Who Is Jesus is an entire category of posts on this blog. Those posts, to this point, have been my and others thoughts of who Jesus is based on the truth of scriptures. The following is from the first post that I published in the Who Is Jesus blog category.
The Bible attributes many different names and titles to Jesus. All of the 200 or so names and titles give us insight into His character and Who He really is. I’m not going to attempt to list them all here but I do want you give you those that I believe are some of the more important ones related to His work on earth on our behalf.
Author and Perfecter of our Faith
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Bread of Life
John 6:35, 48 (NKJV) And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 48 I am the bread of life.
John 15:15 (HCSB) I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
John 10:11, 14-15 (HCSB)11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me,15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.
Hebrews 2:17 (HCSB) Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1 Timothy 2:5 (HCSB) For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human,
Hebrews 8:6 (HCSB) But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (HCSB)1 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.3 They all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.
John 15:1-5 (HCSB)1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
The Faithful Witness
Jesus came reveal the character and ways of His Father . The miracles He performed proved that He is the Son of God.
John 14:9 (HCSB) Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
First Born From the Dead
Colossians 1:18 (HCSB) He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
Jesus raises men to power and He is the one who removes them. This is what Jesus told Pilate who was the representative of Rome the most powerful empire in the world at that time.
John 19:11 (HCSB) “You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.”
John 1:1 (HCSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All these names and titles describe the person who also claimed that he was the only way to heaven and eternal life.
John 14:6 (HCSB) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Did Jesus Claim to be the Only Way to Heaven?
Charles Stanley (Scripture references mine)
One of the best ways to understand someone is to find out what he thinks about himself. Jesus said many, many things about who He was -- He said that He is the Son of god,, that He and the Father are one,, and that the Father is the One who sent Him.
Matthew 16:16-17 (HCSB)Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! ” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.
John 10:30 (HCSB) The Father and I are one.”
John 5:37 (HCSB) The Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me. You have not heard His voice at any time, and you haven’t seen His form.
He also announced that He did not come to be served, but to serve and that He came to give His life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:28 (HCSB) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.”
He came as a substitute payment in behalf of humanity. He agreed with His accusers when they called Him "King of the Jews." His "I am" statements from the book of John reveal that He claimed to be the Good Shepherd who loves the sheep, the Bread of Life who can prevent hunger, and the True Vine who abides in us as we abide in Him.
(John 10:11 HCSB) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 6:48 (*HCSB)I am the bread of life.
“John 15:1 (HCSB)I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.
Jesus also said He was the Door to Heaven
John 10:9 (HCSB) I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
In John 14:6, He expanded on that thought: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." That statement has caused many people to back away, thinking, What a bigoted, egotistical statement! How narrow-minded to think that the only way to Heaven is through the person of Jesus Christ. And yet, this man called Jesus is exactly who He says He is. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life. He's the way, the truth, and the very life itself. Because, you see, in order for us to have eternal life, we must receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.
Now, if you believe all the other things Jesus said, but decide He can't be the only way to Heaven, then you are saying He told partial truths or lies. You can't have it both ways. Either Jesus is who He says He is, or He is not. So you cannot say, "Jesus is a good man, a wonderful teacher, an effective preacher, a great healer, philosopher, and humanitarian, BUT..." Whenever your belief in Christ's validity has caveats, you make Him a liar. When it comes to all that He said about Himself, either He is a counterfeit and a fraud, or He is exactly who He says He is--the eternal Son of the living God, the Savior of the world, and the One who will someday judge each one of us.
Excerpted from "What Difference Does It Make Who Jesus is?" by In Touch Ministries (used by permission).
Last year I published the post “Jesus Is God”. In it I wrote that there are 200 or so names and titles that give us insight into Jesus’ character. I said that we Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah who was promised by God. The Old Testament tells us that the Messiah is God.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ASV)5 Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness.
Isaiah 9:6 (ASV)6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus Said That He Is God
I know that many people say that Jesus never claimed to be God. It’s true that scripture never records Jesus as saying the specific words “I Am God”, but that doesn’t mean the He didn’t proclaim Himself to be God.
John 10:25-30 (HCSB)25 “I did tell you and you don’t believe,” Jesus answered them. “The works that I do in My Father’s name testify about Me.26 But you don’t believe because you are not My sheep.27 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.30 The Father and I are one.” (Bold mine)
When Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one nature and essence. (the word one is not masculine—one person—but neuter, oneness of being).- The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
The Jewish leaders knew exactly what He was saying. He was saying that He is equal to God. Matter of fact, He was saying that He IS God. They knew that’s what He was claiming to be and they intended to kill Him for it.
John 10:31-33 (HCSB)31 Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him.32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. Which of these works are you stoning Me for?”33 “We aren’t stoning You for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God.”
The Apostle John said that nothing came into being apart from “the Word of God” (Jesus) which means that Jesus was not created and if He was not created He must be the Creator.
Was Jesus Created?
In John 1:1 the writer states plainly that “the Word was God.” In verse three he provides backup support for this claim. John writes, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
John says the same thing in two different ways for emphasis and clarity: Everything that ever came into being owes its existence to the Word, Who caused it all to happen. If the Word caused all created things to come into existence, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could not have been created. Jesus is the uncreated Creator, God.
Those who deny the deity of Christ offer this rebuttal, though. "Wait a minute, Greg. You didn’t read the verse carefully. You missed something in the text. Notice the phrase ‘apart from Him.’ The apostle excludes Jesus from the count. If you said, ‘Apart from Billy, the whole family is going to Disneyland’ you wouldn’t mean that Billy wasn’t part of the family, just that he wasn’t included in the count. Every member of the family is going to Disneyland with the exception of Billy. In the same way, every created thing was created by Jesus with the exception of Jesus Himself. Jehovah created Jesus first, then Jesus created everything else. Jesus is not God.”
Note that this rebuttal turns on the ability to replace “apart from Him” with the phrase “with the exception of Jesus.” Allegedly they’re synonymous. Okay, let’s try the replacement and see what happens. The verse then looks like this: “With the exception of Jesus, nothing came into being that has come into being.”
If your brow is furrowed trying to figure this out, I’m not surprised. The reconstructed phrase is nearly nonsense. Strictly speaking, it means that Jesus is the only created thing that exists. Read it again and see for yourself. Obviously, the phrase “apart from Jesus” can’t mean “with the exception of Jesus.” These phrases are not synonymous.
“Apart from Him” means something entirely different. It means “apart from His agency.” It’s the same as saying, “Apart from me you’ll never get to Disneyland. I’ve got the car.” Apart from Jesus’ agency nothing came into being that has come into being. Why? Because Jesus is the Creator. He is God. That makes perfect sense in the context.
Taken from “Never Read a Bible Verse” by Greg Koukl (used by permission).
This year 2018, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and Valentine's Day fall on the same day. That doesn't happen often. This last time was in 1945. The day that we show our love in a tangible way is the same day that we can focus on God’s love for us through the gift of His Son Jesus. What a great day to celebrate God's love.
I'm a cast member of a musical production, “His Only Begotten Son” that has been described as a Cantata on steroids because in addition to music and narration it includes actors, singers, and dancers. There is a scene, in it that takes place at Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. After the Jews demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus, Pilate tells Jesus what awaits Him in crucifixion. As Pilate describes each detail, first the Narrator and then the crowd respond “for us” but when Pilate says to Jesus “and on that cross”, the spectators (the cast) at the trial, turn, point to the audience and say to them “for you” as Pilot says to Jesus “you will die". This is in a nutshell was Jesus’ mission the reason He took on flesh and came to the earth. He came to sacrifice His life for you and for me. There is not greater love.
John 15:13 (NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
This is Love — He Did This Just For You
by Max Lucado, from He Chose the Nails
Oh, the things we do to give gifts to those we love.
But we don’t mind, do we? We would do it all again. Fact is, we do it all again. Every Christmas, every birthday, every so often we find ourselves in foreign territory. Grownups are in toy stores. Dads are in teen stores. Wives are in the hunting department, and husbands are in the purse department.
Not only do we enter unusual places, we do unusual things. We assemble bicycles at midnight. We hide the new tires with mag wheels under the stairs. One fellow I heard about rented a movie theater so he and his wife could see their wedding pictures on their anniversary.
And we’d do it all again. Having pressed the grapes of service, we drink life’s sweetest wine — the wine of giving. We are at our best when we are giving. In fact, we are most like God when we are giving.
Have you ever wondered why God gives so much? We could exist on far less. He could have left the world flat and gray; we wouldn’t have known the difference. But He didn’t.
He splashed orange in the sunrise and cast the sky in blue. And if you love to see geese as they gather, chances are you’ll see that too.
Did He have to make the squirrel’s tail furry? Was He obliged to make the birds sing? And the funny way that chickens scurry or the majesty of thunder when it rings?
Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Could it be He loves to see that look upon your face?
If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would He? If we — speckled with foibles and greed — love to give gifts, how much more does God, pure and perfect God, enjoy giving gifts to us? Jesus asked,
If you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them? — Matthew 7:11 TLB
God’s gifts shed light on God’s heart, God’s good and generous heart. Jesus’ brother James tells us:
Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of Heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. — James 1:17 MSG
Every gift reveals God’s love… but no gift reveals His love more than the gifts of the Cross.
They came, not wrapped in paper, but in passion. Not placed around a tree, but a Cross. And not covered with ribbons, but sprinkled with blood.
The gifts of the Cross.
Much has been said about the gift of the Cross itself, but what of the other gifts? What of the nails, the crown of thorns? The garments taken by the soldiers? The garments given for the burial? Have you taken time to open these gifts?
He didn’t have to give them, you know. The only act, the only required act for our salvation was the shedding of blood, yet He did much more. So much more. Search the scene of the cross, and what do you find?
A wine-soaked sponge. A sign. Two crosses beside Christ. Divine gifts intended to stir that moment, that split second when your face will brighten, your eyes will widen, and God will hear you whisper, “You did this for me?”
The diadem of pain
which sliced your gentle face,
three spikes piercing flesh and wood
to hold you in your place.
The need for blood I understand.
Your sacrifice I embrace.
But the bitter sponge, the cutting spear,
the spit upon your face?
Did it have to be a Cross?
Did not a kinder death exist
than six hours hanging between life and death,
all spurred by a betrayer’s kiss?
“Oh, Father,” you pose,
heart-stilled at what could be,
“I’m sorry to ask, but I long to know,
did You do this for me?”
Dare we pray such a prayer? Dare we think such thoughts? Could it be that the hill of the Cross is rich with God’s gifts? Let’s examine them, shall we? Let’s unwrap these gifts of grace as if — or perhaps, indeed — for the first time. And as you touch them — as you feel the timber of the Cross and trace the braid of the crown and finger the point of the spike — pause and listen. Perchance you will hear Him whisper:
“I did it just for you.”
Excerpted with permission from He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
For your copy of He Chose the Nails click on any link or the image at below.
Minister Brenda Pachot, one of the Pastor's at my church, preached a sermon recently titled “Our Primary Duty”. Her two principle texts were;
Matthew 28:19-20 NIV Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
The message in the sermon was that ALL Christians are COMMANDED to go out and “preach” the gospel and, to not be ashamed or afraid to “preach” it. With that command comes a Mandate, a Mission, a Message, and Method. We often shirk our duty because we are either ill equipped or afraid that we will offend so, we water down the message with our opinions, making it ineffective, and often inaccurate resulting in many rejecting or not understanding the good news of the gospel, which is salvation through Jesus Christ. The emphasis of the gospel is Jesus who said that if we lift Him up He is the one that will draw others to Himself. That makes it crystal clear that what matters is Jesus and not our opinion of Him or of the gospel.
Lift Christ up
By Dr. Jack Graham of Powerpoint Ministries
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
There are many today who suggest that the church would be better off if we watered down the message of the Gospel for the sake of our witness.
These people say things like, "You're too hard on people. Don't be so dogmatic regarding Christ's teaching. You're going to run people off."
Well, you know what? The very opposite is true. You and I have been given clear instruction and teaching in the Scripture on how we should behave and how we are to perpetuate Christ's teachings in the world.
So what is our message and how do we present it to a hostile world?
Part of the message that we carry as Christ-followers states unapologetically that there is a right and wrong when it comes to cultural, ethical, and moral issues. It's clearly written in God's Word. And we've been given a message of hope and transformation that the world desperately needs to hear and to embrace.
So when you engage those whose opinions are diametrically opposed to yours, be respectful. But remember who you represent. We aren't here to champion our own opinion, but to lift up Christ and his Truth!
Treasure and defend the hope and love that Christ has deposited within you! Never deny your faith but be faithful to lift up Christ Jesus! And when you do, he will draw men to himself!
WE AREN'T HERE TO CHAMPION OUR OWN OPINION,
BUT TO LIFT UP CHRIST AND HIS TRUTH!
For more from PowerPoint Ministries and Dr. Jack Graham, please visit www.jackgraham.org
Share the Gospel? What Gospel?
Dr. Ray Pritchard
Here in a short form is our message: Jesus Christ has come into the world—fully God and fully man. He perfectly obeyed God's law and perfectly fulfilled God's will. He died in our place and as our substitute, paying for our sins. He rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven. He will one day return to the earth to establish his kingdom. In the meantime we are commissioned to preach the gospel to all people everywhere.
To say it this way means that the gospel doesn't center in our feelings or our sentimental notions. The gospel is rooted in time and space, in the facts of history, in the Incarnation, in the truth of what God did when he sent his Son to the earth.
God did this out of love and pity for us. He knew there was no hope unless he took the initiative to save us. Salvation begins with the admission that there is nothing good in us, nothing in us that can contribute to our salvation, that we are utterly helpless and unable to save ourselves, and that salvation must come from outside of us. We confess that we need the help that only Jesus can supply.
God offers salvation on one simple and single condition—a wholehearted faith in Jesus Christ, trusting him alone as Lord and Savior, resting upon him for complete salvation, renouncing all self-trust, admitting our sinfulness, confessing our need, and crying out to Jesus to save us from our sins.
Those who trust in Jesus Christ and him alone are saved forever. They are forgiven of all their sins, born again, brought into God's family, declared righteous while they were still sinners, their sins are placed on Christ and his righteousness is imputed to them, and they receive a new nature that enables them to walk in a brand-new direction. They are given eternal life and guaranteed they will go to heaven when they die. This is what John 3:16 means when it says that "God so loved the world." This is the Good News Jesus told us to preach "to all creation" (Mark 16:15).
Excerpted from "What is the Gospel and Why Does It Matter?" from Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).
Counselors often have their clients write letters. Letters to people who have hurt them, letters to people they have hurt, letters asking others for help, letters to themselves. Letters allow us to say things we find difficult to say to someone else in person.
Here’s what : Anne-Marie Alger (Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Supervisor, MA, MBACP), a counsellor/psychotherapist says about writing letters.
“Writing a letter encourages you to stand back from trauma, creating perspective and providing you with an opportunity to analyse what has occurred. It can help to harness and process strong emotions. Aspects that have not been dealt with you either independently or in the therapy session can be brought into conscious awareness to explore your personal schema (your way of thinking about things) and explore the feelings, in order to develop alternatives to your story.
It should contain all your emotions, your needs, your demands and your condemnations towards the person or object as the letter forms an internal dialogue. You can be explicit, truthful and express whatever you want to say in a raw, naturalistic and crude form. Written from past, present or future, letters are often written as a way of seeking closure, saying goodbye, or searching for acceptance...
Ultimately, writing gives you a voice, particularly if you find it difficult to put your experience into words, it can become a medium for someone who is reluctant to open up face-to-face. It also ensures that you have been accurately heard, providing you with the freedom to define your own experience, uninterrupted, and at your own pace. A letter written, but not sent, not seen by anyone else, is yours. Just yours. All yours." - From Writing a letter as part of your therapy
Many times when we are going through a time of struggle it’s hard for us to put our feelings and emotions into words. Yes I know that when we don’t know what to say the Holy Spirit speaks for us
Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV)26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
But there’s something about our own words that allows us to get “unstuck” so that we can move on in our relationship with others and with God.
Jesus I Need You ,from Zondervan Publishing is a devotional that uses prayers written as letters to Jesus. These letters are examples of another way that we can communicate with our Savior. Just as He speaks to us in different ways depending on what’s going on in our lives, letters to Him will help us express emotions and feelings that we are reluctant to express in spoken words or thought.
The following are the Editor’s Note and two sample devotions. They blessed me and I know that they and, the entire devotional will bless you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going through a time of heartache or a season of joy, a time of questioning or a time of deep gratitude, the prayers in this devotional will be “right-on-time”. Jesus I Need You would be a perfect gift for yourself or to anyone seeking daily conversation with Jesus.
To get a copy of it it click on this LINK or the image of the book at the end of this post.
Jesus, I Need Your Grace
From Jesus I Need You
Editor's Note: Have you written a love letter to Jesus? Or cried out a prayer for help? Do you have conversations with Him regularly? This new devotional, Jesus, I Need You, is a collection of prayers to Jesus, written as letters, that will inspire you to have unwavering faith in any circumstance, in every season. Each letter is followed by a short devotional and encouraging message. We pray that this inspires you to write your own letter to Jesus this week - He longs to hear from you!
That Difficult Person
Dear Jesus, I need Your help. Someone is making my life difficult. I have tried to be kind and patient — You know I have, Lord. But there have been times when I’ve lost my temper — You know that too. I’ve said unkind things and thought even worse things.
Our relationship needs healing; it needs You.
Jesus, show me what to do. I pray for You to step in and make this right. Teach me, Lord. How would You handle this person? Please take away these feelings of anger and hurt and replace them with grace and love.
“Seventy times seven”: That’s what You said to Peter when he asked how many times he should forgive the one who sinned against him. Am I capable of forgiving that many times? Oh, but how many times have You forgiven me?
Soften my heart, Lord, and help me forgive as You have forgiven me.
If anyone can mend this relationship, Jesus, it is You. Guide my every word and every action with Your perfect love. I need You, Jesus. We need You.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. — Romans 12:18
At some point in your life, you’ll encounter a difficult person — someone who, no matter what you do, makes your life miserable. When you run into such a person, call on Jesus. He understands and will know just how to help. As you think about that difficult person, ask yourself if you’ve contributed to the strain. Are there things for which you need to seek forgiveness? Come up with at least one thing you can do to bless that person’s life — and then do it.
Dear Jesus, Sometimes it’s really hard to love people, especially when You ask me to love those who hate You and do evil things. I know You love them, but I struggle to follow Your example. Please show me how can I hate the evil while still loving those who hate You.
Jesus, when You were beaten, mocked, and crucified, You could have rained down wrath from Heaven, but You didn’t. Instead, You asked God to forgive Your enemies because they didn’t know what they were doing. That is pure love. Fill me with that kind of love.
Jesus, You are always in my heart, guiding me and leading me to be more like You. And for that reason, I must pray for those who hate You and do evil things. I don’t love what they do, Lord — but I want them to know You. Please, Lord Jesus, open their eyes to see You and their hearts to accept You. They need You so much... and so, Lord, do I.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” — Matthew 5:43-44
Love doesn’t mean that you accept acts of hatred and evil, but love does require that you pray for those most in need of salvation. Consider Paul. He didn’t begin life as a disciple of Christ; in fact, there was a time when Paul — then known as Saul — hated Christ. Read Acts 9:1-19 to discover how he changed. How might you be an Ananias to a Saul in your life?
Excerpted with permission from Jesus, I Need You, copyright Zondervan.
Jesus was called a lot of names. All he did was love and help people, yet he had his share of bullies and critics. Many of the religious leaders of the day were jealous of his success and afraid he would upset the status quo. They wanted to discredit him in the eyes of the public, so they said all sorts of crazy things about him. They whispered that he was an illegitimate child. They accused him of being demon-possessed. They denounced him to the Roman authorities as a rioter, a threat to public peace.
Jesus didn’t deserve the hate, but it turns out one of their nicknames for him was true. They called him “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. In their minds, that was one of the greatest indictments imaginable. Jesus hung out with bad people, therefore he must be bad too. In their minds, to be a friend of sinners was incredibly shameful.
Luke 7:34 (NLT)34 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
But for Jesus, the title Friend of Sinners was a sign of success, not a source of shame. I can imagine him smiling the first time he heard the phrase. “Friend of sinners? I’ll take that as a compliment.” Why? Because it was the very definition of his mission.
Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Think about what Jesus’ nickname means for you, for your friends, and for humanity today. What kind of God labels himself a friend of sinners? I could believe “judge of sinners”; I could even believe “Savior of sinners.” But friend? Really? . . .
John 15:15 (NLT)15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
Friendship is far more important to God than we often realize.
Isaiah 41:8 (NLT)8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend,
James 2:23 (NLT)23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.
Exodus 33:11 (NLT)11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
We tend to think that God puts top priority on performance, purity, and perfection, and we assume relationship is the eventual reward for those things. In other words, the more like Jesus we become, the closer our relationship with him will be. Actually, it works the other way around. The closer we get to Jesus, the more like him we become. Relationship comes first; changes comes later. . . .
God cares about everyone, regardless of where they are on their journey: spiritually mature or seeker, devout or in doubt, religious or simply curious. All of us need him, and all of us can find him. Whether you consider yourself a saint or a sinner, Jesus wants to be your friend.
Excerpted from YouVerson Friend of Sinners Reading Plan provided by Rich Wilkerson Jr. and Harper Collins. The plan is from the book Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection
Impute : to lay the responsibility or blame for often falsely or unjustly
Substitute : to put (a person or thing) in the place of another
When Jesus came to the earth to accomplish His mission to die for mankind’s sin He put the "tion" (action) to the verbs impute and substitute.
On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe. Did you get that? God treated Him as if He committed, personally, every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe though the fact is He committed none of them. That’s the great doctrine of substitution. And that’s the first side of imputation. God imputed our sins to Him. He was guilty of none of them. God treated Him as if He committed all of them. And He just unloaded His fury for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him in the history of the world. He unloaded all His fury against all their sins on Christ.
To borrow the language of Leviticus 16, Jesus became the “scapegoat.” The scapegoat was guilty of nothing. But the High Priest, as it were, laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. He was without sin. But sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it and then God punished Him though the fact is He never committed any of it.
Leviticus 16:7-10 (NLT)7 Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle.8 He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel.9 Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD.
10 The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD.
Romans 5:12-19 (NLT)12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of ighteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “When Jesus came into the world why did He have to live all those years?” If I was planning the plan of redemption I’d have had Him come down on Friday, die, rise on Sunday and go back to Heaven Monday. Why 30 years? Why 30 silent years?
Jesus lived a full life was that He might live a complete life fully righteous. That He might live a complete life absolutely without sin, absolutely perfect, so that that perfect life could be credited to your account. That’s the backside of imputation. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His life. That’s the Gospel.
John 10:11 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
Galatians 3:13 (NLT) 13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
1 Peter 2:22-25 (NLT) 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
Taken from "How to Escape the Fires of Hell" by Discover the Book Ministries (used by permission).
The result of the Imputation and Substitution of Jesus is Justification!
Do you remember the popular saying from a few years ago “What Would Jesus Do”? There were t-shirts, bracelets, necklaces, license tags, all sorts of things with WWJD on them. The saying became popular, in the 1990s as a personal motto for Christians. We used the phrase as a reminder to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love and sacrifice of Jesus.
The phrase was used several times by Charles Spurgeon, on of my favorite evangelist of the past, in a sermon he gave on June 28, 1891. He said that he found the saying in a book written in Latin by Thomas à Kempis between 1418 and 1427, Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ).
In 1896 a Topeka, Kansas pastor wrote a novel titled In His Steps that book was subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?" That book, which has been translated into more than 20 languages has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the top 50 best selling novels of all time. Throughout the novel several of the characters ask the question “What would Jesus do?” when faced with important decisions.
In the 1990s a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, named Janie Tinklenberg, began a grassroots movement to help the teenagers in her group remember the phrase; it spread worldwide in the 1990s among Christian youth, who wore bracelets bearing the initials WWJD.
That brings me to my question today. “What would Jesus say on Social Media today?” We’ve all seen and heard of people who have gotten in lots of trouble from something they posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. You may even know some of those people maybe you’re one of them (yes I’m guilty).
When you say something in person or on the telephone you can deny ever saying it and only the people who actually heard you can dispute your denial. It’s a “he said, she said” situation and the person(s) who is more convincing will win. On the other hand if you say or post something on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (yes even Snapchat), LinkedIn, or one of the other social media platforms, it is there in the cyberspace somewhere and it will be there forever. Before you Tweet, post, or send think..."what would Jesus say."
Here is what Karen Ehman, in her book, Keep It Shut thinks He would say.
What Would Jesus Say on Social Media?
by Karen Ehman, from Keep It Shut
If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! – Proverbs 30:32
Here it is, translated for social media: “If you are tempted to slam someone online or brag on Facebook or send off a nasty tweet, turn off the screen and walk away!”
That’s it in a nutshell, but maybe we should spell out some rules of thumb that might keep our thumbs and fingers from wandering off into slander, arrogance, or combativeness. Here are six that work for me.
1. Pray Before You Post
My friend Suzanne wrote a great online devotional in which she talked about how many people run to check their Facebook page first thing in the morning. She encouraged her readers to instead make sure they consulted their “Faithbook” first — the Bible. How true this is! Perhaps if we spent time ingesting words of truth before we switched on the computer, we might not write things that are unkind or hurtful. At the very least, we should whisper a prayer before we post, asking the Holy Spirit to tap on our hearts if we are tempted to post anything online that would not glorify him.
2. Imagine the Recipient Sitting Next to You
The Internet is so impersonal. We see tiny little thumbnail photos of people. We see words typed out on a screen rather than hear them spoken out loud. The pixels-and-pictures environment almost compels us to be rude because it lacks the subtle social cues — the wince, the moment of quiet — that tell us we’ve crossed the line. We feel empowered and also have a sense of anonymity as we tap, tap, tap away on our keyboards. But if a flesh-and-blood person were sitting next to us with eyes we could look into, perhaps we would state things differently. Before you post, ask yourself if you would say things differently if the person to whom you’re writing were actually sitting next to you.
3. Remember: When You’re Online, You’re Also on Stage
Unless we send a private message, our online words are available for others to see. Twitter followers see what we tweet. Facebook friends, and the friends of those on whose walls we post comments, also see what we say. And hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, of people can see a comment we leave on someone’s blog. This reality should certainly cause us to pause before we post — especially if there is even a remote possibility we might later regret what we write. If I say something in person to a friend and am later convicted I was wrong, I can go back to my friend and apologize. However, if I post something on social media or comment on a blog and later want to retract it, I have no way to chase down all of the people who might have seen the original comment. Just this fact alone should cause us to really weigh our words before we type them out.
4. Ask Yourself If You’ve Earned the Right to Address the Subject at Hand
If friends on Facebook are hashing through a hot-button issue of the day, do you have any expertise in the area, or are you only slinging an underinformed opinion? We can’t always be an expert on every topic at hand, so when we aren’t, we might do well to refrain from commenting at all.
5. Ask Yourself If You Have a Close Enough Relationship with the Person to Warrant Offering Your Opinion
It both irks me and makes me laugh when I see who hops on my page to offer their unsolicited opinions. Suddenly, people I haven’t heard from in years pop up on my screen offering their pixelated opinion about something I’ve posted. They give me specific instructions and pointed advice on what I should believe about a particular topic. This always surprises me because I don’t have a close relationship with these folks. Why do they think I will take their advice or value their perspective on my issues when they have not been a close friend or confidant?
Would they be responsive to unsolicited advice if someone they knew years ago suddenly walked up to them on the street and started telling them what to believe and how to act? If you’re tempted to dole out unsolicited advice to anyone who’s not a trusted friend, then I encourage you to resist the temptation!
6. When You Do Speak, Let Your Speech Be Laced with Grace
No need for snark. No need for angry words or critical comments. Our mamas were right: If we can’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all.
When we do speak, we can choose to be gracious rather than accusatory or negative. Our words must glorify God and not just exalt our own opinions.
We should be especially mindful that there are people whom we don’t know who might be viewing our online speech. Here is a great guideline from Scripture:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.– Colossians 4:5-6
So maybe we should jot down these questions on a sticky note or two and post them near the computer to remind us to ask:
Excerpted from Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman, copyright Zondervan.
Over the years I’ve written a number of posts about Jesus. In fact I have an entire category on my blog called “Who Is Jesus”. In the first post of the series, Who Is Jesus, i write that he Bible attributes 200 or so names and titles to Jesus. All of them give us insight into His character and Who He really is. Some of those names and titles are; Author and Perfecter of our Faith, Bread of Life, Friend Good Shepherd, High Priest, Mediator, Rock, True Vine, Faithful Witness, First Born from the Dead, Savior, of God, Son of Man, and of course God. There’s another long list of titles in the post Names And Titles Of Jesus In Revelation..
H. Edward Deluzain writes;
Names are important not only to the people who are named but to society. The name we are given at birth is usually the first of several names we will be known by during our lives.
Despite their universality, there is a great deal of difference from one culture to another in how names are given. Among most preliterate peoples, names are determined according to very definite and specific rules. Generally, in cultures with a keen sense of ancestry, children get their names from the totems and family trees of their parents. In some cultures, names are taken from events which happen during the pregnancy of the mother or shortly after the birth of the child, and in others, names are divined through magic and incantation. In some cases, the name given at birth is only the first of several names a person will bear throughout life. When this happens, the new names are given either to mark important milestones in life or to ward off evil spirits by tricking them into thinking that the person with the old name has disappeared.
Regardless of when, why, or how often it happens, though, the giving and receiving of a name is an event of major importance. Quite frequently the significance of names is emphasized by elaborate rituals that almost always have deep religious meaning.
Parents spend a lot of time trying to decide what name to give their child when born. All names have significance. My name is from the Gaelic name Domhnall which means "ruler of the world".
Our names are very important to us. That's why we get so upset when someone mispronounces or misspells it. When we see a strange, unusual, or even funny name we say “how could they give their child that name, don’t they realize that they will have to go through their entire life with that name?” When the victim of identity theft the thing that bothers us most, even more than any financial damage, is the damage to our name. We will defend our “good name” at all cost.
During Bible times, names were extremely important -- much more so then than now. Generations ago someone's name not only designated who the person was, but suggested the traits of the person. For instance, the name Adam means human or earthling and comes from the Hebrew word that means earth or ground -- suggesting he was made from dust.
Most biblical names carry some meaning.
Genesis 17:17-19 (NLT)17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?”18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.
Abraham and Sarah’s son was named Isaac which means "to laugh".
Genesis 25:24-26 (NLT)24 And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins!25 The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau.26 Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born.
Names for children were chosen carefully and without regard for how other children might "tease" them. Some children were even given names to to indicate some tragic event.
Hosea 1:3-9 (NLT)3 So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son.4 And the LORD said, “Name the child Jezreel, for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence.5 I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley.”6 Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them.7 But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from their enemies—not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the LORD their God.”8 After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son.9 And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.
There was a woman who had two name each describing her demeanor at different times of her life. In the beginning of the book of Ruth there is Naomi which means pleasant. Naomi later takes on the name Mara which means bitterness.
Ruth 1:1-2 (NLT)1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.
Ruth 1:19-21 (NLT)19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”
There were times that God changed a person’s name to identify their destiny in God’s plan for them.
Genesis 17:5-6 (NLT)5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.
6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
Genesis 17:15-16 (NLT)15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah.16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”
Genesis 32:28 (NLT)28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
6 Reasons Why Names are Important in the Bible
The Name(s) His Father Gave Him
The posts that I wrote in the past were about the names and titles that the writers of scripture, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, identified with Jesus, but I’ve never written a post about the name(s) His Father gave Him.
Isaiah 9:6 (NLT) For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Bold mine)
What do these names say about Jesus?
Greg Laurie had a series on his called “What’s in a Name”. One of the devotions from that series is “So Many Names: What Do They All Mean?”. In that devotion, which follows, Greg says that each of these descriptions gives a different aspect of the work of God in our lives.
So Many Names: What Do They All Mean?
By Greg Laurie
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace . . ." (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Each of these descriptions gives us a different aspect of the work that God wants to do in our lives.
His name is Wonderful. This word comes from the root word "wonder," which means "a sense of awe." Jesus wants to bring a sense of awe and wonder to our lives. No longer do we have to look to the cheap substitutes this world offers to bring fulfillment, because Jesus Christ makes life wonderful.
His name is Counselor. Did you know that God Almighty, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father wants to give you His personal counsel and direction? As Psalm 73:24 says, "You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me into glory." No longer do you have to be baffled by the problems you face, because with Christ as your Counselor, you can know that God will reveal His will to you.
His name is Mighty God. This means that Jesus has unlimited power for you as you encounter the demands of life. There are times when you probably have thought that it was very hard to live the Christian life. I have thought that as well. In fact, I think it is impossible to be a Christian apart from the help of the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful that the Mighty God is there for me to give me the strength to do what He wants me to.
Next, He is called the Everlasting Father. Because Christ came to die on the cross and pay for your sins and rise again from the dead, you have an Everlasting Father, One who will be with you forever. He will never forget about you. He will always be there to guide and help you through life.
His name is the Prince of Peace. Certainly we live in frightening times. We look at our world and see so many things that have gone wrong. How we need peace in our lives. If you look at the wars and problems we face today, they are, for the most part, the result of people who are breaking God's commandments. But God will bring peace to the person who is well-pleasing to Him.
Taken from "What's in a Name?" (used by permission).
The one name missing from this list is Immanuel, the most important name of all.
Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
That prophecy was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Matthew 1:20-25 (NLT)20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Immanuel is always with us. There is nowhere we can go from His presence.
Psalm 139:1-10 (NLT) 1 O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
The very last thing that Jesus said to His disciples, before He returned to heaven was that He would always be with them.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
There is nowhere we can go, no situation, no challenge, no relationship, no conversation where God isn’t present.
I have been hanging on to this post for several months. As I’ve watched the debate in the Christian community surrounding the election and first few months of the term of the United States’ 45th President. Some say that he is “a man of faith” others say that he was “God’s choice”. On the other hand others say that a man who said he has never asked for forgiveness, malignes and perhaps abuses women, who ridicules others because of a physical handicap or their race certainly couldn’t be a man of Christian faith.
As I’ve watched the debate play out through actions of the President and his Administration and the response of many in the Christian community I see more than ever the huge difference between religion and Christianity as evidenced by the life and ministry of Jesus Himself.
This difference is described with great clarity in a devotion from the YouVersion, Jesus Bible Reading Plan and an excerpt from the book Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke.
Tax Collectors And Sinners
From the Jesus Bible Reading Plan
Religion that leaves Jesus out of the equation teaches that people can do enough good to earn God’s love and acceptance. This kind of religion manipulates the system by putting God in your debt. Religious people have difficulty with Jesus because he challenges their understanding of God and salvation. Too often people believe they can earn their way to heaven, but Jesus came to save people who will never be good enough to save themselves. For people who think too highly of themselves, the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers is offensive. Tragically, people who think they are good enough don’t see any need for a Savior.
During Jesus’ ministry, the people who knew they had problems flocked to him: tax collectors, women of questionable character and others who saw their own desperate need. The religious leaders of his day didn’t understand how or why a good, moral religious teacher like Jesus could spend time with such bad people. But Jesus knew that all people, without exception, need saving.
Mark 2:13-17 (NIV) Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As a Good Shepherd, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10).
Jesus Bible Reading Plan from Zondervan with Passion City Church
Religion Makes Enemies Jesus Loves
We are trained to make enemies. From birth it’s always “us versus them.”
Let’s be honest: sometimes Christians are the worst.
As if the world dying outside really cares.
Now, I’m not saying some of these clarifications and differences aren’t necessary. In the book of John, Jesus prays we would be “one.” (John 17:21) The only way to become one is to engage in healthy discussion on topics we disagree on. But we can’t honestly think any non-Christian will want to come into the family of God if we are just as — if not more — divisive than the rest of the world. Sometimes how we dialogue in today’s culture is just as important as why we dialogue.
Religion, unfortunately, is notorious for making enemies.
Women? Gays? Muslims? Let’s make them our enemies. Yes, I know this doesn’t represent everyone. Yes, I know religion doesn’t do this all the time. But throughout history, it is clear that when it does happen, it can almost always be traced back to people who think their standing with God comes from their own righteousness. The minute you think you have gotten on God’s good side by your own behavior, you are naturally prone to demonize those who haven’t.
The biggest difference between religious people and gospel-loving people is that religious people see certain people as the enemies, when Jesus-followers see sin as the enemy.
Religious people see “them” as the problem; Jesus-followers see “us” as the problem. When Jesus told the first disciples to love their enemies, (Matthew 5:44) He didn’t add, “as long as they look like you, talk like you, and act like you.” Loving an enemy means loving “them.”
I remember the moment this first hit home for me. I was having lunch with my mom. As we started to eat, I felt the tension.
I was a Christian now, and my mom was openly gay. Wasn’t I supposed to hate her? Wasn’t I told “not to associate” with her? Doesn’t she know homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Instead I made a decision to listen. She was my mom. I listened as she poured out her thoughts, emotions, and feelings that had been pent up for years. I heard how she had been burned by certain religious communities — brutal stories of so-called Christians offering grace and redemption to all those around her, as long as the sin was socially acceptable. The sad part is, I couldn’t disagree. I’d seen the same thing.
For some reason the church had made homosexuality a varsity sin. Religious people are very particular and selective on this issue. They quote “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
I don’t see homosexuality getting any prominence in this list, do you? In fact, the apostle Paul is attempting to broad stroke everyone, highlighting the fact that none of us are good enough.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not scoring too well on this list. But how does that verse end? The Corinthians were undoubtedly filthy themselves and were not representing Christ well. Some of them were probably still engaging in these behaviors, which is why Paul was writing them the letter, but he still says, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
He reminds them of how they’ve been bought. He reminds them that their sins aren’t their identities. He reminds them they are different now and can walk away from their sins.
That is a scandalous statement!
If you are a Christian and are going to talk about 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, then you better include verse 11. It’s only when we understand that in Jesus we are cleansed, washed, and renewed that we see our sin fall by the wayside. We are greedy, filthy, idolatry-loving, glory-hungry thieves. And when we trust Jesus, He washes us. He redeems us — all of us.
And when we’re sitting across the table from someone whom we’ve been told to hate, the least we can do is listen and love her as Jesus loves us.
Regarding homosexuality specifically, I can’t begin to tell you the internal wrestling I’ve had with this issue. I have a personal stake in it. It’s part of one of the closest people to me. So if I can be honest, I’ve gone back and forth a ton on this issue. Is it okay? Is it wrong? Why or why not?
Everything in me wanted to be convinced it was okay. Everything in me looked for verses to see it sanctioned by God. But through years of wrestling, hours of Bible study, and tons of prayer, I didn’t come to that conclusion.
When I open the Scriptures, I see homosexuality getting no prominence among sins, but it is still a distortion of God’s creative order nonetheless. But here’s the thing: my mom and I disagree on it, and we still love each other. Did you catch that? We still love each other.
We have open, honest, and sometimes very difficult conversations about it. And neither of us walks away calling the other a bigot. Neither of us walks away furious or upset.
Because that’s what love is. It stays. It pursues. It pushes in.
In order for our society to continue to flourish, it is imperative that we learn how to have healthy, honoring, and engaging discussions on this issue. Everything outside of His creative order is a distortion, and when we follow that fractured path, we are implying we are our own gods and know better than He does. The issue isn’t primarily homosexuality, idolatry, drunkenness, greed, or right or wrong.
The issue is, are we going to trust that God knows best or that our thoughts, wills, and emotions know best?
The truth is we are all going to limp across the finish line to some degree. Of course there is victory in Jesus, and of course we are more than conquerors through Christ as the apostle Paul says; but even Paul had a thorn in the flesh. (Romans 8:37, 2 Corinthians 12:7)
Most of us have a spiritual Achilles’ heel. We all will have spiritual bruises, cuts, and sores. Some will limp across the finish line still fighting their addiction to porn. Some will limp across the finish line with their addiction to food. And some will limp across the finish line with their attraction to the same sex.
The issue isn’t whether someone is good or bad, but whether he is repentant or unrepentant.
Who is God of her life? Who’s in control? What or who are they pursuing? Are they looking to Him or trusting in self? Because I trust that if Jesus’ grace has radically collided with a heart, I believe that person will begin to align themselves with Jesus’ image, looking more like Him every day.
But let’s also realize that we do have hope and victory and are called to take sin very seriously, doing anything and everything to run from it and to Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear by saying we should “also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and... run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Even he admits there are things that weigh us down. Our sin sticks to us. But still... He says run with endurance. Keep our eyes on Him, and we will make it because it depends on Him, not us. But let us never get prideful. Let us never think this race is reserved for the elite, or the “good,” or the well qualified. It’s reserved for the lowly, the rejected, the marginalized.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-24). She is the first person to whom Jesus reveals himself to be the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t choose to share this information first with a politician or a king or anyone of seeming importance, but with a Samaritan woman.
Samaritans were seen as half-breed Jews. They were looked down upon by the Jews. On top of this she was a woman, which in that culture meant she was a second-class citizen. Even worse, Jesus highlights her promiscuity. Jesus doesn’t condemn this woman, but rather graciously shows how He is the “living water” that can quench her insatiable thirst.
So Jesus, God himself, showed immense grace and gave great privilege to a half-breed, second-class, adulterous, and promiscuous woman. God is always a fan of going to the marginalized so His saving power isn’t credited to human wisdom but to His grace. Jesus completely shattered the social, gender, and economic paradigms. New Testament Christians were most known by their love for their neighbors, but today we are most known for our segregation of the lowly.
This issue really comes down to idolatry, which is the act of placing anything or anyone above Jesus as the ultimate source of worth, satisfaction, and identity.
The problem with idolatry, though, is that whatever you idolize, you then demonize the opposite.
Want to know what you probably idolize? Ask what you demonize.
But when you idolize Jesus, then you demonize demons — which makes a lot of sense to me. When Jesus and His righteousness are ultimate, then you actually see evil as the source of evil, rather than politics, money, or gender. Sure, you can disagree. Sure, you can have dialogue; but when something is your god, you’ll go to great lengths to defend it.
While I don’t agree with most of his viewpoints, Bill Maher said something that completely makes sense.
"New rule: If you’re a Christian who supports killing your enemies and torture, you have to come up with a new name for yourself..."
If we say we love Jesus, let’s start acting like followers. The world is waiting, and they can tell the difference.
Excerpted with permission from Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke, copyright Thomas Nelson.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.