Wednesday, March 27, 2013



Since Jesus has been so universally and narrowly identified with Western Christianity, I have found it vital to lift up Jesus out of the Christian box. When Jesus is lifted up out of this box, then all of the religious and non-religious people of the world are welcome to Him. In our experience, when Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians and agnostics are able to reframe Jesus high and lifted up above all others and without any religious baggage attached, there is a freedom to genuinely check Him out and follow Him.
Separating Jesus from being owned by any particular religious system seems to be the most important truth that I share. I get more positive responses to this than anything else. Since Jesus was born into the Jewish culture, it might be possible for the Jews to claim Him for themselves, and some do. Since Jesus is the only prophet Mohammad raised up as supernatural, the only one referred to as the "word of God" seven times, the only one born of a virgin, the only one identified as the "clear sign of God" and the only one who is still alive and coming back to earth again, Muslims might be tempted to say that they own Jesus for themselves, and some do. Since the most prominent Hindu leader, Gandhi, held up Jesus as the most holy and complete man who ever lived, Hindus might tend to claim the ways of Jesus as their own, and some do. Since the leader of the Buddhist world, the Dalai Lama, holds up Jesus higher than himself and reveres Jesus in his teachings and writings, Buddhists might claim to be following the ways of Jesus, and some do. Since Jesus has been so closely identified to Christians, it is so easy for Christians to believe that they own Him for themselves, and some do.

But here's the truth. No religious system or culture owns Jesus exclusively. None. The name of Jesus is above all names. And, if Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men to Him.

What's most encouraging to me is when I meet with a Christian pastor, a Muslim Imam or Sheik, a Buddhist or Hindu monk or nun, or a Jewish Rabbi, their response to my personal story of the spiritual journey I've been on is most often very positive. It's the same with all of them. The simplicity of Jesus is so irresistible and refreshing, IF Jesus only belongs to the God of gods.

Growing up in a very strict religious community with all of its legalistic lists to follow in order to keep God happy, to make certain of heaven and to avoid going to hell, I always felt the heaviness of the religious system. It didn't make sense in so many ways that God would be harsh and demanding to those of us who were brought up on "Jesus loves me". I always felt there must be something more to a relationship with God. Then, in graduate school I came to understand the freedom we all have been given in Jesus. This freedom blew my mind. I was free!

It was through this understanding that I entered into one of the great struggles of my life. Still trying to shed the feelings of guilt from my legalistic past and trying to understand who I was in this new-found relationship with God, I discovered that God made me and wanted me to be exactly who I am with all my weirdness. I felt so "out of place" in the ministry as I compared myself with others-so out of step with the norm. And on a very late-night walk in the snow in Washington DC I had an emotional conversation with God and found the freedom I needed just to be uniquely who God made me. From that day forward I have been on a journey to relate to God "personally" and uniquely.

Several years ago Jesus apprehended my heart in a fresh way and poised me toward taking this same "Jesus plus nothing" message into the 7 major cultures of the world. The more I pondered how to relate Jesus to the cultures of the world, the clearer picture I was given of Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life-so much more so than I ever thought! Jesus is preeminent.

The attraction of Jesus is His simplicity-Jesus plus nothing. Jesus, simply Jesus, is the foundation of the church or gathering He intended to launch. We tend to complicate Jesus too much. We throw up all sorts of obstacles for people. The better approach is to advance the conversation of Jesus so that people can get to know who this Jesus really is. He's not the scary, weird, otherworldly man you often see in movies. Jesus is for real. People have to get to know Him.

There are three things about Jesus that make Him compelling to anyone who is leaning in with interest: FIRST-Jesus' character is impeccable by all standards. Many people will be attracted to Jesus in this way. Years ago I argued the famous C. S. Lewis chart and reasoning that Jesus was a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. I gave no one room to begin to follow Jesus as a good example. But today I realize this is wrong thinking. His character is a wonderful attraction to people in this world and many times it is the first step in showing a person's interest in following Jesus.

SECOND-Follow the principles of Jesus and you will find meaning and fulfillment. The fundamental principles of life rest with Jesus in the presence of the Kingdom. Most every self-help book or seminar is chocked full of these principles without giving Jesus the credit. Even the highly praised book, The Secret, is straight out of Jesus' game plan for living your life on purpose. In this particular case, the principle is stated and then you're told to focus on and pray to the "universe". This is just another well-intentioned highjacking of Jesus' Kingdom principles. Instead of praying to an impersonal "universe", why not keep the principle in its proper context and pray to the person of Jesus?

THIRD-Continue to follow Jesus and you will find God. The primary example of this is found with the early disciples. It took them several years of following Jesus before they believed He was the Son of God. By the way, this means that there are lots of people out there who are leaning in on following Jesus and His Kingdom principles, but haven't yet come to the conclusion that He is the Son of God. Give them room to follow. In fact, affirm them in their spiritual journey and don't be in a hurry to close the deal with them.

To add anything to Jesus is to complicate Him to the point where He can't be known. Jesus plus anything is actually the spirit of anti-Christ. Anti is literally "instead of", so when you add something to Jesus, it becomes the "instead of" Jesus and diminishes who Jesus really is. The church of Jesus is the movement that revolves around Jesus plus nothing. That's zero, zip, absolutely nothing that can possibly dilute the irresistible Jesus.