THE NON-NEGOTIABLES – I BELIEVE…IN JESUS CHRIST
March 19, 2017
We are in the midst of a six-part sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed. This historic confession serves to provide us the big picture of what we believe as Christians, outlining the non-negotiables, the guardrails that help us stay between the ditches of what is vital to our faith. It offers us the essentials of what we are to believe if we are to call ourselves by the unique name Christian….
Last Sunday we explored what it means to profess “I believe in God.” In today’s message we unpack what it means to affirm “I believe in Jesus Christ.”
Hear the words of Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature 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 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.
This morning we have a lot of ground to cover. 67 of the 107 words in the Apostles’ Creed refer to Jesus. And yet, we can do it. You’ve heard the old saying: You haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it is running….well, I’ve had that much coffee this morning.
So let’s get rolling…
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST….FULLY DIVINE
This is the first assertion that the Apostles’ Creed makes about the identity of Jesus…
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Today’s culture often treats Jesus as some Ralph Lauren designer label. We attach his name to every movement, every cause, in the hopes of validating our viewpoint. We smugly think we know what Jesus would do.
For example, there was a protester in Nashville this past week holding a sign that read, “Jesus Would Impeach Donald Trump!” From the opposite side of the street there was an opposing viewpoint plastered on a sign: “Jesus Loves Donald Trump!”
I think it’s sad…no I think it’s blasphemous…when we seek to reduce the sum total of our Lord to a trite slogan on a piece of plywood.
Yes, there are many today who believe Jesus is a good man.
Yes, there are many today who believe Jesus is a captivating teacher.
Yes, there are many today who believe Jesus is a revolutionary hero.
Yes, there are many today who believe Jesus is a dynamic prophet.
And all of these accolades are very much true. But they pale in light of the scriptural declaration that Jesus is “in very nature God” – Yes, Jesus is eternally God!
Yes, we make a claim for Jesus that cannot be made for any other figure in history. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, he has always existed in eternity, beyond time and place. Although he raised by human parents, Jesus has ultimately and always been the Son of Almighty God.
Yes, Jesus is the eternal lens through which we see God most clearly. Let me explain…
I have very poor vision…something like 20/600. Without my glasses or contact lenses, you would be no more than nebulous, faceless shadows to me. But let me put on my specs, and everything comes into crystal clear focus!
Without Jesus Christ, God remains a nebulous, faceless shadow to all the world and all the world’s religions. That is why we, as Christians, proclaim Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life–he is the one who enables us to truly see the nature of God in remarkable acuity.
Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…
I believe in Jesus Christ….fully divine…and
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST….FULLY HUMAN
Jesus empties himself of divinity to take on our humanity.
He is born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and was buried;
The Apostles’ Creed firmly anchors Jesus in history, as one who walks among us for 33 years. He comes into this world as a humble infant in a manger. He lives among us, knowing our most exhilarating joys, our deepest pain. He is one with us, yet without sin.
We yawn and say, “So what…“ But friends, this absolutely blew the minds of first-century folk! Many held Gnostic beliefs that maintained nothing divine could ever possibly come in contact with lowly humanity. That God would become one of us is the ultimate scandal and sacrifice…and it is what makes our faith unique among all world religions.
All other religions speak of humanity having to climb some proverbial ladder to get to God….we believe God descended to us and became one with us in Jesus Christ.
Robert Schuller tells of the time he was visiting his daughter and his grandson had been throwing a tantrum. The daughter put the grandson in time-out–in the playpen–in the spare room–with no toys.
After hearing his grandson crying and whimpering for several moments, Schuller could stand it no longer. He went into spare room. His grandson had tears streaming and lips quivering and his arms reaching upward, “Out, PawPaw, out!”
Schuller thought to himself, “I can’t violate my daughter’s discipline of her child by taking him out of the pen….but, hmmm.”
When the daughter entered the room a few minutes later, she saw her dad sitting in the middle of the playpen playing with his grandson!
Something like that happened 2,000 years ago. In Jesus Christ, God crawled into the playpen of our lives and became one with us.
And yes, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled:
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6
Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us….bearing our sins and the sins of the world upon the cross…flesh nailed to wood, his body broken for us, his blood poured out for us, that we would be restored to relationship with our God.
“Christ died for me.” Those words roll off my tongue so easily. And yet, when I take time to ponder them, I cannot understand how God could love me that deeply, that sacrificially, that infinitely, that he would allow his Son to die for me. It’s simply beyond my comprehension that I would be of that much worth to God.
I believe in Jesus Christ…fully divine…fully human…
But next comes the hard part: Do…
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST….FULLY LORD
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Friends, that’s a question each of us has to come to terms with. We do not proclaim that Jesus Christ was merely an historical figure of the past; we proclaim he is a living reality of the present! And he desires to be fully Lord of our lives!
In the Creed we affirm that on
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.
Jesus is quite alive and quite expecting of us this very day. As Isaac Watts so eloquently composed in his immortal hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all!”
To call Jesus “Lord” is to render to him our utmost attention, devotion and obedience. We strive to walk in his footsteps, we seek the guidance of his Spirit in all areas of our daily lives.
Something I’ve never quite understood is the appeal of poker on ESPN. I mean, Major League Soccer and X-games skateboarding at least require some physical stamina and skill, but poker as a sport??? I don’t get it….at least until a friend explained a bit of it to me.
He told me how TV poker is an amazing study in the strategy and intricacies of human behavior. In every game of high-stakes poker, there comes this defining moment that separates the winners from the losers. At that moment a player says two words–“All in.”
He thinks he has the best hand, so he takes his chips and pushes them to the middle of the table. He flips his cards over so everyone can see them, and then he stands up.
Going “all in” means you are risking everything on one hand. If you win, you win it all. If you lose, you lose it all. You cannot win a tournament unless you’re willing to go “all in” at some point.
Now, as a Christian and as your pastor, I confess that there are days when I have my doubts about a lot of the stuff that surrounds the Christian faith. The older I get I often find I have more questions that answers.
But when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a long time ago I made the decision to go “all in.” To me, this is the hinge upon which the door to all faith and life ultimately turns.
Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is no hope and life ultimately has no meaning. All we have left is a feel-good fable about an itinerant, somewhat eccentric teacher and faith healer.
But if Christ be risen from the grave, then we who trust in him have the promise of life also, in this world and in the world to come. We can truly live…we can truly risk ourselves in serving others…we can even lay down our lives sacrificially, because we know that nothing will separate us Christ’s eternal love.
We can indeed go out on a limb and live, not simply exist, for underneath are the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ to catch us if we fall. We can indeed live when Jesus Christ is fully Lord of our lives!