Who is Jesus?

Fully human, fully God.
Jesus proclaimed the reign of God:
preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives,
teaching by word and deed
and blessing the children,      
healing the sick
and binding up the brokenhearted,
eating with outcasts,
forgiving sinners,
and calling all to repent and believe the gospel.
Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition,
Jesus was crucified,
suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world.
God raised Jesus from the dead,
vindicating his sinless life,      
breaking the power of sin and evil,      
delivering us from death to life eternal.

But to truly answer the question “Who is Jesus?”
One must Know, Choose, and Follow Jesus.
The following addresses just that …

 

Knowing Jesus

“Who is Jesus?”  Some people would consider that question to be unnecessary.  Surely, everyone in America today knows who Jesus Christ is!  Do they?  Although everyone in America has probably heard the name of Jesus Christ, not everyone knows the wondrous reality that lies beyond that name.  “He was born in a manger.”  “He died on a cross.”  In one sense, those are all right answers.  But in another, they are inadequate, because they only skirt the edges of His identity, without coming to grips with the reality.  They do not provide the basis for having a genuine relationship with Him.

 

This question is so important that, at a key point in His ministry, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”  (Matthew 16:16).  That answer is the cornerstone of Christianity.  To understand Peter’s answer, and to claim it as our own, we need to understand the full significance of the title Christ, or Messiah.  To be the Christ is to be the One Who performs certain unique functions in the history of the human race and the lives of individual human beings:

  1. The Christ unites God’s divinity and our humanity in His person, thereby bridging the gap between the human race and God.  Thus, the Scriptures call Jesus both the Son of God (Mark 1:1) and the Son of Man (Luke 22:48).

  2. The Christ saves human beings from the tragic, fatal, and universal plague of sin.  Without such rescue, the entire human race exists in an endless state of spiritual self-destruction.  Because Jesus does this, He is called the Savior (John 4:42).

  3. The Christ changes the lives of those who believe in Him, making them a new creation.  There is no single title applied to Jesus to express His fulfillment of this function, but there are a multitude of Scripture passages that describe it (2 Corinthians 3:18).

  4. The Christ brings us under God’s rightful authority, as our Creator and Redeemer.  Because of His exercise of this function, Jesus Christ is called Master or Lord (Matthew 23:10).

  5. The Christ imparts to human beings an accurate knowledge of spiritual truth.  Because of His carrying out of this function, Jesus Christ is called Teacher (John 3:2).

  6. The Christ brings us into participation in God’s program for human life and destiny.  A Biblical word for this program is Covenant, and Jesus is called the Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 12:24).

There are, of course, other aspects of Jesus’ identity besides those listed above.  But it is fair to say that they summarize the central truth of Who He is – the truth that people need to know in order to make a meaningful commitment to Him.  It is also clear that these aspects of Christ’s character are repeated again and again throughout the Bible, emphasizing the fact that they constitute the core of His identity – what we need to know as the foundation for genuine Christian faith and discipleship.

 

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  When Peter spoke those words, he was summing up what hundreds of Scripture passages teach about the identity of Jesus Christ.  That is the Biblical answer to the question of who Jesus Christ is.  And it is the cornerstone upon which the individual life of each Christian, and the corporate life of the Church as a whole, must be built.

 

Choosing Jesus

You may have heard the old saying about the danger of missing heaven by just twelve inches – the approximate distance between a person’s head and their heart.  In other words, it isn’t enough to have head-knowledge about Jesus.  We have to make a decision of the heart – exercising not merely our intellect, but our will.  It is by means of a personal, voluntary choice that you enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  What it involves:

  1. You must choose for yourself (Romans 14:12).  Each of us must give account of himself or herself to God.  Other people cannot do it for you.  Their choices do not make you a Christian.  Your parents may have had you baptized as a baby.  They may have taken you to Sunday School and worship services.  They may have urged you to be confirmed when you were a child or a teenager. Those are all good things, but by themselves they don’t make you a Christian.  It is when you make your own personal decision for Christ that you are a Christian according to the Biblical definition.

  2. You must repent of, and turn away from, all known sin (Acts 17:30).  Making a decision for Christ means at the same time making a decision to exclude from your life everything that is in conflict with Christ.  (You may not carry out that decision perfectly, but you must make it).  Many people try to avoid, or de-emphasize, the idea of repentance from sin.  Some people even think that the very idea of sin is obsolete, an out-dated concept from the unenlightened past.  But the modern idea that sin does not exist, and right and wrong are all relative, is just untrue.

  3. You must believe in, or trust in, Christ (Acts 16:31).  We must lean the whole weight of our future destiny, our safety, our security, our well-being, our fulfillment, on Christ and His promises.  Faith is not blind; it acts on the basis of good and sufficient evidence, but it does not demand absolute proof (mainly because such proof is impossible in principle – at least in this world).  Jesus says in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.”

  4. You must confess Him publicly as your Savior and Lord (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9).  We are to acknowledge Him before others.  It is not enough to be a “secret Christian,” to cling to an inward faith which we hide from the outside world.  Such a faith is crippled, unable to come to the full realization of its potential.  At the risk of ridicule or misunderstanding, we must publicly acknowledge our commitment to Christ.

  5. You must continually renew and reaffirm your choice.  It is not a one-time event that takes place and then is put behind us.  Jesus tells His followers of the importance of abiding in Him (John 15:4).  To drift away from our commitment to Christ is a perilous thing.  This is why Jesus tells us to remain in Him, to continue seeking Him day after day.

So we see that choosing Jesus Christ is not something shallow or superficial.  Making the choice to accept and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord is the most important decision you will ever make.  If you haven’t yet, we hope you will.

 

Following Jesus

After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples that they needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill His purpose for their lives (Acts 1:4-8).  There are two results of the Spirit’s working in our lives, which are especially emphasized in the Bible, and for which we should strive:

  1. Our character should be changed to be more like that of Christ.  The character traits which the Spirit helps us to develop are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22ff).  People can, of course, try to develop these traits by the use of their own natural will-power; but because we are weak and sinful human beings, we usually make very little progress when trying to do that all by ourselves.  However, when we invite the Holy Spirit to transform us by the power of God, dramatic and lasting changes can occur, changes that we could not achieve without the Spirit’s help.

  2. Special abilities are added to, or activated in, our lives.  These are usually called “spiritual gifts.”  There are more than twenty of them specifically mentioned in the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Romans 12:6-8).  It is important to remember that none of these gifts are given so that the person who exercises them can “show off,” or claim to be spiritually superior to others; rather, they are given for the good of all (1 Cor. 12:7).

Along with being filled with the Holy Spirit, and cultivating the fruit and exercising the gifts which result, Christ calls His followers to incorporate several other habits and practices into their lives.  These include:

  1. Christ calls His disciples to read, study, and learn the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Holy Scriptures are God’s Word to all human beings.  It is through our study of the Bible that the Holy Spirit teaches us, and we gain a deeper and clearer understanding of the Bible through the guidance of the Spirit.  Every Christian should make a habit of regular Bible reading.  The rewards of this are enormous.

  2. Christ also calls us to the practice of regular prayer, both privately and together with other Christians (Jeremiah 33:3).  Praise (rejoicing), confession, and thanksgiving are essential components of prayer, along with request.  Sincere prayer is one of the most powerful activities that we can engage in to achieve the goals that God has for us.

  3. Another of Christ’s commands is that we are to bear witness to Him by our words and actions (Acts 1:8).  If we feel inadequate for this task, He reminds us that we are not expected to do it by our own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In John 13:35, He reminds us that the greatest witness of all that we can make for Him, is the witness of our love for one another. 

  4. Christ also tells us to practice stewardship of our time, our talent, and our treasure in the service of God (2 Cor. 9:8).  Stewardship means the management of someone else’s property.  The Bible tells us that everything in the universe is God’s property, and that includes us – body, soul, possessions, talents, everything.  We are just managers, accountable to Him for the way we use things.

  5. Christ tells us to confront and defeat the forces of evil that are active in the world.  Today, many people think that the devil and demons do not exist, and that Biblical descriptions of them are just outdated superstitions.  Christians know better.  The Bible does not contain superstition, but fact.  The Bible describes the spiritual armor that will protect us against the evil of this world and offers us the tactics we can use to defeat it (Ephesians 6).  Only by learning and using these principles can we experience the freedom and the fruitfulness to which Christ has called us.

The Challenge: To go on with Christ, in partnership with your fellow Christians, to fulfill the plans that God has for you.  God bless you!

 

Adapted from a study by Rev. William H. Venable