Jesus Plus ??: Pivotal Moments of the Gospel in our LivesSaturday, January 07, 2006
Galatians 2 describes what is in my estimation the most pivotal moment in church history. Some will say Acts 15 is. But if my calculations are correct, Galatians 2 happened before Acts 15, making the scenario here with Paul and Titus what could have been quite possibly an explosive and devistating moment for the gospel. In short, had Paul required Titus to be circumcised just to make everybody happy in those early days of the early church, there would probably be no gospel today, no new testament church, no evangelism of the world, no missions....and no joy.
"But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of fasle-brothers secretly brought in - who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery - to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential...those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised... and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles..." (Gal. 2:3-9).
Today there are still "false-brothers" who try to spy out the freedom others have in Christ, to try to bring them into slavery. There are some in every local body, it seems. "Christians" who are "convicted" that certain "principles" and guidelines ought to be followed if people want to belong to their church, their denomination, or to even have "fellowship" with them.
You know them well. And my descriptions are not meant at all to be condemning or judgmental. I myself used to be in slavery to many things just like they did. But establishing and maintaing certain "principles" or guidelines or obligations upon people in order to "be a Christian," be holy, or even a church member is a downright denial of the gospel. Jesus is sufficient. He is all we need to have favor with God. Therefore to add anything to Jesus is to deny His sufficiency.
Churches that require certain dress codes, whether implicitly or explicitly, deny the gospel and teach others to do the same. Believers who require certain kinds of haircuts also deny the gospel. "Christians" who deny other Christians the freedom to watch television, send their kids to public schools (or Christian schools), go on dates, eat certain kinds of foods, do certain activities on Sundays, and other similar things all deny the gospel and teach others do do the same thing.
Instead believers need to be taught that Jesus is sufficient, and in finding our sufficiency in Him, we turn to the Holy Spirit of Christ to fill us and guide us to exalt Jesus and glorify Him with our lives. This will in turn dispense with the felt necessity of man-made rules, principles, guidelines, obligations, rules, etc. And in its place we will find Spirit-led impulses and divine wisdom hedging us from sin and fostering the new heart within us that will lead us to further holiness.
It is Jesus plus nothing else. Being a Christian is not about Jesus plus homeschooling, Jesus plus hymns only (or Jesus plus worship songs only), Jesus plus King James Version Bibles (or ESV's!), Jesus plus your current denomination, Jesus plus dark socks and dress shoes only (or sandals only), Jesus plus females-wear-ankle-length-dresses only (or Jesus plus females-wear-just-below-the-knee-length-dresses only), Jesus plus Macintosh computers only (or Jesus plus PC's only), Jesus plus vegetarianism (or Jesus plus no-carb-diet only), Jesus plus don't-go-to-shopping-malls, Jesus plus the Dallas Cowboys (or Jesus plus Washington Redskins), Jesus plus sex-is-for-procreation only, Jesus plus fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-parenting-methodology, Jesus plus patriarchal home life, Jesus plus Reformed theology, Jesus plus Conservatism, Jesus plus Republicanism, Jesus plus Habitat for Humanity, Jesus plus charismatic theology, Jesus plus non-fiction books only, Jesus plus I-read-only-Puritan-books, Jesus plus we-only-pray-in-Elizabethan-English, Jesus plus courtship, or Jesus plus anything. If there's a plus sign at all after Jesus in your thought process, denomination, theology, or lifestyle, you deny the gospel. I'm not saying any of these things are wrong in and of themselves. I happen to like a number of these things, except for the sex-is-for-procreation only item, of course.
But the point behind all of these issues is what motivates them. If any of them are motivated by a sense of gaining God's pleasure, or some sense that we are living holy lives, or some feeling that we are being righteous, or that we are earning our place in heaven, then they are all wrong. All of them. If Jesus and our joy in Him isn't the motivation behind any of these things, there is neither any evidence of grace or mercy behind these kind of lifestyle.
Instead of living like this any longer, embrace the gospel. It frees us from a life of rules and regulations. It sets us free into a life of freedom in the Spirit. The readers who will react the most vehemently and violently to this post are those who are legalists. And these are the very ones who will call me an antinomian (one who is against the law of God). But if Paul is clear on anything at all in the NT it is this one point: Jesus = salvation, and Jesus + anything else equals damnation. In street language, "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, to hell with him" (Gal. 2:8, 10).
Might this seem like a harsh post? I used to think so about talk like this. "How ungracious that sounds", I used to think. But we must pull out all the stops when it comes to this kind of teaching, for it denies the gospel and lulls everyone else around into thinking that what is being taught is okay.
However, we must be merciful, kind, generous, and gracious to those who are trapped by such slavery. Stand against the teaching, but stand with the person. They are the slaves. But if we shun them on account of their anti-gospel tendencies and beliefs, then how different are we than they?
No, the gospel welcomes sinners, saved and unsaved alike. It welcomes slaves and promises to lift their burdens and give them rest...forever. It embraces the downcast and downtrodden, promising friendship and encouragement and help. It wraps loving arms around those who are hurting inside but afraid to show it on the outside. It promises peace to those who are at war within because of the constant friction of man-made rules and regulations to which they have so long been submitted and are consistently unable to fulfill. It proclaims liberty to prisoners of legalism, promising eternal joy in Jesus through following Him by the power of His Spirit.
Is there Jesus plus anything in your thought process, theology, home, marriage, parenting, or lifestyle in general? If so, you are at a pivotal moment in your life when, as with Paul and Titus, you must come to embrace the gospel plus nothing else....no matter how influential your teachers or preachers may be.....no matter how tough the atmosphere of conformity may be....no matter how bad the denominational peer pressure may be. Flee the gospel plus something else, and run to the Savior.