|Volume 21 Number 2 February 2019||
Jesus Christ is at the center of our religion. He is the focal point, and so He must remain. Notice how central He was in the early church.
He was the message. When Christians scattered after Stephen’s martyrdom, they went to Antioch, “preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20).Paul preached Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). He preached the good news of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Likewise, Jesus must remain the content of our preaching—the main point of our Gospel.
He was the One to whom people converted. In Antioch, those who heard about the Lord Jesus believed and “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Paul remembered how the Thessalonians had turned to God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Sometimes, one will ask another, “When did you become a member of the church?” True, we become part of the Lord’s body, the church, when we become Christians (Acts 2:47). However, it might be better to ask, “When did you turn to the Lord?” When a person becomes a Christian, he establishes a relationship with Jesus. He is the One to whom we turn.
He was the Person to whom Christians gave their allegiance. Barnabas encouraged new Christians in Antioch to remain true to the Lord (Acts 11:23). A Christian’s loyalty is pledged to Christ. He is the flag around which we rally. We are only loyal to sound doctrine and to God’s people because we are loyal to Christ. If we are unfaithful to the truth or to the church, we are unfaithful to Christ.
He was the Person to whom sinners were brought. Luke penned that many residents of Antioch were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:24). “Come to me,” Jesus said. We must keep the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of both our message and our religion. If a man were to take Christ out of Christianity, what would remain? To supplant Christ with a manmade creed, doctrine or denomination and to elevate the name of a man as leader of this church or that church is a vain attempt to dethrone Christ as the rightful head of the church, which He built and for which He died. A religion without Christ at the center is no religion at all!
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily’” (Exodus 16:4). The Israelites had moaned and groaned about their captivity and how horrible it was, which was true. Then, after being released from that captivity and on their way to the Promised Land (which their own faithlessness caused to be delayed for 40 years), they began to moan and groan again.
And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:1-3)
It had been one and a half months! Already they had forgotten the anguish that they faced in Egypt. They only remembered the food they had. Already they had forgotten the Mighty Hand of God that had delivered them on dry land while swallowing up their enemy by death in the resurgent water. They could only think about right now, right here. They had very little faith in God. They had just about zero strength of character, heart and disposition. Like Esau, from whom they learned nothing, they just knew they were going to die a death of starvation.
A pillar of a cloud hung above them as they complained. They had just seen the pillar of fire in the night before. Those things indicated the very presence of God Himself, the Creator and Master. With that great and magnificent manifestation of His presence, they still complained as if He had forgotten them. He had not forgotten the Israelites.
Through Moses, God promised “bread from heaven.” He put conditions on the bread, conditions which some of the people, of course, ignored and disobeyed. God made conditions for the purpose of testing their faith. He sent them manna to eat.
Have you ever heard someone say, “This is heavenly” when they ate a certain dish? The only ones who could truly say that were the Israelites out in that wilderness. God sent fire that destroyed some of the Israelites on the outskirts of the camp because of complaining (Numbers 11). Yet, before long, the Israelites even complained about the literal “bread from heaven.”
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-6)
They just couldn’t seem to help themselves when it came to complaining. Notice it mentions “yielded to intense craving.” God would send them quail from the sea. It took them almost 48 hours to gather the quail that He sent to them. The description of how many there were shows the tremendous amount. God was angry about those who yielded to the craving, and he struck those individuals with a great plague (Numbers 11:31-34).
When you look at your family, your belongings, the food on your table and the blessings that are so overwhelming, if you take the time to count them, as the song says, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one,” do you realize that each of those things is “bread from heaven” in your life? Or, are you so worried about what you don’t have that you might even complain about that “bread from heaven” in your daily lives? Have you ever given someone a gift only to hear them complaining about it then or later? How does that make you feel? It made and makes God angry. May we recognize the blessings we have from God and be thankful!