Wherever a Christian culture exists that encourages its followers to believe and act as if their salvation, or sense of God’s approval depended on our human works (whether they are the works of the Law, or our own rules, or the rules dictated by church); or the works of our own subjective feelings – all of them are demonstrating that we are not sure if trusting in Jesus alone is enough to keep us in the saving relationship with God. Thus, the grace of Christ, as the supreme and all-sufficient agent of our salvation is compromised, diluted, even lost.
Today many are praying for unity, quoting the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one”. Unfortunately, they are forgetting that the only legitimate call to unity shared between the followers of Jesus is the one where Jesus alone is firmly occupying the throne, and deciding the rules of the game. “That all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You”’ prayed Jesus. John 17:21.
Jesus never prayed for unity at all costs. Unity that does not have Jesus-plus-nothing in the center is a hijacked unity. Cosmetic or politically driven unifications are not based on the truth but on the compromises that always sacrifice the Gospel. There where Jesus Christ is not on the throne, some other christ will be enthroned. This is why the warning of Paul the Apostle sounds so urgent and uncompromising: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned”. Galatians 2:8.
As long as we are adding anything to Jesus, whatever that may be, to which we are crediting even partial redemptive attributes, we have not grasped the heart, meaning and continuing urgency of the Reformation.
Most of us Christians of all brands would in one breath happily claim that we believe in Jesus alone – in Jesus free from all additives. But the truth is that we are so readily wrapping Jesus into all kinds of security blankets of our own making. Thus, we are worshiping a blanketed, often heavily dressed up Jesus. Often those who brag the most that they are the people of the Bible worship another, crippled Jesus. This is a widespread problem shared among too many Christians.
The reason we are continuing to live in the state of cognitive dissonance of claiming the name of Jesus only, while blissfully continuing to venerate various additions of our own making, is that we ourselves can no longer tell the difference between Jesus and our own wrappings of Jesus.
Our hardest challenge today, that always meets the strongest opposition within and without, is to unwrap Jesus, take the layers of unnecessary, even misleading and deceptive wrappings off, and let the undiluted Jesus speak from the pages of the Gospels and the New Testament. And the good place to start for me would be to ask myself: “Do I care enough to let the real Jesus stand up?”
Jesus continues to ask his disciples of today the same question he asked His first disciples: “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15. May we let the Holy Spirit lead us to a place where it will be said about us too: “They saw no one else but Jesus!” Matthew 17:18.
The 16th century Reformers understood that the heart of the Gospel was the gift of grace in Jesus Christ without human strings attached. This was the landmark which they did not dare compromise or subject to improvisation. Neither should we.