There Is No Sin In Him

Buckle up, pardners… this may get a little heretical. (Just warnin’ ya!)

jesus-writing-in-the-sandIn many places within the pages of the Bible we read that Jesus was without sin. He who had no sin became sin for us… He is the spotless lamb… He faced all the same temptations we do, but he did not sin.

And on the one hand, that makes sense: Jesus is God. So… duh! Of course he can’t sin!

But, on the other hand—the hand that is WAY beyond our limited understanding—Jesus also emptied himself of all his divine nature (Philippians 2), and lived fully as a man. This makes the strength of the words in the book of Hebrews even more meaningful (Jesus was tempted in every way, yet was without sin) because James reminds us that “God can not be tempted to do wrong” (1:13), and so Jesus faced temptations fully as a man, but he somehow succeeded in remaining sinless.

I’ve been wondering what that means.

Did Jesus just keep all the rules? How? If he was fully human, doesn’t that mean he would fall under the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” proclamation by Paul in Romans, which leads to death as a result? Well, Jesus did in fact pay that penalty—and he did for all of us, defeating death in the process! But he did not die for his own sin, according to scripture, but for the sins of all of us.

Many times in the accounts of Jesus life we read accusations of wrongdoing. The religious leaders, the teachers of religious law, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and any who thought that keeping the rules was paramount to a godly life, these people would accuse Jesus and his followers of all sorts of rule-breaking. Jesus generally turned it back on them by saying things like, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath,” and:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” 1

The more important things. Hmm…

What I’ve been wondering is, what did Jesus’ sinlessness look like? Does it mean that as a boy he never disobeyed his parents? Does it mean that he always did the right thing every time, always? Maybe. But does it have to? In a religious sense, it probably does. But what did Jesus tell us were “the more important things”?

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” 2

My two oldest sons and I just finished reading through 1 John together, and the resounding themes John clearly wanted to share with the church to whom he wrote were: trust God (and his love), and love each other. There was a third theme of confessing (admitting) your sin, and by abiding in Jesus, whose spirit lives within us, moving past sin that leads to death. (For another day, John also mentioned “sins that do not lead to death”, which I found fascinating. Again… for another day.)

Love. Be loved, and love.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. We love each other because he loved us first. 3

Could it be that Jesus’ sinless life looks a lot different than just doing all the right things, and especially NOT doing the wrong things?

John said in his letter, “[we must] believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded.” Love is never wrong. But it might break the rules, no? At least, in this broken, sinful, glass-darkly kind of world.

I’m not saying Jesus was a ‘filthy sinner’. Of course not. But I am considering again what “sin” looks like, and so, what his sinlessness looked like.

What do you think? Is Jesus a halo-wearing, robed, sandaled guy who is distant, and sort of meaningless? Or is he the most caring, wise, discerning, honest, truthful, loving person who ever lived? (And, Easter Sunday reminds us—he still does!)

Many times we Christians focus so much on the rule-keeping, and rule-not-breaking, that we miss the “more important things”. Let’s remember this weekend, as we commemorate the cross on Good Friday, and Jesus’ victory over death on Resurrection Sunday, that all we are called to do is to know we are loved, and trust that love (confirmed by Jesus’ spirit living in us), which empowers us to love the ones God has placed us near.

Be loved, trust, and—in God’s power—love.

Perhaps that is what sinless looks like?


Please note… I do not in any way intend to diminish Jesus, nor elevate me nor any other fellow follower, nor anyone really, by any of my thoughts presented in this post. Perhaps the words caused you to ponder, as they have done for me, or, even better, stirred you to remember and live “the more important things” in this day, and every day. Grace and peace to you.

The Church Book: Revisited

htc-smallI came across a copy of my “Church book”, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church!, just today, and on a whim I picked it up and flipped through it. For some reason, the epilogue, titled “Concluding Remarks”, caught my eye this time.

If you think the book is anti-church, these words should dispel that notion. The words are the written expression of many weeks, months, and years of deep, soul-searching, truth-seeking efforts for the church, the Bride of Christ.

Happening across these words again today was interesting, coupled with a conversation we had this past week with an old friend. The subject of “the church” was central to a portion of our discussion. We both spent much time crafting emotional, spirit-filled, Jesus-centered programs. Everything was meant to point the hearer/seer to Jesus. And it was wonderful. We commented that we definitely miss those moments. And still, we also recall the not-just-physical exhaustion of energy possibly slightly misdirected: building up an organization and event, rather than one another.

If you haven’t purchased (or downloaded for free) and read a copy of this book yet, I wonder if what I wrote at the end of the book might encourage you to do so? I had forgotten about this part, but I think eight years later, this is all still true. (Even while some of the other things I’ve read might have been slightly modified by the passage of time.)

Here, today, is the short epilogue, in its entirety.

As I finished putting this book together, I couldn’t help but think that I had missed something. I tried to go back over each chapter in my head, wondering if I had said all that I hoped to communicate through a few thousand feeble words. I want so much to convey the astounding freedom that we have in the quite undeserved love of our Father. I want to communicate that we as the church could be so much more! I don’t want to attack, or belittle the things that so many brothers and sisters cherish (as did I in the not too distant past). I only want to offer what I believe we Christians already know and teach, but perhaps are just not living out.

A phrase from Scripture comes to mind quite often when I ponder the current forms of the Church. “A form of godliness, but denying its power.” To me it seems that could define the church, and the lives of many believers today. We have created a facade that would pretend to offer us life with Jesus, when in fact it is only a set of ethics to which we must adhere. It’s only a meeting to attend. A job to be done.

The kingdom of heaven is so much more. It’s here, now. Jesus has made it possible for us to know him and the Father by his Holy Spirit right inside us. He is always with us. Through good, and bad. This is the nature of the church. In reality, it’s not something we have created to propagate truths passed down through generations. We have turned it into that. But the church is the living, breathing, body and bride of Christ. It’s much more real than we have allowed it to be.

I don’t know if the words on these pages have stirred you or not. If they have, it was not the words that stirred. It was your Father. He loves you, just like he loves me. He has communicated that to me through many means, and I am hopeful that you heard his voice through this book. It is not my intention to tear down anything with this book, only to liberate and help open our eyes to the greatness of what we have, and perhaps what we’re missing.

Live today in the freedom of God’s love and grace. Know he loves you, and longs to be with you. His love is perfect, and compels us to love as we’ve been loved. May you know the greatness of living life as the church with others similarly loved.

Grace and Peace to you, The Church.
Greg Campbell

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There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Fading Away

fading-flower

Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.

I read those lines from 1 John again this morning with my two oldest sons. When we finished, I went back and read them aloud again. Then we discussed.

“This is important,” I said.

It wasn’t about keeping them from sinful behavior, though. Of course, I hope that they can avoid as much hurt caused by sin as possible—unless God allows that for their own greater benefit. I can not know or understand such things.

What is important is what I made bold above: And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves.

Everything is fading away. I see reminders of that everywhere. Everywhere.

Jim Kelly, the icon of toughness for the Buffalo Bills and the entire western half of New York State is in a very weakened state, in a hospital in NYC, hoping to battle back cancer… again. Our friend, Scott Shimp continues to fight his stage four cancer, which doctors say is incurable, but he (knowing the Great Healer) says otherwise. My Mom is recovering from painful surgery that revealed more damage than they had anticipated. She’s OK, but in much pain. (She often is.)

Other friends are dealing with cancers (new and recurring), death of spouses, and we also know of a little four-year-old boy who is fighting a disease far too early in his life on this earth.

This world is fading away along with all that it craves (1 John)

There is good news in that, especially for all who are fighting, clawing, battling against the brokenness of this temporary, fading reality. We know it is temporary. We are pilgrims, passing through. But it is also all too real. The hurt, pain, distress, fear

We know that he casts out fear. There are dozens and dozens (hundreds?) of reminders of this in the words of scripture. Do not fear. Trust. Rest.

But while we traverse this temporary, fading existence… the darkness can feel too great, too overwhelming. Too often.

When our hearts are affixed to that which fades, our hearts will fade with it.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Jesus reminded us of this. He knew we needed to remember it. This is important.

Fix our eyes on Jesus. Treasure that which lasts. This world, the physical pleasures—even those that are good, wholesome, godly—and even our own bodies are only temporary. Fading. But Jesus is not. He is eternal life. And to know him, is how we taste and experience that Life. (John 17:3)

This is important.

I don’t know what you are facing, but I am sure it’s something. Whether you’re feeling at peace with it, or raging against the injustice of whatever it may be, or the feeling of loneliness as you wage weary war against this enemy mostly unknown to even your closest friends…

Remember what is important. If you’re reading this, you have been given life today. For right now. We can not hold on to anything here. Nothing!

Only his kingdom, and his righteousness (not ours!) and only abiding in and enjoying fellowship with the Son.

And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.

Remember what is important. Please. And by God’s glorious grace, let’s walk in his brilliant light, with joy, each day he gives us in this fading world, with great, eager hope of the world that is to come.

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Footnote: I began this post early today, and wrote out bits and pieces throughout my work day. Around 3:00 pm, my Twitter app exploded with the news of the death of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., founder and only owner of the Buffalo Bills. (Whom you likely know I avidly follow.) It was a sort of confirmation of the certainty of the fade of this world, everything being temporary. We know death is the period at the end of our sentence, and we are constantly reminded of its reality. And yet, we have hope. Jesus defeated death. I’m so glad he did.

Infallible Trustworthiness

trustworthiness

Yesterday, after reading a couple more chapters of the book of Hebrews with our two oldest boys, I was recounting to Jen some of what we had read and discussed. Julia, our seven-year-old was also in the room. From what we are reading, a common theme the author of Hebrews seems to be conveying is the ultimate, unfailing trustworthiness of God, so I used the phrase, “infallible trustworthiness”, and asked Julia if she knew what that meant. She did not, but she did listen when I explained, “It means God can always—always—be trusted.”

He can.

Early in the letter called “Hebrews”, it’s stated that God can not lie. It is impossible for him to lie. Jesus’ supremacy is also well established, and his role as our intermediary—our advocate, High Priest—is outlined in great detail. That God is for us, always, seems to be a main theme of the Hebrews.

We are often encouraged, then, to trust him, based on this. Approach the throne of grace with confidence. Come to him in our time of need.

Through the years, various lines and sections from the book of Hebrews have encouraged me about who God is and my relationship to him. I’ve included many of them in songs I’ve written, and recalled them “in my time(s) of need”. So, I’ve enjoyed reading through this letter again, and discuss it with my boys. I love seeing them process and understand grace and the truths of God’s Kingdom.

Most of all, perhaps, is this recurring theme of God’s infallible trustworthiness.

It’s what’s caused all of the people mentioned in chapter eleven, the “by faith” section, to see far beyond their circumstances to something they believed and hoped for. It wasn’t their belief in something, but someOne who spurred them on.

“By faith… Their weakness was turned to strength…” (11:34)

In the end, the whole of our existence depends upon him. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the fullness of God and man. It’s beyond comprehension, and yet it’s the foundation of all that we are.

The list of people who accomplished great things in full reliance upon God’s infallible trustworthiness is summed up by the following:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. (12:1-2)

We’ve heard that before, but it is the essence of what is most important: keeping our eyes on Jesus.

It’s easy to take our eyes off of him. Circumstances can easily distract us. Financial and employment struggles, relational woes within a family or with close friends, chronic health issues, or even diagnoses of terminal illness and death.

And yet, Jesus is with us through all of that. If we clear away the clutter, be it sin, doubt, worry, fear, or anything else distracting us from him, and keep our eyes on him, we will know joy—life in its fullness.

When we’re crushed by sadness, guilt, hopelessness, it’s hard. It feels impossible to “trust”. I know.

…let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. […] Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise (10:22-23)

God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Wherever you’re doubting today, worrying, fearing, remember those words: “God can be trusted to keep his promise.” He promises us rest, peace, grace, forgiveness, and his love, from which nothing can separate us.

He is with us. He is for us.

What, or who, can ever be against us?

I highly recommend to you a re-read of the book of Hebrews. We’re enjoying it in larger chunks, which to me helps provide context. Some prefer to go slower, meditating on smaller portions.

However you do it, may the words refresh your trust in our God’s infallible trustworthiness!

And let us, together, keep our eyes on Jesus.

Thoughts on Church Attendance

church-serviceI’m not sure why, but it’s curious to me that the topic of church attendance has popped up a time or two in recent conversations. It’s sort of different every time, but all of the occasions have been cordial, courteous, and even understanding and affirming of the thoughts we have on how we are part of the church, the body of Christ. I can’t think of any time that I have brought it up, but it’s been part of enough conversations that it merited a post here this mid-February day.

Right in the middle of these instances of “church talk” was an article I happened to spot by author, Donald Miller, on his website StoryLineBlog.com. I am subscribed to his blog and usually scan his posts once a week or so, reading those that catch my eye. Last week I spotted one titled, “Why I Don’t Go To Church Very Often, A Follow Up Blog“. Follow up? I wondered, I don’t remember seeing the first one…

Curious, I clicked and read, then clicked his link to the original and read—and much more surprising than anything Miller shared were the readers’ comments to both of these blog posts.

Miller’s first article was merely an informal, from-the-heart, spur-of-the-moment, observational post about a recent weekend worship service experience. He basically was “confessing” (his word) that he doesn’t connect with God through music, or any element of the traditional worship service. And so he has chosen to not often be part of that gathering, but finds community with other believers (the Church) elsewhere in life.

Seems fairly harmless to me. How about you?

The readers who felt the need to reply were (it seemed to me) mostly distraught at his proclamation. “How could you say it’s OK to not be part of the church!” And, “Church is not about you, or what you get out of it, Don!” And the lambasting continued with comment after comment—at the writing of this post, there are just about 500 comments on the original post—most of them sharply chastising Miller’s flippant attitude towards the sacred.

Hoo-boy… I’ve been there.

The issue is not whether or not we are called to be together, or to live and serve each other and together in community as the body of Christ. That’s a fairly obvious reality of the church from scripture. The issue is what we are calling “church”.

If you mainly see the hour (or two) on a weekend day—some people attend a Saturday service, you know—as “church” then you might be prone to astonishment at someone’s admission that it’s not their favorite thing—AND that they are “OK” with not attending it. That is actually understandable.

But did Jesus really come into this world to share the Good News of the Sunday morning worship service? Is that what we are called to?

I truly do not want to stir the pot here, creating my own flurry of vengeful, protective, defending-the-Kingdom comments. Please don’t respond here, if that’s all you’re feeling. (Because, I think if that’s what you’re feeling, you’re not hearing me correctly.)

I’d be very interested in calm, collected, thoughtful responses to anything I’ve said, or even more, what Donald Miller shared in either post linked above (and I’ll add them below here, too).

It was all so fascinating how vigorously and intensely the weekend worship service was defended by so many voices. The guilt-laden obligation that dripped from many of those same comments was also telling, I think.

Wherever you are with Jesus, I hope you are at peace. If you are not, I hope that it’s his spirit nudging you toward the freedom we are able to have in him—If the son has set you free, you are free indeed.—not toward a life without him, but into a life of rest in his grace and mercy and goodness. Freedom of a life with him.

Here are the links again

I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.
Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog

AND, if you want to read more on thoughts about what the church is, and what it can be, I did publish a book about that: There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church! Available at Amazon, and there is also a free (PDF) download. (But it’s nicer to pay for books… if you can.) 🙂 See below.

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There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

[ThisDay] First And Second Birthdays

Today’s post was a poignant piece, originally published one year after the death of a family friend. We all celebrate birthdays, but it’s harder to celebrate our second birthdays; at least it’s hard for those left behind here in this mortal existence. I wrote this about one year after our friend died, and one day after my mom’s “first” birthday (Jan 26th). If you’d like to read something lighter, January 27th is an active day for publishing in GregsHead.net history. See the list at the end of the post for the lighter fare. But today’s primary selection is just below. Enjoy.

First And Second Birthdays

January 27th, 2012

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar, celebrated by our family. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.


Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 27th

[ThisDay] Christianity, or Jesus? (Aren’t They the Same?)

January 22nd in GregsHead history was slightly more difficult to whittle down than some of the other days. It was not due to volume, though—only five posts. Four of the five posts are worth reading (the other is worth it if you are using WordPress for blogging…) but of the six options, I selected the article below for today’s re-reading. Please enjoy this little anecdote from a dinner conversation just last January. Good theological discussion!

Christianity, or Jesus? (Aren’t They the Same?)

January 22nd, 2013

Our family is currently making our way through the book of Luke together. We’re taking our time, but I do enjoy reading in larger chunks, so we will often read what might be the subject of an entire series of sermons in one sitting.

Tonight, we read through the fifteenth chapter: the three stories of lost and found.

Though we’d often read more than that, it’s such a good three-part story—with the most famous, the Prodigal Son story at the end—that I thought it would be nice to stop and discuss.

The kids are reading and learning about “unreached people groups” with Mom during the school days, and both of the older boys picked up on the “lost” theme that Jesus’ stories held.

When I asked what everyone heard in Jesus’ stories, Ian replied first, “I think it shows that God cares about every single person: if even one in a thousand is lost, there’s a celebration when he realizes he’s wrong and returns to God.”

“Yep. So right, Ian.” I affirmed.

Alex chimed in next, “Or, like if one person in the 10 million in Japan who are buddhists or other things turn to Christianity. It’s like that, even.”

I smiled and affirmed Alex’s insightful answer, too. But something didn’t sit right with me, the way he had phrased that answer.

Ian and Mom both explained what they had been studying—unreached people groups—and I realized what it was that bothered me: the lost returning home story is not about conversions to Christianity, it’s about the Good News that Jesus is life and nothing else.

I tried to lovingly expand on that thought to Alex, but I guess maybe it didn’t come out quite right. Jen didn’t think I was saying it correctly, and by offering further instruction at that time, kinda squashed Alex.

jesus-christ-in-stained-glassAnd, honestly, she doesn’t really agree with my instruction, that Christianity is not the same as Jesus.

I told Alex that the somewhat subtle distinction between someone “turning to Christianity” and someone meeting Jesus (The One true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent) are often, even usually very different things.

One is a religion. Plain and simple, Christianity is not in the Bible. (Really! It’s true!) In this sense, Christianity is no different than Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, and so on. Jesus never talked about establishing a religion (though he did mention building the Church) and I can’t think of anywhere that the word “Christianity” or “Christendom” can be found on the pages of Scripture. (Though other people called the Church, “Christians”—Acts 11, and Acts 26—the only other occurrence of the word is in 1 Peter 4:16.)

Returning to a loving Father is a different story. Realizing our need to be connected to the Vine; understanding the limitless, boundless love that God has for us, wanting from before the foundation of the world to adopt us as his own children; understanding how the cross restores our friendship with God by destroying sin and death and shame once and for all…

That’s a different story. (And doesn’t “sign you up” for anything.)

Now, I’m certainly painting with too broad a brush right now. Firstly, only a chapter or two before, Jesus addressed his disciples and the crowds following him, making sure they understood the cost of being his disciple. The cost is… everything. He said we need to be willing to give up everything (even family, wealth/possessions, a home), even our own life.

But the key is, nothing else matters outside of his Life. Nothing.

And that’s the point. Converting to a religion often satisfies our own accomplishable goals and benchmarks. There are “measurables” with Christianity. You can check things off like, reading your Bible, or having quiet time, joining a prayer group, or some other “small group”, going to services, volunteering for a ministry… or five ministries. All of those things can become “feathers” in our caps.

Jesus asks us to volunteer to be last, though. To not be noticed. To give up our dreams, turn the other cheek… all of that. And all because there is nothing we need or could ever want more than to know him.

Paul knew that, and wrote:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. —Phil 3:8

Honestly, I could be convinced that I’m straining out gnats here. OR, I could be convinced that this is the pivotal, most important, fundamental part of the Gospel: Jesus matters.

It’s him. And nothing else. Not a religion (Christianity), not a building or an organization (First Christian Church of Wherever), and not even a set of benchmarks that you set up for yourself to take your spiritual temperature.

Do you trust him? Then you’re in. And your life will never be the same. If you believe that Jesus is Immanuel, God made flesh, the Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life… buckle up!

That might be the same to you as “Christianity”, and if that’s the case, I’m really glad. My experience has been different. We people are good at maintaining control, and I think Jesus wants—longs for—us to relinquish that. Most often systems with fancy names—Christianity—don’t allow any room for that to happen, and even worse, they keep us in the “performance” mindset, where we’re always trying to “do better… for God, of course…

But Jesus’ words were always simply, “Follow me.”

I think it might really be that simple.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 22nd

  1. I’d really recommend reading this post, too, if you’ve got the time. It was a very close second!