“If I were teaching” – week 2: JESUS

One week ago I launched a new weekly feature built around the idea, “If I were teaching Sunday school this week…” I promised to post every weekend for two reasons.

  1. I miss teaching,
  2. As a resource for other leaders.

The first lesson – Week 1 of the 12-week series “A Charge of Life” – dealt with coming up with a list of ten important elements of a faith that embraces fullness and life. I shared the story of outlining a keynote address for a national men’s conference that never happened. Here’s what I promised in last week’s conclusion.

But don’t be sad! Next week I’m going to share what creative miracle God worked to redeem the situation. And we will talk about JESUS, the most critically important and undergirding source of this charge of life we are talking about. Who is Jesus? And who is Jesus to you?

Intro to week 2 – “The creative miracle God worked”:

So there I was, prepped and ready to speak at my first national conference. Then, just three weeks out, the organizers pulled the plug.

A number of factors were responsible, including the very challenge I planned to address. But then, like so many disappointments, God had something even greater in mind.

I took the outline of my keynote, I wrote a new introductory paragraph, and I sent it as a proposal to the acquisitions editor at Upper Room Books.

I received an excited reply the same day (that is unprecedented!). The concept was presented to the publications team immediately. I had a contract within a month.

“I have never,” my editor wrote to me, “seen a proposal received so enthusiastically and accepted so quickly.”

Typically a project can take 18-months from conception to publication. This one was ready, hot off the press, and available in time for me to move 200 copies at the Disciples of Christ men’s conference, just ten months after the Presbyterian conference had tanked.

We called it “10 Life-Charged Words: real faith for men.”

Opening Prayer:

Thank you, life-charged God, for inviting us into the kind of living faith that transforms not only us but the world around us. Please infuse this conversation with life and with truth. Equip us, we pray, to live as your witnesses. Amen.

Today’s topic – “Jesus”:

When an outline is based on a list you have to start somewhere. In general, these 10 life-giving words are not presented in order of importance. The first, however, absolutely is. No matter what order the other nine words come in, we have to start with Jesus.

As Rebekah is well known for saying, especially when people want an answer to a theological question, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

Jesus is the idea, the revelation, the question, the person who makes Christianity the uniquely powerful faith system that it is. Jesus is at once both the answer to our questions and the question to all of our answers.

Most important, however – and the essential point of today’s “class” – is this question: “Who is Jesus? And who is Jesus to you?”

Questions for discussion:

  1. Think of a word that describe qualities of Jesus (Good, powerful, humble, wise, gentle etc…). Go around the circle and share one word. Then go around again. Then again. Have someone write them all down.
  2. Repeat the exercise, this time using words that identify who Jesus is relationally (Master, friend, Lord, guide etc…).
  3. Now, everyone, pick three of these words that are the best for you, then let the discussion flow out of the answers.

What do the scriptures teach?

I believe it is important to understand that Jesus is and always has been part of the Godhead. It’s not as if God made up Jesus or created him for that first Christmas two-thousand years ago. The same applies to the Holy Spirit. The idea of Trinity is a hard one to grasp, but the very beginning of John’s Gospel reminds us that: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)

Jesus was in the beginning. Jesus is The Word made flesh. Jesus is God.

There is a lot to cover here! But let’s limit today’s conversation to five scriptures that I have found helpful and that give me a broad basis for who Jesus is in just a short sentence of two.

I came up with the following – and fitting, in a meta fashion – acronym: J.E.S.U.S.

JESUS stands for Jehovah, Extravagant, Salvation, Unsearchable, Sufficient. Or, Jesus is Jehovah’s Extravagant Salvation and Unsearchable Sufficiency.

  • Jehovah: Jesus is God. Not like God, not pointing to God, not demigod. But God. – Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)
  • Extravagant: “Jesus,” I wrote in the book, “is about blowing the lid off.” As Paul put it, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Salvation: Jesus is God’s invitation to drink from the well of God’s love and – in response – to join him in God’s initiatives of love, grace, mercy, justice, and reconciliation.  “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14)
  • Unsearchable: Jesus is also mystery, deep and abiding, thankfully beyond the limits of the more manageable definitions we try to confine him with. “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7)
  • Sufficient: Jesus meets our need. Whatever, wherever, whenever. Jesus is, as the song goes, “all in all to me.” Paul writes,  “But[Jesus] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Or, make your own acronym:

Jesus, and this is one of the most powerful and beautiful truths about faith in Christ, is and can be exactly who we need at any given time. Who I need Jesus to be today is not always who I need Jesus to be. Jesus is sufficient, and that means Jesus always rises to the occasion.

What we need to do is to get to know Jesus more deeply, more consistently, more intimately, so that we can place more of ourselves – or who we are – in his love and care.

The point of this exercise is to be in thought about who Jesus is, and in dialogue both with God and with one another.

So – and this is one more question for sharing – flesh out your “who Jesus is to me” thoughts with an answer to this one too: “Who do I want/need Jesus to be in my life, going forward from this point?”

Next week we will dive into the word “excellence” and what that can mean for new and renewed life in our journey as disciples. – DEREK

Closing Prayer:

Lord Jesus, Jehovah’s Extravagant Salvation and Unsearchable Sufficiency, we are grateful for this opportunity to talk about our growing sense of who you are and what it means to follow you. Give us the strength and the courage to walk in your way, and to let our light shine with compelling authenticity. Amen.

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