01 February 2006

If we want to introduce Jesus to people (and people to Jesus) in caring, creative, compassionate, consistent ways – with the goal of them considering and engaging His claims about who He is and on their life – then we must be passionate in our personal pursuit of Jesus.

Yes, Jesus wants to be our Savior. But what are some other things He wants to be to us?
List some of the names for Jesus in the WORD … names you’ve experienced lately, or that you long to experience more intimately (or for the first time!) so that you can become a more consistent witness to Him in the neck of the world He has called you to …

As leaders within the body of Jesus Christ, we can pass onto others what we know – but ultimately the people God has entrusted to us, the folks we are shepherding, those we are leading, mentoring and walking alongside … these people will become what and who we are.

If this is true, then what about who Jesus is – His character, His values, His priorities, His vision … how He thought, what He said, what He did? What about Jesus are you coming to know with greater clarity and passion during the past 30 days?

If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher,
Jesus lived and died like a God. – Jean Jacques Rosseau

People often say about Him, “I’m ready to accept
Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His
claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say …
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is,
the Son of God; or else a madman, or something worse.
– C.S. Lewis

Who do you say I am? - Jesus Christ
- Mark 8:29

If you believe Jesus and the message He brought was comfortable, then you haven’t really read the Gospels. And so the next time you start slipping back toward believing the lie that Jesus was mainstream, start reading more of the black words in the New Testament.

It’s easy to major in the red words … with the words Jesus spoke and taught. But if you ever start to get bored by Jesus, by who you think He was, or what you think He said, just start flipping through the Gospels and when you see a big bunch of red words … just keep looking down through the red words and then usually when the black words begin again, you’ll see the response of the people listening to Jesus’ teachings. Some of the responses recorded are from Jesus’ disciples, others are from casual observers, and still others from those who actively hated Jesus and what He was up to.

Here is just a sampling of what we find sprinkled throughout all four Gospels … a few of the responses of some of the people who heard what Jesus really said …
  • “They were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” (Matthew 8:27)
  • “The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen before in Israel.’” (Matthew 9:33)
  • “This amazed everyone and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before.’” (Mark 2:12)
  • “And immediately they were completely astounded.” (Mark 5:42)
  • “They [the disciples] were even more astonished.” (Mark 10:26)
  • “And Pilot was amazed.” (Mark 15:5)
  • “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.” (Luke 9:43)
And then my new favorite verse these days … from Luke 5:26 … “And they were all struck with astonishment, and they glorified God and they were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’”

Or here is how this verse is rendered in The Message …

“The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous – and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, ‘We've never seen anything like that!’”

Or how about in JB Phillips’ The New Testament In Modern English …

“Sheer amazement gripped every one present, and they praised God and said in awed voices, ‘We have seen incredible things today.’”

Or how about in The Amplified Bible …

“And overwhelming astonishment and ecstasy seized them all, and they recognized and praised and thanked God; and they were filled with and controlled by reverential fear and kept saying, ‘We have seen wonderful and strange and incredible and unthinkable things today!’”

Read the full stories before each of these “response verses” … with an eye toward discovering what was so shocking in what Jesus did, what Jesus said, who Jesus was? In each of the cases you look up, try to imagine yourself there and think about how you have felt.

Read Mark 6:45-52 …

How do you suppose His followers’ understand of Jesus changed after this episode?

Is it possible to focus on Jesus too much? On our deathbeds will any of us say, “I wish I’d spent less time looking at the life of Jesus?” I have a feeling that there will be a lot of things that take up our time now that we’ll look back on one day and regret spending some much of our time on. But after thinking about this question for a long, long time, I don’t believe we’ll ever regret a single moment of considering Jesus.

I don’t believe it’s possible to become too centered on Jesus because in His words, in He actions, in His thoughts, in His responses, in His conversations, in His prayers, and in His teachings, the beauty and the character of the invisible God is revealed and unfolded. And He’s willing to show us as much of Himself as we’re willing to soak up.

The whole Old Testament points to Him. Acts and all of the Epistles in The New Testament are saturated with Jesus. Considering Him. Going deeper with Him. Pressing into Him with greater intent.

“And they were all struck with astonishment, and they glorified God and they were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’” (Luke 5:26)

I believe that the more we see this holy, strange, counter-cultural, axis-tilting Messiah … the more we wear out the pages of our Bibles between Matthew and John, the more we’ll see His fame and our unity grow.

Think about the early church for a moment. Different people, different cultures, different beliefs, different values. But the same Jesus – and in Acts 4:32 we see them described in this way … “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The focus was on Jesus and their unity grew as His fame spread. This is what I long to see happen here at Ogden Church!

In Acts 17 Paul and Silas and their band of disciples were in the town of Thessalonica. And as they taught in the synagogue … and as they shared their lives and their hearts and their minds with the people God was brining across their path, “many of the God-fearing Greeks and many of the town’s prominent women” came into life-changing relationships with Jesus Christ. And of course, the Jews in town got ticked off. And when they couldn’t find Paul, they hauled one of his new Greek disciples named Jason to question him about Paul and the message about Jesus that he was bringing …

And how did they describe Paul and the Jesus Way? Acts 17:6 the Jewish officials said, “These men and the ones with them … the ones who are turning the world upside down with their teachings about Jesus … they are here.”

Getting to know Jesus intimately is a journey that will turn our interior life upside down, that will rock our hearts and minds, that will bring great shifts of thinking, words and actions into our live … and why? Because this personal transformation is the very blueprint of God … and without this happening in our lives we will never participate with Him in His primary purpose of desiring to “turn the whole world upside down.”

In 1971 a college student was in Britain’s Western Central Lake District doing some live recording in pubs of drinking songs for a research paper he’d been assigned. After a rousing evening, and as he was about to wipe the suds of his microphone and put it away, he heard an old man over in a far corner of the pub quieting singing a little song over and over again. He went over to the table next to the man and began unobtrusively taping his simple little song … a song he later titled “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”. Here’s how the lyrics go …

Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet.
This one thing I know … for He loves me so.
Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet.
This one thing I know … for He loves me so.

Several months after finishing his “pub song project”, the student came across the tape of “Jesus’ Blood Never Fails Me Yet.” And as he listened to the song … he was loved into the Kingdom of God through the old man’s words. It all came back to him. The messages of Jesus he’d heard as a little lad. The love of Jesus he’d known as a child. The Scripture verses he’d learned in preparation for his confirmation. The longings of his heart were exposed, and he was brought home to Jesus.

Years later this student became a music producer in London, and one day he shared this tape … one of his most precious possessions, with his friend and musical mentor, Gavin Bryers. Gavin and his staff (not a particularly “religious” lot) were also moved by the old man’s song – and eventually Gavin looped the 5-minute tape into a much longer piece and wrote a full orchestration for it – eventually releasing a CD with several different versions of it … including a version of American Tom Waits, singing harmony with the old man.

In an interview in the 1980’s Bryer's tells the story of putting an early-edited version of the looped tape on in his office one day. He wanted to listen to it for several hours as he prepared to compose the orchestration that would go along with it. But what happened was that Gavin (and others in his office) got saturated with was Jesus Himself.

He went to lunch, forgetting that the tape was looping through their production/recording studio “house sound system”. And when he returned from lunch he found several employees crying and praying … sharing their hearts and spiritual hungers with one another. It was powerful.

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” - John 12:32

This is the Jesus I want to know. This is the Jesus I invite you to come to know with me. Godspeed.



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