirror His glory in ever-increasing ways (2 Cor: 3:18). Thus, there are times when are immediate response need no reason and we should consider these.
Where does Scripture fit in? Jesus viewed the Hebrew Scripture through a prophetic lens. Specifically, he used and viewed scripture as an authoritative voice, reading the Law through the lens of the prophetic tradition (especially Isaiah). Therefore, I disagree that tradition is equal to scripture. If we are to follow Jesus, he often scoffed in the face of tradition (or human work) with the backing of scripture, so we must view scripture as the “Sun” or final moral ground of all decisions.
With that being said, here is a simple and easy framework to discern truth.
1. Look to scripture and everything Jesus said, embodied, lived, and pointed towards.
2. Look to other scriptures through this prophetic lens. Examine all other scripture the way Jesus might have or how he addressed it.
3. Last, read and look to other authorities on scripture.
All of this, it should be mentioned again, should be done GUIDED by the HOLY SPIRIT and in a warm, disciplined relationship with God. If it is NOT, scripture and TRUTH just become cold and hard.
With all of this being said, I am imperfect. I am still learning how to give words to the truths I feel so passionate about — and that is the supremacy of Jesus Christ as Lord God, Priest, Prophet and King. I find it so incredibly disheartening to see Christians across the world water down this basic, foundational truth of the Gospel. I refuse to put my faith into something that lacks hard and fast authority. And I’m learning, through this process, that scripture MUST play the role of the “Sun” in this search for truth. If it does not, we act like we are blindfolded playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, aimlessly spinning about.
Again, I’m imperfect. I’m not that smart and I certainly don’t claim to ever know the fullness of God. Ultimately, I realize that “The Lord knows those who are His.” (2 Tim 2:19).
However, there are some things we must call ourselves back to. But we’re going to do this through the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit. We aren’t going to do this through right doctrine or arguing for truth. This is too difficult of a pursuit in our postmodern, experiential-based world. Instead, we must pray ceaselessly for God’s Spirit to descend and BLOW through His people. We need miracles. We need the supernatural. We need unexplainable healings. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. That alone is going to change lives and change opinions.
May the Spirit of God blow. May we simply pray fervently. May we decrease so He must increase. May we not argue “truth” but simply experience “truth.” May the Spirit of God make it known that Christ is alive — today and forever.