Taken from Chapter One It's All About You Jesus, by Fawn Parish, Published by Thomas Nelson
It's All About You Jesus
A Christ supplemented is a Christ supplanted
No one figured he'd amount to much. He was scrawny, the kind of kid other kids make sport of mocking. He was a decidedly unhurried learner. School bored him. A terrible test taker, he was eight before he could read. Unexpectedly, he ended up finding a seat at history's table. He made history by making one incredible decision. Augustin Jean Fresnel's life is more than just a great story, a curious paradox, a tale with unexpected twists and turns. Augustin's decision has immense significance for every lover of God.
Sailor's lives in Augustin's day, were routinely endangered. Lighthouses could not project light out to sea far enough to warn oncoming ships. Ship captains often didn't see the light until it was too late to change course. Skeletons of rotting ships littered the beaches of the world. The problem was not for lack of well place lighthouses, but for lack of light being reflected far enough out to sea to penetrate the darkness.
For two thousand years people explored ways to correct the problem, finding little success. Starting with the lighthouse of Alexandria built around 280 BC, until the 18th century, lighthouses saw very little improvement in their ability to project light. It wasn't because people weren't trying. Most concentrated on developing better fuel. People thought if they could just make the flame brighter, it would solve the problem. Wood, coal, whale lamps, nothing proved effectual. The breakthrough came two thousand years later, when Augustin Jean Fresnel decided to take a different course. Instead of trying to improve existing lighthouse technology, or producing better fuel. Fresnel would study the behavior of light itself.
Fresnel didn't study lighthouses. He did not focus on design, maximum configuration, and placement. He wouldn't exhume the ribs of fractured ships and do a doctoral thesis on flawed ship construction. He never designed a manual on lighthouse maintenance and staffing. Instead, (and this is the crucial point of this book), he spent his life studying light itself...and for thousands of ships and sailors, that made all the difference.
Fresnel using the properties of reflected light, built an apparatus that could be seen from more than 20 miles away. His studies in light became the principle used in headlights of cars and in the flashing lights on police and emergency vehicles. By studying the behavior of light itself, Fresnel developed a lens that could reflect light far out to sea. Fresnel, grew up to become the father of modern optics. His story illustrates a compelling reality for the people of God. It is more meaningful to study the character of Light Himself, than to concentrate on any other thing related to Him.
We face the same problem faced in Fresnel's day. We have light, glorious light, but it isn't reflected far enough out to sea. Lives, marriages, and institutions daily land shipwrecked and sundered, bleached and rotting on our shores. Every day our culture is battered on the razor sharp edges of post-modernism and relativism. Yet we persist in tending the light, hoping to warn a few ships to turn toward deeper waters.
A Generation Adrift In Churning Seas
The risks before us are enormous. We are a compass-less generation, adrift in churning, dark, and lightless seas. Just this week in my nation, a 6 year old pulled a gun in a kindergarten and shot another 6 year old student to death. In California, an 18 year old girl dumped her dead premature son in the neighbors' garbage can and will not be prosecuted. Anti-depressants prescribed for teenagers have increased 800% in the last five years. Pick up any major news magazine and read the inventory of shipwrecked lives. There is no question about it. We are a generation seriously adrift, breaking up on the hidden reefs of faulty ideologies.
Charles Colson observes ..."all the grand propositions advanced over the past century have fallen, one by one, like toy soldiers. The twentieth century was the age of ideology, of the great "isms": communism, socialism, Nazism, liberalism, scientism...all the major ideological constructions are being tossed on the ash heap of history. All that remains is the cynicism of postmodernism, with it's bankrupt assertion that there is no objective truth or meaning." We find ourselves seriously adrift and bereft of light. We now openly wonder if such a thing as light even exists.
Jesus The Fire-Core of the Universe
In this darkness, we are not strangers to hope. Into the gloom enters Jesus, the Light of the World. His light pierces this despairing generation's angst. His kingdom is relentless. His light shatters the night. His light hasn't dimmed a single watt of it's luminescence. He is blazing with the light of a thousand suns. The Lamb who is the Light, illumines the entire kingdom of God. The Light of Life penetrates all darkness. In His gaze nothing remains hidden.
Literally blazing with the glory of His Father, Jesus lights the skies. Darkness cannot comprehend Him. Where He is-all things are clearly seen. In His Light, we see light. He is, as George MacDonald says, "the fire-core of the universe, the first and the last and the Living One." He is the centerpiece of all life. He is the light that lights every man who comes into the world.
The Light is not, or will ever be, insufficient to penetrate the darkness. Jesus is completely and utterly sufficient. But He has chosen to be magnified through the lens of our lives. We are reflecting Him poorly, because we are not focused on Him. We need more Augustin's who will concentrate themselves solely on knowing light. Our greatest need is simplicity of devotion to Jesus. We're aware that countless ships are colliding in the night. We know the statistics. We've seen the skeletons on our beaches. The children of Light must be concentrated on Light Himself. We are concentrating on many things related to Him, but we are not focused primarily on Him. The main thing is no longer the main thing. Or perhaps I should say, the main One is no longer the main One.
Tinkering With Spiritual Technology
Like lighthouse engineer's through the centuries, we are aware there is a problem. We are trying to improve the amount of light that gets out to sea. We continue to spend our energies, tinkering with spiritual technologies and techniques, looking to anointed people, or effective practices. We are heavily invested in finding things that work. We have a whole plethora of spiritual options available. Church growth studies, contextualization, spiritual mapping, prayer case studies, warfare methodologies, city-taking strategies, reconciliation initiatives, city transformation models, cultural engagement mandates, the list is growing and instructive. We live in a communication era of instant cross- pollination of significant research and ideas.
Never before has the universal church been able to be on the same page together at the same time, learning to pronounce together, new vocabularies. The possibilities for mobilizing the people of God toward united objectives are enormous. God has gifted the church with amazing tools and information.
We can now stratify, categorize, and quantify, what works and what doesn't. Our research and ideas can find a worldwide audience instantaneously. This creates a creative synergy that can lead to massive breakthroughs. Our ability to connect globally and instantaneously, has led to the creation of specialties, new spiritual technologies, that delight and amaze.
Surely we think, these new approaches will cause the light to increase. We have pastoral unity advocates, revivalists, cultural redemption proponents, Christian world-view futurists, family values lobbyists, warfare specialists, prayer specialists, city-taking strategists, prophecy specialists, doctrinal purity specialists- But we have increasingly fewer people concentrating solely on studying the personality and character of Jesus, the Light. Our light is not reflecting and penetrating far enough out to sea, because we are focusing the lens of our attention on good things but not on the most vital, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
We are in serious danger of obscuring Jesus through our myriad specialties and spiritual options. A. W. Tozer observed that just as the scientist lost God amid the wonders of His world, he feared evangelicals were about to lose God amid the wonder of His Word. I would add in our generation, we are about to lose God amid the wonder of new spiritual technologies and spiritual options. With their impressive and dazzling capacities, they often obscure the very One they were designed to clarify.
Jesus and Waldo
Have you ever seen a Find Waldo book? Inside is page after page of thousands of people all of which look very much alike-your task as a reader is to find the hidden Waldo. An untrained eye can spend a good five minutes looking at any page of the book before you find him. Like Waldo, sometimes finding Jesus in the current landscape of Christendom, takes a lot of serious concentration.
Jesus is often no longer the preeminent part of the presentation because Jesus is often the presumed subject of the sentence. Industries have sprung up around Him. Many of these ministries started out as cottage endeavors and quickly evolved into empires. Many of these empires, are run by good, well-intentioned people. There is no malicious intent involved, no underhanded conspiracies. Jesus is in the picture alright, but like Waldo, He is not the preeminent part of the presentation. Often He gets the 6 point type, like credit card company's use on their applications to legally tell you things they don't want you to really notice.
We all have been in meetings where we've heard splendid things. Perhaps we've even seen spectacular spiritual gifts displayed. But we've walked away with an ached in our heart. Something wasn't totally as it should be. Many years ago, author Roxanne Brandt saw a vision of people ministering on a platform. They were terrific. The audience was receptive, but then she noticed Jesus. He was off in the corner, out of the spotlight. It broke her heart.
We Would See Jesus
Like the Greeks who came to Philip saying "We would see Jesus", there is a generation that will not be content with anyone or anything but Jesus. And why would we want to present anyone else? What else is there? Who else is there? Who do we have in heaven, but Him?
As leaders, our natural tendency is to steal the show. We love attention. As an audience, we have to admit we are to the bone, bread and fishes kind of people. We love the spectacular. We are naturally attracted to everything but Jesus. We need to be honest about it. The spotlight has always had a tendency to bounce off of Him and on to us.
Have you ever watched a soccer game on TV? As the camera pans the field and follows the ball, all of a sudden you're aware that there is an advertisement for say NIKE, way off on the backboard. Our presentation of Jesus is often like that. The close up shots are all of us. Jesus is far off in the almost subliminal background. He's the commercial not the main program. He's in the crowd shot, not the close-up. He's the assumed subject of the sentence, not the heart of the
story. Those involved in ministry can tell you how innocently it begins. As a child, I grew up ministering many nights of the week, on the streets of Los Angeles' skid row. We dreamed of offering a clear compelling message of Jesus' ability to save the hopeless. We were passionate for the lost. Passion can be a beautiful thing, but it can also be dangerous. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the focus easily gets bumped off Jesus the Shepherd, seeking the lost sheep, to us (by ourselves), scrambling down hillsides to bring back the wayward lamb. "Did you see the degree of that slope I went down?" The more lost sheep there are, the easier it is to start search and rescue operations on our own.
After a while we think we know just how to find them. We think we know what they need. We easily fall prey to an independence that say's "Hey! I can do this...I'm even good at this." We get judgmental that others aren't out risking their necks to find lost sheep like we are. We start congratulating ourselves that we're willing to grab lambs out of the lion's mouth, and those other guys are comfortably home, trying to decide what movie they'll watch. By the time we actually find the wayward lamb, we've lost sight of the Shepherd ourselves.
On skid row in the late sixties, it was easy to get caught up in just making sure we had enough baloney sandwiches to offer after the service. Our hearts may have been in the right place, but it was easy for our eyes to wander off Jesus and on to the need. It's a purely human tendency. It's why the Holy Spirit needs to continually remind us that it's all about Jesus, it's not about us.
Jesus, the Great Assumption
Jesus is increasingly the assumed subject of the sentence, and less and less the heart of the story. You can attend many conferences today and hear much about spiritual technology and techniques and very little about Jesus. We assume that our audience knows and loves Jesus. We assume that we as speakers are Christ-centered, and focused on His absolute sufficiency. But the sad reality is that the spotlight is generally peripheral to Jesus. Pick almost any conference at random and order any tape. Listen for Jesus. You will hear wonderful stories, stunning experiences that will fire your imagination. You will receive helpful principles, and keen insights. You will possibly get a new perspective, often an enlarged heart. You will usually find something helpful, but you rarely come away with more of Jesus. As Kathleen Norris observes, "The religious marketplace is full of spiritualities that can costume us in fancy dress."
Recently I read a book about the future of the Church by a popular author, and found Jesus assumed, but barely mentioned. Does the church have a future apart from Jesus? I have led worship for Christian conferences where in a three day period Jesus was only mentioned marginally. The first time it happened, I thought perhaps I simply wasn't paying enough attention. Maybe I'd missed it. Then it happened again, and again. Then I started watching for Him, anxious to find Him. I remember thirty years ago, Kathryn Kuhlman, a prominent healing evangelist, saying she'd often gone to meetings and felt as if "They'd taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him." I was beginning to empathize.
One thing that gives me pleasure is to take black and white portraits of people I love. I remember reading a famous photographer who said; "You will know you are beginning to be a real photographer when you begin to miss the light." I don't know if I'll ever be a real photographer, but in Christian circles, I am beginning to miss the Light. Jesus, the Preeminent One, seems to be increasingly in the shadows and few seem to notice.
Pick up almost any Christian magazine, listen to Christian radio, TV, overhear the conversations of God's people and you will find Jesus, like Waldo, tucked away somewhere obscurely in the crowd. It doesn't even seem to matter what particular stream of the Body of Christ you're in; Charismatic, Liturgical, Evangelical. You can find Jesus the assumed subject of the sentence almost anywhere in Christendom.
Recently, I attended a meeting of highly visible national ministries in Anaheim. I left one breakfast gathering grieved to the bone. Jesus was loved by many taking part, but He wasn't the center of the conversation. The meeting was full of very articulate, likeable, passionate people. But the center of the passion wasn't Jesus. The center of the passion in that particular gathering was purely political. As British author and theologian P. T Forsythe says, "The chief plague and heresy of the hour...is that God tends to become the most fluid of all words. The prime certainty becomes the great haze. He pervades but He does not purpose. He saturates all, but all does not center in Him."
In the book of Revelation the church at Ephesus is known for what it's against. It's against the Nicolatans, it's against those who pretend to be apostles and really aren't. The Ephesians have some great qualities. They have endurance, they've persevered in the face of overwhelming odds. The Ephesians can't stomach the things God hates. They have a well developed theology of againstness. I imagine the Ephesians might have had "No on Proposition O" signs on their front lawn. They were diligent and informed on the issues. But God has a serious quarrel with them. The Ephesians had left their first love. Jesus was no longer their overriding passion.
Jesus may be privately the centerpiece of many spiritual leaders lives. Yet our public proclamation of Him grows increasingly faint. It is easy to observe Jesus becoming less and less, the preeminent feature of our presentations. We are sadly known more for what we are against, than for Whom we are for. In many sectors of society, Christianity is thought to be akin to a front range militia movement.
We tend to be more impressed with people and practices related to Him, than we are of Him. Practices and perspectives of Christianity separate from the Person of Christ eventually turn malignant. When principles about Him are isolated from Him, when knowledge of methods replace a knowledge of His majesty, we eventually find ourselves with nothing to offer the world. You cannot have a kingdom without a King.
Karl Barth said that when he first became a Christian he thought Jesus was the prophet of the Kingdom. After many years he realized, Jesus was the kingdom. Jesus is all we have been given by God to offer the world.
Revival As A Distraction
I am privileged to co-lead a pastor's prayer summit in our region 4 times a year. Recently about 60 pastors gathered to spend a day together seeking God's face. Through years of honest but less than effective gatherings, we realized God was requiring us to come to Him without an agenda. We eventually realized that even seeking revival can become an agenda. We are easily distracted from Christ not only by emerging spiritual technologies, amazing people and practices, but often by godly hopes as well.
As we began the prayer summit, Mark Patterson, a Presbyterian pastor who is completing his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Kings College in London, shared what he's learned while writing his dissertation on revival. Mark said; "God has all these marvelous gifts he wants to give us. But whenever He does; we worship either the gift itself; (the practice), the place where it came, or the person it came through. I've learned that people want revival more than they want Jesus."
It's clear we live in a yeasty time, ripe for revival. Never before in history have so many people in so many nations, gone on extended fasts, and prayed so fervently for revival. Those prayers have not fallen to the ground. God's hand is poised in our generation to do an astonishing thing on the earth. But in our praying, what are we expecting?
Do we picture a day when entire sports stadiums of people come to Christ? When major network announcer's show people being raised from the dead on prime time news? Do we envision a long string of miracles done by ordinary everyday believers? I do. But if that's all there is to revival-when the spectacular wanes, what do we have left? If revival were to come tomorrow, would we be so centered on Jesus that we could effectively mentor the millions God will bring to His Son?
As David Bryant says, " "From whatever angle we view it, ...revival is fundamentally one thing: Revival is Christ...God can do nothing greater for His church than to reawaken us to the sufficiency, supremacy, and destiny of the Lord Jesus Christ...God does not possess anything for his people, now or forever, beyond who Christ is...Jesus exhausts for us all we can ever know about God."
God's passion always has been and always will be, Jesus. Jesus is the entire heart of all God's stories. Jesus is the heart of God's story in history. Jesus is the heart of God's story in redemption. Jesus is the heart of God's story in our present. Jesus is the heart of God's story in our future destiny after the earth and heavens have been dissolved.
Many years ago author and missionary, Roy Hession, conducted evangelistic campaigns. He noticed that the health of the church had a lot to do with the harvest that was reaped. So he decided to spend one week simply ministering to Christians. He expected from this, that Christians would become so healthy, so fired up, so full of prayer, that his preaching to the unconverted the next week would be highly effective. But he did not see the anticipated results. He was puzzled. He sought God as to why his approach wasn't working. Then he realized he was encouraging people to use Jesus as a means to an end, not as the end itself. They were repenting and praying because they wanted to see a huge ingathering. Jesus was not the end of what they were seeking. He was simply the means to it. God would not honor His Son being used, even for revival.
Roy Hession comments "He Himself is Revival and the simple door to it...is it not significant that when there is an experience of revival in lives, those revived do not talk about revival, but rather about Jesus?" God's passion is the glory of His Son. As lovers of God, should our passion be any less?
The holy ambition of God is for His Son to be loved, known, and obeyed in all the earth by all peoples. As David Bryant says; "God intends his Son to be at the center of everything-at the end of history and at every step along the way. He has no greater desire. In whatever He does his ultimate purpose is to sum up all heaven and earth under Jesus as Lord. (Ephesians 1:10) Every revival- including the final revival-is meant to accelerate, intensify, and expand this process."
Jesus is to be center and circumference of all our inquiry, all our energy, devotion and interest. He is not merely first, but to be our very life. He is not an addendum, an interesting footnote to God's work in the world. He is the center of all life and endeavor.
God is calling us to an undistracted passion for His Son. There are many dazzling things to distract us. The distractions are not necessarily evil, they're more like Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; interesting, even significant, but not where God desires our eyes to rest.
Up on the Mount, Peter gasps with wonder at what he is seeing. Our open- mouth-change-feet-apostle has yet again, another brilliant idea. Swept up in inconceivable awe at what's before his eyes, Peter wants to build three tabernacles. One for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus.
Poor Peter is clueless to the inappropriateness of his suggestion. Moses and Elijah are not peers with Jesus. He that is without equal, who cannot be compared to any other, He for whom Moses and Elijah were born, stands transfigured there, burning radiant with the light of a thousand suns. He who created worlds both visible and invisible-who holds all things together by the word of His power-He through whom all things consist is certainly not on par with these mighty prophets.
Moses was pretty impressive. He was the lawgiver, the one God used to institute the foundations of civilization. God talked to him face to face as with a friend. He was called the meekest man on earth. His rod parted the Red Sea. His rod struck rocks and water gushed out. His prayers produced an above ground commissary of manna and quail-no refrigeration required.
Moses established the nation. His history with God could fill volumes. He was a song-writer, a military strategist, an intercessor, a miracle worker, a marriage and family counselor. Raising your eyebrows at Moses could carry some significant risks. Moses own sister, Miriam got leprosy from criticizing him...the earth yawned in boredom, and swallowed up Korah and his complaining clan. Moses was not someone to trifle with. Moses was certainly worth commemorating.
And Elijah. Good Heavens! Calling fire down from heaven on a soaked offering, shutting up the heavens from rain, boisterous with passion and zeal, and holy cockiness. The man who split rivers with his cloak, who raised the dead. Of course he deserves a tabernacle. Peter probably was surprised Jesus was in such amazing company.
But before Peter can even get his three tabernacle suggestion out of his mouth. God in almost a violent, solar-plexus reaction, thunders from heaven "This is my beloved Son, hear Him!" Immediately Peter and John fall terrified on their faces. Jesus comes to them and say's "Don't be afraid." Immediately, only Jesus is in view.
Fast forward the tape a few thousand years, and we're still like Peter. We want to put godly leaders on pedestals and build elaborate monuments to their anointing. We hang on every word they say as if it's God's own truth, and idolize their miraculous signs. We know more details about the latest catastrophic prophecy than we do the character of Jesus. But God is fiercely intent on dissolving our distractions, and having us see Jesus alone.
We will not be impoverished by our singularity of focus. Instead, we will be opening ourselves to the riches of God. When we have Jesus we indeed have everything. All God demands of us, is met in Jesus. He is the supremely all sufficient One, the first and last, the Living One. Our greatest need, and God's greatest gift to us, is to awaken us to the sufficiency, supremacy, and destiny, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It's All About You, Jesus by Fawn Parish