Humans are capable of doing amazing things.
There have been many game-changing people who have graced the planet and made their mark but by far and away the ultimate game-changer of human history, of life for us today and for eternity is Jesus Christ.
He is the one who over 2 billion people on the planet today call their Saviour and Lord. He is the one who has had more biographies written about him than any other person (100,000 in English alone). He is the one who, even though his life on this planet was brief and happened over 2000 years ago, continues to dominate the landscape of the Faith of humanity.
You may have heard different things about Jesus. Some from your childhood – a parent or teacher. Some from mass or social media. Some from your own personal experience of church and reading the Bible.
With any historical figure, some pretty interesting misconceptions have gained popularity. So if there are a bunch of ideas about Jesus that are off the mark, who is He really?
If we read the beginning of the Apostle John’s account of Jesus’ life, there are some stunning references to Jesus being more than a mere human being.
1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John has had a revelation, he has been given supernatural understanding to write that the eternal Word – which translates in Greek to the logos (the reason, the purpose, the principles that gives the universe order, harmony and meaning) became human. Jesus is the eternal Word. He has always existed, as the Eternal Son. He is an equal member of the God who is Trinity, three in 1, who was there before and at creation (for more info on the Trinity check out the Podcast of a Trinity Series on Explore page of church website- put in link). Creation was made in Him, through Him and for Him.
Paul gives some more insight into this in his letter to the Colossians 1:15-17
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Jesus is God. This is spectacular, mysterious, hard to fathom but the most powerful truth we can know and experience.
Not only did others write about Jesus as God, they also quoted him talking like He was God.
This is where Jesus is different to all the religious leaders of other Faith systems because He is the only one to claim to actually be God.
In John 5:23, Jesus says if you honor me, you honor God.
John 10:30 - Jesus says The Father and I are one, meaning one in essence and nature. This is the clearest statement of Jesus’ divinity.
John 8:19 – Jesus said if you know me, you know my father.
John 12:45 – If you see me, you see my father
Mark 2:5 & Luke 7:47-50 - Jesus claims he has the power to forgive sin, something only God can do.
Mark 14:60-62 – At His trial, Jesus is asked if He is the messiah, the son of the blessed one. His answer – I AM.
Timothy Keller says, “I AM is significant because it is the personal name God uses for himself. It is a name so sacred that Israelites would not even utter it. And Jesus is claiming this name for Himself.”
The Jews crazed response to Jesus’ claim in verses 63-65 (tearing clothes, calling what Jesus said blasphemy) showed that he was in fact claiming to be equal to God.
What is the significance for us? That Jesus is God, He has been part of the plan from the beginning. He isn’t a stop gap. Not a second thought.
We can trust Him. And it means that He is capable of doing all the things that have been written about Him. To be born of a virgin, live perfectly, die an excruciating death bearing the sin of the world, rising from the dead, pouring out the Holy Spirit, ascending to heaven coming back as the victorious King. He actually will do it all. Brings comfort.
It also brings wonder, mystery, and reminds us of how big and amazing God is, and how capable he is of intervening in our lives today, the supernatural power of God, displayed on earth in Jesus, is available to us today through the Holy Spirit.
Our Response – We worship Him as God. We worship him. Not just songs on Sunday, but in our everyday lives. How we talk, our thinking, our actions, our interactions with others can be ways we worship Jesus as God. And we worship Him by embracing the mystery, the wonder, and taking time to stand in awe and allow His divine power to wash over us.
Jesus is God, and He is also a man. Paul says in Philippians 2:6-11
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Paul is writing that Jesus is God who gave up those divine privileges and humbled himself by being born as a human. Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Amazing! Startling! Astounding.
Scholar and Bishop NT Wright responds like this– “How can you live with the terrifying thoughts that the hurricane has become human, that fire has become flesh, that life itself became life and walked in our midst? Christianity either means that, or it means nothing, it is either the most devastating disclosure of the deepest reality of the world, or it is a sham, a nonsense, a bit of deceitful playacting. Most of us, unable to cope with saying either of those things, condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in between.”
Jesus decided not to come and fix the problem of sin and death as what Frank Viola calls a 'Muscle Messiah with a show of force'. He came, born as a helpless baby. Born of a Virgin who became pregnant through supernatural means, thus from a pure, sinless, bloodline.
While He still had access to His omniscience and omnipotence, He limited Himself and refused to draw on those powers. He truly became human and participated in the limitations and frailty of our humanity. Even to the point of death. God’s answer to saving the world and righting all wrongs was Himself becoming small and dirty.
What is the significance for us? That Jesus is man? It shows how much God loves and values every human being. He went to incredible lengths for us. Jesus gave up heaven for you and I. He gave up so much and limited himself to became one of us, to come close to us, not for his benefit but for ours. So we could be free, forgiven and in relationship with Him. That is a game-changer because we don’t have to perform and earn that value, that love. Because we are human, Jesus came to rescue us, because we are human we are loved and valued and pursued by God.
So what is our response - We love Him. We embrace a personal relationship with him. We come near to him and spend time with him and work on building this connection through our own prayer life, through being a part of His church community. We fight the feeling of reducing our faith to living by a set of guidelines that takes the heart out of any relationship. Just like any relationship, love will grow over time as we are intentional and make space for Him.
If Jesus is God, and a man, how did God in flesh live? What did he say, how did he act? How did he model what he would want his creation, made in his image to live like?
Everything Jesus said and did was an embodiment of the Kingdom of God he was bringing into effect. A whole new game-changing way to live in a very real earthly existence. Here is a snapshot.
- Jesus had an earthly family - a mum, dad, siblings. He had to learn how to relate to them.
- Jesus worked in a trade for many years. Before his public kingdom of God centred ministry, his ministry was the mundane.Getting up and going to work every day. Think about it - God on the tools! But in doing this, he made ordinary hard work sacred, holy, blessed.
- Jesus humbled himself at His first cross, the waters of baptism on the banks of the Jordan River as he stood in a place of fully identifying with a sinful, dirty humanity in desperate need of cleansing.
- Jesus was tempted from every angle, yet instead of succumbing to it like Adam and Eve and every subsequent human being, Jesus overcame temptation, never sinned, lived perfectly. This made him the acceptable unblemished sacrifice on the cross.
- Jesus was known for the supernatural. As John Dickson says, “Even scholars who reject the possibility of the supernatural still affirm that Jesus did things that were widely interpreted from the beginning as miracles. In other words, his reputation at the time as a healer and exorcist may be regarded as beyond reasonable doubt.”
- Jesus had a love and compassion for those downtrodden and mistreated.
- In respect to women who were seen then as second-class citizens, Jesus regularly used them in His parables and made them heroes. Jesus had female disciples which was revolutionary.
- In regards to the sick, Jesus physically touched the lepers He healed. Purity codes and principles of cleanliness were trumped by relationships.
- In regards to sinners, people like you and me, Jesus ate meals with them - sharing personal moments that communicated love and genuine care for people. He taught his disciples that loving people was more important than following a set of rules. And more transformative.
- Jesus' prayer life was striking, his dependence on intimate connection with His father was of paramount priority. The disciples were so struck by it they implored him to teach them how to pray like him.
- Finally, Jesus' teaching, his message cut across the beliefs of the day. There were two major popular beliefs that are probably still two of the major beliefs today - Morality (I need to live a good life to earn salvation) & Relativism (each of us choose what is right for us, there is no universal right or wrong).
Timothy Keller addresses Jesus' teaching in light of these, he says, “Both of these are ways of being your own saviour and lord. Both are hostile to the message of Jesus. The message of Christ does not say the good are in and the bad are out not the open-minded are in and the judgemental are out. The gospel says - the humble, the meek, those willing to own failure, sin, to lay it down and surrender, will inherit the kingdom of God, not the proud, those unwilling to do that.”
What is the significance for us? How does this change the game? He fully identifies with us. He went through what we go through. He was bored in his job, tempted, suffered, obeyed, prayed, was betrayed, had great friendships, felt sorrow, laughed, cried. Had compassion, hated sin and injustice, posturing and acting. He gets it! AND He overcame. So too can we. We can also trust him because he backed up his words with actions, and he entrusted us with the mission of continuing to bring the message of the kingdom and do greater things than he did.
Our Response - We follow him. Follow His lead. With supernatural help from HS, He got through. He stayed on mission. He loved God and loved others extravagantly. We can do it too. He is trustworthy. He won't lead us astray or into a dead end. With every choice, decision, dilemma, opportunity, we can ask Jesus with confidence, what did you do and what should I do? Help me and He will.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 writes what most scholars believe to be the earliest Christian Creed. In verses 3-5 he writes -
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Here Paul is alluding to the Gospels, as well as some of the 48 messianic prophecies - scriptures from the OT, from 100s of years previous to Jesus being born, that share details of Jesus's life that could only have been known via supernatural revelation. This gives us more of a glimpse of the magnitude of Jesus as the ultimate game-changer and the anticipation from the beginning of time in heaven and on earth for His coming. Give the links.
Jesus' death and burial was foretold for many years. But why did he have to die? And what is the game-changing significance for us?
Jesus had to die because although God is all merciful, all powerful and all loving, He is also holy, righteous and just. God loves us passionately and deeply AND He hates what destroys us and our relationship with Him - sin. Sin damages us at our core, it is like a computer virus that totally malfunctions the system, or cancer that spreads to every part of the body. Sin also damages the intimate relationship with God we were created to be involved in.
And we are all sinners. No one you have met yet is perfect right? But some of us would say, generally we are good people.
Unfortunately, left to our own devices, more often than not, we are selfish and prideful, and those moments of doing good or being good are still coming from the foundation of sin being at our core.
It is sobering, and this reality has the potential for us to say “why bother?” as we spiral down into the pit of hopelessness and despair. We need help and we can't fix it. But here is the beautiful, wonderful game-changing thing about Jesus.
God knew that the pathway of sin leads to death - separation from Him for good. He knew that sin and rebellion was to be paid for by death to satisfy His holiness and justice.
He knew that a perfect, unblemished sacrifice was needed. So He came as a man, Jesus Christ - he lived perfectly and willingly gave his life to pay the ultimate price we could not pay. On the cross Jesus got what we deserved: the sin, guilt, and brokenness of the world fell upon him.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 writes -
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
And then we read in 1 Peter 1:18-19
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Humanity was in desperate need of help. We were heading in a direction that wasn't going to end well. Jesus changed the game! His sacrifice destroyed sin's control over us and we can now be redeemed, we have the opportunity to become the righteousness of God! Talk about a turn-around.
In a brutal moment - the moment Jesus died on that Cross, two truths became clear, two truths that are the essence of The Gospel. Timothy Keller says it brilliantly, “you are more wicked than you ever believed, but at the same time more loved and accepted than you ever dared to hope.”
The cross should remind us constantly that we are sinners in need of a saviour (we can't help ourselves), and that God loved us so much that he became sin - what he despised more than anything, to save us and bring us into relationship with him once more.
Our Response - We surrender our lives to Jesus.
As we acknowledge our sin and desperate need for help, as we surrender our will and pride to Jesus and call upon him as our Saviour & Lord we are given His game-changing victory over sin. We are saved. We are infused with his holiness and righteousness and we have access to a relationship with God.
It begins with surrender, with humility, with a call for help. Keller affirms this by saying, “For us, the kingdom of God begins with weakness, relinquishment, giving up our rights to our own life; it begins with admitting that we need a Saviour.”
For every one of us, we surrender not just at the beginning of our journey with God. It is daily. So easy to take back the reigns, to not enforce the victory over sin, to let bad habits creep back in. let us be a people who surrender our hearts, lives, sin, pride and control to Jesus each day.
The death of Jesus changed the game for us in terms of it showing how deep our sin is yet how loved we are. But if Jesus remained dead and buried in that tomb, some major chinks would begin to appear in the Christian faith.
Jesus would be resigned to the group with all the other religious figures who were clearly limited as human beings because death still was victorious. Jesus's game-changing characteristic of being God would come into some pretty significant dispute, and death would be the final destination for everyone, including followers of Jesus.
We would be feeling like the disciples the day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. We had a good run, man that was an adventure, wow do you think we will hear teaching like that again? Does it actually matter how we live now? We would be stuck in memories, in what had been. There would be plenty of fear of a future that was bleak, limited, looming.
The Apostle Paul goes to another level in describing our faith if Christ didn't rise from the grave;
1 Corinthians 15:12
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Jesus rose again. Death could not hold him down. Death got a grip, but it was brief, it was tenuous, and it was all part of the plan. For a moment, evil was lulled into thinking it had won, death was victorious, darkness reigned. But thank God it was only short-lived. Death died alongside sin, and humanity's two fiercest enemies were now out of the way.
The resurrection of Jesus is game-changing for us because it legitimizes all that Jesus said and did. It means we can trust that He is the victorious king and nothing can separate you and I from living in that victory. It means that new life can come into areas that are dead or dying in our lives. It means that new ways of thinking, acting and interacting with others in our lives are possible, no matter how many times we have tried and failed. Jesus has made a way for new life, life to the full, and his resurrection power is available help us.
It also means that death isn't our final destination, resurrection life is.
The resurrection of Jesus may sound fanciful to some, but the facts are there for all to look into.
Jesus died and was buried. The tomb was empty, no body was produced, more than 500 people claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus - with pierced hands and feet, and this included people who were previously skeptics, even enemies of Jesus. A great book to read amongst many others is Cold-Case Christianity by J.Warner Wallace.
Our Response - We rise again
With the Resurrection power of Jesus we step into a hopeful, positive, bright, brand new life. Rise out of old mindsets, negative, paralysing, comparison-riddled thinking. Rise out of bad habits in relationships or personally. There is a way through. Rise into a place of faith in every area of life - finances, study, career, relationships. Jesus has risen from the dead so we don't have to stay there - now, or for eternity. Make a choice today, in an area of life that is stale, dead, dying to rise again into a new, fruitful and faith-filled place.
What? Jesus left us? How is this a game-changer for us? I get the death and resurrection parts, but His ascension? It is actually really significant for us because there is a direct correlation between Jesus going, God the Son leaving earth, and God the Spirit coming to earth.
In John 16:7, Jesus tells His disciples, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
Then we read in Acts 1:4-5 “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:8-9 “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.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
Jesus' ascension released the Spirit of God to crack into earth on the day of Pentecost, to birth the church, and to fill and empower every follower of Jesus since to live the life to the full Jesus died and rose from the dead for. It is the Spirit of God who fills every believer across the globe at once, who holds the community of faith together and who helps us to point people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is pivotal to our mission.
The Holy Spirit makes what Jesus has done, real and tangible for us today. He enforces that victory, He leads us into freedom, He helps us experience the love and peace of God. He heals us. He enables us to see life through the filter of Jesus. From a narrow, limited, portrait view, to an abundant, extensive, panoramic view. Colours change from dull to vibrant, possibilities burst forth and become achievable. The impossible becomes possible. Again, the game is changed for us.
Our Response - We power up
We position ourselves for Holy Spirit power. We eagerly desire and step out into the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given us. We prophesy, we pray for miracles, we step out in boldness and share our testimony, pointing people who are distant from God, to Jesus. Each day we are intentional about asking Holy Spirit, “breathe upon me and fill me again.“
The only game-changing characteristic that hasn't happened yet.
Jesus is coming back - to enforce His victory, to bring the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, to judge every human being based on what they say about Him, and to create a new heaven and new earth where perfect peace, love, harmony will reign.
Frank Viola says, “We are now living in the parentheses wherein we look back to His first coming and anticipate His second coming. Put another way, the Kingdom has come and will come. Jesus' first coming inaugurated the kingdom of God, His second coming will consummate it.”
Our Response - We live ready. We live in anticipation, not trying to be a control freak and work out the exact time and date of His second coming, but we live each day with confident expectation, taking opportunities to share our faith, live life to the full, try new things, go for that dream. We also live in a state of readiness where we don't have any regrets, any beefs, any unforgiveness in our relationships. Most importantly, our relationship with God is sweet, our hearts are open, honest and pure before him.
So lets take the step. Whatever the next step is for us.
- Maybe we are curious and somewhat skeptical about the life and account of Jesus in the Bible and want to explore for ourselves. Grab 'The Historical Jesus' by Gary Habermas, or 'The Doubter’s Guide to the Bible' by John Dickson. Take the step.
- Maybe the next step in following Jesus is to register for an Explore course - 4 or 5 sessions. 4 different course for people at the beginning of their journey. Click here for more information.
- Maybe the next step is following Jesus into the waters of baptism. Make that public declaration of your faith in Jesus. Click here for more information.
- Maybe its time to re-engage. We may have been doing the Christian thing for years but the life is gone, we are stale and just going through motions. We have Jesus at arms length. It’s time to let the guard down and decide to embrace him today.
- Or, for some of us, the next step is the first step, is to today say Yes to following Jesus.
Jesus changed the game for every one of us. He made a way for us and invites us to take that step into a relationship with Him that brings forgiveness, love, purpose and life to the full.
The question I have for us today is, are we ready? Is our heart ready? What is the state of our relationship with God?
Because Jesus changed the game for every one of us, through perfect life, his death on the cross for our sin, resurrection, and ascension. He made a way for us and invites us to take that step into a relationship with Him that brings forgiveness, love, purpose and life to the full. In that place there is assurance, confidence of what is to be in life, and what is to come in eternity.
The invitation has been given - have we taken it? Have we acknowledged our sin and need for help? Have we called out to Jesus, surrendered our heart and life to him? If not, that's ok, because we can open the door and step into a personal relationship with God by praying this prayer.
I am a sinner, I need a saviour
I am sorry, forgive me for my sin
Today I declare Jesus lived a perfect life
He died on a cross and rose from the dead
So I can be free. I give you my life
I confess Jesus as my Lord & Saviour
God help me on this journey
Fill me with your Spirit
Pour out your love
Congratulations! We are here to help. Let us know that you have prayed the prayer and want to take the next step in your journey as a follower of Jesus.