Trying Again...

This is my second try at describing the most wonderful person I have ever met. The first one ended up sounding like a religious textbook--a little stilted, and probably harsh.

But I've learned a lot in the year since then...and now I know to focus on simply letting you get a glimpse of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ--and not 'hit' you with a lot of religious dogma.

It will still sound "religious" of course, but maybe this time it won't offend you or drive you away or convince you to stop reading this (thinking I'm just another crazy religious fool--Lord knows we have enough of those already!).

Well, here goes...This person Jesus Christ is probably one of the oddest characters in history. This common Jewish carpenter went about his short 33 years of life confronting the religious authorities, calling people to a personal relationship with God (instead of to a religion), even claiming to be God(!), doing good, and doing feats that were remembered as miracles. He was executed as a criminal by the Roman government. His followers claimed that he 'rose from the dead and went to heaven' and the hostile authorities of the day were never able to find his dead body to refute the claim.

His teachings were a strange mix of forgiveness /acceptance for the honest and humble, condemnation for the arrogant and indifferent, and almost outrageous claims about himself and His Father. He brilliantly summarized the entire sacred writings of his nation and extended them to new areas of life and heart. His message centered around God's radical love for mankind, mankind's general failure to respond appropriately to this love, and the actions in history that God undertook to lovingly bring people back to Himself. The most important and strangest act of love was in God sending his Son Jesus to earth.

Jesus Christ was God in human form, and deserved to be worshipped and honored and served above all kings. But he didn't come to earth to be worshipped--he came to help! Listen to his words:

"I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10.10) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10.45) "For the Son of Man came to seek and to reclaim what was lost" (Luke 19.10) "Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15.13)
My favorite text shows his incredibly beautiful heart, and at the same time offers us some serious relief--Matthew 11.28-30:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
This is a love we can trust--one that demonstrates its commitment by the way it lives and dies. In love, Jesus shared with us the important truths about our world, our God, and ourselves:
  1. There is a God and He has a personality. He loves His universe and people intensely; He chooses how He works within history; He grieves over death, pain, and wrongdoing; He gets angry at injustice and evil; He desires to make His creation joyful and fulfilled. He has communicated to man through nature, conscience, moral notions, and especially in a collection of uniquely-produced writings, known as the Bible.
    "The Lord is a God who knows" (I Samuel 2:3) "The Lord lives" (II Samuel 22:47) "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Romans 1:20) "The Lord was grieved because of the calamity..." (II Samuel 24:17) "In the past God spoke through the prophets at different times and in different ways" (Hebrews 1:1) "You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16.11) "The Lord takes the upright into His confidence" (Proverbs 3.32) "I am the Lord your God. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it" (Psalm 81.10) "The fruit of doing and being right will be peace; and its effects will be quietness and confidence" (Isaiah 32.17)
  2. He created mankind for friendship in an enjoyable and vibrant relationship, but our moral failures, wrongdoing, apathy toward Him have basically separated us from a relationship with Him (and from all the benefits that flow from a healthy, active, and respectful friendship with our Maker -- the very author of true life and joy).
    "Your wrongdoings have separated you from your God" (Isaiah 59:2) "Evil inevitably produces death-in all its forms" (Romans 6:23) "evil, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:15)
  3. He desired to re-new the relationship with us, but He had to deal with this wrongdoing issue. His perfect character is such that He has to be both loving and just, which means that moral failure cannot be just "over-looked." He must deal with it according to its seriousness (it is the very source of death in our universe--both in relationships, physically, and with eternal dimensions). On the other hand, His love sought a way to deal moral failure its serious consequences (i.e. separation from Him now and after death) and somehow remove us from this stream of consequences.
    "He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice" (Acts 17:31) "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27) "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but those right with God into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46) "For we know that God's judgment is based on truth" (Romans 2:2) "I will sing of Your love and justice" (Psalm 101:1)
  4. He made a way to do this. He sent His Son to earth 2,000 years ago. He was God (perfect, loving, powerful, authoritative, just), took on a human body, lived a perfect life, claimed to be God, and then engineered His own death -- during which He took on Himself the consequences of our moral failure! He basically traded places with us, while His Father poured out on him the just penalty for evil. The "net" is this: He took the penalty for our moral failures, so we wouldn't have to!
    "God made Christ, who lived a morally perfect life, to 'be' evil for us, so that we might 'be' moral 'right-ness' in Him" (2 Corinthians 5.21) "And He himself bore our wrongdoings in His body on the Cross" (I Peter 2.24) "For Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us back to God" (I Peter 3.18) "This is really love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our wrongdoing" (I John 4.10)
  5. He didn't stay dead, but is alive now and offers us a new relationship, a new freedom from guilt, a total pardon from sin's horrible after-death consequences, a new start toward fulfillment and significance, and a new source of positive influence/input into our life. The best part is -- it's free. All He expects of us is to trust Him to do this! (By the way, "trusting Christ" is not another way of saying 'Join a church' or 'become a holy-type person.' It's not a matter of doing good deeds, working in a religion, following rules, etc.--these are simply means to enjoy this free relationship to the full--they don't establish that relationship in any way.) We simply tell Him we believe Him: that He was God-in-flesh who was punished in-our-place.
    "To everyone who welcomed Him by trusting in who He was and what He did, he granted the right to relate to God as intimate children [and not just creatures or citizens or whatever]" (John 1.12) "I [Jesus] tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life to the full" (John 6:47) "For God loved this world so much that He gave His unique Son, that whoever trusted in that Son would not experience the final consummation of death in all its forms and degrees, but rather have that life which is characterized by stability, fullness, and eternity" (John 3.16)
    (You can let this love into your life right now. You can express that trust in him by simply telling him. Maybe a simple prayer like "Lord Jesus, it's still all a little fuzzy to me, but I get the basic idea that because of your love for me, You were punished in my place so I wouldn't have to be--thank You for doing that for me." Do it now--it will have some seriously positive implications in your life--on both sides of physical death.)

  6. Once the relationship is established, you have access to an incredible Person -- who can do for and with you what He is doing for/with others. Talk to him about your challenges (while reading the Psalms, I suggest!), about the limitations you feel (be honest and humble), pay attention to His practical advice (read Proverbs and the New Testament epistles).
    "Through faith in Him [Jesus] we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3.12) "These things I have written to you that have put your confidence in the Person and Work of the Son of God, in order that you may have full assurance that you have began a new life that will grow and deepen for all eternity." (I John 5.13) "Therefore, since we have been declared guiltless through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1) "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Psalm 34.8) "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love to those who honor and relate to Him as God" (Psalm 103.11) "You will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed" (Isaiah 49.23) "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you" (I Peter 5:7)
If you have started this relationship by accepting His work for you (per #5 above), and you would like some info on how to cultivate and explore this relationship, write to me. I'll get some more stuff to you as soon as I can between business trips. If you postponed doing this due to procrastination, go back and re-read this until you do it! If you postponed doing this, because of intellectual-type questions ("How can I trust the Bible?", "What about other religions?", etc.) , email me with your questions. Believe me, there are solid and satisfying answers -- the God of truth is not afraid of our questions. I hope the best for you as you go forward and I hope to meet you in eternity, if not before.

The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)