We started off Sunday discussing our view of Jesus and how our image of Him affects everything we believe about Him. Too many people have created an unbiblical or semi-biblical image of Jesus from the natural tendency to create God in our own image. If we love dishing out judgment, then we want a judgmental God. If long for love and peace, then we see Him as a loving, peaceful God. But, the primary and only authoritative source of our understanding of Who He is must always be the Bible as it is His direct revelation to us. He has told us quite a bit about His nature, and we must understand that He is perfect across all of His attributes, not lacking in any area, and never out of balance. We must also understand that He is Who He is regardless of what we’ve created in our imaginations or choose to believe.
Paul Froese and Christopher Bader wrote a book a while back called, America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God— & What That Says About Uswherein they state:
- “There are almost as many kinds of Gods in America as there are people. Possibly more—because some Americans offer more than one description for God. Some tell stories in which God offers boundless love, forgiveness, and charity. Others describe a God who rains fire and brimstone down upon sinners and commands followers to destroy the heathens. Others feel that God is wholly removed from human concerns a distant force lacking a personality. A few find the whole idea of God absurd.”
Their study is quite enlightening as they detail how people create their own version of God. Hence, the reason so many view Jesus in a soft, loving capacity but cannot conceive of Him as the wrathful, righteous ruler of the universe as found in Revelation 19. This is why when I studied for last Sunday’s message, many commentators had to take time to discuss and explain the Jesus of John 2 Who made a whip and drove people out of the Temple court.
Just what is the image of Jesus we are to believe? The one found in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
A few decades ago a professor of mine (James Borland) did his seminary thesis on the appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament. He coined a term that has been embraced ever since: Christophany—an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament before His First Advent. When you look at Genesis 13:13 it tells us:
- Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
In other words, their immorality had exponentially grown to where they were beyond redemption as they were sold out to their sexually defiling sins, violence, and self-worship.
But, a little later we read in Genesis 18 that He appeared to Abraham as one of three men (the other two are angels). He tells Abraham He is going to visit Sodom to verify its wickedness, and when He finds it, commence to judge it. If you read the whole story, you see that Jesus not only judges the whole cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, killing every person and creature living there, but also showed compassion and mercy on Lot who had compromised his faith as a resident. He’s not just love, but also judgment, and He is always perfect in what He does even if we don’t understand or agree with it (for a companion story on the love and judgment of God, read the Book of Jonah wherein God wanted to save the wicked Gentile Ninevites who then repented, and then read the Book of Nahum where about a hundred years later the next generations were much more wicked and did not turn to God, so He destroys the whole city).
My quest for you today is to evaluate your understanding of Jesus in light of the whole Bible, and to conform that image to His Word and nothing else. He has told us Who He is, what He does, that He is worthy of our honor and praise. Let us never distort that and make Him into our image. Speaking of making Him into our own image, Stephen Prothero, professor at Boston University wrote a book entitled: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. He discusses many more dimensions of the American image of Christ than just judgment and love. It’s very eye-opening if you ever get the chance to read it.
- Look at these images of Jesus and identify which you naturally view Him as:
- Manly or feminine: ___________________________________________
- Moral teacher, or God: _________________________________________
- White, Black, Asian, or Jewish: ___________________________________
- Fragile or strong: _____________________________________________
- Sweet and kind, or firm and wrathful: _______________________________
- Intimately involved in the details of your life, or distant: _________________________________________________________
- A weakness that we humans have is taking holiness seriously. The Temple in Jerusalem represented the seat of God, and was to point all people (Jew and Gentile) to the living God. Jesus was appalled that its focus had become a profit-making racket that prevented people from coming to God in humility and worship. But, since the church is now the Temple (II. Corinthians 6:14-18), and you, as a Christian are to be part of the church which means part of the Temple:
- What dramatic efforts are you making to eradicate wickedness from your life so that you can be holy? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- What intentional practices do you have for seeking the Lord via prayer and Bible reading? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- If Jesus showed up and hung out with you a week, would you care? _________________________________________________________
- Would you change anything? _______________________________________________________
- Now, since the Holy Spirit indwells believers, is within the church, and is a part of your life 24/7, why is it you and I do not take that seriously and change how we live so as to glorify Him? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Remember that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. Jesus is the same “Yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Below are some attributes drawn from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Finish up your time this morning and discuss how each of these traits of our Savior are meaningful and beneficial to your life as His child:
- Dwells in the light which no man can approach unto: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Immutable (He never changes): ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Eternal: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most holy: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most wise: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most free: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most absolute: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will for His own glory: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most loving: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most gracious: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Long-suffering (patient): ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Most just and terrible in His judgments: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- The rewarder of them that diligently seek Him: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- He has sovereign dominion over all creatures: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- To Him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever He is further pleased to require of them: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________