The Creed - Week Two: "In Jesus Christ His Only Son"
I'm going to start today with a pretty pointed question.
Who is Jesus?
Our culture is full of all kinds of descriptions and images of Jesus. There have been 26 major motion pictures created about Jesus, according to IMDb, a film organization that keeps track of those kinds of things.
There have been at least 3 successful Broadway musicals about Jesus, tens of thousands of books written about him... and then there's the artistic renderings.
The fact that some of these people are taking themselves super seriously is pretty disconcerting isn't it?
And then there are lots of images of Jesus--some of which defy the imagination.
Or there's these quotes about Jesus from some famous people...
"If Jesus Christ were to come today people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he has to say, and make fun of it." ~Thomas Carlyle
So... Who is Jesus to you? When you hear the name of Jesus, what are the words that come to mind? I want you to take a few moments and write down some of those words on your notes.
We're going to recite the Creed once more, and this time as we say it, I want you to pay attention to the portions about Jesus.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
What I want us to focus on today as we think about the Jesus that is outlined here in the Creed is simply this:
Our belief in Jesus is demonstrated more by living it, than by speaking it.
Before we start thinking through all the ways that the Creed speaks about Jesus, we need to understand this all important truth: It doesn't matter what we say about Jesus if we don't actually follow Jesus, and try every day to live like Jesus
But what the Creed does for us is help us to focus on the centrality of Jesus for our faith. In fact, you could easily say that the core of Christian faith is a person--not a set of abstract ideas or doctrines.
So what does the Creed say about Jesus exactly?
First, it speaks of Jesus as the Man from Galilee...
Not in those exact words, but it does place Jesus in a particular context in a particular time. Jesus was fully human, and as a human being he showed us what God meant human beings to be... This aspect of Jesus is known as the Incarnation--the doctrine that states that through Jesus, God took on human form in order to demonstrate the lengths that God would go in order to be in relationship with and rescue those whom God loves.
The Creed also lifts up Jesus as Redeemer.
Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah, the one who unfold the story of God's great plan to reconcile all of Creation to himself by way of the Cross. Jesus took on the worst that the world had to offer, and defeated it all... sin, death, violence, destruction... none of these things gets the last word.
Jesus is also called the Son of God in the Creed.
The Son of God refers to Jesus identity as the eternal Christ the one who was with Gd in the beginning as the author of the Gospel of John indicates. This is a mystery to us because Jesus is said to have always existed as Second Person of the Trinity, the Creative, Expressive Word of God from the beginning of all things.
Jesus is called the Lord in the Creed.
This speaks of the intimate relationship that Jesus has with us through the Incarnation. The Eternal Word of God not only knows intimately what it's like to be us---He wants us to know that, too. There is a closeness here that is defined by the way Jesus demonstrated what God is like, what God desires for us.
Jesus is called the Returning King in the Creed.
There will come a day when all things will be set to right. The Creed casts this vision of a a time when Jesus comes to "judge" which essentially means there will no longer be any tolerance for injustice, war, bigotry, hatred, evil, sin and death... the world will be finally as it ought to be.
That's what the Creed says about Jesus---the very basics of the Christian beliefs about Jesus. The story outlined here is one that describes the lengths God will go to find that one lost sheep.
It's the story that Jesus told about how a guy had 100 sheep and one got lost. So he left the 99 in the wilderness and went out to find the one.
That makes no sense. And this story of God becoming one of us to save all of us doesn't always make sense either. There are parts of it that are a mystery, but we have to leave room for mystery if we're going to hold on to this. And why wouldn't you want to have some mystery? Do you really want to live in a cold, predictable world where there are no miracles?
But in the end all of this comes down to you. When it comes to Jesus what do you say?
That was the big question that Jesus asked his followers, if you recall: "Who do you say that I am?"
And we demonstrate our belief in Jesus by how we live, not what we say.
So who is Jesus to you really? If you say you believe in him---does it show with your life. Because being a Christian is about following a person--not a doctrine.
I have a friend who spent five years in engineering school with a roommate who wasn't a Christian. After watching my friend for five years, this young man came to the conclusion that whatever my friend had---he wanted. He became a Christian and in the same way he had approached every aspect of his life, this young man was all in.
One day shortly after he gave his life to Christ this young man was attending church with my friend. At the end of the church service, they took up an offering and this young man took his whole wallet out and tossed it on to the chancel.
He wasn't a church goer. He didn't know the rules. He just knew that Jesus had come into his life and he wanted Jesus to have everything.
The church hadn't beaten the Jesus out of him with it's lack of commitment. Christians hadn't worn him down and defeated the Jesus spirit within him with their lackadaisical approach to following Christ.
For those of you who have been Christians for a while... Do you remember when you felt like that? Do you remember when you were all in with Jesus? When you wanted to do whatever it took to follow him?
Or maybe you've never really felt that way. Maybe you inherited a lifeless faith and you just kind of stuck with it. You say all kinds of things about you're following Jesus, but your life doesn't show any evidence that Jesus is going before you.
So here's how this works. When your focus is on Jesus, you soon realize that your priorities change. You want to spend time with your family rather than work all of the time. You don't want to fall into cultural traps of idolatry and deception. When Jesus is first in your life, all of those resolutions that you never thought for a minute you'd be able to keep are suddenly a lot more doable.
Putting Jesus first can save your marriage. When you are willing to live like Jesus, sacrifice like Jesus and love like Jesus your spouse reaps the benefit.
Putting Jesus first can rearrange your ideas about fitness. When you are dedicated to being a sold-out disciple of Christ, you realize that things like gluttony, self-disrespect, addictive behavior and the like are both dishonoring to his name and lousy witnesses to his redeeming power.
Putting Jesus first can help get you out of debt. When you begin to follow Jesus' teachings about money and possessions, you begin to realize how important it is to be a good steward of what you have been given.
You feeling me at all?
Knowing who Jesus is can change your priorities in this coming year. Get to know him. Put him at the top of your new year's resolutions.
Hold on to your wonder. Let yourself be surprised by the difference Jesus can make in your life.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.