When I look at Christianity in the headlines, I see all sorts of articles and talk about abortion, homosexuality, or prayer in schools. What I don’t see often is discussion about Jesus Himself, and the implications of His life and Person.
On a recent flight, seated next to a successful businessman, I noted that as we talked about life he was far more interested in talking about the Person of Christ than the politics around Him. Likewise, a similar discussion again on a flight, this time with a porn star retiring so she could get her life back, focused on the Person of Jesus, not on what He might say about her profession. She wasn’t interested in the politics of Christianity, but she needed to know if Jesus was real and had the power to change her after many years of adult fimmaking.
Seems many people have had enough of the shadows of religion, but are ready for the substance. So what is the substance?
The substance is Christ Himself, In other words…
Christians don’t follow Christianity; Christians follow Christ.
Christians don’t preach themselves; Christians proclaim Christ.
Christians don’t point people to core values; Christians point people to the cross.
Christians don’t preach about Christ; Christians preach Christ.
Christ truly is the Substance. There’s nobody like Him.
Recently I was preparing to preach out of the book of Colossians, in particular Colossians 1:15-20 which gives a powerful description of Christ the Lord. Through some basic research I discovered that the context within which Paul preached radically impacted His presentation.
During 1st century A.D., Rome honored an imperial Cult throughout its empire. Caesar was worshipped as divine lord and king; sacrifices were offered to him on a regular basis, and to deny him could result in heavy persecution.
It was into this setting that Paul went forth not just as a traveling evangelist offering people a new religious experience, but like an appointed ambassador for a new king-in-waiting. His objective seems to have been establishing cells of people loyal to this new king who would order their lives around His life and teaching. In fact, this was so strong in Paul’s message that in Acts 17:7 Christians were reportedly acting “contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Paul’s gospel was much like the proverbial stone thrown at the head of Goliath, or in this case at the Emperor and the Roman cult.
Paul could not have been clearer concerning who Jesus is than when he said “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation … He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” The language of first or firstborn had specific connotation at that time. To be first meant to have authority over and was often used to describe deities and their power. Jesus is the true King; we need to recognize His authority and rule in our lives just as much as we need to accept the great gift of His salvation.
The implications continue to filter out to how we go about evangelism as well. For example, a recent article in Relevant Magazine stated, “As churches seek to communicate the Gospel, they often look to Jesus as having been culturally relevant and base evangelistic programs and practices on this idea … [but] could our methods of culturally relevant evangelism actually be missing their mark?” It’s possible that they are onto something we need to consider.
Others go so far as saying, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” Sounds great and cool, but honestly, how can good news be communicated without words?
Jesus and Paul were absolutely undoubtedly attuned to the needs of people, but they came with a message that unseated the status quo and current thinking of the regions where they ministered. Jesus came to replace the dominant belief that salvation came through being a Jew with the new understanding that Jews and Gentiles alike must repent and believe in Him.
Similarly, Paul’s preaching overthrew the idea that the Roman Empire and its Caesar were the pinnacle of civilization on Earth; rather, the church was the true civilization and Jesus its ruler. His message must become ours… “preach Christ and Him crucified!” That’s the message that toppled empires and changed stony hearts. That same message will change the world today!
To hear Pastor Ron’s message on Colossians 1:15-20 and Following Christ, click here.
 Acts 17:7 NASB
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, 575.
 1 Corinthians 2:2 NASB