Jesus is Necessary, but is he Enough?1
All of us experience, at various times in life, what I call “defining moments.” I’m talking about those occasions when, much to our surprise, we discover some previously unknown truth about reality or about ourselves that is truly life-changing. I had one such “defining moment” on January 5th, 1976. Continue reading . . .
All of us experience, at various times in life, what I call “defining moments.” I’m talking about those occasions when, much to our surprise, we discover some previously unknown truth about reality or about ourselves that is truly life-changing. I had one such “defining moment” on January 5th, 1976.
I was in my third year at Dallas Theological Seminary and we had just a couple of weeks earlier moved into a new apartment complex. It was the dead of winter, well below freezing. Ann was asleep. I was up late, studying. Suddenly I heard the word “Fire!” echoing in the parking lot outside. I jumped out of my chair and ran outside, only to see my worst fears realized. A few doors down from ours, a fire was raging. I could see flames leaping out through the front door and the windows. We later learned that a lady had become enraged with her husband and decided to seek vengeance. She piled all his clothes and other belongings in the middle of the living room floor, doused them with lighter fluid, set it aflame, and then walked across the street and sat down on the curb to watch it burn.
My first reaction was to awaken Ann and get her out to safety. By the time she had escaped and we moved our cars away from any danger, the fire department had arrived and cordoned off the entire complex. Any hope of my running back in to salvage something has ended.
It was there in the parking lot, around midnight, that I learned an important and very painful lesson about myself. It was almost as if the flames that engulfed the apartments also served to shed a very uncomfortable light on my own soul. As I stood there, mourning what I anticipated would be the loss of all our earthly possessions, it suddenly struck me how attached I had become to material things. My sinful dependence on earthly stuff was exposed. If you had ever accused me, before that night, of being materialistic, I would have bristled with self-righteous denial. If you had suggested that my happiness was in any way suspended on having stuff, whether furniture or electrical appliances or clothes or TV’s or books, I would have laughed at you.
But as I stood there, close to freezing to death, I was suddenly shamed by the painful realization that my happiness was so closely tied up with what I owned.
Here’s my point. We frequently talk about the sole sufficiency of Christ, but I’m afraid that it is often little more than a religious cliché. Though I had often affirmed its truth and preached sermons on the topic, I never really knew that Jesus was enough until I was confronted with the fact that he was all I had left. Now, it actually wasn’t that bad. I still had Ann and we both had our health and good friends who stood by us. But in that one chilling moment in 1976 it suddenly dawned on me in a way it never had before: Jesus isn’t simply necessary; he’s also enough.
As things turned out, the fire was extinguished just as it reached our apartment. There was extensive smoke and water damage, but most of our possessions and most of my library were saved. Still, the lesson I learned that night has stayed with me. If I have Jesus, I have all I need. No material loss should ever pose a threat to who I am and what I have in Christ. No personal tragedy, no matter now painful or inconvenient, can separate me from the love that God has for me in Jesus.
I’m persuaded today more than ever that virtually every problem we create for ourselves is the product of a lie, a falsehood embedded deeply in our souls which says that some “thing” or some person other than Jesus Christ can quench the thirst in our hearts. We are by nature determined to make life work without him. St. Augustine famously spoke of a God-shaped vacuum in every heart, one which only God himself can fill. But we steadfastly refuse to believe it is true. We fervently try to stuff our souls and to fill that vacuum with anything that will make us feel full.
Jesus comes to us in the gospel with an invitation to sit at a feast and to glut ourselves with all the blessings of the kingdom of God and to drink of water that will forever quench our spiritually parched souls. But we persist in eating fast food and slaking our thirst at the shallow water wells of a fallen world. Our sinful flesh refuses to feed on Christ, leaving us painfully empty and ever more determined to find satisfaction in something or someone else. We stubbornly refuse to believe that Jesus is not only necessary, but that he is enough.
May God enable us each day not only to confess but to embrace and trust in the truth of what the psalmist said – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (Ps. 16:2).