Jesus Alone. Enough.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Our last lesson emphasized why relationships are important to the living God. Tim Keller, Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan NY, in his book “The Reason for God”, awakened me to how significant it is to know our God is Triune when weighing how vital it is to know Him in a personal way.
If God were one person with one nature, there would have been a time in eternity past when God could not have been love, for love requires someone else. Power, sovereignty, and greatness, but not love, would have been primary. In other words, a unilateral God would have at some time been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-contained, obviously not feeling relationships were vital.
In a triune God, though, loving relationships are integral to His existence. A trinitarian God is by definition relational, other-centered–always has been.
Every member of the Trinity has forever been marked by self-giving love. Each One has always centered His life within and around the other Two.
Jesus said, “You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. . . .May they be one as We are one. . . .You loved Me before the world’s foundation” (JN 17:21-24). If I am in you, and you are in me, neither of us can be centered in our selves. If there is oneness, yet separation, the center has to be outside me and outside you.
This compelling imagery is depicted in the artistic rendering perichoresis, the “dance around”. Within the Trinity, focus is not on self, but on interaction.
Self-giving love is the essence of the Trinity. Thus, for us to know God, we too must show self-giving love. Keeping self from our center, we hold others there. We were made to receive love, return it, and pass it on to others.
At creation the Trinity made us in order that we might each share in Their sharing. God wanted us to enjoy His joy, and spread it to others. The members of the Trinity were so happy that they “rejoiced” the creation into being, as if they were saying, “This is too good to keep to ourselves. We have to share it.”
As a result, all around us we see the explosion, the big bang if you will, of God’s love. Why is the cosmos beautiful? Why is the world perfectly suited for us to inhabit it? The natural order seems to have been made with us in mind.
The only disappointments in creation are ones caused by our rejecting God and refusing to share a close personal relationship, the perichoresis, with Him. The Creator of course knew in advance we would fail Him, but made us anyway because it gave Him more opportunity to show how loving He really is.
Matt. 17:8 (Holman) When they looked up they saw no one except
Once they dared to open their eyes, Jesus remained, but the glow was dimmed, the cloud had dissipated, God’s voice was silenced, and Moses and Elijah were gone. The Transfiguration could not have lasted forever. “Two heavens are too much for those to expect that never deserve one “ (Henry).
Circumstances returned to the way they were before the Transfiguration. Same terrain, same mount, same view, same four people, but things would never be the same again. All became new. The event ended, but echoed as a memory long enough to guide the disciples through gloomy days ahead.
We often find ourselves longing for miracles to aid our faith. I don’t oppose this feeling. Sometimes faith does need tokens for good, yet we must remember, miracles are wonderful, but we must not build our faith on them.
I do not downplay miracles. In fact, let me be bold enough to ask, aren’t His miracles as real today, though less electrifying, as many were in Bible days?
Was parting the Red Sea a bigger miracle than parting me from addiction to food, or parting others from addition to porn or drugs? The latter may be miracles even more powerful because the sea had no will of its own to resist God’s command. We, though, have inherent barriers God has to overcome.
Miracles are real, but if we live life solely for mountaintop experiences, we are in danger of making experiences more important than the One we want to experience. The ultimate goal of our faith is to view all things, including miracles, in a lesser light as we become more and more obsessed with Jesus.
“Jesus alone” may sound less exciting than “Jesus transfigured”, but is as glorious. Can any miracle be more astounding than God in flesh? “Jesus alone” should suffice for us. It ought to be enough for God to have given us a Savior, a Master, a Priest, past forgiveness, present strength, and future hope.
I wish a look at Jesus by faith would spark in us strong spiritual feelings for Him. For many, to see something is to want it. This is why I avoid garage sales, bookstores, and buffets. We have an amazing capacity to see things and all of a sudden urgently want them. May a look at Jesus have the same effect.
Christianity has many wonderful components, but only one ultimate diamond. “Jesus alone” sums up Heaven’s highest revelation. In the light of “Jesus alone”, all else should fade away and vanish. He alone must abide supreme.
“Jesus alone” stands at the apex of world history. Others are forgotten or at best remembered as hills; He is venerated as Mt. Everest. A growing awareness of this fact is cardinal evidence of spiritual growth.
Maturing believers more and more see Jesus alone. Other causes remain important, but become less absorbing as we make progress in Christianity. Doctrines, and arguments over church polity, and denominational politics fade in the effort to see “Jesus alone,” and in turn to ultimately make Him famous.
Our lives need to echo history’s second greatest man, John the Baptist. “He must increase. I must decrease.” Let us add, “all else must decrease too.”
Our lives should be going this “Jesus alone” direction. It is a worthwhile motto for life. Underline “Jesus alone” in your Bible. Make it a goal to strive for. “Holiness matters most” is not limited to the negative, to only removing bad things from our life. It has a very positive aspect, of edging closer to Jesus.
Christ-followers are to grow up spiritually, to love Jesus more than ever before. As a child, I learned to read with books that said, “See Dick jump. See Spot run. See Jane walk”, and with Superman comics. I own none of these any more—sad, since a Superman comic recently sold for $250,000. I’m grateful for Dick, Spot, Jane, and Superman, but have grown past them, and moved on.
We must grow beyond elementary, peripheral matters, and press on to the central theme of Christianity. “Jesus alone.” We Baptists are good at preaching we should know Him. We could better emphasize ever knowing Him better. It would be good if our zeal for sanctification matched our zeal for justification.
“Jesus alone” should be our ever louder song. An artist who portrayed the Last Supper painted several beautiful cups on the table. When a friend saw the painting, his first remark was, “What beautiful cups!” Aghast, the artist took his brush and made the cups less ornate in order to make sure the primary focus was Jesus. Friends, make the cups in life less ornate. See “Jesus alone.”
Matt. 17:9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone about the vision until the Son
of Man is raised from the dead.”
Jesus was wise to not stir up false messianic expectations. It is said at least 200,000 Jews lost their lives in futile messianic rebellions against Rome.
Before the true nature of Messiah’s work could be rightly understood, Jesus had to go to the cross. Jesus’ resurrection clarified and verified everything. It made sense of all previous events in His life and ministry, plus made them more easily believable. This reminds us everything about Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. If He rose, it’s all true; if He didn’t, it’s all for naught, another reason our mantra must ever be “Jesus alone”.