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This Same Jesus

December 16th, 2016

This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11b)

Jesus is the indispensable person of Christianity. Christianity is not so much an ethic, philosophy, or morality as it is an encounter with Jesus Christ Himself.

It is especially important at Christmas time for us to consider this truth and to align our lives and our hearts to love Christ. Christmas as the world celebrates it seems determined to demean Christ to merely a babe, and to place more emphases on shepherds and wise men, even reindeer and snowmen, than on Christ.

What does the Bible say about Christ?

He is the indispensable element of creation: John said plainly, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul wrote, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).

He is the One toward whom all the streams of history run: Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). Paul wrote, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – In Him” (Eph. 1:10 NKJV).

He was the essential element of Apostolic preaching: The apostles in their evangelizing and preaching never ventured away from Christ. He was essential for the Christian message. As Peter preached at Pentecost:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:32-33)

Paul also as he gave testimony before Festus and Agrippa placed Christ front and center in his message saying, “That the Christ would suffer, and that He would be the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23). In every sermon and in every element of the Christian faith, the apostles presented Christ as the solution for the problems of the world and the indispensable Person for the salvation and new life of the individual.

He is the living center of the Christian faith and of the Christian life: Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21), and:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

It is through Christ that we are saved, and it is in Christ that we live victoriously. He is it that has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat. 28:19-20), so He is the One to whom and through whom we pray, and He is the One in whose power we preach and witness and resist temptation in our lives. It is His Spirit who indwells us (Rom. 8:9) and in Him we may live victoriously.

All the affection of our hearts should be directed toward Him. All the strength to live the Christian life should be derived from Him. All the good ambition of our soul should be intended to please Him. And all the hope and anticipation for eternity should be invested in Him. We trust in Christ because we know Him.

When we speak of trust, we speak of something more of the heart than faith or belief. We must know God to trust Him. We can believe based on a rational argument. We may have faith by an act of the will. But trust is of the heart and implies experience, knowledge, and encounter. So trust is especially meaningful for us when we come to Christmas. Unless God starts the encounter and reveals a personal aspect of Himself we cannot truly trust Him. We may have intellectual belief and choose of our wills to obey and have faith, but trust, that is based on God’s revelation of Himself, was not possible for most of us until Bethlehem.

There were some in the Old Testament, like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Daniel, who learned to trust God, but the process was long and gained through many different experiences and personal revelations. But in the simple gospel accounts, even children can come face to face with Jesus. As we read:

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:5-6)

At Christmas time, do not leave Jesus in the manger, but embrace Him as the living Lord of scripture and the One in whom and through whom your life consists.

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Who Is Jesus?

April 19th, 2016

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)

Following his arrest, the religious leaders had Christ under their control, alone and abandoned. They did not have the crowds to worry about, but they still wanted to maintain some semblance of justice. The accusation was to be blasphemy, the punishment for which was death.

The witnesses they had arranged could not agree, so the high priest asked, “Are you the Messiah?”, urging Christ to be his own accuser.

The inability of the religious leaders to see Jesus as the Messiah can only be described as spiritual blindness. It was urged on by their own pride and jealousy. They did not stop to consider that he could be. It did not occur to them that he had the credentials to be the Messiah: his teachings, his calling, his miracles, and the many scriptures he fulfilled.

He was elevated from obscurity: Often God exalted people into leadership from seemingly no where, revealing his own power and authority. In the Bible Joseph had been brought out of prison to be exalted as the prime minister of Egypt, resulting in “the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20), speaking of the family of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Samuel had been led by God to anoint young David, having been brought from tending sheep, to be the future king of Israel. So even in their own history God had exalted the ordinary and obscure to high positions. But yet their blindness closed their hearts to Jesus.

His miracles testified to his credentials: In John’s gospel is plainly laid out the importance of the miracles. Christ said:

If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true…I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:31-40)

They knew the Scriptures but not the Author of them. Many people today also confuse knowing the Bible with knowing the Lord.

He fulfilled prophesy: There was one he had fulfilled in this very confrontation – his silence. He at first said nothing to the accusations, and that was the fulfillment of Isaiah:

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

In the face of all of these credentials, they chose not to believe, not even to investigate, not even to be open to the possibility that he was the Messiah. Later in Acts we read of the wise counsel of Gamaliel who advised them not to persecute the followers of Christ, saying that if the work was of God they would not be able to stop them, and that if that was the case, then they should not oppose his work (Acts 5:38-39). But Gamaliel was either absent or silent when they questioned Christ.

He is coming: Christ told them that the day of reckoning would come. At that time they seemed to hold all of the power, but the time would come when the roles would be reversed. “Sitting on the right hand of power,” refers to Christ as being the one who is exalted and who acts for the Father. “Coming in the clouds of heaven,” refers to the return of Christ.

Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Savior who died for our sins. He is also the exalted one, the anointed one, the Son of the blessed one, the coming one, and the saving one today. How this world needs to open its eyes to see him as he truly is, and to turn to him in repentance and faith.

As we replay this scene in our own imaginations, we realize the helplessness and vulnerability that he seemed to display while sitting there in their midst. But yet even then he was not truly helpless. John records Jesus saying,

No one has taken [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. (John 10:18, NASB)

Christ willingly was laying down his life even for the very people who were preparing to put him to death. Some of them would eventually believe in him. We read in Acts,

The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. (Act 6:7, NASB)

For those of us who believe, we are touched by his love and commitment. Though he sat there alone, he had within his ability the power to call upon all of the angels of heaven to come to his rescue.

Like those priests, so we have the choice today to receive him as Savior or to meet him as Judge. We who have trusted in him, who know him as our Lord, see him as the one who loves us and gave his life for us. we also know him as the one who lives inside us and who walks with us in life. He is the one who calls us his friends and promises to return and take us to be with him for eternity.

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