Jesus—and Nothing More
One of my favorite parts of what I do is being there for students when the lights turn on that Jesus is better than anything they’d imagined or hoped. Scores of students I talk to have settled on a less-than-favorable opinion of this whole Christianity deal before they’ve really even given Jesus a chance. Many of them have tried church. They have tried youth groups. They have tried reading the Bible. They have tried saying a prayer from time to time. But they’ve never tried Jesus—as Messiah, as Savior, as friend. Once they encounter Jesus—not as a religious figurehead or a political candidate or an angry judge ready to exile us to hell, but as a gentle and just shepherd who is committed to abundance and grace—it’s like the eye doctor finally getting their prescription right, and for the first time in life they can see.
They see that Jesus is real. He came. He died. He was raised from the grave. And in his sacrifice, we can be made whole. It’s totally too good to be true, and yet it is that good and also that true.
They see that he is revolutionary. Despite the lame version of Jesus that has been thrust upon us, Jesus is the opposite of weak and safe. He is a man of great conviction, willing to go to the cross for what he believed. When he was on the scene, everyone knew it. He had all the power, he showed all the love, he reached out to the entire world, and still today we mark time by his life.
They see that he forces a response. You can’t encounter Jesus without forming an opinion about who he is. His claims, his teachings, his incarnation, his love—what will you do with this Jesus? What will you say in response?
Someone once said to me, “To some people, Jesus was a great teacher. And he was. There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from him that we’ll never fully absorb it all. To some people, Jesus was a great prophet, and that also is true. His words were powerful indeed. And to some people, those whom the Holy Spirit reveals, Jesus is Messiah. The only question that remains is which one of those people are you?”
Whenever I invite people to take Jesus at his word and declare him the leader of their lives, I can see in their expressions the wrestling match that ensues. They want the acceptance and the abundance that Jesus promises, even as they can’t reconcile the seeming lunacy of going God’s way. The mental gymnastics are legitimate: it is lunacy to follow God. It always has been too. Think about Noah, Abraham, or scores of others who have followed his call.
“Noah, go build a boat . . . for several decades.” (Can you imagine what his in-laws said about him?)
“Abraham, leave everything you know, and I will show you where to go later.” (Try fitting that into your five-year master plan.)
“Follow me,” Jesus said to the men who would become his disciples, “and I’ll show you life as it was meant to be lived.” He says the same thing to us today: “Trust me. Follow me. Give it all. Come to me dirty, and I’ll clean you up. Come broken, and I’ll reassemble the parts. Come desperate, and I’ll replace your pain with joy. Come to me with all your questions, all your suspicions, all your confusion, all your fear, and I’ll install my Spirit of revelation and wisdom and guidance permanently into your heart.”
There are no formulas, magic wands, or fairy dust here; only Jesus, the righteous rebel who saves the world—loveable lunatics included.
A Call to Surrender
Maybe you’ve heard all of this before, or maybe this is the first time. Maybe you know the claims of Jesus like the back of your hand, or maybe what I’m talking about is earth-shattering news to you. Maybe you’ve been following him for years, or maybe saying yes would mean that despite all the time you’ve spent running, today you’re coming home. Whatever your background, whatever your assumptions, whatever your circumstances here and now, here’s what I want to say to you: You don’t have to go one more second in this life without knowing Jesus—his love, his care, his presence, and his joy. He is standing at the door to your heart and calling your name, asking if it’s cool to come in. “Michelle, I love you!” he whispered to that young woman, right in the depth of her pain. Your name is on his lips as well. He loves you just the same. Let go of all the secondhand information you’ve heard about God. Lean into the still, small voice calling your name. Trust that your heavenly Father will never lead you astray. Stake your future on this cause, this man.
A Swiss genius many regarded as the greatest Protestant theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth, once was asked about the most profound thought he’d ever learned during his years of research and study. Now, Barth was the one whose greatest known work was a six-million-word, thirteen-volume series explaining the doctrines of God, his Word, his creation, and how humankind gets reconciled to him, a project that took Barth more than three decades to write. Normal people can barely understand Church Dogmatics, let alone write it. This guy knew his stuff. And yet in response to that question about the most profound thought he’d ever learned, here is what he said: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the straightforward claims of Jesus and to how we will respond. He knows you. He sees you. He loves you in ways that cannot be replicated or overcome. Now, what are you going to do with that?
In Need of a Reset
I’m kind of an early adopter with technology, in that if the money is available, I love being one of the first to have the newest technology. Many times, I’ve purchased the newest phone on the day of its release, and once, I even stood in line before the store opened. There’s something about opening up a brand-new, cutting-edge piece of technology. Everything looks right, feels right, and works exactly as it should.
The reason we appreciate new things is that we know all too well what it’s like to use old ones. Your battery dies in two hours, your apps are a mess, your memory is full, and your phone is sluggish, to say the least. Oh, for those new-phone days!
In the world of technology, one of the greatest inventions has to be the reset button. Click that handy button and your phone or tablet is as good as new. It’s like a giant rewind button in the cloud: Bwwwwwwhup! All of a sudden, dead links are cleared out, speedy connections resume, and all is right in your technology world. Your system has been reset, back to the device’s life as it was meant to be lived.
The offer of a reset is exactly what the gospel is about. Jesus siphons out the junk that has gummed up our system for far too long and pours in pure, clean fuel to propel us down the right path. He resets our systems—our habits and attitudes, our priorities and pursuits—and instills in us the incredible reality that we’re living the life we were made for, “real and eternal life,” as John 10:10 promises, “more and better life” than we ever dreamed of. As good as that reset smartphone feels, a spiritual reset is second to none. It’s like New Year’s Day for the soul, the day when there’s nothing but a clean, fresh start. And it’s available every day.
“What is it for you?” I always ask people. “What part of your life most needs to be reset?” I get all sorts of answers to that question: “My addiction.” “My worries over what people think of me.” “My cynicism.” “My fears.” “My habits.” “My self-image.” “My identity.” “My past.” There are as many categories in need of spiritual reset as there are people on the planet, I suppose. But my guess is that for you, in your specific life, there is one big thing that above all other facets of life is causing you undue confusion and pain. There is probably one thing that, were it reset back to God’s original design, would yield the greatest sense of relief for you. Most people I know are closely acquainted with the failures, foibles, and sin in their life. They know what the one thing is.
Or substance abuse.
Or performing to gain self-worth.
It’s sexual promiscuity.
Or an apathetic attitude.
Whatever has been tripping you up, a reset is available to you. You don’t have to earn it, buy it, beg for it, or swipe it when nobody’s looking. It is yours, free of charge. It is yours, by the grace of God. All you have to do is receive it, open hands and open heart. Say yes to the life you were meant to live. Say yes to a Father who’s good.
Reprinted from RESET: JESUS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Copyright © 2016 by Nick Hall. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.