Who is Jesus?

The Bible declares that Jesus was/is God the Son who in His incarnation (birth into human history as fully God and fully man) provided for us the clearest and most important revelation of God that has ever been or ever will be and can alone forgive our sins and grant us salvation. In Hebrews 1:1-3 we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

The question of Jesus is of vital importance because while many people believe such things as that Jesus lived, was a good teacher, or a very spiritual man, there remains many erroneous perspectives of Him that deny that He is God. The Apostle Paul spoke of this propensity to reduce the majesty of the real Jesus in favor of a diluted and diminished Jesus that in the end is no longer truly Jesus at all. In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 Paul writes, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

To help you determine your own personal belief about Jesus we have compiled the following eight reasons and hope they will compel you to receive Him as your own God. Each line of reasoning includes a verse from the Bible that is a quote from the mouth of Jesus declaring that He was/is God. Jesus was put to death for continually declaring Himself to be God and in the end it really comes down to whether or not each of us believes Him and on that point His words become incredibly personal and pertinent.

  1. Jesus said He was God
  2. Jesus said He came from heaven
  3. Jesus said He was sinless
  4. Jesus forgave sin
  5. Jesus said He was the only way to heaven
  6. Jesus confirmed to others He was God
  7. Jesus accepted worship as God
  8. Jesus performed miracles including rising from death

*Content in this section is adapted from Mars Hill Church.

What is the Gospel?

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .” — 1 Corinthians 15:1–4

The word gospel simply means “good news.” The central message of the Bible is the gospel, or good news, about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul provides the most succinct summary of the gospel: the man Jesus is also God, or Christ, and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins; three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life.

The great reformer Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners, we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways. The first is religion/spirituality and the second is the gospel. The two are antithetical in every way.

Religion The Gospel
Religion says that if we obey God He will love us The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey
Religion says that the world is filled with good people and bad people. The gospel says that the world is filled with bad people who are either repentant or unrepentant.
Religion says that you should trust in what you do as a good moral person. The gospel says that you should trust in the perfectly sinless life of Jesus because He alone is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.
The goal of religion is to get from God such things as health, wealth, insight, power, and control. The goal of the gospel is not the gifts God gives, but rather God as the gift given to us by grace.
Religion is about what I have to do. The gospel is about what I get to do.
Religion sees hardship in life as punishment from God. The gospel sees hardship in life as sanctifying affliction that reminds us of Jesus’ sufferings and is used by God in love to make us more like Jesus.
Religion is about me. The gospel is about Jesus.
Religion says that if we obey God He will love us The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey
Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God. The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.
Religion ends in either pride (because I think I am better than other people) or despair (because I continually fall short of God’s commands). The gospel ends in humble and confident joy because of the power of Jesus at work for me, in me, through me, and sometimes in spite of me.

*Content in this section is adapted from Mars Hill Church.

How can I know God?

by TIM KELLER – June, 1991

What is Christianity? Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is actually an experience. None of these things really gets to the heart of the matter, however. Each is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God. A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.

“Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” — John 17:3

Why do I need to know God?

Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize that desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house—these breakthroughs arouse in us antic ipation of something which, as it turns out, never occurs. We eventually discover that our desire for that precious something is a longing no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness or denial, but at best there is just a postponement. “Nothing tastes,” said Marie Antoinette.

There are several ways to respond to this
By blaming the things themselves …by finding fault in everyone and everything around you. You believe that a better spouse, a better career, a better boss or salary would finally yield the elusive joy. Many of the most successful people of the world are like this – bored, discontented, running from new thing to new thing, often changing counselors, mates, partners, or settings.
By blaming yourself …by trying harder to live up to standards. Many people believe they have made poor choices or have failed to measure up to challenges and to achieve the things that would give them joy and satisfaction. Such people are wracked with self-doubts and tend to burn themselves out. They think, “If only I could reach my goals, then this emptiness would be gone.” But it is not so.
By blaming the universe itself …by giving up seeking fulfillment at all. This is the person who says, “Yes, when I was young I was idealistic, but at my age I have stopped howling after the moon.” This makes you become cynical, you decide to repress that part of yourself that once wanted fulfillment and joy. But you become hard, and you can feel yourself losing your humanity, compassion, and joy.
By blaming and recognizing your separation from God …by seeing that the emptiness comes from your separation from God, and by establishing a personal relationship with him.

In order to form a personal relationship with God, you must know three things:

1. Who we are
God’s creation God created us and built us for a relationship with him. We belong to him, and we owe him gratitude for every breath, every moment, everything. Because humans were built to live for him (to worship), we will always try to worship something – if not God, we will choose some other object of ultimate devotion to give our lives meaning.
Sinners We have all chosen (and re-affirm daily) to reject God and to make our own joy and happiness our highest priority. We do not want to worship God and surrender ourself as master, yet we are built to worship, so we cling to idols, centering our lives on things that promise to give us meaning: success, relationships, influence, love, comfort, and so on.
In spiritual bondage To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown and decay. When a fish leaves the water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshiping other things besides God leads to a loss of meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot deliver satisfaction, because they were never meant to be “gods.” They were never meant to replace God. Worshiping other things besides God also leads to self- image problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these things. We must have them or all is lost; so they drive us to work too hard, or they fill us with terror if they are jeopardized.
2. Who God is
Love and justice His active concern is for our joy and well-being. Most people love those who love them, yet God loves and seeks the good even of people who are his enemies. But because God is good and loving, he cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger, but indifference. “The more you love your son, the more you hate in him the liar, the drunkard, the traitor,” (E. Gifford). To imagine God’s situation, imagine a judge who also is a father, who sits at the trial of his guilty son. A judge knows he cannot let his son go, for without justice no society can survive. How much less can a loving God merely ignore or suspend justice for us—who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion against his loving authority?
Jesus Christ Jesus is God himself come to Earth. He first lived a perfect life, loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind, fulfilling all human obligation to God. He lived the life you owed—a perfect record. Then, instead of receiving his deserved reward (eternal life), Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking the punishment and death each of us owed. When we believe in him: 1) our sins are paid for by his death, and 2) his perfect life record is transferred to our account. So God accepts and regards us as if we have done all Christ has done.
3. What you must do
Repent There first must be an admission that you have been living as your own master, worshipping the wrong things, violating God’s loving laws. “Repentance” means you ask forgiveness and turn from that stance with a willingness to live for and center on him.
Believe Faith is transferring your trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ. You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously begin relying on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing. If you think, “God owes me something for all my efforts,” you are still on the outside.
Pray after this fashion “I see I am more flawed and sinful than I ever dared believe, but that I am even more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I turn from my old life of living for myself. I have nothing in my record to merit your approval, but I now rest in what Jesus did and ask to be accepted into God’s family for his sake.” When you make this transaction, two things happen at once:
Your accounts are cleared, your sins are wiped out permanently, you are adopted legally into God’s family. The Holy Spirit enters your heart and begins to change you into the character of Jesus.
Follow through Tell a Christian friend about your commitment. Get yourself training in the basic Christian disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, and fellowship with other Christians.

Why should I seek God?

On one hand, you may feel that you “need” him. Even though you may recognize that you have needs only God can meet, you must not try to use him to achieve your own ends. It is not possible to bargain with God. (I’ll do this if you will do that.”) That is not Christianity at all, but a form of magic or paganism in which you “appease” the cranky deity in exchange for a favor. Are you getting into Christianity to serve God, or to get God to serve you? Those are two opposite motives and they result in two different religions. You must come to God because:

  1. You owe it to him to give him your life (because he is your creator)
  2. You are deeply grateful to him for sacrificing his son (because he is your redeemer.)

On the other hand, you may feel no need or interest to know God at all. This does not mean you should stay uncommitted. If you were created by God, then you owe him your life, whether you feel like it or not. You are obligated to seek him and ask him to soften your heart, open your eyes, and enlighten you. If you say, “I have no faith,” that is no excuse either. You need only doubt your doubts. No one can doubt everything at once — you must believe in something to doubt something else. For example, do you believe you are competent to run your own life? Where is the evidence of that? Why doubt everything but your doubts about God and your faith in yourself? Is that fair? You owe it to God to seek him. Do so.

What if I’m not ready to proceed?

Make a list of the issues that you perceive to be barriers to your crossing the line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:

Content issues Do you understand the basics of the Christian message—sin, Jesus as God, sacrifice, faith?
Coherence issues Are there intellectual problems you have with Christianity? Are there objections to the Christian faith that you cannot resolve in your own mind?
Cost issues Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you dearly?  What fears do you have about commitment?

Now talk to a Christian friend until these issues are resolved. Consider reading: Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan) and Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP)

© 1991, Timothy Keller

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Baptism

What is baptism?

Baptism is an outward sign of the inward transformation God has brought to your life through Jesus. Baptism is a profoundly significant demonstration to the Lord, to his church, and to a watching world that you have turned from your previous sin (repentance) and turned fully to Christ (faith). It’s a declaration to all that Jesus is the Lord of your life.

Why be baptized?**

Jesus instructed us to be baptized. Baptism is an act of obedience. While it is not necessary for salvation, it demonstrates submission to God. While not to get hung up on the mode of baptism, we immerse at LifeConnection because we believe Scripture demonstrates this in its vocabulary and in the life of Jesus himself.

To Follow the Example Set by Jesus:

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. — Mark 1:9

Jesus Himself Commanded It:

Then Jesus said to them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” — Matthew 28:19-20

To Publicly Demonstrate That A Person Is A Believer:

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. — Acts 8:2

… And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. — Acts 18:8

To Openly Demonstrate Obedience to Jesus Christ:

Jesus: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” — John 15:14

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are ready to be baptized. Just like a bride and groom show others their love for one another by wearing wedding bands, your baptism is your opportunity to show others that you have accepted Christ and are now walking with him.

How to take the next step

Have questions? Wonder if baptism is for you? Have you been baptized in the past but unsure if you were truly a follower of Jesus? To talk to one of the pastors about baptism email us at chris@lifeconnectionkc.org or just mark the communication card on Sunday.

**adapted from various sources

To talk to a pastor about what it means to become a Christian email us.

You can also check out this short gospel presentation – “Two Ways to Live