By Tyson Thorne

Dec 03, 2013


Hello, my name is Tyson, and I’m a theologian.

I started making things more complicated than they needed to be at a very young age. It started with small things, like arguing with my parents that “because I said so” wasn’t actually an answer to "why". Then it lead to a revolutionary understanding. I began to see that that there was no problem, however complicated , that if you looked at it in the right way, couldn't become still more complex.  

I’m joking, of course, but it's true that we often make things more difficult than need be. Take the Gospel, for instance. Since the very beginning we’ve been trying to add to the salvation message. Take Mark chapter 10 verse 17 for one example:

Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  

It’s a great question, and because of the man’s dramatic entrance we know he is sincere. This isn’t a casual encounter, this man sought Jesus out and when he found him he ran to him and fell to his knees. How does Jesus respond to this well intentioned soul?  

Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

The man said to him, “Teacher, I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth.”

There’s a lot going on in this passage that we’re going to demystify. Instead of answering his question, Jesus addresses two misconceptions the young man has. First, while desperate to learn the secret of salvation, he believes a lie -- he believes he is a good person. Like the Pharisees of his day, he believed it was possible to obey the 10 steps — er — I mean Commandments. Not only did he believe it was possible, he believed he had done so! Knowing this, Jesus decides to dispel these wrong notions so that the man can see his real need. Jesus does this first by explaining that God alone, i.e. Jesus himself, is good. The implication is clear, the man might be many things — young, wealthy, and an authority — but he was not good. Next, Jesus sets him up by appearing to confirm the young man’s suspicions.  

As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him and said, “You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.

The man believed that salvation was at the very least a ten-step program. Even so, he felt there had to be something more. Even though he believed himself to be “good” like God, he knew deep down that he wasn’t, that he needed something else. At first it seems Jesus gives him two more steps! “Sell everything, then follow me.” But instead of a twelve step program, Jesus really limited it to one. Selling everything he had and giving it to the poor wasn’t part of the path to salvation – though, clearly, it may have led to heavenly rewards (see Status or Substance) – it was meant to reveal the heart. The rich young ruler loved his wealth more than God. Jesus answered the question that started this exchange, “what must I do to be saved?” with two words, “follow me.”  

Salvation isn’t difficult to achieve, only difficult to believe. How can following Jesus make us right with God?  

Since this exchange others have tried to add their own requirements to the gospel. We read earlier in Acts 15 that even some Pharisees had followed Jesus, but old habits die hard. In verse five we see them arguing that the Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the law of Moses (those pesky Ten Commandments again!) in addition to the gospel. Peter sets them all straight in verse 11; salvation is by God’s grace not man’s works.  

Today little has changed. There are still those who want to add to the gospel message. Faith alone in Jesus alone is just too simple. So they say you have to get your life together before you can come to Jesus. They say you’re not really saved unless Jesus is Lord of everything in your life. They say that to be truly saved you have to be baptized. Still others say you can’t be sure of your salvation unless you exhibit the gift of speaking in tongues — and they get to define what “tongues” are instead of letting the Bible define it.  

Some will betray a belief in the gospel “plus” — the gospel “plus” fill in the blank — by teaching that one can “lose” their salvation. I tell you, you can lose a lot of things. You can lose a bet, you can lose your car keys, you can even lose a friend, but you cannot lose your salvation. Jesus compares salvation to being “born again”. You can’t lose your re-birth any more than you can lose your birth. To put it another way, you can’t be unborn nor can you be un-reborn. It just doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, if you believe that one is saved by the gospel “plus” then you can lose you salvation the moment you don’t live up to whatever the “plus” might be.  

Be on your guard, any time someone tries to add anything to the gospel of grace!

Now look at John chapter one:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.

Just as the gospel isn’t a twelve step program, so God isn’t “a higher power” — He’s the highest power! Unlike Buddha, Mohammad, or Darwin Jesus existed before “the beginning”. He existed with God because He is God. He created everything!

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