Having just returned from a very welcome short break away, I have been reminded this last week of what a world of choice we live in. The variety, quantity and quality of food being presented in the various Hotel restaurants was amazing to view and enjoy but most of the dishes on offer were done so with additions or subtractions. Fresh Salmon with .. , Steak without .. etc. Even the fast food outlet on the motorway as we drove home was advertising ‘Classic Burger Plus’, or ‘Classic Burger Light’. This dazzling possibility of variety and choice can, if we are not careful, easily infiltrate our spiritual lives as well, as we add to, or take away from, the truth that has been given to us from God himself in Jesus Christ. This was certainly the case for the church in Colossae and the reason why Paul was writing to them and encouraging them to stand firm in the simplicity of Jesus.
A quick trawl of the internet or any bookshop will reveal a staggering number of different philosophies, approaches, lifestyles and practices designed to lead us into spiritual wholeness and contentment. It was the same for the fledgling church in Colossae whose culture and society were regularly informing the population that God could not be known personally, that a good God could not have created the world, that salvation was an intellectual process and therefore unavailable to everyone and that man made popular philosophy of the day, not a living God, held the essential means of entry into desired enlightenment and freedom. The belief then, and the belief held by many now, is that the good news of Jesus Christ just cannot be true as it stands. We must be missing the small print. It’s too good; too simple. The message of Jesus must need something adding to it or removing from it to allow it to make sense to a contemporary audience; for it to become palatable for modern consumption it must require amending or adjusting in some way, and so our ‘pick and mix’ mentality is applied to eternal truths - we can have this bit but ignore that bit, believe and accept this but not that. But Jesus ‘Plus’ or Jesus ‘Light’ is not what Christianity is all about.
Paul and John remind us who Jesus is, what he has done and what we need to do in response. There is no amount of good works, no sufficient giving to charity, no limitless being nice or even attending countless church meetings that can ever secure our salvation. It’s all about Jesus and our identity in Him. Giving ourselves to Him. There are no human solutions to spiritual problems. Jesus is the first and the last. Jesus is the beginning and the end. Jesus is the image of God. Jesus is above all things. Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is everything. There are no shortcuts, amendments or alterations. There is no bargaining or bartering to be had. It’s Jesus. And for those who accept Him and receive him as he is, He gives power to become ‘Children of God’.
In one way, all of us are children of God because we owe our very creation to Him, but as a University Professor once said of a young man who claimed to be his student; ‘You may have attended my lectures, but you are no student of mine.’
God sent Jesus to live among us and gather us to himself that we might be at peace with God and to truly know what living is all about. It’s all about knowing Jesus. If I can help lead you in any way to the reality of this wonderful truth or into a deeper understanding of it, please let me know.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale