Monday night Eileen and I were blessed by our dear friends from SoCal, Scott and Jody, who joined us for dinner and a time of reconnecting and fellowship. Sweet!
As is often the case when old comrades get together, our conversation eventually migrated toward our spiritual lives – and soon after that we were talking about our consistent need to keep Christ at the center of everything. This is not always easy, as you know, as so many of the demands of the “daily grind” often tilt us off-center and away from our abiding source of hope and joy. Before long, Christ feels distant – though we are the ones who have strayed.
I know that a number of you have taken up Bible-reading plans for 2016. That’s fantastic, but I have a challenge for you: Look for Christ on every page! When Christ becomes our consistent Bible hermeneutic (method or principle of interpretation), we can be sure that we are reading the Scriptures in the way that will yield the greatest spiritual rewards.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth) says it like this: “Sometimes I am reading in parts [of the Bible] that don’t seem to have anything to do with Jesus. You get into those heavy parts of the Old Testament. One of the things in my subconscious that I am mindful of when I am reading in the Scripture is how does this picture Christ? How does it point me to Christ? That is not always easy to see. But if you’re asking that question, you’re going to be seeing Christ throughout the Scripture. It is His story. This is the redemptive story from beginning to end.
“How does Jesus show up in the Garden of Eden? Ask yourself that question as you’re reading the Scripture. The answer won’t always be obvious, but at least you’ll be more tuned in. When God clothed Adam and Eve in their nakedness because they were ashamed and guilty after they sinned, He killed animals, and out of those skins made clothes for Adam and Eve. Do we not see here an Old Testament foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ, who was killed, the slain lamb of God so that we could be clothed in His righteousness? Look for Jesus in the Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you. I think that will help you keep a fresh love for Christ.”
The more we see Christ for who He really is, the more we will love Him. That’s as it should be, because you and I can expect to be tested in our love for Christ. The enemy is not going to sit back and do nothing as we take up God’s Word and fall more and more in love with our Savior and Lord. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred for God’s glory amidst the horrors of the German Nazis, wrote in The Cost of Discipleship: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Jesus speaks to each one of us: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). That is no plea for halfhearted commitment, but is rather a clarion call to full-blown discipleship. A discipleship that, by Christ’s own description, must include denial of self, daily discipline, and the loss of one’s own life in order to gain the very life of Christ. It is my contention that all of that prayerful rigor is a part of keeping Christ at the center of all things: my mind, my heart, my theology, my worldview, my vocation, and even all of my relationships.
I do not write these things to discourage you in the new year, but to prepare you for the new year. Readiness for the tests that lie ahead should be encouragement for us to face each day with confidence in our more-than-faithful God.
So keep looking for Jesus, friends. He is alive and well, and He desires to be passionately pursued by us (Jeremiah 29:13). Like Nancy said, the whole Bible is His story. In that special revelation first and foremost, as well as in the general revelation happening all around us, Christ still speaks. May our ears be attentive to His voice as the promises of this new year come to life! He is all we really need. By His grace and for His glory, let’s keep Christ central.