This is the first post in the series. For the next month we will focus on the first and most important mDNA Jesus is Lord and its associated competency, what we call Identity Declaring.
Much can be said about the defining role of Jesus in the ecclesia…what we call the church. Christians have always agreed that the church is all about Jesus—her very existence, identity, purposes, and functions are all indissolubly bound up with this person who is at the core of it all. How could it not be so if he is our Founder, Redeemer, Lord, and our Head?
If Jesus is God’s will in human form and the perfect expression of his nature, then we cannot bypass him and still remain in the Faith. Even our understanding of God is fundamentally changed by him: Whatever we now seek to know about God must pass through the lens of this particular person—Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is “the Father’s ‘summary statement’…the Logos of the Father—the logic or purpose in and through which the whole divine economy is conceived and implemented.” This is what we mean when we say that Jesus is preeminent. To get a feel for the importance of this, listen to Paul who in order to communicate something of the revelation bequeathed to him about the meaning of the church has to resort to some pretty dense theopoetical rhetoric…
13 He [God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by and through him all things were created everything in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he existed before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the ecclesia. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col.1:13-20)
The ecclesia therefore ought to be the one place in human existence where Jesus is to be taken with the utmost possible seriousness…enough to make him central to absolutely everything Christ-ian. For all Christians salvation depends on identifying with Christ. Christian Identity follows from Christian faith. Who could deny this? And yet, the church has consistently failed to fully represent Jesus in the world. In fact, one can perhaps say that the any church is dysfunctional to the degree that it lacks focus on Jesus. In other words, the lack of Jesus ethos and presence lies at the root of all dysfunctional religion. Religion has a way of marginalizing the centrality of Jesus in the life of his people—apparently he is too difficult to deal with. You might think that all this is Sunday School and goes without saying. But it’s truly astounding how churches forget their very nature and purpose as Jesus’s people.
If we take the ongoing role of Jesus seriously it stands to reason that if the life of his people must be patterned on the life and teaching of Jesus. The founder sets the primary pattern and therefore the standards of legitimacy. The church as the Body of Christ is intended to be the corresponding and living expression of everything Jesus stood for and proclaimed. But in order to remain true to this unique calling, churches need to constantly undergo the process of returning to Jesus to assess whether it is faithful to him and what he intended as its sole Founder. It stands to reason that fundamental renewal, in any time and place, must involves a primal return to the Founder to see whether we line up with who he is and what he intended. This process of theological recalibration I simply call the ReJesus effect. In The Forgotten Ways I called it Jesus is Lord, and in 100Movements—focused as we are on practical application and competency—we simply call it Declaring Identity because it is going to force us to clarify where we stand in relation to the Lord.
ReJesus involves the following process-
Christology (everything we know and experience about Jesus) determines missiology (our purpose and mission in the world) determines ecclesiology (the forms and functions of the church.) In this model Jesus is, and must remain, the defining criterion for everything important about the church. Where else can we go to gauge whether we are truly Christ-ian people and we are truly witnessing to the Jesus revealed the Gospels and not some Christ-fantasy figure conjured up by an idolatrous religious imagination? The church must constantly return to its Founder in order to legitimize itself at the most fundamental level. We must identify ourselves. Are we really consistent with the ethos, teachings, model, and agenda of our Founder?
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. – 1Cor.3:10-11
This process of continual re/turning to the Founder, I continue to believe, secures the irreplaceable role of the Jesus in the movement that claims him as Lord and Savior. Therefore any attempt to circumvent or diminish the preeminence of Jesus in our lives (individual and communal), means that we inevitably end up with something far less than what God intended through us first place. We are either defined by Jesus or we are not. And history is clear that to the extent that we are not defined and shaped by Jesus, other cultural and spiritual forces quickly will fill the gap and we inexorably move to becoming a false, illegitimate, and toxic religion.
By declaring our identity in Jesus, we clarify the most important aspect of the church…that it consists of the people who are redeemed by Jesus, who belong to Jesus, are led by him, and are willing to be defined by him in every way possible. We are being transformed into his image from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2Cor.3:18).