Allen Jackson - What Do You Believe About Jesus?
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It's a privilege to be with you today. Our title is "What Do You Believe About Jesus"? Our answer to that question will change our journey through time and ultimately will determine our destiny for all eternity. A spoiler alert: it's not about which church you join, which translation of the Bible you read, whether you take Communion with red grape juice or purple grape juice, what you believe about the person of Jesus. It's not enough to think he was a historical figure. We need a personal relationship with him. It changes everything about our lives. I'm excited to walk through this study with you. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but more importantly, open your heart.
We've been working through a series around the idea of "The Power to be Different," and the fundamentals of that are really twofold. We have to have a demonstration of the power of God, not just a presentation of the idea of God. I think for too long we've imagined that Christianity was principally an intellectual exercise and whether it was stated or just implied, we were going to outthink evil. Or maybe we were gonna out-organize or outwork, but the reality is we need a power from beyond ourselves. Ultimately, evil will yield to nothing other than a power greater than itself. And please don't be confused. You know, we hear, particularly right now and after a week of tragedy in Nashville, all sorts of solutions that are policy-based solutions to dealing with evil. If we would change this law or change that law, that we would curb evil.
Folks, evil will not be sequestered by a policy. It takes a power greater than evil and, for that, we need a vital vibrant church that is willing to welcome the power of God into our homes, into our lives, into our communities, and our congregations, and I believe God is awakening us to that. The other component of that is that power was made available to us through the redemptive work of Jesus. So this Easter season is really the front door to that, and we have tragically kind of left that story at the point of conversion. And it certainly takes the power of God for us to find our way into the kingdom of God, but then we need the power of God if we're going to mature and grow up in our faith.
Again, it's not a Bible study society. We're to demonstrate the gospel of the kingdom in the world in which we live. And we are much more comfortable having a Bible study and talking about the 12 tribes of Israel than we are gathering our friends and praying for them. It's a messy business to invite the presence of God into our lives because we don't control the Spirit of God. And there are things we don't know. Nevertheless, we wanna be guilty of saying to the Lord, "You are welcome into the midst of this," and inviting him to be God and triumphant in our lives. So that's been the point of this little series, is to kind of walk us back towards some of those foundational ideas regarding Jesus and, at the center of that, or at least at the beginning of that, in my thinking, is this admission that all of us need to make, the degree to which we're lost.
In Christian language, when we talk about being lost, the lost are those who aren't yet born again, they haven't experienced the new birth or conversion. They haven't found the entrance into the kingdom of God. But I think that is an inadequate definition based on the story of Scripture. Jesus came to minister to the covenant people of God. He said, "I've come to the house of Israel. I haven't come to the pagan nations". Jesus very scrupulously avoided going even to the cities in Israel that were predominantly Gentile, non-Jewish communities. We don't find him in Caesarea, we don't find him in Beit She'an. In the most beautiful cities of the nation, other than Jerusalem, Jesus didn't go. He went to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
So Jesus's ministry was directed at the covenant people of God. It's a very important point, because we might have imagined, you know, he should have gone to the pagan nations, the Gentile nations, and they didn't have the presentation, but he came to a people that were prepared to receive him and some of them struggled mightily with that. So when we talk about being lost, I wanna expand your definition, not simply to the people who don't yet know the Lord, but people who have a part of their life where they are forfeiting the fullness of the redemptive work of Jesus. Lost doesn't mean just something that's misplaced. There's an additional definition of lost that is equally appropriate. It's when something is forfeited. We can talk about, you know, losing an opportunity. You didn't misplace your opportunity; you forfeited the opportunity.
And to live below what Jesus has made available to us through his redemptive work, his death, burial, and resurrection, is to allow something, a forfeiture, to reside in our lives. And we don't wanna do that. Now, it's not always simple or clean or neat or easily understood. But there's many, many, many invitations through the Gospels that help us illumine our thinking so we'll start in Luke 13 and verse 10. It says: "On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues". This was his habit. He'd be in synagogue on the Sabbath. "And a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn't straighten up at all. And when Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you're set free from your infirmity.'"
Seems perfectly normal to Jesus. The implication seems to be she's a regular part of the synagogue community, so they just accepted the condition. "Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God". No kidding. She'd had a physical condition for 18 years, godly woman, she's worshiping on Sabbath in synagogue. This particular day, Jesus happens to be there and, without any request on his part, he simply invites her towards freedom. You've got to love the heart of God. And when Jesus laid his hands on her and prayed, it says, "Immediately, she's set free". And she praised God. How many of you think she did more than praise God? I bet it was a little disruptive, huh? How many think the emotion in the synagogue changed? They've known her in one condition and now she's in a totally new place.
What was lost, what had been forfeited, has been discovered. She's whole, in a new way. And the next part is very unimagined. You wouldn't expect it. "Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath". Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. One of the reasons we're timid is we understand intuitively, if not consciously, that some people won't like it. And we don't wanna mention the name of Jesus in that setting and we don't wanna pray in that setting or what if we pray and something doesn't happen? They might be indignant with us. Yes, they might. "The synagogue ruler said to the people," not just to the people. He turns to them: "There are six days for work.
So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath". What a happy, happy fellow. What a shepherd to the flock. "And the Lord answered him". This is gonna break out in the open. "'You hypocrites!'" I always smile when people say, "Jesus was all about love. You know, just big cuddly group hug Jesus". He's standing in the synagogue, "You bunch of hypocrites. On the Sabbath you untie your ox or your donkey and lead it to water. Shouldn't this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her"? See, they missed the appropriate question. What would have been a more appropriate question for the leader in the synagogue or for the most influential families in the synagogue or... what would have been a better response for them when that woman was healed?
It's important question. They're offended. I don't think they're offended just because Jesus picked the wrong day. I think they're offended because Jesus has usurped their role. Whatever title they carried, whatever prestige they imagined they held, all of a sudden just got really diminished because now Jesus has helped someone in their midst. So what would have been a better question? It's important. "Lord, help us understand that". Jesus said this woman had been bound by Satan. He didn't, the implication is that there was a spiritual cause to her physical illness. Doesn't mean that every physical illness has a spiritual root. But some certainly would seem to. "Lord, we didn't understand that. We just thought she had scoliosis. We've seen the x-rays. Help us understand". But you see, it takes a lot of humility to be aware. You have to be willing to say, "Ah, I didn't know".
And it's messy to help people, because what if you pray for somebody else and nothing happens? You think, "Oh, I didn't do it right". Or maybe they didn't do it right. And what about people that walk through tragedies and... did somebody fail to pray? How do you understand, you see, Jesus didn't heal everybody. He went to the pools of Bethesda and healed the man who couldn't get into the water when they were stirring the whole... there were multiple porches around that same pool and there were lots of sick people and Jesus ministered to one man and walked away. There's a lot we don't know. But in this particular synagogue setting, what Luke's pointing out to us is they got the question wrong.
They got indignant instead of curious, instead of worshipful, instead of grateful, instead of... when the first time Peter heard Jesus teach, he borrowed his boat, remember, he pushed out from the shore a little bit and he heard him teach and when they were done, they had a catch of fish. Remember what Peter said? "Go away from me, I'm a sinful man". Jesus said, "No, why don't you follow me"? "Really, me"? "Yeah, let's go, Pete". You see, we wanna learn to get better questions. We wanna get our heart right, because if we say we need renewal, awakening, whatever label you wanna plug into that, that starts in us before it goes anyplace else. It begins in us. Our hearts start to change, we open our hearts to the Lord. It's frequently, historically, those renewals, those awakenings, don't start in the midst of those of us who participate the most in organized religious settings because we're so resistant to change, we get indignant before we get changed.
And since, tonight, we get the choir in the house, I'm telling you we wanna keep tender hearts to the Lord. We want to. They're indignant. "And when Jesus said this, all of his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing". So it wasn't just the rabbi in the synagogue. "Opponents" is plural, there were multiple people there that chose to be offended, but there's a whole 'nother delegation that was celebrating what Jesus was doing. Which one are we gonna be in? And please don't be surprised at these delegations of people who are offended by the name of Jesus. They've been offended since he was here. If they were offended when Jesus was in the house, I promise you, we should expect them to be offended when we mention him. And to our shame, we have cooperated with them. We're gonna have to answer for that.
I'm telling you, growing up in the Lord's not easy stuff. We have mischaracterized this. I hear people talk about the effort they made in their career or the effort in their academics or the effort in parenting and, all that's appropriate, but we don't talk much about the effort we invested in learning to trust the Lord or to grow up in our faith or how we wrestled with Scripture, in fact, we're kind of offended by that. We don't want it to be difficult or hard. If it's difficult or hard, we think, "Well, maybe I didn't understand it, or maybe there's really nothing to it or", and we stay with big lost sections of our lives. We forfeit things that God would do or would have responded to. Someone on the team today showed me, he and I were working on a project 4 or 5 years ago and we'd written some projections out.
And I remember the conversation, 'cause we laughed about it at the time. We started with one set and I said, "I think the Lord would do more than that. We need to be more aggressive," and I remember he looked at me and said, "That was pretty aggressive where we started". And he found the piece of paper in some file and he showed it to me today, and what God's done over the last four years had way exceeded anything that was on our goofy little chart. I think we live with a lot of lost spaces amongst us. You know the end of the story. Jesus gets to Jairus's house and the mourners are already there, and he said, "She's not dead". And they make fun of him and so he puts them out of the way. He goes in and ministers to the girl and restores her to her dad. The celebration part is typically way understated in Scripture. Way understated.
Folks, God's still moving today. I look forward to sharing some of the stories that are already coming to us. Every day now, we're getting story after story that you're telling us from what God is doing from the responses you've made to him in these last few weeks. It's amazing. Biblical kind of stuff. God's moving in the earth. We baptized 40, I don't know, there was more than 40 on the list last Saturday night. There's more than that on the list for this weekend. People showing up from everywhere. And I don't think it's 'cause they love our purple T-shirts. I mean, they're amazing but I don't think that's it. You see, our personal journey is in that learning to believe in Jesus, to put our trust in him.
Not just to be born again, not just to be set, that's essential, it's important. But please, please, don't leave your relationship with Jesus at that point. You'll leave too much lost space in your life. Too much to be restored. We forfeit too much when we leave Jesus in that kind of a box that only has value in eternity. You know, when we visit Israel, I tell the Jesus story in kind of two ways. We typically start in the northern part of Israel around the Sea of Galilee. Two-thirds of Jesus's miracles, right there on the northern end of that little freshwater lake. Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazim, I mean, a tremendous amount of stuff happened right there. Major thoroughfare, major freshwater source.
Jesus made his reputation in Galilee, and the message over and over and over again is "Believe in me". Believe in me, I can calm the wind, I can speak to a storm, I can walk on the water, I can turn water into wine, I can orchestrate deliverance from evil spirits. Believe in me. And it says time after... they put their faith in him. They believed in him. And our journey begins that way. We recognize there's something within us. There's this deficit that we have the imagination that Jesus could help, so we kind of haltingly, carefully, put our faith in him, saying, "Lord, could you help me"? We act like the woman pressing through the crowd or Jairus. We get desperate enough and we cry out to him. We've tried everything else. We've exhausted ourselves and our resources and our thoughts and we cry out.
So we put our faith in Jesus a little bit. But after a few days up in the northern part, we turn our faces towards Jerusalem and when we get to Jerusalem, the story changes completely, because by the time Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he's not saying to the disciples, "Believe in me". The message is dramatically different. He says, "When I get to Jerusalem this last time, I'm gonna be betrayed by one of you and I'll be arrested and there'll be a trial of some sort and I'll be beaten horribly, and they're gonna torture me to death. Then I'll be buried. But I'll rise again". And the disciples are so troubled, they say, "Never, that could never happen to you". They can't process it, they can't hold it in their imagination.
So that when it begins to happen, they act like they've never heard the drama. It's too beyond their imagination. But the Jerusalem narrative isn't about believing in Jesus. The Jerusalem presentation is about what Jesus is going to do for us. The redemptive work of Jesus. And we've almost left it out of our story. We give only a portion of the gospel away. We give away the part where we say "Put your faith in Jesus," but then we stop talking to people about the impact of the redemptive work of Jesus, the freedom we can experience, the transformation we can experience. How he'll restore the things that have been lost, forfeited because of the presence of evil in our world.
See, what you believe about Jesus really does matter. I'm not gonna take the time, we're gonna pray, but what do you believe about Jesus? Do you know he was your Savior? That's wonderful, I'm grateful for that. Do you know him as a healer? Do you know him as someone who baptizes in the Spirit? Do you know him as a deliverer? Do you know him as a restorer of dreams? Do you know him as Lord or do you still dictate policy to him? What do you believe about Jesus? I know we're in church but, really, what do you believe? Matthew 8: "When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and Jesus drove out the spirits with a word and he healed all the sick".
And then Matthew, again, Matthew was witness to this. He's collected the stories, but then he gives us the scriptural authority to helping us understand what Jesus did. He's going to quote from Isaiah 53. Isaiah lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born, but that 53rd chapter is a messianic prophecy. It describes the accomplishments of Messiah, and Matthew applies that to the experience he had. "They brought people who were demon-possessed and sick, and the spirits were driven out and the sick were healed. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'" And in our denial of Scripture and our denial of the authority of God, we say, "Well, now we have doctors".
Well, I'm grateful for doctors. Hallelujah for medicine. I'm all in. I'm more willing to follow the science than the people that have been saying that, but I promise you there are times and places in our lives where we don't have an answer with the limited understanding that we have. And we need to know our Savior can save us. We're in those lost places. 1 Peter 2. Peter's describing Jesus. Again, he's an eye-witness to this. He's saying, "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth". He's quoting from that same chapter in Isaiah. And then he gives his personal experience: "When they hurled their insults at him, he didn't retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 'He himself...'" There's an emphasis in that. It's not poor grammar. It's given to us for emphasis. "He himself bore our sins".
Jesus took our sins in his body on the tree. That's the story of the cross. Jesus suffering because of our behavior that we might benefit from his. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness". And that's where we put a period. That's pretty much this gospel as we have been told. But that verse doesn't end with a period. It says: "By his wounds you have been healed". It fits hand in glove with the Matthew 8 passage. That the redemptive work of Christ is about restoring what's been lost, so that we don't have to live under the torment of unclean spirits or broken hearts or discouragement or heaviness or oppression, that we can be free. What wonderful news.
What do you believe about Jesus? Are you offended like the synagogue ruler? Are we willing to say, "Lord, I don't know a lot about that but I'd like to learn. I'd like to grow. Holy Spirit, would you help me? If you'll help me, I'll follow". Do we have the boldness and the courage? Are we desperate enough to be like Jairus and come and kneel and say, "Lord, I'll follow you if you tell me what I need to do. I don't wanna forfeit anything else". I believe you do. I believe you do.
Hebrews 13:8 says: "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever". To me, what that message is, is that Jesus, number one, is unchanged. And number two, perhaps more importantly in the face of what we're listening to these days, he's not diminished. He's not out of fashion. He's not out of style. To believe that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, does not mean you're from another age. The gospel is relevant in any age because apart from Jesus, we are lost, without hope in this world. If your only hope is in what you can get, and what you can hold onto, life is desperate, 'cause even if you win that race, the countdown clock is on and you're not taking it. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever".
You know, one of the great limiters for those of us who are Christ followers is we arrive at the conclusion that we know all the important stuff. We don't believe we know everything, we just believe we know the important stuff. Well, I'd like to close with a prayer, giving an invitation to our Lord to reveal himself to each of us in new ways, that we might continue to grow in our faith. You open for that? Let's pray:
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you loved us enough to send your Son and now I ask, Holy Spirit, that you would give us a revelation of Jesus that would change our future. Give us understanding hearts in Jesus's name, amen.