February 07, 2021 | Chad Gilbert
“He is so self-centered!”
That is what people usually say about a person who is prideful, selfish, insensitive, egotistical, always asking “what’s in it for me” – a person for whom most people have little regard, even if they cave to that person’s demands. A self-centered person always has to one-up others, always is the hero of the story, looks at the world only through the lenses of “how does this impact or benefit me?”, and if little impact or benefit, then little care, and usually seems to crave the praise of men.
That is what it means to be “self-centered.” That is what it looks like when “self” is at the center.
I really want us to grasp the essence of what it means to “center” on something, even if that example is a negative one. In the “self-centered” example, every decision revolves around me. Every opportunity is run through the question of “how does this benefit me?” Money is seen as a way to benefit me. Time is seen as a commodity to benefit me. Relationships are primarily as desired and enjoyable as they make me feel good. I do things, go places, wear things, talk about things that cause me to be thought well of.
Even when it comes to religion, a self-centered person thinks in terms of “do I enjoy the music?” “How will I be seen by others in light of my association to this church?” “Who attends this church, and would attending allow me to be associated with that person?” “Are the sermons helpful in a way that allows me to have a better week?” “Do my kids like it?”
Now, if by this point you are thinking, “Good grief, Chad! I feel like you are saying I am a self-centered person because I am concerned about my children because I am conscience of social dynamics because I ever spend money on myself because I sometimes tell a story of something I did right that might be a good example to others because I want to grow!”
Please hear me in love – you and I tend to be self-centered, and even our seeming attempts at being focused on something good, like our children, can be more about us (my kid is the best, the brightest, the prettiest, the strongest, the most challenged – my kid). And like someone who has an addiction, we are usually the last ones to realize we have a “selfie” problem.
As C. S. Lewis wrote, the world would have us to then “think less of ourselves” as the solution. Yet, our thoughts still revolve around ourselves. But as C. S. Lewis continued, the call is to “think of ourselves less.” And then, thinking of ourselves less, God’s Word calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus. God’s Word calls us to be Christ-Centered. And what we will see today, FBNO, is that we MUST be Christ-Centered to be a biblically thriving church.
I invite you to turn in your Bible to Luke 24, and today I am going to read all of Chapter 24, beginning in verse 1.
When we are Scripture-fed, we see Christ at the Center of God’s Word.
When we are Servant-led, we see Christ at the Center of the Church.
When we are Spirit-filled, we see Christ at the Center of our Message.
When we are scripture-fed, we see Christ at the center of God’s word.
See it in the text: Luke 24:27, 32, and 44-45
Here is what this does NOT mean – that only creatives will see Jesus throughout the Bible.
Anybody in the room self-identify as a “creative.” Being a creative is somewhat fashionable these days, but how many of you in this room nearly lose your mind daily because of “creatives”?
No, this isn’t about how creative you can be in seeing Jesus in the Old Testament.
Here is another thing this does not mean – we are not talking about seeing the human Jesus, incarnate Christ, in the Old Testament.
What I mean by the phrase “seeing Jesus in the Old Testament” is “Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.”
On the road that day, Jesus might have said as he did in John 3, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man had to be lifted up on the cross, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Referencing Numbers 21
Jesus might have said as he did in John 6, “Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but the Father gives you the true bread from heaven, for the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Referencing Exodus 16
Jesus might have said, like Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, “Seeing what was to come, God spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah “He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay.” Quoting Psalm 16
Jesus might have said, like Peter in Acts 4, “The stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone” is the Christ. Quoting Psalm 118
Jesus might have said, like Philip in Acts 8, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation, justice was denied him.” Quoting Isaiah 53
Jesus might have said like Paul in Acts 13, “You are my Son, today I have become your Father,” quoting Psalm 2
Jesus might have said, like Paul in Romans 11, “The Deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godliness away from Jacob. And this will be a covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Quoting Jeremiah 31.
Jesus might have said like the author of Hebrews, “Someone superior to the angels, someone of the High Priest order of Melchizedek, someone superior to the Levitical priesthood, someone superior to the temple, someone brings a superior covenant, someone who was the perfect sacrifice, someone who is the author and perfector of our faith has come, and He is the Christ.
You see, we don’t have to get creative, and we don’t have to insert Jesus where he is not; we only have to be Scripture-fed to see Christ at the Center of God’s Word.
Let me offer you a simple but practical prayer to pray as you give your attention to God regularly in God’s Word. Pray this prayer – “Father, show us, Christ.” Just as we sang a few moments ago, so we pray when we read God’s Word when we are apart – “Show us Christ.”
When we are servant-led, we see Christ at the center of the Church.
See it in the text:
Read verses: 33-35 and 50-53
I want you to observe first that the two who had the conversation on the road to Emmaus go immediately to the leaders – the 11. This is important because the book of Acts is like volume two of a 2 volume story that starts in Luke and then continues in Acts. The 11 are the core of the leadership in the church at the beginning, something signaled in Luke 24 and then picked up in Acts 1.
But second, I want you to observe what these leaders are doing: verse 52 – “After worshipping Him (Jesus), they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple praising God.” Picking up in Acts, we read in Acts 1:14, “They all were continually united in prayer” then again, in Acts 2:42, we read, “They (all the believers) devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” Then in Acts 6:4, we hear the apostles say, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
In chapter 6, verse 4 is so essential in the life of the church today because pastors have come to be seen a spiritual duct tape. Let me first say before I explain my analogy that I just made a jump, and you deserve to know why. Notice that Acts 1, 2, and 6 refer to Apostles, and my analogy is about pastors – how did I get there. This contains the message the apostles proclaimed, but in expounding the Old Testament in light of the Gospel, and the Gospel's message in the New Testament. To the extent that I proclaim the Bible, I am an extension of the Word's apostolic ministry. I am not an Apostle; I proclaim God’s Word, given through the prophets and Apostles.
Back to pastors being like duct tape – duct tape is used for countless applications. How many of you in this room have ever used duct tape? Okay, how many of you have used duct tape on a duct? Literally, the air conditioning ducts in your attic? There is a strong message of function in the name “duct tape,” just as there is a strong message of function in the name “pastor.” Yet, because we do not “pastor” or “shepherd” animals here in New Orleans, like a shepherd of sheep, we have repurposed the word to mean a wide variety of functions. On the authority of God’s Word in Acts 6:4, I am telling you that a pastor has 3 primary functions: pastoral leadership, prayer, and the Word.
When the apostles say, “But we will devote ourselves,” they have just demonstrated pastoral leadership. One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is knowing what others need to be chosen, equipped, and empowered to do and what you need to devote yourself to doing. This sage leadership decision results in the creation of a new group. Many think these are the first deacons we see in the church. And the decision was not “do we feel like serving or not” but “is this how we need to serve or not.” They realized that they were uniquely called to the ministry of prayer and the Word, and if they neglected that ministry, everything else would suffer. So for the good care of the widows (pastoral) and the church's continued health and growth (leadership) – they exercised excellent pastoral leadership in selected 7 men, full of the Holy Spirit, to care for the widows. Pastoral leadership.
Second, prayer. We talked about it last week, but the reality of the matter is as the apostles devoted themselves to prayer, along with the church, the Holy Spirit moved in power, resulting in bold evangelism locally and globally.
Only as we admit our powerless condition to make disciples of all nations, waiting on the Lord, worshiping Him, recounting to Him the faithfulness, wisdom, justice, and goodness of His Word, do we position ourselves to stand firm experience the mighty movement of His Holy Spirit.
Third, the Word. Specifically, teaching the Word. The apostles were continually reading the Word, studying the Word, discussing the Word, teaching the Word, and preaching the Word.
If First Baptist New Orleans would be a biblically thriving church, she must have a biblically thriving pastor and deacons. The pastor is to devote himself to pastoral leadership, prayer, and the Word, and the deacons are to devote themselves to serving the body in biblical ways. Through the cooperative ministry of the pastor and deacons, we see Christ. We see His pastoral leadership. We see His dependence on the Father in prayer. We see His ministry of the Word, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. And we see His humble service to His bride, the Church. Both pastors and deacons exist to serve Christ in and through the church. Therefore both are servants in the truest sense of the word, yet they complement their service to Christ in the church.
But don’t forget – it starts in the home. What seems like a message only for a small group suddenly becomes an invitation for the entire church. Every person and family ought to manifest the character, conduct, and care of Christ. But the formula for the family is not different than for the church – for you or your family to be biblically thriving, you must be Scripture-fed, servant-led, spirit-filled, and Christ-centered. May God bless you and your family as we follow His plan for us, and may God raise many new leaders in this church.
When we are servant-led, we see Christ at the center of the Church.
And finally, when we are Spirit-filled, we see Christ at the Center of our Message.
But I want you to see in the text that it was in the moment in which he broke bread that their eyes were opened. What is significant about this is these disciples were not recorded as having been in the Upper Room the night Jesus gave meaning to the bread and the cup. Indeed, one of the disciples who had been there may have shared what had happened that night with these two men, but that is not explicitly recorded in the text. Instead, God opened their eyes through the act of Jesus taking the bread, blessing it, and breaking it. Here in Luke, we read nothing of the cup, but it was most certainly present as it would have been present for all meals. Since then and until the end of this age, we will continue to take the bread and drink of the cup because in so doing, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11, we proclaim His death until he comes. To proclaim his death is to be constantly reminded of the significance of his death. Only by his death are our eyes opened, and when opened, they see Christ. Christ crucified, Christ buried, Christ resurrected, Christ ascended, Christ glorified, Christ, our Hope, our Only Hope in life and death.
Pastor Chad Gilbert examines the five core strengths that a biblically-thriving church must exhibit.