Jesus said the the gates of hell will not prevail, but what does that mean and how are we able to no just withstand the attacks of the enemy but fight back?
Your life is made up of a series of questions which have been answered by yourself and those around you. “Should I turn left or should I turn right?” “Do I work here or there?” “Can I see myself spending the rest of my life with this person?” “What is all of this really about?” Our journey of faith began with two questions, and at some point in our lives each one of us must answer two key and monumental questions.
1) Who is Jesus?
2) What will I do with Him?
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Jesus is some way shape or form. This denomination says one thing, that religion says another, TV and Movie writers have their own thoughts as well. What was Jesus like when He walked the earth and what is He like now? Is He the living Son of God or is He dust in some cave? These are questions we face in our own personal walk, and these are the questions posed by those we speak to about Jesus.
Many different people have tried to interpret Jesus in a way which justifies their own beliefs and actions.
Many different people have tried to interpret Him in a way which justifies their own beliefs and actions. It is like walking through a minefield trying to find the identity and character of Jesus Christ. Step in the wrong place and your faith could be crippled, avoid the traps and you find the truth. Some have painted Jesus as the plaid shirt wearing cool guy that’ll help you with your investments, others have painted Him as the vengeful hammer of God rooting out sin through judgment. We have images of Jesus as the desert hippie talking about “loving everybody man,” or the picture of the rabbi in a four piece suit and shiny shoes.
No matter what we have heard others say about Jesus we as individuals are still faced with these two ultimate questions. First we must as “Who is Jesus” that is to discover what is His character, nature, identity and the accuracy of the gospel account. Then after answering that question we must move on to asking “What will I do with Him” that is to say what is His purpose and destiny and what do I do with that knowledge.
How we answer these two questions will first determine if we even believe in Jesus, and secondly the answers will determine where we go with our faith.
How we answer these two questions will first determine if we even believe in Jesus, and secondly the answers will determine where we go with our faith. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God that died and rose for our sins our lives will reflect that truth. If we believe that Jesus was only a man and there is no God, again our lives will reflect that belief.
Who Are You?
The Jesus we see in the gospels was no ordinary man, and I am not even talking about the miracles or claims to divinity yet. Jesus spoke with a power and authority which overwhelmed those who were self professed experts of God. Jesus the unknown carpenter from the backwoods of Israel stood toe to toe with the greatest theologians of His day and made them look like a bunch of house cats trying to figure out a laser pointer.
Jesus spoke words of authority but He also spoke of the scriptures as a living testimony to a living God. A God who was looking to restore that which was broken, the problem was that the people didn’t realize everything was broken. They couldn’t understand that the God they praised and spoke about, the God they praised for the miracles done during the life of Moses had come to them in bodily form and was speaking to them. Rather than recognizing the God they dedicated their lives to they were left bewildered and asked a question that would be repeated untold times throughout time.
John 8:23-30 “23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” 25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world. 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.” (NIV, emphasis added)
You see there are two main sets of “glasses” that people see Jesus through. Either as an unbeliever looking through the lenses of the world, or as a believer looking through the lenses of the Church. The majority of the Pharisees did not recognize Jesus because He did not match their expectations. They assumed that God would appear and move in a certain way and when God didn’t follow their script they were left outside of God’s true plan for the world. But this is only one example of how people outside of the New Covenant see Jesus.
Jesus in the Eyes of the World
The world in general and most religions see Jesus in really the same way, they recognize Him as an inspired speaker, who taught morality and love to the people. Let’s take a quick look now at how many people answer the first question of Who Is Jesus?
Average westerner – Jesus was a historical person, seen as a wise teacher who taught love and acceptance. Was not divine, was crucified but not resurrected. His followers embellished His life to form a new religion outside of Judaism and crafted stories to deceive people into believing their failed prophet.
Gnosticism – Jesus came to provide the secret knowledge which was necessary for salvation. Jesus was a natural man who became possessed and empowered by God at baptism. Oneness with God may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and diligently searching for wisdom by helping others. (See the Nicolaitans in Revelation 2:6, 15)
Islam– Jesus (Isa) was one of Allah’s greatest prophets. He was born of a virgin birth, but was not divine, not the son of God, and was not crucified. His gospel was an original book written by God and is not the record written by the apostles we have in the New Testament. Jesus will eventually return to rid the world of evil in the last day.
Judaism – Jesus was not the Messiah because He neither fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. Jesus is Believed to be a “stumbling block” who makes “the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the Lord”.
Buddhism – Jesus was “an enlightened man”, and “not far from Buddhahood”. There is no creator God. Atonement and grace are rejected because no deity can interfere with Karma.
Scientology – Jesus is classified as below the level of Operating Thetan, and a “shade above” the condition of “Clear”. Scientology’s upper-level materials tout the concept of “Jesus as God” as being an implant and a fiction that ought to be removed by ‘auditing'”.
Sikhism – Sikhs also believe in one God, like Christians. However there is no heaven/hell in the Sikh religion. Jesus had a natural birth and had physical human form, therefore, Sikhism instructs that Jesus cannot be God since God does not take birth and nor does He die. Sikhs however do not discount that Jesus is a prophet and like Sikh Gurus may be one with God. Jesus wants us to worship God, not himself. Jesus is one of the most respected and valued spiritual beings in the history of mankind. He gave up his life in order to stand up for the truth and remain strong in his belief and teachings of God.
Hinduism – Jesus was one of the incarnations (avatars) of God. Most Hindus believe that God, specifically Vishnu, took on human or animal forms at various times in order to perform certain feats that would preserve true Hindu teaching (the dharma). In this context, then, it has been argued that Jesus, along with Rama, Krishna, and others, was just another one of the divine self-embodiments.
Mormons – Jesus was a man in the flesh along with God (who is technically Adam), both died and ascended. There is no original sin, no Holy Spirit, and Lucifer was Jesus’ brother. Place in heaven is dependent on works and they believe they can be proxy-baptized on behalf of the dead. Then one day at the end of the age Jesus will rule the ten tribes of Israel upon His throne in Missouri.
The answer to the question that most of these beliefs have in common is that Jesus is not God, but a natural man who was either inspired, or was used as and instrument by the true god of that faith (2 Corinthians 4:4). That is what separates Christians from all of these other beliefs, they are the ones who answer the first questions by saying Jesus is the living Son of God.
What also unifies all of these beliefs is that they can exist without their founders being alive. Unlike Christianity because the fact that Jesus is alive is the cornerstone of our faith. If Jesus wasn’t resurrected from the dead then we are wasting our time (1 Corinthians 15:17). But since He was raised up our belief is rooted in that act. Other beliefs rely on what someone said long ago, but our faith relies on who Christ is right now.
Jesus in the Eyes of the Christians
When it comes to the second question of What Will We Do With Jesus our inspiration comes from the lives of those who originally followed Him. Nathaniel when he was called declared Jesus to be the Son of God (John 1:46-50), he answered the second question by proclaiming Jesus as the King of Israel. Later Peter in Caesarea Philippi was asked the question by Jesus as to who Peter thought He was. Peter in Matthew 16:13-16 responded by saying Jesus was the “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Even the apostle Paul faced this question headfirst when He was on the road to Damascus, in Acts 22:6-10 Saul/Paul asks who the person before Him was and the answer was “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” From that point on Paul dedicated his life to brining Jews and Gentiles face to face with these two questions just at he had been.
Once we go beyond the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of kings things begin to get a bit contentious among Christians. we all believe in the same Lord but over time different groups have emphasized certain aspects of Christ’s character overothers. Different groups have focused on various parts of Jesus’s life and nature to fit their own doctrines, beliefs and contemporary politics. Some groups have been founded in opposition to other groups, some in acts of rebellion and some in searches for the heart of God. Despite how they formed or how many denominations or affiliations there are, most believers generally place Jesus in one of the following three generalized arch-types.
1) A Stern, cold strict judge
2) A Caring loving emotional rebel
3) A Holy powerful divine example
The irony is that none of these 3 arch-types is correct, Jesus exhibited all three simultaneously. He was Stern to the Pharisees, Cold to the unbelieving, Strict in devotion to God, a Judge of the world and the enemy. Caring to the lost, Loving to the infirm, Emotional to the broken, a Rebel to the religious. Holy before the Father, Powerful against the devil, Divine in His heritage and an Example to all who would follow after Him.
God is big yet close, complex yet simple, holy yet approachable and the same is true of Jesus and the Holy Spirit which lives inside of us. God is bigger and smarter than us, when we stop and realize that is when we can finally humble ourselves and understand who Jesus was, is and forever will be.
Far too often churches or believers relate to only one aspect of Jesus and build their entire belief system and traditions around that one aspect often ignoring or rejecting the others.
Far too often churches or believers relate to only one aspect of Jesus and build their entire belief system and traditions around that one aspect often ignoring or rejecting the others. This is how many denominations and groups of Christians were founded, a person had a great revelation of a single aspect of Jesus and sought to make that one part the cornerstone of every believer. Not that the one revelation such as holiness, prayer, miracles, abundance are bad in themselves. Rather they can be good when taken in with the entire scope of what God is doing on the earth and withe Jesus’s nature..
We do the same thing with Jesus and while that one certain highlighted aspect may be good it can only carry you so far. This is where people and groups run into trouble, they take one aspect of Christ and expect it to answer all their questions. When it doesn’t answer a question, they make up an answer “in the spirit” of their view of Jesus. All the while the answer is still found in Jesus, but in an aspect they have forgotten or ignored. This is how most of the false doctrines in the church has been born, in the rejection of the complete and complex identity of Jesus the ManLionLamb God.
How do you answer these questions?
In John 21:12 we often miss out on an important statement recorded by John, after the disciples returned to Galilee they went fishing. One day Jesus came to them on the shore and called out for them to cast their net on the opposite side, the same thing He had told peter three years earlier. Except this time no one asked the mysterious person on the beach “who are you,” they already knew who it was. They answered the two great questions in their heart and they knew it was Jesus, that is why Peter jumped into the water and raced towards the shore.
Now that leaves you with the two great questions which you must answer.
1) Who is Jesus (what is His person and identity)
2) What shall I do with Him (what is His purpose and destiny)
Perhaps it would be easier to answer some smaller questions first
-Is Jesus divine or just a regular guy who died long ago?
-If Jesus was just a guy who died long ago does his teachings have any bearing on your life?
-If Jesus is divine what are you going to do about that, will you continue living your life as you see fit or will you recognize Him as who He is and accept His offering of forgiveness and salvation (Romans 10:9-10)?
Now then “what should we do with Jesus? The answer to that question is really: whatever you want to do. Do you want a relationship with God? Or do want to run your own life? Do you want to reject Christ, or do you want to hide somewhere in the middle?” (taken from Understanding Who You Are, page 49) The way you answer these questions will leave you with a choice which will impact your life for not just your life but all of eternity. Either Jesus was an admired lunatic or He is who He claimed to be, there is no middle ground and now you are faced with these questions.
I encourage you to look deeply and answer these questions for yourself, your life depends on it and your future hangs in the balance.
Revelation 1:5-6 “5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.
Two Questions That Determine Your Life Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.