Sola Christos? (unabridged)

Do you ever get ear worms? That is, get a song stuck in your mind? “We all live in a yellow submarine, / a yellow submarine.” Or, “Under the board walk, / down by the sea.”

We sang a song in church recently that stuck in my head: “All of You [God] is more than enough for me.”

About eighteen months ago my Heavenly Father posed a question and then left me to ponder: Christ alone, Pres, or Christ plus? He did not offer a great deal of commentary. It wasn’t necessary.

This wasn’t a hard question for me to understand. But, it has been challenging to appropriate.

Understanding that Christ is the only means to God—sola Christos, or Christ alone—is clear. Sadly, what is not so clear—at least in my practice—is the fleshly belief that I can add to my life with something of my own ability, and in so doing, enhance the Kingdom of God and perhaps my standing in God’s eyes.

I know the truth of this matter, but knowing the truth is not the challenge. Practicing the truth is the hard part.

Believing that Christ is life and life is Christ makes perfect sense, and I readily quote, “For me to live is Christ.” However, the temptation to declare, “Christ and Christ alone,” and then add to this declaration my success, my abilities, my recognition, my reputation, my contacts, etc. is at times overwhelming. Before I know it, it is no longer, “Christ alone;” it is “Christ plus.”

Paul penned a famous passage of Scripture in Philippians where he discusses fame, recognition, and entitlement and points out that he has every reason to boast based upon these achievements. But then he says, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (3:7-8).

Like Paul, I am tempted to think highly of my accomplishments, and when I succumb to this temptation—Christ plus my accomplishments—I embrace the enemy’s lie that I can enhance my worth to God beyond that achieved on my behalf through Jesus Christ. But interestingly, when I walk after the flesh in this fashion, instead of life’s inventory being filled with peace and contentment and joy, I find that discontent drops anchor.

Our English rendering, “rubbish” (v. 8), is nicely sanitized, perhaps so our sensibilities will not be offended, or the public reading of the Word will not leave us blushing. Brother Paul literally states that he considers those things he might contribute to Christ as, “the vilest of human excrement.” Somewhere along the way Paul’s word choice was translated, “rubbish.” Even though you may not know Greek, you grasp the accurate options. One word starts with the letter “s”, the other with the letter “d”.

Paul understood that anything he contributed to Christ was derived from his plethora of abilities to perform legalistically apart from Christ’s life. Stated again, he grasped, and stated emphatically, any gain based upon his credentials failed to endorse Christ and Christ alone as the source of life. As Paul considered this, he likened it to something our translators have determined is impermissible to write in a cultured letter written to mixed company including children.

And with that I am fixated upon this: Will it be Christ and Christ alone, in which He gives me all of Himself and His life, or will it be additional “rubbish” derived via my fleshly abilities to enhance life beyond Christ?

Sola Christos! Christ alone?

That Sunday—the ear worm stuck in my head, but I could not sing, “All of you is more than enough for all of me.” Instead, I stood entranced, listening to Father’s thorough voice, nurturing me toward understanding Christ’s absolute sufficiency and my absolute need. I sensed Him cutting through the intoxicating fog of my abilities, and somewhere in my inner recesses, His Spirit revealed my heart’s desire.

I realize this is a simple note in concept, but don’t stumble over it as I have for much of my life. If the enemy can entice us to endorse any supplement to the finished work of Christ, we thereby agree that Christ is less than sufficient.

The question stands. Christ alone, or Christ plus?

God has stated His terms. What are yours?