Who Is This Leader?

Dear Lord,

   I have an appetite for clarity but not the technique. I have tried to be honest and specific, but I am not an honestly specific person. When I first stood up to teach in a classroom, I blurted out my whole year's lesson plan in the opening lecture. Maybe I've done that again?

    I want to proceed with the accounting of the Christian walk, but my mind keeps going back to the fundamentals of birth. Could it be that I am so eager to get on with my plan that I'm reluctant to spend too much time with Yours?

   Well, Lord, once again start with me. Make me to go in the way of Your law. Make me to type in the words of Your choice, and make me to write only of that glorifying to Your purposes.

   In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Amen.                

   One day, still deeply depressed, I found another Bible verse that spoke to me:

Yet the proof of God's amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 PHILLIPS            

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   I still don't know all the theological ramifications of that verse, but I know what I understood then of its validity. Jesus Christ died for me knowing I was a sinner. He knew me and loved me anyway.

   He knew that I made and broke resolutions in one and the same breath. He knew that all the love I claimed to have for others was mostly fake. He knew that my seemingly gentle manner covered seething resentments and a constantly critical evaluation of others. He knew the times I lied and all the times I had denied and would deny Him. He knew the only authority I had ever recognized was one based on threat, yet He offered me authority based on love. And He took action on my behalf.

   More than anything else, the principle in that verse meant that for the first time in my life I had a relationship that was secure — because Jesus Christ already knew all the disappointing truths about me, and had taken action to free me from their pattern.

   One night all alone in my fine, dissatisfying apartment, I cried out, "All right! Jesus Christ, whoever You are, You take over." Can you guess what happened next? Can you imagine the sudden peace and joy that I experienced? I can't, because it didn't happen that way for me!

    The next morning I felt the same, looked the same, and made the disgusting observation that I was the same! I hoped some would notice a startling difference and tried to glow, but I failed miserably.

   Finally, I admitted to a friend that I had turned my life over to Christ but nothing had happened. She told

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me I didn't have enough faith, so I started going home a little early and trying to have faith.

   I didn't know how it was done, but I suspected it was done with the eyebrow muscles, because that's the look people had when they talked about it. You know what I mean. That rolling up of the forehead and wide spacing of the eyes to give the appearance of joy. I tried it, I really did. I didn't have any more faith, but I sure did have a headache! Oh, I wanted to have some fine validating experience! How could I ever hope to be a sure-fire Christian without it?

   Some of all that effort was fine, but most of it was just plain stupid. Christ in you will make a difference but He does it!

   Faith is a gift of God. It is not, never was, and never will be a product of man's best efforts. It is a gift.

   Scripture taught me that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith — faith comes by hearing; by hearing the Word of God. God healed me by His Word and in His Word I learned why something really wonderful had happened when I turned my life over to Jesus Christ.

   In contemplating the imperfection of God's heroic saints, one principle undergirds each study: We may hope to run with feet of clay because Jesus Christ is who He is, has done what He has done, is doing what He is doing, and will do what He will do.

   Every assurance the Christian holds is securely rooted in the character of God. That's the reason the comfort of God is based on His faithfulness and not ours.

   I believe that most of the multitude that rejects

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Christ today does so from ignorance. We Christians haven't told the story clearly.

    I was in New York for a massive evangelism program. We were all keyed up by the excitement of what was being done and by our eagerness to be part of it. I remember someone told us to use that opportunity to tell everyone about Christ. Well, I took that to heart! I flung fragments of testimony to people on buses, to taxi drivers, to elevator operators, even to someone who got the first of my message before the subway doors benevolently separated us. I pray that God will get help to those poor confused people who heard only my rumors of the factors of God. The message must be clear and complete.

Who Is He?

   When Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem that Sunday before His death, He was greatest with great and noisy acclaim. The gestures offered by those who accompanied Him to the steps of the temple were not tokens of casual choice. The coats and palm leaves thrown in His path, the words chanted so gleefully, even the donkey bearing its noble burden, were all statements about His identity.

   A parade gathers paraders, and the whole city of Jerusalem was alerted to a time and person of significance. The residents of Jerusalem gathered in eagerness as Christ's unrehearsed procession passed through the winding streets. The Bible says that all the city was moved and asked, "Who is this?"

   Can't you imagine the murmur that would sweep through the city after such an event? Who is He? Some

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carpenter who has been preaching in the temple comes into the city and a multitude of people go wild. Who is He?

   I have wondered over that question, just as Jerusalem did. That one question lies at the heart of the whole Christian message and separates Christianity from all religions.

   The multitude in Jerusalem said that He was the prophet of Nazareth. The coats and palm leaves that lay in His path proclaimed Him victor and king. The chanted words from Psalms 118 and the donkey He rode proclaimed Him to be Israel's Messiah.

   All the insults and abuses thrown at Him, from the manger in Bethlehem to the cross of Calvary, but no one ever confronted Him with facts that would have dismissed His claimed identity.

   The Messiah of Israel would have to fulfill prophecies of the sacred writings. One slight deviation from the pattern prescribed in the law would have relegated Him to the growing group of imposters that made the same claim He made.

   Jesus not only claimed a unique relationship with God, but He linked Himself with His pre-existence. He said, "...before there was an Abraham, I AM!" (John 8:58). He forgave sin, which was only God's prerogative, and brought the dead to life, which was only God's power.

   The prophecies said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrata. Four hundred years later, Mary, a pregnant Jewish virgin, and her husband Joseph left Nazareth to return to the city of Joseph's birth — Bethlehem Ephrata.

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   The prophecies said the child Messiah would sojourn in Egypt, come out of Nazareth, and be heralded by a forerunner. Mary and Joseph, threatened by Herod, fled to Egypt before returning to Nazareth, where their child grew to perfect manhood. He was proclaimed by John the Baptist to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

   The prophet Daniel predicted the time of His coming. Jeremiah painted the manner of His personality. The Psalms spelled out His work and teaching. Isaiah 53 gave a meticulous description of His death.

   I didn't know these facts, and what I didn't know was hurting me. I thought God was trying to enlist me to establish His kingdom. I didn't know His kingdom has been established before the creation of the earth!

   I thought Christ was either a poverty-bred infant in a manger or a badly mistreated man dying on a cross. No one ever got it through to me that that seemingly vulnerable baby and that man suffering in death had power beyond my understanding.

   Who is He? Judas Iscariot gave his final answer to that question as he joined Christ and the other disciples at their final Passover meal.    

   I can just hear Judas' sharp intake of breath as Christ presented to him the honor of being the first guest served at the Passover dinner. Christ, knowing all there was to know about Judas, still gave him one final chance. Scripture says that after Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

   Judas made a choice, like the free moral agent God had allowed him to be. To Judas, Jesus Christ may well have been the gentlest man he had ever

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known — a teacher beyond compare — a character of exemplary honesty a personality of fascinating uniqueness — but not God, self-functioning in His Sovereign right to unquestioned authority. Not God. Not Lord, to whom only obedience is reasonable and for whom no sacrifice is wasted. And for Judas, who chose to be beyond persuasion, He was not Saviour.

   And then, knowing Judas had made his choice, Christ leaned forward and said, "What you are about to do — do at once!" The betrayed exercised His authority over the betrayer by prodding him into God's timetable. "Judas," Christ said, "you're late. Do it now!" Judas went out of there like a shot.

   Not even the mockery of a mismanaged trial, or the agony of acute physical suffering wrested power from this man. After hours of torture, paid out second by second, He cried with the full strength of a loud voice, and by His still-authoritative power, He gave up His life. Who is He? Who is this One who calls forth the cues of His own betrayal and in His death, as well as in His birth, fulfills every prophecy?

What Has He Done?

   He lived a perfect life that offered a scant three years of active ministry. He healed the sick, He forgave sins, He taught with shocking authority, He collected a little band of followers, and He offered His life as atonement for sin.

   The life of Christ set many patterns for Christians, but it is His death that provides the means by which the example He gave can be followed. Our feet are fallible; only by His help can we walk in His steps.

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   He said He identified with man as man. He said He identified with God as God. He said He was willing to pay the price for the chasm in between. That's why He died. No one took Christ's life from Him. He gave it away. When Peter urged Him to detour Jerusalem and avoid the threat of death, Christ answered, "It was for this reason I came into the world!" The last words He spoke from the cross were uttered in full control of His senses.

   Why was this special One literally born to die? Because God and man had been irrevocably separated by sin. God said He would redeem us from sin, deliver us out from under. That's a phrase from the Bible that eases me every time I read it:

   ... I will bring you out from under the burdens...

Exodus 6:6                

   God spelled out the only acceptable sacrifice for sin — that which would deliver us out from under. In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet offers a detailed account of the Messiah's sacrifice.

    ... and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6              

   The iniquity of us all laid on Him! That's what was so totally finished on the cross. That's why Christ cried out, "It is finished." The full payment for sin rested upon Christ.

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   And in that moment, Christ, separated from God the Father by our sins, cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" God can have no fellowship with sin, even when it is His only-begotten Son hanging there beneath sin's monstrous burden. That's what Christ did for us. Divine atonement. We accept that when we accept Him as Lord.

   That's why I am a Christian. I exercised my choice for Christ, and that decision meant that all He was in His person and all He did to pay the price for my sin was credited to my account. As I identified with Him, His identification with me made me acceptable unto God, and valuable. I am a person of value because of the identity and work of Christ.

   The Christian life begins when an individual faces the fact of his need for a Saviour and trusts Jesus Christ to meet that need. If you have never given your life over into the hands of Jesus Christ, you are still on the outside looking in, and you have no idea what the Christian life is all about.

   Now is as good a time as any to put that matter in order. You can claim life everlasting right now. All you need say is: "Jesus Christ, I am a sinner, and I believe You died for me in my place. I take You as my Lord and Saviour. Thank You for saving me."

   All the complexity has been taken care of by God, who loved you so much He has already done the hard part. You can't make Him any promises of your perfection, but you can trust His perfection to do for you, and then in you, all He promised to you.

Chapter 3  ||  Table of Contents