Robert Jeffress - What Every Christian Should Know About Jesus Christ - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". When you think of Jesus, you likely picture a bearded man in his early thirties wearing a flowing garment, perhaps teaching on a hillside. This is the Jesus you and I are most familiar with in the Gospels, but Jesus and his ministry begins much earlier and extends much later than his time here on earth. Today we're going to get a holistic view of the second member of the Godhead. My message is titled "What Every Christian Should Know About Jesus Christ" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
One of the quirks in our culture is that we tend to measure somebody's importance by their time in the limelight. Social media celebrities have their 15 minutes of fame. People we honor sometimes are called the man or woman of the hour. Every year at the end of the year Time magazines has their person of the year, and there are a few people who have whole eras named after them. The Elizabethan era or the Roosevelt era. But there's only one person in history whose entrance into the world has divided all of history into two halves. Doesn't matter whether the halves are called BC, Before Christ, or AD, Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. You can divide it BCE, Before The Common era and CE, the Common Era, but it's the same person whose life has become the measure by which we calibrate our own existence. His name is Jesus Christ. He is without doubt the most important person in history.
And today as we continue our study, "What Every Christian Should Know" about the ten core beliefs of historic Christianity, we've come to that third pillar that supports the Christian faith, the truth about Jesus Christ. And that's what we're going to talk about for a few minutes today. "What Every Christian Should Know About Jesus Christ". Now, in keeping with this idea of time, we're gonna divide Jesus's time into three parts. First of all, we're going to talk about Jesus's BC, that's before Christmas. A lot of people in celebrating Christmas make the mistake of thinking that's when Jesus came into existence at Bethlehem, that's what we're celebrating. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus had an existence before Christmas and the controlling passage in the Bible about that, is actually John 1 verse 1.
John begins his gospel a little differently than the other three gospels. John says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". The word word, logos, means, expression of. Jesus is the full expression of God himself. And notice in this one verse three things John tells us about Jesus. First of all, he was in the beginning. He didn't come into existence at Bethlehem, he was at the very beginning, he is eternal. "In the beginning was the Word". And secondly, Jesus was with God. Meaning he's distinct from God the Father, he was with God, and yet the third thing was, he was God. While being distinct from God, he was God. That's the mystery of the Trinity.
Well, what was it that Jesus has been doing before Christmas? What was he in heaven doing? Well, he was the focus of all the Old Testament prophecies. You know, God the Father did a lot of prep work to get the world ready for the coming of Jesus Christ. One thing he did was to institute a system of sacrifices for men that they would follow for thousands of years. They would sin and they would offer a sacrifice. There's nothing about those sacrifices that could wash away sins, but it was teaching man that there had to be a sacrifice for sins. The sacrificial system was a picture of Christ. But also, God for thousands of years before the coming of Christ made prophecies about Jesus. There are about 60 major prophecies that would be like a neon arrow in heaven pointing out who the Messiah was when he finally came.
For example, when I'm traveling to a city and somebody's to pick me up and they may not know me, I text them some information. I'll be standing out in front of door number three, a baggage claim. I'll be wearing a white shirt and a red tie. I'm giving them some things they can look for, to know that it is me. Well, God the Father did the same thing, so we could know when Jesus came. For example, one of the prophecies of the 60 made about Jesus was in Isaiah 7:14. "He would be born of a virgin". The only person in history whose mother was a virgin. Why was the virgin birth necessary? It kept any sin from entering into Jesus Christ. Even though he was fully God and fully human, he escaped the curse of Adam's sin, he escaped the curse of Jeconiah. And if you're saying Jeco who? Jeconiah. I've got a little pullout on your outline about why the virgin birth was important in escaping the curse of Jeconiah. Another prophecy he gave 700 years before Jesus arrived on the scene was in Micah 5:2 when he described the exact village, the nondescript city in which Christ would be born, Bethlehem. He predicted that Jesus the Messiah would be crucified.
You say, "Well, what's the big deal about that? Lots of people were crucified". Well, it was prophesied about Jesus that he would be crucified a thousand years before crucifixion was even invented. And again, I have a box there about the Psalms, three Psalms that talk about and describe crucifixion before it had been invented. Again, 60 of those prophecies made before Jesus came to earth. Galatians 4 says, "In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son". I like the way the Living Bible says it, "At just the right time, God sent forth his Son". And now that leads us to what happened when God came to earth, when he became flesh and dwelt among us. Let's look at Jesus on earth. John 1:14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us".
You know, C.S. Lewis said the greatest miracle of all time is not the atonement, it's not even the resurrection, the greatest miracle of all time is the incarnation. Think about it, the great God who created this universe poured himself, all of himself into that tiny embryo implanted in the womb of a Jewish teenage peasant girl. That is a miraculous thought when you think about it. The controlling passage in the New Testament that explains the significance of that is Philippians 2 verses 5 through 8. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard his equality with God a thing to be grasped," to be held onto, "But he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond servant and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross".
Again, to quote CS Lewis and his book "Mirror Christianity," if you wanna get the hang of incarnation, just imagine what it would be like for you to voluntarily become a slug or a crab. Can you imagine such a thing? Yet Jesus did that, and he did it willingly. Now, a lot of people have a false idea of the incarnation. They think that means Jesus was half God and half man. No, we have a term in theology, the Hypostatic Union. And that literally means that Jesus Christ was 100% God, and he was 100% man without any mixture of sin. Now make no mistake about it, Jesus was God, he was 100% God. In Colossians 2:9, Paul says, "For in him Jesus, all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form". And by the way, don't let anybody sell you on this idea that, "O well Jesus never claimed to be God, that's just something his followers tagged him with hundreds of years afterwards to make a good story, a better story". No, from the beginning Jesus claimed to be God.
And on your outline I have some of his numerous statements where he claimed to be God. Which means as C.S. Lewis again said, given the fact that he claimed to be God, it means either he was a liar 'cause he knew he wasn't God, but claimed to be, he was a lunatic, he actually thought he was God when he wasn't. If you don't think Jesus is a liar or a lunatic, the only other alternative, is he is Lord, he's exactly who he said he was. He is fully God, but secondly, he is fully man. The Bible says in Philippians 2:7, "He emptied himself when he came to earth".
Now, what did he empty himself of? Did he empty himself of being God? No, God is who he was, you cannot empty yourself of your essence. I cannot empty myself of having brown eyes and being five foot nine. That is who I am, I can't change that, I can't give that up, that is me. And it's the same way with God, he can't give up his essence, Jesus is God. So what did he empty himself of? I want you to write this down, two things. First of all, he emptied himself of his rights. He did not hold onto his rights as God Philippians 2 says. You know, if you ever go to the airport, you know one of the biggest ordeals you go through is the security check, and sometimes you're in a long line to be checked out for security, but I've got this nifty little thing that some of you have. It's a TSA pre-check, which means you can walk through a faster line. You don't have to take off your coat, you don't have to get rid of your laptop, you can go through very quickly.
Now I've got TSA pre-check, Amy doesn't have the TSA pre-check. So when we get to the airport, I look at that very short line with the pre-check and then I see the line Amy's gonna stand in and have to handle her luggage herself, the normal line, and I think, which line do I wanna go in? Now I have every right to go through the quicker line, but if I don't want to be the first divorced pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas in history, I know I don't need to go through that line. I give up my right to go through that line, and I go through the other line to help my wife and I do it because I want to help her. It's the same thing with God. Jesus Christ had all the rights of God himself, but he willingly gave up his rights as God to meet our needs. May I just add a word today? There's a lot of talk today about rights. "We have our rights. We have our rights". You would think that is the foundation of the Christian gospel, holding onto your rights. No, the foundation of the Christian faith is giving up your rights.
Philippians 2:5 says, "Have this same attitude in you that was in Christ Jesus". He had rights. He gave them up for the benefit of others. That's what Jesus emptied himself of. He gave up his rights and then secondly, he gave up the exercise of some of his attributes. Now, he was omniscient, he was omnipotent, he couldn't give that up, but he could give up the exercise of those rights. For example, when he was being crucified, he could have exercised his omnipotence and he could have called thousands of angels to come and vindicate him and rescue him, but he chose not to exercise that attribute of omnipotence. He was omniscient, he knew all things, and yet in Matthew 24:36 when his disciples said, "Lord, when are you coming back again"? He said, "Nobody knows the day or hour, not the angels in heaven, not even the Son of God, only the Father knows".
Have you ever wondered how that could be? How could Jesus be God and yet not know when he is coming back again? He voluntarily chose while he was on earth not to exercise aspects of his omniscience, but he was fully God. I was trying to think of a good way to illustrate that to you. Think about a light bulb for a moment. When you turn on a light bulb, it generates a certain amount of light and we measure that in lumens. That's the measurement of how bright a light is. Now you can turn that light bulb on, but then you can put a lampshade over it. Now, what does the lampshade do? Does it decrease the amount of light the bulb is generating? No, it's still generating the same number of lumens, but what the lampshade does was, it diminishes what you're able to see of the brightness of the light.
And in the same way, Jesus's humanity, his flesh, it didn't decrease his deity, but it veiled some of his deity so that we could not see him in all of his glory. One day we'll see him in all of his glory when he returns again. Jesus was fully God and he was fully man, that is what the incarnation means. What does it mean to us? What is the result of Jesus taking on human flesh? Let me just mention three things Jesus did in his humanity during his brief 33 years here on earth. Number one, he defied expectations. We saw this in our study on the Sermon on the Mount. The Jewish leaders measured godliness in terms of how many rules you could keep. For example, the Mosaic law said in Exodus 28, "Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy". The Jews added dozens of laws to help you do that, telling you how many steps you could take and how much you could lift and just all kind of ridiculous things. They thought the more rules you kept, the holier you were, and Jesus said, "No, holiness is a matter of the heart".
And in fact, when he taught that sermon on the Mount, remember when he finished it says in Matthew 7:28, "The crowds were amazed at his teaching for he was teaching them as one having authority and not as their scribes". Jesus defied their expectations about what the Messiah would do. They were looking for a conquering warrior who would finally free them from the oppression of Rome. Instead, they got a suffering servant. That's why they missed Jesus. They didn't understand that, as he said, he came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Secondly, Jesus during his 33 years suffered. He suffered the betrayal of his friends, the insults of his enemies, the misunderstanding of even his own family, but most importantly, Jesus suffered the agony of the cross. Again, Isaiah writing hundreds of years before the fact, prophesied this about the Messiah.
Isaiah 53 verses 5 and 6, "He," Jesus, "Was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening of our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have strayed everyone into own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him". What did the death of Christ accomplish for us? Again, there was nothing unique about crucifixion. It's estimated that 30,000 people were crucified during Christ's life here on earth by the Romans, but what made his death unique is what it accomplished. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him," Jesus, "Who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him".
In some inexplicable way, God took all of our sin and he wrapped it around Jesus. And he took all of the righteousness, the perfection of Jesus and wraps it around those of us who trust in him. And the result was, we have eternal life. When God looks at you as a Christian, he no longer sees your sin, he sees the righteousness of his Son. How do we know that Jesus's sacrifice actually accomplished what it was meant to do? You heard Andy and the choir sing just a moment ago, some of Jesus's final words on the cross when he said, "It is finished". "Tetelestai" in Greek, literally paid in full. And by the way, you can't separate the crucifixion from the resurrection. The resurrection is proof that Jesus's gift was acceptable to God. If Jesus had remained in that grave, then it meant like every other person, he died for his own sins. But Romans 4:25 says, "He was raised for our justification". His resurrection proves that God accepted his offer for us. Jesus suffered.
You know, grief counselors will tell you that if you're trying to help somebody who's going through a difficult time, whatever you do, don't ever say, "I know what you're going through". Because more often than not, you and I don't know what they're going through. There's only one person who's qualified to say, "I know what you're going through," and that's Jesus Christ. The fact is, he has suffered and experienced everything we've experienced. I heard one commentator say this week, "When Jesus took on human flesh, he wasn't putting on a Halloween costume". He wasn't pretending to be something he wasn't, no, he actually became flesh and he experienced every heartache we experience.
Dorothy Sayer describes it beautifully when she writes, "For whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is, limited, suffering, and subject to sorrows and death, God had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game God is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He cannot exact anything from man that he's not exacted from himself. He himself has gone through the whole of human experience from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money, to the worst horrors of pain, humiliation, defeat, despair, and even death. When Jesus was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it all worthwhile".
What does that mean to us? It means when we talk to Jesus, we're not talking to some distant deity who doesn't understand what we're going through. In Hebrews 4:14 through 16, the writer says, "For we don't have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tested in all points as we are and yet without sin. Let us come boldly with confidence to the throne of grace, that we might receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need".
Thirdly, Jesus prioritized his relationship with God during his 33 years here on earth. If we're a disciple of Jesus, if we're a follower of Jesus, we're gonna follow that same priority, making God the priority of our lives. Let me just mention three ways he prioritized his relationship with God. He prioritized his Father's Word. There's no indication that Jesus when he was in that manger had a knowledge of scripture just automatically poured into his heart, there was a data dump of Bible verses into Jesus's being, he learned the scriptures. We see that in Luke chapter 2 verses 47. "He grew in his understanding of God". He memorized and meditated on the scripture. It was an important part of his life, and you see that illustrated in Luke chapter 4 verses 1 to 13 in his temptation by Satan in the wilderness.