Sunday, March 2, 2014

Jesus Christ

 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
and the slave like his master.”
(Matthew 10:24-25)

Let’s talk about Jesus.  For the past few lessons we've tried to understand our place in the world, our relationships with other people and our relationship with God.  If we learn to “see” ourselves and God correctly, then we have a much better chance of living well and getting to hear the six words we live for. 

If you have reviewed – and applied – our lessons on how to see people, and how to see God, then you might ask about how Jesus fits in.  This article is a short version of a much more complicated issue.  My prayer is that you will understand this, and then apply it.

Jesus 101 

Every Christmas we hear stories about a baby that was born in Bethlehem.  His mother named him “Yeshua,” which is a variation of the Hebrew name Joshua.  (Do you suppose guys we call “Josh” know they might also be called “Jesus”?)  The first part of the name (Ye) is short for the “Yah” in “Yahweh,” the name of Jesus’ father.  The “shua” part of the name is a form of “saves,” so that Yeshua actually means “Yahweh Saves.” 

This has meaning not only because Jesus was how God saves us, but also because his name is taken from one of Israel’s greatest leaders who was born a slave in Egypt, served as Moses’ closest assistant during the Exodus, and then led Israel over the Jordan and into the promised land and began the conquest over evil.  Just considering the parallels between the physical realities of Joshua’s life and comparing that to Jesus’ spiritual efforts is a study that would take months, be lots of fun, and completely expand your mind.  I highly recommend it. 

Christ is the English form of the Greek word “anointed.”  The Hebrew word is Messiah.  I’m not sure why we don’t just use the English and call him Jesus Anointed, but that’s what it should be. 

So Christ is not Jesus’ name, it’s his title.  Calling a person “anointed” was like us talking about “the crown” or “the throne” in England.  It’s a title that represents the king or queen.  So saying “Jesus Christ,” is saying his name, and also his title, like calling someone “Smith, MD” or “Sir Lancelot”  or Jesus, King of God’s Kingdom.

It’s funny to hear people misuse this term today … and maybe blasphemous.  Not when they “cuss” using Jesus’ name and title, but when these ignorant people call him “Christ” without realizing they’re prophesying the truth that they don’t believe: that Jesus is God’s anointed king.

Lord is a word we don’t use much in America these days except of God or Jesus, so that it has little meaning for us.  If you watch a movie about old days in England, you discover that “Lord” was a title that had meaning.  It meant a guy who was granted his title and inheritance from the king, and it meant that “regular people” were obliged to obey him.  Our word might be “boss” or “master.”  Again, ‘lord’ is not Jesus’ name … it’s one of the ways we “see” him.  He is our boss.  He’s like the officer over us enlisted men – he says “jump” and we ask “how high”?  This is why Jesus asked this:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”
(Luke 6:46-48)

You see that calling Jesus “lord,” but then not being perfectly obedient is mere lip-service, and will result in (at least) a very messed-up life, where the storms are always a disaster. 

We are slaves of Jesus and our Father (Yahweh) as we serve in their household.  (See Matthew 25.14-46 to understand this in story form – and remember to pay attention to who’s who.) 

…One more note about Jesus as Lord/Boss/Master …
Here is what the writer of Hebrews said about Jesus when comparing his words, lessons and teachings with those of the Old Testament:
“…we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable (& every … disobedience received a just penalty) -  
how will WE escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”  (Hebrews 2:1-4)

Do you see that the writer is challenging the Hebrews to be even more careful to obey Jesus than they had been to follow the Law of Moses (Torah)?  And you can also see relationships in this passage, because he writes that Jesus (the Lord) spoke the words, but they were confirmed by God and the Holy Spirit. 

It would be a mistake to downplay the importance of obeying Jesus as lord/king/boss/dictator. 
First, it’s foolish to fail to recognize how much higher Jesus is above us in rank.  He is more important and higher than all the angels. 

Some people in our world give status to special “saints” or preachers, prophets, Jesus’ mother or angels.  This is insane.  God and His only begotten son are all we need.  His power and love are enough. 

Relying on anyone/anything else is like stepping off the one and only solid rock and eternal foundation - to build our hopes on a rotted suspension bridge. 

People who do such things are in desperate need of rescue whether they know it or not. 

Others (including me, sometimes) make a big deal out of the bible and its teachings.  That’s fine, because the bible is perfect and perfectly amazing.  But – the greatest value of the bible is that it points to Jesus.  Focus your life on the “red letters” (if you have one of those bibles), and you’ll have the best of the best.  “Jesus is Lord” means that others may help, and others may guide, but no one is my boss but Jesus and his Father, Yahweh. 

I remember door-to-door women coming to our house when I was a kid, and I debated them about the scriptures.  I noticed that they had the books of Ezekiel & Revelation just about worn-out in their bibles.  Sadly, their bible was not so worn out on the Sermon On the Mount or other teachings of Jesus.  I was able to refute all their nonsense even though I was just a kid … because they didn't know Jesus.  They were all fired up about the “rapture” and the Holy Spirit and lots of other silly stuff.  They had become like conspiracy theory people who believed in Big Foot or magical healings.  I felt sorry for them.  Not because I suspected they were lost, but because they had come to our Father’s banquet and were eating the kale and missing out on the prime rib, lobster and hot fudge sundaes.  

But then I saw something about my own church after that.  My church had Acts and the letters in the New Testament worn out.  We were just like these nutty women. We had a passion for church and church politics, and spent a lot of our time and study in the parts of the New Testament that seemed to explain the rules.  We were (and still are) so focused on these things that we have little time, patience, or energy left for studying the life and teachings of Jesus, who came to seek and save that which is lost(Luke 19:10). 

This is the same problem that gets scholars in trouble.  From Jesus’ day until now the bible scholars, “scribes” or “lawyers” as Jesus called them – are so focused on showing how smart they are, they forget out stupid they are (compared to Jesus).  And they neglect love and obedience because it’s not that complicated or interesting … it’s just “grunt-work.”  The greatest scholar of all time was Jesus – the man who touched lepers, ate with sinners, and washed filthy feet like a common slave. 

Rest assured that Satan can, has, and does use the bible to lead people astray.  He even tried this on Jesus!  (See Matthew 4:6) 

Life is full and busy for most people.  If you’re one of these, then read, study, and above all OBEY the words of Jesus.  It is enough.  If you’re following this blog carefully, then hopefully right now you’re working slowly through the SOM and wrestling with the parts that are hardest for you.  KEEP GOING!!!  Don’t stop until you've mastered it.  Make Jesus’ version of godly living your own personal Mt. Everest – you’re life’s work. 

 How to “see” Jesus

Jesus is our brother
That may be hard to accept, but it’s true.  Even though Jesus is God, and was with him during the process of creation, Jesus abandoned his amazing home and status to come to earth and take human form (John 1).  This means he left a perfect place, but also he became completely human.  He was God – but he became human!

But we do see him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting for him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect [teleios] the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will proclaim Your name to my brothers, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.”  (Hebrews 2:9-12)

As a human, he had earthly parents and a family.  His brothers in the flesh even made fun of him just like in any family (John 7.1-5).  People saw him as “just Jesus,” the kid from down the street (Mark 6.3-4).  He ate and pooped, he drank and peed, he worked and slept, and he hurt and itched and was bored and partied.  He experienced life just as we do.  Also he was tempted like us, and yet he did not sin. 

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness (Hebrews 4:14-5:2)

And then …
God made Jesus a High Priest, like Aaron and his sons, Jesus could go into the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies) and offer sacrifices for us. 

And if you put those things together, it is amazing. 
Consider this: your brother IS God’s permanent High Priest, in the true Holy Place!  Your own brother!  Can you imagine such a thing?  That is why the writer of Hebrews in the passage above writes let us hold fast our confession,” and “let us draw near with confidence.”  No matter how sick you are, Jesus knows.  No matter how badly you feel, your brother is there sticking up for you! 

Jesus is the master craftsman of life

The final thing I hope you’ll remember is that Jesus is the master of perfect living. 

This is may be the most important thing for you to remember: as disciples of a master, we serve him and emulate him at the same time.  This is like being an apprentice in the workshop of a master artist or craftsman.  Michelangelo was a famous sculptor, but he had younger guys in his shop who wanted to learn from him.  They would have started for free or cheap, sweeping floors and doing “grunt-work,” later helping, and then one day starting to do a bit of rough sculpting.   

It was the same for the young Benjamin Franklin.  In his early teens he was an indentured slave to his older brother in his printing shop.  While there young Ben learned the trade and developed the skills that eventually gave him a great name. 

And this is the way people “went to school” throughout all of human history until recent times.  Boys learned from their dads, and girls from their moms – and served as slaves in the family business until they were old enough to be given real responsibility. 

Jesus’ first disciples understood this perfectly.  They followed him and did what he said.  They provided him with food and financial support, ran errands, and did whatever Jesus asked.  And while traveling with him, they learned to do the same. 

After Jesus’ resurrection Peter, James, John and the rest did the same thing.  They served as “masters” in the craft of godly living, teaching their apprentices the same way Jesus had taught them.  This practice continued through the first century.  Look and see how Paul was with Timothy and Silas or Barnabas was with John Mark, for example.  Also in in the letters of the New Testament you see this relationship between Paul and churches.  The men Paul had trained and who developed themselves … he made pastors.  While Paul moved on, each local church had men that had various titles, but it was the same guys: elder, pastor, overseer, presbyter, etc.  Their “job” or function within the church is to take younger men along to serve as their apprentices and SHOW them and teach them the “craft” of godly living. 

Today the chain has been broken.  Today “pastors” are little more than public speakers in most churches, and celebrities in others.  In some churches, elders, presbyters and bishops are like “bosses,” who make up rules and tell people what to do.  While it’s true that Jesus was a boss, and that he was a teacher, he was nothing like the professional preachers or church organizational leaders of today.  And because of this, churches don’t function the way they did in the first century.  They get some of the form right, but the function is almost completely missing.  And that’s why so many church members are strong in doctrine or music … but weak and unproductive.  It’s why so many “Christians” are just as stressed – or more so – than people in the world!  No one is SHOWING us how to live. 

So this is a challenge to you, personally.  Whether you’re a “Christian” or not … if you’re not yet a committed disciple of Jesus, then do this: 
“Sell” yourself to him.  
Study his teachings, but also study his actions.  
Pay attention to ALL his habits, even eating, drinking, fasting, resting and praying.  And learn HOW he lived, then seek to live the same way, but within your own context.  Your context may be different, since you’re in a different culture, may have a job or go to school or a family … but if you pay really close attention to Jesus’ life, you can see how to follow him in your context.  And THAT is what Acts and the letters in the New Testament are for.  They can “show” you how to live, love, and forgive.  They can show you when to accept someone as brother, and when to break it off. 

You must think of yourself as an apprentice in your big brother’s workshop.  He is perfect, so you can do just what he did … and then grow from there. 

Soon you’ll find you would do better if you had companionship.  Your progress will be faster and you will avoid lots of mistakes if you have someone to do this with you. This is about accountability, but it’s also about learning technique, developing tools, and to some degree a bit of cheer-leading and encouragement. 

If you can find “teammates” like this, then you will have just begun a church.  It will not look much like “churches” we see today that are formal institutions.  Instead, your church will be like the original churches – kind of like little clubs of Jesus apprentices.  People who eat together, hang out, and support one another to their common love: becoming like Jesus.  Like avid surfers who hang out … surfing is a solo sport, but it’s nice to have friends.  Or like moms who are raising kids, or golf buddies … a properly functioning church is nothing more than a group of folks with a common love – not so much for each other, but they all – together – love one thing. 

Our common love is God.  We want to serve Him as our Father, the Creator, the Judge, the King.  And so we look to Jesus, our big brother, who served our Father perfectly. 

Think of people who are great at what they do: Kobe, Puig, Tiger, Oprah, Michelangelo, Meryl Streep, Gandhi, Shakespeare, Abe Lincoln, Einstein, etc.  Choose your hero, and then know that Jesus is even greater, and not just at sports, art or entertainment, but at love and service.  Perfect in submission to God, perfect in sacrifice, perfect in patience, perfect in suffering, perfect in disciple-making, and perfect in every single way that matters.  There is no greater hero than Jesus in human history. 

Now consider how shallow it seems to say “What would Jesus do”? 
It’s right, but it’s not enough. 

People who worship heroes don’t say stuff like “What would Einstein do,” but they try to live like him in every way.  They want to be smart like him, forgetful and absent minded like him.  They debate his beliefs and study his writings and stare at his pictures.  They are … “DEVOTED” … “OBSESSED.”  

Oh, and how do you like it when someone takes you away from your obsession?  If you love Italian food, and a friend promises you’ll love Thai food … do you really want to go?  Religious people will argue over things that are “right” or “wrong,” scholars will debate “truth;” but disciples are consumed by love and passion. 

Indian food is fine, Chinese is better, but nothing compares to Mexican food for me.  I rarely want to waste myself on anything less than my favorite.  Church is fine and I love the USA.  My parents gave me life, and my friends make me smile.  But there’s just nothing – and no one – like Jesus, my brother, my friend and my king.  He rules.  I've never seen anything like him – and everything else sucks compared to how great my big brother was at living the godly life.

Do you marvel at how brilliantly Jesus lived?  Does he blow your mind, like when you see a massive home-run or slam dunk or perfect dance routine or see a great photograph or beautiful Ferrari? 

If you were to try to live a perfect godly life that makes God smile, and then look at Jesus doing it, it would blow you away, just as if you saw a great golf shot or amazing surfer.  And like those things, it’s the people who have tried it … who really appreciate how hard and amazing it is. 

  • Jesus is God’s anointed (the Christ or Messiah) … king
  • Jesus was a poor little Jewish boy 
  • Jesus became the High Priest who serves in the heavenly temple
  • Jesus is God

And … 
  • Jesus is your big brother who loves you

How can you not be amazed?  How can you not want to imitate him in every possible way?  And when you fail, how can you not praise God for chances to repent, and “do-over” again and again until you get it right?  How can you not want fellowship with someone who will help you achieve this goal, and be dissatisfied with those who try to pull you away to other things? 

Anyway, Jesus is my hero.  If he’s not your hero, I encourage you to look more closely at his life and teachings, and be ready to abandon all other “treasures,” because Jesus is the perfect one.  

Jesus said,
“I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”  
(Matthew 11:25-30)

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