Friday, April 9, 2010

With Jesus, It's Personal


It seems that our culture has taken Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” and changed it to “Who do you want me to be?” Many self-serving interpretations of Jesus circulate today. What do they have in common? An aversion to the New Testament view of Jesus. The New Testament reveals that God did, indeed, come in the flesh as a man…that His Son, Jesus Christ, came in order to save us from our sins. But, He also became human, in part, so that He could relate to us…and us to Him – in the right manner. This is what we must come to grips with…on His terms, and not ours.

Jesus came to save all who would turn to Him and respond to Him in faith. In order for this to happen, He had to become a man. While He was on the earth, He knew what it was to be a helpless baby, a growing child, a maturing adolescent. He knew the experiences of weariness, hunger, and thirst (John 4:6-8). He knew what is was to be despised and rejected, to be lied about and falsely accused. He experienced the struggles of the human nature…as well as, suffering and death. He was flesh and blood just like us (Hebrews 2:10-18, 4:14-16). Only then, could He die, and through his death, defeat Satan. All of this was part of His “training” for His heavenly ministry as High Priest. He can never fail in His priestly ministry, for He made the necessary, perfect sacrifice on behalf of the people – Himself! This is how Jesus relates to us as our High Priest. In the Old Testament, the high priest would enter in to the presence of God in the Holy of Holies of the temple or tabernacle one time per year. Now, we have continual access to our Father through the shed blood of the Sacrificial Lamb and High Priest! He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for our sins so that we could have the opportunity to be reconciled…that is, brought back into a right relationship with God. Jesus was both merciful and faithful…faithful toward God and merciful toward mankind.

Jesus is able to do all of these things, because, as He had earthly brothers, He also relates to us as a brother…humanly speaking. We do all belong to the same family…sharing the same nature. He is our brother, just as the Hebrews writer points out, quoting Psalms 22:22. Jesus was like us in every way as a human. He was even tempted when He was human…but no temptation ever conquered Him. He was sinless, perfect…and He had to be -- He chose to be -- in order that He could be the “perfect sacrifice.” Because of our human sin nature, we are tempted to sin…but, Jesus provides us a wonderful example of how to deal with temptation when it comes our way (Matthew 4:1ff). Jesus answers the devil’s three temptations perfectly, wonderfully – “It is written.” This helps us in our own struggle vs. flesh, sin and Satan himself. Satan’s abilities, powers have been significantly diminished, but he is still a dangerous foe (1 Peter 5:8). He seeks to cause many to choose death…through the world, flesh, sin. But, because Jesus Christ defeated every enemy – Satan, sin and death, He is able to give us grace that we need in order to overcome temptation. The Spirit of our Lord stands ready to help us to stand up and say “no” to sin and “yes” to God.

In Christ, we have the opportunity to choose life, blessings, and eternity in heaven with God, the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus is the author (NAS, NIV) or captain (KJV, NKJV) of our salvation. He is the pioneer who opens up the way for others to follow. He gave up His glory to become a man. He regained His glory when He arose and ascended into heaven. Now, Jesus shares that glory with all who trust in him for salvation. When we are baptized, converted, we are…once for all…delivered from Satan’s evil clutches, fear of death. He is united with us and us with Him…His blood continually cleanses us so that we might be able to be in that right relationship with the Father. Jesus, through His death, burial and resurrection, has given us the victory! "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
(1 Corinthians 15:55-58). Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection all must go together…and they all lead us to glory!

As our sympathizing High Priest, Jesus can relate to our human condition with all of its joys and struggles...and He wants to help us! We must know and trust Him who is able to handle our temptations. His Spirit guides us in the way of truth…and helps us in our struggle against the wiles of the devil. Now, coming full circle…we have to get away from any thinking that leads us to believe that Jesus is “who we might want Him to be” instead of “who He really is.” This is a mighty temptation. We cannot live a Christian life that centers entirely on "me;" it can't be about the Jesus that “I want,” selfishly…but our lives must be concerned about the needs of others. We must accept Jesus “as He is...on His terms.” What does this look like? We need to be willing and able to sacrifice our lives in service for the One who sacrificed His life for us. This is the essence of Christianity. As servants, we are no greater than or Master, but as we continue to grow and mature, the hope is that we will become more like Him. This is our challenge!


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