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Anything But Jesus

June 1st, 2011

ism’s and ology’s

Imagine for just a moment that you and a close friend take a walk together down a trail into the forest. While you and your friend are walking down the trail, a brilliant light appears before you both. Suddenly, the Lord Jesus Himself is standing right in front of you. He is clothed in bright, glowing, white light. His glory and power permeates you and your friend. Such an overwhelming experience of love, truth, and heavenly power is filling you both. Then, the Lord begins to speak…

But in the middle of the Lord’s first sentence, you turn to your friend and you say, “Hey Mike. You know I really think that the ”once saved always saved” doctrine is a load of crud. What do you think about it?” Your friend Mike replies, ”You know that I disagree with you. Once we come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus then nothing can snatch us out of His hand. But what do you think about pre-destination? You know I’ve been doing a lot of study on that subject. How could anyone possibly be a Calvinist?”

Mike then asks the Lord Himself. “Jesus, don’t you think I’m right in this point?” Tell my friend here that I am right and that he is wrong. I’ve done a word study Lord. I looked it up in the Greek. Therefore, I know that I am right. Tell him Lord…”

Most Christians do not realize that Jesus Christ Himself is the Christian life. We are all very familiar with verse in the bible “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life”. But do we really understand the true import of such a phrase?

The very person of Jesus is where all spiritual reality is found. However, we seem to not be content with Christ and Him alone. We are constantly “adding to” the pure message of the gospel. We are constantly adding to what the Christian life is to be about in some form or fashion.

We have “causes” that are near to Christ, but are not Christ alone. We have doctrines that we defend and hold too, more so than we are holding on to Christ Himself. We are thoroughly versed and learned in various theology’s; and we sometimes know them more than we know our Lord Himself.

What does all this mean? And what are the dangers of this?

In Matthew 17:1-8 we find a similar account to our two friends in the forest. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to a mountain. Right before their eyes Jesus is transfigured before them; and His face shines like the sun, and His garments become as white as light. And how do the disciples respond?

They respond with their own thoughts and their own agenda. They want to build tabernacles on the mountain. The Lord interrupts their sentence with “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

How many times have Christians had conversations wrangling about this or that and caring about anything but the Lord Himself? Wouldn’t the Lord often say the same thing to us as He said to Peter, James and John?

If we would only listen to Jesus. Listening to Jesus stills our hearts. Having a listening posture in our heart allows us to receive the Lord Himself. Listening empties us. Listening and waiting on the Lord rids us of all flesh, our strong opinions, and the great ideas we’ve learned from our “word studies”.

Please do not go away from reading this article thinking that I am saying that we should not study. There is nothing wrong with doing studies. Of course, I myself study the bible. But there is a huge difference between going to the Lord first and letting Him take you to the scriptures and in solely going to the scriptures and not truly encountering the Lord while in the scripture.

Yes, even the things we’ve researched and are fully convinced of – we must let them go. On a daily basis we must surrender all to Jesus Christ.

How much is “all”? More than we originally thought.

All possessions, all rights, all relationships, all theology, all methodology, all plans, all hurts and offenses, all things that reside within our souls that have become a part of who we are.

Daily we pick up new things to carry with us in our life’s journey. We pick up a new thought, a new concern, a new hurt, a new imagination, a new scheme. And daily, we must become completely emptied like a baby so that we might enter into true communion with the Lord Jesus Christ – on a daily basis.

“And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them… whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Lk 18:15-17

Becoming like a child is like formatting the hard drive on a computer. We wipe it clean. I recommend a fresh formatting of your hard drive every morning.

Even the precious promises that God has given us – we must let them go and give them back to God. There is a great example in scripture of letting go of even the precious things God has actually given us. Let’s look at Abraham and Isaac:

“But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” Gen 17:19

What happens next? After God gives Abraham this promise, he requires him to give it up. He tells Abraham to sacrifice the miracle of Isaac (the very means by which God would establish the entire nation of Israel).

“He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” Gen 22:2

Giving up cigarettes, nightclubs, and R rated movies is not the totality of dieing to all things. These were the kinds of things we held on to before we came to Christ. The reality is that it was our heart holding on to these things that inhibited us from receiving Christ. The holding on to and trusting in other things disqualified us from entering the Kingdom of God.Christians often have an entire new set of things they are holding on to: our spirituality, our biblical understanding, our views and paradigms, judgments on others, self-righteousness, theologies, and divisions.

The Nauseating Stench of Self Righteousness

Hopefully by now you have reached a place in your walk with the Lord that you have died to your “outward religion”. But you must also die to your own inward religion as well.

Religion would be defined is all self effort. Self effort deceives us into thinking that it gives us some degree of right standing with God (even if it’s just a little bit). Even the smallest amounts of self effort tempt us with self righteousness. We feel just a little bit better about ourselves for doing what we think we should be doing. This is in direct opposition to the gospel.

Self righteousness then goes a step further. It always compares itself to others to affirm itself and boost itself even more.

The self righteous flesh will always feel good about itself in the areas it is doing well in, but it ignores its many areas of failure. Every person has certain points of righteousness that they are able to keep to some degree. This same flesh will then look down upon others who are not living as upright as they themselves in that particular area. While feeling good about itself in the areas of success and upholding it as a standard of righteousness for all to see, the self righteous flesh totally ignores its own failures in the other 10,000 areas of unrighteousness that it fails in daily. (Rom 2:21-23)

The biggest problem with self effort is what is at its core…self. We must die completely to all of self on a daily basis.  We must lose all things, except for our need for the Savior, our trust for the Savior, and our love for the Savior. All of which are only a response to His love for us.  It is only faith that pleases God (Heb 11:6).

Oh, if we would only hate our own lives and cling with desperation to the life giving Spirit of Jesus moment by moment.

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” Phil. 3:8

Paul also tells us “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2

Huh? Paul determined to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified? Paul wrote a majority of the new testament. He sure did know more things than just Christ and Him crucified. But the key is that he determined or purposed to not know anything more. He gave it all up. Because only Christ is what the Corinthians needed. And, Christ was all that Paul needed.

Despite all the knowledge and revelation that Paul gained – he had to lose it all so that He might gain Christ – daily.

We cannot forget the things we know and have learned. But we can certainly lay it all down. We can give all things back to God and determine to know nothing but Christ. This is a beautiful and cleansing experience to do everyday.

As you as an individual mature in Christ, over the years you will become more and more simple, more broken, less rigid in doctrine, but more narrow in loving Christ alone and His people.

Confidence in the Flesh

On a personal note, I am definitely still maturing and growing in the Lord and I have a long way to go. But when I was a younger Christian man I knew exactly what I believed in every area of scripture. I made it a point to form an opinion in every area and on every topic. I had my list of personal doctrines. I knew where I stood on every issue and I had scripture to back it all up. I could argue a point and not back down. I called this spiritual “maturity”. And the more I learned and fortified my positions on various doctrines, the more I thought I was growing in God. But then something began to happen to me.

I soon learned that my theology and stances on doctrine didn’t help me very much during difficult and painful times. All I could do during these desperate hours was to fall apart and call out to the Lord to help me. I didn’t really know it, but this is when I truly began to grow. I began to get to know the Lord. He was all that I had.

During these times of travail and breakthrough of the Lord rescuing me I encountered Jesus Christ Himself many times. I didn’t care about all of my theologies during my times of desperation. As I began to have more and more times of being in the presence of the Lord desperate for his help and comfort and tasting of his great love – I cared less and less about…everything. Everything but Him.

Most of my theological positions, my answers to defend my beliefs, and the proofs that I had developed to argue the faith – were really only a house of cards. Concerning many popular doctrines, I had some really great arguments. But I learned that my arguments were really only good for one thing – getting into arguments with people.

If you continue to follow Christ, at some point in your journey you will become fully convinced that it is the foundations and basics of the faith that become all important – humility, trust, brokenness, contrition, and believing the good news of Jesus and His love through and through.  To fully give ourselves to these foundational things of the Christian faith (the things that actually rid us of all self and bring us into the presence of Jesus) these are the only things that will weather the great storms of life. These are the only things that help us to truly experience the Lord on a daily basis. These are the only things that cooperate with our heart being filled with His joy and His great love. And these are the only things that empower us to love others consistently and with endurance.

When we are in the very presence of the living God, during those moments, we simply do not care that much about anything else. He is mesmerizing.. As we are in the Lord’s presence, we are caught up with His great love and magnificence. So, why do we care so much about other things so much of the time?

Why do we care so much about our doctrines, our “ism’s” and our theology?  If being in His presence brings us to care only for Him, then if we are constantly caring for other things besides Him, we are not truly living and walking in His presence very much at all.

If we are not breaking through often to trust from the heart and encounter the Lord Jesus in a real way, our Christianity becomes nothing more than a hobby of ideas. We are left with only a “belief system”.

Instead of vessels who are filled with God Himself, we merely become a vessel full of opinions and “concepts”. Men’s opinions about politics, lifestyle, the economy, theology, or opinions about various controversies does little to change people’s lives, or our own lives. Only the person of Jesus Christ can change a man for the better. Only Jesus is wisdom. Only in Christ are we in need of nothing.

We can only give away what we have. If all we have are doctrines, ologies, and ism’s, then that is all we will have to give away to someone else. But if we are encountering the Lord Jesus Christ in a consistent and real way, then it will be Jesus Himself that we will have to give away to others. When we truly meet with the risen God, he permeates our soul, our minds, and our bodies. It is just like when Moses came down from the mountain after being in the presence of God. His face was noticeably shining from being in the presence of the Lord (Ex 34:29-30).

As we meet with Jesus, his warmth and love will fill our hearts. Therefore others will find us warm and inviting. Both His wisdom and simplicity will become a part of us. Because of this, others will taste of the wisdom and simplicity within our souls. As we are in His presence, we will know the reality of His steadfast love and patience. Likewise, our forbearance and patience with others will be completely supernatural. Our hospitality for others will be evident to all, because the Lord would have personally been giving to us and comforting us. Others will be drawn to the stability they taste in us, because we will actively know Christ who is the rock. Others will feel a certain security and trust when being around us, because we ourselves would have been experiencing the security and surety of His steadfast love.

We Are Not Content with Jesus Alone

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” – John 12:32

If the Lord Himself were the primary thing that we had in our hearts, others would be drawn. The Spirit of God, love, and power will draw men to the Lord. But we want Jesus, plus something else. We want other things too. I am not talking about possessions only.

But because we do not rid ourselves daily of other things besides the Lord and Him alone, our Christianity becomes a mixture of other things along with it. Therefore, the world sees the other things and it turns them off. Also, many precious Christian brothers and sisters have been deeply wounded from our other things that we have and carry around.

Paul says that many of our practices come from a real sick mind.

“he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of  which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions” 1Ti 6:4

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned”. – Titus 3: 9-11

Notice here that Paul says that foolish controversies lead to factions and divisions. When we do this we are perverted and we sin.

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged” – 2 Timothy 2:24

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. – 1 Timothy 1:5-7

How many times have we embarrassed ourselves by making confident assertions when we don’t even know what we are talking about? I’ve certainly done this.

Movements, and Causes

Abortion is wrong. Sending missionaries into other countries is wonderful. Those who are being persecuted for Christ should be cared for and prayed for. Bringing Christ into the workplace is a good thing. Prayer in school is a great need. Getting bibles into other countries is an important work. The home church movement is very beneficial. Building schools, orphanages, clean water in third world countries, converting lost souls, teaching the bible, living in community with others, organizing prayer groups, youth receiving the gospel, learning and playing Christian music, making your own soap, grinding your own wheat, and growing your own vegetables are all wonderful things.

But they are not Jesus Christ. They may be important to Him (maybe not making your own soap). Many of these things may be dear to His heart, but they are not HIM.

We take things that are important to Christ, that are near to Christ, that are about Christ, and make them the actual focus. Men become so passionate for these causes, it would seem as though they thought the cause was Christ Himself.

Any man loves a good cause to give his life to. We love to feel passionate about something. Yet the “cause of Christ” is often too generic for us, too subjective, too spiritual, and too elusive. Christ alone does not gratify the flesh. A cause for something near to Christ or close to Jesus Christ, (but not actually Him) can easily become an avenue for the flesh to “get something out of it”.

Paul tells us in Philippians, “so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else”, – Philippians 1:13

Christ Himself should be our only cause. Yet we find our identity and self importance in movements and causes. Even some of the followers of Christ wanted to see Jesus overthrow the government of their day and for Jesus to immediately establish His kingdom on the earth. (Jn 6:15, Acts 1:6) On the surface this does not seem like a bad thing to want. But when our cause becomes something other than Christ Himself, we leave Him and our hearts become set on earthly things and earthly change. Even spiritual causes can come before God. Bringing the “gospel to Asia”, or any country or people group can become what we are living for. How dry and empty we become when we are consumed with causes and movements. When we do this, we become a candidate for burn out and disillusionment.

The Bless Me Gospel

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”, – 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Is this not enough for us? The fact that Jesus was crucified for the forgiveness of sins ushers us into the very throne room of God. As we fully believe the gospel (in real time), we know (in real time) His great love which He has for us. This great gospel of the Kingdom both humbles us and lifts up our eyes to gaze at our King – all in one motion.

But we are not content to rest in the arms of our Lord and enjoy His love. We want to add to the good news. The flesh loves to twist the scriptures to find more “good news” other than Jesus Christ alone. As if God Himself were not enough for us, we’ve created the “bless me gospel”.

The bless me gospel says that Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but He also wants us to be rich. And if you have less money, wealth, health or prosperity than everyone else around you (depending on the standard of living in the country you live in) then you are not believing the truth enough or you are in sin.

The Gospel of “Life Is Hard and I’m a Worm”

The flesh will never be content with Christ and Him alone. So, this particular variety of flesh adds to the gospel by saying that if we are not “doing without” in some way and beating ourselves up on some level, then we must be in sin and not living for God.

Neither having abundance nor not having abundance has anything to do with the gospel of the kingdom. Paul tell us, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. – Philippians 4:12

The true gospel leads us to contentment in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.

The Gospel of “Focusing on Evil and What’s Not God”

The Lord within us certainly instructs us to live a clean life and a life of purity. This is a “by product” or a result of abiding in the life of Jesus Christ. To live a life focusing on everything that is evil and what is “not the Lord” is a distraction from focusing on the Lord Himself. As I’ve known more than a few people who are completely obsessed with avoiding the devil, their lives are filled with tragedy, chaos, and despair. Often, those who have a fixation on purity alone are secretly battling hidden sins that they cannot seem to overcome.

The answer to a clean outside is a clean inside. Only sitting at the feet of Christ, in love with Him, will result in cleaning the outside of the cup. We must learn to be filled with the Spirit on a daily basis. Righteousness will follow. We can never make the mistake of trying to get our lives straight outwardly first, hoping for the result to be a Spirit filled life. This is backwards. We must always come, “just as we are”. Only the Savior can make us clean on the inside, and thus empower us to live righteously.

As Jesus explains: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. – Matthew 23:25-26

The Person of Jesus is the Only True Gospel

When we add to the gospel message anything other than the centrality of Jesus Christ and faith in Him, we are in error. When our additions and other things come to full fruition, they manifest with heresies, divisions, self promotion, strife, and sin.

Many times the strong desires we have to focus on various “ism’s, “oligy’s”, our own self efforts, and all “other things” come out of deep rooted wounds, hurts, and severe personal lacks. Only Christ can heal and restore us in all these things.

but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

“… continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” – Colossians 1:23b

 

4 Responses to “Anything But Jesus”

  1. Samuel Thomas

    I have read a lot of what is on this site and agree with most of what is here.I have always found something lacking in the “Organized Church” .I do have a question tho concerning basic fundamental doctrine and can the body of Christ truly worship in harmony together with differences in basic doctrinal issues such as some that you have mentioned like “eternal security” for me this would be a huge issue! not that i don’t believe that there are ppl truly saved on both sides of this issue! But could there really be harmony in bible studies and teachings?? ,Samuel Thomas

  2. admin

    Samuel,

    Great question that requires a very long answer. To state it as simply as I can, unity is something of the Spirit according to Ephesians 4:3. However there are places in scripture that describe the church as striving to be in agreement and speak the same thing (1 Cor. 1:10). Therefore, I believe we are to maintain unity in our hearts with one another, even though we disagree on certain issues. Yet, we are to have conversations in order to come of one mind as it is peaceful to do so.

    If we ever make the mistake of placing our doctrines as more important that a brother, then we’ve left the greatest commandment of all. We must be patient with one another as we all attain to the knowledge of the truth. The maturity of a group is often indicated by the patience they have with one another in knowing when it is time to address certain issues. And always keep this in mind: you might be incorrect in your doctrinal view and the other guy might be right.

  3. Samuel Thomas

    Philippians 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. ……………………………How could we do this?

  4. admin

    When I see another Christian brother, I think we are like minded because we are both followers of Jesus Christ. Just because I don’t have the same degree of revelation or spiritual understanding as my brother, does not mean that we have to be separated. Perhaps one day I will come to understand as my brother does (or vice versa).

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