Why Is It That Wherever Our King Presides
Nothing Remains Unchanged?
[Editor’s Note: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor martyred for the gospel by the Nazi regime, famously wrote: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Whatever that may involve for any one of us, the main point is true for all of us: The moment Jesus begins to freely exercise his supremacy over us—whether in a life or in a church or in a nation or in the whole creation—nothing can ever stay the same. What once was, passes away (death); something radically different comes to stay (resurrection). As 2 Corinthians 5 says: “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT). In this week’s blog post, David Bryant explores just how unsettling the reign of Jesus should become for any believer.]
What if a world-famous personality took a front-row seat in your sanctuary next Sunday morning?
Someone, let’s say, like LeBron James, or Pope Francis, or George Clooney, or Michelle Obama, or Bruce Springsteen, or Queen Elizabeth came to visit your church?
How would that re-energize the atmosphere, transform the dynamics, alter the order of service, shape your worship experience, and then embellish the way you would think about your church from that day forward?
Well, the truth is that something far more spectacular than that happens every week for you—equivalent to having all those celebrities show up at one time, plus ten thousand more with them!
That is because every time in every congregation on planet Earth that believers gather in Jesus’ name the Lord himself is fully there, residing and presiding as Savior and King.
Once this fact gets hold of you, the implications are truly revolutionary.
Scripture declares to churches everywhere “Christ is in you” (Colossians 1:27). Not just part of him, but all of him. Not passively but actively—with all of his majesty. Not ruling apart from us or indifferent to us. Rather, he is reigning for us and with us, and doing all of it among us.
Consider these three verses:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18, NIV, emphasis added).
You ought to know by this time that Christ is in you, unless you are not real Christians at all (2 Corinthians 13, PHILLIPS, emphasis added).
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1, NIV, emphasis added).
What if Jesus Performed a Top to Bottom Audit?
During Jesus’ last week of ministry he carried out a thorough review of what was going on inside the temple. Bible students call it “the cleansing of the temple.”
Only the Gospel of Mark, however, reveals the chronology of this devastating event. It notes that after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus visited the temple to “look around” (to take stock of what was going on), only to return the next day bringing with him a whip to scatter the animals as he turned over the tables of the bankers and souvenir merchants.
The point is obvious: When Jesus shows up to inspect what’s going on among God’s people, eventually he responds to what he sees. And when he does, nothing remains unchanged.
As noted above, by the Holy Spirit the same Jesus currently inhabits your church; you can’t avoid that reality. The King is in residence.
What if you risked inviting the risen Lord to spend the next three months conducting an in-depth audit of your congregation from top to bottom? In other words, what if you gave him full access to evaluate, and then based on his findings, to reconstitute everything going on as he sees fit?
Considering the total disassembling that took place after Jesus spent only a few minutes scrutinizing the religious scene on Mount Zion, what major changes might a ninety-day initiative bring to your lives, individually and together, on every level?
Would anything be left unchanged in your church? That’s the key question.
To get at the answer, here are some “What if” questions we could apply to any local gathering of God’s people. Incidentally, they can be easily adapted to individual believers, suggesting ways Jesus might probe not only your church but also your personal daily walk with him.
What if he sat in on all of your church activities, committee meetings, worship times, potluck suppers, small group studies, evangelistic outreaches, youth events, all the while taking voluminous notes?
What if he met one by one with each of your leaders—pastors, elders, deacons, committee chairmen, Sunday school teachers, small group Bible study facilitators—to debrief how they feel about their contributions?
What if he also were to schedule a private meeting with each church family in their homes, chatting across the dinner table, asking how things are going with them?
What if after ninety days you asked him for a written evaluation based on his visiting with, listening to, and consulting with your congregation?
What would he commend? What would he alter? What would he eliminate?
What new things would he propose in terms of overhauling your schedules, organization, plans and priorities, programs, relationship dynamics, Sunday worship, discipleship initiatives, and mission outreaches so that they would be more consciously focused on him as Lord of all?
On a scale from 1 to 10—with 10 representing “a growing, undistracted passion” toward Christ (1 Corinthians 7) and with 1 representing “Jesus as a figurehead”—what number would he give for the level of direct engagement with him your band of believers normally displays?
What would he say about how he himself is being viewed among the people of your congregation? How would he describe your relationship to him—in terms of what most of you think about him, how you openly adore him, the practical ways you respond to glorify him, the preeminence you give to him in all you do, the intensity of your ambitions to serve his kingdom?
What level of awareness and enjoyment of his presence and activity among your members would he uncover? Would he be able to report that they truly are growing to know him for who he really is? That they are experiencing greater degrees of intimacy with him in his supremacy?
What if you fully implemented the recommendations of his report? Would a member who traveled abroad for a year and returned even be able to recognize your congregation’s life together?
What if you invited God’s Son to become unconditionally intrusive like this? Would anything remain unchanged? Anything at all?
How Do We Handle a Savior Like This?
The truth is this: To this very hour, with no hesitation, our Lord Jesus remains forever invasive with his people. Whether we acknowledge him or not, he really does meet with all our committees, share in all our dinner conversations, attend all our worship services. Basically, he inhabits every facet of our life together.
Permanently residing among us, Christ brings with him strong “opinions” about everything going on among us. And he’s not shy about getting thoroughly involved, eventually turning over and driving out anything in our activities or in our hearts that impedes his kingdom purposes—just like he did in the temple.
In fact, that may be one great description of the role of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit is Jesus becoming wholeheartedly preoccupied with his Church, extending his scepter among us until nothing is left unchanged.
Of course, he eagerly affirms and nourishes every evidence of spiritual fervor and fruitfulness he finds. At the opening of his earthly outreach, for example, the Gospel of Matthew highlights his powerful ministry of encouragement (quoting the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 42):
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope (Matthew 12, NIV).
But this same Messiah and Lord also possesses “eyes like flames of fire” and a “sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth” (Revelation 1)—meaning, he also examines us with x-ray vision that burns to the heart of all that’s going on and then uses God’s Word with precision to do whatever restorative surgery is needed.
You can be sure that right this minute he’s actively challenging every spiritual “stronghold” found in your own church—every approach, every outlook, every teaching, every activity, every program, every priority, every goal that ultimately (though often inadvertently) “exalts itself against the knowledge” of his redeeming glory. He’s committed to eliminating every barrier by how he “takes captive every thought and makes it obedient” to himself and the full weight of his supremacy among you (2 Corinthians 10).
So, how do we handle the magnificent obsession of a Savior like this? We don’t!
We can only welcome him. Then submit to him. Take counsel with him. Listen to him. Wait on him. Worship him. Obey him. Grow in him. Cooperate with him. Help each other discover more about him. Pray in concert for the Spirit to reveal to us much more of him.
Until . . . nothing is left unchanged.
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.