If you and I were total strangers and I were to walk up to you, hand you a bottle containing an unidentifiable liquid and tell you to drink it, what would you do? For all you know, it could be a refreshing cool drink for a hot day. Or it could be a deadly poison.
- You might think it a little strange, politely refuse, and walk away.
- You might be curious and initiate a dialogue by asking, “What is it?”
Depending on whether you believe what I might tell you about the contents of the bottle and on how badly you want what you think is in it, you may decide to take it and drink it.
How might things be different if you were very, very ill and in desperate need of medicine. What if I told you that what was in the bottle would cure your illness? Would you look at that bottle differently? Would your hope overcome your hesitancy?
- Perhaps you would take the bottle and drink it down right away in hopeful desperation.
- Or perhaps you would take it, but fear would kick in and you would hold onto the bottle, not knowing whether to take the risk of drinking it or not.
Think about how the situation would change if you knew something about me. How would what you had heard about me affect your reactions?
- Wouldn’t your response be more definite, either inclined toward the positive if you had heard good things, or toward the negative if you had heard bad?
Then again, what if you and I were close friends and you knew me to be trustworthy and caring. Would you hesitate to receive the drink that was offered?
Belief and trust determine what you will or will not receive, based on what you believe about what is being offered to you and what you believe about the person who is offering it.
- When you don’t know enough about a person to trust them, the only criteria you may have for deciding whether to receive what is offered are these: what you desire and what you think you need – neither of which is a reliable measure of what is good.
Consider this: What you believe about Jesus–and whether you know Him well enough to trust Him–will play a large part in determining what you are willing to receive from Him.
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We live in times when we often hear vague and contradictory ideas about who Jesus is, what He said, and what He did. Sometimes even though what we hear may be true, we only hear half the story.
Let me ask you a question. Where do you get your ideas about Jesus?
- From friends and family?
- From what you hear in church?
- From popular “Christian” books you have read?
- From documentaries or movies you have watched on TV or at the theater?
- What about from what you have read on the Internet or on Facebook?
Chances are you have heard some things that are true and some that are just plain false. Do you know the difference? Do you realize it is likely that at least some of your ideas about Jesus come from your own reasoning based on your emotions and past experiences?
Maybe at this point you are wondering, “Does it really matter? Why should I care?”
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I’ll tell you why, but first, let’s get one thing clear.
- It is not necessary to have a perfect understanding of who Jesus is, what He said, or what He did in order to be saved:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9
If it were possible to be saved by gaining a perfect understanding of Jesus, that would be salvation by works. Because that would be something you do, something you have, or something you can work at. You and I are saved by faith through God’s grace, by trusting in Jesus who did for us what we could not do for ourselves and by receiving from Him the gracious gift He offers.
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So let us come back to the question, “Does it really matter what I believe? Does it really matter whether I have a true understanding of who Jesus is and what He did for me? I’m saved, right? I can just relax and enjoy life, knowing Jesus took care of everything for me.”
We live in a fallen world, dealing daily with difficult circumstances, with pain, with heartache and with broken people (ourselves most of all).
Does it matter if what I believe about Jesus is true and right? Absolutely! Because if I am going to trust Him enough to receive from Him all that He desires to graciously give me in order to deal with my life right here and now, I need to know Jesus with a true, one-on-one, personal kind of knowing. I need to know Him well enough to not only trust Him with a vague, uncertain idea of heaven-somewhere-in-my-far-off-future, but with my struggles, with my choices, with my relationships right here and now.
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We could spend countless hours learning about Jesus, but today I want you to consider a few key points about:
- Jesus’ humanity
- Jesus’ divinity
- Jesus’ character
Humanity. Speaking of Jesus, the Apostle John wrote, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14) What that means is, Jesus lived among us as a human being.
As a man, Jesus knows what it means:
- to work hard
- to be hungry and thirsty and tired
He knows what it is like to have:
- an earthly mother and father,
- brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:55-56)
- friends and neighbors
He experienced first-hand and on a very human level:
- the death of a loved one,
- the betrayal of a friend,
- extreme physical pain,
- and incredible emotional anguish
He knows what it means:
- to be misunderstood by those who should know you best,
- to be publicly ridiculed,
- and to be rejected by those who should have been glad to see Him
Furthermore, according to Scripture, Jesus experienced temptation in all things just as we do, but in all these things, never once did Jesus sin!
Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Now, if we don’t know better, we might say, “Well sure, it was easy for Him, He is God.”
But according to the Scripture, when Jesus became a man, He laid aside the privileges of His deity. Phil 2:5-6 tells us He let go of His equality with the Father and emptied Himself. And in the gospel of John, Jesus Himself tells us that it was not by His own power that He did miraculous works, but His Father was working through Him, even as Jesus now offers to work through you and I (John 14:10-12).
I don’t know about you, but I think that is good news. In fact I think it is great news! Knowing that Jesus was able to live the life He lived, not because of His deity, but because as a human being He depended on His heavenly Father gives me hope for my own life.
In the same way that Jesus was able to deal with all the experiences, the people, the pain, and the temptations in His life without sin by remaining in that abiding relationship with His Father, He offers to you and I the opportunity to deal with life while abiding in Him.
In John chapter 15, Jesus tells us that just as a branch must remain connected to and continually draw its sustenance from the vine in order to bear fruit… when we too remain connected and continually receive grace and power from Him, we will bear much fruit.
John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
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Divinity. Although He is the eternal Son of God, Jesus lived in pure humanity during His time on earth. But what about now? Having been raised from the dead and having ascended to heaven, Jesus has once again taken up the privileges of his Deity (Col. 2:9).
So what privileges of deity does Jesus possess?
Omnipotence: Unlimited power. The power that created the universe. If you think an atomic explosion is powerful, or the explosion of a star (which we call a supernova), God’s power made them possible. Death is no match for the power of God. If you are abiding in Him, this same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in your life through Jesus.
Omniscience: Universal, unbounded and infinite knowledge. He knows every thought and every act, past, present or future of every human being that will ever live. He knows every living creature, every galaxy, every atom of the universe. He knows every event, every circumstance, every emotion, every truth, every lie. Nothing takes Him by surprise. There is nothing beyond His understanding and nothing hidden from His sight.
Omnipresence: Not bound by space or time. Present in every place at every time. At any moment in time He is fully present with you and able to give you His full attention while also doing the same for me and for every other living being. This is incredible to me and hard to fathom!
Sovereignty: Having all authority. Nothing occurs in all of Creation without His permission. Man’s free will operates within the bounds that He has set, as do angelic beings. Having all authority, He also holds accountable all under His authority, thus all of Creation is answerable to Him.
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Character. Jesus laid aside the privileges of His deity during His time on earth and now has taken them up again, but He never laid aside His nature. His nature, His character, is unchanging. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the exact representation of His nature (Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3). Jesus Himself said, “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.” (John 12:45)
This is more good news! This means that by getting to know and understand the character of Jesus, I can know the character of the Father as well. All the riches of the knowledge of the character of God that I can glean from the Bible: compassion, mercy, grace, righteousness, holiness, humility, gentleness, justice, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, love… All of this I can know in the person of Jesus Christ and I can experience in relationship with Him.
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So, does it really matter what you believe about Jesus?
Absolutely! If you do not know Him, you will not trust Him. And if you do not trust Him, you will not receive from Him.
If you have not been diligent to seek to know Jesus–the real Jesus and not your own made-up or mixed-up ideas of Him–resolve today to seek Him. Jesus promised that those who diligently seek Him will find Him (Prov. 8:17, Matt. 7:7).
[Adapted from a sermon originally preached June 15, 2014]