I’ve heard some teachers of the faith make the remark that they want to help “make Jesus famous.” I completely understand the heart behind such words, and there is a part of me that’s on board with this. After all, it would be great to see the news and entertainment outlets saturated with stories of what Jesus is up to in our world. That alone would begin to change our country, in comparison to what the media normally covers! However, the truth is that Jesus is already famous. Really famous! You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard of him or at least a few things about him. Therefore, instead of simply shouting “Jesus” from the rooftops so all can know his name, my approach is to tell people all about him, so they can begin to know him personally. There is a huge difference between knowing his name and knowing him. This difference is what I want to begin to explore in this message.
I understand, and the Bible is clear, that there is power in the name of Jesus, but there so much more available to you when you actually embrace him as a personal friend (Luke 10:17). God never sent His son to us so we could just call out his name, like having an emergency flair to shoot off when we need help. Christ wasn’t an afterthought for God to somehow gain control of a world gone wrong. He was always part of God’s original plan in order to reconnect the direct link between Heaven and earth – Himself and His children. Think about it for a moment; it was a brilliant, yet loving, move on God’s part to devise a way for us to become intimately close to Him while not forcing Himself upon us. Part of what defines love is the ability to choose it, and as much as God desires all to choose Him through His son Jesus, He understands not all will. This is the reality of His choice.
Even though the risk of His own children turning from Him was there, it never kept Him from providing a permanently lit path back to Him. That’s why I said last week that, “God’s true love is Christ.” Christ is the pinnacle of God’s love, and He intentionally gave him to us in order to light the path of relationship. When the gift of Christ is rejected, the path to God isn’t lit, which leads to wandering and separation. The consequences of this are a major stumbling block for people on their journey towards faith because they mistakenly place the blame on God. “Why would a loving God create a world with so much pain and struggle within it?” The answer is that He didn’t, but the consequences are real if our backs are turned toward Him. Any parent who has raised a child to prepare them to enter the world understands this completely. There comes a point when their future hinges on choices that you can’t make for them. So how does a loving God do everything possible in order for us to avoid the mistake of turning our backs on Him? He makes Himself exactly like us, that’s how.
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8
This Scripture explains some incredibly important fundamental truths about Christ that are game changers in shaping the way a person relates to him. Although I claimed earlier that most people would likely know the name of Jesus, I have my doubts that those same people would understand what the apostle Paul was explaining to the Philippi church as he admonished them to be like Jesus in this passage. They are the very characteristics of Christ that can help a person come to know him in an intimate way, because they help us realize he experienced life like we do.
First, he was 100% human. It is a misconception that Christ maintained a stature between us and God, making up some sort of combination of the two. Many point to the miracles that he performed as proof that a remnant of divine nature remained, but this is false. What Jesus actually did was listen to his Father in Heaven for instruction and then perform the miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit working through him. It is the exact process every human in relationship with God has the ability to imitate and do. He didn’t come to earth to show us what an unattainable, superior form of human looked like; he came to show us what we are to look like, as well as what we are capable of.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” John 14:12
Next, although he was God, he gave up all his divine rights and accepted the limitations a human has. This not only reiterates that he was fully human, but shows the willingness God had to be able to relate to us on our level. Many religions throughout the world show the detriment of worshipping a false god that is placed in a superior position, with qualities and characteristics that no human can possess. It leads to feelings of inadequacy while trying to constantly please, striving to perform at a level that will never be achieved. This, in and of itself, causes separation between that god and its people. As amazing as it sounds, the one true God of the Bible set aside everything that could point to His divinity just to be next to us. He wanted no separation – like friends that walk through life together.
“The Word become flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14
Finally, he wasn’t immune to the feelings, emotions, and experiences that you and I have. If He truly desires to walk with us through life as a friend, we have to know that he understands these parts of our life. One of the quickest ways to kindle a relationship with someone is to find common ground. We’ve all had those experiences when we’ve met someone for the first time, only to find out that they’ve gone through some of the same things we have. An immediate connection is formed, and these same people can end up as lifelong friends, or even spouses. Christ experienced the joy, happiness, friendship, power, and adventure of living a life completely following God’s lead. On the other hand, he also felt humble beginnings, being misunderstood, betrayed, losing loved ones, fearing for his safety, and losing his life in the most torturous way. Yet, he never sinned. This is how we can be certain God will walk with us through any circumstance, intimately knowing how we feel, and guiding us through. When I first understood this, it quickly became one of the most comforting truths in the entire Bible for me.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
As I continue my quest to reveal God’s perfect love to the world, Christ will always be at the center of the narrative. The story always begins, continues, and ends with Him. God placed him in the center of humanity to be a part of our story, not apart from our story. I am confident in proclaiming this because of two very distinct, yet intertwined, moments in my life. The first is when I chose Jesus, and the second is when I realized he chose me first. The second didn’t occur after I said a special prayer, or cleaned up my act, or even the moment I was fashioned in my mother’s womb, but instead in a miraculous moment in his own mother’s womb over 2000 years ago.