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An image flashed across my TV screen Another broken heart comes into view I saw the pain and I turned my back Why can't I do the things I want to?
It was one of those reality shows. The girl had just found out she was pregnant. She didn't want to be pregnant. She was young. She thought she should be going to college, starting a career, doing something with her life. A baby right now would ruin everything. And the guy she had had sex with wasn't even close to daddy material. She decided she would have an abortion.
The pain in her eyes spoke louder than her words. She tried to sound casual: "It's my right. The baby isn't even a baby yet. Lots of women do it." But her eyes gave her away: "I'm not sure if this is right. I need help. How can this be happening to me?"
We kept seeing those eyes even after the TV was turned off. We kept talking about this and thinking, Someone has to be there for her. Where are the Jesus-followers in her life? Someone should have said, "The Father still loves you-even though you had sex before marriage, even though you're thinking about abortion, even though you haven't talked to Him. He can take care of you and your baby. We'll be here. We'll help you."
Where were Jesus' feet to walk with her through the pain of the decision? Where were Jesus' hands to hold hers and his ears to listen to her fears and her anger?
Then we caught our eyes in a mirror. Who knows us as Jesus' hands? How are we being Jesus' feet and eyes and mouth to the people in the world? What are we doing to get our faith dirty? What we mean is: How are we, just like Jesus, going to get into the lives of real people exactly where they live, roll up our sleeves, and meet their needs?
WWJD?: JUST A FAD?
A few years ago, someone brought up an old question in a new way: "What would Jesus do?" Based on the famous book In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon, "WWJD?" became a huge hit. Everywhere you went, you saw "WWJD?" on T-shirts and bracelets and bumper stickers and necklaces. There were "WWJD?" board games and cereals and websites and jackets. You couldn't listen to Christian radio or go to youth group or walk into a Christian bookstore without seeing or hearing "WWJD?"
Students, especially, got caught up in the idea of basing their everyday decisions on figuring out what Jesus would do if He were in their shoes. They wanted being a Christian to be something that really mattered, not just a place they went on Sundays. They wanted to reach out to the world with Jesus' love. In short, they wanted to be Jesus' hands and feet right here on earth. Wearing that bracelet was a way of saying, "I want to put my beliefs into action."
Eventually, like all fads, wearing the "WWJD?" message on your wrist or your chest or around your neck died off. It went out of fashion. It became "last year's style." People quietly put their bracelets away and left the T-shirts in the drawer. And that was fine. Jesus didn't call us to wear a message-He called us to live one.
Unfortunately, trying to live like Jesus also went out of style for many people. It just got too hard and confusing. Many of us realized that wearing that message didn't change us at all. It just made us feel bad when we lived exactly like Jesus never would.
Another problem was that lots of people didn't know how to answer the question. What would Jesus do? Who knows? One clever Bible study company came out with shoestring bracelets that said, "HDYKWJWDIYDKWHD?" (It was a long shoestring.) Translation: "How do you know what Jesus would do if you don't know what He did?" You can't be Jesus' hands and feet in your part of the world if you don't know what Jesus did with His hands and feet when He was on earth. You've got to get to know the Man before you can live like Him.
In this chapter of our book, we want to talk a little bit about who Jesus was (and is!). Hold on. Anytime you're learning about Jesus, you've got to be ready for God to turn your world upside down. This was no ordinary guy.
HANDS AND FEET IN ACTION
THE MISSION YEAR FILES
NOTE: MISSION YEAR IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO MOVE INTO THE INNER CITY FOR ONE YEAR IN ORDER TO BE JESUS' HANDS AND FEET AS NEIGHBORS TO THE POOR AND THE BROKEN. SEE PAGE 143 TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MISSION YEAR.
With his black toga, sandals, greasy beard, and white doily headband, Ray was quite a sight in the courtyard of the Presbyterian church. A conference had just let out, and everyone kept his or her distance. I watched Ray roll his eyes after one bold conference member quickly set a packaged sandwich from lunch on the bench beside him, said "God bless you," and quickly walked away.
Moments later, Ray turned his attention toward me and started mumbling angry comments. With nothing to do until my ride came, I sat down and listened to him for a while. Between Ray's drug-induced blackouts and spurts of vulgarity, I caught passionate flashes of wisdom and sincere pain.
Well into an hour of the best conversation you could hope for under the circumstances, something began to break through-something that had been ignored for too many months of holding Styrofoam cups along the university sidewalks. Ray's eyes bored into mine, pleading me not to look away. He expressed his own wretchedness and spoke of Jesus. He gripped my hand, and tears came to my eyes, washing away my self-righteous skepticism.
At one point, Ray set down his tall malt liquor to hold my shoulders and say, "This is the love of Christ." Then he hugged me firmly in the middle of the now-empty courtyard, and I totally understood. I've never felt so used of God in touching another person's life. -Cass, Mission Year volunteer
Before we get started, try the following quiz to find out how much you know about Jesus' life:
1. How long has Jesus been around?
a. Since the 1960s b. For about two thousand years c. Since the beginning of time d. Since before time began
2. How are Jesus and God the Father related?
a. Jesus is the Son of God the Father. b. Jesus and the Father are the same person. c. Jesus and the Father are both part of the Trinity. d. All of the above.
3. How long had Joseph and Mary been married when Jesus was born?
a. Ten years. b. Five years. c. A few weeks. d. They weren't married yet.
4. What race was Jesus in His humanity?
a. English b. Arab c. Jewish d. Mixed race
5. How many times did Jesus sin?
a. He never sinned. b. He almost never sinned. c. Who knows if He sinned or not? d. He sinned as much as anyone, but He was a good person.
6. How many people saw Jesus after He had died and come back to life?
a. Nobody saw Him. b. Only His disciples saw Him. c. Over five hundred people saw Him. d. Over fifty thousand people saw Him.
7. What reason did Jesus give for coming to earth?
a. To look for the lost b. To give His life to pay for other people's sin c. To do what His Father wanted d. All of the above e. To rule the planet
How'd you do? Read on to find the answers to each of these questions about Jesus.
1. ALWAYS AROUND
Unlike you and me, Jesus didn't just come into existence on the day He was conceived. John 1 tells us that Jesus was "in the beginning" with God the Father. That means Jesus existed before time began.
Why does that matter? Because it's part of who Jesus is-He's eternal. The word eternal literally means "outside of time." Other than the thirty-three years or so He spent on our planet, Jesus isn't limited by hours and days and weeks-He's completely free!
His existence before creation also means He was involved in creating everything that has ever existed-including you! John 1:3 says that nothing created was made without Jesus. And David, the king of Israel, wrote that the Lord "formed my inward parts" (Psalm 139:13).
How awesome it is to know that the same Jesus who healed the sick and gave comfort with His hands actually made you. Who could know you better than your creator?
2. COMPLETELY GOD
This is a mind-bender, but it's huge in figuring out who Jesus is. Not only is He God's Son, but He's also completely God (as is the Holy Spirit). John, again, says that Jesus was with God and He was God (see John 1:1). It's hard to imagine how both those things could be true, but they are.
Jesus wasn't just a human man with God inside Him. He wasn't half God and half man. Instead, He was all God and all man. He was 100 percent of both. Before Jesus, nobody had ever seen God. God's holiness would kill them. But by coming to earth in a human body, Jesus allowed us to see God in action (see John 1:18).
In the 1990s, a singer named Joan Osborne had a hit song that asked the question, "What if God was one of us?" But the question really isn't on target. He was one of us. God was here, and He proved He loved us by dying for us.
3. NO EARTHLY DAD
On the night Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph still hadn't wed. Luke 2:5 calls Mary Joseph's "betrothed wife." Betrothed means "promised" or engaged. They weren't yet married and they hadn't yet had sex (see Matthew 1:25).
Why would God set things up like that? Why wouldn't He have arranged things so Jesus was born into the earthly family of a married couple with a great reputation? Didn't God realize people would assume Joseph had gotten Mary pregnant before he married her? Didn't God realize what that would do to Jesus' reputation?
God knew. But God doesn't care as much about reputation as He does about the truth. And the truth was that Joseph was not Jesus' birth dad-God was. In a miraculous way we don't fully get, God caused Mary to become pregnant without her ever having had sex (see Luke 1:34-35).
4. A JEWISH MAN
To really get Jesus, you have to understand that He was born a Jewish man in a Jewish culture. Everything about Jesus' life and times was Jewish. He was even descended directly from King David (see Matthew 1). You don't get more Jewish than that!
Why does it matter? It means Jesus understood the Old Testament ways inside and out. All those stories about the Israelites in Egypt and the desert and the time of the kings were stories about Jesus' people. He lived in a world of animal sacrifices and worshiping God at the temple. His family lived according to the Old Testament Law. They obeyed the rules about what and when to eat, work, and celebrate and how to pay for their sin. And they listened to Jewish Pharisees and other religious leaders teach about God.
Jesus lived in a country that had been conquered and occupied by another nation. At the time Jesus lived, the Romans ruled the world-including Israel. Rome set up governors to rule over all the conquered nations. So Jesus' country was being run by a foreign army. And sometimes those Roman soldiers could be cruel, especially if they thought a group of Israelites threatened their power.
5. TOTALLY SIN FREE
No other human being has ever done what Jesus did from the day of His birth-live a lifetime without sinning. A good definition of sin is "doing something my way instead of God's." Jesus was 100 percent obedient to His Father His whole life.
"Yeah," some people say, "but He was God. I could be sinless too if I were God." You really think so? If you had all the power in the universe, do you really think you could overcome the temptation to do things your own way even once? Satan was created without sin and he had way less power than Jesus. He couldn't handle it. In fact, when we realize that Jesus was God in a fully human body, it's even more incredible that He never sinned. He had all the same physical desires and emotions any healthy man has. He wanted things. And He could have had anything He wanted. Still, He never sinned.
Oh, He had the chance. Satan made sure of that. Jesus spent forty days fasting and praying. He was hungry (see Matthew 4:2). That's when Satan showed up and gave Jesus three chances to do it Satan's way instead of God's way. Satan offered Jesus food, glory, and power. Jesus used Scripture to reject all three (see Matthew 4:1-11).
Okay, okay. So He never sinned. Cool. So what? Well, if Jesus had sinned, we'd be toast. The only reason He was qualified to die for our sins is because He didn't have any of His own to pay for. That makes it a very big deal.
6. HALF A THOUSAND
Even in Paul's day, some people wanted to be "sophisticated, educated" Christians who learned a lot from Jesus but didn't really believe in all that resurrection stuff. They saw Jesus' life and death as a helpful way of looking at the world, not as reality. Paul said they were missing the whole point-and the hard facts.
So, what evidence did Paul give that Jesus lived again after He died? Eyewitness testimony. And not just from the guys who lived with Jesus during His time here. Paul wrote that Jesus was seen alive postmortem by over five hundred people at once (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). The disciples also saw Him (see John 20:26-31). Paul had an incredible encounter with Jesus (see Acts 9:1-19). Jesus lives.
7. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
Jesus came to this planet with a specific mission. It's not what we might have planned for a visit from the Son of God. It's not what God's people, the Jews, had in mind for the Messiah, either.
The Israelites were expecting a Messiah. They had read prophecies in the Scriptures about a conquering Savior who would give them victory over their enemies once and for all. They were ready for this chosen one to lead them to great peace and freedom and prosperity.
The problem was that they hadn't put that together with other prophecies (such as Isaiah 53) that talked about a Messiah suffering to save them. Jesus came to fulfill those prophecies. The conquering and kingdom building would come later. So why was He here if not to kick the Romans out of Jerusalem and become the best king ever?
Mission 1. Jesus: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
Instead of a search-and-destroy mission, Jesus came on a search-and-rescue mission. He brought an offer to all of us lost ones to be found forever in heaven with God. He came to save us.
Mission 2. Jesus: "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
Jesus wasn't running His own show. He wasn't carrying out His own plans. He was obeying His Father. God's will was the only motivation in Jesus' life.
Excerpted from DIRTY FAITH by MARK MATLOCK Copyright © 2003 by Audio Adrenaline. Excerpted by permission.
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