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Who Is Jesus...Really?

Photo credit: Unsplash.com_mhull Surveys. Opinion polls. Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite to know what other people think about... fill in the bank.

For all the mining of opinions and the flood of information available, what do we really know? Are we truly the most informed generation in history?

We know a lot of minutiae about a lot of things. This helps us in trivia games, but doesn't answer life's big questions.

A valuable question

At the beginning of this story (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks His disciples a question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He wanted to know what the disciples heard among the people.

Yet, He was far more concerned with what the disciples thought, as seen by His second question to them.

In sharing the gospel with others, we need to be mindful of what people are thinking and saying about who Jesus is. It is valid to ask people what their perception of Jesus is before launching into a presentation of the gospel.

Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should be a factor in how the gospel is told or related.

[bctt tweet="Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should factor into how we share the gospel"]

The wrong approach

When zealous believers approached me during my spiritual search, I would hear, “you can become a Christian and still have fun!” One time I was approached while in an altered state of mind and told I could still “own a sports car and become a Christian.”

Having a sports car was the farthest thing from my mind at the time! It did not attract me to Christianity.

Although well-intentioned, this approach to share the gospel was off target. My biggest need was getting my eyes off what I wanted, or what I thought could bring fulfillment in my life.

A frame of reference

Genuine questions can reveal where people stand on spiritual matters, and their opinion about Jesus.

Asking about a person’s life can open them up to hear God’s Story. If a person’s life story is full of difficulties, or reveals a searching for spiritual truth and significance in life, it opens an opportunity for connecting them with God.

Presently in America, more and more people, especially young adults, have a limited understanding of Jesus. They may know more about Buddha or Mohammed than Jesus. Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth.

[bctt tweet="Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth"]

Spiritual truth is conceptual, abstract, and intangible, yet we live in a material world. If we don’t perceive what their perception is about Jesus, the Bible, or other spiritual truth, we give them information they can’t process.

We need to know

In contrast, we may pay more attention to what others have to say than we should. Many people are intimidated to share their faith story, fearing rejection. Others are unsure of what to say or how to say it.

Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed—an understanding rooted in a genuine personal relationship with God.

[bctt tweet="Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed"]

When the gospel is shared with sincerity of heart and in simple words, it is more apt to be heard.

Who do You say Jesus is?

Then Jesus asks His second far more pointed and important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

It was a question of progress for the apostles. Were they grappling with the same question, or were they sure in their hearts? Ultimately, everyone must answer this question. One day, all people will answer this question in God’s presence.

What is your belief?

Other opinions aside, what is your belief? What others say may be of interest, but what is your own belief? How would you answer the question of who Jesus is?

If you are a Christian believer—that is, you have a personal relationship with the Lord, and you’ve experienced a spiritual rebirth—you should be able to answer this question. But, how would you answer? How would you describe who Jesus is to someone else?

Truth is revealed by God

Spiritual truth can only be conveyed if a person understands it in his or her own spirit. As the apostle Paul says, “ . . . not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:13).

It is not knowledge of words, written or spoken. God through the Holy Spirit must reveal spiritual truth. It is expressed in words, but understanding and acceptance is God’s work in a person’s heart and mind.

What are your thoughts about Jesus? Do you know who He is?

Do you know Him personally and tell others about your relationship with Him?


Next week I'll continue to look at who Jesus really is. This post is an excerpt from my book on the Essential Gospel. Here's another related post– The Core of the Gospel

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel

 

Heart Searched

©2014 Scott Rosen When my wife was a young child, she thought of herself as a character in a storybook. It was as if someone was turning the pages of a big storybook, as she lived out each day. Have you ever felt like that? Like your life was an open book for others to see?

As a four-year-old, I remember looking up at the night sky in awe. Seeing all the stars made me feel so small. What about you? Do you, or have you ever had, a sense of your smallness within the universe?

When we have a sense that we’re being watched by someone greater than ourself, or a sense of our smallness, it's not an accident or anomaly. (read more)

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's blog. Click here to read the rest– Heart Searched

Next week I'll return to writing an article, as usual. Thanks for reading!

The Search to Know God

Photo credit: TNValleyTalks.com  

Not long ago, I posted Calvary Chapel—Past and Present as a guest post on Ed Cyzewski's blog. It's easy to reminisce, but I'm not so big on that. Selective memory tends to cloud reality and make things worse or better than they were.

In that post I share a bit of my early history with Calvary Chapel. So, here's a little more of my own life story and search for God. My search proved fruitful, but it met some roadblocks along the way.

It may be history, but it's relevant for our times and a new generation.

The 60's and the Jesus Movement

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.[i] This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression during that decade. Young people, including those known as hippies, joined the developing counterculture of the 1960's and popularized the Jesus Movement. A spiritual vacuum existed in those days.

[bctt tweet="During the Jesus Movement—It’s not about religion, but relationship was a common expression"]

For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era. Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[ii]

My search begins

In my own search for truth, I sampled the wisdom of various religions and philosophies, which surrounded me in abundance and diversity. I was raised in a nominally Christian home and confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at age twelve.

But my Christian moorings were too weak to keep me from drifting into the counter-cultural vortex of the day. Initially, my search produced plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that era.

[bctt tweet="My Christian moorings were too weak for the counter-cultural vortex of the 60's"]

Through it all, I came to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a church in Southern California that grew into a mega-church within the Jesus Movement.

I attended an evening service where a young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he invited us to “accept Christ.”[iii] But, I wasn’t ready to do this.

Questions, questions, questions

After the service, I asked many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible-answer-man of sorts, so I continued to ask questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

[bctt tweet="Answering questions with Scripture quotes, with no explanation, is not helpful"]

Each time I asked a question, he quoted a Scripture in response. I heard a round of “amen’s” and some cheers, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, then how would you tell me you truly know God?” He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

More wandering

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus. I continued to read the Bible and pray, but didn’t give up the other counterproductive activities and experiences to my spiritual growth. My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, I left the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend to search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt.[iv] I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices. Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold. This text showed me I was on the wrong path and it led to destruction.

[bctt tweet="Do you expect some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience from God?"]

A new path and new door

I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God. My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living. I began to give up the old habits of my previous lifestyle and develop new ones.

On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom. I had closed the door on my old life as a new door to a new life opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God. I began to serve the Lord[v] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I were full-time volunteers overseeing the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

Years later, I’ve wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual committing of my life to Jesus could have been much shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

[bctt tweet="For many, Jesus is a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery"]

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel. For many people, Jesus is a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

I believe every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon. Is this possible? Absolutely!

[Check out Acronym-ically Speaking for how this is possible!]

This post is an edited excerpt from my book. If you'd like to read more, it's available in paperback and as an e-book.


[i]The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[ii]The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— http://goo.gl/HwxIJ| http://goo.gl/0vA5T. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here are some links to articles about MTD— http://goo.gl/pJLgY | http://goo.gl/RvllH

[iii]“Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] Reference— Exodus 3:1-6

[v]“Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”

Rhetoric or Substance?

©tkbeyond/word-stong.com Rhetoric. Spin. Misinformation. This is what we contend with listening to various members and spokespersons of the government. The media have its own spin, which produces a boatload of misinformation.

And we the public? We're left with the choice of being gullible and gulping down what we are fed, or the bitter taste of cynicism.

This should never be the case for followers of Jesus, but too often it is. Among the ranks of believers, cynics and critics abound, and a fair share of gullible ignorance blinds followers along the way. Why?

Who and what are we listening to?

Perhaps the problem is with who and what we listen to, along with how we listen. This alone has a big impact on the direction of our life every day.

When we listen to many voices, we'll hear many different ideas and opinions. This can be disconcerting and confusing. If we lock onto one voice, or one source of influence, we need to choose well. Otherwise, we will be led astray.

This was my dilemma as a young man. I read and listened to a variety of voices. This dizzying blend of influences produced uncertainty, not clarity. What I needed was substance, not wisps of wisdom.

Substance

One constant existed as I sought wisdom and truth. I read the Bible everyday. Not a lot, but it was a regular part of my daily life. It wasn't a religious thing, but I felt drawn to it. Yet, most of what I read I didn't understand.

I was lost, wandering, and confused while searching for the truth. Somehow, I knew Jesus needed to fit into it all. (Tweet this) **

Along the way, as I continued my search and heard various pitches from well-intended truth salesman, I kept reading the Bible.

The voice of God, especially Jesus, grew louder and more clear. It rang true. He rang true—His words, actions, and character.

Unlike many people I encountered in life, He was gracious and gentle. His voice beckoned me without coercing me. He was approachable, but firm. He won my heart and brought clarity to my mind. (Tweet this)

How did He do it?

As I read His words and how He spoke to people in the Bible, I was engaged in the stories myself. (Tweet this) I heard Him speaking to the first followers, "Come and you will see." (John 1:38-39)

I heard His invitation to whoever would hear it—

“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 GWT)

I saw His heart towards people (Matt. 9:36) and heard His heart of compassion for them (Matt 15:32).

He called me and beckoned me to come to Him

One day I realized I needed to make a choice. I came to this place in the Bible— (Tweet this)

“Enter through the narrow gate because the gate and road that lead to destruction are wide. Many enter through the wide gate. But the narrow gate and the road that lead to life are full of trouble. Only a few people find the narrow gate." (Matt 7:13-14 GWT)

I chose the narrow gate and the difficult way because it led to life. I chose to follow Jesus. Once I chose to follow Him, I began to hear His voice in a more personal way. That day, a great assurance entered my heart and filled my daily life. I was able to hear His voice with clarity. (John 10:27-28)

My first experience with discipleship was with Jesus. He discipled me. Although other believers helped along the way, it was through His words and by His Spirit (John 15:26). (Tweet this)

I often wonder why discipleship is not more prevalent within the church. Maybe we get the concept wrong. (Tweet this) Perhaps we see it more as a task than a relationship.

The most important relationship is the one we have with Jesus. (Tweet this) If a person disciples another person to be like them, they are missing the heart of it. It isn't a program or curriculum, it's a way of life. And it's always about relationship with Jesus.

When I heard what Jesus said to His followers (Luke 9:23), how could I not respond to Him?

Hearing God's voice

Are you struggling to hear the voice of God? Or to really know Him? (Tweet this)

May I suggest something simple?

Try reading through the Gospels—all four of them. Don't just read them, allow yourself to be drawn into the story, engage with your heart, not just your mind.

If you're not a reader, or even if you are, try listening through the Gospels. Plenty of (free) audio versions are available for your smart phone, computer, or whatever listening device you've got. Just search for "audio Bible," there's plenty available.

Here's a sampling below—

https://www.bible.com/100million [You Version is also online for computers]

http://www.biblica.com/bibles/audio/niv/ [Biblica has the Bible online also]

https://bible.org/ [also has audio online]

http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/ [one of the earliest online Bible resources]

http://www.biblestudytools.com/audio-bible/nlt/ [the NLT audio version and another online resource]

_______________________

** Help me spread the word by tweeting this (click on the link– "Tweet this") on your Twitter account. No Twitter account? No problem, just copy and paste and share on another social media. Thanks!

The Search

©CCCM – the Tent

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.

This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression in those days. Young people popularized the Jesus Movement, including those known as hippies who joined the developing counterculture of the 1960s.

A spiritual vacuum

A spiritual vacuum existed in those days. For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era.

Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[i]

In my own search for truth as a youth, I sampled wisdom from various religions and philosophies that surrounded me in abundance and diversity.

Raised in a nominally Christian home, even confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve, I found my Christian moorings too weak to keep me from drifting into varied experiences, philosophies, and religious encounters. These encounters brought plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I had developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that time.

Through it all, I was coming to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a certain church in Southern California, which later became a mega church within the Jesus Movement.[ii]

Thrown out

I attended an evening service where a very young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he gave an invitation to “accept Christ.”[iii]I wasn’t ready to do this.

After the service, I began asking many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible answer-man of sorts—I continued asking my questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

Each time he quoted a Scripture in response to my many questions, I could hear a round of “amen’s” and some cheering, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, how would you then tell me how you truly know God?”

He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

The wrong way

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord. I continued reading the Bible and praying, but didn’t give up the other activities and experiences that were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.

My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, leaving the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend, I went on a search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6).

I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices.

Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I had considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold.

This text showed me I was on the wrong path that led to destruction. I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God.

A changed life

My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living.

I began to give up old habits of my previous lifestyle and developed new ones. On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom.

I had closed the door on my old life as a new door opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God.

I began serving the Lord[iv] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I became full-time volunteers who oversaw the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

A better way

Years later, I’ve often wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual commitment of my life to Jesus could have been shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel.

For many people, Jesus is only a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon.

Is this possible? Absolutely!


[i] The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— Barna article. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here is a link to an article about MTD

[ii] The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[iii] “Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] “Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”


This is another excerpt from my book— The Mystery of the Gospel