“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”
-Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30
See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are!
-1 John 3:1
Jesus Plus. It sounds like a new app for your phone, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s a new devotional book that will help you get more out of your Bible reading! Or better yet, maybe it’s a new supplement directed toward that ever powerful marketing niche, the Christian subculture…. “We all know that Jesus gives us life, but for those days when you need just a little more, have a Jesus+ ® and serve the Lord with vigor!
Actually, when I say Jesus plus I mean this little thought in the mind of a disciple that whispers that peace is accessible only if you trust Jesus AND do all the right things. So we chase after this peace and identity all our lives, and in the process we miss the greatest message of Jesus.
In our recent LifePath talk about the book of Acts, the gang from Jerusalem headed out to Antioch to tell the new non-Jewish Christians that in order to really experience salvation, they had to have Jesus + the law of Moses. Then they’d be set, and they could be confident in their identity as God’s children. Grace? Yes, but also!!! There are so many alsos…..
There is a temptation in the Christian journey to seek out peace by doing enough, rather than acknowledging that by grace, we are enough.
We often deal with these thought patterns in our lives today...
"If I do enough for God, I can rest well tonight.”
"If I work hard enough, God will look on me with a smile and say 'well, done.’”
“God must be so disappointed in me because I make mistakes every day.”
But we’ve got it backwards. That stifles life in God, rather than encourages it. For a deep life, the starting and ending point is not what we do toward God, it’s what God does toward us. THEN, we can spend our lives seeking to know God more deeply and love our neighbors more fully- but all of that is done out of a peace-filled confidence in our identity as recipients of God’s never-ending love.
Until we grasp this, we won’t rest well. We won’t love well. And we won’t live well. Endlessly striving for perfection will not shape the character of Jesus in you. But knowing that the grace of Jesus is available to you right now, in all your imperfect glory- that brings a peace and confidence that might just inspire you to do something amazing. It might just transform you more than any Jesus +program out there.
Trusting a living relationship like that is hard. We prefer rule based approaches. The great 20th century French theologian Jacques Ellul summed it up well. “Saying that God loves us grants us no reassurance. We would prefer it if he gave us fifty things to do, so that when we had done them we could be at peace. We do not want an ongoing relationship with God. We prefer a rule.”
Jesus Plus is a myth. You don’t need to strive in order to be at peace with God. It's been given to you. You are loved.
Maybe today, you could take a walk and dwell on how much you are loved.
Maybe today, you could give yourself the same grace that God gives you.
Maybe today, you could tell someone how loved they are- even when they didn’t do something amazing.
Jesus, help me live out of the grace and love you freely give, not in an effort to earn it.