The Center and Circumference

CENTERING OUR LIVES ON CHRIST 

Isaiah 45:18-25

 

I call your attention to our text, verse 22

22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.  Isaiah 45:22

 

This was  the great call of God to Israel through the prophet Isaiah.  All the prophets of the past  have in varied tones uttered this same message.  It is the perpetual call of God.  And upon man's answer to this call, depends his condition, his character, and his final destiny.

22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

 

God gave the highest revelation of Himself to humanity in the incarnation.. therefore these words of ancient prophecy are supremely the words of Christ. The context of this text is quoted by the writers of the New Testament in direct application to Him.  We are warranted therefore in quoting this passage, as finding its most powerful delivery in the Person and Ministry of Christ.

 

During our Lord’s ministry, His call to men was:

28Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30..    God desires the salvation of all men: Isaiah declares it 

 Isaiah 45:22-25

22“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. 24He shall say, ‘Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. 25In the Lord all the descendants of Israel  shall be justified, and shall glory. ”

 

 Jesus’ perpetual call to men was and is:  am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me

(John 14:6). 

 

In John chapter 11 there is the account of a great  sickness that befell Lazarus. His sisters sent with this simple message:  Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick”  (verse 3). The record states that Jesus delayed His coming unto them for two days.  Upon His arrival in Bethany,  He found Lazarus dead, his sisters words were these: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”    Hear the Lord’s reply, them but as applicable today as when uttered:

25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; 26and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25

 

The prophet declares God’s message to all mankind,  for all time:

22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else  (Isaiah 45:22).  Because the One Who speaks has revealed Himself to us perfectly in the Christ, we look to Him this morning as the center and the circumference of man’s salvation. 

 

Peter when addressing  the Sanhedrin stated the same in Acts 4:10-12

10be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even in him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11He is the stone which was set at nought of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner. 12And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.

 

It is through that Person and that Life we are  able to deliver the great messages of hope. Jesus is the center of our universe, the center of our world.  We date all the events of world history in terms of the day that he was born.  More important to us, he is the center of our lives. He is the center of everything that matters. And as Christians we wear His name and ought to  wear it proudly.

 

Even though we consider Christ as central in our lives, I wonder if perhaps sometimes, even in the midst of religious activities that we engage in, do we do not crowd Christ into the background of our thinking? We think so often in terms of holding services: who will teach, how do we get more to people to attend  And in the midst  of these things, and all the details, we forget the why. We need to ask, “Why the Worship? Why the services we perform?  And we need to stop and remember it is because of our love for Christ, and our desire to bring glory and honor  to His name. Christ is the center of our lives and we must not let anything crowd him into the background. I do not wish to be “church-centered” in my preaching: I wish to be “Christ-centered.”

 

The church is vital if we are to reach heaven, but the church takes its importance only because  we recognize, it is God’s means and methods of reconciling man unto Himself (Ephesians 2:16).  The church takes its importance from the fact that it is Christ’s way of saving the souls of men.  It is not the church that is central, it is Christ that is central. I often preach, as you know, concerning the importance of us reading the Bible.   I wish to exalt the Bible in my preaching always, I have urged that we read it in its entirety and a number have done so.  But only in order that Christ may be supreme. The Bible is only ink and paper, unless it tells us of Christ and His message of salvation.

 

Christ is the center of God’s word,  Hebrews 11:1-2

1God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

 

 Christ is the heir of Divine writings, The Old Testament points to His coming,  beginning with Genesis 3:15 all the way till we read in Luke 2:11 “for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  All that preceded Him led to Him and culminated in Him. Everything since the time He manifested Himself, in the world, the world  has been affected by His presence here.   All the highways of the past led to Him, All the highways since His coming have proceeded from Him. He was and is, the consummation of man’s hopes.    The Old Testament is simply events leading up to that crowning event and the New Testament is unfolding it in its fullness.  Jesus referred to the scriptures in these words, 39Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39).

 

While the Bible is prominent in my preaching, I hope it is a means to emphasize Christ is the center and circumference of the world.  Often I  stress doctrines, explaining the steps men must take in order to become Christians:  Faith, repentance, confession and baptism. But doctrines must never separated from the Christ who gave them. They are only the means of drawing near to our Savior. I sometimes preach to you doctrines concerning the church organization and its worship. Always, to point out that they take their importance from Christ who is the Head thereof:        Ephesians 1:22-23

 

Think of this whole matter in terms of a young couple getting married. We see a fine young man and a fine young woman. They fall in love, pick a date for the marriage, and establish a home. After a while children come. The most important element in that home is the love that binds them together.  By necessity the father must earn a living. He goes to town each morning, works eight hours or more, and brings home the money that pays the bills. As the years go by he spends long hours at the grindstone, earning the family income. The wife also has her responsibilities. She must cook for the family, wash the dishes, keep the house and clothes clean, and all the rest.

 

As the years come and go there is the likelihood that they will forget the central thing which binds them together--the love which is really the basis of the home.  They lose it through preoccupation with working at the office and washing the dishes. They need to stop occasionally and lift their eyes from these necessary, but secondary, things to the main thing--the love that they bear for each other.   Just so you and I need to lift our eyes from these good things which we do, in order to remember the One for Whom we do them. 

 

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, his theme  was putting Christ first, this is apparent in the four-chapter letter which the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians.  Almost every other verse in this entire book mentions Christ and the entire wonderful, personal relationship that Paul had with him. You see it even as the letter begins.  

“Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:1-2).  In only two verses, he refers to Christ three times, and later in the same chapter he say:  For me to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:21). To the Galatians he said something similar: “It is not I that live, but Christ who liveth in me.” (Gal. 2:20).

 

Later he comes to the climax of his exaltation of Christ when he says,  (Phil. 2:5-11).  

5Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. 9Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; 10that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Christ is central and this passage says it in such wonderful language. May we learn, the thing which makes Christianity real is not what we think, or say, or do, but Christ  We do not need to explain him, nor defend him.   We only need to declare His name presenting him to the world. It is His exalted truth, His perfect life, and His matchless love which reaches out and takes hold of men.  Jesus once said, of Himself 32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. 33But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die.  (John 12:32-33).    Oh, He hold the power to draw, if only we can show the real Christ to the world about us.

 

 That is the story of Lew Wallace, the man who wrote “Ben Hur.”  Wallace didn’t start out to write the magnificent novel “Ben Hur.”   He began his research project to destroy the “Jesus myth.” He was not a believer and his study was designed to show to all men the fallacy of faith in Jesus.  But as he read, there came a faith that he had never known before. The stubborn facts of the existence of Jesus--the kind of man he was, the kind of teaching that he did eventually led him to write, not the book that he had thought to write, but the great novel, “Ben Hur,” about the impact of Jesus on a man of the ancient Roman days. It was a story written as a tribute by a devout worshipper.

 

It is the same as the story of the woman by the well in Samaria.  She came up to draw water and, after meeting Jesus, went home to say to her fellow townsmen “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).  And many believed on Him…..  But now the rest of the story  John 4:39-41

39And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman, who testified, He told me all things that ever I did. 40So when the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him to abide with them: and he abode there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word; 42and they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.

 

Our observation quickly proves the truthfulness of Christ’s statement,  32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. “ Jesus is the center of our world, but he is much, much  more,  He is the center of the universe and everything that is in it.

 

 I turn to the book of Colossians, and began reading in chapter one, verse thirteen: Listen as the apostle Paul exalts our Lord. (Colossians 1:13-22).

13who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love; 14in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins: 15who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; 17and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell; 20and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens. 21And you, being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works, 22yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him:  

 

He is the center of everything that is important, so the lines of the song seem especially fitting,

All hail the power of Jesus’ name Let angels prostrate fall.

Bring forth the royal diadem And crown him Lord of all.

 

We began our study with the passage from Isaiah which said

22“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. 24He shall say, ‘Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. 25In the Lord all the descendants of Israel  shall be justified, and shall glory. ”

 

Christ stands at the center of the world, what is He saying….. “Look unto me, and be ye saved”.   

In John 12:20-21, a marvelous account:

20And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus. These being Greek, indicates they came from a rich past,  rich in arts, literature, sculptural and philosophy. The thinkers of the world were Greeks.

 

The fact that they came seeking to see Jesus indicates in a rather wonderful way that their wisdoms were inadequate. They came with hungering hearts looking for something beyond that which they knew. Sir, we would see Jesus.  The non-Christian world is coming even now with hungering hearts, to say to us who are His disciples, Sir, we would see Jesus.  May the reflections in our lives be the kind that will inspire them to want to be like us as we are like Christ.  (Matthew 5:13-16)

 

 As we close these thoughts: May Christ be exalted and through Him, the Eternal Father above.  May the church take a vital place in our lives because that is the way in which we are related to Him.  May the Bible be to us God’s sacred book. May His doctrines which are contained in Scripture, be held dear,  because they stem from Christ.

“Christ The Center And Circumference”

 

contact:

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658