The Sufficiency of Christ
In his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote about this mythical letter from the demon Screwtape to his apprentice, Wormwood, who was attempting to keep a Christian belie
ver from practicing biblical Christianity. In one of his letters he wrote:
My Dear Wormwood,
The trouble about the set (beginning) your patient is living in is that it is merely Christianity. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of “Christianity And,” . . . . If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some fashion with a Christian colouring. . . .
Your affectionate uncle,
C.S. Lewis exposed in his allegory one of Satan’s clever strategies against the Church . . . that Christ alone is not adequate for His people. The devil started in the Garden of Eden convincing Eve that what God said was not the truth, and then substituted God’s truth with a lie. The devil has continued this strategy by convincing many believers that what they really need is “Christ And.” His scheme of Christ plus something has been pervasive in the contemporary church and has opened the door to a flood of man-centered philosophies that include Christ plus psychology, Christ plus spiritual mysticism, Christ plus emotional healing, Christ plus self-esteem, Christ plus knowledge, Christ plus church growth strategies, etc. There is no such thing as “Christ And.”
We frequently talk about Christ being all-sufficient, but I fear that it has become little more than a theological cliche. We live in a world that constantly bombards us with alternative belief systems that preach that something or someone other than Jesus Christ can quench the thirst of our souls.
The cover article in the December 22, 2003 issue of TIME magazine, “The Lost Gospels,” describes the popular rise in early non-canonical books such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Gospel of Peter, and the Gospel of Mary. Marcus Borg, author of The Heart of Christianity says, “There’s a lot of interest in early Christian diversity because many people who have left the church, and some who are still in it, are looking for another way of being Christian.” The TIME article states that Princeton professor, Elaine Pagel, claims to have found a Christianity less keyed to make-or-break beliefs like the virgin birth or even Christ’s divinity and more accepting of salvation through ongoing spiritual experiences.
We are told in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
We need to realize that all we need is Christ. Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Something in this man enabled him to experience spiritual contentment and strength in the midst of indescribable tragic circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 he described what his ministry for the sake of the gospel had entailed: imprisonment, floggings, beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks; danger from rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles and false brothers; hunger and thirst, days and nights without sleep. Yet, he was able to say, “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 so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
To keep Paul from exalting himself, God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him.” Paul entreated God three times to take it from him. God’s answer was not what Paul had asked for, but was what Paul needed. God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul’s response was that he would rather boast about his weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in him. Is that the response we have when faced with uncertain circumstances? Is the primary focus in our life to be empowered by Christ?
This ability was not something Paul was born with, it had to be learned as he grew in grace and knowledge of his Lord. It was the result of a long and painful process during which Paul somehow weaned himself from reliance on anything or anyone else. He learned the lesson that, Jesus is enough! Either you believe in the adequacy of Jesus Christ or you don’t. Paul did, and it made all the difference in the world in how he dealt with defeat and rejection and how he coped with what the world threw his way.
Spiritual leaders must once again embrace the sufficiency of Christ and call their people back to it. Christians must covenant with God to be men and women of the Word, finding their resources there and applying them to every aspect of their lives. You’ll never know what the Word can do if you don’t study and apply it. It isn’t simply enough to say you believe it. It must occupy an exalted place in your life. Since God Himself exalts it and magnifies it (Ps. 138:2).
We must hold fast to Christ’s sufficiency. Never adding to it or taking from it. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). In Him dwells all the fullness of deity in bodily form (2:9). We have been made complete in Him (2:10). And nothing can ever separate us from Him (Romans 8:35-39). Christ is Sufficient!