On Sunday, Pastor Paul referred to our culture’s capacity to live out a “Jesus plus mentality”. Whether that looks like believing we need “Jesus plus” a pay rise to “keep up with the Jones’” and feel satisfied, perhaps it is “Jesus plus” a degree that we might feel worthy or accomplished, or maybe it is “Jesus plus” our ability to show ourselves spiritually disciplined people (see v.16). Is it this that makes us worthy? Is it this which will take us to heaven?
Whilst these things are not inherently bad, our hearts, which love to take credit, and delight in things that are not Jesus, would frequently lure us to a “watered down” Gospel in which Jesus is more good idea or life additive, than all-powerful, all-sufficient, all-loving King.
We are not the first people to be tempted by the “Jesus plus mentality”, the Apostle Paul, in addressing faithful Christians of the church of Colossae, does not allow for watered down view of Jesus, because he is aware of our hearts ability to wander. Paul reminds us that Jesus is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;”(v.3) the one in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells” (v.9) the one who is “the head and rule of all authority” (v.10). And in this we rest knowing that we are alive in Christ, and kept by Christ.
In further opposition to the “Jesus plus mentality” Paul shares with his audience the nature of walking with Christ. His message is countercultural, it stands against all the false religions surrounding the church of Colossae, which required one progress through the stages of spiritual formation, through severe self-driven discipline, and through the worship of angels and sensual things (v.18).
The Gospel that the Apostle Paul reminds us of, seems almost effortless in contrast, verses 6-15 speak of Christ’s past, present, and eternal victory for us, and His power to work within us. Where other philosophies would have us believe it’s up to our own intelligence, brute strength, or sheer determination, to become “spiritual” Paul reminds those that believe in Christ, that we are already alive in Christ, and by His power, we grow with a growth that is from God (v.19). We get to walk with Him, we are built up by Him, and we remain established in the faith solely by Him. This echoes Jesus’ call in Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) to learn his “unforced rhythms of grace.”
Of course, this does not excuse us to make no effort. We are directed to walk (v.6); give thanks (v.7) and put off the old flesh (v.11). But it sure as anything relieves the pressure of striving for immediate perfection, and gives us freedom to walk with Jesus, knowing Him, learning from Him, and resting in the assurance of our salvation and God’s everlasting love for us (even though we have, and will fail MANY times).
This is a refreshing reminder that as people empowered by Christ, are saved by the “powerful working of God.” And by that same power, given to us as those indwelled by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:11) we are not disqualified by appealing to human wisdom, or self-made religion, but can learn to walk more and more in holiness and closeness to Jesus.
- What is an area you would consider tempting to have a “Jesus plus” mentality? (e.g. I feel as though I need Jesus plus material things to feel fulfilled, or I feel like I need Jesus plus hard work to be worthy of God’s love) Ask God how you can move towards trusting His Word more in these areas.
- What is one way in which you can walk more closely with Christ, in the this week?