Simply Jesus

‘Simply Jesus’

is a great phrase to help us keep perspective when things become complicated.

We need care, there are those for whom the words are a mere bumper sticker. They have heard some Christian leader say the phrase and are convinced this is the totality of the Christian life. Safe in this knowledge, they live life their own way while using the phrase ‘Simply Jesus’ to ward off teaching that might be getting close to their heart or demand any more of them.

One believes the one who proclaims ‘Simply Jesus’ to the extent they have allowed Jesus to penetrate their heart. So when a Christian, two weeks in the faith, gives out wrist bands saying ‘What would Jesus do?’ there is confidence that this person has met with Jesus, and this is a real expression of their journey.  When this is the extent of life and witness for someone who has been twenty years in the faith, one suspects something is missing. On the other hand, when someone who has walked with Jesus for the last twenty years introduces this perspective into a discussion that is becoming complex or stratospheric then it can be a helpful reality check.

‘Simply Jesus’ can bring resolution. For example when Jesus said,

‘Give to God what belongs to God, and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’

He shifted focus from money to the scope of claims for authority from God and man. When finding balance between extremes, shifting our view up to bring in Jesus often brings resolution.

Who is a disciple of Jesus?

Who is a disciple of Jesus?  Jesus gave two key passages. The first –

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Often discipleship is measured by fulfilling our leaders’ agenda; attendance at meetings and serving on rotas. Jesus’ indicator is love. Disciples of people, take on their attributes. Jesus’ attribute is love.

If we target love, we identify its characteristics– patience, kindness, … and try to display them. But love is the fruit of discipleship. When roots are watered and the tree healthy, fruit comes.

Jesus directs us to a discipleship where we will be watered and strengthened. The second passage.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ Luke 9:23

We follow Jesus who is love himself.

We can follow systems instead of Jesus. We become followers of a movement or church. Jesus challenges us to follow Him alone.

Jesus might present us with a cross. We believed Jesus was taking us one way when a crisis occurs requiring we are diverted from our ambitions and in love attend the crisis.

We are blocked by someone standing against Jesus’ leading. We have to choose to love Jesus over this person. Something dies inside giving space for love.

The complete Bible study on Who is a disciple of Jesus.

Sight or Faith?

How do I express hope when I have confidence in my good Father, yet what I see is anything but hopeful? I find myself here in situations ranging from the state of the church in the UK to the path of ministry that the Lord has me on. I have no clue as to the practical solution, yet know it will be good because God is good.

I feel a need to describe the challenge of the situation. However, when I express myself people hear depression and lack of hope. I am like a disciple before the feeding of the 5000 to whom Jesus has asked the impossible. My response is to examine the need (a years wages worth of bread), and our resources (five loaves and two fish). This makes me sound depressed but, in my heart I am looking at Jesus. I know he is bigger than either need or resources. I can trust Him to bring joy.

We live in a world that wants methods to solve problems, and a pronouncement that Jesus is going to sort it out doesn’t seem to cut it. Most want a ministry strategy that when presented will clearly lead to a resolution to the problem. I have seen so many fail that I am left with no answers but to wait on God in prayer, looking for Him to intervene in a way I could never predict. Yet even here many assess this as a strategy. Even in the church it seems we want to walk by sight not by faith.

Head held high

My defensiveness towards others inadvertently rubs off on my relationship with God. If He asks something of me that I believe is unacceptable to others I will not fully receive it in case I feel embarrassed.

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Ps24)

Many want more of Jesus and ‘lift up their gates’ to let Him in.  As we do so we understand that the king of kings comes both to bring glory and to rule.  We let him in with an attitude of surrender. Yet ‘Lift up your heads’ implies honour. It is the place where I look people in the eye and speak with confidence and a clear conscience. It is not enough to know in my inner world that I have honour. To stand before God and people with head high I need to be willing to trust God with my outer world.

It has taken years for the Lord to lift my head. I have always walked head down, secure in my inner world, insecure in the outer one. The King encourages me to lift my head secure in His honour. He has been proving that confidence by leading me into situations where I may be misunderstood. As I face them with Him by faith and with openness, I learn that Jesus is faithful and can be trusted with my reputation. So, I lift my head and receive more of what He has for me.

Jesus’ Battle

We live in a time when our enemy, unbelief is hardened and aggressively attacking faith. The Lord’s response –

“But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.” (Psalm 60)

A banner does not stop arrows – that is for the shield of faith. The banner reminds us why we stand.  It is not about us, it is about Jesus. The banner reminds us He is worth it and that He withstood arrows.  In in His day unbelief came from the religious community, a different source but still deadly.  Psalm 60 continues

 “Who will bring me to the fortified city … is it not you, O God,  you who … no longer go out with our armies?”

When the army has been standing so long under a barrage it asks: Is God for us? Again, it is not about us, it is about Jesus and He knows the right time. Then comes the crucial element:

“Bring us aid against the enemy for the help of man is worthless.”

We think victory is down to our capability in ministry so we neglect God. We forget that He is doing things we cannot see in the lives of those we face. One day God will overcome if we wait for Him. So the psalm ends,

“With God we shall gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies.”

Unbelief will be trampled and exposed as foolish. In the meantime let us unfurl the banner of Jesus and look in hope for him, for his timing, for His leadership.