Everyone has an opinion on who Jesus was. In fact, I’d venture to guess that people have assigned more identities to Jesus than any other human being to have ever walked this planet! Part of that has to do with the supreme importance Jesus has to history- as Yale historian Jaroslav Pelican said,
“Regardless of what someone may personally think or believe about Him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in Western Culture for almost twenty centuries.”
In easier terms, we even divided time as BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini or the year of our Lord if you aren’t up on your Latin). Virtually every field of study bears marks of Christ- from art to music to literature to science- there isn’t a realm of our world that hasn’t been influenced by Jesus’ life, even if only indirectly through His passionate followers pursuing truth. That makes it extraordinarily important that we know who Jesus was and is. As He asked Peter, the all important question is, “Who do you say I am?” That is the question we are all looking to answer- and the question that ought to be informed more by what He said than what someone else says!
That’s why we’re picking up the gospel of John to read what Jesus had to say about Himself. Discovering who He said He was should inform our opinion and belief about who He is to us. In John’s gospel, Jesus says the words, “I am…” frequently. “I am..” seems innocuous enough, but we also need to understand the implications that phrase has culturally in first century Judaism. I am is a simple translation of the Jewish tetragrammaton- יהוה- or Yaweh, the name of God Himself. I am who I am, I am who I have been, and I am who I will be are all wrapped up in that one simple word. In Jewish culture the name of God was so holy they never said it, they didn’t even write it completely! Instead you’d see Y-H or another variation, with modern Jewish writers going so far as to write G-d instead of God because of their reverence for the name. Yet, throughout John we see Jesus saying, “I am…” frequently. This had to be on purpose- so it falls on us to figure out why. Jesus says He is the light of the world, the bread of life, the door, the good shepherd, the resurrection & the life, the way, the truth, and the life, and the true vine. Do you know what He meant when He said those things? Want to find out what Jesus meant by all those names He said He was?
Join us as we take a deep dive into Jesus’ own words about Himself and discover for yourself who Jesus is- because that’s the answer to the question that matters. When it all comes down, who do you say He is?
The official motto of the United States is the Latin phrase, “E Pluribus Unum” or “Out of many, one.” It’s fitting, as the US formed from 13 colonies and then became a conglomeration of 50 states working together as one country. But further, it fits because of the multitudinous peoples who filled the country- all immigrants coming to seek a future in a land beyond the sea- many of whom were greeted by the statue that stands for liberty and justice for all. It’s the idea of a melting pot- many influences creating something unique, different, yet harmonious. That is what the idea is, but it doesn’t necessarily take root when not encouraged to!
It’s also the idea at the root of the church- out of many, one. Diverse peoples with myriad giftings and abilities drawn into relationship because of the love of their Savior to do something no one else ever could. That is a miraculous vision- where people live, love, and work together with one purpose under one head. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the head of the church, the brain deciding where we should go, what we should do and proceeding to tell the other parts how to do it. But we often conflate our self with God and miss the point. My hand doesn’t tell my brain what to do- it tells it when it hurts- but otherwise, it is dependent on the signals from my brain. If my hand is disconnected from my brain, it does nothing. I can no longer type, pick up my children, or drive. But for all intents and purposes we operate in the church as if we were in control of the body, much like the Corinthians did in the early days of the church. That meant Paul had to correct them via a care-frontational letter- writing a letter to address issues to them as a whole. Whenever we focus on “me” instead- instead of the “we” we’re meant to be. In the church it starts with people: “They said…” or “Did you hear what they did?” and escalates from there until there is a swirling vortex of pain caused by people talking about people and things but never talking to the people about the things.
That’s precisely why Jesus said what He did in Matthew 18. It’s a guideline to help us live in community that is abundantly simple. Jesus said,
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
So simple- just go talk to the person we have an issue with and work at restoring that relationship. The inverse is simple too: if we go talk to someone about someone else, we’re sinning. Period. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Yet we throw those big but’s out there and justify and make excuses for our behavior. We find reasons why it’s okay for us, yet not for someone else. The harder part of the truth to swallow is that we bear responsibility for it too! The person we’re upset with needs to repent, yes, but most importantly WE need to repent too. If we go to someone high and mighty, better than them, we’ve missed a valuable portion of Jesus’ teaching from before about yanking the plank before we go on a sawdust extraction. If we have not repented of our part (and repent means to do a 180 degree turn from what was to where we need to go), we have no right to go to someone expecting them to change when we haven’t. It’s the tough part of community- self examination and some sanctifying surgery has to happen on us before we can help anyone else!
So here’s the simple question: is there anyone you’re holding something against today? Have you checked into your own life before going to them? Or worse yet- have you gone to someone else about them? If the answer to the 1st & 3rd questions were yes, you’ve got some repenting to do so you can answer the 2nd question honestly. But, it all starts and ends with you. You’ve got stuff you need to confess. You’ve got stuff you need to let go of. You’ve got people you need to forgive. You’ve got people you need to seek out rather than talk about. How do I know? Because I’m human too and bear fault just as much as anyone else! But I also know what Jesus said about worship and seeking His face- it’s all fake and worthless unless you’ve made it right with those people first… You cannot meet God unless you’ve made it right with people first. Doubt it? Take a gander at Matthew 5 and let the Lord of all creation convict you:
You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
In case you don’t understand- Jesus just said being reconciled to others outweighed our need to give God His worth as we sought forgiveness. Are you seeking reconciliation with others or only your own way? Are you avoiding the reconciliation because it might be painful for you? Are you talking to others instead of seeking out the person you need to? Don’t wait, go make it right and see what happens. It’s the only recipe for our country, our churches, our relationships, our families, and our souls.
Yank the plank and repent for your part. Seek people out instead of talking about them. Work for reconciliation because it’s your soul that you’re hurting. Go for God’s way and see what happens- it took Paul care-fronting the Corinthians to get there. I pray we learn from their debacle and hear the voice of Jesus instructing us in what is right, instead of continuing to repeat their mistakes. May we be the church that shows people Jesus instead of forcing them away…
*Originally posted on my personal blog, mattschaffner.blogspot.com
The toughest thing most of us ever have to deal with is identity. Whether those tough years in middle/high school where you want to be identified with the “right” group (because being tagged as a geek, nerd, emo, goth, punk, yuppie- whatever the wrong crowd was at your school- would’ve been the end of your existence- obviously!) or moving on into adulthood where those same concepts apply but it’s knowing the “right” people to be connected for financial, social, or other gain- our identity is shaped in many, many ways by the people around us and what we want them to perceive. While that sounds horrible at first blush, let’s walk through it a bit. Why do you dress the way you do? Maybe it’s a uniform at work you have to wear, but think about the things you buy. Your clothes, accessories, car, home, electronics, even the music we listen to and TV we watch. Is something in that list to impress or create commonality with someone else? When we really get down to it- that’s often part of the reason. I mean, why do I hit the clearance rack at Dillard’s? It’s cheaper, yeah- but it’s also the desire to have brands of clothing that convey a message I want people to think!
The church is a reflection of us- so why should we think we’d be that different? That’s why we have to think through our commitments, values, beliefs, and vision. If we skew away from the core things that make us God’s church, who do we become? That’s something we REALLY have to consider- because it is so easy to move away from the moorings that tie us to the past and provide a path to the future. So in the next five weeks we’re going to walk through the core values that make us, us. To talk through the things that we want to be known for as Heartland Community Church. The things we hope we live out so that people see Jesus in us- instead of causing them to see the negatives from us in Jesus.
So, who do we think we are? Take a quick look at the values we’re going to be focusing on and the why- because it’s what matters most!
If we want to live in a way that shows Jesus to everyone we meet- these radical values have to be what defines us as individuals and as a church. We’re found, so we go to find everyone we can possibly bring in. We’ve been saved, so we serve others selflessly like Jesus taught us to. We’ve been given so much more than enough by God, so we give to advance His kingdom here knowing we’ll never outgive Him. We’ve been called to community (this crazy thing called the church), so we never do life alone. We know that as long as we’re still breathing, we’re called to grow because God’s not done with us yet.
I’m excited to unpack these ideas the next 5 weeks- hope to see you there!
Huge shout out for the music in video: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music
Easter is this weekend- so start thinking now who you might invite to worship! Easter is one of the best times to invite someone to church- and it’s not as hard as you might think. To give you some advice & ideas on how to invite someone to church, our friends Johnny & Chachi are here to help:
Now- that might’ve been poking fun, but seriously- just ask. The single greatest thing we can ever do is to help someone get to know Christ- this coming weekend is a great opportunity as we Consider Jesus this Easter.
Want a tool to help invite your friends? Grab our Easter invite here and share it to social media:
Here’s the April Heartland Happenings! Get to know what’s going on this month: