Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.” (Isa. 60:19).
In my written and spoken messages I talk a lot about the preeminence of Christ. “Preeminence” is a lofty word. It means the highest place of ascendency, above all, over all, surpassing all, to the point that nothing and no one else can even come close.
According to Scripture, God’s ultimate intention and purpose is “that in all things [Christ] must have preeminence” (Col. 1:18) – not just in you and me, not just in the Ekklesia, but in all creation. And, if we trace the history of God’s dealings with man throughout the Bible, we see that God has been steadily and surely working towards this goal. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). He MUST increase, therefore, He WILL increase, and He IS increasing. Likewise, you MUST decrease, therefore you WILL decrease, and you ARE decreasing. This is not a thing to be frightened over. With less of me, there is more of Him. With more of Him, there is less of me. It is a wonderful thing!
The problem, of course, is that religion has taught us something completely different. It says that God means for you to increase, to get bigger, to get better, to prosper, to expand, to rise up and take dominion. In one sense of course I do believe that God wants to bless and prosper you, and He certainly means for you to grow. But this growth is not a self-centered, egotistical growth; it is to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). This is why I say that true spiritual growth is not more of me, but less of me, and more of Christ. Also notice that we are to grow in the knowledge of both Lord and Savior. Many know Him as Savior when they enter the Narrow Gate, but knowing Him as Lord requires us to walk a Difficult Path. Growth depends on both, and you cannot have one without the other.
The real truth is that Christ is simply not preeminent among many (most?) who call Him Lord. Jesus points this out by asking, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ but you do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). We may give Him lip service and call Him Lord and think we are really giving Him preeminence – but the fact remains that most people just do whatever they want to do, ask God to bless it, and then wonder why they struggle so much. We may go through the motions of prayer and make a pretend surrender, but when it comes down to it, Christ just does not have preeminence in us!
I am not saying that Christ has no place at all in us, because that would be untrue. He does have a place. But I am saying that Christ does not have preeminence in us – the first word, the last word, the highest word, the absolute word. We may love Him as Savior but argue with Him as Lord. There is simply too much fighting, rationalizing, and struggling on our part. If Christ had preeminence all that squirming and wrestling and resisting Him would be unheard of. Yet, such squirming and wrestling and resisting characterizes a lot of the problems we experience. God says go left and we want to go right. God says go right and we want to go left. God says go and we want to stay. God says stay and we want to go. We are afraid to give Christ preeminence because we want to maintain a little control for ourselves. This only proves that Jesus does not have preeminence in us. We call Him Lord, but we do not do what He says. Therefore, He is Lord only a theoretical sense as far as our lives are concerned. This ought not to be.
So what happens, I believe, is we end up settling for much less than God’s highest goal of Christ having preeminence. It seems we go through a couple of stages before we grasp the significance of Christ having preeminence in us – not as a theory, not as a philosophy, not as a teaching, but as a matter of life and death. And I think this process is best described in three simple words: prevalence, prominence, and preeminence. Let’s look at each one and illustrate them.
Prevalence is a state of being numerous, common, pervasive, and everywhere. Imagine walking outside on a dark night under a clear sky and seeing billions of stars. The stars are prevalent on a clear, dark night – you see them everywhere you look. In the same way, the name of Jesus has prevalence in the world. 93% of the world’s population know about Jesus. That does not mean they follow Him or call Him Lord, it just means He is well-known. His Name has prevalence. This is better than nothing, but prevalence is a long way from preeminence.
Prominence is when one thing stands out or is more easily recognized or distinguished compared to other things. As you look at the stars light up the blackness of the night you may notice that at certain times one light is far brighter than the others. That light is the moon. When the moon is full it is a prominent light in the night sky. You still see the stars, but the moon is obviously brighter by comparison. So we can say the moon is prominent compared to the stars. It is worth noting that although the stars are prevalent and the moon is prominent in the night sky, all the light they put out still does not scatter the darkness.
In a similar way, compared to the rest of the world, most Christians make Jesus prominent in their lives. They give Him a place. They invite Him into their life and He takes His place among the many other things they have going on. They call Him Lord, they go to church, they sing worship songs to Him, and He is an important part of their life – but only to a point. Because the rest of the time they have other worries, concerns, fears, priorities, wants, needs, desires, and “many things” that constantly compete for their attention. He is really just one important thing among many other important things vying for their time and affection. Oh, they get pulled in many different directions. And, like the moon shining among the stars, you can see that Jesus is a prominent part of their life but you can still see other things are there, too. There is some light, but the light isn’t enough to really push back the darkness.
Now imagine that you are watching this black sky with the moon and stars and you notice a growing brightness in the east. This brightness steadily increases, and as it does, it completely overwhelms the light from the moon and the stars. These lesser lights are completely swallowed up in a glory that far surpasses them and turns night into day and darkness in light. Now the sun has preeminence!
Similarly, God’s purpose is for His Son to have preeminence: to have the place of supremacy and ascendency in every man, woman, boy and girl: that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). When Christ has preeminence, nothing else remains! All enemies are destroyed. All resistance is eliminated. Every tongue confesses. Every knee bows. The fire thoroughly purges and refines.
When Christ has preeminence then the world will know that He is not a way among many other ways, but He is THE Way. He is not just one truth among many other truths, but He is THE Truth. He is not just one life among many other lives, He is THE Life. He is not one thing among many things but Christ is “All in All” (Eph. 1:23), not just “Some in Some.”
Jesus is “the brightness of God’s glory” (Heb. 1:3). The Son is rising, that Light is becoming all the brighter, and Christ will have the preeminence one way or the other. It must be so, therefore it will be so! He is worthy of far more than prevalence or prominence. Let us give Him the only fitting place: the place of preeminence!