December 7, 2008
What all Christians believe and why it matters
Part 2: I believe in Jesus Christ
We’re talking about “The Essentials: what every Christian believes and why it matters.” I said last Sunday that the essentials, the core beliefs of the Christian faith can be found in the historic creeds of the church. The oldest of those is the Apostles Creed. How many of you grew up in a church where you repeated the Apostles Creed every Sunday? How many of you can still repeat it from memory? You’ll get a chance in a few minutes to strut your stuff! How many of you grew up in a church that didn’t repeat the creed? How many of you grew up outside of church? How many of you have never grown up? Growing up is overrated!
After last Sunday, I was asked by a couple people how much of the creed I was going to cover. All of it. The Apostles Creed is generally divided into 12 sections or articles. If you’ll look at the creed printed on the back of your outline, you’ll notice there are 12 lines. Each line is one section or article, and will be one message in this series. Today, line two: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.
Offering and announcements:
Holiday Blood Drive: Next Sunday, the blood mobile will be here 8 AM to 2 PM. You may sign up today at the Info Center for a donation time (or by calling the office during the week), or just show up next Sunday ready to give! Please remember to bring photo ID and to drink plenty of fluids.
Tree of Sharing: Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, all tags have been claimed; tags are still available at the Tree of Sharing booths at any of the larger malls. Please bring all gifts by next Sunday, so they may be distributed!
Christmas benevolence offering next Sunday. All monies are distributed to the needy in our church and community.
Christmas at Life Center: Carol Sing, volunteers, invites.
Men’s breakfast next Saturday: we’ll pray for Randy.
Introduction: The Christian faith is all about Jesus.
(Read together.) “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” What are the essentials? What do all Christians believe? I’m suggesting we can find that in the ancient creeds of the church. We’re using the oldest and most widely accepted creed, the Apostles’ Creed, to help us think through the Essentials. Let’s start this talk by reading the Apostles Creed together.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.
I pointed out last Sunday that the creed is Trinitarian in structure: I believe in God the Father…in Jesus Christ, His only Son…and in the Holy Spirit. How did these monotheistic Jews come to believe that the One God exists eternally as three persons? The answer is Jesus. The teaching of Jesus changed their understanding of God. Jesus is the center of the Christian faith. The largest section of the creed, 70 of the 110 words are about Jesus. Christianity is all about Jesus.
Who is Jesus Christ? That is the central question in Christianity, and some would argue, in all of history.
Matthew 16:13-16 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Even in Jesus’ day, there was a lot of confusion about who Jesus was. When Jesus asked what people were saying about Him, four answers were given: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Ask people today who Jesus is, and you’ll get a variety of answers:
• A good man.
• A prophet.
• A teacher of God’s law.
• A reincarnated spirit master.
• The ultimate revolutionary.
• The messiah of Israel.
• A first-century wise man.
• Just a man, like any other man.
• A misunderstood teacher.
• A deluded religious leader.
• A fabrication of the early church.
• The Savior.
• The Son of God.
• The Lord of the universe.
All these are answers you might hear if you ask someone who Jesus is. “But what about you,” Jesus asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Peter spoke up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And that is the answer Christians have given for 2000 years.
What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? That’s what we’re going to think about for the next 30 minutes.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.” Let’s break it down.
1. I believe in Jesus Christ.
I believe in Jesus Christ. I want to spend just a moment talking about the nature of belief. What do we mean when we say, “I believe in God, or in Jesus Christ?”
First, we mean that we believe something to be true. We could say it this way: “I believe that…” For example, I believe that God exists, that He is our Father, that He is the Creator of heaven and earth. I believe something about God. We use it this way all the time.
• I believe that Gonzaga is one of the top five basketball teams in the country.
• I believe that the economy will right itself over time.
• I believe that the sun will shine again…someday…somewhere!
I believe that…indicates we mentally accept an idea as true.
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
I believe that Jesus is the Christ. I believe that this is a true statement. Belief is mental assent.
But to believe in God and Jesus is more than “I believe that”. It’s also “I believe in.” Second, we mean that we put our trust in someone.
John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
John 12:44 Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
To believe in someone means that you trust him. You move beyond mentally accepting a statement as true to trusting in a person.
ILL: Charles Blondin was the greatest tightrope walker in the world in the 19th century. On June 30, 1859, he became the first man to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Over 25,000 people watched him walk 1100 feet suspended on a tiny rope 160 feet above the raging waters. Of course, he walked with no net or safety harness; one slip, he’s dead. When he reached the other side, the crowd roared its approval. But that was nothing. In the days that followed, he walked across the Falls many times. Once he did it on stilts. Another time, he took a chair and a stove, sat down midway across, cooked an omelet and ate it. Once he carried his manager across, piggyback. This is a guy with amazing balance!
Once, he asked the crowd if they thought he could push a man in a wheelbarrow safely across. The crowd cheered, “Yes!” Then Blondin picked out one man who was cheering loudly and asked, “Sir, do you think I could push you safely across in this wheelbarrow.”
“Yes, of course,” the man said.
“Then get in,” said Blondin.
The man refused. How many of you would have refused?
The man believed that Charles Blondin could do it; but he didn’t believe in Charles Blondin. He wasn’t willing to trust him with his life.
It’s one thing to believe that Jesus is God’s Son. It’s another to believe in Jesus, to trust Him with your life.
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.
The demons believe that…but they don’t believe in.
When we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ”, we are saying both. I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, our Lord. And because of that, I believe in Jesus Christ-I trust Him with my life. I’m climbing in the wheelbarrow. Do you believe in Jesus? Have you trusted Him with your life?
I believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus was a very common name then; actually, it still is. When we were in Mexico in February, we had to select a driver to take us into town. Can you guess why we picked this guy? (picture from cruise here.) We felt pretty safe being driven by Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua”-Jesus or Joshua-same name. How many Joshua’s are out there? The name means “God saves” or “God to the rescue”. When we say “I believe in Jesus”, we are not referring to my friend Jesus, or all you Joshua’s out there; we are referring to a particular person in history. This Jesus was born in Bethlehem; He was Mary’s son, grew up in Nazareth, was a carpenter by trade, worked for three years as an itinerant rabbi, and was put to death by Roman authorities around 30 A.D. Before this Jesus was born, the angel told Joseph,
Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Name Him Jesus-God saves-because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus’ name describes His mission. This Jesus came to save us.
I believe in Jesus Christ. “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, or surname. He wasn’t born to Joseph and Mary Christ. Christ is not a name; it’s a title.
ILL: Some of you call me “Pastor Joe”; I know this is a shock to some of you, but pastor is not my first name-it’s my title.
Jesus is His name; Christ is His title. The Greek, Christos, means “the anointed one”, and is the Greek version of the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which also means “the anointed one.” So the Christ is the Messiah. The Messiah was the long-awaited Savior of Israel. By the first century, the Jews of Jesus’ time understood the Messiah to be the one who would deliver Israel from all of her enemies, and restore her to greatness, to the glory of the kingdoms of David and Solomon. Unfortunately, they had lost sight of the prophecies that the Messiah would bring salvation to everyone, not just the Jews, and that the salvation wasn’t primarily political or military. He came to save us from our sin, and to bring us back to God.
The title “Christ” connects the Jesus story with God’s work among the Jews in the Old Testament, and all the promises given there. The roots of the Christian story are in the Old Testament, which was the only Bible that the early church had. To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ” is to acknowledge that our Christian faith is rooted firmly in Judaism, in the hope of the Jewish Messiah. The difference is that as Christians, we believe the Messiah has come. His name is Jesus of Nazareth.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
2. God’s only Son.
Last week, when we talked about God the Father, I said that the Bible talks about God the Father in three ways.
• God is the Father of everyone by virtue of creation; every person is a child of God because He is their creator.
• He is the Father of Christians by virtue of faith; when you believe in Jesus, you become a child of God spiritually.
• And He is the Father of Jesus in a unique way, altogether different than us.
The words “God’s only Son” describe the unique relationship between Jesus and God. Jesus is not a son of God, like you or I are; He is the Son of God, God’s only Son. You and I are children of God by adoption; Jesus is God’s Son by nature. You and I became God’s children when we believed; Jesus has always been God’s only Son.
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
The Greek word here is monogenes, which means “only begotten” or “one and only”. John uses it to refer to Jesus’ unique relationship with the Father. They have been Father and Son forever. John explains it this way:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word, the Logos, was in the beginning with God, and was God. Here we have God the Father and God the Son (the Word) together from the beginning.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word became flesh-this is the miracle of the incarnation, when God became a man. The One and Only Son took on a human body so we could see Him. Jesus didn’t become God’s only Son in the incarnation, by being born of a woman. He was already eternally God’s only Son, who became flesh for us.
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Here, John explicitly says that Jesus is God. God’s only Son is God too. This has always been what Christians believe. When we say that Jesus is God’s only Son, we are affirming the deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God, and He came in the flesh to save us. Jesus claimed this unique relationship with His Father that made Him God’s equal. One example:
John 5:19-23 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
Notice that Jesus claimed that the Father and Son were of one will-they do the same things. The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. The Son could give life and pass judgment, things that only God can do. And Jesus claimed that everyone should honor the Son as they honor the Father.
ILL: Imagine if I said these things! “God shows me everything He does, and I do whatever God does. I have the power to give you eternal life! I am the one who will pass judgment on you! You should honor me as you would honor God!” What would think? I’m crazy! I’m a liar! But you probably wouldn’t think I was God…for sure, those of you who know me wouldn’t! Especially if you’ve played golf with me!
Everyone around Jesus understood what He was claiming. The Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him for blasphemy. Others, including some of His own family, thought He was crazy. And some believed Him to be what He claimed: God’s only Son, God in the flesh. No one thought He was just a good teacher.
C. S Lewis, wrote this in Mere Christianity.
ILL: A man who is merely a man and said the things that Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher; he’d either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he’s a poached egg or else a devil of hell-an evil liar. You must make your choice; either this man was and is the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. But don’t let us come up with any of this patronizing nonsense about him being a great human teacher; he hasn’t left that open to us. He didn’t intend to…Now it seems to me obvious, that he was neither a lunatic nor fiend and consequently, no matter how strange, frightening or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that he was and is God.
Jesus is God. When we say “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,” this is what we, along with millions of other Christians are affirming. Jesus is God: God who saves us (Jesus), God with us (Immanuel), God in the flesh.
3. Our Lord.
I want to tell you three important things about this idea.
First, in the Old Testament, it was the title most often used for God. God is the Lord. But in the New Testament, something interesting happens; this word that was used of God begins to be used of Jesus. In a few cases, it is a term of respect, much like our word, “sir”. But in most cases, it clearly means more. They began to call Jesus “Lord” in the divine sense. In John 20:28, when doubting Thomas finally saw the resurrected Jesus, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” To call Jesus “Lord” is to call Him God, the same God revealed in the Old Testament. In fact, the early Christians took some of the Old Testament references to the Lord and applied them to Jesus.
Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Joel 2:32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved;
Acts 2:36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Peter takes Joel’s prophecy about God and applies it to Jesus. Jesus is the Lord, the God who saves all who calls upon Him.
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Isaiah 45:23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.
Paul quotes Isaiah’s prophecy about God and applies it to Jesus. Jesus is the Lord, the God before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess.
“Jesus is Lord.” Would you say that with me? Jesus is Lord. This was the first creed, the earliest confession of Christians.
Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Jesus is Lord. They clearly understood that meant Jesus is God. To say “Jesus is Lord” is a direct way of acknowledging the deity of Jesus Christ.
Second, this confession, “Jesus is Lord”, is what got the early Christians killed. The Roman Empire encompassed many nations, languages and religions. Rome kept peace by allowing everyone to practice their own customs and religions as long as they paid their taxes, and said, “Caesar is Lord.” As long as you acknowledged that Caesar was sovereign, you could practice whatever religion you wanted. For most people in the Empire, it was no big deal; they just added Caesar to their other gods. “Love you Diana, you’re awesome Mercury, worship you BMW…oh, and Caesar is Lord.” But Christians couldn’t say “Caesar is Lord” and remain faithful to Jesus. So even though they were model citizens in every other way, because they wouldn’t say “Caesar is Lord”, but said, “Jesus is Lord”, they were beaten, tortured and killed. It wasn’t that Rome objected to their religious beliefs; Rome didn’t care what Christians believed. They didn’t persecute Christians for believing that Jesus was God or the only way to salvation or that He rose from the dead. But when Christians said, “Jesus is our Lord and there is no other,” that was considered a direct threat to the state and Caesar’s supremacy, and they were killed for it. It gives you new appreciation for these words in the creed: “our Lord”, doesn’t it. Christians died for those words.
Third, this confession, “Jesus is Lord”, means that He is our leader, our ruler, our sovereign. It means that I acknowledge His right to rule in my life. When Jesus calls, “Come, follow me,” I must follow. He is my leader, my Lord. I do whatever He wants. “Yes Lord, to anything anytime anywhere.” It’s not enough to just say the words, “Jesus is Lord.”
ILL: Are any of you supervisors, bosses, employers? When you tell one of your employees to do something, what do you expect them to do? Do it! If they say, “Yes, sir. You’re the boss!” and don’t do it, it doesn’t mean much. “Don’t call me ‘boss’ if you’re not going to do what I say.”
Jesus said something like that.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Don’t just call Jesus “Lord”; obey Him! I’ll finish with this story from John Ortburg.
ILL: Nancy and I were in a part of the country we had never been before. We were going to be driving on obscure back roads, so we got a rental car, and the guy at the counter said to me, “Along with this car, if you want, you can also get a GPS system.” Have you ever used a GPS system? You plug it in and punch in your destination. A woman’s voice will tell you how to get wherever it is you are going. Well, when the guy at the counter asked if I wanted one, my immediate response was, “No. That is going to cost something. I don’t need that. I can find where I’m going without that.” Anybody want to guess what my wife weighed in with? “Get the GPS.” So, we got the GPS.
Here’s the deal: You can get the box. You can have the lady in the car, but that doesn’t mean you trust her. If you trust her, what do you do? You do what she says. You go where she tells you to go. She says, “Turn left,” you turn left. If she says, “Turn left,” and in your heart you think, But I want to turn right, you remember, There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death. Okay?
To follow Jesus means I will do what he says. I will mess up a lot. I’m going to need his power. I know that, but I form the intention. I say to him, “God, with your help, as best I can, I will do what you say. I will give you my life, my time, my obedience.” (Jesus is Lord.)
Here is the thing: If that is not your settled intent, then it is best to be honest about it. If that is not your settled intent, then whatever else you might be, you are not a follower of Jesus. An admirer, maybe. But he is looking for followers. He is looking for somebody who will say, “All right, God.” (Yes Lord)
There is something else you need to know about him-something that is also true when dealing with a GPS system. At one point when we were driving in this car, I was quite sure the lady was wrong. She said to go left, and I didn’t go left. I went right, because I knew she was wrong. Then as an interesting response, she said, “Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn.” I knew she was wrong, so I unplugged her. That’s the beauty of that little box. You can unplug her.
I got lost as a goose. My wife enjoyed that immensely.
So we plugged that lady back in, and you know what she said? “I told you so, you little idiot.” She said, “You think I’m going to help you now? You rejected me. You just find your way home by yourself.” No-she didn’t say that. She said, “Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn.”
Now see, that’s grace. As soon as you’re ready to listen, as soon as you’re ready to surrender, God will say, “Here is the way home. Execute a U-turn.” That’s repentance. “I’ll bring you home.” That is grace. That’s Jesus. He is the only one with authoritative wisdom about how to live. He is the only one who brings about the possibility of forgiveness for your sin and mine. He is the only one to give any kind of realistic hope of conquering death, of life beyond the grave.
Why would you not give your full devotion to Jesus? He does not present himself as a good, spiritual teacher to be admired from a distance. He presents himself as Master, as Lord, as the one to be followed and served and obeyed and worshiped. There is no other way. He is it.
Jesus is Lord.