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There is a helpful visual diagram that many writers use when beginning the process of writing an article.  The first step is to place the subject of your article in a circle in the middle of the page.  From there you brainstorm all the interesting ideas or questions you may have about this subject.  Each of these brainstormed notions is then added to the page, with a line shooting out from the original circle, receiving a circle of their own.  It is called a spider diagram.

The circle of greatest importance is the one in the middle of the page.  It constantly reminds you what the main subject of your writing is.  Many writers will tell you that there is a huge temptation to follow some of the offshoot subheadings with greater interest and passion.  But the diagram serves its purpose when it reels you in, resets your focus, and reasserts your central idea.

There are many times that the people of God have become distracted by the offshoots and lost track of their center circle. Today, perhaps more than ever before, people of faith simply must know what is at our core. 

What does it mean to truly embrace our call to be a Christ-centered church?

It means we practice self-refusal.

A.B. Simpson suggests that one of the hallmarks of the Christ-Life is self-refusal.  “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up my cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16: 24)  The Christ-centered life begins with the emptying of ourselves from the center of the page.  There is perhaps no more counter-cultural an idea than self-refusal.  To empty ourselves from the center of our affections will require a putting to death of ourselves - not a physical death, a spiritual death. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Not I, but Christ.  This is the Christ-centered life.

It means Jesus is Lord among us.

Bruxy Cavey says that the gospel in three words is this:  Jesus is Lord.  When a coach calls a huddle in the middle of a game, the players gather around the coach and listen for his call, his plan, his vision for what is about to unfold in the minutes ahead.  The one in the center of the huddle is the one who calls the play. 

Christ-centered living means that we acknowledge our willingness to receive direction from God. Jesus is Lord flows naturally off our lips and out of our lives when we invite Christ to the center of our page.  Jesus is Lord will bring salvation, holiness, healing and leadership.  Jesus is Lord will establish a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst.  Jesus is Lord, however dramatic or traumatic its repercussions will be the end of self-worship and in its place will reveal the Glory of God.

It means we abide in Christ.

In the 15th Chapter of John’s gospel, we read an account of Jesus passing on to His disciples what will be some of his final teachings.  The Christ-life does not flow out of any of our earthly accomplishments, accolades or attributes. Rather, Jesus explains the Christ-life with these words: “ I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me  and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 1- 5).  In case they had any doubts, Jesus has made it as clear as possible.  Without being found in Christ, there is no Christ-life.  It is simple, natural, and profoundly freeing – to abide in Christ is to have at our very core the gracious lifeblood of the Father, flowing in and through us. 

It means we bear the lasting fruit of love.

And as we remain in Christ, dwell in Christ, abide in Christ -  we will, without even so much as thinking about it,  bear fruit.  It will be fruit that lasts.  The fruit of love, one for another.   To be the church that is known the whole world over by the quality and abundance of love – this is what defines the church grafted in the vine of Christ.  His life, the power of Christ in us and us in Christ, is a new life – the Christ-life – and it has as its primary indicator abundant love. 

The Christ-centered church will throw open its doors and pour into its community a gospel of grace and truth not because we must – but because Christ’s love compels us.  The Christ-centered church will look for opportunities to love our neighbours, love one another, and love especially those who would have been counted as our enemies.  The church with Christ at its center will love in such a way that when others encounter it, they too are reminded of their desire to find their way home – to abide, to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.   

People of God, Let us together, In a counter-cultural act of self-refusal, and in the bold and obedient admission that Jesus is Lord – let us choose to dwell, rest, and abide in Christ, bearing fruit that truly lasts – the fruit of love. This is the Christ-centered church.