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JESUS MANIFESTO RESTORING THE SUPREMACY AND SOVEREIGNTY OF JESUS CHRIST
By LEONARD SWEET FRANK VIOLA
Thomas Nelson Copyright © 2010 Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
All right reserved.
Chapter One THE OCCUPATION OF ALL THINGS
The center and the circumference of the Christian life is none other than the person of Christ. All other things, including those related to Him, are eclipsed by the sight of His peerless worth. God put an image in our galaxy to demonstrate what Christ is to us. We call it the sun. Without it, no life can exist on planet Earth. We are dependent upon the sun for everything. And just as the sun is the center of our solar system, Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of God's universe, and even our lives.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out in his seminal book, Christ the Center (German text, 1960), Jesus is the center of human existence, of history, and the center between God and nature. History is His story. Of this connection, British author H. G. Wells remarked, "I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history."
Yet Christ isn't just found in the center. He's also found in the corners and on the edges, just as the light of the sun hits all of planet Earth. Indeed, Jesus is not just the Lord of the middle and the margins; He's the God of the whole show. The Bright and Morning Star gives light to all that exists.
After two thousand years, Jesus' light shines ever brighter, and we can track His brilliant gleam into the shadowy realms of whatever gloom there is. Knowing Christ profoundly and in reality is the chief pursuit of the Christian life. The Lord is preeminently concerned about our knowing Him. We are "called into the fellowship of [God's] Son."
God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as He is about finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ. When Christ is not central and supreme in our lives, everything about life shifts out of orbit and moves out of kilter. So for Christians, our first task is to know Jesus. And out of that knowing, we will come to love Him, adore Him, proclaim Him, and manifest Him.
THE OCCUPATION OF THE HEAVENS
The entire heavenly realm-the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the angelic hosts-are occupied with Christ. The second member of the Trinity is no second thought of God, but His very forethought and first thought. There are only a few places in the Gospels where we find God the Father speaking audibly, and in each case, He points to His Son:
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"
Jesus once said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Whenever God the Father speaks, He speaks of His Son, for Christ is foremost on His heart. The Bread of Life can be tasted in "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." In fact, when God expresses Himself, it is Christ. We can rightly say that God spoke Himself into human life in the person of the Lord Jesus. For this reason, John called Christ the logos, the living Word of God. God's Word is a person. The one true God has revealed Himself completely and finally in Jesus: "No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us."
In like manner, the Holy Spirit, the great Revelator, also reveals Christ. And Christ is the only thing that the Spirit reveals. He has no other revelation. The Spirit introduces Jesus, usually in some new way.
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
Someone may object by saying, "But Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment." This is true. But Jesus makes Himself the reference point for these things. Therefore, the question becomes: How does the Spirit convict the world?
He does it by showing Christ to the world. The Holy Spirit has come to reveal, to glorify, to magnify, to unveil, to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. He takes what is true of Christ and makes it real and alive in the lives of human beings. That's the occupation and preoccupation of the Spirit. It's what He does for a living.
But there's something more. The Father was so consumed with Christ that He was pleased to place all the divine fullness into Him:
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.
Finally, all of the angelic hosts live to worship and serve the Lord Jesus. They, too, are occupied with Christ: Hebrews 1:6 says,
When [God] again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him."
In a word, Jesus is heaven's passion and occupation.
THE OCCUPATION OF CREATION
Paul tells us that the entire universe was created by Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. In addition, all things in heaven and earth are held together in Christ and will one day be summed up in Him. Consequently, creation is also occupied with Christ.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him.
If you explore the seven days of Creation in light of the New Testament, you will discover that everything in the visible creation is an image of Jesus. For example:
Christ is light. Christ is water. Christ is the life that emerged on the third day after the waters below the firmament were separated from the waters above. Christ is the true Vine. Christ is wheat and the bread of life. Christ is the sun, the moon, and the morning star. Christ is the true Lamb. Christ is the model man. Christ is the real Sabbath.
The Lord Jesus is written in the bloodstream of the universe. The Creator left an impression of Christ in everything. That which came forth from the lungs of God when the worlds were spoken into existence was Jesus. The entire cosmos bears His magnificent imprint.
In a matchless metaphor, Tertullian wrote that Christ (Logos) pervades the world in the same way as honey in the comb. This shouldn't surprise us, since the whole created order was created by, in, through, and for Christ. And the whole creation groans for Jesus to deliver it from the bondage of corruption and fill it with His infinite sweetness.
The Tree of Life
The tree of life my soul hath seen, laden with fruit and always green.
The trees of nature, fruitless be compared with Christ the apple tree.
His beauty doth all things excel. By faith I know but ne'er can tell the glory which I now can see, in Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought, and pleasure dearly I have bought. I miss'd for all-but now I see- 'tis found in Jesus Christ the apple tree.
I'm weary with my former toil. Here I will sit and rest awhile. Under the shadow I will be of Jesus Christ the apple tree.
I'll sit and eat this truth divine. It cheers my heart like spirit'al wine; And now this fruit is sweet to me, that grows on Christ the apple tree.
This fruit does make my soul to thrive. It keeps my dying faith alive, which makes my soul in haste to be with Jesus Christ the apple tree. -Eighteenth-century Christmas carol
THE OCCUPATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
And what of the holy Scriptures? Jesus Himself answered this question, declaring that the Hebrew Scriptures are also occupied with Him:
You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. ... Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Jesus Christ makes Scripture intelligible. He is the key that unlocks the entire biblical canon. When one reads the New Testament carefully, this becomes evident. For instance, the entire story of Israel is the story of the Messiah, Jesus. Christ is the new Israel, the new Jacob.
... and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord by the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son."
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.
Jacob had twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus also chose twelve disciples to follow Him.
Israel was tempted in the wilderness for forty years. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days. In fact, the same temptations that Israel experienced in the wilderness were repeated when Christ was in the wilderness. To combat them, Jesus quoted the words of Moses to satan. Interestingly, they were the exact same words that Moses gave to Israel when she was tempted.
The book of Genesis further demonstrates the Scriptures' preoccupation with Christ. Chapters 1 and 2 were never intended to be the battleground for the Creation-versus-evolution debate. They are rather an unveiling of Christ and His church. Jesus is the new Adam. The church is the new Eve. And the gospel of John is the new Genesis (compare Genesis 1-2 with John 1-2).
Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.... The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Have you ever noticed how the New Testament writers quoted the Hebrew Scriptures? Go back to the Old Testament and read the quoted texts. You'll learn that the New Testament writers were using a method of interpretation that would drive most textual critics insane. It isn't at all modern. It's as if they were reading the texts out of context.
But they weren't. They were reading it through the lens of Christ. For example, consider Colossians 2:16-17: "Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
Consider the way Jesus Himself interpreted the Scriptures in light of Himself. Then combine that with the way the Gospel authors, Paul of Tarsus, and the writer of Hebrews saw Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures. By doing so, you'll be furnished with a new lens through which to read your Old Testament. Christ will leap off of almost every page. When viewed through the template of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament becomes a living piece of art. It gets transformed into God's picture book showing us the wonders of Jesus.
As John Calvin once said, "We ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God?"
Charles Spurgeon underscored this point, saying, "For every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, 'Now what is the road to Christ?' ... I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it."
Note that we aren't expecting religious Jews to see Jesus in the Old Testament, although we wish they would. But it doesn't violate the Jewish faith if they do not. However, it does violate the Christian faith if we do not see Jesus in the Old Testament. Either the Hebrew Bible is a part of the Christian Bible or it isn't.
In short, Christians can only know the full meaning of the Old Testament by looking at the end of the story, which has dawned in Christ. The beginning cannot be understood apart from the end. Genesis cannot be fully understood without Revelation. We, therefore, should understand the Old Testament Scriptures in light of Jesus Christ. He is the Rosetta Stone of the Bible.
THE OCCUPATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The New Testament is also occupied with Christ. It goes without saying that Jesus is the subject of the four Gospels. Their pages are dominated by His amazing life, the horrors of His crucifixion, and the wonders of His resurrection.
In the book of Acts, Jesus-who is now ascended-extends His presence through His body, the church. Luke opened Acts by saying that his Gospel write-up (the gospel of Luke) was a record of "all that Jesus began both to do and teach" (emphasis added). The book of Acts is the continuation of what Jesus did and taught through His body.
The apostles' message throughout Acts is not the plan of salvation. It's not a theology or a set of doctrines either. It is a person-Christ:
... and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them.
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
In Acts 2:42, we read about something called "the apostles' doctrine." Following the day of Pentecost, the church in Jerusalem continued steadfastly in this teaching. But what exactly was it?
Before we answer that question, let's reframe it. Here's the scene. The Twelve have just baptized three thousand new converts. Tomorrow, they will begin teaching these new converts. What will they teach them?
Look across the landscape of contemporary Christianity and ask yourself what many of today's preachers would teach them. Here are some certain answers. They would teach them about ...
how to live a good, clean life
church multiplication strategies
the mark of the beast and end-times prophecy
the 613 laws of Moses, exhorting them to obey each one of them
the 614th commandment: "Thou shalt not forget"
the visions and dreams in Daniel and Ezekiel
signs, wonders, and miracles
how to build a movement
how to live by faith
how to save the lost
Creation versus evolution
how to memorize the Scriptures
the believer's right to "name it and claim it"
how to observe Israel's feasts
wealth and health
Excerpted from JESUS MANIFESTO by LEONARD SWEET FRANK VIOLA Copyright © 2010 by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. Excerpted by permission.
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