Why Believe In Jesus Christ?

Why Believe In Jesus Christ?

Chapter Six

Why Believe In Jesus Christ?
No Man Like This Man! 76 The Answer To Man's Dreams! 82
The Initiating Love Of God! 77 The 'Personalism' Of Jesus 83
The Master Teacher 78 Symbolic Meaning Of Jesus' Genealogy 84
The Amazing Miracle Worker! 79 One In Christ Jesus! 85
The Day Death Died! 80 Discussion Questions 86
The Greatest Catcher Of Men's Hearts! 81    

Colossians 1:13-17

No Man Like This Man!

Many who have testified of a personal experience of God have spoken of 'God' in terms of Jesus. Those who seem to 'know' God best are those who speak most often of Jesus. Christians claim that the greatest fact of Reality is this: What Jesus was as a human, God has always been eternally! Doubtless the eternal God is more than the human Jesus, but God is no less than Jesus! Christians claim that Jesus was God in human form! Jesus gives God a face! When one sees Jesus, he sees God! These are startling claims!

Testifies E. Stanley Jones: "In the Congo when those in charge were about to pull up the idol from the idol-pit, the people fell back terror-stricken. They cried: 'If we look on the face of "our father," we will die.'" "But," continues Jones, "as we look on the face of 'Our Father' in the person of Jesus, then we do not die, but live! We see God not terrible but tender, not forbidding but forgiving. We see in Jesus God as He is–really is!… God is like Jesus in character. Transfer every characteristic of character from Jesus to God, and you do not lower your estimate of God–you heighten it… Jesus is God simplified, God approachable, God understandable, God lovable." (Word Became Flesh; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 24, 37)

"There is a picture of a face of Jesus surrounded by dark clouds. Apart from Jesus there are dark clouds of mystery surrounding God. But in the midst of these clouds I see that one dear Face. We smile at the boy who when asked by his mother what he was doing replied: 'I'm drawing a picture of God.' 'But no one knows what God is like, I said the mother. 'They will when I get finished,' said the boy with finality. All attempts to tell or draw what God is like are childish. Except one–Jesus!" (Ibid; pg. 48)

Why believe in Jesus Christ? Because Jesus is believable! Jesus is believable because His unique claims were backed by His unique life and teachings, and ultimately by His victory over death!

Why believe in Jesus? For at least five reasons. Using a series of rhyming words, it can be said: (1) No man ever sought like this man. (2) No man ever taught like this man. (3) No man ever wrought like this man. (4) No man ever fought like this man. (5) No man ever caught like this man. We must look at Jesus' life in view of these five wonderful facts.

"God, because You are infinite and I am finite, I need a visible, approachable God! I need a forgiving God, not a forbidding God! I need a tender God, not a terrible God! I need a God who has lived with mankind and who understands mankind! If Jesus is God, I need Him! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus' claims are unique! If they are true, He is the greatest personality in History! I will honestly examine His claims!

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Luke 15:1-7

The Initiating Love Of God!

First, no man ever sought like this Man. Who could ever imagine that God, in human flesh, would actually take the initiative to seek out sinful man! No other religion besides Christianity teaches that God, through Christ, actually stepped down to rescue lost mankind! "I have sought thy nearness, with all my heart I called thee, and going out to meet thee, I found thee coming toward me." (Springs of Devotion; pg. 13) Draw near to God, and He draws nearer to you!

But Jesus' seeking love seeks even those who are running from God! This initiating love of God is movingly portrayed in Francis Thompson's 'Hound of Heaven.'

"I fled Him down the nights and down the days: 
I fled Him down the arches of the years; 
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways 
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears 
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
But with unhurrying chase, 
And unperturbed pace, 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, 
They beat - and a Voice beat 
More instant than the feet - 
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

And then there comes the time when the fugitive was beaten.

"Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke! 
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me, 
And smitten to my knee, 
I am defenseless utterly."

And then there comes the end:

"Halts me by that footfall; 
Is my gloom, after all, 
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? 
'Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 
I am He Whom thou seekest! 
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me!'"

(Quoted by Barclay in Romans; Daily Study Bible; pg. 165-166)

Jesus is like the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes into the wilderness to go after the one sheep which is lost, until He finds it (Luke 15:4).

"O, thou 'Hound of Heaven,' you loved me when I was loveless; You sought me when I was lost; You cared for me when I was indifferent; You pursued me when I was running away from Life. Thank you for hounding me with such Love! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Religion is the record of Man's proud attempts to reach God; Christianity is the story of God's loving pursuit of sinful Man!

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Matthew 7:24-29

The Master Teacher

Second, no man ever taught like this Man. Jesus was a Master Teacher. Jesus adapted His teaching to His audience. He was direct, simple, and forceful in His teaching. Step by step He introduced truth in the most interesting way. The crowds followed Him to hear Him. He masterfully used illustrations and parables. He allowed men to think for themselves. He stimulated thinking rather than offering pat answers.

He taught openly. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret." (John 18:20)

Jesus taught authoritatively. "The people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:28-29) No second-hand pronouncements of tradition, or quotations from ancient Rabbis, but rather firsthand declarations of the bedrock facts of Reality! Jesus came straight from God and He spoke directly about God. Who better knew about God than He who had dwelt eternally with God!

Jesus' teaching was authoritative because of its source. Said "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father taught me." 8:28) "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me." 7:16)

Jesus taught uniquely. Jesus taught that He Himself had brought the Kingdom of God (the Rule of God) to a present reality! "The Kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:21)

Jesus taught compassionately. At the heart of Jesus' teaching was the flame of holy love. Jesus was moved with compassion as He looked at the multitudes who were wandering as sheep with no shepherd.

No man ever taught like Jesus, for Jesus taught His followers to call God 'Father.' Because of commitment to Jesus as Saviour, Jesus' followers had the right–a daring thing–to address God, using the tender and intimate title of 'Father,' the very word which Jewish children used to address their human fathers!

Jesus taught by example. Jesus' teaching was not speculation or theory or abstract principles. His teaching was practical, experiential, concrete! He practiced what he preached!

"God, dare I call you 'Father'? I see you in the stars and feel your power in the wind. I know you are Mighty Power, but are you Fatherly Love? If Jesus is God, then my question becomes exclamation!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If Jesus is God, then everything Jesus taught about God is true! Glory!

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Luke 11:14-21

The Amazing Miracle Worker!

Jesus' uniqueness is becoming increasingly apparent. No man ever sought like this man. No man ever taught like this man. Thirdly, no man ever wrought like this man.

The miracles which Jesus performed were not merely acts of compassion, as important as compassion was to Jesus, but primarily they were demonstrations and signs of Jesus' Kingdom power. Both Jesus' Words (parables) and Jesus' Works (miracles) must be, seen as complementary ways in which Jesus communicated the present reality of the Kingdom. The miracles were further proof of the Kingdom's inauguration.

Notes A. M. Hunter: "The miracles are tokens of the coming of God's Reign in Jesus. They are the Kingdom of God in action–God's sovereign grace and forgiveness operative in Christ. 'If I by the finger of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.' The miracles are signs, after all, but only signs for those whose spiritual insight enables them to discern the sovereign saving activity of God in Jesus… Jesus regarded not only His 'teaching with authority' but also His 'mighty works' as wrought by the Spirit of God through Him. His 'powers' are manifestations of the Supreme Power. His signs are the creative works of the Spirit operating through Him to save sick and sinful men and women. 'The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.'" (The Work and Words of Jesus; A. M. Hunter; pg. 59)

The miraculous nature of Jesus' works is altogether 'reasonable' if Jesus is God in human form! As one writer so ably said: "If the universe is dominated by a Spirit, miracles are possible; if by a Spirit that is Love, probable; and if that Spirit becomes incarnate, this miracle would make further ones very probable."

The miracles which Jesus wrought were dramatic signs–acted out parables–to demonstrate that Jesus had come to spearhead an attack against the powers of sin, sickness, and Satan. Said Jesus, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." (Luke 11:21-22 NIV) Jesus' miracles are foretastes of the kind of power that will be exercised by God for the purpose of totally and eventually destroying the kingdom of evil. Jesus is the 'strong man, fully armed, who attacks and overpowers' Satan. Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil. The miracles are God's power in action!

"God, the work of Jesus is becoming focused in my understanding. I see that Jesus came to destroy evil and to impart good–to save helpless creatures like me from the harmful works of the Enemy! Thank you for your manifest Power! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If Jesus is God, then He should do the works of God–destroying the works of Satan!

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Hebrews 2:14-18

The Day Death Died!

If it is true that no man ever sought like this man, that no man ever taught like this man, that no man ever wrought like this man, it is also true that no man ever fought like this man. Jesus fought and won against Satan! Said Calvin, "There is no tribunal so magnificent, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, and trodden them under His feet."

The Death of Jesus on the Cross was altogether unique. The greatest of all paradoxes is this: Through the means of death, death was forever destroyed! The day Jesus died was the day death died!

"Through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus' parables were parables of the Kingdom. Jesus' miracles were demonstrations and signs of Jesus' Kingdom power. Jesus' death was a redemptive death–the necessary means by which God was given opportunity to demonstrate Jesus' power over death. Jesus' death was a substitutionary death for the guilty sinner. Jesus paid the penalty for sin. Therefore, he who puts his trust in the Christ who paid the penalty for sin, puts his trust in one who proved to be more powerful than death! For Jesus arose from the dead!

The death and resurrection of Jesus are inseparably connected. They are the means by which God irrevocably defeated the powers of darkness! The death of Christ became the death warrant of Satan! Satan overstepped himself when he crucified the Lord of Glory! For Satan crucified one in whom the very power of God was resident! Jesus' power was so great that not even death could silence Him. "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8)

'Death cannot keep his prey, 
Jesus, my Saviour! 
He tore the bars away, 
Jesus, my Lord!
'Up from the grave he arose, 
With a mighty triumph o'er his foes; 
He arose a victor from the dark domain, 
And he lives forever with his saints to reign; 
Hallelujah! Christ arose!'

"God, your ways are amazing! I would never have dreamed that you would destroy death by dying, and that you would give healing through suffering! Thank you for your death and resurrection! Amen ."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus died, I may live! Jesus' darkest day makes possible my brightest day–victory over sin, death, and hell!

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John 1:5-13; Acts 2:47

The Greatest Catcher Of Men's Hearts!

Jesus sought, Jesus taught, Jesus wrought, Jesus fought. Because of the Incarnation and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God was able to establish His Church. No man ever caught like Jesus Christ!

The Rule of God assumes the Realm of God. Subjects in the Realm of God's victorious Kingdom compose the true Church of God. God is forever reconciled to Mankind through the Cross and Resurrection, and God is progressively realizing His purpose of reconciliation in each sinner's life.

It is the purpose of God that each person becomes a member of the Kingdom of God. It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. That is God's perfect will for all men, made possible through the 'Great Acts' of God in Christ. However, God has a permissive will also. He will permit men to reject His offer of eternal life. 'Many are called but few are chosen, because few are choice.' Who are the choice or elect ones? Those who choose to receive Christ.

Does Man's rejection of God's call affect the validity of the Kingdom of God? Does Man's rejection destroy the Kingdom? Indeed not! "God's Reign exists, however men respond. It claims the obedience of men truly; but it is there before the claims are made, and it is still there if men reject them." (Introduction to New Testament Theology; A. M. Hunter; pg. 26)

Jesus is the greatest Catcher of men's hearts, and souls, and loyalties. Jesus may be either accepted or rejected; He cannot be destroyed. His message is like a fire or flame that can never be extinguished. Throughout the centuries, men have tried to destroy the light of the Gospel, but the Gospel continues to send forth its glowing message to all men.

Kenneth Scott Latourette, popular historian, notes that Christianity is today more widely distributed geographically and more deeply rooted among more people than it or any other faith has ever been. He observes that during the past four hundred and fifty years and especially in the last century and a half, Christianity has been more influential in the life of the human race than at any previous time. ('A History of Christianity'; Preface XV, XVII)

The Church of Jesus Christ has grown in spite of almost every conceivable obstacle. Jesus is the Universal Christ who attracts peoples of all ages, all cultures, all backgrounds. Jesus' winsome spirit catches men. He is almost irresistible!

"God, now I see that my seeming resistance of Jesus Christ has really been a rejection of caricatures of Jesus Christ. I would be a fool not to receive the Christ of the Bible! I will receive the True and reject the false! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Though millions have come to Christ, there is still room for me!

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Luke 1:26-38

The Answer To Man's Dreams!

In the last devotional the popular historian, Kenneth Latourette, stated that "Christianity (during the last century and a half) has been more influential in the life of the human race than at any previous time ."

There is abundant evidence that Jesus is God! If Jesus were not God, could He have influenced so many so much, throughout all of history?

Through prophetic inspiration, Isaiah wrote, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Who other than Jesus Christ could fit this description? The uniqueness of Jesus is even found in His genealogy, as recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. In tracing Jesus' genealogy back to King David, Jesus is presented as the long-looked-for Messiah, the Deliverer of Israel, the 'Anointed One' from Heaven. Jesus is seen as the answer to Man's dreams!

David's kingdom was glorious and powerful. During Israel's days of decline, the Jews longed for a kingdom like unto David's to be restored to Israel. Eventually this hope of kingdom restoration was transferred into a spiritual hope. The Messianic expectation borrowed the language of kingdom glory, a glory like unto the glory of David's kingdom, excepting that the glory of the Messianic kingdom would be much greater. Therefore it was natural that Mary should hear the angel announce Jesus' coming in the language of kingdom glory: "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:31-33)

The kingdoms of earth rise and fall; Christ's kingdom abides the same forever! Christ is the only Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords! (1 Timothy 6:15) One writer described Jesus' influence in this way: "Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever have sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life, Jesus of Nazareth."

"God, I am a part of the universal longing of Mankind. I too long for a Great Deliverer, a Wonderful Counselor, a Prince of Peace, an 'Anointed One' from Heaven! If Jesus is all this, then I want Him to be the Lord of my life! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who is the 'Son of the Highest' will have highest place in my life!

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Matthew 1:1-17

The 'Personalism' Of Jesus

The genealogy of Jesus, mentioned in yesterday's devotional, significantly reveals something about the nature of God! Can a long list of hard-to-pronounce names be significant or interesting? Dr. Paul Tournier, famous Christian counselor, believes so! He says, "When I was young I used to think that they (the long genealogies) could well have been dropped from the Biblical Canon. But I have since realized that these series of proper names bear witness to the fact that, in the Biblical perspective, man is neither a thing nor an abstraction, neither a species nor an idea, that he is not a fraction of the mass, as the Marxists see him, but that he is a person." (quoted by William Barclay in Daily Study Bible; Hebrews; page 61)

The genealogy of Jesus helps us to realize the importance of the individual from the Biblical perspective. Throughout Jesus' ministry, He was always concerned with individuals. It is true that He was moved with compassion on the multitudes, but His compassion went beyond the multitudes to the lonely individuals. He saw each person as unique and worthy of His personal attention. Even in the midst of the crowds, He took time for the individuals. Surrounded by a crowd, Jesus healed the woman who had been sick for twelve years with an incurable disease. As the crowds thronged Him, Jesus spotted the curious Zacchaeus, and he became the object of Jesus' special attention and love within the privacy of Zacchaeus' home. The healing of the blind man near Jericho vividly shows Christ's personal compassion. "And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging; and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him, that he should be brought unto him." (Luke 18:35-40)

There is no problem too small but what Jesus is interested in it! Jesus' heart is touched with your personal grief. He cares when your nights are long and when your days are fraught with care. He cares for each person and desires to fold each to His loving bosom. It is important to know that Jesus cares for individuals, and the genealogy of Jesus helps us to realize the 'personalism' of Jesus.

"God, I thank you that I am not 'lost in the crowd,' but that I am an object of your special love! You are so powerful that you can rule the vast universe, and yet so personal that you care for me personally! Thank you for Jesus who has shown me your 'personalism'! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If God, through Christ, is so personable, I will never be satisfied until I know God personally!

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Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 1:21

Symbolic Meaning Of Jesus' Genealogy

Each of the three sections in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17) symbolically represents one of the three stages in the history of mankind, and, indeed, in the history of every individual.

The first section of the genealogy which is from Abraham to David is the section which describes Israel's greatness. It represents the first stage in Man's history–the stage of man's greatness. Man, created in God's image, was made only for greatness and fellowship. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized Man's beginning. Man's body was strong, his mind superb, and his spirit was unblemished.

The second section of the genealogy is from Solomon to the Exile and portrays Israel's decline and decay. It represents the second stage of man's history–the Fall into sin. Even though man was born for greatness, man lost his greatness through self-will and rebellion against God's law. Alienated from God, Man started on a course of action that produced civilizations and cultures saturated with crime, lust, hate, greed, and war. As G. K. Chesterton once said of man: "Whatever else is true of man, man is not what he was meant to be." Man was made for communion, but is plagued by feelings of separation and rejection. Man was made to only enjoy peace, but hears constantly the clamour of disharmony. Man was made for love, but is too often a creature of hate. Man was made to be integrated, but is a bundle of frayed nerves. Man's innocence became blemished by guilt, and his capacity for nobility became shriveled by self-centeredness.

The third section of the genealogy is from after the Exile to the Coming of Christ. Christ is the one by whom Israel could have regained her true greatness. This section represents the third stage of man's history–Redemption and Reconciliation. Notes William Barclay, "Man can regain his greatness." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew Vol. 1; pg. 4) Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to rescue the perishing, to restore the downtrodden, to befriend the lonely, and to heal the sick in soul. He came not to condemn, but instead to save (John 1:17). He came to "save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Christ came to make an integrated life out of a shattered life, to make a strong character out of a shallow life, to make a confident and radiant life out of a guilt-ridden life. Through Christ, mankind can come once again to know true greatness. Notes Barclay, "In his genealogy Matthew shows us the royalty of kingship gained; the tragedy of freedom lost; the glory of liberty restored. And that, in the mercy of God, is the story of mankind, and of each individual man." (Ibid; pg. 4)

"God, the history of mankind is the history of my personal life. I was born for greatness, but I have lost my greatness through my sin and rebellion. Allow me to regain my greatness through personal repentance and faith. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Rescuer of the Human Race came to rescue me! I, who am lost, will allow myself to be found!

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Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:13-18

One In Christ Jesus!

The appearance of four names in Jesus' genealogy reveals something very significant, and foreshadows what was accomplished through Christ's ministry. What are the four names? Rahab, the harlot of Jericho. Ruth, the Moabites. Thamar, an adulteress. Bathsheba, the woman whom David seduced and took deceitfully from Uriah. The appearance of these names in Jesus' genealogy symbolically declares that Jesus came to earth to destroy the man-made barriers!

First, there are no longer barriers between male and female. The appearance of women in Jesus' genealogy shows that God considers women important–so important that women are named in the ancestry of the Son of God! Jesus came to destroy all contemptible attitudes towards women. We see the tenderness of Jesus as He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus. Jesus won the heart of the despised Samaritan woman. In restoring life to the son of the widow of Nain, we see the great love of Jesus for this woman.

Second, there are no longer barriers between saint and sinner. Great joy is experienced in heaven when only one sinner repents (Luke 15:7). Christ takes the despised woman of Samaria and makes her an honored messenger of love. Christ takes a demon-possessed outcast and makes him a respectable citizen. Christ takes a high-browed Pharisee and makes him a humble and faithful follower. Christ takes a doubting Thomas and makes him a flaming evangelist. Christ takes a thieving Onesimus and makes him a faithful servant. Christ takes an adulterous outcast and makes her a pure and respectable lady. Christ takes the dying thief and makes him a son of paradise. He takes the guilt-ridden publican and makes him a free and justified believer. Christ restores a wandering prodigal to the status of full sonship. Christ breaks the shackles of sin and sets the prisoner free! Christ seeks and finds the lost sheep. He restores the downtrodden! "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)

Third, there are no longer barriers between Jew and Gentile. Christ came to break down all racial barriers. All in Christ's genealogy were not Jews! Ruth was a Moabites. Wrote Paul, about Christ's mission: "For Christ is our living peace. He has made a unity of the conflicting elements of Jew and Gentile by breaking down the barrier which lay between us." (Ephesians 2:14) We are one in Christ Jesus!

"God, I thank you that you love all indiscriminate1y–Jew and Gentile, male and female, saint and sinner. Teach me, like Jesus, to destroy the barriers that divide persons from one another. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus is the Universal Christ! I will seek to follow Christ, and be universal in my concern for all humanity!

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Discussion Questions On "Why Believe In Jesus Christ?"

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "What Jesus was as a human, God has always been eternally!" (Why or why not?)

  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God is like Jesus in character. Transfer every characteristic from Jesus to God, and you do not lower your estimate of God–you heighten it." (Why why not?)

  3. Give at least five reasons (as listed in the chapter) for believing that Jesus is God.

  4. What makes Jesus' unique claims regarding his own deity believable?

  5. In terms of 'initiating action,' what does the Christian Faith claim, that no other Faith claims?

  6. What elements in Jesus' teaching made His teaching so unique?

  7. What was the primary and the secondary significance of Jesus' miracles?

  8. What great paradox in the Christian Faith is revealed in Hebrews 2:14-15?

  9. What is meant by the expression: "Jesus' death was a substitutionary death"?

  10. Why are the death and resurrection of Jesus inseparably connected, as these events relate to man's personal salvation?

  11. What is meant by the phrase, "No man has ever Caught like Jesus Christ"?

  12. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Most non-Christians who appear to be rejecting Jesus Christ are not really rejecting Christ; instead, they are rejecting caricatures of Jesus Christ." (Give reasons why you agree or disagree with this statement.)

  13. Cite evidence from Scripture and from history that shows that Jesus was the long-looked-for Jewish Messiah.

  14. What does the genealogy of Jesus teach us regarding the person of Jesus and the nature of His ministry?

  15. What is the symbolic meaning of each of the three sections in the genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17?

  16. Discuss three barriers that Jesus came to destroy, as foreshadowed by the significant appearance of four names in Jesus' genealogy, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17.

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The Identification of a Personal God

The Identification Of a Personal God

Chapter Seven

The Identification Of a Personal God
The God With A Beautiful Face! 87 A Man Of Sorrows 92
Fully Man – Fully God 88 Out Of The Ivory Palaces 93
Jesus Is Not A Put-Up Job 89 He Is Nearer Than You Think! 94
God's Light Can Soothe Or Sear! 90 Discussion Questions 95
"He Hath Visited And Redeemed His People" 91    

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

The God With A Beautiful Face!

One little frightened girl in a dark room cried out to her mother to quickly come to her. The mother went to the dark room and reassured the daughter that God would take care of her. The little girl replied: "But God has no face!"

A small boy was gazing at a picture of his father who was away for several months. Exclaimed the boy: "I wish daddy would step out of that picture and be here in person with me just now!"

That is what God did! Christianity declares that God stepped out of His vast universe and became a real man with a real face. Jesus gave God a face! Jesus is the God with a beautiful face! Because Jesus is God, God is approachable, available, lovable!

One woman who was struggling to make a surrender to God was making little progress. The very thought of God terrified her! Finally a friend said, "If you were asked to make a surrender to Jesus, would that be difficult?" "Oh, no!" replied the woman. "Jesus is so beautiful. I could easily surrender!" She was told to surrender herself to Jesus. When you surrender to Jesus, you surrender to God! The beautiful face of Jesus is the very face of God! What Jesus was, God has always been!

John writes, "In the beginning was the Word." Jesus is called the 'Word' for, just as one's words express one's hidden thoughts, so Jesus communicates the hidden thoughts and plans of the Almighty God!

The writer of the book of Hebrews clearly states that Jesus, the Son, is the heir, agent, and preserver of the created universe! "But in the last of these days He has spoken to us in (the person of a) Son Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time–(that is) He made, produced, built, operated and arranged them in order. He is the sole expression of the glory of God–the Light-being, the outraying of the divine–and He is the perfect imprint and very image of (God's) nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power." (Hebrews 1:2-3) (Amplified version) The beautiful creation is the product of the beautiful Son. A little girl who had lived all her life in a large city, was taken for a day in the country. When she saw the beautiful bluebells in the woods, she asked, "Do you think God would mind if I plucked some of His flowers?" (Daily Study Bible; Barclay; John Vol. 1; pg. 201)

"God, how can I longer be terrified by you when I behold your face in the face of Jesus Christ! Such beauty, such love, such acceptance! Surrendering to Jesus, I surrender to you! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My struggle shall turn to surrender, my terror to confidence, when I look upon the beautiful face of Jesus!

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Colossians 2:9-10; John 1:9, John 1:14

Fully Man – Fully God

John declares that Jesus is not only the Eternal Word, but that Jesus is also the Incarnate Word. John proclaimed that "the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." (John 1:9, John 1:14)

'Coming' denotes continuous action. Gradually the constant eternal light of God's truth was being revealed in many ways and at various times.

'True light' means that all other lights are only partial rays or reflections, imperfect, incomplete, transitory.

'Lights every man' means that no person is without some degree of light. The light of truth which came in various ways at various times in history (Hebrews 1:1-4) was culminated in Jesus Christ!

God created all things good, but man marred the perfect design of God. Through his willful disobedience, man plunged himself into the abyss of sin, corruption, and misery. Man became alienated from his creator. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)

God looked down and viewed man's rebellion, moral depravity, confusion, and ignorance, and realized that He could only save mankind if He became a man! "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." (Galatians 4:4)

Jesus was fully God! Paul declared, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9) Jesus' disciples who knew Him most intimately, declared Jesus as sinless. Peter wrote that Jesus "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (1 Peter 2:22) John declared that "in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5) Jesus stood the test of the critical Jewish eye, and was declared as uniquely sinless!

Jesus was fully Man! Paul wrote that Jesus "took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man." (Philippians 2:7) The writer of the Hebrews vividly described the fact of Jesus' humanity. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same;… For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham… that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." (See Hebrews 2:14-18.)

"Because Jesus was fully human, He identifies completely with the human race. Because Jesus was truly God, He provides a perfect sacrifice for the human race. Thank you, God, for giving the world the Perfect God-Man. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The lesser lights will lead me to the greatest Light. I will follow on until I find the 'Light of the World.'

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1 John 1:1-7

Jesus Is Not A Put-Up Job

Notes J. B. Phillips, "Now once you honestly reach this conclusion that Christ was God–God revealed as fully as is possible, in a human being–you certainly don't know all the answers, but you have a remarkable amount of light to live by. For one thing, it revolutionizes your conception of the character of God. You don't see him any longer as a remote and terrifying being insulated from human life. You see him as God who so loved Man that he became Man. It was not a put-up job. He did it properly, without supernatural advantages, and he lived and died in the sweat and pain of human life. This is not one of those pagan legends about one of the gods disguised as a human being: this is the real thing. And once you see what God really was and did and suffered, you begin to see what kind of a person he is, and you have a powerful clue to his long and patient purpose." (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 72, 73)

The story is told of a naturalist who viewed a procession of ants carrying pebbles to build an ant hill. To the naturalist, the ants seemed to be moving to and fro in confusion, with little organization. With keen interest the observer watched and wished that he could communicate to the ants a more organized method to carry their heavy pebbles. Wishing that he could alleviate them of the confusion, the naturalist suddenly realized that he could communicate to the ants only if he himself would become an ant.

The naturalist who viewed the ants wished only to become an ant in order to help them. Christ only became a man in order to release man from his bondage of sin. But Christ "came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (John 1:11)

Why does man reject the Son of God? John well knew the reason when he wrote, "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:19-20)

God's light must be experienced as self-surrender before it can be experienced as self-fulfillment. Wrong concepts and attitudes must be surrendered if we are to experience the Light of God as self-fulfillment. Jesus calls us, as He called the Jews of His day, to surrender (a) false Messianic conceptions, (b) legalistic systems of self-salvation, (c) nationalistic pride.

"Jesus, I am beginning to realize that you are 'the real thing.' You are not a god simply disguised as a human being, but you are truly human and yet truly God! You revolutionize my concept of God, for you are God fully revealed in human form. What a mystery, and yet, what a revelation! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Self-surrender will lead me to self-fulfillment; walking in the light of truth will lead me to the Light of the world!

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John 3:16-21

God's Light Can Soothe Or Sear!

The Jews of Jesus' day needed to surrender certain things if they were to experience God's Light as self-fulfillment. And so must we.

First, false Messianic conceptions need to be surrendered. The Jews' physicalistic concept of the Messiah caused them to believe that God would always save them and always destroy their enemies. People still try to use God for selfish reasons. Some expect God to protect them and make them happy and prosperous, regardless of their lack of repentance, confession, restitution, discipleship, or involvement in human suffering. We must realize, even though the Jews failed to realize, that God's first concern is our holiness, and only secondarily our happiness and material prosperity.

Second, legalistic systems of self-salvation must be surrendered. The Jews believed that moral justification could be found through outward observance of written law. They failed to understand the law's purpose (to define sin; to magnify sin; to humble man and to drive him to Christ). Law was not given to save man but to show man that salvation can be found only in Christ. Their wrong conception of law led to hypocrisy and shallowness in spiritual understanding. Attempts at self-salvation led to religious pride. Religious evasion became an accomplished art. External respectability was used to cover up internal heart corruption. Modern man also often prides himself in law-keeping or in religious observances, rituals, moralism, ethics, and philosophy. Some seek to balance their moral account with God by good deeds. But, breaking one of the commandments makes one as guilty as the man who has broken many of the commandments (James 2:10)! The Light of God can only be known as self-fulfillment through surrender of pride and moral self-sufficiency.

Third, nationalistic pride must be surrendered. The Jews believed that God was unconditionally 'married' to Israel–to protect her, to prosper her. Israel believed all other people to be inferior, objects of God's judgment. Thus, Israel believed her salvation to be automatically guaranteed by virtue of racial descent from Abraham. Some modern Americans assume, sometimes subconsciously, that God favors America and that God is unconditionally obligated to advance America's interests, regardless of personal repentance and faith. Only when we realize that God's covenants are conditional, and then humble ourselves in repentance, can we know the Light of God as self-fulfillment. God's light can soothe or sear, save or condemn, depending upon man's response to it.

"God, give me courage to surrender my wrong concepts to you in order that I may receive your Truth. I confess that often I have tried to earn salvation through mere human effort or moral performance. I reject the false and accept the True! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's Light will heal me, not hurt me; save me, not condemn me; soothe me, not sear me!

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Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 5:7-10

"He Hath Visited And Redeemed His People"

The Bible says, "He (God) hath visited and redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68) Says E. Stanley Jones: "The only way to redeem His people was to visit them. He couldn't sit on a cloud and utter commands or pick us up and take us to heaven with celestial tongs, not soiling His fingers with the messy business of human living. No, He dwelt among us–amid our poverty, amid our temptations, amid our problems and choices, amid our oppositions and disappointments. He lived among us and showed us how to live by living." (Word Became Flesh; pg. 34)

God, in the person of Jesus, knew what it was to pass through childhood, adolescence, and manhood–with all of the temptations unique to each stage. Jesus, like us, felt the pull of materialism, the pull to popularity at any cost, the pull to accomplish the right ends with the wrong means. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus understood what poverty was all about. After Jesus had entered into His public ministry, on one occasion He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

Jesus understood the challenge of involvement with people, for he worked with all sorts of people–religious and profane, literate and illiterate, high and low, rich and poor, young and old, healthy and sick, Jew and Gentile, urban and rural. He understood the complexities of human relationships and the subtleties of human nature.

Jesus understood what it was to be misunderstood, rejected, and despised, and he also knew what it was to be hailed, praised, and followed. Jesus knew abounding times and abasing times, prosperity and poverty, apparent success and apparent failure, companionship and loneliness, joy and sorrow, acceptance and rejection. Through all the changes and chances, due to the ebb and flow of life, Jesus learned to be master of circumstances. As we would say today, Jesus learned to cope with life, to cope with the challenges and the responsibilities of life. Jesus' life demonstrates God's total identification and involvement with man's daily changing experiences.

Jesus even identified with man's sins. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

"Jesus, you hit rock bottom in your identification with mankind when you went to the Cross for my sins! No one but God could demonstrate such love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In His total identification with mankind, Jesus gave Himself totally for my redemption. Nothing less than the total giving of my Self to God is worthy of God's infinite love for me.

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Isaiah 53:1-4

A Man Of Sorrows

Most scholars believe that the description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 is a description of Jesus Christ.

The sorrows and sufferings of life are many and varied, but Jesus' life shows us that God is involved in all of them. Wrote Kagawa, the great Japanese missionary: "God dwells among the lowliest of men. He sits on the dust heap among the prison convicts. He stands with the juvenile delinquents. He is there with the beggars. He is among the sick. He stands with the unemployed. Therefore let him who would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the temple. Before he goes to Church let him visit the hospital. Before he reads his Bible let him help the beggar." There is never a sorrow that He doth not share, nor a woe that He does not feel. He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Picture Jesus as He makes His way into the desert to contemplate, following the beheading of His cousin John. Follow Him to the graveside of His dear friend Lazarus, and listen to His deep moans and sobbing in the midst of Lazarus' broken-hearted sisters, Mary and Martha. Go with Jesus to the Mount that overlooks Jerusalem; and witness Jesus' tear-soaked cheeks as he cries out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold your house is left unto the desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)

"The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son–Christ could not bear it! The leper, the innocent, once gay young life struck down by that slow, dreadful living death–Christ could not bear it. 'I will, be thou clean.' The great mass of attractive, lovable men and women caught in the toils of sins that spoilt their lives, and temptations they could not break, and wild regrets that were a misery–Christ could not bear it. And so He died to free them. And so we can say today, in those most moving words of our hymn, 'Jesus, Thou art all compassion.'

'Jesus, Thou art all compassion, 
Pure, unbounded love Thou art; 
Visit us with Thy salvation, 
Enter every trembling heart.'

But the greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God." (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 197)

"Do you care, God, when my days are weary and my nights are dreary, when my heart nearly breaks with sorrow? O yes, I know you care, for I see Jesus moving among suffering humanity, applying His touch of healing. Let Jesus touch me! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus was acquainted with grief, I will not detach myself from grieving persons.

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Philippians 2:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9

Out Of The Ivory Palaces

"Many years ago, when the Duke of Windsor was the Prince of Wales, he one day left Buckingham Palace, journeyed west into the coal mining country, put on a miner's cap, and went down into the dingy tunnels to see for himself the conditions in which men toiled in a difficult and dangerous branch of British industry. As a member of the royal family he was as much a prince in the coal mine as he was when he lived in the palace in London. But, while his essential equality with royalty was unchanged, there was no longer an equality of experience. He had consented to enter into experiences that never came to him amid the elegances and immunities of the palace." (Proclaiming the New Testament; Paul Rees; pg. 44)

Jesus was still the royal Son of God while he dwelt on earth, but Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poorness of humanity. As 2 Corinthians 8:9 points out, the costliness of the Incarnation is seen in three facts: (1) how rich Jesus was, (2) how poor He became, and (3) how wealthy he made us.

Jesus came out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe–all because of His great love for a fallen race of people! He who was invested with the full powers of divinity, He who was co-equal with the Father and the Spirit–this powerful, eternal Christ became a lowly human!

Says Bishop Sheen: "In the filthiest place in the world, purity was born. He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting as beasts, was born among beasts. He who would call himself the living bread, descended from heaven, was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat… There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable… The stable was the last place that the world would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. No worldly mind would have suspected that He who makes the sun warm the earth, would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. That he, who, in the language of the Scriptures, could stop the turning about of our tourists, would have his birth place dictated by an imperial census. That he who clothed the fields with grass, would himself be naked. That he, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That salvation would lie in a manger. That the bird which built the nest, would be hatched therein. No one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss him."

"Jesus, your very name means 'Love' to me! Love can go down. You went down into the very pits of sin to rescue sinners! You left the glories of heaven to experience the miseries of earth! All because You loved a sinner like me!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus humbled Himself to serve all; I will surrender myself to serve Him!

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Psalms 145:14-21

He Is Nearer Than You Think!

The Incarnation teaches us that God, far from being detached and disinterested in man, is instead the God who has taken the initiative in seeking and saving mankind! There is a story of a woman who was trying to find God. "She had a certain dream which she dreamed more than once, namely, that she was standing in front of a thick, plate glass window. As she looked at it, she seemed to see God on the other side. She hammered on the window, trying to attract His attention, but without success. She grew more and more desperate, and began to call to Him and found herself shrieking at the top of her voice. And then a quiet, calm voice at her side said: 'Why are you making so much noise? There is nothing between us.' Perhaps that illustrates our difficulty, does it not? We have been thinking all along that God was somewhere far away, unapproachable… some place that was difficult of access… and we have been groping around for a long time, and all the while He is standing beside us." (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master; Peter Marshall; pg. 131)

It is a great thing to know that God loves the human race–corporately yes, but more amazingly, individually. Paul Rees tells of a community canvass being made. At a certain door the questioner asked the woman who answered his knock what children she had. She began, 'Well, there's Willie, and Horace.' But the canvasser interrupted, 'Never mind names, I just want numbers.' Then she grew impatient and a bit indignant. 'They haven't got numbers,' she protested. 'Every one of them's got a name.' Concludes Paul Rees: "They had personalities that spoke with all the eloquence of their individual characteristics… So God looks upon His human creatures." (Stand Up in Praise to God; Paul Rees; pg. 23-24)

Jesus was made rich but He became poor in order that, through His poverty, we might be made rich! The way God accomplished this purpose is most mysterious and wonderful! "It is fifteen hundred years ago that this apparently invincible Empire (of Rome) utterly collapsed, and all that is left of it is ruins. Yet the little baby, born in such pitiful humility and cut down as a young man in his prime, commands the allegiance of millions of people all over the world. Although they have never seen him, he has become friend and companion to innumerable people. This undeniable fact is, by any measurement, the most astonishing phenomenon in human history. It is a solid rock of evidence which no agnostic can ever explain away." (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 162-163)

"God, forgive me for groping around so long, trying to find You when You have already found me! You are nearer to me than I ever dreamed! Your initiating love is not only for the world as a whole, but for me as a person! Amazing!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will listen attentively to the quiet, calm voice at my side. It sounds like the voice of Love!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Identification Of A Personal God'

  1. What is meant by the statement: "Jesus gave God a Face!"

  2. Why is Jesus called 'the Word'? (John 1:1, John 1:14)

  3. Who does the writer of Hebrews (in Hebrews 1:2-3) declare that Jesus is?

  4. What significant truths regarding God's plan of salvation can you describe, as noted in John 1:9?

  5. What declaration from the lips of Jesus' disciples offers strong evidence for the deity of Jesus?

  6. What evidence from Scripture can you cite for the true humanity of Jesus Christ? (Note Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14-18.)

  7. Why must Jesus be fully Man and yet fully God in order for Him to be the Savior of mankind?

  8. How does acceptance of the conclusion that Jesus was God revolutionize your conception of the character of God?

  9. What was the purpose for which God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ?

  10. According to John 3:19-20, why do people reject the Son of God?

  11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God's light must be experienced as self-surrender before it can be experienced and enjoyed as self-fulfillment."

  12. What false Messianic conceptions regarding the mission of Jesus, did the Jews of Jesus' day hold? What are some of the false conceptions people have today regarding the mission of Jesus?

  13. What is meant by the statement: "Legalistic systems of self-salvation must be surrendered. "What behavioral manifestations will likely be evident in the life of the person who seeks to live by law rather than by grace?

  14. Were God's covenants with Israel conditional or unconditional? Is God obligated to favor America, regardless of the degree of America's obedience to God's revealed moral laws and will? What is meant by the expression: "God's light can soothe or sear!"

  15. Name several ways in which Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God, identified with the human race when He was on the earth.

  16. Describe what is meant by Bishop Sheen's statement: "Divinity is always where one least expects to find it."

  17. What is there about Jesus that makes Him and the movement that bears His name–Christianity–one of the most astonishing phenomena of human history?

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