We don’t need church, we need Jesus.
We don’t need an iphone or a blackberry or an e-reader.
We simply need Jesus, only Jesus.
Only Jesus will save us, anything else that promises us that with it we will be complete and whole is a lie.
We cannot do it on our own, only with Jesus can we have eternal life.
Jesus saves us from ourselves and the lies of the world, so that we can live fully here-and-now. It is in Christ that we can live the kind of lives we all dream and hope for, yet Jesus doesn’t promise we will never suffer or stumble. He does promise that in the darkest times he will be with us. Jesus is not all that concerned with us believing the right things, going to the right churches, hanging out with the right people, or our personal happiness. Jesus is in the business of making us the kind of people that can live in the kingdom and reconciling all of creation to God. Jesus is not a watchdog of the church. Jesus is not a self-help guru. Jesus is not a slot machine. Jesus is loving and welcoming, inviting all into the loving, grace-filled, beautiful and wondrous arms of a God who doesn’t need us, but wants us.
N.T. Wright: “When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.”
Brennan Manning: “The sinners to whom Jesus directed His messianic ministry were not those who skipped morning devotions or Sunday church. His ministry was to those whom society considered real sinners. They had done nothing to merit salvation. Yet they opened themselves to the gift that was offered them. On the other hand, the self-righteous placed their trust in the works of the Law and closed their hearts to the message of grace.”
Jesus never asks that we clean ourselves up to be presentable to God and deserve the unconditional and limitless love and grace of God. In Mark 1, the leper went to Jesus and asked for healing and Jesus with compassion gave it freely. It was a gift. Not earned, but given freely. Jesus didn’t ask the leper if he was a Christian or if he had said the sinner’s prayer and tithed to his local church or believed in the Apostles’ Creed. True, none of those things existed back then. However, Jesus didn’t ask the leper if he was a Jew in right standing or believed Jesus was the son of God. No! The leper asked. Jesus healed.
Can we really believe that things are so different now?
Jesus interacts with us in the very same way now that he did then. Not in a psychical presence, but he is still here. We only need Jesus. No church, person, book, philosophy, or man-made system will ever give us what Jesus offers freely. As Robin Myers says, Jesus’ “invitation was not to believe, but to follow.” We are not called to simply believe in some detached intellectual way, but to trust and follow. Faith is in trusting that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all and if we say yes and follow him then our entire life will be transformed in such a way that we won’t need proof of God’s existence. We won’t believe or hope God is real, we will know God is real.
Michael Spencer: “… the powerful changes that happen in the life of a disciple never come from the disciple working hard at doing anything. They come from arriving at a place where Jesus is everything, and we are simply overwhelmed with the gift. Sometimes it seems as if God loves us too much. His love goes far beyond our ability to stop being moral, religious, obedient, and victorious, and we just collapse in his arms. Out of the gospel that Jesus is the only Mediator between God and humanity comes a Christian life that looks like Jesus, a life Jesus would recognize. It’s a life that looks like Jesus, because Jesus does everything, and all we do is accept his gift. And to accept his gift, we have to give up trying to be Jesus.”
To respond to Jesus and accept what he already has accomplished in us and the world means to stop striving to be perfect and letting Jesus work through us.
Of all the great leaders of history Jesus stands out and alone absolutely unique. God intervened decisively in human history in Jesus nothing is the same. We can deny or accept, but no one can ignore Jesus. Jesus is different. Jesus preached a new message, a new commandment of how we should live with love and grace, radically different from all the philosophy and religion of the past. He didn’t give a detailed plan of how we can earn our way back to God, but said, “God loves you. Let me show you how much.” Then, he went about showing through his actions and his dying on a cross how much God loves us in spite of ourselves. What Jesus did was present and manifest God in such a deeply authentic way that when one saw Jesus they experienced the divine. To experience Jesus was and is to experience God. He lived his message, accepting and forgiving the most despised sinners. He faced familiar human struggles, yet remained compassionate never once backing down from his commandment to love everyone. Finally, he accepted the ultimate act of love lying down his life for the sake of others. For Jesus this was not a one-time gift but a continual, renewable gift for all who trusted in him. It is through Jesus that everyone can experience eternal life starting now and stretching beyond the grave.
I look at Jesus and see what is right and beautiful about life. I find Jesus to be the best and fullest expression of a human being. I want to live my life in the shadow of Jesus. When I read the Bible there are time when I say yes and my soul leaps for joy, there are other times when I am pushed and challenged and want to shrink away, but Jesus grabs me and holds me and I know that these are the very things I need to hear to live my Christianity. I am not perfect; I don’t have it all together and never will. There are times that I surprise myself usually I stumble, sometimes I fall flat on my face. I am not as loving, selfless, or gracious as I should be or could be. I have hurt people. I have regrets. I have made mistakes. I need a savior and I am not so full of myself as to think I could ever do it on my own.
I chose the way of Jesus not because I’m saved, but because I go astray. When I say, “I am a Christian” I don’t speak with arrogance. I’m confessing my wrongs and that I need a Savior. I’m not strong, but profess my weakness and pray for the ability to carry me on. I’m not bragging, but admitting I have sinned and cannot ever repay the debt. I don’t claim to have it altogether, my flaws are too visible, but God loves me anyway, God loves me in spite of myself, but loves way too much to let me stay that way. I do not wish to judge or point fingers at others. I only know I’m loved. I want to point others to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
In Philippians, 1 Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We must die daily to self to rise to new life in Christ.