Do You Believe in the Real Jesus?

Do you know the real Jesus?

I remember in the last church we served in (I served as an interim pastor), one of the ‘deacons,’ claimed to know Jesus. His brother was a pastor. He served as a deacon in a couple different churches. He knew his stuff. One Sunday night during Bible study, we read something from Scripture about the work and authority of Jesus and he raised his voice from the back of the room, “Well, that’s not right!” He proceeded to argue against an explicit statement made in the Bible. It was heart-wrenching for me because this man was so confident in his own knowledge, but had no idea who Jesus was or is. He wanted to “be [a teacher] of the Law, even though [he did] not understand what [he was] saying or the matters about which [he made] confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7).

There are several versions of Jesus Christ present in stories, different religious viewpoints, and classrooms. People have all sorts of differing opinions about who Jesus was and is. I think it is safe to say that if we do not know the real Jesus, then we are not Christians. If life is found only in Jesus Christ, then we do not have life if we do not know, relationally, the real Jesus. Many people wear Jesus’ name on their shirts or refer to themselves as ‘Christians’ in such a way that makes Jesus look like a celebrity. The thing about celebrities is that you don’t really know them and they don’t know you. You only know the stories you hear and those may or may not be entirely true. In our belief statement, we make these professions:

WE BELIEVE in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

WE BELIEVE in His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles and teachings, His substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, perpetual intercession for His people and personal, visible return to earth. (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:23; Mark 16:19; Luke 1:35; John 1:1-2 and 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:2-4; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 1:2; Revelation 1:8)

Do we know the real Jesus? Do you know the real Jesus personally and relationally?

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

All things were created through Him,

and apart from Him not one thing was created

that has been created.

Life was in Him,

and that life was the light of men.

That light shines in the darkness,

yet the darkness did not overcome it.

The eternal word (v. 1-5)

John’s Gospel is the latest of the four Gospels. His purpose for writing was to prove that Jesus was God’s Son to skeptical people. He was writing to non-Christians and new believers, that they might come to know who Jesus was and is. His Gospel is not particularly Jewish and not particularly for Gentiles. His Gospel is so different from the others because of his intended audience. His Gospel takes a more philosophical tone and leaves out much of the religious imagery of the day. For example, John doesn’t record genealogies, parables, a record of Jesus’ birth, the transfiguration, or the temptation of Jesus because these all meant something specific to already religious people. John was writing to the non-religious. John’s Gospel, then, serves as another Biblical example of contextualization as we share the news of Jesus Christ. We must love people enough to meet them where they are and speak to them in an understandable way.

John begins his Gospel in chapter 1, verses 1 and 2 (that makes sense right?):

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

In these two verses, we see this person referred to as the Word. This person was with God and was God in the beginning. There was a general belief in a creating God or force. So, that is the point at which John begins, opening his Gospel by stating, ‘I want to tell you about this person who was God and was with God in the beginning!’

That was an attention getter designed to appeal specifically to the hellenistic minds of the time. The statement also communicated a truth about this person, the Word. He was God and was with God in the beginning. He was not created. He was also not merely “a” god, as the Jehovah’s witness’ bible states. The Greek, “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος,” literally translates, “In [the] beginning was the word, and the word was with God (proper), and God was the Word (proper).” This, if mistranslated from the original language, has to be mistranslated purposefully and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have tried to defend their purposeful mistranslation fruitlessly.

The Old Testament confirms John’s claim. The Word was present in Genesis 1, and Isaiah 48:16 confirms that the Word existed before anything and that the Word was the one who was always speaking as God to people. The Word is not a creation of the Father. The Word is also distinct from the Father. God is one essence, existing in different persons. All persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal in power, nature, action, and will. The Word was with God and was God in the beginning.

All things were created through Him,

and apart from Him not one thing was created

that has been created.

John describes the Word in the same way that the Old Testament does, particularly in Isaiah. Everything was created through the Word. So, we see a distinction made between the persons of the Trinity and their roles. God the Father is the originator and the person who receives all glory. God the Word is the one through whom the Father’s work is accomplished. The Word is the one who is exalted and who makes evident the work of the Father. The Father did not become the Word, nor has the Father or the Word ever ceased in fulfilling His particular function as members of the Godhead. God does not change (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17).

Life was in Him,

and that life was the light of men.

That light shines in the darkness,

yet the darkness did not overcome it.

In context, the Word is in the beginning. He is God and is with God. In the beginning, life was in Him and that life was the light of men from the beginning. What does it mean that life has been in the Word from the very beginning and that this life has been the light of men from the same beginning?

When we refer to the Word, we usually are referring to Holy Scripture. This passage gives us great insight into the origin of the written word. If this person of the Trinity is the revealer, the one through whom all things are created to the glory of the Father and if we believe that Scripture is inspired by God, then it is the case that the eternal Word was the person of the Trinity inspiring the written Word, such that all of Scripture is the spoken and written word of the Word in order to reveal the Father for the Father’s glory and in order to exalt the Word.

So, when we read through the Old Testament, we see this character referred to only as the Angel of the Lord (always with a definite article to make proper). There is only one Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is the one who communicated with Moses (Exodus 3:2-6), Abraham (Genesis 18:2, 22:11-15), Hagar (Genesis 16:7-14), Balaam (Numbers 22:22-38), Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:4), Jacob (Genesis 31:11),  The Angel of the Lord forgave sin (Zechariah 3:4), claimed to be God (Genesis 16:13, 31:11, Exodus 3:2-4), and leads Israel from Egypt (Exodus 14:19).

Anytime God is directly communicating with people, it is by the person of the Word because the Word is revealer. All things were created through Him and nothing that has been made was made apart from Him. Life was in Him. Quite literally, it is the Word through whom all things exist (live and move and find their being). If people exist through the person of the Word, then the Word is not only the one who reveals the Father, but who illuminates us. We don’t illuminate the Word, the Word illuminates us.

John continues, “That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” John jumps from past to present-tense. There is no explanation of Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled, only a description of the eternal Word shining like a light in the present tense. The darkness did not overcome, or comprehend, that light. The word, “κατελαβεν,” means to take ownership of, overtake, or perceive cognitively. The light overtakes and comprehends the darkness, exposing it and revealing to it. When John gets to chapter 3, verse 19, he writes that because people love the darkness, not wanting to be revealed, they run from the light rather than to it. There is no desire to understand, to be exposed and receive life.

It is the Word who does all revealing to all people through all time and life is and has always been found in the eternal Word alone.

John 1:14-18

The Word became flesh

and took up residence among us.

We observed His glory,

the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,

full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning Him and exclaimed,

“This was the One of whom I said,

‘The One coming after me has surpassed me,

because He existed before me.’”)

Indeed, we have all received grace after grace

from His fullness,

for the law was given through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.

The One and Only Son —

the One who is at the Father’s side —

He has revealed Him.

The Incarnation as The Perfect Revelation (v. 14-18)

John reveals that the Word is a person by the name of Jesus Christ. He became flesh and took up residence among us. In Christ, John observed the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. John wrote that the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word. The Law was a testimony to Christ and to the revealed grace of Christ Jesus. Jesus, being the only one who has ever seen the Father, is the perfect revelation of the Father in His incarnation.

So, the purpose for the incarnation was primarily that the Father would be revealed, that the glory of the Father would be seen through Christ, as was the case throughout human history.

Jesus is the full revelation of God to people through all time and forevermore. In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew records Jesus going through the towns, performing miracles in spite of the people’s faithlessness, and people refused to repent and come into the light of life.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30).

The message is consistent. Jesus’ identity is affirmed as the revealing member of the Godhead. It amazes me that there are so many people who profess to be Christians and who have no idea who Jesus Christ really is. We can hear the misrepresentations in every moralistic sermon and in some of the most prominent teaching of our day. Steven Furtick, the pastor at Elevation Church (a Southern Baptist Church based in Matthew, NC), recently preached a sermon titled “Trapped in Nazareth” as part of his series Savage Jesus. In this sermon, Furtick spent the hour making and applying this point:

“…they (The people of Nazareth) became trapped in their offense and God’s power could not operate at its full capacity because their mentality was trapped in their offense… why God often cannot do what He wants to do in our lives hinges on this… the reason they rejected Jesus is because they rejected theirselves…”

In the same sermon, Furtick also stated that church was about getting people in the doors and “getting them fixed.” That sort of teaching is false and highly dangerous for people. The real Jesus was not professed, only some weird alternative psychology and bad self-help advice. Furtick teaches something very different than that which is the official position of his denomination. We need to know the difference between beneficial preaching and unhealthy preaching.

Solid, biblical preaching does not rely on the charisma of the preacher, the setting of the sermon, the lighting of the stage, or the atmosphere. Good preaching accurately teaches the Bible. Bad preaching does not. It was painful sitting through Furtick’s sermon this last week because he butchered the text of Scripture. Good preaching doesn’t give people false hope, especially false hope in self. Bad preaching twists the Scriptures, even if unintentionally, and misrepresents the truth. Good preaching is hard work and toil when it comes to exegeting and exposing the Scriptures. Bad preaching is hard work to try and say something profound or impress an audience. We want the word of God and nothing less. For those who aspire to be teachers or elders, please remember this: your teaching is not about you saying something new or profound. Scripture alone is all we need for life and ministry. Study the words of Christ. Teach them accurately. Know Jesus.

The real Jesus throughout all time

  1. Jesus was not created, He condescended.
  2. Jesus did not become a god, He is God.
  3. Jesus is the Word, perpetually revealing the Father and glorifying the Father through His own exaltation.
  4. God doesn’t take the mode of Jesus; neither is Jesus subordinate to the Father; Jesus and the Father are co-existent and co-equal in power, nature, action, and will.
  5. Jesus exposes us and is the only one in whom life can be found.
  6. Jesus does not receive His power from our belief, we believe by His power.
  7. Jesus is not disabled by our lack of faith, our faith is enabled by Him.
  8. Since He is the revealer, we are chosen according to His will alone.
  9. Those who are chosen are given, by grace, eyes to see and ears to hear.

WE BELIEVE in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

WE BELIEVE in His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles and teachings, His substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, perpetual intercession for His people and personal, visible return to earth. (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:23; Mark 16:19; Luke 1:35; John 1:1-2 and 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:2-4; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 1:2; Revelation 1:8)

Later in his Gospel, John would record one of Jesus’ prayers before the crucifixion,

Father,

the hour has come.

Glorify Your Son

so that the Son may glorify You,

for You gave Him authority

over all flesh;

so He may give eternal life

to all You have given Him.

This is eternal life:

that they may know You, the only true God,

and the One You have sent — Jesus Christ.

I have glorified You on the earth

by completing the work You gave Me to do.

Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence

with that glory I had with You

before the world existed (John 17:1-5).

Jesus has authority to grant eternal life, despite our fallenness and sin and wretchedness. In fact, the glory of the Father is achieved through the exaltation of Christ in the saving work of Christ. Eternal life is defined this way by John- knowing God (the Father) and the One the Father sent- Jesus Christ. Mark Jones wrote this on the first page of the first chapter of his book, Knowing Christ,

“There exists no more important question than the one Jesus asked his disciples, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (Matt. 16:15). No query has been more hotly debated, completely or partially misunderstood, ignored to one’s peril, and answered correctly to one’s great gain. The right answer to this question is simple enough to save a child, and at the same time complex enough to keep theologians busy for all eternity. If eternal life means knowing Jesus Christ (John 17:3), we cannot afford to be ignorant about the one who is ‘chiefest among ten thousand’ (Song of Sol. 5:10 KJV)” (p. 1).

If we don’t know Jesus, I mean the real Jesus as described here, if we believe in some other version of Jesus, if we are merely religious, or if we just prayed some prayer some time ago; the Scriptures declare that we do not have eternal life. To have eternal life is to know the real Jesus and to know the Father, whom Jesus reveals. Let us come to Jesus Christ and invite those around us to also come to Christ as He is exalted to the glory of the Father.

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