Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Are You Looking for an Assistant?

Timothy Keller, a pastor in Manhattan, New York, said that in 1970 a Sunday school teacher changed his life with a simple illustration. The teacher said, “Let’s assume the distance between the earth and the sun (93 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of this sheet of paper. If that is the case, then the distance between the earth and the nearest star (Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years) would be a stack of papers 70 feet high. Moreover, the diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy (100,000 light-years) would be a stack of papers 310 miles high.”

Then Keller’s teacher added, “The galaxy is just a speck of dust in the universe, yet Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power.”  Finally, the teacher asked her students, “Now, is this the kind of person you ask into your life to be your assistant?”

Touché. Ask the average guy on the street, “Who is Jesus?” and you’ll get a half-dozen responses. “He was an enlightened teacher and spiritual guru” the mystic says. “He was the first spirit-child and half-brother of Lucifer,” according to the Mormons. Muslims revere Jesus as prophet, but not God’s Son. Meanwhile, the skeptic argues that what we know about Jesus is mostly myth.

Those are all opinions. And to be quite frank, opinions are like nose holes—everybody’s got them. Since it was written by people who actually walked with Jesus, the Bible is the only credible source on the identity of Christ. Let’s do a brief survey of Scripture shall we?

According to the Bible, Jesus eternally existed before there was a universe (John 1:1); He spoke everything into being—from atoms to angels (Col. 1:16); He currently holds the universe together (Heb. 1:3), He became a man (Phil. 2:5-7); He did many signs and wonders (Acts 2:22); He forgave sin (Mark 2:5); He could read people’s inner thoughts (John 2:25); Flung furniture down the front steps of the temple (Mark 11:15); Fulfilled ancient prophecies (Matt. 5:17); He was killed and resurrected (1 Cor. 15:3-4); He is currently seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Heb. 10:12) and one day He is returning to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1).    

Let’s set the record straight. Jesus was no pale faced altar boy with His hair parted in the middle, speaking softly avoiding confrontation, who at last gets Himself killed because He has no way out. He works with wood, commands the winds and waves and has scars to prove He's fought against death, hell and the grave and emerged the victor. He is not an effeminate preacher in skinny jeans and He is not your homeboy. Jesus doesn’t exist to be your cosmic Santa Clause or to show you one way to heaven among many options. He is a warrior-king and if you are not with Him you are against Him.

Perhaps the Scottish divine, James Stewart, put it best when he wrote:
            He was the Meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet He spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet He was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with Him, and the little ones nestled in His arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine.
No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot, scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break. His whole like was love, yet on one occasion He demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer start realism He has all of our self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and the money changers fell over one another from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in his eyes.
He saved others, yet at the last, Himself he did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts that confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.1

How foolish when we try to treat Jesus like a key-chain accessory that will bring us life enhancement. Christ is either Lord of all or not Lord at all. He is not a doctrine to be mastered, but a Master to be feared and obeyed. Even those who claimed His name and lived independently  of His authority left Jesus befuddled, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Whose calling the shots in life—you or Jesus?

1. James Stewart, quoted by Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 28.

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