Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Jesus Christ P13 (11-02-20)
If you have not already, get a copy of A Closer Look at Jesus Christ. We have studied the person of Jesus Christ, Who Did Jesus Christ Claim to Be?, A Madman or God in the Flesh. We read from the scriptures what Jesus claimed about Himself, that He is God. Then the question was asked, Who Do You Say that I Am?. If you have concluded that Jesus is God, and came to offer you eternal life, then an explanation was given of what it means to be Receiving the Offer of Life. Now we are studying What Others Claimed About Jesus Christ. So today we read what John the apostle said concerning Jesus Christ.
In summary, God sent Jesus into this world to save that which is lost. When someone is lost, it is good to know someone is looking for him. The person who is lost is mankind, each and every person born into this world. All of us were born into this world spiritually dead, and in need of new life, God’s life. What is lost is our relationship with the living God due to sin, which caused our death. We lost what true humanity is, the Spirit of God living in us, which once lived in Adam before he sinned. It is the same Spirit that lives in Jesus, for Jesus is God in the flesh, and God is Spirit. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the one who came to restore man back to true humanity, God back in the man, so man will no longer walk in darkness but have the Light of life, and to function as he was originally designed to function.
The reason we are dead is because of sin. In Adam, sin came into the world, and death came to all men because all sinned. With that inherited nature in Adam, who chose for himself good and evil, right from wrong, saying in his heart, “I do not need God”. Adam chose death by his sin, and we were born dead in sin.
So in essence, the Spirit left Adam because of sin, and we were born dead without the Spirit of God living in us. All humanity became lost without God living in him, which is what salvation is, Christ living in you. We are a spiritual being unlike the animal kingdom or the plant kingdom. Not only do we have a body and a soul but we have a spirit, a human spirit. That human spirit is alive to this world but dead to God. That is what spiritual death is, and without God living in us we cannot function as God intended us to function. Jesus described us as walking in darkness and He came as a Light so that we may no longer walk in darkness. He described us as being lost and He came to find us, to help us understand our condition and our need, so we may be found complete in Him.
That is the background of understanding our condition of spiritual death. Jesus came to give us understanding of our dead state. The law was added so that we might recognize sin for what it really is, that it caused my death, and therefore, the law was to bury me, to help me see what a wretched man I am, that I have no righteousness of my own, so that I might seek God’s righteousness and ask for His. That is the good news, that I can exchange my life for His and come alive in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is full of grace and truth. Jesus is the living Word and eternal life. In Him is understanding. He is true and I am not. He is alive and I am dead. Grace and truth are different things. I could sing a praise song but not know God. I could think I could get more grace by what I do or what religious traditions I involve myself in, but that is not the grace God is talking about that Jesus came to explain. Without truth, I really cannot understand nor appreciate and rejoice in who grace is, Jesus Christ.
Without understanding that I am a sinner, then I do not understand what Jesus death on a cross accomplished for me, my reconciliation. Being a sinner is more than thinking that if I am doing sinful things, I can repent and stop doing sinful things. Being a sinner is recognizing my identity as being dead. When I recognize I am dead, it is hard to repent and come alive. To be reconciled means that there is separation between me and God, death due to sin, which caused my death. Jesus took away that barrier of me ever being able to come to God, for he took away the sins of the whole world once and for all by shedding his blood on a cross.
By doing so, that allowed Him to even be able to offer His life, eternal life, who He is, to us as a gift to be received by faith. That life is really what I need. And that is what salvation is, receiving His resurrected life. But if I do not understand Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and that I am dead, I would not see my need for the resurrection. Jesus came so I may have understanding and come to Him for new life, to have His life, eternal life.
We are studying about the person of Jesus Christ, which is what Christianity is all about. Christianity is, as we mentioned before, is not a religion. It is a relationship that is centered around a person, and that person is that of Christ Jesus our Lord. It is far more than a religion. It is centered totally on a person and that is Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:19
19 God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them.
So when you stop to think of the ramifications of all of that, you realize how important this person of Jesus Christ is.
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Therefore, it is through this person, Jesus Christ, that salvation occurs. So looking at things from an eternal perspective, we realize the importance of coming to grips with this person of Jesus Christ.
Now, as we begin our study, we studied in the first chapter of our book, A Closer Look at Jesus Christ, of who Christ Jesus claimed to be. It was vitally important to understand what He claimed about Himself. If Jesus just claimed Himself to be a prophet, then we would have to assume that is true, that he is a prophet. But he claimed Himself to be God.
If a man claimed Himself to be God, as we talked about, he would either be a maniac, thinking himself to be God when indeed he is not, or he was the biggest liar and imposter that ever walked on the earth, calling himself to be someone that he was not, knowing full well he was not, or he was truly God. I do not know any other option for that. He either was a looney tune or he was the biggest imposter that ever lived on the face of the earth, or he was indeed who he claimed to be, God, and there are no other options on that.
People say he was a fine teacher. One of the qualifications of being a teacher is honesty. So, how could you say a man is a fine teacher when he is lying about his own identity? So, when you really get down to the Christian life, as it stands, it centers around a person, not around a theology, but around a person, and that is the person of Jesus Christ.
In chapter 2, we talked about that, that he was either a madman or he was God in the flesh. We then, in chapter 3, studied, Who do you say that I am? In other words, this is who Christ claimed Himself to be, who do you, as our listeners, call him to be? In other words, have you come to a conclusion in regard to this person, Jesus of Nazareth, or is he just kind of a figure out there like Santa Claus, Julius Caesar and all the rest of them? Or have you come to realize that when it talks about the fact that Jesus hung on a cross and he was raised from the dead, and that tomb was empty, the only tomb that I know of that is famous for who isn’t in it. If that is true, do you believe that? Do you believe that is true? Or is it just kind of a myth, or fairy tale, that has been perpetuated through the years?
Of course, the answer to those questions determines, quite frankly, according to God, where you and I are going to spend our destiny, and where we are going to spend eternal life. So, we talked about how to receive that offer of life, for that is what Christ came to give us. He said, “I came that you may have life.”
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
We discussed that, that the reason man needs life is because he is born into this world dead spiritually. The spiritual death of man, is not that his human spirit is dead, but it is dead to what it is dead to, and that is God’s life living in him. A man’s human spirit is not dead to humanity. If it was, he would be an animal because what differentiates a man from an animal is the fact that man has a human spirit, whereby a dog has a soul and a body and carrot has a body. But a man has a body and a soul and a spirit.
So his human spirit is not dead. It is very much alive to the world but it is dead to the one who vacated, who is God. In other words, it is like darkness is the absence of life. And when the sun goes down, and there is an absence of light, then you are in a state of darkness. That state of darkness does not mean you do not function. It means you function in darkness.
So when salvation, which is Christ living in you, departed from Adam, because Adam was saved when created. If Christ is in you, then that is salvation, man in the state that God made him to be. He did not know he was saved. There was no talking of him being saved. But if God is living in you as a man, then you are a saved human being. You are a proper living being as God intended you to be. The minute the life of God departed Adam, he became lost. That does not mean you are not functional, but it means you are lost to who vacated you, and that is God.
So, the reflection, when we receive and reflect upon the fact that this offer of salvation, what we begin to see is that salvation is being restored to true humanity, being saved from our condition of lostness, being saved from our condition of spiritual death. The only thing a dead man needs is life. The only thing a lost man needs is to be found. It is a marvelous thing to be lost because it means someone is looking for you. That is what Christ came to do.
I have come that they may have life
He did not come to destroy people. He came to save people. A thief comes to destroy. “I did not come to destroy. I came to save.” So, we talked about the receiving of the offer of life.
I have come that they may have life
I am the way and the truth and the life.
I am the resurrection and the life.
1 John 5:12
Whoever has the Son has life
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
Jesus is saying, “I came that you might have eternal life.” The whole issue of salvation is an issue of life and death, lost and saved.
Now, today, we are going to talk about, What Others Claimed About Jesus Christ. In other words, we are going to continue, as we deal in this book, with the apologetic as to who this person is, Jesus Christ. We heard about what he claimed about himself. We gave you an opportunity to respond to that. Now, let us see what the people who followed him claimed about Jesus Christ.
So, we are going to turn to chapter 5, and discuss the opening verse in John 1:1 and 14.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Who was in the beginning? The word. Who was the Word with? God. Who was the Word? God. In other words, what two things did the Word do? It became flesh. It dwelt among us, as the only begotten Son of the Father, and He was full of grace and truth. Who was the apostle John referring to here? Obviously, Jesus Christ, the one who became flesh, and he dwelt among us, the ones that we looked and saw and touched and walked with, the one who was full of grace and truth.
He was talking about the person of Jesus Christ. Who did he say Jesus was? The Word. Who did he say the Word was? God. Is that a contradiction to what Christ claimed about himself? Absolutely not. That is who Jesus said he was. That caused the Pharisees to pick up stones to stone him.
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Let us take a look at the same author, John, the apostle who wrote in the gospel of John as he continued in his epistle in 1 John.
1 John 1:1-3
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
Once again, the apostle John, identifying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Word, in his gospel of John, continues with that in 1 John, by identifying him as the Word of life. Again, that is what he came to do, to give life, what we do not have, spiritual life.
There are all kinds of attacks that come on the deity of Christ and that is always a red flag that we need to put up with anyone who comes in the name of God and is claiming to be Christian but denying the deity of Christ. You realize immediately that is a cult, anybody who denies Christ’ deity. Such a person does not recognize, nor has it ever been revealed that the Spirit of God has never entered into him, who denied that Jesus first of all came in the flesh. That is what the gnostics were doing, claiming that Jesus Christ is not God.
You have Jehovah Witnesses, as an example, that have written their own bible. In the bible, as they would read, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a God.” Then you take a look at what was put on top of the Watchtower, that talks about “there is no God before me and no God after me”. If there is no God before me and none after me, then how could you have a God. Otherwise, you have a little God and a big God. How can you have a God unless you have two Gods. How can you have two gods if you are saying there is no God before me and no one after me? It is intellectual suicide and nonsense and it is an absolute blatant attack upon the person who is Christ Jesus and the total denial of His deity. There is no way you can have God and a God. There is no way to do that unless you are going to say there are two Gods, a little God and a big God.
At any rate, we saw the Gnostics that came in in early Christianity, a forerunner of what we know today doctrinally as Christian Science. A lot of the Gnostic doctrine is in what we would call Christian Science today. They teach that all matter is evil and, therefore, Jesus could not have come in the flesh because flesh is matter and matter is evil. They say that Jesus could not be evil, so, therefore, he was an illusion. “You are not sick. You just think you are sick.” “You did not die. You just think you died.” “What we see down here, matter, is not important at all. It is an illusion.” “The only thing important is spiritual stuff.” What they say is a denial of our own humanity. It is a denial of even God’s creation. There are a lot of things that they say denies, and it does not make an ounce of sense, that your mind could even grab a hold of it.
The fact of the matter is that is why John, in 1 John, had to write what he wrote, “that was from the beginning, which we have heard, who is Jesus. We heard him. We have seen him with our eyes.” In other words, “do not say that those were spiritualized. I saw him with my eyes. I touched him. We have looked at. And our hands have touched.” So, he is saying to that Gnostic, that he is teaching heresy. “No, we are not talking about an illusion. We are talking about Christ Jesus, a man. God, who came to this earth, not considering equality with God as something to be grasped, but humbled himself to become like us as a man.”
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
In other words, Jesus took upon Himself our earth suit. He clothed Himself in our humanity, always was God and always is God and always will be God, and yet clothed Himself in our humanity. Why would He ever want to do that? The only explanation to that was love, in order to save us. But the fact of the matter, that is what God did. So He was not an illusion. He was from the beginning, and in other words, He is the creator and all things were created through Him and for Him.
16 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.
“I have heard him speak. I have seen him with my eyes. I have looked at him. We have touched him. This physical Jesus that we are proclaiming, we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
So he wrote this for the Gnostics, who were claiming that, first of all, that he did not come in the flesh. Later on in scripture John writes.
2 John 1:7
7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Why did he say that? Because of people claiming that he did not come in the flesh.
Another doctrine that, of course, that gets a lot of controversy, in that same passage in 1 John, was the fact that they also claimed that man does not have a sin nature. That is also a claim of Gnosticism. So, therefore, the purpose of the writing of 1 John was to correct the Gnostic heresy and to be able to teach truth to those who were in an assembly that were being totally confused by these Gnostics sitting there, who were not saved people at all. It was heretical teaching.
A pastor writes to the apostle John asking for help. And John writes to the pastor, saying here is the answer. And the pastor stands there and reads it to a congregation, 1 John, essentially saying, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” If you are a Gnostic believing Jesus did not come in the flesh, if you are a Gnostic claiming man does not have a sin nature, he is saying to them that they are lost. If you are someone who claims to love God but hates your brother, I am sorry, but you are lost. I am sorry about that but you are lost.
Now, I am not saying this to discourage you. I am telling you that if you are lost, there is someone looking for you, but if you do not know you are lost or acknowledge you are lost, how are you ever going to be found even if they find you? “I found you”. “What did you find me for. I was not lost. You did not need to find me. I knew where I was going.” We need to understand, my friends, was 1 John we read written to Christians? No, it was written to a Christian pastor who was there for the purpose of receiving truth from the apostles and then passing it on to a congregation, as they are today, made up of lost and saved people, and all kinds of heretical ideas in regard to the word of God.
1 John 1:8
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Who is the truth? It is Christ Jesus. Who is not in them? Christ Jesus. And if Christ is not in you, what does the scripture say? You do not belong to Him. So you are lost. You cannot be claiming that Jesus did not come in the flesh and be saved because you are denying Jesus. You are not saved by understanding a doctrine. You are saved by coming to a person. How can I come to a person that did not exist? Why would I come to a person that did not exist? To get my sins forgiven if I did not think I had a sin nature? So all of these questions had to be answered, and they were answered in 1 John.
He identified Jesus as someone that they had seen, they talked to, their hands had touched and they were proclaiming Him as the Word of life.
Now in John 4:24.
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
God is Spirit and we must worship Him in the Spirit and in truth. In other words, if I am going to worship God, and worship Him in Spirit and in truth, that is not being done in a worship service singing praise songs as wonderful as that is. It is walking in what He is and who He is. He is truth. He is full of grace and truth. So it is walking in His truth. What truth? The truth about Him. He already told me the truth about me. Wretched. Now, I need to find the truth about Him. That is the good news.
If I did not realize that I was wretched, then what good news would there be about salvation? If I did not understand my total depravity, then what good news would there be in exchanged life? We have discussed this but it is so vitally important for us to discuss. There is a world of difference between understanding grace and truth. What would rejoicing in the grace of God be when ignoring the truth about your own wretchedness? It is only when I come to grips with what Paul came to grips with is when you can truly come to the point of rejoicing in the grace of God.
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
It is then, when I know how wretched I really am, that I am able now and be willing to exchange my life for His. Until that is done, our understanding is “I am really okay. If I could just get rid of this bad habit of mine, then I will be okay. And if I cannot get rid of it, at least let me get forgiveness.” So we live our lives in total delusion, thinking, “I am basically okay. I am okay and you are okay. But I do have some of these flaws. Of course, that is why it is so exciting to go get forgiven.” Or, it is also exciting when you really understand the fullness of God’s grace, which really testifies to the fact that you already are forgiven. “Oh, praise God for this. This is marvelous.” But really, do you think, “the reason that Christ went to a cross to reconcile me unto Himself, not counting my sins against me, was because of these few sins I had. But basically I am okay.” That is what keeps people, when you have got a hangup from drinking, and whatever it might be, drugs, a critical spirit, a vindictive mindset, we think, “well, that is the only thing that is wrong with me, just these things.” God says, “No, everything is wrong with you. In and of yourself is no good thing.”
18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
You do not need Me just to take care of these little bad habits that you have. Those have already been forgiven. You need Me for your life.
It is like a person who says he has got a runny nose. If I could just get rid of my runny nose, I would be so good. I also have this cough. If I could just get rid of my cough, I would be so good. And my eyes water up a little bit too. If I could just get rid of it, but I cannot get rid of it, so I just ask God to forgive me for dripping all over the place. But He tells you, you got a cold. You got a problem bigger than your runny nose, and that is you. That is what we have to come to grips with. That is why it is circumstances that reveal our hearts, to show us the yuckiness that is inside there. When we see the yuckiness that is inside, and we see how vindictive that we can be, how unforgiving we can be, how mean we can be, how judgmental we can be. Those are all attitudes of the heart. That is when we say, “Lord Jesus, I think I need to exchange my life. Not just to rejoice in the grace of God that He did for me on these kinds of smaller things that I go through. But there is not anything good inside of me.” God looks on your heart. When you see your heart in comparison to His, the only thing you can say is, “Lord, if you do not mind, I would like to exchange mine for yours, because mine is not worth a flip.”
1 John 5:20
20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
In Him, the one who is true, is understanding. You are not true. It is Him who is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God. He is eternal life. How can anyone deny the deity of Christ when you are talking about the Son of God who is the true God and eternal life, when Jesus said, “I came to give you eternal life?” How can anyone give you eternal life except the one who is eternal life, the true God and eternal life, that is identified in 1 John 5:20 as the Son, Jesus Christ? People certainly rationalize that in some way.
Folks, Christ, therefore, the Son of God, came to give us understanding so that we may know Him who is true. In other words, we are not the ones who are true. That is what man did at the garden of Eden. He sat there and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In essence, what he was saying is “God, I do not need you to determine right from wrong and good from evil. I will determine it myself.” On the day that man did that he became his own god. “And I do not need God to determine that. I will determine it on my own.”
Now, Jesus came to give us understanding so that we may realize that. “No, man, you are not the one who is true. I am the one who is true.” And if you are in Him, if you have exchanged your life for His, Christ has come to live in you, placed you into His body, in Him. Christ is in you. You are now in Him. If you are in Him, then you have now plugged into the one who is true and the true God and you also have eternal life. Folks, that comes from exchanging your life for His. It does not come from just understanding a message. It comes from understanding that I need new life.
Friends, when we do not understand that, we can come to grips to the fact that the law has buried us. That was what the law was there to do, to bury us. You can say I experienced that. I experienced being buried under the law. I also, as a Christian, experienced being buried under the law. Then I came to understand something about God’s wonderful grace, how in Him I am totally forgiven, in Him I am a new creature in Christ, in Him I have been given his righteousness, in Him I have been made holy in the sight of God, in Him I have been made perfect in the sight of God. We can sit around in our holy huddles and just praise God for that. Then before long get an idea and think, “God am I the only one who understands this?” All of a sudden exclusivity sets in. We begin to think, “I am wonderful. For some reason God has just revealed this to me and no one else.”
Friends, I want to tell you something. What God has done for you, is what mercy and grace is all about. But until you and I come to understand our need for that, that I need all of His righteousness and I do not need some of it. I need all of it. How come? Because in and of ourselves, we do not have any righteousness. If righteousness could be gained through the law, through self effort, through self will, then Christ died for nothing.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
The reason that I can rejoice is the fact that I have been set apart, made holy in the sight of God, because there is not anything holy in me. So, it is not that I am a little bit holy and I need a little bit more. There is not anything there. The fact that someone is lost. We use the word unsaved. It is kind of a way of watering down being lost. I am not really lost. I am not really saved. I am just kind of unsaved. Kind of like an un-cola.
The fact of the matter is, I need to see I am lost. Until I understand I am lost, how can I ever rejoice in being found? There is a world of difference in seeing a sinner as just someone who does sinful things, and seeing a sinner as a person who is dead as a hammer. Because if I am doing sinful things, I can repent and stop doing sinful things. But if I am dead it is hard to repent and come alive. I need to see my condition instead of the manifestations of my condition. The manifestations of my condition should bring me to the reality of my condition. If it doesn’t then you have not done anything yet. We rejoice in the grace of God. That certainly covers the manifestation of my condition, but have you dealt with your condition, of what a wretched man that I am?
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