The Supremacy of Christ
I write this from Indonesia. I’ve accompanied two members of our Water’s Edge Network staff, Kory Cassell and Micah Kephart, to finalize some exciting things happening in our ministry in this part of the world. I’ll share more about this, and many other exciting ministry developments, on Sunday, January 5, at Central.
Joining us from Cambodia are Pastor Phanna and two of his assistant pastors. These two young men, 29 and 21 respectively, recently completed a three-month leadership training program in Zambia through our partner ministry, Poetice, led by Pastor Micah. As Pastor Phanna’s ministry has grown, so is his need for equipped leaders. Our partnership with Poetice gave us an excellent opportunity to prepare them for ministry in ways similar to the context of their experience at home.
It was the first time Pastor Kory met these two men. I asked them to share a little of their story. One shared how, as a child, he sat on the banks of the river in Phnom Penh drinking. He was one of many children addicted to alcohol. The other shared how he was addicted to drugs. Through Pastor Phanna, both of these men accepted Jesus and have been clean and free ever since. Add to that both Pastor Phanna and my stories, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the purposes of God. There we six were, sitting around a breakfast table, in a country not our own. For all of us, the decision to follow Jesus has led us to places that we would never have expected, doing things we could never have imagined.
My wife, Wibke’s, favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
As that realization hit me, I shared how, for all of us, following Jesus has changed our lives. What also struck me was how following Jesus was far more significant than a personal “Jesus in me” type of thing. As important as our freedom was, it was neither the end of Jesus’ work, nor the ultimate purpose for it.
So, why has God brought us together?
There are many ways I can answer that, but I’ve been struck recently by how the agenda of the church in the world is simply this: Jesus!
In Colossians 1:13-20, the Apostle Paul writes about how Jesus is the firstborn and head, having supremacy over all things.
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Commenting on Colossians 1, Alan Hirsch writes:
This is no reductionist, privatized, “Jesus-in-my-heart” type piety; here we are given a vision of the universal and cosmic significance of Jesus. Jesus is here worshipped as the organizing principle of the entire cosmos! … The Jesus who rules the universe is Lord of the church. The church is not a mere historical effect of the Christ; she is his “fullness” of his “Body.” Therefore, to encounter Christ the Head, one will need also to encounter the Body of Christ - for they are indivisible. … The whole life of Jesus is to be understood as determinative for the whole life of the church.” [A. Hirsch, 5Q, p.73]
I didn’t follow Jesus just for me. I was called to follow Jesus so that I could be drafted into the very instrument the Father determined would bear witness to His Christ in the world. What we had around that breakfast table was a picture of Jesus Himself. Different people from different places, with different framing stories, different gifts, and different callings, yes, but unity in diversity is not the goal of the church’s ministry, but a necessary fruit of it. Our fellowship didn’t demonstrate unity as much as reveal the supremacy of Jesus, who brings all things together!
I have no other explanation for what I experienced this morning other than to say that it reflects the supremacy of Jesus and the ultimate purpose of the Father.
When I put my faith in Jesus on a Wednesday evening in the hall of a Methodist Church in Wales in 1981, I had no idea where that would lead me. I frequently marvel at the road God has led me on. I doubt I will ever be able to comprehend it, and experiences like this morning always brings me back to the wonder of Jesus. In Jesus, the Father was not only reconciling me to Himself, but the world also. That was possible because Jesus, the Second Adam, succeeded where the First Adam failed.
To cite Hirsch again,
One might even say that if… worship is essentially offering the world back to God, then recapitulation [Jesus as the second Adam, succeeding in representing humanity in a way that the first Adam could not] is the way in which Jesus takes all humanity … reconsecrates it and then offers it all as worship to God. The church is the central part of the offering that Jesus the High Priest makes to the Father! Jesus worships the Father through the ongoing redemptive ministry of the Body of Christ, whose very purpose is to extend his mission in the word (Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:21-28). [5Q, p. 69]
Viewed this way, then, our breakfast this morning was more than a time of fellowship. Precisely because it was an expression of a redeemed and reconstituted humanity, our fellowship became an act of worship offered to the Father by Jesus Himself. As we head toward Christmas may the thought of the supremacy of Jesus inspire you to consider from a fresh perspective how incredible a gift we received in Jesus!
This Friday evening, Pastor Sandi has his Christmas celebration, where he expects significant numbers of unbelievers to be present. Sandi will share his story and invite people to respond to the Gospel invitation. Could I ask you to pray for this service?
Blessings to you all. I look forward to being home with you all again soon.