Jesus only or Jesus plus?

How demanding is the call to follow Christ?

“You can’t say Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.”

While this quote has been attributed to several other prominent Christian authors, the earliest known use of it can be traced back to a Dutch watchmaker named Corrie ten Boom.

Who was Corrie ten Boom? Living in Haarlem, Netherlands during World War II, Corrie and her parents operated a safe house and underground network for Jews and refugees, protecting them from Nazi persecution.

During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 5-6 people illegally living in the Ten Boom home: some of whom were Jews and others members of the Dutch underground. Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another 'safe house' could be located for them.

Through these activities, the Ten Boom Family and their many friends and co-workers of 'the BeJe group' saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and other refugees. -Source

Because of their efforts, Corrie and her family were arrested in 1944, and both of her parents ended up dying in concentration camps. Corrie herself survived and proceeded to travel the world sharing a message of “Jesus is the victor” and forgiveness is possible, “there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still…God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies."

“You can’t say Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.” We may never understand these words as she did, but we would do well to consider them in the deepest and most literal sense possible.

Considering a literal interpretation of the command to “Christ ONLY” will be the subject of today’s letter.

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust…The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot.” Ps. 16:1,6

Have you known the Lord yet as your ONLY portion? Your ONLY provider? Your ONLY hope for preservation?

To add something to what you already have does not require much, it is to replace which is the difficulty.

In the days of Old Testament Israel, it was common for the people to worship God with their sacrifices, even as the accounts say the people had grown wicked. Wicked and worshipping God - how can these things go together? Rarely did the people completely abandon God, instead, the described wickedness came from the worship of God PLUS the worship of false gods and idols. They had a little of God and a little of the world.

For this reason, God says, “Do you think I delight in sacrifices and burnt offerings? No, this I desire - obedience, a broken and a contrite heart.”

The same remains true for us today - “I want your heart! The source of your affections. Your backup plans. Your hope, your inspiration, your desires, your focus, all!”

This is the pleasing sacrifice the Lord delights in. Have we sacrificed in this way? Or have we taken a little of God and mixed it with a little of our own: self-preservation, self-provision, self-portion.

Put another way - Do we worship Jesus ONLY? Or is it Jesus PLUS?

Have we added Him onto our already mostly perfect life? Or have we given up everything else to follow Him?

Did we see our lives as mostly good but lacking just this one thing, and once we add Him we finally have it all?

Or have we followed the advice given to the rich young ruler, “This one thing you lack, go and sell everything you have. Then you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross and follow Me.”

Everything. Complete and total. Our all.

Have we sold it all to follow Him or have we responded, as the rich young ruler, “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:22

Jesus ONLY is the only way, everything else is sorrow.

At this point in the story perhaps we feel the call to be too severe, too dramatic. It can’t really mean all, can it? For if it did, who could follow such a command?

Such was the response of the disciples, “And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, ‘Who then can be saved?’”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” first published in 1937, devoted an entire chapter to this concept he called single-minded obedience. An excerpt below:

“If, as we read our Bibles, we heard Jesus speaking to us in this way to-day we should probably try to argue ourselves out of it like this: ‘It is true that the demand of Jesus is definite enough, but I have to remember that he never expects us to take his commands legalistically…It is not important that I should have possessions, but if I do I must keep them as though I had them not.

Jesus may have said, ‘Sell thy goods,’ but he meant, ‘Do not let it be a matter of consequence to you that you have outward prosperity; rather keep your goods quietly, having them as if you had them not. Let not your heart be in your goods.’

We are excusing ourselves from single-minded obedience to the word of Jesus on the pretext of legalism and a supposed preference for an obedience ‘in faith.’”

Bonhoeffer continues, “If Jesus said to someone, ‘Leave all else behind and follow me; resign your profession, quit your family, your people, and the home of your fathers,’ then he knew that to this call there was only one answer - the answer of single-minded obedience, and that it is ONLY to this obedience that the promise of fellowship with Jesus is given.

But we should probably argue thus, ‘Of course we are meant to take the call of Jesus with ‘absolute seriousness,’ but after all the true way of obedience would be to continue all the more in our present occupations, to stay with our families, and serve him there is a spirit of true inward detachment.’ If Jesus challenged us with the command: ‘Get out of it,’ we should take him to mean: ‘Stay where you are but cultivate that inward detachment.’

All along the line we are trying to evade the obligation of single-minded, literal obedience.”

Bonhoeffer doesn’t let up there though, he strikes even harder on the point, “How is such absurdity possible? What has happened that the word of Jesus can be thus degraded by this trifling, and thus left open to the mockery of the world?

When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends his child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up a smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: ‘Father tells me to go to bed, but he really means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome my tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: ‘Go out and play.’

If a child tried such arguments on his father…they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandments of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible!”

Bonhoeffer’s conclusion on the command to follow can be summed up in these two sentences, “The paradoxical understanding of the commandments has its Christian justification, but it must never lead to the abandoning of the single-minded understanding of the commandments. This is only possible and right for somebody who has already at some point or other in his life put into action his single-minded understanding.”

Art Katz, in a sermon titled, ‘One Thing you Lack,’ tells of two stories that help to further illustrate this point. First, of the kids who would come to his desk at the beginning of a semester and ask him, ‘Professor Katz, what is the minimum I must do to pass this class?” And, second, of a German woman who took the command of Jesus literally, selling all she had to follow Him.

“All to Jesus I surrender. We’ve sung it over and over. And then during the week when it’s a choice between this or that we choose that, not Him. Prayer meeting? Not tonight, it’s wet. How easy it is to be apparently sincere, and yet really, hardly knowing our own hearts?” -Leonard Ravenhill

Can we see the requirement now to single-minded, literal obedience to the command to Jesus ONLY?

And in seeing such a thing, do we also see our complete lack and inability to fulfill such a command in our own strength?

Here, in this place, we have found the narrow way. A way that requires faith, hope, trust, and complete and utter dependence, every day, on the portion, protection and preservation of the grace of God.

Finally, in this place, we can begin to understand the depths of the verse we started with, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot.”

When we give up all to follow Him, we depend on promises like these to be true. Can we really trust Him to that degree?

Fear not friends, for though this place feels uncertain, yet the Lord will provide for us…

  • The sacrifice

  • The inheritance

  • Our daily bread

  • Our perpetual and eternal deliverance

In every need, every situation, He will provide. Take comfort in this as you cling to the promises with great confidence. Yet this clinging will not sustain if we have not established the reason for His provision. Why does God provide?

If we have not settled this matter, we will grow weary, lose heart and stray from the narrow path to disillusionment when the hardships of life come. When we stray it will sound something like this:

“I gave up all for Him. I believed in Him. Cried out to Him in my time of need and He did not answer Me. I cannot trust Him, He does not provide, I must take back what I’ve given up and make my own way.”

This is the response of one who has seen and heard of Christ, believed in His existence, but not yet understood that the provision of God does not exist primarily for our own benefit. The story is not about us, nor our comfort, peace or happiness, rather it is a story about God and His glory.

And as He redeems us, adopts us and provides for us, He does it so that through our life we may bring Him glory, as we respond in the likeness of Christ: Perfect communion and unbroken obedience.

In His youth, His preparation for ministry, in the temple, in close quarters with His friends, in the streets, among the unbelieving, alone in the wilderness, in the quiet places, the early morning, the late night, and in the garden as He sees the cup He must drink.

In every step of His life, death and resurrection: perfect communion and unbroken obedience.

  • I and the Father are One.

  • If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.

  • The Son of man comes not to do His own will but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38

  • “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5:8-9

May the example of Christ compel us to follow Him likewise:

  • Thy Kingdom and not my own. Thy will and not my own.

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength.

  • Go and sell all that you have, then come, take up your cross and follow Me.

And remember, the promises of God are great:

  • He will keep in perfect peace all whose thoughts are fixed on Him. Isaiah 26:3

  • Child, you always are with me, and all that I have is yours. Luke 15:31

  • Everything the father has is mine, therefore I said He [the Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:15

The promises are great, but the call is exclusive - Jesus ONLY.

Have we literally given up all, in single-minded obedience, to follow Him yet?

In love,

Derek