It is the key to Apple’s success and a good steak. It’s also the trick to a good cup of coffee. There is something right about keeping the main thing the main thing and not being distracted by complications. There is something beautiful about things that needs no supplements or add-ons.
Simplicity is also the key to the Christian life. Simply-put, the Christian life is all about Christ. Some have gone even farther to say Christianity is Christ; all that it means to know God and to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus.
This is no stretch. To say Christ is Christianity is not just a mystical or poetic way of saying the Christian life is all about Him. It is the case. After all, the Christian, by nature of being a Christian, is described as being, “in Christ.” This is the Apostle Paul’s favorite way to mark the Christian. Christ Himself, in John 17, explains that He is in the Father, that we are in Him, and that He is in us. (Jn. 14:20). And as if this weren’t clear enough, Paul writes in Colossians 3:4, “…when Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory.”
Christ is the Christian’s very life.
This is the mysterious reality of our union with Christ. Paul tells that the Colossian Christians are filled by Christ, in whose body the whole fullness of deity dwells. He writes on that they have His righteousness and will share in His resurrection (2:9-12). In this way, the person and work of Jesus Christ is not something external, or outside the Christian. Jesus is not only along-side the Christian, merely in support of the Christian. He is quite practically in us by His Spirit, vicariously represents us before the Father, and it is by His very life, death, and resurrection, we are saved and being saved.
Now, with all our union with Christ in mind, we consider the sufficiency of Christ for the Christian. In Colossians 2, Paul seems very upset about how unorthodox spiritual influences are leading the Colossian Christians astray. These false teachers do not appear to be denying Christ outright, rather they were tweaking and supplementing what had previously been taught them by Paul – simply Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). They were all-too-happy to add to the sufficient person and work of Christ just a bit of the wisdom of man (philosophy), a dash of high-pressure rule-keeping (legalism), a pinch of self-inflicted suffering and shame (asceticism), and for good measure, and a touch of dramatic religious experiences (mysticism).
The spiritual and theological discernment needed for this type of attack is quite real. He is all-sufficient, and to supplement what is self-sufficient is ultimately to subtract from it, to diminish it. Jesus plus anything more equal nothing at all. To gain even the smallest amount of merit or confidence in our salvation from these methods, is to make Christ of no advantage to you and to hollow the cross of all its saving power (1 Cor. 1:17, Gal. 5:2-4). Not only is accepting these teachings contrary to “holding fast to the head, which is Christ” (Col. 2:19a), it also just doesn’t work. The last thing legalism and asceticism do is “stop the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Instead, it only stirs up self-righteousness and guilt. And the last thing mysticism will foster in the Church is unity and maturity (2 Col. 2:19b). It only distracts and disappoints, all while leaving us dependent upon man, and not Christ.
To supplement what is self-sufficient is ultimately to subtract from it…
This is the same threat in Corinth with prompted the Apostle to write this: “I’m afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ…” (2 Cor. 11:3-4). Paul knew all they needed would be found in Christ - His person, His work, by His Spirit, and in His Word. There is nothing lacking in what it takes to be saved, forgiven and one day, raised. There is nothing in what it takes to compel a Christian to love and obey Christ. There is nothing lacking in the Christian in order for them to experience all the fullness of knowledge and wisdom as it relates to the spiritual life. With Christ there is neither room nor need for an emphasis on super-spiritual experiences, the dependence on our own moralism, or man-made traditions and methods.
Less is more. Christ, Himself, is enough; He is all-sufficient.
So, do you need wisdom? Go to Him in prayer, requesting more of the mind of Christ and the spirit of wisdom. Do you feel shame for sin and uncertain of your forgiveness, consider Christ’s sinless life and satisfactory sacrifice on the cross for your sins - past, present, and future. Do you desire super-natural proof that your faith is real and alive? Humbly survey your life for fruit of the Spirit of Christ (Gal. 5) – which is Christlikeness. You may also remember we are called to life by faith and not by sight. Do you sense a need for God to reveal more information to you? Consider the embarrassment of riches we have in the Word of Christ – which offers us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Tim. 3:15-17), not to mention, in Christ Himself – the height of God’s self-revelation (Heb. 1:1-2). May we simply grow deeper in the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) as we grow up more and more into Christ (Eph. 4:15-16).
Yours in Christ,