There is a prominent question that is looming in the minds and hearts of
Americans today. It doesn’t have anything to do with the stock market, who
will win the NCAA basketball crown, or if the movie “Star Wars” will meet
everyone’s expectations. You will never hear the question asked out loud at
the mall, sitting in the stands at your son or daughter’s game, or standing
in line at the grocery store, but don’t be fooled – the question is out
there, crying out at us from every angle. Who is Jesus? Is He some guru
who has come to alleviate everything that ails us, all that gnaws at our
soul in the quiet of the night? Is He some kind of motivator? Richard
Simmons, Anthony Robbins, and Laura Schlessinger rolled into one
fine-speaking, self-esteem building, faith-affirming mystic? Is He a great
teacher of the likes of Plato? Who is Jesus and can we trust what is being
said about Him?

How can we know who or what to believe? Does possessing a seminary education dictate that we believe everything that someone says about Jesus? Does watching TBN legitimize what a person has to say about Jesus? Does
having Dr. or Rev. or Bishop preceding one’s name validate everything that a
person states about Jesus?

All kinds of people are talking about Jesus these days, but not too many
are saying much of anything. Some say that Jesus was a fine teacher. Others
have said that Jesus was a good man. Madonna says that she is drawn to Jesus
because she thinks the image of a man hanging on a cross naked is sexy. Ted
Turner says that Jesus is for losers. Tony Campolo has said,
Our society has taken Jesus and recreated him in our own cultural image.
When I hear Jesus being proclaimed from the television stations across our
country, from pulpits hither and yon, he comes across not as the biblical
Jesus, not as the Jesus described in the Bible, but as a white, Anglo-Saxon,
Protestant Republican…. God created us in his image, but we have decided
to return the favor and create a God who is in our image. (Tony Campolo)
In our society today we see that many different things are being said about
Jesus, but most of what is being said is a far cry from what Jesus said
about Himself or what the Biblical authors said about Him. It seems that
those who dismiss Jesus as less than who He claimed to be are given a free
pass to say anything they want to say about Him, but those who take
seriously Jesus’ claims are ridiculed and labeled as narrow-minded bigots.
Josh McDowell once said, “Why is it that you can talk about God and nobody
gets upset, but as soon as you mention Jesus, people often want to stop the
conversation? Why have men and women down through the ages been divided over
the question, Who is Jesus?” (Josh McDowell)
If Jesus was just a misguided mystic who came in from the desert for
conversation with the common folk then we’ve nothing to lose if we simply
dismiss Him. If Jesus was delusional about His claim to be God then we have
the option of picking and choosing what we like about Him. If Jesus isn’t
God come to save us from our sins then there are no consequences for our
ignoring Him. On the other hand, if Jesus did not have His tongue in His
cheek when He made His claims then there are dire, even eternal consequences
for those who are unwilling to bow their knee to Him and cry out, “My Lord
and my God.”
With all of the confusion concerning who Jesus is and why He came to earth
I came by this morning to clear the air. I have not come here as some
authority or as some wise sage to dispense wisdom to all of you. I have no
authority whatsoever and wisdom has never been one of my strengths. The
only thing I have to offer you this morning to clear the air for all of us
here is the Word of God, the Word of life. Let’s take a look.
12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and
are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13I think it is right to
refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14because I
know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear
to me. 15And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you
will always be able to remember these things. 16We did not follow cleverly
invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received
honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the
Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well
pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were
with him on the sacred mountain. 19And we have the word of the prophets made
more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light
shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in
your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture
came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its
origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along
by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Peter 1:12-21)
This is such a powerful section of God’s Word, a compelling statement of
faith that is meant to stop us in our tracks so that we might give full
consideration to the claims made by Jesus and the entire Bible. The entire
message of God to us, from the Old Testament through the New Testament is
found in these eleven verses. Jesus claimed much more than simply the
ability to teach. He claimed more than simply the ability to heal our
brokenness. He claimed more than simply the ability to give us direction and
purpose. Jesus claimed more than simply the ability to be our moral compass.
Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus
claimed to be God in the flesh come down from Heaven to forgive us of our
sins. (John 14:9) Jesus claimed to be the “Bread of Life.” (John 6:46)
Jesus does not leave us room to simply say that He was a great teacher, a
moral authority, or one of the ways to God. He forces us to make a
decision – Is He who He claimed to be or was He insane. C.S. Lewis once
wrote about Jesus’ claims concerning Himself and our assessment of His
claims. He writes,
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t
be a great moral teacher. He’d be either a lunatic-on a level with a man who
says he’s a poached egg-or else he’d 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. (C.S. Lewis 1898-1963)
I have served as your pastor for almost nine years now and I think it is
safe to say that anyone who has been around Britton Christian Church for any
amount of time has a clear understanding of where I stand when it comes to
Jesus. Jesus is my only Hope, He is my Savior, He is my Lord, my Healer,
Provider, He is the One who forgives me of my sin, and He is the One who
continues to call me to a deeper walk with Himself.
I know that I sound like a broken record as week after week I challenge us,
encourage us, and entice us to learn more of His wonderful ways. I don’t
worry about sounding like a broken record, as a matter of fact, this week I
have found good company in Simon Peter. Peter wrote to the people of his
day and he said in verses 12-15,
12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and
are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13I think it is right to
refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14because I
know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear
to me. 15And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you
will always be able to remember these things.
Peter was writing to a group of Jesus’ followers who were rooted in the
Truth, but he still felt compelled to “refresh their memory as long as he
lived” because the Truth is that important.
Reading Peter’s statement caused me to stop and think about us at Britton
Christian Church. Are we rooted in the Truth? Stop for a moment and ask
the Lord to reveal to you how rooted you are in His Truth. Please don’t
make the mistake of simply arriving at how you “feel” about the Truth,
genuinely ask the Lord to show you whether or not you are rooted in the
Truth. If you know that you are not rooted in the Truth then you need to
know that you have the opportunity to grow in your walk with the Lord.
There are many opportunities for you to grow at Britton Christian Church.
If all of us are willing to face the truth then we will come to learn that
we are all in different places. Some of you humble me with your grip on
God’s Word. Others are like me, we don’t understand all of God’s Word, but
we want to grow and learn. Still others are searching to find meaning and
understanding concerning God’s Word and it’s message about Jesus. For those
of us who understand that Jesus is who He claimed to be we need to ask
ourselves if we are exercising the Truth in our lives or if we are merely
giving mental assent to the Truth. Croft Pentz once said, “Too many
Christians keep the truth on ice instead of on fire.” (Croft M. Pentz, The
Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990)
The great Bible teacher A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Unused truth becomes as
useless as an unused muscle.” We must live in the Truth of God’s Word. We
must exercise the Truth and share it with everyone we meet.
The fact that Peter was writing to continually remind a group where all of
the people were rooted in the Truth causes me to want to continue to remind
us of the Truth every opportunity I get. I have heard, during the years,
various people say, “Oh, I’ve already studied this or that.” My response
is, “You can never study God’s Word enough.” If I live to be 200 years old,
it will not be time enough to plumb the depths of God’s riches contained in
His Word!
In verses 16-18 Peter wants his readers to know that he has not gotten
caught up in some emotional trip over Jesus. He hasn’t bought into some pop
culture phenomenon. Peter has his feet planted firmly on the ground when he
writes,
16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the
power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his
majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the
voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I
love; with him I am well pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice that came
from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
There are many “cleverly invented” stories circulating about Jesus today.
I shared with my Bible study last Sunday night about a man who attended a
church I know of who had bought into one of these cleverly invented stories.
He had become a member of a Urantia group in the city where he lived and on
more than one occasion he brought his Urantia book with him to church. The
book was clever because it gave all of the information that you would ever
want to know about the first thirty years of Jesus’ life. When we study the
Bible there is not much information about these early years of Jesus outside
of His birth, His dedication at the Temple, and His teaching at the Temple
when he was twelve. The Urantia book on the other hand will give you
detailed information about Jesus’ early life. Clever, but not truth.
There is a difference between clever and truth. There is nothing clever
about Jesus’ life or the Word of God, but they are true. We need to be
seeking after the heart of truth today instead of the latest fad to sweep
the nation or the church.
Peter says that he and the other disciples were eyewitnesses of the power
and coming of Jesus into the world. They were eyewitnesses of His majesty!
They were there on the spot. The question that I have for Peter is, “What
did you see? What did it all mean? Who was Jesus?” Peter says, “I am so
glad you asked.” In verses 17-18 we read,
17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to
him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him
I am well pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven
when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
Peter says that Jesus received glory and honor from God the Father. They
witnessed the confirmation of Jesus’ ministry by God when God said, “This is
my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Glory and honor alone
belong to God, but God bestowed His glory and honor upon Jesus and Him
alone.
There were actually two different occasions when Jesus heard the voice of
God thunder, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
John the Baptist was down at the river baptizing those who were repenting of
their sins when all of a sudden Jesus came to the riverbank. Even though
John said that he should be baptized by Jesus, Jesus insisted that John
baptize Him. After Jesus was baptized God spoke and said, “This is my Son
of whom I love: with Him I am well pleased.”
The second time Jesus heard those wonderful words was when He had gone to
what we know as the Mount of Transfiguration. Let me read to you how it all
happened. Turn to Matthew 17:1-9 and follow along.
1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of
James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was
transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes
became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses
and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for
us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-one for you, one
for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud
enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I
love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard
this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and
touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8When they looked up,
they saw no one except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus
instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man
has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:1-9)
On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus was met by Moses, the representative
of the Law, and by Elijah, the representative of the Prophets, as He heard
God’s voice speak of His pleasure and love for His Son. Moses, Elijah, and
the Disciples were present to see firsthand the Truth of Jesus’ life and His
purpose for coming to earth. They were there when God confirmed that Jesus
was the Savior sent to deliver us from our sins, the One on whom God was
bestowing His glory and majesty upon.
Not only did Jesus hear the majestic voice of God, but Peter, James, and
John were there to hear it. They were not hallucinating. They didn’t dream
up a scheme to try and change the world. They heard the voice of God and
they fell on their faces terrified.
Oh how we need to hear the voice of God confirming the Truth of Jesus’
life, calling us to follow Him alone, and inviting us to walk with our
blessed Savior! Oh how we are in such desperate need of an experience of
the Father that clears all of the confusion concerning Jesus and drives us
to our faces in humble worship and reverence of God!
There is a word of caution for us when it comes to experience. We need to
have daily experiences of the presence of God confirming His Truth and
calling us to walk in deeper intimacy with Jesus, but the things that we
gain from our experience need to align with God’s Word. There are many
today who will tell you and me what God wants for us, they will share with
us what God has “told” them, and we are expected to accept these things
without reservation. I want to caution you to always examine what you feel
God is speaking to you.
God’s Word is Truth. It does not “contain” truth, but it is Truth. From
cover to cover we find the Truth of God given to us to enable us to know the
heart of Jesus and to live in God’s will. God’s Word is much like a ruler.
If you bring a truckload of boards to me and tell me that the boards have
been cut in the exact lengths that I need to build my house I can accept
that as true. It may or not be true. I could assume that you are right and
continue on with my project of building a house. The fact of the matter is
that if you are wrong and the boards are off by even a little bit, then the
house will never stand the tests of time. It would be much better for me to
take a tape measure and actually the measure the boards to find out if they
meet the requirements needed to build the house.
Any carpenter can fully appreciate the need for Truth. Carpenters who are
worth their salt take painstaking measures to assure that things are square,
measurements are precise, and to disregard how they may “feel” in order to
find the truth.
We should take the tape measure of God’s Word to all of our experiences and
the things people tell us about God in order to make sure that they are from
the heart of God. Luke wrote in Acts about a group of people who did
exactly this. Take a look at Acts 17,
10As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.
On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11Now the Bereans were
of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the
message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if
what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:10-11)
When Peter writes and tells of us of his experience with Jesus on the Mount
of Transfiguration he then turns and says in verse 19,
19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do
well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until
the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts
Peter found in his study of the prophets a firm foundation for his
experience with Jesus. Peter’s experience wasn’t contrary to Scripture, it
was an affirmation of all that he had read about the coming Messiah.
Whatever you learn or hear about Jesus must align with God’s Word.
In verses 20-21, Peter writes about the validity of God’s Word. Let’s read
together.
20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by
the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the
will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy
Spirit.

Just last Sunday night we were talking in Bible study about why the Bible
is different than any other book ever written. The answer to the question
is, “Man did not write God’s Word.” Peter says, “Men spoke from God as they
were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” God used His servants to write His
Word, His will and passion for His people, but it was God who gave them the
words to write. The Bible speaks God’s Truth to us.
You and I have the opportunity cling to the Truth of God or to stumble
along by believing whatever the latest fad is circulating about Jesus.
God’s leaves that choice to us, but our choice does not change the fact that
there is truth. There have been times throughout history when people have
tried to silence the truth, but the truth lives on. There have been those
who chose to cling to the truth and it cost them dearly. One such man lived
in Germany half a century ago. His name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer and he was
a Lutheran pastor. Bonhoeffer failed in his attempt to assassinate Adolph
Hitler–and he was executed by the Nazis for treason. Astonishingly, not
long ago Bonhoeffer’s reputation was resurrected when he was officially
exonerated by a court in Berlin. Just what did Bonhoeffer do to provoke the
ire of the Nazi regime? He stood for the truth even though he knew he would
have to pay a price.
It is important for us to know that holding fast to the truth concerning
who Jesus is and His call upon our life to surrender to Him as Lord and
Savior of our lives may cost us dearly, even severely. I have no doubt that
this is why so many today are choosing to play with games with the claims of
Jesus and try to make Him out to be something much less than He claimed.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer would cling to Jesus and Him alone and it would
eventually cost him his life.
In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer paints a vivid picture of
what it was like to be true to the Christian faith under a hostile regime.
Under persecution, Bonhoeffer discovered that, even though God’s grace is
freely given, it also extracts a high cost.
Because Bonhoeffer chose to not go along with the crowd he felt compelled to
return to Germany and suffer with his fellow Germans when he could have
stayed safely in America. It was his desire to walk faithfully with Jesus
that led Bonhoeffer to continue teaching and preaching the Word of God even
though the Nazis tried to suppress his work. It was the pursuit of the truth
that led Bonhoeffer to stand against a turncoat church that mixed Nazi
doctrine with Christian truth. Along with other faithful believers,
Bonhoeffer signed the Barmen Declaration, which boldly declared their
independence from both the state and a co-opted church.
It was his complete allegiance to Jesus that led Bonhoeffer to attempt to
smuggle Jews out of Germany, even though it led to his arrest. Costly grace
led the young pastor to set aside his commitment to pacifism and join in the
assassination plot against Hitler–which was what finally led to his
execution by the Nazis. But even in prison, Bonhoeffer’s life shone with
divine grace. He comforted other prisoners, who looked upon him as their
chaplain. He wrote many moving letters that were later collected into a
volume called Letters and Papers from Prison.
On the morning of April 9, 1945-less than a month before Hitler was
defeated–Bonhoeffer knelt and prayed, and then followed his captors to the
gallows, where he was hanged as a traitor. Now Bonhoeffer is finally
receiving the official recognition to match the spiritual veneration he has
inspired in so many believers.
The late British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote a tribute to
Bonhoeffer in his book The Third Testament. Muggeridge, writing about
World War II said:
Looking back now across the years . . . what lives on is the memory of a man
who died, not on behalf of freedom or democracy or a steadily rising gross
national product, nor for any of the twentieth century’s counterfeit hopes
or desires, but on behalf of a cross on which another man died 2,000 years
before.
“As on that previous occasion on Golgotha,” Muggeridge goes on, “so amidst
the rubble of ‘liberated’ Europe, the only victor is the man who died. As
the only hope for the future lies in his triumph over death. There can
never be any other victory or any other hope.” The lesson of Bonhoeffer’s
life and death is that bowing our knee to Jesus and choosing to listen
solely to Him rather than the current conversation about Him is never easy.
God’s grace is never cheap. It demands from us everything–even our lives.
But in return it gives us a new life that transcends even the most
oppressive political conditions. (Adapted from Chuck Colson’s “Breakppoint”
commentary. Copyright (c) 1999 Prison Fellowship Ministries)
Today you and I have the opportunity to have the air cleared in our lives
concerning Jesus. All of the confusing talk about Jesus will continue, but
we do not have to be confused. God is calling us today to make a decision.
Will we be swayed by the popular culture speaking of Jesus as a good man or
will we settle once and for all in our hearts that Jesus was God who came to
man to save us, fill us, empower us, and claim us for His very own. Which
choice will you make.