Jesus Plus

Jesus plus or minus anything does not equal faith, it is a formula. Formulas do not free anyone. Instead, they compel us to create wearying lists of dos and don’ts that confine us, rules that restrict us, and ultimately a false gospel that steals the joy of a relationship wth the Lover of our souls. Only faith in Christ alone leads to freedom. And that freedom produces life-giving spiritual fruit in our lives by which we can bless others.

The Gospel is good news. When Jesus, on the cross, cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30), all our sins were forgiven. When we read that truth and then decide we must help Him out by adding or subtracting from His work, we are saying, “Lord, You weren’t enough.” 

Don’t take from the Gospel; don’t add to it. Jesus is enough! Nothing more, nothing less. In Him alone is our salvation, our righteousness, our joy — both now and in eternity.

And yet we see people constantly adding to what Jesus did. One example that instantly comes to mind is born again believers celebrating Jewish feast days and even partly operating by the Jewish calendar which places us in the year 5783. Why do they do this? Are they not announcing that Jesus is not enough; that Jesus alone is insufficient to allow us an open door into the throne room of God and to know and relate to our Heavenly Father, God Himself?

It seems that Paul the apostle had a similar problem in the church in Galatia. He states:

Galatians 4:9-11 “But now that you have come to know God (or rather to be known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You are observing religious days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you that my work for you may have been in vain.”

MSG. “But now that you know the real God—or rather since God knows you—how can you possibly subject yourselves again to those paper tigers? For that is exactly what you do when you are intimidated into scrupulously observing all the traditions, taboos, and superstitions associated with special days and seasons and years. I am afraid that all my hard work among you has gone up in a puff of smoke!”

TPT “But now that we truly know him and understand how deeply we’re loved by him, why would we, even for a moment, consider turning back to those weak and feeble principles of religion, as though we were still subject to them? Why would we want to go backwards into the bondage of religion—scrupulously observing rituals like special days, celebrations of the new moon, annual festivals, and sacred years? I’m so alarmed about you that I’m beginning to wonder if my labor in ministry among you was a waste of time!”

AMP “Now, however, since you have come to know [the true] God [through personal experience], or rather to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and worthless elemental principles [of religions and philosophies], to which you want to be enslaved all over again? [For example,] you observe [particular] days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have laboured [to the point of exhaustion] over you in vain.”

In Galatians 2:4 Paul speaks about the Judaizers. Those who observe all the special days, annual festivals, new moons, and seasons of the religious calendar. He refers to the Judaizers as “false brothers.” They were Jewish converts to Christianity who insisted that Gentile (Non-Jewish people) believers must adopt Jewish customs and follow Jewish laws as a condition for salvation. In other words, Jesus was not enough. 

Acts 15:1 “Now some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’”

Paul consistently opposed their teachings, insisting that only faith in Jesus Christ was necessary for salvation. Christ sets us free from the requirements of the Jewish law because He perfectly and completely fulfilled all its requirements during His time on earth and then died on our behalf. 

And yet now we have a repeat of this issue and problem. We have believers for whom Jesus apparently is not enough. And so, in their daily walk with God, they have added Jesus plus prophetic words (often untested); Jesus plus 3 chapters of Bible a day; Jesus plus praying in tongues; Jesus plus a head covering; Jesus plus taking note of and celebrating Jewish festivals. On the list could go. 

I want to go on the record as saying that Jesus is enough. And, you can spend your whole lifetime coming to know Him more and more and loving Him in a deeper and deeper way. In fact, we can spend all of eternity simply coming to know and love Him more. Because in Heaven Jesus is certainly enough as all things find their fulfillment in Him. 


When God called Moses to demand release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity, Moses felt inadequate and unqualified. He asked, “Who am I to do such a thing?” 

Now, when I ask this question of God, I usually ask in false humility. What I really want is God to reassure me of my qualifications and giftedness. What I really want is God to pump up my self-esteem. “Please remind me how awesome I am so that I’ll be confident enough to do this,” I ask God. And I fully expect God to respond, “Ralph, you’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.” 

This not what God said to Moses. In fact, he really didn’t even answer the question “Who is Moses?” He answered the question “Who is God?” 

The answer, of course, He is God. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:11-12)

God says to Moses, ”Who am I?” 

In other words, “Never mind who you are. You’re right; you’re a nobody. But you are called. I will be with you. And the sign of your success will not be a gold watch and a plaque and a place in Super-duper Church Magazine’s 100 Most Awesomest Churches and Pastors with Mad Leadership Skills, but worship of me.” 

Moses’ “Oh” consisted of more questions. 

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” 

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:10-12). 

You’ve likely heard the dictum “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” This is why God uses shepherds, fig farmers, youngest sons, prostitutes, widows, etc. 

This is why he uses sinners. Not so that they will realize their potential. Not so that they will finally see how inherently awesome they are. 

But so that God gets the glory and so that He gets the glory in the vivid, repeating imagery of turning ashes to beauty. 

God made man out of dirt. We — you and I — are dirt. 

We only need to read a little bit of Paul to see how little he, as an amazing apostle and church planter, cares about human credentials and qualifications. And Paul actually had them. 

The gospel is not the power to save because of our knowledge, our techniques, our systems, our innovations, our preaching style, our music style, our creativity, our conferences, our degrees, our viral marketing, our evaluations and efficiency, or our selves. None of those things is bad, but we make all of them idols so easily. They take so much effort, and yet we make them idols so effortlessly. 

“Who are we? We’re awesome!” But it is the gospel that is the power to save because of Jesus’ work. Because God is with the gospel and with us as we share it with those who have yet to encounter the real Jesus. 

So, in 2022 I have decided: “… to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”  (1 Corinthians 2:2).


“And you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3)

Don’t you just love that? Does that not give you some food for thought as we begin 2022?  

”Show that you are a letter of Christ.” Like walking, breathing epistles — emissaries under Christ’s Lordship, ambassadors for Christ’s Kingdom — we testify with our very lives to the Good News of Jesus. This isn’t just a relaying of information; it is a subsisting on revelation. It’s carrying the Spirit-illumined Word of God in our blood, in our marrow. 

“They are not just idle words for you — they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (Deuteronomy 32:47). 

I am in constant need of repenting of using God’s Word and returning to being used by it. I know that this is true for you as well. Right? We simply try too often to live by bread alone. We need to learn to live by His Word and fresh manna (revelation) daily. 

In my heart of hearts I want to stop using Jesus, appropriating Scripture, and doing church.

Deep in my spirit, as we start 2022, I want to begin trusting Jesus, living Scripture, and being the Church. 

I want to be a letter of Christ. 


In the new year this is something to ponder …

It is usually something we tend to overlook or, if we even consider, fail to invest in: that is that Jesus, being God in the flesh, was the smartest man who ever lived. Does Jesus ever show up on anybody’s list of the greatest thinkers of history? Gurus, perhaps. Sages, maybe. The world may think him “wise” in some Confucian sense. We think of him as an idealist, as an enlightened man, as a revolutionary. But generally speaking, we also tend to regard him as naïve or simple. 

The world does not regard Jesus as savvy or practical, and if we within the Church will be honest with ourselves, we must admit that our frequent failures to obey his commands stem essentially from our practical disbelief that he could really be right about the way to think and act. But if we really believe Jesus was who he said he was, we know we have recorded in Scripture and at our reading convenience, the greatest human mind of all time. 

How vast is the wisdom of Christ? As vast as the resources of Almighty God. Revisit that exciting post-resurrection scene from the road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel and remind yourself how all-encompassing Jesus’ knowledge is (and how all-illuminating our knowledge of Jesus can be). 

Jesus comes on these guys unawares and basically reveals the Bible to them. He illuminates Scripture to them. He answers their questions in such a fulfilling way that they say their hearts burned while he explained it to them. 

Christians, Jesus’ knowledge imparted to us is not just head knowledge, but a godly wisdom of the sort that should be our constant resource and inspiration and guide through all of life. When Jesus gives us the Sermon on the Mount, he’s not just giving us a list of things to do, but an invitation to real life as Holy Spirit-enlightened persons. His commands are not just calls to right behaviour, but calls to embrace a quality of the heart that leads to a pattern of life that burns with real knowledge from God. We call this real knowledge “truth.” And in 2022 we will need all the “truth” we can get.

Jesus was absolutely brilliant, and yet we don’t refer to or access that brilliance with much regularity, do we? We tend to make our own decisions, utilize our own reason, and then ask God to okay it, confirm it, bless it. 

We are great at compartmentalizing our lives, which is merely an extension of our implicit belief that Jesus’ knowledge is for our “spiritual life” but that our “everyday life” requires a more modern knowledge, a more “realistic” knowledge. Street smarts, perhaps. After all, it is 2022.

Dallas Willard writes: 

The world has succeeded in opposing intelligence to goodness . . . And today any attempt to combine spirituality or moral purity with great intelligence causes widespread pangs of “cognitive dissonance.” Mother Theresa, no more than Jesus, is thought of as smart — nice, of course, but not really smart. “Smart” means good at managing how life “really” is. 

Most of us have to get into the habit of thinking of Jesus as competent in all areas of our life, but we can’t settle at Jesus’ mere competence. We must embrace Jesus’ all-surpassing brilliance. That is where Jesus’ intelligence really shines through for us – he’s not just a storehouse of facts or data; he is the wellspring of all truth. Jesus the Man didn’t just teach and live the truth, he was, as he said himself, the Truth itself. 

We have to get past an anxiety-prone existence in this day of Covid and in which we acknowledge Jesus’ moral perfection and good teaching and miraculous power, but perversely, not to the extent that we think Him “in touch” with what we are really going through. 

In one of the great ironies of our modern evangelical subculture, we are very big on “making” the Christian faith practical and “relevant,” yet by and large we go on living our lives as if Jesus had nothing relevant to bear upon what we do and say, who we date or marry, what sort of jobs we take, what sort of families we raise, where we spend our time and who we spend it with. 

We’re cool with Jesus being good and nice, but we’re hesitant to live as if he is omniscient as well. 

Let Me Teach You

Jesus said an amazing thing in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Message Version renders it this way. “”Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I was really struck by His comment and my lack of follow through. Learn from Me!

If we want to know more about God our heavenly Father we need to simply come to Jesus and learn from Him. Jesus “who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made Him plan as day” (John 1:18 The Message).

When Jesus says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2), count on it. He knows. He has walked in them.

When Jesus says, :You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31), trust Him. Jesus knows. He knows the value of every creature.

When Christ declares, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8), believe it. After all, “He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2).

Jesus claims to be, not a top theologian, an accomplished theologian, or even the Supreme Theologian, but rather the Only Theologian. “No one truly knows the Father except the Son.” He does not say, “No one truly knows the Father like the Son” or “in the fashion of the Son.” But rather, “No one truly knows the Father except the Son.”

Heaven’s door has one key, and Jesus holds it. Think of it this way. You are a fifth grader studying astronomy. The day you read about the first mission to the moon you and your classmates pepper the teacher with space-travel questions.

“What does moon dust feel like?”

“Can you swallow when there’s no gravity?”

“What about going to the bathroom?”

The teacher does the best she can but prefaces most replies with “I would guess ….” Or “I think …” Or “Perhaps…”

How could she know? She has never been there. But the next day she brings a guest who has. Buzz Aldrin enters the room. Yes, the astronaut who left footprints on the surface of the moon.

“Now ask your questions,” the teacher invites. And Aldrin answers each with certainty. He knows the moon; he’s walked on it. No speculation or hesitation. He speaks with conviction. 

So did Jesus. “He was teaching them as one who had authority” (Matthew 7:29). Jesus knows the dimensions of God’s throne room, the fragrance of its incense, the favourite songs of the unceasing choir. He has a unique, one-of-a-kind, unrivalled knowledge of God and wants to share His knowledge with you. “No one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27 NLT).

Jesus doesn’t boast about His knowledge; He shares it. He doesn’t gloat; He gives. He doesn’t revel; He reveals. He reveals to us the secrets of eternity.

And He shares them, not just with with top brass or purebred, but with the hungry and needy. In the very next line Jesus invites: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Do yourself a favour. Find the brightest highlighter manufactures and the darkest ink produced. Underscore, underline,, and accept the invitation: “Let Me teach you…”

Grace and Truth

One of my favourite passages is John 1:1-14 which is usually read out on Christmas Eve in most traditional-styled church services. In verse 14 it tells us that Jesus, born that first Christmas, was “full of grace and truth.” And, I for one am glad that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and yes forever… because that means He is still full of grace and truth.

Grace and truth

Grace told the adulterous woman, “I do not condemn you” (John 8:11 NASB)

Truth told her, “Go and sin no more” (verse 11 NKJV).

Grace invited a swindler named Zacchaeus to lunch.

Truth prompted him to sell half of his belongings and give to the poor (Luke 19:1-8)

Grace washed to feet of His disciples.

Truth told them, “Do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 NKJV).

Grace invited Peter to climb out of the boat and walk on the sea.

Truth upbraided his lack of faith (Matthew 14:29-31).

Grace invited the woman at the well to drink everlasting water.

Truth tactfully reminded her that she had gone through five husbands and was shacking up with a boyfriend (John 4:18).

Jesus was gracious enough to meet Nicodemus at night.

He was truthful enough to tell him, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5 NKJV).

Jesus shared truth, but graciously.

Jesus offered grace, but truthfully.

Grace and truth.

Because of grace Jesus can accept us as we are.

Because of truth He can then speak to us and work with us to become who we should be. 

I am so thankful that the Christmas season reminds me that “Jesus came full of grace and truth.”

Why Are We Involved In All That Stuff?

Last week there was a passing comment by someone I love dearly that he had cut off Facebook contact with someone who is a family member and professing Christian. The reason: this person is spreading conspiracy theories and “Fox News” material through his posts on Facebook. I had a short chat with this same person this summer during which he mentioned a number of off-the-wall (yes, my opinion) theories that are circulating within the Christian community and wider society. A short chat because I ended the brief visit because of the stream of unfounded conspiracy theories and false prophecies (again, my opinion) he was sharing freely and without my asking or being interesting in the least.

So I ask the question: “What are we (Christians) involved in all this stuff?” And, the question is important because the current conspiracy theories are only the tip of the iceberg of the many things believers are occupying their time with. Just last week I was in touch with a great believer and leader I have known for several decades and she was dealing with a flood of texts from others about Pope Francis throwing out and cancelling the Bible as a book to be read and followed. Come on folks. We can do better.

I find it amazing to see what many believers are occupying their time with fake news and an avalanche of conspiracy theories about Trump, the recent presidential elections in the United States, Covid-19, and so many other things. And, right along side of all this, the number of false and misleading prophetic words floating around Facebook and the internet in general. False prophecies being accepted as valid and occupying people’s time , prayers, and conversations. 

It is as if Jesus is simply not enough. 

I just marked my 45th anniversary of being born agin and encountering Jesus and His amazing love for me. In that 45 years I have read the Bible from cover to cover over 100 times and the New Testament many more times than that. I have written and preached thousands of sermons. I have a shelf full of books about Jesus that I have read and digested (with a few new ones to read in 2022). And I sense and feel that I have barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn and know about Jesus, His love and grace, His Church, and His plans for the evangelization of the whole world. 

So, I don’t have a lot of time – in fact, I don’t have any time – to become involved in the rumours, conspiracies, false prophetic words, and other miscellaneous things that believers are focusing on. There are people in your world and in your neighbourhood who need to know Jesus, His love and His grace. And, they will come to know Him by seeing how much we love Him, each other, and those who do not know Him. Jesus said, “they will know you are My disciples by your love.” And our love for Him is not evident in all the fake news, false prophetic words, and ridiculous conspiracy theories that many believers are speaking about and spreading. 

I find Jesus is more than enough and I don’t need to be adding other lesser things to my focus and daily conversations – especially things that don’t edify or build up. We are called as believers “to speak the truth in love…” and to “do all things as unto the Lord.” Let’s focus on loving others in thought, word, and deed. Let’s show the world the real Jesus. Yes, that may mean having to really discover Him for yourself first before you can truly speak about Him to others. Many have a religious Jesus but not the real Jesus of Scripture.

In John 12 a group of spiritually hungry men come up to Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, and say “See, we would like to meet Jesus.” Many of our neighbours and friends are, in various ways, saying the same thing to each of us. They need to see Jesus. They want to see Jesus. And, so we need to be focused on Jesus – who He is and what He did and is doing. We need to adjust our lifestyle so that it speaks about Him. We need to walk in His love and give it away. And, that is a full-time focus leaving no room for the false prophetic, conspiracy theories, or even personal opinions. Just Jesus!

My full focus is to know Jesus and make Him known. That is what fills my day and fulfills the yearning in my heart. That is what makes my life meaningful and fulfilling. 

“Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21) is the cry of the world today. Let’s answer that cry.