Jesus Plus Nothing Is Enough.
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I have a bit of a confession to make this morning. I love social media. It’s absolutely horrifying for us - psychologically, socially, it’s all very bad for us. Especially teens and college students - self image issues, depression, misinformation - social media is a terrible thing. It’s like eating a dozen donuts every single day for breakfast. But I really like it. My generation invented Facebook, and I was first wave, back when it was only for college students. As time went on, more companies came up with more products. So now there’s Facebook, instagram, twitter, threads, snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, tikTok. But then companies and churches started realizing that we too can use them. So social media managers started to have not just their personal accounts, but their corporate professional accounts too. Actually I have six Facebook pages that I manage, 5 instagram accounts, three twitter accounts but I got rid of one, so two twitters, 2 podcasts, 1 threads account, 1 YouTube channel and my blog. And sometimes that seems like.. a lot. I enjoy my hobby of content creation - little posts, articles, videos and whatnot. There’s a lot of voices out there, and I want to make sure some of those voices are Christian. But here’s the problem - well there’s lots of problems, but this is the big one - social media makes the world very loud and very crowded. Social media, and the entire modern world treats silence like an enemy. We are very quickly losing our ability to sit quietly, to wait patiently. If you are in public ever, look around - you’ll see this effect. You’re waiting in line at the grocery store. You’re sitting on the bus or at the airport. We cannot wait patiently. We cannot sit in silence. It takes like seven and half seconds for us to get uncomfortable and pull out the cell phone. It’s a muscle memory. Our brains drift to it.
And so every now and then in my ministry - I will do something called a social media fast. I get off social media for a while - usually 40 days. I just put it out there on the socials - I’ll be back in 6 weeks or whatever. I used to do it for lent. You know how sometimes people give stuff up for lent? For me it’s social media - 40 days without the apps. But recently I was feeling that tug. I was feeling convicted - I’m too plugged in, I’m too deep in the social media world, I need to step back. A big part of it is my kids. I want them to have a relationship with my face, and not the back of my phone. Right? And so, to set some boundaries - I took all the apps off my phone. I still have the accounts - I post on my computer, but I’m not carrying it around with me in my pocket. You know what happens? I still pull out my phone! It’s a compulsion! There’s nothing on it. I took all the apps off. And yet if I had a penny for every time I reach for the phone, open it up and stare blankly at the screen - I could fund the government. It’s terrible! And I don’t think this is just for the younger generation and social media. All of us, as a society - we are deeply uncomfortable with silence. The ability to sit and be patient and be bored is disappearing from our skill set. We are always striving, always pushing, always trying - but what we’re going to see today from our scripture is the value of having nothing except you and Jesus.
Let’s dive in. Galatians 5 - this is a beautiful chapter, I just couldn’t trim it down, it says [read v.1-6]. Alright, now let me zoom out a little bit and give some background. Jesus came. Lived a perfect life. Was crucified, died and buried. Dead. But then he rose from the dead. He hung out for awhile, roughly 40 days or so, appeared to 500 eye witnesses, including the disciples, then he went back to heaven. Then the disciples were kind of in hiding in Jerusalem. Then we get to the book of Acts. Now what I want you to realize is that the books of the Bible are not creatively named. Acts means literally “acts of the apostles” - the stuff the disciples did after Jesus went back into heaven. So in Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit shows up - inspires the disciples, which is amazing and then from there the disciples launch out into the world to tell EVERYONE about Jesus. Peter mostly hangs out in Jerusalem, taking care of the Christians there, and then there’s this other guy Paul, who was not a disciple but he had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life so he kind of gets added to the list. Paul went all over the ancient middle east telling people about Jesus. So Paul would come into town, start a church, tell everyone about Jesus and after a while - maybe a couple years, he would move on to the next town. Now this is going to shock you. But after Paul left, these baby churches would start having disagreements. I know, I know, it’s unheard of in the modern church - but they actually had disagreements between brothers and sisters in Christ. So what Paul would do is write letters to these early churches, trying to guide them in teachings, conflict management and encouragement. If you open up your bible and look at the table of contents - the New Testament has those letters. The letter that went to the church in Rome - we call that Romans. The letter that went to the church in Corinth - there were a whole bunch of those letters, we call them Corinthians. The letter that went to Galatia (Galatians), Ephesus (Ephesians), Thessolonica (Thessalonians) - you get it. These letters were trying to help the early church with their struggles, and because we have those same problems in our lives today - these books are super relevant to help us.
So our scripture comes from Galatians - Paul is writing to help the church in Galatia. And they were dealing with one of the most fundamental questions that all Christians deal with. What do we have to do to be a Christian? And basically what happened is that Paul was going from town to town preaching Jesus. You need to follow Jesus. Confess your sins, repent and follow Jesus. Jesus is my savior and the lord of my life. But then there were these other teachers who were following around behind Paul and Paul would say “all you need is Jesus” and these guys would slide up behind him and whisper, “and get circumcised.” You see, Jesus was a Jewish man and all his disciples were jewish men. Jesus ministered to the jews, but Paul reached everyone ELSE, we call them the gentiles. You and I - we are the gentiles. And so Paul knows that Jesus is the son of God and savior of the world, but his Jewish friends wanted everyone to follow the Jewish rules as well. Circumcision, only eat certain foods, that kind of stuff. Circumcision, if you don’t know, is where they cut off the tip of a man’s special place. I’m not trying to be crass, we’re adults - we can do this. Now if I’m a gentile man and I want to follow Jesus, and there’s some confusion about whether or not I have to cut off the tip of my special place, that’s an issue I’m going to want some clarity on! This actually becomes a really big fight in the early church. Circumcision and what you’re allowed to eat as a gentile follower of Jesus is really heated debate. Now we in the modern church we don’t argue about food or circumcision, we have a whole fresh set of things to argue about - but the fundamental question is still the same. What do we have to do to be a Christian?
So now, knowing all of that - listen to it again. [read v.3-6]. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Faith. When we place our faith in Christ Jesus. It’s not about our striving. It’s not about how good we can be. How many rules can we follow. It is about how good He is. This is the first major teaching I want you to grab onto this morning - Life is found through surrender, not striving. Those Jewish teachers following around behind Paul, “All you need is Jesus (and circumcision).” And in our lives we take “circumcision” and we put a whole bunch of stuff in that blank. All you need is Jesus, AND perfect church attendance. All you need is Jesus, never use curse words. All you need is Jesus, and [insert whatever striving you want to come up with]. We are so tempted to try and earn our way into heaven. But life is found through surrender, not striving. We give everything to Jesus and we trust that HE is enough. That HE will wash us clean. When we stand in front of God on judgment day we are not going to point to circumcision, we are not going to point to our wonderful track record of being a good person, we are not going to point to our church attendance, we are going to point to Jesus. The righteousness of God is not earned with good behavior, it is given as a gift through Jesus.
Now, here’s the problem - when you hear that, because we are still broken and fallen little humans… when we hear about the grace, a lot of us think to ourselves. “If it doesn’t matter, maybe I’ll go do some sinning…” Which is why the next big section is Paul addressing that. Verse 13, [read 13-15]. Well shucks. You are free from the law, Paul says, but don’t use your freedom to indulge your sinful desire, but rather serve one another. There was a moment when Jesus was teaching and they asked him what was the most important commandment, and he said, “Love the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. That’s the first commandment and the second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” And then he said something really important. “All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. And what that means is that every other guideline God has given us comes out of loving God and loving your neighbor. If you love your neighbor, are you going to murder? No, of course not. If you love your neighbor, are you going to. Steal? No, of course not - that’s not loving neighbor. If you love God are you going to lie, cheat, steal, sleep around? No, of course not - because that would not be loving to the God who made you and taught you how to live. Every boundary of the Christian life comes from a desire to love God and love our neighbor.
Paul keeps going in Galatians chapter 5, [read v.16-19]. So let the Holy Spirit guide your life. And then he describes the situation. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And these two forces are constantly fighting each other. This is real life isn’t it? Say yes. I want to do what’s good, but I also want to do the not so good stuff. The desire to do good is the Holy Spirit in us, pushing us, urging us to live the right way, but our sinful nature wrestles with that. And so Paul outlines both pictures. Verse 19, he starts with the sinful nature. [read v.19-21]. That’s the sinful life. But then it says, [read v.22-23]. Now I’m not an overly clever man, I like things simple and straightforward. If I’m looking at a tree and it’s got oranges on the branches - well that’s an orange tree. If it’s got apples growing on it - that’s an apple tree. If someone’s life shows love and patience and self control - that’s a Holy Spirit life. Because that’s the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit. But if someone’s life has envy, anger, lustful pleasures, quarreling and such - that’s a sinful nature tree. Because that is the fruit that comes out of a sinful nature. This is the second main teaching that I have for you this morning - Life is expressed through fruitfulness.
So many people think that heaven is a numbers game. I need to do more good deeds than bad deeds. If I do ten bad deeds, but 11 good deeds - God will let me into heaven. But that is not how heaven works, that is not how grace works. Jesus Christ paid for our sins with his death on the cross. So it’s never been about adding up good deeds or bad deeds. It’s about surrender to the Holy Spirit. Life is expressed through fruitfulness. So, what is the fruit your life is showing? Are you a sinful nature tree or a holy spirit tree? Paul says, [read v.24-25]. Let me make it very practical. Verse 22 and 23 is the list of the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Pick any one of those and ask yourself - am I better at any of those than I was two years ago? If the Holy Spirit is in my life, working on my spirit, transforming my heart, my life should be producing this fruit - is that happening? Am I more patient than I was two years ago? Am I more gentle than I was two years ago? Do I have more self-control? Do I have more peace or more joy? And if not, do I need to ask the Holy Spirit to create this fruit in my life?
Now there is one more verse to wrap up the chapter, and it says, [read v.26]. While we are asking the fundamental question of “what do we have to do to be a Christian” - there is a temptation to compare ourselves to other Christians. Rather than asking “is the Holy Spirit in my life?” - we ask ourselves “am I better than you?” Am I better than that guy? But loved ones, please hear me - there is no competition in the Kingdom of God. None of us gets to heaven by being BETTER than other people, because none of us get to heaven by striving. Pick a famous saint. Paul didn’t get to heaven by his amazing good deeds. Mother Theresa didn’t get to heaven that way. Aquinas, Augustine, Martin Luther - none of them! Because the path to heaven is not striving, it’s surrender. It’s not us, it’s Jesus. Paul warns his people please don’t become conceited or jealous of one another. There’s an old story about a woman who went to her pastor and she said, “Pastor, I won’t be going to your church anymore.” And the pastor responded, “oh, okay - but why?” And the lady say, “Bah, I saw one woman gossiping, and that man is a hypocrite, and I saw people looking at their phone during service, among many other things wrong in your church.” And the pastor replied, “Okay, but before you go - do me a favor. Take a very full glass of water and walk around the church three times without spilling a drop on the ground. Afterwards, leave the church if you desire.” And the lady thought, “that’s too easy.” She walked three times around the church as the Pastor had asked. When she finished she told the Pastor she was ready to leave. The pastor said, “Before you leave, I wanted to ask you one more question. When you were walking around the church, did you see anyone gossipping?” The lady replied, “No.” Did you see any hypocrites? No. Did you notice anybody looking at their phone? No. You know why? Because you were focused on your glass to make sure you didn’t stumble and spill any water. It’s the same with our life. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we don’t have time to see the mistakes of other people. At any church, there’s going to be stuff to complain about. A church is filled with people, and people aren’t perfect. But you can’t compare yourself to your neighbor, unless you take your eyes off of Jesus. So in our journey to be a “holy spirit tree” don’t make it a competition. Don’t be jealous or conceited - but just encourage one another to produce good fruit with your life.
Life is found through surrender, not striving. Life is expressed through fruitfulness, and you can’t compare yourself to your neighbor unless you take your eyes off of Jesus. These might have been words for the people of Galatia two THOUSAND years ago - but they are truth s we need to hear right here and now today. The good news that I have for you this morning is that Jesus is enough. Period. End of sentence. Jesus is enough. He is all you need. To help you understand I want to tell you a little bit of the Phil Vischer story. For those who don’t know Phil Vischer is the creator of Veggie Tales, the voice of Bob the Tomato, and has been teaching kids the Bible for decades. His company used to be called “Big Idea” productions and at the height they thought he was going to be like a Christian version of Walt Disney. The company grew so insanely fast that, a little bit, he lost control of the ship. They were spending more money than they had on bigger and bigger projects, and then after a series of stalls they got sued by a distribution company. They had partnered with the guy who created Barney (remember that show, the big purple dinosaur back in the 90’s?). They like that guy a lot, but when he passed away the company was sold to someone Phil Vischer didn’t want to partner with. A lawsuit started, and to Phil it was an easy win. It was so obvious that his company was in the right, he thought. They’d had a series of stalls, several rounds of lay-offs and this was their last hope to save the company. But they lost the court case. They were fined 10 million dollars, and the company had to file bankruptcy and be sold to cover their debts. Phil Vischer and everyone who worked for him lost everything. And in that season he struggled mightily in his prayer life with God. Why did you let this happen God? I’m creating a Christian production company, making videos that explain the bible to millions of children all over the world - isn’t this worthy of saving? Aren’t my works worth saving? If my company fails what will I have to show for my life at the end of all things. And then Phil realized what Paul has been teaching us this morning - Jesus is enough. Jesus plus nothing is enough. Phil had taken the good works of his life and turned it into an idol. This will get me into heaven. This will get God to love me. At the end of all things I can stand in front of God and point to Big Idea productions and the millions people I helped and I can say, “I’d like my ticket to paradise now.” But hear me on this - God’s love is not for sale. It is free through Jesus. The way Phil tells it, God took away his dream so he would have nothing but Jesus. Because Jesus is enough. What’s crazy is that after Phil realized his idolatry, a couple years later the court case got overturned on appeal. Easily. So easily people couldn’t understand how he ever lost in the first place. But the damage had been done, the bills had been paid, the company was gone. It was almost like God blinded the eyes of the jury to take away Phil’s dream so he would have nothing but Jesus. Because Jesus is enough.
Life is found through surrender, not striving. Life is expressed through fruitfulness - are you a holy spirit tree? Or a sinful nature tree? And out of these teachings I have two challenges for you today. First - my challenge is for you to turn it off. Stop striving. I just want you to sit in silence and breathe. Turn off the TV. Turn off the busy-ness. Turn off the phone - delete the apps, whatever it takes to give yourself silence. Give yourself space, and peace. Give yourself the gift of boredom. Because here’s what’s going to happen - when you sit in silence. You get uncomfortable. Boredom nudges us. We are discontent. Fears and anxieties creep in. It’s why we like a loud world. All the voices and distractions we fill our lives with - even the good deeds, all of it is to avoid the discomfort. Sometimes it feels like we will do anything to avoid feeling our feelings. But my first challenge for you - I want you to find that discomfort. Turn off your striving, just sit in silence and breathe and wait. Then my second challenge - in that silence, I want you to ask the Holy Spirit to show up. First ask for reassurance. For peace and comfort. Let the unbreakable truth that Jesus is enough solidify in your heart. Let it be your firm foundation. Let it help you stop striving and start trusting in the goodness of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to show up, then ask for reassurance, then ask for inspiration. Christians know that when the Holy Spirit shows up, he’s going to push you - he’s going to nudge you. The inspiration changes, the activities vary from person to person - but your life will start to produce the fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Basically what I’m trying to get you to do this morning is to turn off the noise of the world and find a quiet space to listen to God, and then I want you to listen. Hear what God is nudging you to do with your life.
I think about my bajillion social media accounts. Social media can be useful - for connection, for all sorts of things - but one thing I realize is that they are a very loud part of a very loud world, and sometimes we need to find the volume knob. For Paul is was circumcision and what foods you eat - but even in the modern world we have the same struggle, the same striving. And into the chaos of all our efforts and all our good works comes the simple truth of God’s love. There’s an old song by the band Switchfoot, and the song is called “Adding To The Noise” - to close out today I wanted to read some of the lyrics:
What's it gonna take to slow us down,To let the silence spin us around
What's it gonna take to drop this town
We've been spinning at the speed of sound
Stepping out of those convenience stores
What could we want but more, more, more
From the third world to the corporate core
We are the symphony of modern humanity
If we're adding to the noise, Turn off this song
If we're adding to the noise, Turn off your stereo, radio, video
I don't know what they're gonna think of next,
Genetic engineers of the most high tech
A couple new ways I could fall into debt
I'm a nervous wreck, But I'll bet that that T.V. set
Tells us what we wanted to hear
But none of these sound bites are coming in clear
From the third world to your corporate ears
We are the symphony of modern humanity
If we're adding to the noise, Turn off this song