“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

Ask 10 baseball fans who the best player ever is, and you’ll likely get six or seven answers: Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, or, the right answer of course…Hank Aaron (unashamed Braves bias here).

That same test could be applied to rock fans being asked who the greatest guitar player ever is, to fans of books, movies, superheroes…you name it, we all have different opinions on a wide variety of topics.

That truth extends even to Jesus Christ. From the Doobie Brothers to Joe Smith down the block, everyone has an opinion on who Jesus is. Even in Jesus’ day, people had a wide variety of views on who He was.

“And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Phillippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’ And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?'”–Mark 8:27-29

When He first starts His ministry, Jesus is taken by some to be a prophet, in the mold of John the Baptist, or, as shown in this passage, the reincarnation of John the Baptist after John the Baptist is beheaded.

Others thought Jesus fulfilled God’s promise in Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”–Malachi 4:5-6

Jesus asks His disciples what people are saying about Him, and as He hears the different answers, He turns the attention on them:

“Who do you say that I am?” He asks.

Jesus makes it clear that what matters is not knowing about Him, but knowing Him personally. What matters is not whether or not you know what your family, friends, textbooks, or favorite Internet sites say about Jesus. What matters, ultimately, eternally, is what you say about Jesus, and how that shapes your life.

You will not be saved because your parents know Jesus. You will not be saved because you know who Jesus is. You will not be saved because you can answer religious questions. If being saved is a test of theological knowledge, the devil would be first in line, because “even the demons believe, and shudder,” James tells us.

What makes the devil different from a believer is what the devil knows about Jesus causes him to cower in fear, because he refuses to repent and believe on Christ, while a believer not only understands, but rests and rejoices in all of who God is for us in Christ, and seeks to draw near to God instead of away from Him.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the Son of God, the Lion of Judah, the Savior of the World, the King of the universe, and the only hope for the nations.

But what does He mean to you? Does that impact your life on a daily basis? Does your life reflect, not just head knowledge of who Jesus is, but a love for the Lord and fellowship with Him? Who do you say that He is?

If you turn to Him, He will save you from your sins, give you eternal life, bring you as a spotless child before the Father who will adopt you, and will give you new life and holiness, and joy as never before. If you turn away from Him, you sign your own death sentence, choosing to reject God’s way of salvation from His wrath. If you turn away from Him, you refuse the embrace of the Savior who is also the King and the Judge.

Today, Jesus is asking us that same question He asked His disciples 2,000 years ago:

“Who do you say that I am?”

How will we respond?

Lord, may we trust you, embrace you, love you, and obey you as you have called us to. Lord, may we say that you are our Savior, our Lord, our joy, our satisfaction, our redemption, and all that you are for us. May we find our deepest hope and our identity in you. May we seek to glorify you, not just know more about you.

God bless,

Neal E.

The Grace of God Changes our Identity: Eph. 5:1-2

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”–Eph. 5:1-2

Two weeks ago, we discussed how Paul shows the church how God’s grace enables and commands us to lead holy lives. He continues that thread into chapter five, but before he continues his description of what believers’ lives should look like, he reminds the church of their new identity in Christ and calls them to a new life in response to it.

When you put your faith in Jesus, you didn’t just get forgiveness and a spot in heaven, as remarkable as that is. You got adopted by the God of the universe! How often we forget in our struggles and our sufferings that we are children of God. We are not God’s employees or simply God’s servants…we are His children!

We who deserve hell not only receive pardon and right standing with God, but we actually get adopted. Matt Chandler has described it like this: When God justifies us, that is, He forgives our sin, clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, and takes over as our God, He is acting as a judge. It’s best analogy is that of an employer and employee. I have had a good relationship with my bosses. There is nothing between us, and I have not been written up. However, I am not necessarily going to talk to them very often outside of work; I’m not going to hang out with them or have a personal relationship with them outside of work. This is similar to how God would be if He stopped at forgiving us and not counting us guilty. As amazing as that is, the gospel goes further than that.

As Chandler describes, God, as He forgives us and declares us righteous in Christ, takes off the judge’s robes and takes the role, not just of judge, but of Father. Now, we don’t just have forgiveness, we have fellowship. We don’t just have eternal life, we have an eternal Father who has called us into a life-changing relationship with Him. That’s why the difference between Christianity and other religions is a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus. I usually hate cheesy phrases, and sometimes that gets thrown in that mix, but it is absolutely true.

And this new relationship brings new responsibilities.

We are to be “imitators of God.” All of the descriptions Paul gives of holiness is not to be done as just a to-do list as we said two weeks ago, but in an attempt to be who we are in Christ and glorify our Father. We want to glorify God, and how do we do that? We imitate Him.

And we walk in love. Jesus talked about this when He said the law can be summed up by “loving God” and “loving others like yourself.”

When we love God, we want to do what pleases Him. When we love God, we love what He loves, and we want to be with Him, and we naturally do what He calls us to do.

When we love others, we want to do what helps them, and we put their needs above our own. This is what Jesus did for us by dying for us on the cross.

So, for us who know the love of the Father, we honor God by imitating Him and doing what He calls us to do. And we honor Him by loving others by serving their needs.

There’s no A-B-C list of how to meet others’ needs. We simply must look around and see needs and meet them.

Lord, may we remember that we have been adopted, not merely forgiven. May we rejoice and rest in your love. May we have eyes that see others’ needs and meet them, so we imitate and honor you.

God bless,

Neal E.