Well, good morning to you all. It is a privilege to be here with you, and thank you for the invitation to share with you today - it's great, and we do trust that together we will know the Lord's help and His voice as we seek Him today. I have been given this title: 'Why Just Jesus?' - and it's really broken up into two subjects: 'The Sufficiency of Jesus', and 'The Necessity of Jesus'. So we're taking 'The Sufficiency of Jesus' in our first session.
I want you to turn with me in the New Testament to two Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 2 and 2 Corinthians 11. I'm only reading one verse from each of these chapters, 1 Corinthians 2 and verse 2, and then 2 Corinthians 11:3. Paul, of course, speaking to the Corinthians says: "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified", and then 2 Corinthians 11:3, to the same group of people, but now in somewhat a different context, labouring the same theme, "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ".
Let us pray please, and as we pray I would ask you: would you pray for yourself, and pray that you would have ears to hear what the Spirit has to say, that you would have a heart to receive what God wants to impart to us today from His word? So let's pray for one another, but do specifically pray for yourself that you might hear what the Lord has to say. Let us seek His face now: Abba Father, we come to You in that name that is above every name, Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You that He has been exalted to the highest place that heaven affords, and we thank You that You have put all principalities and powers beneath His feet. We come to You in that mighty name, and we take the authority that He has given to us, and we ask now that all would be subject to Jesus in this place today. We want ourselves, afresh, to bow to His Lordship and His Majesty. We long, Lord, that there would be no ungodly influences in our minds or our hearts, or even in this place, as we seek to see Jesus - the Author and Finisher of our faith. Lord, we long to consider Him, to have hearts that are de-cluttered from the things of this world, time and sense. We ask now for the help of the Holy Spirit to come to us, to minister the Lord Jesus to our minds, to our spirits. We thank You for the blessed Holy Spirit, the One whom Jesus promised would come and testify of Him - and so, Lord, we pray, we say: Come, Holy Spirit, minister to us the glories of Christ. In Jesus' name we pray, and give me the help that I need, Lord, Amen.
The centrality and the sufficiency of Christ was a cardinal truth that Paul was at pains to impress upon the Corinthians - 'Solas Christos', 'Christ alone' - and that's what is your theme today, isn't it? 'Just Jesus', and this first session, 'The Sufficiency of Christ'. So Paul was preaching to these Corinthians - as we do, I'm sure, in our churches - that Christ does not just bring us salvation, He is our salvation. To the Christian, the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of their life; and to the church, He is Head of the Body. Of course, these are statements that all right-thinking Bible believers would cherish. The sufficiency of Christ is affirmed in the Bible by New Testament doctrine, and in church history by the orthodox creeds of the church. I hope all Baptists, I'm sure, would say a hearty 'Amen' to the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient, that He is our Lord, and that He is Head of the Body. There is no dispute really about that, so I'm not going to try to convince you of something that you already believe.
However, where there is disparity is between what we profess to believe and how we behave. Let me repeat that: where I believe there is disparity, is between what we profess to believe and how we behave. I feel that there is an Evangelical crisis today, that our confession conflicts with what we communicate and what we convey to the world around us. So the question I want to pose to you on the back of what I have been given as a subject is: do we portray the sufficiency of Christ? We know He is sufficient, we believe He is sufficient - but is that what we convey? Is that what we communicate to the world around us? You see, the sufficiency of Christ is not meant to be a mere cliched confession of doctrine, neither is it enough to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ in Gospel preaching. In fact, Paul laboured to these Corinthians, if you look at chapter 4 and verse 20, he said: 'For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power'. We are meant to show by our lives that Christ is sufficient. It is my conviction that there is a deficiency of power in our modern Christian profession.
One of the reasons for this, I would suggest to you, is that often our confession is theoretical and not practical - it is of the mind, and not of the heart. In this same book, in chapter 8, if you look at it, and verse 1, Paul says: 'Knowledge puffs up'. A mere knowledge of spiritual realities is not sufficient. In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, back a few chapters, and verse 13, he says: 'These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches'. Our Christian faith, profession, and proclamation must be more than merely cerebral. I believe there is a great shortfall of power in our Christian witness today. I would suggest to you that it is because we are not embodying Christ.
Incarnational reality is still at the heart of God's plan. 'What is that?', you say. Well, 'Great is the mystery of godliness', God was manifest in flesh, and we know that Christ was Incarnate God. God's heart and mind was manifested to us in the flesh of His Only Begotten Son. Yet what we often fail to realise is that God's intention is that incarnational reality would continue. Now that our Lord Jesus Christ, bodily, is absent from us and is at the right hand of the Father, nevertheless He has poured out His Spirit and He is present with us, and He's meant to be incarnated in the Body that is now His church - a community where the life of Christ is manifested. So we need to show Christ to the world, we need to show that He is sufficient - and if we are trying to portray that to the world, He therefore must be sufficient for us. So the great question is: is He?
I'm sure you may have heard the story about the work colleague who often bent the office rules and gossiped, and yet they were a professing believer in Christ. On one occasion they were seeking to witness to an office friend, and the person just very curtly replied to them: 'I can't hear what you're saying for seeing what you're doing'. There is a large extent where it could be said of the church by the world: 'I can't hear what you're saying for seeing what you're doing'. Now I'm convinced that one of the reasons why we see less returns for our evangelism is that people in the pew are hearing our words, and then they're looking at what our lives produce, and they conclude: 'This doesn't add up!'.
Whether we like it or not, people are not weighing up our theological tenets of Christiology, they're weighing us up to see if they can believe us in what we are saying about Christ. It is true that many are not reading the Bible today, but they are reading you and me. We are epistles written unto men - but what I want to ask you just now in this session is: when people around you read you, when people in our world and our communities read our churches, are they reading about the sufficiency of Christ? Were they reading that from the Corinthians?
Well, look at it with me. We see Corinth was rife with disunity and sectarianism, chapter 1 shows us that, if you look, chapter 1 verse 11, Paul says: 'For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions', quarrels, 'among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul', or 'I am of Apollos', or 'I am of Cephas', or 'I am of Christ'. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?'. What the Corinthians clearly had done was, they had taken their eyes off Christ and they had fastened their eyes upon mere men. Now, good men, verse 12 - Paul, the great apostle, with his forensic mind and his legal argumentation, anybody who was mildly intellectual would have seen the appeal of the ministry of Paul the apostle, and he had his followers in Corinth. Then there was Apollos, and of course he was the gifted orator, the charismatic preacher - we all love good preaching, and it's easy to follow a good preacher. Then we have Cephas, Peter, and he was the passionate, down to earth man of the people - and the ordinary five-eight folk, well, they followed Peter. Then you have the exclusive crowd, and they were following Christ - and I don't believe that Paul said that in a positive way, but those who said 'We are of Christ', I think, had the attitude: 'Well, we're the Lord's people, we're not following mere men, rather we are following the Lord'. That might sound initially good and orthodox, but the problem is that they were using that as an argument to separate from these other folk.
There was this partisan spirit that infected the church, because Christians labelled themselves by the names of men. If I could put it to you: it was not enough that their identity was secured in Christ, they had to find their identity in more by becoming followers of Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas, and even saying that they were following Christ to fracture themselves from the rest of the Body. Now we can do the same, and I'm not going to delve into areas where angels fear to tread - but we can name ourselves by the names of men, whether it's Calvin, or Arminius, or Darby. It has to be said - and I have a real conviction about this - that some believers derive their sense of worth by those names. I really think we have to look at our hearts: what does that portray? Does it, could it, portray that Christ isn't enough? Also, when we label ourselves according to doctrines, rather than Christ. Now please don't misunderstand me, I have my own persuasions, I have my own theological leanings - we all have, and doctrine is important, and we are to take heed to the doctrine, and take heed to ourselves, but not at the expense of the sufficiency of Christ!
I grew up, some of you may know, in a Bible-believing, sort of 'fundamentalist' Church. I remember growing up through the ranks of Sunday School and into Bible Class, and I remember being in the teenage Bible Class, and the leader decided to take us on a voyage through Christian doctrine. It was helpful, but one thing that I do remember being taught was: 'You can't just call yourself a Christian these days'. You may have heard that. The teacher said: 'It's too broad a term' - they didn't quite say it covers a multitude of sins, but that was what they were getting at. So he proceeded weekly, with good motivation and intent, to study a series of labels by which we could define ourselves as Christians. Now by the end of that series the definition that I had of what I was supposed to be was something like this - now I might be exaggerating a little for effect, but this is much of what I can remember - 'I am a Bible-believing, evangelical, separatist, non-ecumenical, non-charismatic, dispensational Christian'. Each week he took one of these things as to how we defined ourselves and made ourselves different from others who would even profess Christ. Now, what do you think the average non-Christian would reply to that? If you introduced yourself and said: 'Oh, I'm not just a Christian, I'm a Bible-believing, evangelical, separatist, non-ecumenical, non-charismatic, dispensational Christian'? Probably the answer you would get from them is: 'Huh? What is that?'.
Now listen: there's something wrong, really something wrong, if we have to put all these appendages onto the word 'Christian' to define who we are - and often many of them define what we are against, rather than being what we are for. Now yes, the term 'Christian' has been abused - but therefore it is up to us to redefine it not by mere labels, but by our lives! The sufficiency of Christ must be manifested in our individual personal experience, and in the experience of God's community, the Body, the Church. There is so much division in the church it's incredible! It staggered me recently to find out, according to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, that there are approximately 41,000 Protestant denominations - 41,000! Now, I ask you: does that portray that Christ alone is sufficient? Does it?
In fact, our Lord Jesus taught that unity, not division, shows to the world that Christ is sufficient. In what has commonly been called His High Priestly Prayer, John 17:21, 'that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me'. It's not just unity for unity's sake, unity in truth in Christ manifests the sufficiency of Christ to the world. So what does division manifest? That Christ is not enough.
Not only was Corinth rife with disunity and sectarianism, Corinth was also rife with Greek philosophy and human wisdom. They had taken their eyes off Christ and fastened them upon intellect and speculation. Look at chapter 1 again, verses 23 and 24, Paul says: 'But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness', you could translate that 'moronic', 'but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God'. To the Greek, highbrowed boffins of philosophy and intellect, this Christian Gospel was moronic - of a Saviour who died in ignominy and shame and rose again - because they thought it was pointless to resurrect the body. So the Corinthians felt under pressure to rise to the intellectual arguments, to have some kind of philosophical aptitude, the weapons of their warfare were not enough any more.
I want to say to you today: we don't need Christ plus a brain the size of Einstein's to take on the Richard Dawkins of this world. Yes, we thank God for the thinkers and apologists in the church, we need them - but Christ and His power are sufficient! I think many of us have lost faith in that. We've become intimidated by intellectualism. Neither do we need to compete with entertainment for that matter - and listen, you can't compete with the entertainment of the world, you can't compete with the technology and their advancements of the world, you can't compete with the publicity machine of the world. If Christ alone is manifest among us - and there is a caveat to that, He must be manifested in our lives and in our churches in the power of the Holy Spirit, because He is the One who testifies and witnesses to Christ, we cannot do it without Him - but if He is manifested among us in power, it will be noised abroad that the Lord is in the house, that His power is present to heal. That might sound idealistic to some, but I'm telling you from the depths of my soul's conviction that it is all that will do, and it is all that will make the difference in our community.
You see, to narrow this down: essentially the Corinthian problem was that, for them, it was always Christ plus something else. That was the Galatians' problem as well. They were not communicating the sufficiency of Christ, because they themselves needed more than Christ. They needed man-made labels, they needed intellect, they needed stature, prestige - and so the world had communicated to them the insufficiency of Christ alone.
Look at our other text, 2 Corinthians 11 and verse 3: 'But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ'. Now, although in the context here Paul fears that false prophets and apostles should lead believers astray with their doctrines as the serpent did Eve, his great fear is - as the New American Standard translates it - 'That your mind should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ'. That was his ultimate fear, that their heart relationship with Christ should be interrupted, should be robbed from them by these other considerations. I believe this is still the case today, because the tempter is conscious that good men, Christian men, will often not be deflected by outright evil - and so the enemy's ploy is to get them obsessed with other things, with secondary issues or peripheral truths, and then when those things are given the preeminence in the life or in the church it displaces Christ from the central position.
It has been observed by some that almost every organisation which began in the Spirit has sooner or later been gradually drawn from a purity of devotion to Jesus Christ. I'm quoting you one observer, listen: 'Almost every sect or denomination existing took a detour from the highway of Christ to byways of lesser importance - vegetarianism, abstaining from tea or coffee, holy days, which sabbath day on which to worship, the traditions that build up around simple statements of our Lord until they have become divisive doctrines of men that have nothing in them to feed the soul'. Movements of God's Spirit, sometimes individual men that have founded movements or denominations, and the man becomes a movement, and then the movement becomes a monument. What is true of organisations can be true of individuals when we get distracted from Christ alone!
A.B. Simpson very personally speaks from his own experience, and says, listen: 'I wish to speak to you about Jesus, and Jesus only. I often hear people say, 'I wish I could get hold of Divine Healing, but I cannot'. Sometimes they say, 'I have got it'. If I ask them, 'What have you got?', the answer is sometimes, 'I have got the blessing', sometimes it is, 'I have got the theory or the doctrine'; sometimes it is, 'I have got the healing, the experience'; sometimes it is, 'I have got the sanctification'. But I thank God', Simpson says, 'that we have been taught that it is not the blessing, it is not the healing, it is not the sanctification, it is not the thing, it is not the it that you want, but it is something better. It is 'the Christ'; it is Himself'. Listen to what he says here: 'Plenty of people get the idea and do not get anything out of it'. Many of our people in our churches have got the idea, but they're not getting anything out of it! They get it into their head, and into their conscience, and into their will - but somehow they do not get Him into their life and their spirit, because they have only that which is the outward expression and symbol of spiritual reality. A.B. Simpson wrote a hymn which is probably in none of our hymnbooks now, but it's a wonderful hymn. Listen how it goes:
'Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted,
Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying,
Now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation,
Now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding,
Now He holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting,
Now my anchor's cast'.
And here's the chorus:
'All in all forever
Jesus will I sing
Everything in Jesus
And Jesus everything'.
Now, to sum up what I feel God has been saying to me and wants to say to you - well, here it is: evangelism is much more than profession. It's much more than saying: 'Just Jesus is enough, or sufficient'. It's much more than proclamation, telling the glad tidings, proclaiming the corigma of the New Testament. It is not just profession or proclamation, it is possession! It is walking around in the flesh, incarnating Christ and His power and His Gospel, so that others see: 'Christ is sufficient in him, Christ is sufficient in the church, so Christ can be sufficient in me!'.
That was the apostolic witness and their experience. Listen in Acts 4: 'When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus' - that's it! Possessing Christ and being possessed of Him, Christ who is our life, Christ in you the hope of glory. You see, His sufficiency is not just for dying - you know, a ticket to heaven when you pass away - but His sufficiency is for living, for life now, and witnessing that to all men! But if they are to believe our message, we must be the message.
Now, I have a hunch - it may only be a theory - that many who have preoccupations with theological hobbyhorses, pet doctrines, spiritual obsessions of belief or practice, I believe that it often betrays an absence of the sufficiency of Christ in their life. Christ is not enough. Now, as I've said, don't misunderstand me: I have my beliefs, and my persuasions and convictions - but we need to ask ourselves: is our interest in church, is our interest in Scripture doctrine even, is our interest in evangelism, is it motivated from an all-consuming passionate love for Christ alone? I'll touch a bit more on this in our next session - but if it's not, do you know what it is? This is strong: it's idolatry.
A.B. Simpson describes seeing a picture of the Constitution of the United States. Very skilfully it was engraved on a copper plate, so that when you looked at it closely you saw nothing more than a piece of writing, but when you stood back a number of paces and looked at it from a distance it was the face of George Washington. A.B. Simpson said: 'I saw the person, not the words, nor the ideas; and I thought, 'That is the way to look at the Scriptures and understand the thoughts of God, to see in them the face of love, shining through and through; not ideas, not doctrines, but Jesus Himself as the Life and Source and sustaining Presence of all our lives''.
'Sirs, we would see Jesus', and if they are going to see Jesus, they must see Him in us. If they're going to see Him as sufficient for their lives and their eternities, He must be sufficient for us.
Could we pray? I trust that you have opened your heart already, as I invited you to, in prayer. What has God been saying to you? What's He saying to this Body? Will you engage with God just in this moment of quietness? What has He been communicating to you? Deal with Him, speak to Him about it. Tell Him the struggles, the mixed motivations there are at times in all our ministries, mine included. Ask yourself, just in this attitude of quietness and prayer: is Christ sufficient? If I could be a bit personal, my ministry now is quite lonely in a sense, I don't have a church around me as I go about in itinerant ministry - there is not a 'big thing' around me, as it were, and a group of people, and it can be difficult. In the quiet weeks when there is nothing going on, I have heard the still small voice of God saying to me: 'David, am I not enough? Am I sufficient?'. He is, and we would all say He is, but when those other things are stripped away, we can get a bit desperate.
Father, I do trust that Your voice has been heard, O God, and I pray that whatever You're saying to individuals and to this group, Lord, that they would have ears to hear - and, as our Lord said, that Your words would go deep down into our ears, right into our hearts. Lord, we want to say to You, and proclaim publicly, a declaration that Christ is sufficient. Yet, Lord, we want it to be more than lip service. We want our lives to witness to that fact: that He is enough for us, He's what we live for, Who we live through, and He lives on us that the world may see that You have sent Him. In Jesus' name alone, and for His glory, we ask these things, Amen.
Don't miss part 2 of this message: “Just Jesus Part 2 - The Necessity Of Jesus”
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Northern Baptist Association Conference in Dundonald Baptist Church, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Just Jesus Part 1 - The Sufficiency Of Jesus" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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