Simply Jesus

I recently ran across an article that described a societal condition called “The Complexity Bias. It offered this up to explain why we humans lean towards complicating our lives rather than keeping things simple. The principle was this: when we are faced with too much information or we are in a state of confusion about something, we will naturally focus on the complexity of the issue rather than look for a simple solution. The article concluded that when we succumb to this complexity bias, we are focusing on the 10% that’s hard to understand, while ignoring the easier 90%.

I often feel that many non-believers, who are trying to understand God, Jesus and the scriptures, experience this complexity bias. It expresses itself most often when a person seeks an answer for every question about the bible before believing the simple truth about the message of the gospel — which in a word -- is Jesus. The gospel is simply the person and work of Jesus Christ. That’s why we speak of the Christian life as a gospel-centered life, a Jesus-centered life. Initially, we must all come to God on the basis of simple faith. We must believe in who Jesus is and what He has done for us (Mark 16:16). And then we continue to come to God and to live a life pleasing to Him on the same basis. To paraphrase what the apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:3, having begun by the Spirit through the gospel, we are perfected (that is, sanctified, made like Christ) in the same way — by the Spirit through the gospel. Simple.

But, although the Spirit dwelling in the believer gives us the desire and the power for biblical spirituality, we must discipline ourselves to resist the temptations of our fleshly nature so we can walk in a gospel-centered life. Thus, Paul also wrote, “exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). This doesn’t refer to physical training — that does not build godliness. The very next verse makes it clear that the kind of training or exercise that promotes godliness (Christlikeness) is spiritual training.

Some Bible translations render “train” as “exercise” (KJV) or “discipline” (NASB). The biblical and practical way of living out this command to “train yourself for godliness” has often been called “spiritual discipline.” What was true in Paul’s day is still true: it is by means of the spiritual disciplines found in Scripture that we are to pursue godliness and become more like Jesus.

Of course, any practice can become legalistic. Anything a Christian can count, measure, or time can be twisted into something that falsely assures a person that by this "work" — instead of the sufficiency of the life and death of Jesus — we can be more spiritually secure or favored by God. But just because the disciplines of godliness can be misused doesn’t mean they should be neglected. “Train yourself for godliness” is God’s command; therefore, it must be possible to pursue obedience to it without becoming legalistic.

I believe following some simple personal, and interpersonal spiritual disciplines found in the Bible will produce in us gospel-centered growth.

As an individual, the two most important personal spiritual disciplines are the intake of Scripture and time spent in prayer. The interpersonal spiritual disciplines we’re to observe are primarily those biblical practices related to life together in a local church and fellowship with other believers. The early church practiced this, as we read, in Acts 2:42. And they grew personally and in number.

Second, we must practice these disciplines with the right goal. Consciously making Jesus the focus — pursuing intimacy with Christ and conformity, both inwardly and outwardly, to Christ. Simply seeking to be with and like Jesus.

Third, practice the right disciplines in the right way. Emphasize the person and work of Jesus in each one - enjoying who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Letting our faith be built up through the truths of the gospel. Engaging in each spiritual discipline revealed in Scripture that continually shows us our need for Christ and the infinite supply of grace and mercy to be found by faith in Him.

If we do these things, we will “…But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

Credit: Ron Kelley

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