There are believers in whose lives football has taken the place of Christ. With others, it is money that has taken the place of Christ. They no longer come to church meetings regularly, so those of us who do come to the meetings look with sorrow upon them because they are no longer Christ-centered.
It is very bad when football takes the place of Christ, or money takes the place of Christ. But it is no less tragic when even good things take the place of Christ. The Bible, for instance, or church meetings.Some people are accustomed to visiting their psychiatrist every week. They say they need that hour with him in order to survive. And for many of us, the church meeting is the same kind of pick-me-up. Meetings can be wonderful. But my spiritual life is not grounded in meetings. It is grounded in Christ. As we sing in the hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. All other ground is sinking sand.”
In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, we see that his desire was that we might be strengthened with might in our inner man. Now our meetings can be a help in strengthening us in our inner man, or they can be the greatest single hindrance of all. It depends on whether we are meeting-centered or Christ-centered.
“But aren’t we all Christ-centered?” someone asks.When I hear some of the things that Christians say, I wonder if we really are Christ-centered. I frequently hear statements that cause me concern. For instance, especially among the Charismatics and Pentecostals I hear, “Brothers, since I came into this place I felt the presence of the Lord.”So I ask, “And where was the Lord before you came into this place?” Actually, if we did not bring Him with us, He is not here. He is not in the habit of hanging from the ceiling and descending upon people each time there is a meeting. He does not dwell in buildings; He dwells in people.
Christ is not in Vatican City; nor is He in Dallas, Texas; nor in Springfield, Missouri. He doesn’t live in places; He lives in the hearts of individuals. If Christ is at the meeting when you go there, it is because He is within you. You brought Him with you. So how can you say, “Oh, as soon as I get to the meeting I will feel the presence of the Lord”? That sounds nice, but it is heresy. Don’t confuse emotion with the presence of God.
When people tell me, “I feel the presence of God,” I seriously question whether they have any real understanding of the new covenant. Those same people who “feel” the presence of God in meetings also say, “Lord, I am parched” — when they have rivers within them!
Sometimes people say to me, “Brother Ortiz, you are such a spiritual person. You must spend lots of time alone with the Lord. How much time do you spend alone with Him?” I answer them, “When you leave me, then I will be alone with Him.” You see, I am with Him all day. He is in me, and I am one with Him; so I have no choice but to be with Him continually. When I am with other people, I am with Him; and when I am alone, I am with Him.
From “Living With Jesus Today” by Juan Carlos Ortiz.