This article looks at two examples of men who lived Christ-centred lives: 1st century Paul, and Charles Spurgeon. The author draws lessons from these men's lives and ministry to show how Christians today can develop the centrality of Christ in their lives.

Source: The Banner of Truth, 2002. 3 pages.

The Centrality of Christ in Christianity

There is nothing more dangerous or tragic than the failure of professing Christians to keep Christ central in all things. The great end of God in sending Jesus to triumph over death and become the head of his church is 'that in all things he might have the preeminence' (Col. 1:18). The Christian life is all about the supremacy of Christ.

It is crucial that we become radically oriented towards Christ in all things. Most people in the world today are not. Most Christians are not. People centre their lives around many other things: job, money, family, home, recreation and church, but rarely around Christ. We need examples of Christ-centredness which will teach us how to orient all of our thinking and living around him. Two great examples of Christ-centredness come to mind: Paul and C. H. Spurgeon.

First, consider the Apostle Paul. It is only fitting that we start with Paul, because he was surely the most utterly Christ-centred man who ever lived. This stands out in all his writings. 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world' (Gal. 6:14).

Paul's Christ-centredness is evident in the radical nature of his conversion which led him to forsake everything dear to him for the sake of Christ. In Philippians 3, after describing his former reasons for having 'confidence in the flesh' (verses 4-7), Paul expresses, not just the renunciation, but even the detestation of everything he had to boast in for the sake of gaining Christ: 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ' (Phil. 3:8-9).

The Apostle tells us that through co-crucifixion with Christ, his present life is empowered: 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'

My father, preaching on Galatians 2:20, said that if you could boil Christianity down into four words, they would be 'Not I, but Christ.'

Several times, Paul reminded the Corinthians of the focus of his ministry to them:

We preach Christ crucified; For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified; We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Cor. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:5

If Paul had written a personal mission statement, it would have sounded something like what he tells us of his ambition in both life and death: 'According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain' (Phil. 1:20-21). How many could say that? 'To live is Christ, and to die is gain.' Paul did not care about anything except as it related to Christ.

A second example of Christ-centredness is Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist pastor of nineteenth-century London. One of the secrets behind the extraordinary fruitfulness of his ministry and the enduring legacy of his sermons is his consistent emphasis on the Person of Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon's Christ-centred focus is evident in the first words he spoke in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, built to accommodate the multitudes of people who came to hear him. Setting the tone of the thirty years of ministry which would follow, he said:

I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, shall be the Person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ'.

 It is a well-known and indisputable fact that Spurgeon was Calvinistic in his creed. But he saw the doctrines of grace as important only in their relation to Christ. He said:

What is doctrine after all but the throne whereon Christ sitteth, and when the throne is vacant what is the throne to us? Doctrines are the shovel and tongs of the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking thereon. Doctrines are Christ's garments; verily they smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes out of the ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad, but it is not the garments we care for as much as the person, the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon saw every article of faith and every text of Scripture directly connected with Christ. When asked how to prepare sermons, he once said, 'It is easy, just pick a text and go cross-country to Calvary.' Someone has quoted him to have said: 'All roads lead to Rome and all texts lead to Christ.'

This emphasis, however, did not lead Spurgeon away from doctrinal teaching. It simply kept doctrine subservient to Christ, as the following passage reveals:

If I preach Christ I must preach him as the covenant head of his people, and how far am I then from the doctrine of election? If I preach Christ I must preach the efficacy of his blood, and how far am I removed then from the great doctrine of an effectual atonement? If I preach Christ I must preach the love of his heart, and how can I deny the final perseverance of the saints? If I preach the Lord Jesus as the great Head and King, how far am I removed from divine Sovereignty? Must I not, if I preach Christ personally, preach his doctrines? I believe they are nothing but the natural outgrowth of that great root thought, or root substance rather, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who will preach Christ fully will never lax in doctrine.

Spurgeon's Christ-centredness also impacted the way he evangelized and taught people to seek salvation. How we need to learn from Spurgeon here in our man-centred age of preachers that often give people more psychology than gospel!

Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument – it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down ... Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect deliverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His agonies, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him.

Perhaps Spurgeon never put it more succinctly than when he said, If you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead'.

Spurgeon's Christ-centredness sprang from his deep, personal relationship with the Lord. He loved Christ deeply and passionately and his sermons are filled with rapturous exaltation of Christ. He eloquently said:

If you leave out Christ, you have left the sun out of the day, and the moon out of the night, you have left the waters out of the sea, and the floods out of the river, you have left the harvest out of the year, the soul out of the body, you have left joy out of heaven, you robbed all of its all. There is no gospel worth thinking of, much less worth proclaiming, if Jesus be forgotten. We must have Jesus as Alpha and Omega in all our ministries.

What should we learn from Paul and Spurgeon? How can we cultivate this kind of Christ-centredness in our lives?

First, we must make Christ central in our thinking and doctrine.

All doctrines must be seen in relation to Christ, not in isolation from him. When we speak of election, for instance, let us remember that it is 'in Christ' (Eph. 1:4). As Spurgeon said, the doctrines are the garments, but Christ is the Person clothed in them.

Second, we must make Christ central in our affections and worship.

He must be adored and loved, reverenced, praised and rejoiced in. He must be 'the chiefest among ten thousand' (Song of Sol. 5:10) to us, our 'all, and in all' (Col. 3:11).

Third, we must make Christ central in our living and practice.

What we confess in word and profess in worship should be expressed in works. It is in the practical realm of everyday living that the genuineness of our love for Christ is tested. The worth of Christ must be displayed in our marriages, occupations, money-management, recreation, and relationships.

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