Tuesday, February 03, 2009



What's most encouraging to me is when I meet with a Christian leader, a pastor, even a mega-Church pastor and observe their response to my personal story of the spiritual journey I've been on. The response is the same with all of them. The simplicity of Jesus is so irresistible and refreshing.

Growing up in a very strict organized Church 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, at seminary 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.

When I had the privilege of serving as pastor of one of the early mega-churches, I came to the conclusion that in order to reach the non-churched, "secular" world I would have to separate myself from mainstream churches and Christianity. So, I did that to a certain degree, but I still had to take up offerings to keep the Church and its staff alive. This proved to be the beginning of experiencing a more personal relationship with Jesus.

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

I have embraced Jesus in a new and fresh way and seek to follow His teachings and His emphases on everything. I want to get to the heart of Jesus and share what I believe His heart and intent to be for us all. So, now my focus and perpendicular learning curve have taken me to a simple understanding of Jesus and the Kingdom. I've spent so much time and energy unlearning a lot of my theological premises I received at graduate seminary while a student and professor. It's been a fresh look at Jesus and His message of the good news of the Kingdom. His message was not the church, but all about the Kingdom. He only mentions "church" on two occasions.

When Church leaders hear this story they easily resonate with my journey. It's like a light bulb switches on for them. It's really no different than it was with the early followers of Jesus. In the city of Corinth there were two synagogue leaders who were so attracted into following Jesus-Crispus and later, Sosthenes. Sosthenes then became a co-author with Paul in writing back to the Corinthians. It's also said that a great many priests came to follow Jesus. Nicodemus, who came to seek out Jesus at night, was no doubt the leader of rabbis in his day. After his secret encounter with Jesus, we find him showing up at Christ's death.

The attraction of Jesus is His simplicity-Jesus plus nothing. Jesus, simply Jesus, is the foundation of the church He intended to launch. We tend to complicate Jesus too much. We throw up all sorts of obstacles for people. "You must accept Him as the Son of God!" or "You must trust Him as your Lord and Savior!" or "You must simply follow Jesus!" But here's the problem. How is it possible for a person to accept Jesus as the Son of God or trust Him as your Lord and Savior or even follow Him with your life, if you don't even know Him? We ask too much of 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, other-worldly 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 high-jacking 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.