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Archive for December 2012

WOW Jesus 25

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WOW Jesus

Just A Good Moral Teacher?

One thing that a lot of people say about Jesus, even those who are not Christian, is that he was a good moral teacher. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates offered, “how we ought to live”, as a working definition of ‘moral‘. As I said, people often say, even those who would claim to be following Jesus, say that Jesus was simply a good moral teacher – and that’s all he was. Today we seek to discover if Jesus was a good moral teacher? If he was, did Jesus teach and does it reflect a good way to live? Finally, we will look briefly at if he was more than just a good moral teacher – as some claim!

Jesus’ moral code, revolving as it would have done around the part of the Bible we call the Old Testament, can be seen in “do to others, what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Some people refer to this as the “Golden Rule“. However, Jesus, as ever goes further than anybody else and says that it is not only the outward actions of a person that makes them morally good, it is also the internal attitude behind it. Jesus was acknowledged as a great teacher often during his lifetime. One example is Nicodemus in John 3.

Let’s have a brief reading of some of his moral teaching.

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain;

and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,

for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Those words are from what is generally called the “The Sermon on the Mount”. Jesus also said “Love your neighbour as yourself”. “Love your enemies, not just your friends” That is a world-turning morality! He forgave people their sin, but also told people not to continue in their sin – such as the woman caught in adultery and dragged before Him in by the teachers of the law, to whom Jesus said “neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11. Jesus not only taught great morality, but he lived his morality! That is part of his uniqueness and set him apart from others!

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, people today hold it as a paragon of virtuous teaching and regard Jesus as a great teacher. Although, this is the best-known teaching of Jesus, it is also the least understood, and certainly the least obeyed. Whilst some may see The Sermon on the Mount as a call to peaceful demonstration against provocation, this was never Jesus intention regarding this teaching. It is as somebody once said “a picture of God’s alternative society… containing the standards, the values and priorities of God’s Kingdom”. It was this that Jesus spoke in the Sermon, not as a general guideline for people to wallow in comfort and boundless joy. Jesus was a good moral teacher, certainly at least to his followers, but was he more than this?

CS Lewis once wrote “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was certainly more than a good moral teacher! As Christians we believe that His purpose for coming was to rescue this world from the mess it is in! That is why God became human in Jesus Christ. Our next study looks at Jesus being fully human and that will be followed by Jesus being fully God – and why it is so!

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WOW Jesus 24

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WOW Jesus

What’s in a name?

Today we are going to ask ourselves, in relation to Jesus, What’s in a name? I wonder what your name means. Parents usually name their children after the hopes and aspirations they have for that child. For example, the name John means “the gift of God”. I know somebody called Grace, and her nature is that of somebody full of grace. My name of David means “beloved” and when my parents named me, it was meant to symbolize the love they had for me.

But what does the name Jesus mean? When Jesus was born, his very name imbued the reason he was born. The name Jesus as we discovered in an earlier message means “Saviour” or “One who saves or rescues.” The entirety of His birth, life and death was centered on this very role - saving and rescuing all those who would believe, receive and follow Him. We have seen in the testimony of the Apostles John, Peter and Paul how Jesus came to save sinners, to call people to follow, believe and receive Himself! This Jesus who proclaimed He was the only way to God!

Jesus’ conception and birth were extraordinary at every level. So important is our understanding of his birth that, according to the Gospel accounts, no fewer than 4 angels came to give a full picture of the event. Do you think that his parents, Joseph & Mary, ever gazed upon him, and thought “How misnamed He is”! They did not, because they knew the very purpose for which He was born.

This Jesus, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the most talked about person in history. Almost everyone has an opinion about Him. Jesus was born to confirm God's promises, to reveal God as a Father, and to be our representative before Him. Jesus gave us an example of how to live a holy life to the full. Jesus was not merely a man who received some special power. Jesus was not some strange creation that was half man and half God, with his human nature somehow absorbed into the divine. He was, as we shall see in the coming studies, much more than those ideas – Jesus was fully God and fully human! Jesus came to serve all others and not to be served! Jesus came in order to call others to a life of following, receiving and believing in Him! Jesus came to reconcile people back into a peaceful and dynamic relationship with God by means of shedding his blood on the cross! Jesus trusted God to raise Him from the dead – and he did! Jesus – resurrected, ascended, glorified and exalted! Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Jesus Christ, who proclaimed “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

JC Ryle, the great 19th century Anglican bishop of Liverpool, once wrote these words about the name of Jesus “Jesus is a very encouraging name to weighted-down sinners. He, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves great, conquerors, bold, magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Saviour. Those seeking salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His role and His delight to show mercy. "For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him" (John 3:17).

Jesus is a name, which is especially sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good. It has given them what money cannot buy - that is, inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon describes the experience of many, when it says, "Your name is oil poured forth" (Song of Solomon 1:3). Happy is the person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God's mercy and goodness, but in "Jesus."

Jesus was proclaimed by the Apostle John, Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul and the early church as the Saviour and rescuer of the world – just as his name Jesus means! I am bound to ask you this: "Is Jesus your Saviour and rescuer? Are you following, believing and receiving Him?"

Because as the Apostle Paul acknowledges in Philippians 2:9-11 "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

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WOW Jesus 23

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Apostle Paul’s

Jesus

Today we are going to look at Paul’s Jesus. Paul, who as a Pharisee was known as Saul. Paul who became a follower of Jesus, after encountering him on the road to Damascus. Paul who describes himself as the least of the apostles, former persecutor of the church and the foremost of sinners. Because Paul chose to follow, believe in and receive Jesus Christ, most of the New Testament was written by this man and he sought to serve his master, Jesus Christ. For Paul’s life and ministry, we have much to be thankful to God! But what can we briefly learn about Jesus from Paul?

Reading Colossians 1:15-20 - The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

See how Paul piles up the metaphors about Jesus - image of the invisible God; firstborn over all creation, invisible and visible and also their creator and sustainer! This Jesus is the head of the church, all those who follow, believe and receive Him! This Jesus has the supremacy over all things! This Jesus, the man, had the fullness of God within him! This Jesus, who was fully man yet simultaneously fully God! This man Jesus who was fully God, yet became nothing by becoming human, in order that people may choose to be restored back into relationship with God or not. This Jesus the re-conciliator, redeemer and peacemaker through his death on the cross! Peace with God, only comes through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross! There is no other way! That’s why Jesus Himself said “I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody can come to the Father except through Me!” You an almost sense Paul going “WOW!!”

Now reading 1 Timothy 1:12-17 - I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Here Paul reveals his relationship with Jesus! Jesus has given and shown Paul the wonders of Gods’ mercy, grace, faith and love! That’s why Paul has been appointed into service by Jesus, despite Paul’s past which included violence, blasphemy against God and persecuting the church – the body of whom Jesus is the head, the wisdom and guide!

This Jesus has made Paul clean and renewed him! This Jesus strengthens Paul to be in active service for God – and because of that we get most of the New Testament! The only reason Paul can do what he does, is because it is Jesus who has anointed and appointed him to God’s service, sustains, guides and protects him! This Jesus, who with inexhaustible patience uses Paul as an living testimony to help others come to follow, believe and receive Jesus Christ. This Jesus, whose purpose was to save sinners – such as Paul who confesses that he is the supreme example of a sinner – and give everlasting life. Lastly, Paul overflows with praise for Jesus, describing him as immortal, invisible and only God and giving Him alone the glory and honour! May that be so in your life, your church and in the life of the church worldwide!

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WOW Jesus 22

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Apostle Peter’s

Jesus

Today we are going to look at another person who was one of Jesus’ closest friends – the man we know as the Apostle Peter. Peter, whose name was originally Simon, but given the name Peter, by Jesus (Matthew 16:18). Peter, the great Apostle and some say the greatest Apostle! With John and James, one of the three people closest to Jesus and had seen Jesus transfigured and glowing with glory on the Mount of Transfiguration! Peter, a fisherman, was commanded to go with Jesus with the simple words “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people!” Peter, who several times was rebuked by Jesus. Peter, who was the first disciple to confess Jesus as the Christ – the long waited for Messiah! Peter, who had watched his friend, Jesus, executed. Peter, who with the other disciples, went into hiding after Jesus’ death on the cross. Peter, who publicly denied three times ever knowing Jesus of Nazareth. Peter, who showed his love of Jesus of Nazareth – having given up everything to follow, believe and receive Him.

Acts 2:22-24; 32-36 - ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. This Jesus, God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’

~~~~~

Here in this speech recorded in Acts 2, we see the Jesus of the Apostle Peter! This Jesus of Nazareth who was attested by many witnesses, even His enemies, to have done great signs and works of wonder – things like healing the sick, speaking words of wisdom, raising Lazarus from the dead and forgiving sins! How could Jesus of Nazareth do these wondrous miracles? Because Jesus of Nazareth, was empowered by the Holy Spirit! That’s how he could do those things!

What’s more, despite all these wondrous actions of Jesus, which were attested as being of, and from, God; Jesus of Nazareth was killed like a common criminal, by people willing to break the law to achieve it. But, that was all part of God’s perfect plan – not only for Jesus but also for humanity – because God raised Jesus from the death to show that death was powerless to contain him! Remember what the name “Jesus” means? More about that in a later study!

Unlike the mighty King David who was buried in a tomb, Jesus was free, raised up and ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father! Following His ascension, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father! From there comes the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to indwell and empower all those who proclaim to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth, having believed and received Him as Lord and Master. This Jesus, undefeated by death, now proclaimed to be both Lord and Messiah!! WOW! So not only was Jesus attested to be the long awaited for Messiah, but he was also the supreme director of all peoples – Jew and Gentile – and all created things! Peter has given evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, exaltation and glorification! All things are under the power of Jesus of Nazareth.

It was the resurrection of Jesus and subsequent infilling and empowerment by the Holy Spirit which turned Peter and the other followers of Jesus, from quivering cowards into a dynamic people we know as the early church. Oh how the Church today needs to rely on the Holy Spirit for power, wisdom and guidance rather than it sometimes does on mere human power, wisdom and guidance.

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WOW Jesus 21

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WOW Jesus 19

Apostle John’s Jesus

John1:1-18 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. He was the true light that enlightens everyone coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own home, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born of God, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart and bosom, who has made him known.

~~~~~

Here is the aged Apostle John, writing his Gospel after Jesus’ earthly life has finished and he has ascending back to God the Father. John was one of Jesus’ three closest friends – Peter and James being the other two. He had been on the Mount of Transfiguration, and saw the transfigured Jesus shining in glory, conversing with Elijah and Moses and heard God the Father declare that He was pleased with His beloved son, Jesus (Luke 9:28-36).

So here in John 1, John reflects some of that! Look at how Jesus is described by John! Jesus is the Word – whereby John means that just as our words explain our thoughts to others, so Jesus was sent to the earth as a human, to reveal the very mind of God the Father to a world in darkness. John goes on, that though the world is in darkness, Jesus is the Light! Jesus is the Light who is also the Truth and full of grace and truth! Jesus is the creator of all things and is Almighty in power and wisdom!

This Jesus, the God-man, as the creator of all things, is the only one perfectly capable of redeeming and saving the world from darkness. WOW! Jesus, John writes excitably, is God the only Son, close to the heart of, and revealing God the Father to a world in darkness.

John describes Jesus as the Almighty God who became man, in order to give those people who received and believed in Him, the power to become children of God through mercy and unbounded grace. Yet more – so that people could come to know God personally (John 1:18)! WOW! That is the Apostle John’s Jesus!

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WOW Jesus 20

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WOW Jesus

Mary's Jesus

Luke 1:26-38 - In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin? I do not know a man’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born of you will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

~~~~~

We see here in this passage from the Gospel of Luke, Mary discovering things about the child the angel Gabriel has decreed will be hers, conceived by God in her. Let’s look at them together.

The first thing we learn about Mary’s forthcoming child, is that Jesus will be his name! It is another form of the name Joshua and his name means that he will be a saviour or a rescuer! But more about that in a later study!

Then the angel builds up the metaphors about this Jesus! This Jesus will be great! This Jesus, whom you will bear, will be called the Son of the Most High! WOW! Even more, this Jesus will be given the throne of Israel’s greatest King, that of mighty King David! WOW! This Jesus will be a holy King, reigning over an everlasting kingdom! WOW! This Jesus will also be called the Son of God! This Jesus is God!

Then when Mary goes to see her cousin, Elizabeth declares the child as the blessed fruit of Mary! This child will not only be God, but also human!

Again, two further studies to come in this series – Jesus’ divinity and Jesus’ humanity.

Mary, in great humility and commitment, accepts the assignment to be the bearer and mother of Jesus, the long awaited for Saviour.

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