Jesus Plus Nothing!

My good friend Tim Timmons has a new book out – Jesus Plus Nothing. Fresh. Insightful. Provocative. That’s why I like it.  Here’s his recent blog about one of the takeaways of this great book. Read it carefully….



One of the top takeaways from my new book JESUS PLUS NOTHING stirs up so much emotional response. In other words, there is more heat than light at first. It’s tough enough to separate Jesus from Christian ownership. Now, this insight sounds even more foreign and out of bounds from what we’ve been taught.   No matter how much evidence is offered or how many people are produced from non-Christian cultures who are followers of Jesus, it’s still stifling to the brain.

A little over a year ago about 60 of us participated in the Montana Awakening. We were spread all over the state, sharing the message of Jesus.    I was teamed up with a Muslim friend of mine who loves Jesus and has been faithfully following Jesus for years. My friend is more articulate and genuine in his relationship with Jesus than most Christians I’ve known for years. On our first night in Montana, we were scheduled to speak along with a couple of others from Germany. I began, setting the stage for my Muslim friend’s testimony of how he had come to follow Jesus. Then he would speak and I closed out our session.    Well-meaning Christians bombarded us afterward, vehemently and angrily arguing with my friend and me that it is impossible for a Muslim to be a true follower of Jesus. It was just unthinkable!

The same attitude is found among the early disciples in Luke 9, where John says to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” You see how it works? It’s unthinkable that anyone who is not one of us-one of our group-could possibly have a right connection with Jesus.    In John 10 Jesus tries to instruct His disciples that He has other disciples who do not belong to His disciples’ same denomination. He says, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” Whoever Jesus is talking about, these other sheep are not from the same religious and cultural persuasion as His disciples.    In the final book of the New Testament-Revelation-there is reference to “A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne” of Jesus. (Revelation 7)    NOTE the common theme of these passages. There is no reference to any certain religious group, but it’s clear that God is calling people from every nation, every tribe and every language group.

So, how is it possible for a non-Christian-a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew or agnostic-to come to the point of being a follower of Jesus and have a genuine saving relationship with Jesus?    I’ve observed it in three stages. First-a person is drawn to Jesus because of His miracles, His teachings. At this stage a person is fascinated with the most amazing man, Jesus. He’s a great teacher and a great example.    Second-after following Jesus for a period of time, a person begins to embrace Jesus’ principles and teachings. The principles begin to make more and more sense, so the person who has merely been fascinated with Jesus now begins to take Jesus seriously.    Third-after continuing to follow Jesus and embrace His teachings and principles, this is when Jesus begins to transform a person’s life. If an internal change or conversion is going to take place, then it will happen at this level of progression.

This progression is perfectly illustrated in Jesus’ encounter with Peter at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers by saying, “You are God’s Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus strokes Peter for giving such a good answer, but says, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal that to you.” Only the Father could reveal this kind of thing to Peter. Only God can change a person’s heart. No amount of teachings or belief systems can do this.    Here’s the way I see it. You don’t have to believe Jesus is the Son of God to begin to follow Jesus. The disciples didn’t! In fact, they weren’t even genuine “believers”, until later. It took them over three years of following Jesus daily for God, the Father, to change their hearts and minds of faith.    When a person begins to follow Jesus, he is set up perfectly to have his heart totally converted-transformed by God Himself. We’ve seen this happen in every major culture of the world. They first are attracted to Jesus as a great teacher or example and later Jesus apprehends their hearts.    One more thing. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a follower of Jesus either. Here’s the point! Anyone anywhere can begin to follow Jesus.

Follow Tim’s thoughts at:


  1. mikesoderstrom says:

    I completely agree that Jesus didn’t set up a religion that we have to follow, and that certainly Christianity does not own Jesus.

    But if a Muslim is following Jesus but doesn’t believe He died and was resurrected…then what? Is he a brother if he doesn’t believe Jesus is God’s son? Will is life begin to transform before he believes this, or after?
    The salvation question is impossible for us to know, but I’m just curious what a typical experience is for a non-Christian rooted Jesus follower.

  2. Col says:

    Certainly there is always a process in conversion, a person becomes interested in Jesus, learns more, the Holy Spirit is at work drawing them, and they reach a point where they are saved. Where they acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, where they ask him to be their Lord. At this point, they are forgiven, born again, filled with the Spirit. And at this point, they become a Christian. They want to meet with others who know Jesus as God, they want to worship him. At this point, they also cease to be agnostics, for they know God, cease to be Buddhists, for they know the only true God, and have turned from idols, they cease to be Muslims, for they know Jesus is God’s son, who died for them. They have eternal life, joy, peace and they never had those in their old futile lives. Why would they want to remain in the tombs when they have new life???

    1. mikesoderstrom says:

      I’m with you except for the part where they become a Christian. Being a Christian adds so much on to being born again, filled with the Spirit, and acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
      Can a person do those things and not be a Christian? Yes.

      My main question is:
      Can a person do those things and but still consider himself a Muslim/Buddhist/etc.? I would doubt so religiously, but maybe culturally?

      1. Col says:

        Hi there,
        According to Acts 11:2626 “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Disciples, those who follow Jesus. King Agrippa knew the name, and realised Paul wanted him to become a Christian. Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

        Peter thought it was everything to bear the name of Christ; 1 Peter 4:16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

        Certainly, there are many who bear the name who bring us shame, but God already knew this. Romans 2:24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” It is still an unbelievable privilege to bear the name of Christian, its what the disciples of Jesus are called.

        1. mikesoderstrom says:

          I wasn’t disputing that a Christian is a disciple of Jesus. I was disputing that anyone who wants to make Jesus their Lord has to have the title of Christian.
          Not everyone wants to be associated with the last 2,000 years of Christian history that has made the term Christian mean something else than a Disciple of Jesus, in the eyes of the world.

  3. Col says:

    I can agree to an extent, hence the “because of you my name is blasphemed among the Gentiles” reference, but I cant see any good alternative –
    A. because saying “Im not a Christian, Im a follower of Jesus” just sounds pedantic, and like you are another denomination, and
    B. while I loath much Church history, yet I am forced to admit that there were also many, many sincere believers who did their best to follow Jesus. I do not want to disown them, just as I hope I am not disowned by others for my shortfallings. I remain happily committed to the body of Jesus, which is the church, flaws and imperfect members included. I also know that people from other religions who become Christians are delighted to belong to the world-wide body of Jesus. I worship with Ethiopians, Japanese, Irish, Australians and Brazilian Christians, with a wonderful unity.
    God bless,

    1. mikesoderstrom says:

      A. It might sound like that, but that’s not the purpose. The point is that some only want to be associated with Jesus, not by their title, but by their actions and words. If someone says, “That person is a Christian” it no longer means the same as “That person follows Jesus.” It’s not a new title, it’s just a description. Christian can be used to describe a person that follows Jesus, but it almost always includes the connotation of being a white conservative American, the crusades, witch hunts, church buildings, or whatever. Which leads to…
      B. If we own all of Church history as Christian, when we ask someone else to become a Christian, we are asking them to own it too. And that is too much for some, and it becomes a barrier to Jesus. The question is, Is our ownership of Church History worth the barrier that keeps people from coming to Jesus? Can they have Jesus without owning all of Church History? I would say say so, because Jesus never mentions Christianity or ever indicates any motive to create a new religion to replace Judaism. It was never about religion, it was just about Himself being the path to God.

      1. Col says:

        Again, I understand what you are saying. Still, when someone hears the gospel at beach mission or somehow, responds with love to god’s gift of Jesus, and, as they would say it, “becomes a Christian”, how relevant are the dark corners of church history? They want to read their Bible, join with others who know Jesus, worship, tell others about Him etc. And a good local church is where this happens. We all love Jesus, are trying to follow him, and know we make mistakes doing so, but I still know dozens of live, keen churches it is a pleasure to worship with. They also send folk overseas to tell others about Jesus, and they also then worship, read their Bibles , tell others etc. This is what the church is, it is the body of Jesus.

        1. mikesoderstrom says:

          You’re describing the American experience. The same is not true for other places in the world. To a Muslim, church history is extremely relevant and is enough to make them not ‘become a Christian’ and even want to seriously harm you, not because you love Jesus, but because your church’s history is responsible for the crusades.
          Limiting the actions of following Jesus to the local church restricts church to a mere place instead of it being our identity. It’s not about the place or building, it’s all about the people.

          1. Col says:

            Hi again,
            I think you are stating the “official” Moslem position, not that of average folk who live in those lands. As a protestant (Baptist) my denomination had zero role in the crusades, and Baptists were also killed by the official Catholic church. People who become Christians in Moslem lands know the reality and wonder of the risen Lord, have a joy, peace and happiness that cannot be explained, and attract others to Jesus as a result.

  4. daryl says:

    One could argue this is more like Jesus PLUS anything rather than Jesus PLUS nothing. Being a Muslim follower of Jesus sounds like Jesus + Islam just like a Christian could be considered Jesus + Christianity.

    1. mikesoderstrom says:

      I’m not sure if that’s what the author is describing, but if it is, I think he’s wrong. Well, I’m fairly certain he’s arguing for Jesus without Christianity, but I’m not sure about his stance on Jesus and the religion of Islam.

      I think the goal is to get to a point where we can see that Jesus’ intention wasn’t to change Judaism into a new religion called Christianity centered around Himself. The only good part of Christianity is Jesus Himself and His Body, so why do we need the rest of the religion?

      1. Col says:

        Jesus did say he would build his church, did give us baptism and the Lord’s supper, taught us how to pray, Paul told Titus to appoint elders in every town, we are told to meet together regularly, to teach sound doctrine etc. This sure sounds like a religion to me. A place where we teach, worship, praise. pray, encourage one another, learn sound doctrine conduct baptisms, share the Lord’s supper – sounds like a pretty good place to be!

        1. mikesoderstrom says:

          So, do you think everything they had in mind when Jesus and Paul said those things matches exactly to what we do today?
          That when Jesus said he would build his church he meant a physical building? Or that the “Lord’s Supper” would be passed around in gold plates with bits of crackers and grape juice? That prayer is reciting some memorized phrases? And by Elders Paul meant paid ministers that serve as a vocation, on a condition that they get paid to do it? When we meet regularly it has to be at a building on Sunday morning? That to teach sound doctrine we have to go to Bible College first?
          You’re right, that does sound like religion. But religion is not what Jesus had in mind.

          What if instead of instead of an actual building, Jesus meant a community (which is actually the meaning of the word he used, ekklesia). And for communion Jesus meant an actual Supper for the purpose of ‘community’ to talk about Jesus, kinda like what Paul talks about in his letters to Corinth. And that prayer isn’t limited to phrases or quiet time, but a constant communication and awareness of the Spirit. Maybe Elders don’t have to be paid ministers, but they can actually be the older people in the church sharing their wisdom with the younger people. And if their vocation is sacrificed for the sake of teaching, the church can then give them paid support (like what the Bible teaches). Meeting regularly doesn’t have to be a structured system on Sunday mornings. Anytime Believers come together is special, and can be a time for communion and building each other up. And since they didn’t have Bible Colleges back then, how did they ever get sound doctrine? Maybe by families passing down their teaching, and church communities holding them accountable. That sounds a lot better (and cheaper) than sending people to Bible College.

  5. Bob Wheeler says:

    The New Testament church was a lot different from what we know today, and yet it was not the unorganized community Mike describes. It did have officers, ordinances, doctrine, and discipline. One of the more interesting modern attempts to revive the primitive form of Christianity is the Plymouth Brethren assemblies.

    1. mikesoderstrom says:

      I think the effort to return to “Primitive” Christianity is also missing the point. Did the early Christians have a secret model of how to do church that if we could only discover it, we would suddenly be awesome Christians?

      I think what the early church did so good was that they focused on being like Jesus. If we should take anything from them, it’s not following a certain model, but trying to just be like Jesus. The point is not to be like the early church, because the early church wasn’t trying to be like the early church.

  6. Col says:

    Hi, the conversation seems to have drifted. Now we shouldn’t be called Christians because churches are a bit more structured than we might like? This is a disappointing, shallow and superficial thought. I prefer very little “pomp” in a church service, but have been greatly blessed by an Anglican church, which had a fair bit of pomp, because the people and pastor loved Jesus. The externals really arnt that significant, if you love Jesus and love the Bible!

  7. mikesoderstrom says:

    No, we shouldn’t be called Christians because our identity is no longer associated with Jesus, but rather whatever “structure” , denomination, or tradition we prefer on Sunday morning. Jesus is in there somewhere, but there is a whole lot added on.

    About the Baptists role in the crusades…
    Does it matter to most Christians whether the Muslims on 9/11 were Sunni or Shi’ite? Will it matter to Christians 400 years from now? No. They will remember that it was in the name of Muhammed and Islam.

    It doesn’t matter to a Muslim that your denomination had nothing to do with it. You’re in Christianity.

    The point is, whether it’s the crusades or something else in church history, when you ask someone to take on the name “Christian” you are creating a barrier for them that shouldn’t be there, because Jesus never made following Him conditional under the religion of Christianity.