Are We Satisfied Enough With Jesus?

All I have to offer people is Bible preaching about Jesus, unvarnished and plain.

There is so much change afoot in the Christian Church, especially here in the United States , even in conservative, Bible-believing circles. Old acquaintances seem to be jettisoning the old truths, or at least the old, unambiguous ways of expressing those old truths and talking in new ways. All this is so deeply troubling. It is simply incomprehensible to me that anyone who would profess to hold to the Reformed faith would deny any of the solas of the Reformation. Over the past year or so, I have frequently lamented my bewilderment to my wife. Her response has always been something like, “It just shows they’re not satisfied with Jesus.”

“What do you mean?” I asked the first time she said it.

“People sometimes get to a point where they aren’t happy simply in knowing Jesus. They’re not content. They want something more. So they go after something else, because they’re not satisfied with Jesus.” Not given to flights of loquacity, that’s what she said. So I sat and mulled her words and thought about the ecclesiastical world around me.

The huge Southern Baptist Church that moved from downtown to a vacant spot across the street a little over fifteen years ago just went through a thirteen million dollar expansion. They now have an upscale restaurant in their building. In their massive children’s section is a huge, McDonald’s-type, piece of playground equipment for children to climb in—it’s over two stories high and built inside of what looks like a child’s version of Noah’s Ark, complete with gigantic aquaria surrounding the entrances. I suppose that I can’t condemn having something like that if you can afford it, but it seems to be a parable for the programs of that church: different styles of Sunday worship, surrounded by a plethora of self-help groups, “Divorce Recovery” being a really effective one.

We recently lost a family to them—at least they went to another evangelical church. The father told me, “They’ve got a better children’s program.” Maybe they do, but I honestly believe that he was simply dazzled by that Ark —I know I was. Our church is dominated by cheaply constructed, wood-frame buildings where we house a K-12 Christian school. The church across the street is all brick.

Across town from us is the largest church in Central Louisiana , maybe the largest in the state—Bill Clinton made two pilgrimages to it while he was President. It’s a “Jesus Only,” Oneness, United Pentecostal church, where you’ve got to be baptized by immersion in Jesus’ name and speak in tongues in order to go to heaven. I understand that they have invested over a million dollars in their sound and light equipment.

How can we “compete” with all that? “How’re you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Par-ee?”

All I have to offer people is Bible preaching about Jesus, unvarnished and plain, trying faithfully to stick to the biblical text—Jesus, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, truly God and truly man, in one Person forever—Jesus, who lived a sinless life and died on the cross for our sins, once for all time, securing our salvation, taking away our sins and putting his own righteousness to our account—Jesus, our only hero, who conquered death and hell and rose from the dead—Jesus, whom we receive by faith alone as he’s offered in the gospel—Jesus, who by his Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the power to live for him.

People seem to want something more. They want bigger barns; they want to feel good about themselves and their circumstances. They want to go beyond Jesus.

Recently, I visited with the pastor of a really successful church, and he told me that they had well over ten thousand people attend at least one of their Easter weekend services. Talk about dazzling me!

I told this pastor about a small, two day pastors’ retreat that I had set up: it was going to be free, the food cost taken care of by another person, and held on a Mississippi plantation courtesy of one of our members. The guest speaker was going to be each of us sharing from the Scriptures. We would have time to ourselves . . . time to walk in the woods, read our Bibles and pray. Several days before the retreat all the pastors canceled, leaving just one other pastor and me to attend. So I called that pastor and told him we weren’t going to have it.

I asked the guru of success about this, and he told me, “You had nothing value added.”

“Value added?” I asked.

“Yes, you should have offered something extra, like chartering a large, deep sea fishing boat. Then nobody would have canceled.”

I wandered off, mulling his comments . . . if I’ve got to pay people to pray with me, I’d rather just pray with folks in my church and the handful of Black pastors that I meet with once a week. On a deep sea fishing trip, I’d be on my knees alright, seasick with my head over the side of the boat.

I don’t have anything more to offer than Jesus. People do come to Christ, and we’ve seen some marriages put back together and people get victory over alcohol and sexual problems . . . depression and bitterness, too . . . but many of those people had already been baptized, made professions of faith and were regular church attendees, even though a few came from outside the visible church. So I’ve pretty much always been embarrassed when I see our statistics compared with other churches.

I’m grateful for a college and seminary education and the ability to read the Bible in the original languages, but nobody is dazzled with my new insights and perspectives on anything. Other preachers don’t flock to sit at my feet and drink from my fountain of knowledge or learn the secrets of my success. I don’t preach with wall charts of Bible prophecy and current events in the Middle East . Nobody comes to me to learn how to become a millionaire. Everything that I ever say has been said better by somebody else; nothing’s original.

I’m not into liturgics, nor am I a movie critic; nobody invites me to lecture on history, and we don’t have an annual ball to pine away about bygone days. We’re not the local headquarters of the Christian Coalition. Our musicians are excellent, but we don’t produce CDs of our services. I sometimes say something funny in a sermon, but nobody is “slain” by laughter hysteria, and people don’t get gold dust in their hair or cavities filled during our prayer meetings.

I think that I understand what my wife said.

Bob Vincent