Let’s start this morning with a “what do you think of when I say” exercise.
When I say:
“Hakuna Matata,” what do you of next”
I think…Hakuna Matata…what a wonderful prhase.
When I say:
The Fresh Prince
What do you think of?
For me, used to me, “Innnnnnn West Philadelphia…
Some of you younger people are thinking, “What does the Western portion of Philadelphia have to do with a prince? Isn’t this a democracy?”
Unfortunately, now I think of this:
(Will Smith as Aladdin)
Like, why do this to the genie from Aladdin? Why?
When I say:
What do you think of?
Author A.W. Tozer once said:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” – A.W. Tozer
So what do you think of when you think of Jesus?
I think for a lot of Americans…their thoughts are a bit hazy around Jesus.
They would say, “Like him, nice guy, long hair…good teachings…but haven’t really looked into it a whole lot.
But as we open up the Bible today, we’re going to see that what we THINK about Jesus…is absolutely and incredibly important.
WHO DO THE CROWDS SAY I AM?
(LOST & FOUND Series Slide)
For the past year or so, we’ve been working our way through the book of Luke in the Bible.
Luke is one of 4 books in the Bible about the life and teachings of Jesus.
We’re currently in chapter 9.
At this point in the book of Luke, Jesus is becoming well known, and quite popular, which causes Him to ask his disciples two interesting questions…let’s take a look
(Luke 9:18-20) – NIV
18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
(After 10 seconds --- “Who Do you Say I am” Title Slide)
At this point in the book, almost everyone in the area knows at least “something” about Jesus.
In the passage previous to this, Jesus just fed something like 10 to 15 thousand people!
So the crowds following him are massive at this point!
And so he asks the disciples…who do all of these people say that I am?
The disciples say, “Well, a ton of people think you’re John the Baptist”
Now, if you’ve never heard of John the Baptist, he was the guy who wore clothes made out of camel’s hair and ate locust sandwiches for breakfast…
Think, hipster, who eats organic
John was a prophet that paved the way for Jesus…he got everyone thinking about God again.
But at this point, John the Baptist been executed by King Herod.
So the crowds are essentially saying, “The only other person we can think of that was this awesome was John the Baptist…so I don’t know, maybe he never died or maybe he came back to life?”
Others say, “Maybe, Jesus is Elijah”
Elijah was a prophet from the Old Testament in the Bible…about 900 years before Jesus was born.
And many believed that Elijah would one day return before the “great and terrible day of judgment”
And so the crowds think, “Maybe Jesus is Elijah! Who else could do this kind of stuff?!”
Others say that Jesus is another one of the great prophets!
Basically, the crowds are saying, “This Jesus, is a great man…a great and wise teacher…and clearly he has a special connection with God…like one of the prophets of old”
And fascinatingly, this is basically how the crowds still think of Jesus today…2,000 years later…that Jesus is just a wise teacher with a nice connection to God.
He was a great guy…a great…man.
That’s how I thought the first 18 years of my life…before I actually started to follow Jesus.
I never disliked Jesus…I know of hardly anyone who does.
Now, I intensely disliked a number of Christians…
But I didn’t dislike Jesus.
But I didn’t follow Him either
But then, one night in December of 1999…I came home to my house at about 2am…and had this overwhelming feeling that I should read the Bible for myself…which was 100% out of character for me and my life at the time.
I had never in my life read the New Testament…which tells about the life and teachings of Jesus
So I started at the book of Matthew…the first book about Jesus.
And it absolutely blew me away.
Jesus was NOTHING like I thought.
If you would have asked me, “What do you think of when you think of Jesus,” almost none of my thoughts would have matched what’s actually written about him in the Bible!
And when I actually read it for myself, I began to realize, like the disciples, that this wasn’t just a great teacher with a winsome personality.
He was so much more.
PETER ANSWER’S, “GOD’S MESSIAH”
After Jesus asks the disciples what the crowd says about Him, He turns to them and asks:
(Luke 9:20) – NIV
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
In the Book of Matthew, Peter adds, “God’s Messiah…the Son of the Living God!
Now, the disciples are not the crowd.
They haven’t just seen a glimpse of Jesus from afar…or heard one or two of his teachings.
They’ve been closely following Jesus…all day…every day…for quite some time now.
They’ve studied him…listened to countless teachings from Him…seen His life up close.
Unlike the crowds, they know who Jesus REALLY is.
And who did they think He was?
The Messiah, they answer!
I don’t know how familiar you are with that word or not, but Messiah is another word for Savior…or Deliverer.
CAN EACH PERSON IN THE CROWD DEFINE JESUS HOW THEY CHOOSE?
But it seems like, nowadays, most people want to be more like the crowd.
And they want to have a whole bunch of different answers to who Jesus is…not just, “He’s the Messiah, the Savior”
Can we do that?!?
What if, in my mind, I want Him to just be a good teacher…and that’s it?
What if, I like his teachings on “love your neighbor,” but I don’t have much interest in surrendering my life to Him as the Son of God?
I think that’s how a lot of people in America feel.
We want to have some sort of in-between, moderate reaction to Jesus.
However, he great thinker John Stott once astutely put it this way:
“If you read the Bible, you’ll see that nobody who ever met Jesus Christ ever had a moderate reaction to him. There are only three reactions to Jesus: they either hated him and wanted to kill him, they were afraid of him and wanted to run away, or they were absolutely smitten with him and they tried to give their whole lives to him” – John Stott
And that is so true!
In fact, no one ever liked Jesus.
No one in the Bible ever said, “I just like him. Nice guy.”
He never, ever elicits that response out of people
Because He was the Messiah, the Son of God, not just a nice teacher.
Pastor Kevin Miller says that to call Jesus “a great prophet and nice teacher” is actually quite an insult.
He says, “It’s like if you would have met Abraham Lincoln in 1865, after he saved the Union and set free 3.5 million people from slavery…and then told him you thought he was a pretty good lawyer.”
If you said that among friends, what would they have said to you afterwards??
They would have said, “Friend, I don’t think you really know who Lincoln is.”
And so the question before every single person today is on the screen.
It’s what Jesus said, “But what about you…who do you say that I am?”
Who do YOU say Jesus is?
That’s a question that everybody must answer…
And to not answer…is to answer.
It’s to say…He’s no one important.
And we must be careful to not confuse Jesus’ question.
He’s checking in with the disciples to see if they’ve found the truth yet.
He’s saying, “Okay, that’s what the crowds think, but what do you think? Have you discovered the truth yet?”
He’s NOT saying, “Who do you want me to be?”
Because that doesn’t make any sense, right?
And yet, that’s how most people think of God nowadays.
We just want to make Jesus who we want Him to be.
“Nice guy…super loving…low demands on my life…never disagrees with me…or challenges me”
But we don’t get to decide who Jesus is.
That’s ludicrous when you actually think about it
It’s easier to think about if you put yourself in this passage from the Bible.
If you were one of the disciples, and Jesus said, “Who do you say I am?”
Could you, honestly, with a straight face say, “Well, I’m going to worship you as a spiritual being, but really, just the God of my understanding…so I want you to be “more of an idea,” or, I want you to be, “someone who always agrees with everything I think”
No, you could never say that to His face…
Because He is Who HE is…not who we want Him to be.
We don’t get to pick who God is…we need to discover who He is.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE THE MESSIAH
So if the disciples, who were with him day and night, say He’s the messiah…what does that truly mean?
It means that He can save us!
But save us from what?
From our sin!
The truth is we all sin.
We carry hate around in our hearts towards others (at work…or people we disagree with on social media)
We carry lust around in our minds as we watch TV, browse the internet…
We ignore God…we try and live like we’re in charge of our lives instead of Him
The honest truth…that we don’t like to admit…is that we sin…we are far from perfect.
And what we deserve for sinning against a Holy and Perfect God is death. It’s judgment.
(Romans 6:23) – NIV - LEAVE UP FOR A MINUTE!!!!!!
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does that verse mean?
A wage is something you receive for something you do
And God is telling us that what we receive, for even sinning once…is death.
And the judgment that we deserve is separation from God (because He is Holy and perfect)
And separation from God…is eternity in hell, not in heaven.
The wages of sin, the payment for our sin, is hell.
But our sinful and prideful hearts want to say, “No! Stop talking! That’s crazy!”
“As long as I don’t murder anyone or do anything intensely bad…God should let me in…and just look the other way for my minor infractions”
But that’s not how it works.
Because if it worked like that, then we’d be earning our way in.
If that’s how it worked…then I could arrive in heaven someday and say, “I got myself here. I did good works…I avoided the bad things”
If that’s how it works…then I don’t need Jesus…or the cross!
If that’s how it works…if we just need to be good enough…then there would be some of you here…where it would already be too late. Your sin would already be piled too high to overcome”
When I say, that we deserve to go to hell…even for sinning once…our prideful hearts want to say…that’s awful…God seems…almost cruel in that scenario.
But hear me…no…that’s not true at all.
In fact, it’s the other version, the version where we “have to be good enough” where God seems quite awful and cruel!
If God is somehow demanding that I outweigh my bad deed with my good deeds, and if not, He has no choice but to send me to hell…He’s nothing but a cruel task master…whom I can’t seem to please…
Because I’m probably not going to be good enough
If I’ve already made a mess of my life, so much so that the bad is far outweighing the good, and God is looking down saying, “It’s probably already too late…”
How is that a merciful and loving God?
That’s not who God is!
That’s a judge that has NEITHER mercy for our mistakes or proper justice for our sin.
Here’s a way to help us think through this: Imagine with me that something great has just happened in your life…and you go out one night to celebrate with friends.
And even though you don’t normally drink, or drink all that much, for whatever reason…that night you have more than you should have.
Your friends try and tell you that you shouldn’t be driving, but you’re adamant that you’re fine…and they relent and let you start driving home.
But you weren’t fine…
And on the way home, you swerve over the yellow line, and smash into another car with 3 teenagers, killing them all, instantly.
Months later, you’re finally brought to trial, and for some strange reason, your own father is the judge.
Now your father has been a judge for decades …and when you hear that he’s going to be the judge…at first you thought, “Oh, He loves me, I’ll be just fine! Turns out I won’t go to prison for the next 15 years afterall!”
But then you remember that your father is a good and just judge.
He always punishes the guilty…no matter what…he sticks to the law. He’s just.
And so you start to get nervous.
What’s going to win out?
His love or his justice?
When the trial comes to an end…and the gavel comes down…he pronounces you guilty (which you were), and he announces the sentence.
But then, he shocks everyone in attendance, by taking off his judicial robes…walking down to the bailiff, and asks to be taken to prison to serve your sentence in your place…
…because he loves you that much.
Now, we hear that and we say, “well, in the court of American law, that would never work”
But in God’s court, that’s exactly how it worked.
God sees ALL of our sin…every last dot of it…and we are incredibly and absolutely guilty.
But Jesus is so in love with you that He took off his heavenly robes, came down to earth, and served your sentence for you…on the cross.
NO MATTER what you’ve done.
Here’s the thing about God:
God is far more HOLY than most want Him to be, but also, far more FORGIVING than most think he should be.
He’s the Savior to all who call out to Him.
SO WHO DO YOU SAY HE IS??
So what about you?
Who do you say He is?
Have you found Him yet?
Have you discovered just how amazing He is?
Do you know His love?
Can you imagine someone who loves you so much that they said, “Yes, that person rightfully should be judged for their sin…I’ve seen every last, dark secret of their sin…
“BUT…I love them so much…I will go in their place…I’ll be executed on the cross, and take their judgment for them…”
“I’ll put the judgment on me, so that THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN FAITH can be clean, forgiven”
That’s WHO He is!
Who do you say He is? …
This is the most important decision of your life.
The most important decision of your life is not…
What job will you have…that’ll last maybe 40 years.
It’s not whom will you marry…that’ll last perhaps 50 years.
The single most important decision of your life is… “What do you say about Jesus?” “WHO DO YOU SAY HE IS?”
He has come as the Messiah and He died in your place on the cross.
If you believe in that, you will follow Him, and your faith will save you.
But if you don’t believe in it, you cannot be saved.
Because we can’t save ourselves from our sin.
If you’ve just been drifting the last few years or…even decades of your life…and putting this question off…
Please, I beg you…search for the truth.
Some of you are ready to follow…today…you’re thinking, “Just tell me what to do now!”
Others of you, if you’re not ready, start searching for truth.
There’s a Bible under your chair.
If you’ve never really read it…I want you to take that with you today…and start in the Book of Matthew.
If there truly is an afterlife that lasts forever, the biggest disservice you could ever do yourself would be to not look into it!
You can’t bank your next trillion years on a hunch you have about Jesus.
You have to know!
Jesus wants nothing more than for you to find Him and let Him into your life.
And if you’re here today…and this is really SINKING IN for the first time.
I mean, certainly you’ve heard something about Jesus before…
But it’s sinking in for the first time how much He really loves you…that He died in your place…
And you want to surrender your life to Him today…I encourage you to do that. Today.
If the God of the Universe is putting that on YOUR heart right now…please follow that!
All it takes is faith.
(John 3:16) – NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
You don’t have to be good enough.
You’re never going to be good enough…
But He Loves you anyway.
You’re not going to be perfect at this…
You’re going to keep messing up.
But if you believe, in faith, that He died for you…He’ll come into your life and forever change you…I promise you that.
And He’ll save you from judgment, and give you the gift of eternal life with Him in heaven.
So…who do you say that He is?”
If you want to tell Him today…for the first time…that HE’s your SAVIOR…and you’re ready to surrender your life to Him for the first time and accept His gift of forgiveness...I want to give you that opportunity right now.
Let’s just have everybody bow their heads and close their eyes…for just a minute.
If you want to make that decision to be forgiven and to follow Him this afternoon… in a minute…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “God, I believe you are the Messiah, the Savior, and I want to surrender my life to you…to be saved!”
This is how you can be forgiven, go to heaven, and have a relationship with God…it’s by making this decision.
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you and you’ve never done this before.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him for the first time, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are. (you can stay standing for a minute as others join you)
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME.
If God himself is prompting you to do something right now, don’t disobey that.
Stand up. God is talking to you!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
This is not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you who are standing for just a moment
I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, one of our leaders is going to pray, but right before they do that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.
I’m going to go out there with you…and I want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
Also, if you feel like today was the day that you too did, in your heart, surrender your life to Jesus, but you just didn’t want to stand up…
Come out in the hallway with us too, just sneak out while people have their eyes closed
I promise you all will be able to sneak right back into the service & back into your seats in just a few minutes
All right, one of our leaders is going to pray
But for now, would you please had out there with me.
Go ahead. We can all go together.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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