May 6, 2014

"First place"

Part of a series of articles, entitled 20 years a Christian, recalling some of the important lessons I have learned in nearly two decades as a believer in Jesus.

“That in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1.18, KJV). Those words were placarded here and there around the campus where I attended seminary. And why wouldn’t they be? The “he” in that verse is the Lord Jesus … and doesn’t every Christian want to give Him “first place” (as the NASB translates it)? Colossians 1.18 is, of course, explaining what God thinks of His Son. The Father has designed the world and the plan of redemption so that Jesus “will come to have first place in everything.” But shouldn’t we have the same heartbeat? The very fact that we are called Christians would indicate that we are all about Christ, wouldn’t it? And so the seminary chose wisely in making Colossians 1.18 a touchstone that we students would see posted before us day by day. Jesus must “come to have first place in everything.”

And yet there are so many things in the Christian life (often good things!) that can vie for attention with Him. We can be zealous to turn over all the stones of end-times prophecy … without really giving much attention to the fact that the end times will bring us Jesus. We can be concerned to emphasize salvation by grace alone, through faith alone … but without reveling all that much in the Christ in whom we have come to place our faith. We can work tirelessly for biblical church life and order … but sometimes simply for the sake of order, and not because we are seeking to present a spotless bride to the Bridegroom. We can contend for doctrinal purity and clarity … and yet forget that good doctrine is meant to drive us to the Son of God. We can strive to promote Christian family values, but end up talking much more about family than about Christ! We can long for heaven, not because we desire so much to be with the Lord, but because we don’t want to have arthritis any more. And the list could go on, noticing ways in which we can sort of assume Jesus, but fail to actually glory in Him.

And so, if there is one thing that I hope I have learned (and am still learning) in these nearly two decades as a Christian, it is just this: Jesus must “come to have first place in everything.” “Moses and … all the prophets” speak about Him (Luke 24.27)! And we must learn to read them that way! Grace is only grace because of Him! And we must preach it that way! Heaven will be heaven because of His presence with us there! And we must think of it that way! Families are Christian because they hope in Christ, not merely in Christian parental strategies. And we must parent that way! All “so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” That is how God has ordered His world, according to Colossians 1.18. Shouldn’t we order ours in the same way?

Christ, fully God and fully man; Christ, in His offices of prophet, priest, and king; Christ, in His sinless life, and sacrificial death, and resurrection, and return – He is to be the centerpiece of our faith! He must be the theme of our song. He must be the grand topic of our preaching. He must be our hope when we send our prayers heavenward – that the Father would hear because of Him, not us! And He must be the one whose name we delight to hear when we walk into the church house each Sunday morning. His name, as John Newton wrote, must be manna to our hungry souls! He must be our chief desire, our greatest friend, our only hope. Christ Himself, not merely the right doctrine that points to Him! Christ Himself, not merely a Christian upbringing. Jesus, and not merely a sound church. Him, and not just our witness for Him. Christ, and not simply the grace that He gives!

O, if there is one thing that is most important of all; if there is one thing I hope I have learned in these nearly twenty years in the faith, it is “that in all things he might have the preeminence” (KJV, emphasis mine).


Anonymous said...

Greatly appreciated wisdom and writing. A reminder of something I forget at an amazing frequency, or am still learning.


Kurt Strassner said...

Thanks,Dean. We all need reminding of this ... all the time, don't we? Press on, brother!

Anonymous said...

Kurt, once again you have been able to capture succinctly the 'whole' for us who so often settle for good 'pieces/parts'! If I can get someone to help me accomplish it, would you be willing for me to 'share' this on fb?
Still hoping for a face-to-face sometime soon-ish!
Hope today is particularly joyful for you.
love, mkathy

Kurt Strassner said...

Absolutely, Ms. Kathy. Share away! Thanks, as always, for reading ... and checking in. Give our greetings to the clan at Falkner and beyond!