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Considering Whether Jesus Really Was Who He Said He Was, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 10, 2022 9:00 am

Considering Whether Jesus Really Was Who He Said He Was, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 10, 2022 9:00 am

No one enjoys being confused. We want to make sense of things. But God’s understanding is much bigger than our own, and even though we can never grasp it all, we can trust in the God who does.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. In Jesus we saw what love is. We saw a God who possesses the power that he could walk on top of waves and cast out demons, but in the end he emptied himself in shame and love to save those who rejected him.

The love and the beauty displayed in Jesus's life is so glorious and so unique to the human race that we know that it has to be God. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Okay, think back to when you were in school and the teacher was explaining a hard concept, and no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn't seem to get it. Not a good feeling, right?

In fact, I'm feeling a little bit of PTSD as I say that. We all feel the need to make sense of things and to figure stuff out. Today Pastor J.D. reminds us that thankfully God's understanding is much bigger than ours.

He's got it all figured out. We only need to trust him fully. This teaching is part of our series called Unknown God, and you can hear the previous messages at jdgreer.com. Now here's Pastor J.D. In the chaos of life, we hear a voice whispering to, sometimes screaming at us. That voice may not, in fact it rarely does, answer all of our questions, but it assures us that we're not alone and that help is coming for us. That voice lets us know that God is there and that he is willing to speak if we are willing to listen. Last week we talked about how that voice speaks through creation. The question that I want us to consider today is whether or not we hear that voice speaking in Jesus.

Because see, really the only question of faith is, is Jesus really who he said he was? So to get at this question, I want us to consider the story of the disciple that perhaps more people today in our culture identify with than maybe any other disciple. And that disciple has the name Thomas. Now, what one word description always goes with Thomas?

Say it. Doubting. That's right, doubting Thomas. To be honest, I feel a little bad for Thomas. Other disciples didn't get named for their faults. Peter had a problem with fear, but he didn't get labeled Petrified Peter or Peter the pansy or anything like that. Luke the luster, John the judgmental, or something like that. But Thomas got named.

He got commemorated for his flaw. The point is, lots of people doubted not just Thomas, but only Thomas gets the name. That's because so many people identify with Thomas, and I believe that John highlights Thomas's story right at the end of his gospel, which is all about belief, because John sees Thomas as the example how those of us who struggle to believe can actually learn to do so. Thomas was a doubter, as are many of us. Let's just first consider, so we're kind of on the same playing field, why was Thomas so skeptical?

Well, a couple of reasons. First, dead people don't get out of the grave. That was as unbelievable back then as it is today, which leads me to a second thing. In Thomas's day, the Jews were under cruel and unjust Roman oppression. So Thomas, like most Jews, expected that the Messiah would come and crush the Romans. Yet Jesus had shown up preaching mercy to the Romans. Thomas had no category for that, a dying Messiah or a suffering God. Thomas wanted to believe.

He'd given three years of his life to follow Jesus. He wanted to believe. Do you resonate with that? Do you find yourself sometimes saying, look, I want to believe.

So that leads me to the second kind of observation. Our areas of confusion may be different from those of Thomas. You probably aren't asking questions anymore about how God could have allowed Roman oppression, but I've talked to many people today with their own questions. For example, I've talked to a student recently who said it's the Bible itself that confuses me. To Thomas and every doubter, Jesus gives an answer. But let me warn you, it is not the answer that you think. It is not explanation. The answer he gives is revelation.

It is not so much an answer to the questions. It is a glimpse of who he is proven by what he did. Here's what we can learn about the development of faith from the story of Thomas. Number one, in Thomas's story, we see that our faith is not anchored in an explanation. Our faith is anchored in an event. Our faith is not anchored in an explanation.

It's in an event. Jesus, did you notice, didn't really take time to address the substance of Thomas's doubts. Instead, he confronted Thomas with the fact of the resurrection. He invited Thomas not to understand all the reasons in his mind.

He invited Thomas to touch the scars in his hands. He urged Thomas to believe because of what Jesus proved about who he was by the resurrection. The foundation of the church, listen, is not what the apostles taught. It's what Jesus did. That's what the foundation of the church was.

You see, maybe you've grown up hearing Christians defend what they believe by simply appealing to the Bible. Oh, that's what the Bible says. That's why I believe it. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. And you're like, why do you appeal to the Bible to defend the Bible?

It sounds like me standing up here saying, I'm the smartest man in the world. Well, why should I believe you? Well, because I said so. Well, why should I believe what you say? Because I'm the smartest man in the world.

And I would know something like that. But see, there is a reason that we believe the Bible. We believe the Bible because it was authorized and given to us by Jesus who proved he had the authority to do that by raising from the dead. And so I approach the Old Testament the way that he approached the Old Testament, because I believe he is in a place to understand how the Old Testament should be approached. General life hack rule I've developed is when somebody predicts and accomplishes their death and resurrection and then pulls it off. I just follow what he says about the Old Testament.

That's just how I roll. You say, okay, well, if I were Thomas, if I were Thomas and I got to see what Thomas saw, yeah, then I guess I'd believe too. Well, first of all, ask yourself that. Honestly, would you really suspend your doubts if you encountered the resurrected Jesus? Because listen, if so, you're admitting that the doubt itself is not the problem. You're admitting that the problem is that you are not thoroughly convinced that Jesus is who he said he was or that the resurrection happened.

And that's an important distinction. Jesus acknowledged that Thomas got a privileged view. He said, Thomas, because you've seen, you've believed, and other people are gonna get to see that. But that doesn't mean that we don't also, listen, have compelling evidence for the resurrection. Let me ask you to consider what else but Jesus's actual resurrection could explain the behavior of the disciples or the events of the first century. What else but Jesus's resurrection, actual resurrection, could explain the behavior of the disciples and the events of the first century? The early Christian movement was begun by a group of people, the apostles and their friends, who went to the ends of the earth proclaiming that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.

It cost them everything. They were cast out, persecuted, homeless, hunt down. Every single one of the apostles died a martyr's death. Okay, well, what are the alternate theories to Jesus actually rising from the dead? You say, well, maybe they didn't really see Jesus. Maybe they had hallucinations caused by grief. Look, scientists today will tell you, people don't hallucinate to that extent. When people hallucinate, you don't have multiple people claim to talk with and eat dinner with that same person.

You certainly don't have groups of several hundred people all say they saw the exact same thing at once. You say, well, maybe they lied. Maybe this was even a lot of people lie. A lot of religious people lie. Well, ask yourself, what would they gain from their lie? Because when you lie, there's almost always a motive, right? People sometimes will suffer for what is false.

I understand that. 900 people drank the Kool-Aid in Jonestown for something that was false. But listen, they don't willingly suffer. They don't drink poison for what they know to be false unless there's something to be gained from it, like money or power. But what would the apostles gain from their lie? Year after year, they embraced a life of suffering to spread the gospel for the salvation of others. They never got rich off it.

They were hunted and persecuted and cast out. That simply rules out the thought that they use their apostleship as a cover for a con game. One Bible scholar said it this way, when we know what we're teaching is false, when we know that we're lying, then we're motivated to lie in our own pockets with money. That's when people lie, when religious leaders lie. That's what they're trying to do. They're trying to get money not to get whipped and beaten and imprisoned and killed. Listen, I'm not trying to mock this because I know that there are people who are sincere in their journey and they're all entertaining this theory.

But here's what you're saying. You're basically saying that after Jesus died, you got all the disciples in a fishing boat. They're out fishing because that's what they've done before Jesus. And they're kind of moping around.

They're depressed. And they're talking about how great Jesus was and how awesome it was when he was here and how they miss him and how they wish more people had listened to his teaching. And man, it was going to be so great when everybody followed Jesus. And all of a sudden, in the midst of their depression, one of them jumps up and says, I know.

I know. Let's say that he resurrected. Let's say even more that he resurrected. Let's say that the whole point of him coming was to die for our sins. And then God proved that he really did that by raising him from the dead. Let's say that. And then maybe when people become convinced of that, then maybe then they'll follow the rest of the teachings of Jesus.

And another one says, well, okay, well, that's an interesting idea. But will we get rich and powerful through that? We will know because all the influential people have already rejected this message and forbid us from preaching it. So we'll probably be put in prison, cast out and impoverished, and our families will suffer for the rest of our lives. Well, will we at least have the satisfaction that we're guiding people to eternal salvation? Well, no, because everything we're telling them is built on a complete and total lie. Okay, well, count me in.

I'd really like to do this. And so out they go from that fishing boat, and they go running around the world to the ends of the earth, facing exactly what they thought they were gonna face, persecution and death. And as they and their families are being drug off to be killed, as they're being drug off to be killed, you think that they're basically winking at each other saying, stick to the story, stick to the story.

This is gonna turn out great. Now, honestly, do you find that compelling? No. I mean, what compelled them to do this was their genuine belief that the resurrection happened. That's the only thing that had the power to do that. It was not some new insight into the teaching of Jesus that transformed Thomas the doubter into Thomas the martyr. It was the fact of the resurrection. By the way, Thomas would go on to go to India to be one of the first martyrs for the Christian faith. There's pretty reliable evidence that indicates that Thomas carried the gospel all the way to India and was speared to death on a hill outside of Chennai for refusing to stop preaching there.

What would drive a skeptical Thomas to do that? It wasn't some new insight into the teaching of Jesus. Oh, I get that story of the prodigal son. The good Samaritan means be nice to everybody.

No, that wasn't what happened. What changed from Thomas the doubter to Thomas the martyr was him seeing the resurrected Jesus. Or remember Peter, who denied Jesus three times on the night before his death?

Just ask yourself, would Peter, who denied the living Jesus, would he have been willing to die for one he knew was dead? This is Summit Life with J.D. Greer. You can find lots of free resources when you visit our website, jdgreer.com. We're taking a quick break so that I can tell you about one of these freebies, a daily email devotional from Pastor J.D. Couldn't we all use encouragement first thing in the morning to remind us of God's love for us? I know your inbox is filled with things that you couldn't ever recall asking for, but this is one that I think you'll grow to appreciate and look forward to every day. The devotionals even follow along with our current teaching here on the program, so you can stay plugged in regardless of your schedule. Sign up for this free resource right now at jdgreer.com slash resources.

That's jdgreer.com slash resources. Now, let's return for the conclusion of today's message. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. That leads to a third objection that people raise sometimes. They say, well, maybe the apostles claims about Jesus got exaggerated. What happened is that the apostles basically told stories about Jesus as a great teacher, and over time, those stories got it repeated. And as they got repeated, you know how stories are.

They get exaggerated so that by the time the Bible was written, Jesus had become this larger than life supernatural figure. In fact, I've heard it before compared to the telephone game. Remember the telephone game when you were a kid where you have a group of like 20 people, and you start telling a story, and you whisper it in each ear, and by the time it gets back to you, you started the story by saying, I went to Mexico and spent a week on the beach, and by the time it gets back to you is I eat grasshoppers, and I prefer them mixed up in my milkshakes. And you're like, how did that turn into that?

But it's just little by little. Now, like that's basically what happened is you started with these stories about Jesus and gradually it got, you know, He didn't just have the Spirit of God. He was the Son of God, and oh, He didn't just encourage people to do this. He actually did these miracles, and by the time they got written down, the stories had become altogether different.

That's a theory that people have, but here's the problem with that. The books of the New Testament are written entirely too close to the events for legends like that to have the time to spring up. The New Testament was written while the apostles and people who knew the apostles were still alive. Most of the books of the New Testament were written around 30 years after the death of Jesus, some of them as early as 20 years.

The last one, John, was written about 60 years after Jesus' death. Just for frame of reference, Dale Earnhardt Sr. died a little less than 20 years ago. Is that long enough for wild stories to grow up about how he died and what happened right after? Oh, from the very car, all of a sudden he resurrected, he raced in the next Daytona 500, and then he won it. No, there's still a bunch of people around who remember that event.

It's not long enough for that to occur. We know that the early Christians took the testimony of the apostles very seriously, even considering them sacred scripture. There would have been a lot of controversy had people begun to change them. To go back to our telephone game example real quick, instead of being like that, where you got 20 people that are whispering to each other, instead what it's like is every time somebody tells a story, everybody else listens to them tell the story, and including the one who originally told the story. And they'd be like, no, no, no, that's not what I said. I didn't say anything about mixing grasshoppers in my milkshake.

What I said was, I want to go to the beach in Mexico, right? And so you could correct it. That's really what happened is that while all these apostles are still alive, the books are written. We have no conflicting accounts of Jesus from the first century. The apostolic community maintained one consistent testimony about him.

You say, well, wait a minute. I saw on CNN a special that there were other rival gospels, like the Gospel of Judas or the Gospel of Thomas. Yeah, but they give clear evidence of being written two, three, sometimes 400 years after Jesus's birth, and nobody really questions that. What emerges from the first century is one consistent witness to Jesus, and that is of Jesus as a sovereign ruling savior whose primary mission from the beginning had been to die for sinners and rise again.

In the book of 1 Corinthians, which was one of the earliest books of the New Testament written, again about 20 years after Jesus's death, Paul says in the earliest book we have written, Paul says everything rises or falls with the resurrection. And then he points to 500 people who were still alive that Jesus had appeared to simultaneously, and he names a few of them and says they're still alive and says to go and talk to them if you doubt. See, that shows you that this was believed in the earliest days of Christianity, right? It shows you that this is what they believed in the earliest days of Christianity. If you said you didn't believe that, if you said that you didn't believe that Dale Earnhardt Sr. had really died, I don't think that that whole situation ever happened.

I could say to you, look, there are 500 people at any Cracker Barrel in the United States who will tell you that they were there when it happened, and I saw it with my eyes, right? Because we're not far enough yet for some legend that could not be refuted to grow up. The point is the resurrection was not a legend that got added in over time.

It was the core message from the beginning. So see, it's just not compelling to say they were hallucinating. It's definitely not compelling to say they were lying.

It's unconvincing to say that these were legends. Y'all, the only alternative was that he really did raise from the dead, and if he did, that changes how we look at everything else. Before I get to that though, let me show you one other thing that John wants you to see that can help us develop the assurance of faith. Throughout the Gospel of John, John talks about a way of knowing, listen to this, knowing Jesus that surpasses logical inference and evidence.

Here it is, number two. There's an even better kind of knowledge that comes through direct experience. It's the kind of knowledge where you just sort of know something instinctively. Imagine that you had been blind your whole life, and then through some miracle, medical miracle, you regained your sight. How would you know that you are now in the light? It's not that you could logically prove the existence of light.

It's not because you could explain how the medicine worked. It's simply because you could now see everything else because of that light. There's a really precious YouTube that was going on around about a month ago. It went viral of a kid, a young kid who had never been able to hear, and the doctors figured out some way to reconnect that auditory nerve. You've seen this YouTube, and all of a sudden, that kid for the first time, the first thing he hears is his mother's voice. And the way that kid lights up and the way he clings to his mother, it's not because he understands what just happened.

It's that I know that I'm hearing, and I know that I'm hearing her. John's gospel presents Jesus that way. John opens up his gospel by saying, Jesus was the light that came into the world. God's light, his word became flesh, and he dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory, the kind of glory that we know could only belong to God. In Jesus, John says, we see a being of such unparalleled moral beauty that we know that he has to be God. We see one whose passion to do the will of his father was more essential to him than food. We see one who never sought his own glory, but always sought his father's glory, even to the point of death. In Jesus, we saw what love is. We saw a God who possesses the power that he could walk on top of waves and cast out demons. But in the end, he emptied himself in shame and love to save those who rejected him. The love and the beauty displayed in Jesus's life is so glorious and so unique to the human race that we know that it has to be God. When Jesus wanted to prove to people that he was preaching to that he was who he says he was, he says something really unusual.

Watch this. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory. How do you know if I'm a fake? Then what you'll see is you'll see me turning everything back to me.

You'll see me prospering. No, the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him. I just seek God's glory. That's the one that's true. And in him, there is no falsehood. When Jesus wanted to prove that he was who he says he is, he pointed to the glory of his life.

His life was proof of his claim. We see in Jesus an unparalleled beauty so spectacular that we recognize it to be the glory of God. You see, Jesus doesn't just make sense. He brings sense to the world. He is sense. He is the light.

And in his light, we see everything else. In John's gospel, you're going to find a story of a blind man, an uneducated blind man who's been a beggar all his life that Jesus heals and gives him his sight. And after he gets his sight, he goes around saying, Jesus is the Messiah. He healed me. And then the religious rulers and the philosophers, they get to him and they're like, no, no, no, you can't say that.

Jesus can't be the son of God because here's why he can't be reason number one and here's intellectual reason number two and here's philosophical problem number three. And they go on this big like philosophical tirade with him. And eventually this uneducated blind man gets exasperated and he says, look, you guys got more degrees on your walls than a thermometer.

I get that. And I don't even understand most of the words that you're saying. But what I know is once I was blind and now I see. You see, that's how coming to know Jesus often works. I can lay out for you all the evidence of the resurrection.

I find it very compelling. But what I can also tell you is that in Jesus, I finally learned what peace was. In peace with God through him, I found peace with myself through Jesus. I found an end to the endless thirst in my soul. In Jesus, I finally learned a humility that didn't crave exalting itself all the time and began to delight in giving glory to God.

And that made me start getting along with people. I learned in him what self emptying generosity was like, and I developed the power to forgive. In Jesus, I tasted the glory of God and I know that he is the truth as surely as I know the sun is shining outside. So who do you say that he is? Who do you say that he is? Think he's a phony?

You think he's a self deluded religious leader? Or is he who he said he was? Is he the son of God descended from heaven on a rescue mission to save you?

You see, according to Jesus, you and I, you and I are separated from God and that's the source of all of our other problems in life. And he came because he cared for us. He came so that he could save us. His is the voice that is speaking through creation. His is the voice that's speaking through the resurrection and it's saying, I want to save you and I want to restore you, redeem you, reconcile you, resurrect you.

In fact, I could summarize Jesus' entire message this way. Jesus' entire message was bad news, even worse news, good news, even better news. Here it is, bad news.

You're a sinner and your sin has separated you from God and that separation is eternal and it will, as eternal, it will last forever and you will go into eternity and you will never be in the presence of God again. That's bad news. You say that is bad news.

What could possibly be worse news? The worst news is there's not a single thing you can do about that. You cannot save yourself. You can't get religious. You can't become better because sin has put a gap between you and God that you are not powerful enough to overcome.

That's the worst news. The good news, the good news is that God in his love did for you what you couldn't do for yourself. He came to earth, we say, to live the life you should have lived and then die the death you've been condemned to die in your place. That's the good news of the gospel.

He traded places with you. He took your sin so that he could give you his salvation. You say, well, what's the even better news? The even better news is you don't really have to do anything to receive it except receive it. You don't have to work for it. You don't have to reform your life in a way that proves that you're worthy to be his disciple.

It's a gift. In fact, John himself would say it this way, as many as received him. To them he gave the power to become the children of God, even to those who believe on his name. Billy Graham used to say it this way, believe plus receive equals become. You can become a child of God right now. Call us or visit jdgrier.com to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus. We're glad that you've joined us today for Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. This month on Summit Life, our aim is to set you up for relationship success with both shareable teaching and a resource to help you reach out to others. We've packaged together a set of inspirational greeting cards with life-giving Bible verses on the front and a blank inside for you to use this year around Thanksgiving or really anytime throughout the year. The box of 20 cards is yours when you generously give to support this ministry today. Call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or give online and request your kit at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Benovitch. Join us tomorrow when we continue this teaching series called Unknown God. We'll see you right here Tuesday for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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