Jesus is______

Savior, part 1

Monday, October 21, 2019

Here we are in week two of our new series, Jesus is _________. Last week, we considered “Jesus is Lord;” this week we will fill in the blank with the title/name, “Savior.”

Did you hear the story of little Fruit Stand? When the 1960s ended, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district reverted to high rent, and many hippies moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. They had children and got married, too, though not in any particular order. And, interestingly enough, they didn’t name their children Joe or Suzie. People in the mountains around Santa Cruz grew accustomed to their children playing a little frisbee with the likes of little “Time Warp” or sweet little “Spring Fever.” And eventually “Moonbeam,” “Earth,” “Love” and “Precious Promise” all ended up in the area public schools. That’s about the time when the kindergarten teachers first met “Fruit Stand.”


Every fall, according to tradition, parents bravely apply name tags to their children, kiss them good-bye and send them off to school on the bus. So it was for little Fruit Stand. The teachers thought the boy’s name was odd, but they tried to make the best of it. “Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?” they offered. And later, “Fruit Stand, how about a snack?” He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn’t seem much more odd than “Heather” or “Sun Ray.”  

At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. “Fruit Stand, do you know which one is your bus?” He didn’t answer. That wasn’t strange; he hadn’t answered them all day. Lots of children are shy on the first day of school. It didn’t matter: the teachers had instructed the parents to write their child’s bus number on the reverse side of their name tag. The teacher simply turned over Fruit Stand’s tag, and there, neatly printed, was the name, “Anthony.”  

As we continue our series, “Jesus is ____” this week, we fill in the blank with, “Savior.” Friends, let me assure you: like Lord, Savior is more than a title. Really, all we need to know about Jesus is summed up in His Name, for the Name, “Jesus,” means “Jehovah saves.” The Name Jesus is actually the transliteration of the Hebrew “Joshua,” which means Jehovah saves. 


Names were an incredibly important part of first century culture. The naming of a child was as important as the birth of a child, for the name given was to be more than a mere identifier of the child, it was to be a reflection of his/her very character.   


Continued tomorrow

Jesus is _____

Savior, part 2

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

So it was with Jesus. The prophet Isaiah had predicted long before Jesus’ birth that God would send a Savior. We are reminded every year at Christmas: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6.


It would be an angel of the Lord who would appear to Joseph in a dream and reveal this savior’s Name: Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel we find the story: “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” Matthew 1:20b – 21, ESV. Everything we need to know about Jesus — His purpose, His life, His aim — is ALL summed up in His Name. Jesus is Savior!


With that in mind let’s look at our main Bible passage for the week. 1 John 4:9-14 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world” ESV.  

To proclaim, “Jesus is Savior!” suggests someone or something needs saving. When we proclaim, “Jesus is Savior!” it is our acknowledgement that WE, you and I, need saving. That brings up the whole issue of sin - we’re just not so sure we want to talk about sin. Sin is so negative and I want to come to church to get a pick-me-up. I want the preacher to make me feel good about myself. If the preacher tells me I’m a sinner, I won’t likely feel very good at the end of service. And truthfully, I would say, “If that’s all the preacher says, you’re right.” But, how can we hear the Good News that Jesus saves if we don’t first hear the bad news, that we – you and I - need saving? “Jesus is Savior” means there is Good News! Oh, glory be to God! There is Good News!

Let’s take a minute or two and look at this thing called sin. We do this because the reality is that it is impossible to grasp and understand God’s story apart from sin. In the beginning, God created everything and it was beautiful. As a matter of fact, God called it “boker tov” — meaning, very good. But the devil was just not content that things should be very good…


Continued tomorrow   

Jesus is ___________

Lord, part 1

Monday, October 14, 2019

This week we will begin a short series of studies designed to finish this short statement, “Jesus is _______________.” The truth is, I could probably preach for the rest of my natural life and not exhaust this topic of “Jesus is _______.” However, I felt it would be beneficial (as we wrap up the fall and transition into the winter) for us to be reminded, once again, just a little of WHO, and in some cases, WHAT, Jesus is. As we begin this series today, we will be looking at the “Who” and “What” – of Jesus is: LORD.

One of the all-time favorite movies around the Wickersheim house is, “The Princess Bride.” It is not uncommon for one of us (well okay, mostly me) to be heard quoting a line from the movie – such as, “Anybody want a peanut,” or “Mawwage, Mawwage is what bwings us to-gevaw today.” So, the movie is a fairy tale, as read to an ailing grandson, by the visiting grandfather. And the story is filled with heroes and villains, damsels in distress and unnumbered perils. The primary hero is the poor farm boy Westley, who serves and falls in love with the beautiful princess, Buttercup. (I won’t bore you with all the details of the movie or the on-goings of our home, when we’re all to-gevaw. I’ll trust you to watch this classic movie for yourself.)

One of the villains in the film is a short, rotund kidnapper named Vizzini, who is hired by the villain, prince Humperdink, to kidnap his betrothed Buttercup in order to incite a war with the rival nation Guilder. Vizzini hires a swashbuckler named Inigo Montoya and his side-kick giant Fezzik (the late Andre’ the Giant) to assist with the kidnapping. They are successful in their enterprise, but once they begin their escape, the Dread Pirate Roberts pursues them.

Throughout the pursuit, there is a continuing series of unexpected turns, and at each occurrence Vizzini exclaims, "Inconceivable!" Finally, in exasperation, Inigo Montoya looks at Vizzini and says, his classic line, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 


All of that brings us to the place where we will look into our main scripture for this first study of the week and series. We’ll pick up in Philippians 2 tomorrow morning.  


Continued tomorrow   

Jesus is _______

Lord, part 2

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Philippians 2:5-11 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, 10 so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” ESV.

Much like Vizzini’s use of “Inconceivable!” I mostly think that we 21st century disciples of Jesus struggle to understand just who Jesus really is, especially when we use the proclaiming phrase, “Jesus is Lord.” Just what do we really mean when we say, “Jesus is Lord?” Or, more particularly, “Jesus is Lord of my life”?


We say the Jesus is Lord of our lives – but, much like Inigo Montoya, we aren’t quite sure that it means what we think it means. I fear the phrase has become almost (perhaps even mostly) a cliché for the majority of those who call themselves Christians. We have “Jesus is Lord” printed on t-shirts and bumper stickers; we see it painted on overpasses, and we may well even see someone holding up a sign during the World Series or the Super Bowl proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord!” It’s just a nice name or slogan - but in reality (and sadly I might add), it tends to have little, if any, impact on our daily lives.

The truth of the matter is that that wasn’t the case for the early disciples of Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes to the Philippian church to encourage them to maintain the faith he found in them when he was with them.


Our main Bible passage for this week is, I think, one of Paul’s most moving paragraphs as he concludes his thoughts about Jesus with what has been called the “First creed of the Church.” These days we say the Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed; however, scholars tell us the phrase, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” is the statement most of the earliest followers of Jesus proclaimed when they greeted one another. If that is true - and I am confident the scholars (in this case) have it right - and it is. 


Then, what did that phrase mean for them? We’ll answer that question tomorrow.


Continued tomorrow

Jesus is _______

Lord, part 3

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Picking up where we left pf yesterday...


What did “Jesus Christ is Lord” mean for the early believers? Well, the word “Lord” comes from the Greek word, “kurios,” and it means “master or owner.” The lord was the one who owned or had possession of a thing — like one who owned property or a slave. The word was also used as the official title of the Roman Emperor, and Roman citizens would greet each other with the words, “Caesar is Lord!”  

In that sense, it was more than a bit of a subversive statement for the 1st century believers to utter the words, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” In fact, when the first century believer said, Jesus is Lord, it meant that they fully understood and acknowledged that Jesus was the owner of their life. They had come to a place of recognizing that their life was not their own, but it had been fully surrendered to another – the person of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, their proclamation of “Jesus is Lord!” became for them, a death sentence, as the one thing Roman authorities never tolerated was subversion or rebellion. There could only be one lord — and in the Roman Empire, that was Caesar. To assert anything otherwise meant certain death to the proclaimer.

There is one other note to be made here. The title “Lord” is the most used title for Jesus in the New Testament: no fewer than 618 times, the various authors of the New Testament refer to Jesus as “Lord.” That term really ties back to the Old Testament word which the Jews dared not utter — Yehovah. Every time “Yehovah” appears in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is translated “Lord,” with a capital L.


Now, for the first century believer, and especially for the Apostle Paul, it was really an acknowledgment of the divine nature of Jesus Himself. It was to say, “Jesus is God, in human flesh.” Friends, that was such a profound theological statement on Paul’s part, and it carries theological implications for us still today. But for Paul, and for James, and really for us as well, it needed more practicality. That statement had to be so much more than just a statement; it had to be lived out in life. It could not be simply rooted in the mind; it was the living out of the implications of their theology that made the difference. And so it is for us.

I’m afraid much of the modern Church has come to see “Jesus is Lord” very much like people in England see the Queen. You see, it used to be, the monarch was supreme.  Laws were passed by the King or Queen (whoever occupied the throne), and their laws were immediately enforced. The Empire was subservient to his or her whims and vices. The monarch spoke, the people responded, or it was “Off with their heads!” However, times have changed.  


Continued tomorrow

Jesus is______

Lord, part 4

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Today, the Queen of England, as wonderful and benevolent as she may be, is simply a figurehead. A much-loved and admired one, no doubt, but one without any real authority. The masses still fawn and feign allegiance, and they quickly line the streets to wave as she motors from one castle to another. But the hard truth of the matter is that, shortly after the motorcade passes, her “subjects” quickly go back to lives as normal. From my observation, that’s pretty much what the “Church” typically does to Jesus! We pay lip service to Him. We answer polls that say we acknowledge Him as Lord, and call ourselves His disciples, but when the parade passes, we soon return to our lives as though nothing is different.

To call Jesus “Lord” is really to acknowledge His ownership of your life and mine; it is to say He owns us. And that is where it gets problematic for us, especially in the West. For many decades, we in America have been educated on the value of ownership. Our government passes laws that are really incentives for home ownership. Like the convict Delmar in the film, “O Brother Where Art Thou?” we are taught, “You ain’t nothing if you don’t own land.” It’s all about ownership — even if it’s just a cemetery plot! Yet, for disciples of Jesus, we are simply stewards. To say, “Jesus is my Lord…” well, friends, that means that we see and understand that the resources we hold, even our very identities, belong wholly and completely to Him.

“Jesus is Lord” also means that we are to live our lives in full submission to His Will. We seem to keep coming back to this issue of surrender, don’t we? Submission and surrender have largely become dirty words, words of weakness. I have had this conversation with the ladies at the prison, on several occasions. You see, surrender is just not a favorite word in prisons, even more so, it seems, than for those not incarcerated. Surrender is most often seen as a sign of weakness, but biblically, it is actually one of the truest displays of strength.

The truth of the matter is that when you or I surrender our life and make Jesus Lord, at that very point, my life – your life -  is no longer mine or yours; it is His! The only will I should have at that point is His Will. When we come to the end of our lives, it should be said of us what was said on the tombstone of an old Cavalier soldier who lost his life and property in battle for the royalist cause: “He served King Charles with a constant, dangerous and expensive loyalty.” Friends, for the follower of Jesus, the cause of our life is fully surrendered – with a constant, dangerous and expensive loyalty, to the cause of Christ.


Continued tomorrow

Jesus is  _________

Lord, part 5

Friday, October 18, 2019

“Jesus is Lord” means that Jesus is the priority of our lives. Did you catch the word choice there? I said, “Priority” not “priorities.” We say, “We must have our priorities in order,” but that is an incorrect statement. We must have our priority in order. There can ever only be one priority. To have many priorities is to have no priority, for whatever demands our attention at the moment will become the priority to the detriment of everything else.  

When Jesus is the priority we order our lives around that principle. We order our family life around the priority of Jesus. We order our business life, not on the principle of profit, but on the principle of purpose for the Kingdom of God. We order our social life, not on status, but on surrender and sacrifice, to and for the Kingdom of God. When Jesus is Lord, quite honestly, everything changes. Some might ask, “How can that be or happen?” Because when He is Lord: It reorders our lives. As missionary, and evangelist, Hudson Taylor so adequately said, “Either Christ is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.”

Back in my days at North Central Bible College (now NCU), I had a professor who, in an attempt to help us better understand this phrase, “Jesus is Lord,” characterized the disciple’s life this way. He said, “You know what it’s like when a house guest comes over to stay a few days. We try to be the gracious host, and we say to our guest, “Make yourself at home.” Imagine our surprise if our guest was to actually do it! Suppose we walked in and saw our guest going through our medicine cabinet. We’d be offended. Or, the refrigerator? Suppose our guest started throwing some of our favorite treats out of the refrigerator because they made themselves at home? We’d balk at their audacity! Or, suppose our guest went to the pantry, or the linen closet and started rearranging our food or our linens. We’d never expect it, and we likely wouldn’t tolerate it (or at best, we’d put it back again after he left!).  

Yet, that’s exactly what we do when we invite Jesus to be Lord of our lives. We invite Him into our home… our heart… and we invite Him to survey the refrigerator, to reorder our pantries, to paint the walls, to put down new flooring, not because He’s our guest and we want to show hospitality, but because we have given Him the house! It is now His house, His refrigerator, His pantry, His medicine cabinet — it is ALL His. And when He begins reordering things, all we can say is “Yes, Lord” because we have surrendered it all to Him.”  END