“Christ’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” — 2 Peter 1:3
This verse is the cornerstone of Our Sufficiency in Christ by well-known author and pastor Dr. John MacArthur. In this work, he takes a biblical look at Christ’s sufficiency for every believer in every time. There are many philosophies in the world today that attack the sufficiency of Christ. Secular psychology is one belief system that has infiltrated the church and undermined this basic doctrine.
Many in the church don’t really believe that Christ has already granted us everything we need to live godly lives, turning instead to psychiatric medication and secular counseling. Some believe that the Bible is fallible and should be “updated” for our times, thus denying that God has given us all we need in its pages. Others contravene Christ’s sufficiency by studying techniques for spiritual warfare; they are convinced that unless they have a strategy in place, “Satan will have them for breakfast” (214), and Christ’s power alone is not enough to combat demons. What all these errors share is a basic disbelief in Christ’s perfect sufficiency.
MacArthur examines the tenets of modern psychology, which teach that if we can just dig deep enough, we can find the answers to our problems within ourselves. According to this belief system, people are inherently good but have been damaged by their experiences and environments. This directly contradicts the Bible’s teaching that we are totally depraved (not as bad as we could possibly be in every respect, but with our sin nature permeating every part of our being).
There are no answers deep down in our souls that just need patient digging to unearth; we need to look to something outside of ourselves. At its core, secular psychology is a flat contradiction to the Gospel. And yet many Christians have failed to realize this and have allowed secular ideas to dominate our thinking in this area.
In the chapter “Bible-Believing Doubters,” MacArthur discusses the tendency of many pastors and evangelists today to “dress up” the Gospel to make it more appealing and palatable to the average nonbeliever. While we should strive to present the Gospel as clearly as possible, we deny its sufficiency if we believe that our technique adds any power to it. MacArthur writes, “Christians who search beyond Scripture for ministry strategies inevitably end up opposing Christ’s work, albeit unwittingly… Scripture is the perfect blueprint for all true ministry, and those who build according to any other plan are erecting a structure that will be unacceptable to the Master Architect” (120).
MacArthur also discusses the closely related problem of religious hedonism, the use of gimmicks and glamor to make Christianity “relevant.” The effect of liberal theology on the church has been disastrous because it teaches that Scripture alone is not adequate. The seeker-sensitive movement is guilty of this heresy, because it fails to trust in God’s power to draw sinners to Himself. Instead, it relies on a pragmatic policy of marketing, in an attempt to lure people to services and events. But this idea is fatally flawed because it is based on human wisdom rather than God’s.
What you lure people with is what you’ll keep them with. Under all the advertising, the Gospel is shuffled aside or treated merely as an add-on, an app you can use (or not) to improve yourself. Pragmatism “has succumbed to the humanistic notion that man exists for his own satisfaction” (155).
As I slowly worked my way through this book, I was amazed at how often I unconsciously assume that what God has provided is not enough. “Oh, well, God’s provision doesn’t really cover THIS area” or “God is more concerned about this over here; He’s not really involved in that problem over there.” MacArthur doesn’t mince words and I appreciate his firmly biblical perspective on the issue.
It’s been very challenging and very necessary for me to be educated on this issue, basic as it may seem. I think the sufficiency of Christ and His Word is something many Christians would agree with, but don’t really define clearly enough to work it out practically in our everyday lives. We scrape by somehow, but futility is a hallmark of our lives. And yet we possess such riches in Christ!
This might be a weak illustration, but I finished this book while on vacation at the beach and while I was there, I felt the lack of some toiletries that I had planned not to pack because of space constraints. The night before we left, I was repacking and found the items I had been missing at the bottom of my bag! I had them with me all week, but in the hurry of getting everything together, I forgot that I did pack them after all. It reminded me of MacArthur’s oft-repeated thesis in this book: in Christ and His Word, the Christian has already everything he or she needs to live a godly life. We’ve had it the whole time — from the moment of salvation until forever. When we fail to believe and live this, we will always feel a lack. No secular wisdom can adequately address our needs.
I am not usually a proponent of blanket recommendations, but this is one book that I highly recommend to every Christian. Christ is sufficient! ( )Christ Esteem: Where the Search for Self-Esteem Ends War of Words »