Discovering The True Jesus (pt.1)

For one of my Marketing classes this fall, I am required to write ten different blogs about anything that I am passionate about to practice gaining a presence on the web and to better “market” myself to employers/network associates/etc. So…I had to choose what to write on that would have a consistent theme throughout the semester. After much thought, I decided to write about….Jesus. Instead of marketing myself, why not market Him? Most of what I do in my life is based off of who He is and what He did- so why not share that with my peers and fellow students?

In order to do this, I plan on analyzing ten major events, stories from, or teachings about Jesus from the Bible, so that I can paint an overall picture of who the true Jesus is, and what He came to accomplish on earth. I hope that you will join me regularly on this journey, and comment and interact with me as I seek to unveil the truth about the most influential human being that ever walked the earth!

So, for my first post, I will simply introduce Jesus from a historical perspective, and how He is viewed by the world. Most credible historians agree that a man named Jesus did live 2000 years ago, and quickly gained a following that changed the course of the future forever. Josephus and Tacitus are some of the main secular historians who wrote about Jesus as they recorded events in Jerusalem and Rome near Jesus’ lifetime. However, there are countless hundreds of individuals who wrote about Jesus’ life, relaying information that they heard from eyewitnesses, within 100-200 years after His death. Any argument that Jesus never existed is not very credible, and goes against the grain of many leading (even secular) scholars. So then, if Jesus existed, what do people believe that He actually did? Who was He?

People of Jewish descent believe that Jesus was a man who claimed to be a messiah (a savior for the nation of Israel) but that He was a false messiah. Muslims believe that Jesus was just another prophet in a line of prophets before Muhammad. Secular historians believe that Jesus was just another religious individual who gained popularity after His death and started a new world religion. Christians believe that He is the Savior of the world, the Son of God who ransoms mankind. But most would refer to Jesus simply as a “good teacher” or a man with many helpful and wise teachings.

However, if Jesus is only a “good teacher,” what must we do with the fact that He claimed to be God’s Son? That He said He was the Messiah? That He said He would raise from the dead? Would “good teachers” say these things about themselves? I think not! Jesus, then, must either be a liar, a lunatic, or who He said He was. He cannot be just a good teacher, or even a prophet (because good teachers or prophets would not make false, incorrect claims about their identities and still be considered “good”). He is either intentionally lying (trying to deceive others), or He is crazy (He thinks He’s God’s Son!) or He is who He said He was (He was telling the truth!). These are the only three options for who Jesus can actually be.

So….who is He? What evidence is their to back up some of the world’s major views of Him? Is He who He claimed to be? Or was He disiluusioned? To learn about anyone’s life, we must go to the people that knew them best: their family members, their friends, their colleagues. Thankfully, Jesus’ closest friends wrote about His life in four distinct books called the Gospels. We will take a look at one story in the next blog and try to come a little farther in answering the question, “Who is the REAL Jesus?”

Seeing the Goodness of Our God

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The more closely we study ourselves, the more beneficent our Creator becomes. Look at the highest of God’s earthly creatures-man. We have plenty of reasons to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that I know full well” (Psalm 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attest to the goodness of our Maker. How suited are our hands to perform work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh our wearied bodies! How benevolent His provision to give to the eyes lids and brows for their protection! We could continue indefinitely!*

The goodness of God is also seen in the variety of natural pleasures that He has provided for his creatures. God could have decided to satisfy our hunger without allowing us to really enjoy the taste of it- yet how good is He that he gave us such flavors as those in meat, vegetables, and fruits! He has not only given us senses, but also things that will gratify our senses, and this too reveals His goodness. The earth could have been fertile as it is without its surface being so delightfully multicolored. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to please our eyes with their colors, and our nostrils with their sweet perfumes. We might have walked outside without hearing the music of birds. Why then, is all of this loveliness so freely diffused over the face of nature? Because the tender mercies of the Lord “are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).*

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same (C.H. Spurgeon).

Gratitude and thankfulness is the return justly required from us, the objects of His goodness. Yet we often do not give it to God because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it!* We must labor to not allow this to be so!

Praise the Lord for His Goodness!!

*My translation from A.W. Pink’s “Old” English language (Attributes of God, Ch. 11, The Goodness of God)

Looking Unto Jesus- Charles Spurgeon

“Looking unto Jesus.” —Hebrews 12:2

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 – Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 378.

Start The New Year Remembering Your Identity In Christ

As the new year begins, I believe that the church at large, myself included, needs to remember our identity in Christ- as it pertains to sin. If your like me, when you think about who you are in Christ-you often think of yourself as forgiven, loved, set-apart, saved, etc. These identities are very true and important, but God has reminded me early in this year of another aspect of my identity in Christ- dead to sin.

Paul writes in Romans,

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8

We as believers are told not only that Christ died for us (substitution) but that we died with Christ (identification). He not only provided the forgiveness of sins, he provided the deliverance from the enslavement of sin. Watchman Nee says, “Our sins were dealt with by the blood,we ourselves are dealt with by the cross.” The blood of Christ seals and provides our forgiveness (“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins- Hebrews 9:22b); But the cross of Christ delivers us from what we are in Adam- slaves of sin!

You see, we were joined with Jesus on the cross. One may ask you, “who was crucified at Calvary?” Certainly most Christians would answer with Jesus, but how many would answer that we were crucified there with him, too? It is a beautiful fact–that we were united with Christ in his death and resurrection. We were united to him in death, as our old selves were crucified with him, and also united in his resurrection, as our new selves were given life!

Fellow believers, we are set free from sin! We are not only forgiven from our past, present, and future sins, but we are a new creature! (2 Cor. 5:17), able to have victory over sin, and to say “NO” to temptation. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “You cannot be married to Christ until you are first divorced from sin.” You may ask, “How can we be divorced from sin?” The answer is that Jesus provided the very divorcement papers! He declared us divorced when we were crucified with Him at Calvary.

Does this describe your walk with Jesus? Can you say that you have accepted this great truth by faith, and leaned on the Spirit to live by it? This is God’s desire for us: to trust in Christ, receive the forgiveness of sins, and to walk a new life in the Spirit, a life characterized by freedom from sin. Throw yourself upon Christ! Trust in Him! This was our greatest need- to be made dead to sin, and alive to God- and He perfectly provided for us. Our old self has been crucified, and our new self has risen with Christ in power. Will you join me in pursuing a life that lives out this identity this year?

The Heavenly Wedding Feast…Do You Have The Attire?

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In Matthew 22 Jesus speaks to the disciples in a parable that we regard as “the parable of the wedding feast.” He starts of by telling them that “the kingdom of heaven could be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son..” (verse 2). He proceeds to tell them that the king sent out his servants to invite people, but the people would not come. He sent more servants to invite them to the wedding, but the people paid no attention to them, treated them shamefully and even killed them. He sends out new servants with new instructions, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” These servants gathered good and bad (a foreshadow that Gentiles would later have the gospel message offered to them, but more on that in a different post) people, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But the king comes in and sees a man without the wedding garment and asks him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (verse 12). The man was speechless, and at once the king had him bound and cast into outer darkness.

If your like me, you may read this and think, “What in the world? The man didn’t have on the right clothing…so he was cast out? What about meeting people where they are and welcoming them into our churches no matter what?” These are the things that I thought before the Spirit revealed to me the much deeper meaning of the passage. Here’s the deeper meaning:

The wedding feast represents heaven, and the King represents God. The servants that go out and invite people (the Jews) represent God’s prophets in the Old Testament, that proclaimed repentance and prophesied about Jesus, but were treated badly and put to death.  The good and the bad people represents everyone else (because the Jews refused to respond). All of this so far may or may not be obvious, but what on earth does the poor man without the wedding garment have to do with anything? Well, he is truly a poor man, and I’ll tell you why:

The wedding garment represents Christ’s righteousness that is laid over us. This is the way that Jesus taught that our self-righteousness would never be enough! From the very beginning of creation, God has provided a “covering” for our sin. To insist on covering ourselves is to be clothed in “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame, but they found their fig leaves to be woefully scant. God took away their handmade clothes and replaced them with skins of animals (Genesis 3:7, 21). In the book of Revelation, we see those in heaven wearing “white robes” (Revelation 7:9), and we learn that the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb (verse 14). We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9)! The man who did not wear the wedding garment is an example of one who trusts in his own righteousness and merit to get into heaven! It simply cannot be done, if we try to do so, we will be cast into outer darkness.

The king provided wedding garments for his guests, and God has provided salvation for mankind through Christ! My friends, our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and there is no wedding feast for us if we do not have it! When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic tenets, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. Jesus crucified, buried and resurrected is the only way to God, for He himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

God has invited us to a wedding feast, and an eternity with him. Our invitation comes with a garment that we must receive and put on to enter: Christ’s righteousness. We do this by trusting in His life and finished work on the cross to cover our sins, without any bit of trust in our own merit or good works. If we trust in ourselves, our own righteousness, and our good works to gain us entrance to the feast, we wil be cast in to utter darkness: eternity in hell. However, the kingdom of heaven is opened to those who will set aside their own righteousness and by faith accept Christ’s righteousness.

My friends, there is a heavenly wedding feast awaiting, and your invited. The question is, do you have the attire?

 

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling.” -God

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You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7

“The greatest task of the believer is to seek out and try to discover how much God loves them.” -Paul Washer

The hardest thing to believe is the way that our God loves us. He loves us with a pure and perfect love, and when he looks on us, he says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling.” It is so hard to believe it, because our culture gives us such a shallow definition of love. But oh, this love, we have never seen anything like it! Think about it, the God who created ENTIRE UNIVERSE looks on US, and says, “You are beautiful, my darling.”

Why does he view us as beautiful? Because Christ is beautiful! We are told that any good thing we do as an unbeliever is nothing but “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Picture yourself, before you come to Christ, standing, wearing nothing but filthy, dirty rags. You see, Jesus also wears a garment, it is a cloak of perfect righteousness, and it is utterly beautiful. When we lay everything at the cross and come to Jesus to save us from our sin, he strips us of our filthy rags, and he places HIS cloak of righteousness over us, and WE are made righteous. When God looks upon us, he doesn’t see the old, wicked, rebellious sinner. He sees his Son’s cloak of righteousness, his Son’s beauty, and he regards US as beautiful.

We ought not to only say, “Christ died for us.” You see, Christ also lived for us! He stepped down from his heavenly throne and lived a perfect life, full of good works, filled with love, mercy, and grace! He lived this life so that by going to the cross and being crushed for our sin (Isaiah 53:5) God the Father’s wrath would be taken out on him, and that we, by believing in him, may be given his perfect obedience as our own. This is what the second part of the Song of Solomon verse is referring to when it says, “and there is no blemish in you.” ! How amazing is this! That when the God of the universe looks on us, he loves us and sees us as beautiful, because we have Christ’s perfect obedience and life laid over our own lives. He sees us as PERFECT! He sees no blemish in us! This is how he can love us so much and be so passionate about a relationship with us!

God pursues his children. Constantly. He loves them so much! He is always calling them, “Come, come, come” and he makes sure that they will. This is why someone who says they were saved twenty something years ago by saying a prayer but have never grown, they have not come to love God’s people, and they have never encountered God, probably are misunderstanding salvation..and have not truly been saved…because God PURSUES his children! Oh, that you would not experience a life without the Father’s love! He desperately wants you to come to him and seek him and love him! When we focus our eyes on heaven, when look to Jesus, when we pray with a pure heart, his heart beats faster and faster. That’s how much he loves us, he PASSIONATELY desires you! Our God is such a lover. Our love for him, regardless of how small it may be, is cherished by him! Paul Washer says that,”Every time that we cut our eyes to heaven, it is as if the heart of deity beats faster!” Oh, how God loves his children coming to them in prayer!

True religion is not trying to do better or doing the right thing, the real religion is, “He saved me, I want to know Him, I want to please Him, I want to love Him!” He loves us this much! This will drive the unconverted, falsely assured “Christian” to think that this gives him the license to sin, because he will simply be forgiven. Oh, how wrong he is! This truth of how much our God loves us will drive the converted, genuine Christian to say, “If he loves me this much, I want to be for him all that he wants me to be!,” which will ultimately cultivate obedience.

If you are in Christ, God really does love you this much. He sees his only begotten Son, whom he so desperately loved, every time that he looks at you. His righteousness is yours. I plead with you to come to him! This love relationship is unlike any other you will ever experience on this earth. It is so hard for us to fathom because we have never seen anything like it. Come to Him, pray to Him, seek Him, love Him, cut your eyes to heaven and make His heart beat faster! He is longing to hear from YOU!