The Real Jesus

The Real Jesus

Remember the show, “To Tell the Truth?” There would be one person who did something unordinary while two others would try to pretend to be that person. A panel of celebrities would ask questions to determine who was telling the truth. At the end the real person would stand up.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ask the real Jesus to stand up? It has never been more important for the church and the world to know the real Jesus, but few are seeking to really know Him. Our culture is fully focused on American Idol-type fame, seeking a god of money, beauty, popularity, and a life of ease. If they have heard of Jesus, they may have an opinion about who He is, but they don’t really know Him. Mostly, the world does not know the real Jesus and doesn’t care.

Even in the Church, we often try to reduce Jesus to our own image. Many of us want a Jesus who suits us—a right-leaning Republican Jesus or a left-leaning Democrat Jesus. There is a black Jesus, a brown Jesus, a white Jesus—complete with blue eyes and blond hair, a homosexual Jesus, a Catholic Jesus, a Protestant Jesus, etc. Some believers, who grew up in harsh or violent homes, accept only a teddy bear Jesus. Others, who grew up in chaotic homes, want a Jesus of order who gives them legalistic boundaries. But our culture and upbringing can’t determine the full picture of the real Jesus. Only His Word brings real light, revealing the real Jesus. We have to be faithful to receive all of that light, not just the light we want to see.

Jesus can’t be reduced to some limited conception, because He is indescribable. It takes the whole Word of God for us to receive, know, and faithfully serve Jesus. Anything else is a diminished walk of faith.

Yet many Christians are satisfied to just know the “positional truths” about Jesus and our relationship in Christ. They refuse to be changed into His fullness. However, our lives are meant to express Jesus in all His glory—and that requires His transformation of us. If we think we have it all together—that we have grasped God’s grace fully, that no more is needed—we are stopping short of His glory. Don’t let that happen in your life. Seek the real Jesus in His fullness—and receive the fullness of His grace and glory! That was Paul’s goal and it should be our goal.

Phil 3:10-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Would we accept the real Jesus if He stood up to be recognized? John 1:11 says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him”. This speaks of Christ’s rejection by the Jews. Jesus was not the Messiah they expected or wanted. Before we criticize them, how much of our Lord do we reject today? Do we emphasize some of His teachings and reject others because they are uncomfortable? To what degree have we not accepted Jesus in His fullness?

Matt 16:13-17 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

The first question was easy to answer—to tell what others say about Jesus. We can all do that. However, the second question required more thought. Peter took a risk with his response, because if he got it wrong, he would be a blasphemer. Although God revealed it to him, his answer would not be popular in his religion or in this world.

It’s important to know what others say about Jesus; but it is imperative to know in whom you personally believe! You won’t be held accountable for what others think of Jesus, but you will be eternally accountable for what you think and what you do about it. How you answer the question will affect both your life, and your afterlife. So who is the real Jesus?

John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John immediately opens his Gospel with some bold assertions about who Jesus is—an assertion that Jesus is God, an assertion that He created all things, an assertion that He is the source of life. John tells us Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. He is the Son of Man and the Son of God—fully man and fully God. John’s Gospel is all about the real Jesus.

After all, Jesus is the message, not a philosophy nor a set of rules—although a philosophy of life emerges as we follow Jesus, and there are certain things we do and certain things we don’t do simply because we love the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus. It is about faith in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Jesus is God’s message to us. Heb 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

We live in a world that is always searching for the truth, yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth. It’s popular in our society to be a searcher for truth, but it is not popular to be a proclaimer of the truth. John does not worry about what is popular or politically correct. He has a message to proclaim and boldly and assertively proclaims it.

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word...” As we start to read this Gospel, what Old Testament verse comes to mind? Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning, God created…” In neither verse is there any effort on God’s part to prove His existence. God is. God has always been and God always will be. The heavens declare His glory. All of creation testifies of His existence. The moral conscience of every man intuitively knows it, even if he denies it. John’s purpose is not to argue the existence of God. His purpose is to make sure we understand who Jesus really is.

Paul describes Jesus this way, Phil 2:6-8 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!

As a man, Jesus submitted Himself to the Father and relied upon the power of the Holy Spirit. As a man, He did not assert His deity. But He never, never, never stopped being divine!  As a distinct person, God the Son was with the Father. As to his essential nature, the Son is God. He is not just God-like; He is God. He is not just a good representation of God; He is God.

The real Jesus is God! You cannot say it much clearer than that. He was with God in the beginning. Furthermore, John 1:3 says, “Through him all things were made…” Jesus is Creator! In perfect cooperation with the Father and the Spirit, He created all things. God the Father is Creator. God the Son is Creator. God the Holy Spirit is Creator. All things were created by the Trinity.

John wants to be sure we understand: Jesus is more than a man, more than a prophet. He is the eternal One. He is the Creator of all things. To be very sure we understand, John drives his point home with another statement. “Without him nothing (not one thing) was made that has been made.”

John makes another assertion about the deity of Jesus in John 1:4. “In him was life and that life was the light of men.” Jesus is the Source of life and light. Life is in the Son. In John 5:26 Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”

The only life you and I have, whether it is natural life or spiritual life, we received from God. We are not a source of life. But life is inherent in the nature of God. The Son has eternal life in Himself. He does not have to get it from anyone else. It is part of who He is as God. That is why Jesus could declare “I am the Resurrection and the Life…”

Furthermore, Jesus declared: John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  These assertions of deity are what angered the people and it still does today.

Verse 4 says “…and that light was the light of men.” The light that is in Jesus is the illumination, the truth, we all need. In Him, we have understanding. Without Him, we are in darkness. He is more than a reflection of light. He is Light.

1John 1:5-7 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Light is characteristic of His nature. It issues forth from Him. John 8:12 Jesus said, “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Everybody wants light (the truth) and life. But these are not something we can have independent from the Son of God. When we have the real Jesus, we have life. Without Him, we are in spiritual death, not life. Life is in the Son and that life is the light of all men. There’s not a light for the Jews and a different light for the Gentiles—just one light for all men: Jesus. There’s not a light for the Hindu and a light for the Muslim and a light for the Christian—just one light: Jesus.

John 20:30-31 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This is the faith once delivered unto the saints that is to be contended for. Without a revelation of the real Jesus, the Son of God, we are nothing more than a nice social club. Without this truth, this light, burning in our hearts and on our lips, we will not change the world. In our culture, the temptation is to compromise this. Tolerance is the one virtue embraced by our evil society. John is the apostle of love, but there is no vacillation in his words when he talks about who Jesus is.

Paul agrees with John, 1 Tim 3:16 “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”

This is describes Jesus’ message in a nutshell. Jesus must always be our message.

Jesus turned to the disciples and asked a question each and every one of us must answer—“Who do you say that I am?” That is the essential question! The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter the right answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That’s what we must undoubtedly know about Jesus. Has the Holy Spirit made that revelation clear in your heart or is it just a cold, orthodox doctrine you have accepted and then you live like you want?

Your answer can be seen in how you live. My answer can be seen in how I live. Jesus is unique. He is not just a messiah—He is the Messiah. Salvation is found in receiving Him for who He is: Almighty God. Why am I so dogmatic about all this?—because our very eternity depends upon it. If we don’t know the real Jesus, if we don’t have a relationship with Him, He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” And we will spend eternity in Hell.

Throughout the book of John, we are confronted with Jesus’ claim of deity. There is no middle ground. We either accept Jesus for who He says He is or we must reject Him as a liar and a deceiver.

Here is what C.S. Lewis said about that: "I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that 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. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool; you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to."

By His resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He is who He says He is. He laid down His life for our sin, and He gloriously took it up again on the third day, just as He said He would. This is the real Jesus we must accept as Lord of our lives. To simply acknowledge Him as a great teacher leaves us in charge—allows us to pick and choose what part of His teaching we will embrace. But if He is God, then He is Lord, and we are called upon to bow to Him and obey Him.

You see, Jesus is easy to like but not so easy to love, for to love Him means to obey Him. Many admire Him but few adore Him, for to adore Him means that we must submit to Him. To say that we believe is not enough—the issue is what we believe, and that is revealed by how we live. Faith must have substance! There must be something specific that we believe and live by.

An even deeper issue is in whom we believe. I wonder how many people ask Jesus into their heart and they don’t even know who He really is or what the implications of that prayer are. To receive Christ is not only to receive the benefits He can give us, it is also to receive His Lordship—His rule over our lives. The two go hand in hand. We are not just receiving a package of benefits to make our lives a more pleasant and give us a hope of everlasting life—an escape from hell and damnation—we are receiving a person into our lives and over our lives—His name is Jesus! When baptized believers come to this realization about Jesus, sometimes they feel the desire to be re-baptized, for now Jesus and baptism have a real meaning to them. I don’t judge the orthodoxy of this desire, for this is between them and Jesus Christ. My commission is to make disciples of the real Jesus and baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ Name as the Christ and the Son of God conveys the authority He rightfully exercises over us. His Name conveys who He is, and for us to receive His life, we must receive Him for who He is. We must not receive “another Jesus”. We must not receive a Jesus of our own making. We must receive the real Jesus. We must receive the Jesus the Bible is describing.

John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

In our culture, I’m not sure the word “believe” fully conveys what John was saying. We say things like, “I believe it might rain today” or “I believe I will finish my college education” or “I believe I’m right on that.” In our culture, the word “believe” can have a weak connotation.

But the word John uses in the Greek, is a strong word. It’s not just “I guess so.” It’s not just “I think so.” It goes beyond accepting and being convinced of a doctrine. It means I am so convinced that I rely upon it—I put my full trust in it—I’m committed to it—I live by it! John calls for a real belief in a real Jesus—the Christ, the Son of God! What we really believe is ultimately demonstrated by what we do.

James 2:17-19 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

James is also talking about a belief that transforms us and changes how we live, who we live for, and what we do.

Do you have that kind of faith—a real faith in the real Jesus—the faith that can declare confidently that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? If so, repent of your old life of sin and give it to Jesus, not only as your Savior, but as your Lord and Master.