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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord

James Meehan - Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord

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    James Meehan - Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord

So today we are talking about Jesus, because this is all about him. Like everything we do here at Switch is about Jesus, because he's the one who flipped the whole world upside down through his life. He's the one who changed my life. He's the one who without him, and all that he did, like church would not be a thing. Tragically though, there's a whole lot of people that have some really bad ideas about who Jesus is, about what he's like, and about what he came to do, because sadly there are a lot of times where Christians, people like me have done a terrible job of representing Jesus well. And that's why in this series, Christianity Deconstructed, we are doing the best we can to get back to the basics, to the very fundamentals of what following Jesus is all about. And today is focused on Him, the one that this is all about. To help us get back to the core of what makes Jesus Jesus, we're gonna be looking at something called the Apostles Creed.

The Apostles Creed is a formal statement of beliefs that was created by early Christians that were doing the best they could to encapsulate the essential ingredients of following Jesus. And so they put together this statement of belief that has been passed down from generation to generation to help all Christians everywhere be reminded of what really matters most. And so what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna read through the Apostles Creed for us, and then from there we're gonna focus in on what the earliest Christians believed about Jesus, and try to make sure that what we believe about Jesus today is actually consistent with who he is. So starting in the Apostles Creed, it begins with these words:

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he was born of the virgin Mary, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, he was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day, he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there, he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic church the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen".

So who is Jesus? That really is the big question that we're trying to answer. According to the Christians, who put the Apostles Creed together, they believed that Jesus is God's Son, and our Lord. Jesus is God's Son, and he is our Lord. Now, it's important to acknowledge that this view of Jesus wasn't based on whatever sounded good at the time. Like, it was pulled straight from the scriptures that were written down by Jesus' closest followers, people who actually saw him after he had risen from the dead. If we look at Peter, one of Jesus' followers, what he says is, "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus from the dead".

James, who was the brother of Jesus, and leader in the early church, he wrote a letter to Christians where he says, "This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". Then you've got John, another of Jesus' followers, who wrote one of the four gospels, the accounts of Jesus' life, where right at the end he says "This is why I wrote this," starting in verse 30 and going on to 31, John tells us that "The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah," that is the promised Savior king by God. It's another way of saying he's the Lord, the Son of God, "And that believing in him you will have life by the power of His name". Then the Apostle Paul in a letter he wrote says, "God will do this for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord".

The early Christians, and these eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus all believed that Jesus is God's Son, and that he is our Lord. But were they right? Like, is it possible that they were mistaken, that maybe Jesus wasn't actually God's Son or our Lord? Maybe Jesus was just like a really wise Jewish Bible teacher, or maybe he was an overly zealous religious person. Is it possible that maybe Jesus was like a civil rights activist that was just ahead of his time? Maybe Jesus was like somebody who just was actually out of his mind, and said things about himself that weren't actually true. Is it possible that maybe none of this stuff is even real, that it was all written down later by Jesus' disciples to kind of like add to the story of Jesus? Like, is that possible?

Here's the problem with that, is that the idea of Jesus being God's Son and our Lord doesn't just come from what these disciples wrote, it also comes from the things that Jesus himself said. You see, Jesus claimed to be from God, and speak for God. In John 12:49 he says "That the Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it". He claimed to be the only way to God. In John 14:6 he says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me". Jesus claimed to be one with God. In John 10:30 he says, "The Father and I are one". You see, Jesus claimed some pretty radical things about himself. This is why his earliest followers came to the conclusion that He's God's Son and he is our Lord. But what does it even mean for Jesus to be Lord? That's actually a really good question.

Now, the basic definition of Lord, is someone or something having power, authority or influence. It's a master or a ruler. And as you're hearing this message, there might be some of you who, the idea of letting Jesus be the Lord of your life is just, it's too much, because why would you want anybody to tell you what to do? Like, do they even really know you? Like, is there any way to get around the idea of Jesus being Lord. Is it okay if I just admire him from a distance, but I don't actually commit to following him? And if Jesus isn't God's Son, if Jesus is not our Lord, then that's fine. Like you can just admire him as a figure who existed in history, who set an example that can inspire us in later generations. But if Jesus is who these early followers believed he was, then just admiring him isn't actually an option. Because either Jesus is who he said he was or he isn't.

Like, there's no middle ground when it comes to understanding Jesus. He's either Lord or he's not. And it's fair to say that there are other explanations that people have put out of, okay, okay, wait. So maybe Jesus isn't Lord, maybe he's something else. Maybe Jesus was a liar, like, he just made it all up. Maybe he was a lunatic, dude was out of his mind. Maybe he's just a legend. What if he never actually existed, and his followers just wrote all this stuff down later to add credibility to their claims, that all the supernatural stuff was just made up. Here's the problem though. If Jesus was just making all of this stuff up, then wouldn't he have confessed that it was a lie when he was standing in front of a group of people who had the authority to put him to death, but instead of denying that he was the Son of God, Jesus doubled down. And because of that he was killed for the claims that he made.

I don't know about you, but very rarely will I keep up a lie if it's gonna get me in trouble. Like, if it's gonna get me in trouble to lie, and let alone get me killed to keep on lying, I'm coming clean as quickly as I can, 'cause I don't wanna experience the consequences. But that's not what Jesus did. So maybe he's not lying, maybe he's literally a lunatic, like he's crazy, he's out of his mind, and he was convinced that this was true, but it wasn't actually true. The problem with that theory of Jesus being a lunatic is that he said some of the wisest things ever recorded in history. And the example that he set in his life has inspired some of the greatest reformers to incredible success. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi. Two influential reformers are people who ripped their strategies for peaceful protest straight from Jesus' playbook.

So if Jesus was so wrong about his own identity, how could he be so right about so many other things? It makes the idea that he's out of his mind, that he's a lunatic, a little bit hard to believe. So if he's not lying, if it doesn't really make a lot of sense that he's a lunatic, maybe he is just a legend. Like, maybe he was made up, maybe he never existed at all. Or the supernatural claims, the claims to be the Son of God were just added later by disciples who wanted to, you know, like make Jesus sound like a bigger deal than he really was. But there's a pretty big problem with that view. That problem is what we call history, because the statements that the early followers of Jesus made about Jesus weren't things that were put together hundreds of years later, after everybody who actually lived during that time had passed away.

No, they were written years later, like literally the Apostle Paul, we read one of his statements about Jesus being God's Son and our Lord at the beginning. In that letter, it wasn't 50 years later, it wasn't 75 years later, it wasn't 200 years later that he made that claim. It was 20 years after the death of Jesus that he was writing about Jesus rising from the dead, being God's Son and our Lord. And here's what's even crazier. In that same letter, the apostle Paul like writes down, writes down an even earlier creed, like a statement of beliefs that is estimated to have become a thing within just a few years of Jesus' death. And we find that creed, one of the oldest creeds known in existence to the Christian faith, in 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul says this, he says, "I passed on to you what was most important, and what had also been passed on to me".

That means Paul saying, I didn't make this up, this is what I heard and now I'm sharing it with you. "Christ died for our sins just as the scripture said. He was buried and he was raised from the dead, on the third day, just as the scripture said". But Paul doesn't stop there, because he actually includes the fact that a whole bunch of people can prove the truth, because they saw it with with their own eyes. In verse four, he goes on to say, "He was seen by Peter and then by the 12. After that he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him".

What Paul is doing here is he is making it clear that these claims aren't just made up by a few people hundreds of years later. He is challenging the critics to check the sources, because he believes that Jesus wasn't lying, that he wasn't a lunatic, that he certainly wasn't a legend, which really only leaves one option, that he's Lord. That's why the earliest Christians believe that Jesus is God's Son, and he is our Lord. Now maybe there are still others of you who are having a hard time with this, not because you don't believe it's true, but because you don't want it to be true. Because the version of Christianity that you've been shown was anything but good news. That the Jesus you've heard other people talk about, wasn't good. He wasn't loving, and he certainly wasn't the kind of person that you wanted to devote your life to.

And this is why it matters so much that we understand who Jesus really is, and understand what he is actually like. Because there've been a lot of people misrepresented, people like me who stand on stages like this, doing the best they can to share with others the goodness of God. And so often we get it wrong. And so I wanna go back to Jesus, to hear what he says about himself. Because in the four gospels, the four different accounts written of his life that contain a lot of what he said and did. Those gospels cover 89 chapters, but there is one place where Jesus describes his own heart. That place is in Matthew 11, and it's in verse 29 where Jesus says this. He says, "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls".

What is Jesus like? Well, in his own words he is humble and he is gentle at heart. He's humble, that means he is approachable, right. Like, he didn't come riding into the scene on a high horse, trying to elevate himself above everybody else. He is available to us, like when we come to him in need, we don't have to like email his assistant to get an appointment. We can go directly to him, and he is is ready to receive us. He's gentle, that means that he is never harsh, that he is never mean-spirited, that everything he does is an act of kindness for our good. That's what Jesus is really like. That a time when this became real to me was when I experienced his gentleness, and kindness firsthand.

You see, I grew up in the church, but the version of Christianity I grew up believing in is one that I would say wasn't good news. Like, it wasn't good, because it didn't actually change anything in the people around me for the better. And it didn't seem like news, because none of it seemed like it was actually based in reality. It seemed like a bunch of made up stuff that people just said, because it's what they had been told, and so they keep telling other people about it. And so it wasn't long before the, like brutalness of the real world, of being in middle school, and dealing with a whole bunch of friends turning their backs on me. Being a 12-year-old whose parents were going through a divorce. Being in a place where I cried out to God night after night waiting for him to answer, and I wasn't hearing anything in response.

And so in that moment, I didn't really give God much of a chance, so I turned my back on him and I ran, and I spent the next seven years just running away from God. Running away from this God who was desperately reaching after me. And over the course of those seven years, like looking back, I can point to all of these moments where God was patiently pursuing me, but I wasn't ready for it until I finally hit rock bottom. It was the year after I graduated from high school, I was living in a city off on my own, away from my family and my friends, had just gone through a really messy breakup, and I genuinely had no idea what I was gonna do next in my life. Like do I go to college, do I not? Do I go to work, do I not? Do I just stay at home and play video games, 'cause I don't really have motivation to do anything, or do I not? And then one day my mom called me on the phone, and as kindly as she could, she said, "Hey James, I think it's time for you to come home".

And looking back now, I can tell you that God was using my mom to invite me back to him. And it wasn't long after that that I got back involved with the church, where I was surrounded by people who really loved me, who were showing me the gentleness of Jesus' heart firsthand. And as I was trying to sort through life, and figure out what do I believe, and what do I not believe, over and over again, Jesus showed up. And even when I was really resistant, he continued to be patient, until the day finally came when Jesus revealed himself to me, that I heard about who he is, and it finally made sense, because I was finally ready to hear it. And after seven years of pursuing me, I finally responded to his invitation. And what I can tell you is that in the early days of me following Jesus, I got a lot of things wrong.

But every single time I did, I felt the grace of Jesus there. I felt his gentleness and kindness continually inviting me to get back on my feet, and to keep moving forward. I've discovered what Jesus is like firsthand, because of how he has moved in my life. I've discovered the truth of what Jesus said about himself, that his words were not empty, but they have been backed up by his faithful presence. And maybe there are some of you who Jesus wants to gently, he wants to humbly invite you to set aside the things that you've believed about him that just aren't true, so that he can show you who he really is, God's Son and our Lord.

So that he can show you what he's really like, gentle and humble at heart. It's in Matthew 16, where Jesus comes to the region of Caesarea Philippi, and he asks his disciples this question, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is"? The disciples replied, "Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets". Then Jesus asks them, "But who do you say I am"? And Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God".

See, the earliest followers of Jesus, they believe that he was God's Son and our Lord. But really the most important question isn't what did they believe? The question is, who do you believe that Jesus is? And that's a question that nobody else can answer for you. It's a question that maybe right now in this moment you don't have an answer to yet. And I want you to know that that's actually okay, that Jesus is gonna continue to humbly, and gently invite you to him. And here at Switch, this is a place where you can wrestle with your questions, where you can bring your doubts. And so what I want to invite you to do, is to actually bring your questions here, to ask God to reveal himself to you, and to give all of this, give Christianity a fair shot. Because what we believe is that when you seek after him, he will reveal himself to you. Because at the end of the day, that's who he is, someone who is gentle and humble at heart. He is a God who is totally loving, and will stop at nothing to bring you back to him.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much that you loved us enough to become Jesus, to enter the mess of this world, to leave your footprints in the sands of Judea, and invite us to follow you. God, I pray for every single person listening to this message, that we would be reminded of who you really are, God's Son and our Lord. That we would trust that you are good, that you are humble, that you are gentle, and that you will continue to invite us back to you every single time we turn away. And I pray that we would be open to the ways that you want to reveal yourself to us. It's in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Maybe there's others of you right now who, as you were hearing this message, you're realizing for the first time the thing that you have been missing is a real relationship with the real Jesus. Maybe you've grown up in church, but all of your ideas about Jesus have been so far from reality. Or maybe you're new to this whole church thing, but there's something that's happening inside of you that you can't describe, that maybe the God that you've been avoiding for a really long time, now you feel yourself being drawn towards. Jesus is gentle and he is humble at heart. He's inviting you to know him, to be healed by him. He wants to make you whole.

This is why the gospel is good news. It's good because it changes everything for the better, it's news because it actually happened. It happened 2000 years ago, when God entered the world as a man named Jesus. He lived a perfect life. He died a brutal death on the cross to be the sacrifice for our sins so that we could be forgiven of all the wrongs that we've committed. But Jesus didn't stay dead. No, he rose from the dead on the third day, overcoming sin, death, and darkness. Paving the way for us to be reunited with God. And maybe that's why you're here today, to respond to the invitation of Jesus, to put your trust in him, to believe that he is who he said he was, God's Son and our Lord.

If that's you and you wanna begin a relationship with him saying yes to him for the first time ever, then right now type in the chat, "Jesus, I give you my life". Type it down below, "Jesus, I give you my life". In that moment, when you put your faith in him, he invites you into his presence. He makes you a son and a daughter. He forgives you of all of your sins so that you are no longer defined by the sin of your past, but you are defined by his love for you. And as people are making that decision, what we're gonna do as they Switch family is pray together, out loud together. Repeat after me:

Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sins. I'm turning from my old life. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your mercy. It's in Jesus name. Amen and amen and amen.

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