Christianity 201

October 3, 2020

How the Scriptures Describe Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
 – John 17:3

Twice previously we’ve visited the site AllAboutJesusChrist.org, an interdenominational evangelistic ministry located in New Mexico in the United States. Today’s devotional reading has no particular key scripture, but is simply an index so to speak of certain attributes of Jesus. You can then use BibleHub, or YouVersion or BibleGateway to look up the individual verses for yourself. Sometimes seeing things presented this way gets different people thinking in ways a typical devotional might not.

At the end is a link to another another article, Who Is Jesus? which is very much in keeping with the mandate for their site. Why not start by clicking the heading below; rather than reading here.

Biblical Description of Jesus

Biblical Description of Jesus – His Attributes
When we look at the biblical description of Jesus from God’s perspective the image is magnificent. What attributes does God use for the One He exalts to the highest place, who is given a name above every name, whereupon every knee in heaven and on and under the earth will bow?

  • With God in the Beginning (John 1:1-4; 17:5) – There was no point at which Christ suddenly came into being or began a relationship with God. Jesus is eternal.
  • Word made Flesh (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16) – Christ did not “appear” as a man, but humanity was added to His deity when He became “flesh.”
  • Image of the Invisible God (Colossians 1:15-17; John 1:17) – Christ is the perfect manifestation of God—the very substance and embodiment of the Creator.
  • Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6) – There is only one way to approach God—through the Son of Man who gave Himself as a ransom for mankind.
  • Head over All Things (Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28) – Christ’s name is not simply a title. It refers to His position of highest dignity and honor at the Father’s right hand.

Biblical Description of Jesus – His Self Examination
A biblical description of Jesus based on His own self-examination reflects practical, everyday concepts found in customs, nature, and life itself.

  • Light of the World (John 1:4-5; 9:5) – From the beginning, God desired to have a personal relationship with man, bringing him out of the darkness of evil, sin, and ignorance. Christ is the only true Light.
  • Anointed One (Luke 4:18-19; John 3:34) – Jesus confirmed that He was the Messiah who would bring the long promised Kingdom of God.
  • The Good Shepherd (John 10:14) – Jesus has an intimacy and personal interest in protecting His “sheep” from all harm.
  • Bread of Life (John 6:35, 51) – Jesus is an essential staple for our lives, providing an everlasting satisfaction.
  • Healer and Forgiver (Luke 5:22-25; Mark 2:5-11) – Forgiveness is always associated with God. Jesus has authority to heal broken lives—spiritually as well as physically.
  • The Way, the Truth, the Life (John 10:9, 14:6) – Access to God the Father, can come only from the One who is from the Father.
  • The Resurrection and Life (John 11:25-26) – Jesus, the Lord of Life, offers eternal life. With authority, He holds the keys of death (Revelation 1:17-18).

Biblical Description of Jesus – Life Altering
When He is personally experienced, the biblical description of Jesus is life-altering.

  • Son of David (Mark 10:47) – Blind Bartimaeus recognized Jesus as David’s descendant. The crowds proclaimed Jesus the designated Messiah-King (Matthew 21:8-9).
  • Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 8:16-17) – Our sins and weaknesses were not Jesus’, but ours. He bore them for us.
  • Sinless/Holy (Hebrews 7:26) – Jesus needed no sacrifice for Himself, rather offering Himself as a sacrificial Lamb for our impurities (Acts 8:32).
  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) – The prophet speaks of the Messiah who will bring to pass the time of millennial peace. Christ’s legacy was “peace with God” and the “peace of God” (John 14:27).
  • The Power and Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:2-3) – Paul understood that through Christ, knowledge is the acquisition of Truth and wisdom is Truth applied to life (John 10:9; 14:6).

A comprehensive biblical description of Jesus requires a glimpse into the eternal. At nearly 94, my father was blind and frail when he passed away. A final smile rested upon his lips. But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives . . . and after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! (Job 19:25–27).

Learn More!

August 6, 2015

Is Jesus a Person or Just an Idea?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death – Phil 3:10

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” – John 14:9

Today we’re going to do something we don’t normally do — we have “six month” rule — and spend a second day at the website GCD (Gospel-Centered Discipleship) and this time around the featured writer is Portland, OR pastor and author Brad Watson. To read this at source, click the title below.

The Scandal of Jesus

Despite the talk about the biblical gospel of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, we rarely stop to take in, reflect, or meditate on the life, character, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Christianity is nothing without Christ, yet we often rely on second or third hand descriptions of Jesus from books, blogs, preachers, movies, and music. All of these things are helpful and involved people using their gifts to make Jesus clear. However, at some point, to get to know Jesus and understand his message, you have to go to the source and read a Gospel account. Why? Because Jesus is God manifest in human form (Col 1). The fullness of God dwelt in him. He is the Conqueror of Sin, Author of Salvation, Giver of Life, Rescuer from Darkness, and Initiator and Sustainer of All Creation.

Jesus is not an idea but a person. A person who lived, spoke, acted, befriended, rebuked, and made the intentions of God’s love clear. What did he do, what did he say, how did he teach us to be restored humans, and how do you worship and follow him? The answers to those questions are scandalous because he is not a contestant in the competition to be your best friend, but he is claiming and proving himself to be fully God. He is not simply the center of a worldview but God. He is not the example for effective discipleship only, but he is the Savior of the World who descended from heaven into the world.

Making Jesus in Our Own Image

For many years I was content with my favorite stories of Jesus: walking on water and the feeding the thousands. I also had a choice selection of teachings: the beatitudes, the great commission, loving your enemies, and the cost of discipleship. Lastly, I had my favorite parables he told: the prodigal son, the soils, the good Samaritan, and the wedding feast. These weren’t just my favorites; they were my entire playlist.

In the end, I chose to make Jesus into who I wanted him to be. I didn’t take in the whole of his life or his teaching, but the bits and parts that appealed to me most. To me Jesus was the collision of my preferences. He oddly, approved of my political, economic, ministerial, and personal preferences. Jesus had my personality even. Journeying through life proved my Jesus wasn’t enough for me or the world I inhabit. The Jesus I had fashioned was too small.

Making Jesus Our Method

Then, I began to read the Gospels to discover the best way to be a Christian and make other Christians—which is a noble task but not the primary task of reading a Gospel. I wanted the best practices, techniques, and tools for making disciples. I didn’t read them to follow Jesus myself. Stop reading the Gospels to figure out how to “make disciples for Jesus” read it to “be a disciple of Jesus.” That’s when you will make disciple of Jesus.

I realized I was quoting Jesus as a proof for my model of ministry and not worshiping and wondering at God incarnate. The Gospels are theology and story—not pragmatics. It is the most captivating true story about what God is like, what he does, and what he wants for us. The story of Jesus unfolds in our mind as our story. We long to be reminded of our God’s most visible moment. This story changes what we believe, who we are, and the world we live in. The Gospels are not “how-to manuals.” They are theology and story.

You can’t use Jesus to perfect a method. The only effective discipleship models come first from beholding Christ and only then walking humbly in stride with him and the way he loved the Father, submitted to the Spirit, and loved neighbor. The point of the Gospels is not that Jesus chose twelve guys and spent a lot time with them. The point is the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdoms of this world through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus is the point of the Gospels.

I didn’t know Jesus because I hadn’t tried. I tried to find myself in Jesus (as the hero playing his role), instead of finding God in Jesus. I tried to use Jesus for my purposes, not to glorify him in wonder and worship. I had avoided confrontation with Jesus and it had left me the same. I yearned for transformation in the midst of the holy God who was pleased to dwell as a man on earth.

This month GCD is committing the majority of our articles to the endeavor of knowing Jesus through the Gospel of Mathew. We hope you will join us in the wonder, bewilderment, conflict, and challenge of knowing Jesus.

How to Join Us in This Journey

Read the Gospel of Matthew. One of the reasons Jesus’ life ends up feeling like a random collection of anecdotes and one liners is we rarely read through it all together. We may have done so in our early days of faith but have since neglected it. We invite you to spend August reading the Gospel of Matthew. Read a chapter a day. As you read, contemplate the passage. Here are some helpful questions:

  • What is Jesus saying or doing?
  • What does that say about his character?
  • How are people reacting to him? How does that expose your reaction to Jesus? How would your friend who doesn’t believe in Jesus respond to this?
  • How is Jesus proving to be the true humanity? The true Prophet? The true Priest? The true King?
  • What is most challenging about Jesus?

Pray the Gospel of Mathew. Practice Lectio Divina, Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest.

What We Pray and Anticipate Will Happen

You will encounter the scandal of Jesus not being who you want him to be. You will find that Jesus is not a warm cuddly lovable loser. Instead you will discover he is the Prophet who says: This is the truth. You will find that Jesus is not an all accepting cuddly bear. Instead you will discover that he’s the King who says: This is true humanity. You will find that Jesus is not just a philosopher of good ideas on the ideals of life but someone who says: Love looks like and does this. You will find Jesus as the Priest who says: Access to God is closed, but I will make a way to usher you into unity with God. Lastly, there’s the scandal that Jesus is God. You will find a holy, completely other, Jesus.

November 11, 2014

Not the Benefits, But Christ Himself

Several years ago I remember hearing someone say, “The gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit himself.” Yes, it would be nice to be able to share some of the flashy, supernatural spiritual gifts with people and be able to speak words into their lives with insight you could never come by naturally, or be able to lay hands on people and see dramatic physical healing; but in the end, the gift of the Holy Spirit available to everyone is the Spirit’s presence and direction in our lives.

The Message translation of I Corinthians 13:1-4 reads like this:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

In other words,

  • I can be the best speaker
  • I can be the deepest theologian
  • I can be the most powerful intercessor
  • I can be the most generous philanthropist
  • I can be the most noble martyr

but my attitude is terrible it doesn’t matter; and if gifts as powerful as the ones above can be trumped simply by being love-less, then by comparison those gifts aren’t worth a whole lot.

Sunday night I read the very short booklet containing the text of a message given by A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination, simply titled Himself. This was also the title of a hymn that Simpson wrote that is somewhat unknown outside C&MA circles:

HIMSELF
  by A. B. Simpson
Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once ’twas painful trying, Now ’tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once ’twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

Once ’twas busy planning, Now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once ’twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking, Now ’tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.

 

The language is now outdated, but you can read the whole text of the message here. (It’s not very long.)

In the hymn above, Simpson summarizes all the things he was seeking after:

  • blessing
  • feeling
  • gifts
  • healing
  • power

and the means he sought to get those things:

  • striving
  • planning
  • working
  • pleading

and what all this left him with:

  • a half salvation
  • anxiety
  • self-centeredness
  • a dying faith

until he saw that the greatest benefit was having Christ Himself:

  • the Lord
  • His word
  • His care
  • perfect trust
  • security
  • peace

Categorically, there is nothing to add to that!

Amplifed Bible – Philippians 3:10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

 

 

September 9, 2013

Truly Knowing Jesus

Several months ago I reconnected here with the teaching of Gordon Rumford, a man I got to hear speak many times when I lived in Toronto, Canada. His devotional blog is a lot like this one, and I couldn’t resist going back there again today for this post, which was titled How to Really Know Jesus.


“…and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure,
they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive
in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:7-8 (NIV)

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One of the best kept secrets of the Christian faith is how to learn more about our Saviour. Here in 2 Peter 1 the apostle is encouraging his readers to build on their faith a number of things including, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. That is a tall order and obviously requires significant effort.

However, the prize to be won by paying attention to these things is “your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. So if you wish to really know Jesus you must do more, not less, than read your Bible, listen to sermons, talk to other Christians—and the other excellent things we mentioned in yesterday’s devotional. So, proper Christian behaviour leads to knowing Jesus better.

At first glance this looks like a formidable task. However, some of these things the Lord is working into our hearts and lives to help us grow in grace and the knowledge of Himself. As Paul said in Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act
in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

For example it says in Romans 5:5 (NIV)

“And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So we find ourselves becoming more loving toward the Lord and one another through the great love God implants into our hearts.

Love for God and one another then is both natural (we are made into loving people by the new birth) and nurtured (we deliberately behave more lovingly toward each other). As it says in 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

As we grow in the areas Peter describes in this passage (2 Peter 1:5-11) we become more confident Christians. In 2 Peter 1:10-11 the promise is that we will not stumble in this life and we shall receive a great welcome into the eternal presence of the Lord.

July 11, 2012

Build, Pray, Love, Look

I’m currently reading one of a number of “never before published” books based on the writing of A. W. Tozer.  This one is titled The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy, released this year by Regal (Gospel Light). In Chapter 3, he speaks about having a wrong concept about God himself.

If you do not have a right concept of God, of yourself and of sin, you will have a twisted and imperfect concept of Christ. It is my honest and charitable conviction that the Christ of the average religionist today is not the Christ of the Bible. It is a distorted image — a manufactured, painted on canvas, drawn from cheap theology Christ of the liberal, and the soft and timid person. This Christ has nothing of the iron and fury and anger, as well as the love and grace and mercy that He had, who walked in Galilee.

If I have a low concept of God, I will have a low concept of myself, and if I have a low conception of myself, I will have a dangerous concept of sin. If I have a dangerous concept of sin, I will have a degraded concept of Christ. Here is the way it works: God is reduced; man is degraded; sin is underestimated; and Christ is disparaged.

Does this mean we must be tolerant? Actually, men are tolerant only with the important things. What would happen to a tolerant scientist or a tolerant navigator? The liberal religionist simply admits he does not consider spiritual things as vital.

No wonder Jude said the terrible things he said in his epistle to the Church. I recommend you read the book of Jude

…We are not called to always show a smile. Sometimes we are called to frown and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. We must contend for but not be contentious. We must preserve truth but injure no man. We must destroy error without harming people…

A Call to Remain Faithful

(NLT) Jude 1:17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

…Now He’s come to His own — true believers in God and in Christ. And then He gives them four things to do:

  1. Build up — “building up yourselves on your most holy faith…” (v. 20) Do you have a Bible, and do you study it? Have you read a book of the Bible through recently? Have you done any memorization of Scripture? Have you sought to know God or are you looking to the secular media for your religion? Build up yourselves on your most holy faith.
  2. Pray — “praying in the Holy Ghost” (v. 20) I do not hesitate to say that most praying is not in the Holy Spirit. The reason is that we do not have the Holy Spirit in us. No man can pray in the Spirit except his heart is a habitation for the Spirit. It is only as the Holy Spirit has unlimited sway within you that you are able to pray in the Spirit. Five minutes of prayer in the Holy Spirit will be worth more than one year of hit-and-miss praying if it is not in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Love — “keep yourselves in the love of God…” (v. 21) Be true to the faith, but be charitable to those who are in error. Never feel contempt for anybody. No Christian has any right to feel contempt, for it is an emotion that can only come out of pride. Let us never allow contempt to rule us; let us be charitable and loving toward all while we keep ourselves in the love of God.
  4. Look — “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (v. 21) Let us look for Jesus Christ’s coming — for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. Isn’t it wonderful that His mercy will show forth at His coming? His mercy will show itself then, as it did on the cross; as it does in receiving sinners; as it does in patiently looking after us. And it will show itself at the coming of Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

~A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith pp. 44-46

(scripture text added)

January 22, 2011

Captivated By A Person

Peter Mead is full-time with Operation Mobilization in the UK.  He blogs at Biblical Preaching where this article appeared this week under the title, Shine the Light on the Core Issue

It struck me afresh recently that many in our churches may be missing a very crucial element of Christianity.

They know the answers, they’ve prayed the prayer, they go to church, they live good lives, they may even witness (or they know that they should), they have grown to enjoy Christian gatherings, they see the emptiness of the world’s alternatives, they can explain the gospel, they look the part, they serve the church, they teach the children, they give to the collection, they make sacrificial decisions, they pray and they mean it and on it goes.  So much Christianity wrapped up in one life, but yet, what is missing?

Christ.

Christianity is not religion, nor is it ecclesiology, nor is it church participation, nor moral and ethical living, nor family tradition, nor schedule commitments, nor participation in a social gathering, nor any number of other things people seem to make it.  Christianity is about being in relationship with Christ.

When I first met my future wife and then returned home to England I spoke about her to folks here.  I remember one particular conversation.  I was enthusing about the person who I thought I might actually get to marry.  He was melancholic about the whole concept of relationships.  I shared information about her.  He shared complaints about the whole structure of dating and courting and marriage in his experience.  I talked about her.  He had yet more to say about the “institution” of romance.

I suppose you could observe that we were talking about the same thing.  The difference was that I was captivated by a person, he was not.

I wonder how many in the church today are ticking the boxes and we all assume they are safely in the family of God, but actually they are not.  One of the most overlooked verses in all of Scripture is in I Cor.16 where Paul states that “if any man does not love Christ, he is accursed.”  Perhaps we should be far slower to assume people are already born again based on the indicators of their confession, conduct and church participation.  Perhaps we should be looking for that delight that comes only from someone who knows someone special.  And perhaps in our preaching we should look for ways to shine the light of the Word beyond the peripheral issues, through the created “christian” structures that people hold to be their faith, and show the empty place where Christ should be captivating the heart and changing everything from the inside out.

– Peter Mead

Peter’s current product involves giving leadership to Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training programme lasting five months involving  studying together during the week, then participating in ministry together during the weekends.  For further information about Cor Deo, either to pray for the ministry, or to find out more about participating, the Cor Deo website is www.cordeo.org.uk.