The "Who Is Jesus Really?" series is designed to maximize the ability of the Rock's Salvation Army to understand and defend the identity of Christ as outlined in the Bible.
At the beginning of the service today, participants in a short drama posed the question: "Who do you say that Jesus is?" A few scenes portrayed how some people answer that question.
Some think He is their landscaper that comes on Saturday mornings. Some say He was a prophet or a good man. Some believe He will make them jump through hoops, and some try to explain Him away. The most common belief may be that He is somebody who couldn't possibly love you.
The truth is that He does love us very much, and He waits for us with open arms. This was clearly illustrated at the end by Jesus holding a woman in His arms.
Pastor Miles shared that he recently watched a Larry King show with six religious leaders discussing questions about life, death, and other issues. One panel member, the President of the American Atheists, said that there was not one shred of evidence that Jesus lived.
Psalm 53:1 states, The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." There are many ways to know that Jesus existed on earth, and one way is to examine what the disciples believed about Him. Jesus' disciples not only called Him Lord, but obeyed Him as their Lord.
How the Disciples referred to Jesus:
Peter called Jesus the Christ. Mark 8:29 states, "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ."
Nathanael called Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of the Jews. John 1:49 states, Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Thomas called Jesus Lord and God. John 20:28 states, Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
James called Jesus God and Lord Jesus Christ. James 1:1 states, James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
John called Jesus the Christ and the Son of God. John 20:31 states, But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The Disciples referred to Jesus in many ways to show they believed He was God, but the Disciples' belief in Jesus as God is best validated by what they did.
Four things the Disciples did to validate their belief in Jesus as God:
1. The Disciples left all they had to follow Jesus.
It is one thing to say Jesus is God, but the Disciples acted out their belief through their behavior. Actions speak louder than words.
Matthew 4:18-22 states, As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 9:9 states, As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Peter and Andrew left their career. James and John left their father and their job. Matthew left a lucrative position. When you accepted Christ, did you walk away from your old life? Pick one thing to walk away from this week (try food, television, or thirty minutes of sleep) and see what happens.
Just as we examine the Disciples' actions to know what they believed, people are watching our actions to see if what we do matches what we say.
Pastor Miles had a teammate who could often be heard singing about Jesus in the shower. But Miles didn't really understand the difference in his teammate until he realized that he never heard him cuss. It was how he acted that spoke volumes to Miles. Do people around you see something different in you?
2. The Disciples taught a foolish message.
The Disciples taught that Jesus was born of a virgin and that He was God in human form. These were not Jewish concepts. It was blasphemy to say that a human had attributes of an eternal God.
Acts 2:22-24 states, "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
The Disciples taught that the Messiah was killed. How could God die? Their message was backwards. They shared it because they believed it.
Acts 2:36-39 states, "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call."
Despite the foolishness of the message, the Disciples spoke the simplicity of the Gospel because they believed it. The power of their witness wasn't an argument, but the truth.
How do you represent the Gospel? Remember when you were engaged? You told everyone! How do you have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe and NOT tell everyone? Are you holding on to insecurity or pride?
Pastor Miles remembers jumping into a river when he was a little boy and being pulled by the current. He was surrendered to the water until he started swimming hard to resist the current. We will be surrendered to the world until we start to resist the world's ways and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
3. The Disciples were led by and relied on Jesus' promised Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 states, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Pastor Miles challenged those in church to ask God to show them miracles every day. God does miracles every day, but we won't recognize them unless we are surrendering our decisions, burdens, and issues to Him.
Acts 4:13 states, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Do people feel like there is something different about you when they meet you? Do they see that you have been with Jesus?
There was a show about inspirational athletes on ESPN, and one segment was about a Pop Warner player who had Down syndrome. He loved to put on the uniform and practice with the team, but usually didn't get to be involved in the plays during the games.
One day, his coach decided to give him a chance to make a touchdown. He spoke with the other coach, and when they let him have the ball, the other players pretended to be trying to tackle him but were actually falling and blocking just to either side of him as he ran.
He made the touchdown. It was a conspiracy, but everyone was still in tears. God has a conspiracy like that for you. But He needs you to let go to let Him work.
4. The Disciples suffered persecution, rejection, and violent deaths because of their faith.
Their conviction in the face of death gives the strongest evidence of their faith.
Matthew was killed by the sword. Mark was dragged through the streets by horses until he was dead. Luke was hanged on an olive tree by idolatrous priests.
John was put in a basin of boiling oil, though he miraculously lived and died a peaceful death. Peter was crucified upside-down on an x-shaped cross. James the Just was thrown from 100 feet off a temple and then beaten to death.
James the Greater was beheaded. Bartholomew was flayed by a whip. Andrew spent two days on an x-shaped cross and preached the gospel until his death. Thomas was stabbed with a spear.
Jude was shot to death with arrows. Matthias was stoned and then beheaded. Barnabas was stoned. Paul was tortured and then beheaded.
It is likely that the worst that would happen to us today is losing a job. How sad that this often prevents us from speaking the truth.
Check yourself this week. Ask yourself if you shout "Jesus is My Lord" with your attitude and actions every day.