Jesus Plus Nothing.
A strange little phrase more over-packed than my free carry-on bag.
At first glance this elementary phrase is Gospel 101. So let’s move on to some meat that challenges my head, heart and soul; solidifies my theology and behavior; gives hope to my eternity and power for my day-to-day.
LIKE the doctor that moves on from basic anatomy in order to do brain surgery.
LIKE the attorney that brushed past the constitution to run for office.
LIKE the football team that hurdles “block and tackle” practice to choreograph their end zone dance.
LIKE the couple that stops saying “I love you” to get to the deeper parts of marriage. (yikes)
You know what I am talking about. We’ve seen it. We’ve been frustrated by it. We’ve done it. It’s the Fundamentals. Over and over and over again. Then when you’ve done it over and over, then start over and do it again.
This is the Gospel. Yes, we absolutely need to study deep and broad. Do your word studies, read commentaries and get into sparked conversations. But always, always, always built upon the rock-solid, immovable, unchanging foundation of “Jesus Plus Nothing.”
Otherwise we will inevitably get lost in information instead of transformation; focused on theology rather than on Jesus; revert back to self instead love. Don’t believe me? Ask anybody who has been to seminary. Or anybody who has been in vocational ministry. I cannot begin to tell the nearly universal stories of myself and others that have lost the power and passion of ministry, and even with Jesus, because we’ve “moved on” from JPN.
So let’s remember
Jesus Plus Nothing
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Jesus is all we have. Jesus is all we need.
For all ages we have added a + and/or a – to this equation not just for salvation but for my everyday relationship with the Lord. Most of us may get on board with this being true for me to get into heaven. But not so much for how God actually sees me and loves me.
Jesus + ____
What dog-trick hoops do we set up in this blank? Specific rules of Baptism; specific (micro) theology points (side note, yes there are basic macro theology points we are called to believe as we are adopted into his family – see Romans 10:9).
Jesus – ____
What itemized and ranked sins might we insert here? It’s Jesus…as long as you DON’T…?
Instead of going on and on with these essentials, I want to move on to the main two points of JPN — that is gives us Infinitely Eternal Hope as well as Endlessly Practical Power
Infinitely Eternal Hope
When Jesus looks on you, what’s the look on his face?
I used this little counseling trick with teenagers. I’d show them different expressions and and ask them different “feeling” questions (how did you feel when…). Because sometimes words don’t suffice.
So what about you?
When you really mess up…When you are really generous…When you realize you haven’t even thought about God in over a week. Which of these represent how you “feel that God feels about you”?
No, God isn’t ambivalent about your heart and your behavior. But unlike humans, his love for you isn’t adjusted by your behavior. It if was, then Christ’s death wasn’t sufficient. That means that it’s “Christ Plus (my behavior)”. Nope. It’s not.
Put another way:
Unconditional Love doesn’t exist.
Quote me on that. But hear me out.
The Lord doesn’t love you unconditionally, because that would simply be unjust. Instead, and SO MUCH BETTER, the Lord’s love for you is CONDITIONED on Christ, who has satisfied the Law’s demands and was made a propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10 – In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.) This means that Jesus “appeased” God’s just wrath by paying that price for us.
And therefore…God’s love has met it’s needed conditions, and you are SET FREE. His love is NOT CONDITIONED on you in any way, at any time. Not what you’ve done or what you haven’t done.
It’s finished (I seem to remember Jesus explicitly saying that at some important time)
This Infinitely Endless Hope rests solely on Jesus and his Righteousness. I am safe, secure and wrapped up on the wings of my Father. This world will hiss and spit, but I am my Father’s and He is mine. Locked and secure.
Since the days of Paul the first critique of this is “Well, if it’s secure, then I can do whatever I want…live it up and enjoy myself because God won’t reject me.” Well, Yes. But, BY NO MEANS (Romans 7)
This security actually means an unimaginable and powerful freedom…not just “FREE FROM” but “FREE TO”…
Endlessly Practical Power
The Infinitely Endless Hope of JPN means that my days count more than ever. I don’t have to spend my days in any kind of worry or fear. Did I do this right? Did I do enough?
Instead I can realize that, since Jesus died, rose and was lifted up, I have now been given the Holy Spirit to abide in me and me in Him. And, get this, that will never ever ever change. I am so fully loved and knit together with Him that I am free to give and play, grieve and pray, serve and dance, rest and strive.
It is because of JPN that Paul wrote Philippians 4:13 to all the football teams to come “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” — He said that while in jail awaiting execution. He was FREE and POWERFUL because man has NOTHING on me; this world cannot take what God has locked up in his vault.
I need the Spirit to preach this into my heart everyday. I need Him to shove it past my insecurities, successes, fears and failures. I need to hear the perpetual and unending Truth from the Bridegroom “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (SofS 6:3 – written to a married couple as a foreshadowing of Christ and His Bride, The Church, You, Me.)
There is too much more to say and almost all of you have already stopped reading. So if you are still here, sit on the words of this 200 yr old hymn.
Rock of Ages, Augustus M. Toplady
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.