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Coinciding with the "It's All About Jesus" campaign, this major release explores, in depth, the eight major character traits of Jesus, leading readers to a fuller understanding of the depth and breadth of Jesus' personality.
Today's top Christian authors--Max Lucado, John Eldredge, Anne Graham Lotz, John MacArthur, Stormy Omartian, and others--will teach readers that Christ is so much more than just an important figure who lived two thousand years ago. He's our:
- Mighty Warrior
- Prince of Peace
- Lover of Our Souls
The best teachers of today make use of scripture exploration, personal application, discussion questions, even poems and hymns, to bring the multifaceted personality of Jesus into focus in a way never before accomplished.
If you're only going to read one book to better get to know the full person of Jesus this year, let this be the book.
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By John MacArthur, John Eldredge, Max Lucado, Charles R. Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, Billy Graham, Dee Brestin, Kathy Troccoli, Anne Graham Lotz
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2004 W Publishing Group
All rights reserved.
Jesus, the Lord
Featuring the Writing of John MacArthur
* * *
There are as many opinions about Jesus as voices to express them. Not every opinion about the first-century carpenter-turned-rabbi is grounded in reality, however. Many times what is presented about Jesus is inconsistent with the Bible.
While some participants in the cultural debate on the identity of Jesus Christ may not doubt his existence, they will gladly relegate him to the category of influential prophet or charismatic (but misguided) teacher. Those in this camp are quick to praise his message of love and forgiveness, affirm his treatment of social outcasts, and cheer his nonmaterialistic lifestyle. But somehow, they ignore some of the things Jesus said about himself—unmistakable claims to divinity:
"All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matthew 11:27)
Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:61–62)
"I and My Father are one." (John 10:30)
"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am." (John 13:13)
"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9 NVC)
Because many people find Jesus' claims to be controversial and explosive, they are limited in the ways they respond. If they aren't willing to accept him as equal with God, they must explain away what the Bible says, explain away his own words about himself, or attempt to pick and choose what they want to believe. Yet, Jesus did not leave us those options. As one person said in wise simplicity, "If Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all." To paraphrase the observation made by C. S. Lewis, when you consider Jesus' statements about himself, you either have to believe he was telling the truth and that he is Lord, or you have to believe he was a madman. You don't have any other choice.
Coming to terms with Jesus' identity is a decision every person must make, for that decision has eternal ramifications. You either acknowledge Jesus is the Lord or you don't. There is no in-between.
In the following readings, John MacArthur explains what it means for us to accept Jesus as Lord. He says, "The choice we all make is this: either we're good enough on our own, through our belief system and morality, to make it to heaven; or we're not, and we have to cast ourselves on the mercy of God through Christ to get there. Those are the only two systems of religion in the world. One is a religion of human merit; the other recognizes that we find true merit in Christ alone, and it comes to the sinner only by grace." That choice makes all the difference.
Readings from John MacArthur
Jesus Christ, God and man
Jesus Christ had to be more than a man; He also had to be God. If Jesus were only a man, even the best of men, He could not have saved believers from their sin. If He were even the right man from the seed of David, but not God, He could not have withstood the punishment of God the Father at the cross and risen from the dead. He could not have overcome Satan and the world but would have been conquered as all men are conquered.
If there was ever any question that Jesus was the Son of God, His resurrection from the dead should end it. He had to be man to reach us, but He had to be God to lift us up. When God raised Christ from the dead, He affirmed that what He said was true.
As clearly as the horizon divides the earth from the sky, so the resurrection divides Jesus from the rest of humanity. Jesus Christ is God in human flesh.
Jesus Christ, human and divine
The humanity and deity of Christ is a mysterious union we can never fully understand. But the Bible emphasizes both.
Luke 23:39–43 provides a good example. At the cross, "... One of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, 'If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.' But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.' And Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'"
In His humanness, Jesus was a victim, mercilessly hammered to a cross after being spat upon, mocked, and humiliated. But in His deity, He promised the thief on the cross eternal life, as only God can.
Jesus as Lord: what it means to us
Take Up the Cross. In Matthew 10:32, Jesus talked about confessing Him as Lord and Savior: "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven." And then in verses 34–36: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 'and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'"
It's not a friendly invitation; it's a warning: If you come to Christ, it may make your family worse, not better. It may send a rift into your family, the likes of which you have never experienced before. If you give your life to Jesus Christ, there will be an im-passable gulf between you and people who don't give their lives to Him. In fact, as the New Age Hindu mystic Deepak Chopra said to me on CNN Television: "You and I are in two different universes." I replied that he was exactly right. And that is not just true for strangers but also for family members, creating a severe breach in those most intimate of all relationships.
Verse 37 adds, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." If you're not willing to pay the price of a permanent split in your family unless your loved ones come to Christ—if you're not willing to pay the price of greater trauma, greater conflict, greater suffering in your family—then you're not worthy to be Jesus' disciple.
Verse 38: "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." Wait a minute. In Jesus' time, people associated a cross with one thing and one thing alone: a cross was an instrument of death. He was saying that if you're not willing to have conflict with the world to the degree that it could cost you your life, then you're not worthy of Him.
Verse 39: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." This is an echo of Luke 9. It's about losing your life. It's not a man-centered theology, it's a Christ-centered theology that says, "I give everything to Christ, no matter what it costs me, even if it costs me my life." ...
Walk the Narrow Way. There's a common misconception that the choice between Christ and false gods is the choice between desiring to go to hell and desiring to go to heaven. I've heard preachers say the narrow way is the way of Christianity that people choose when they want to go to heaven, and the broad way is the way people choose who are content to go to hell. But they are misinformed or confused. It is not a contrast between godliness and Christianity on one hand and irreligious, lewd, lascivious pagan masses headed merrily for hell on the other. It is a contrast between two kinds of religions, both roads marked "This Way to Heaven." Satan doesn't put up a sign that says, "Hell—Exit Here." That's not his style. People on the broad road think that road goes to heaven.
It's also a contrast between divine righteousness and human righteousness, between divine religion and human religion, thus between true religion and false religion. God's Word described the Pharisees' problem in Luke 18:9, which says that they "trusted in themselves that they were righteous." It was a religion of human righteousness. They worshiped themselves. And that was inadequate, because they weren't righteous enough to meet the high standard of God's kingdom. Only Jesus can do that.
The choice we all make is this: either we're good enough on our own, through our belief system and morality, to make it to heaven; or we're not, and we have to cast ourselves on the mercy of God through Christ to get there. Those are the only two systems of religion in the world. One is a religion of human merit; the other recognizes that we find true merit in Christ alone, and it comes to the sinner only by grace. There may be a thousand different religious names and terms, but only two religions really exist. There is the truth of divine accomplishment, which says God has done it all in Christ, and there is the lie of human achievement, which says we have some sort of hand in saving ourselves. One is the religion of grace, the other the religion of works. One offers salvation by faith alone; the other offers salvation by the flesh.
Man-made and demon-designed systems of religion are based on the assumption that we don't really need a Savior, or aren't fully dependent on Him, because we have the capacity to develop our own righteousness. Just let God give us a little religious environment to aid our natural goodness, dispense a little power to us, or infuse a little strength into us. Give us a few rules, a few religious routines and rituals, and we'll crank up salvation on our own. The lie of human achievement comes under myriad different titles, but it's all the same system, because it's spawned out of the same source: Satan himself. He packages it in different boxes, but it's all the same product. On the other hand, the truth of divine accomplishment is Christianity. And it stands alone.
Tragically, most of humanity is religiously speeding down the wide highway of human achievement, convinced it's headed toward some fabulous heavenly destiny because of its own basic goodness, noble works, and religious deeds. By contrast, Jesus said the only true way to heaven is the narrow pathway of trusting Him alone as Lord and Savior....
In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus mentioned the narrow gate twice and the wide gate once. From the intersection, both roads look as if they lead to salvation. Both promise the pathway to God, to the kingdom, glory, blessing, heaven. But only one of the roads really goes there. The other is paved with self-righteousness as a substitute for the perfect righteousness God demands in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Either you accept the truth that salvation comes from what God has done for you in Christ, or you will be left with nothing but your own sinful self-righteousness.
The main characteristic of the way of life Jesus pointed to was its narrowness. The broad way had all kinds of tolerance for sin, for laws beyond the law of God, and standards below and beyond the standards of God. Every man-made religious system is part of the scenery of the broad way. But Jesus didn't look for ways to compromise. He simply said, "You've got to get off that broad road. You must enter this narrow way. If you're going to be in the kingdom, you've got to come on these terms."
It is not enough to listen to preaching about the gate; it is not enough to respect the ethics; you've got to walk through the gate. And you can't come unless you abandon your self-righteousness, see yourself as a beggar in spirit, mourning over sin, meek before a holy God, not proud and boastful, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and not believing you have it. Hell will be full of people who thought highly of the Sermon on the Mount. You must do more than that. You must obey it and take action.
You can't stand outside and admire the narrow gate; you've got to drop everything and walk through it. There's that self-denial again. You come through, stripped of everything. But isn't that narrow-minded? Does that mean Christianity doesn't allow room for opposing viewpoints? No compassionate tolerance? No diversity?
That's exactly right. We don't do it that way because we're selfish or prideful or egotistical; we do it that way because that's what God said to do. If God said there were forty-eight ways to salvation, I'd preach and write about all forty-eight of them. But there aren't: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," Acts 4:12 reminds us, no other name but Jesus.
In John's gospel, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life" (6:35); "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (14:6); "He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door ... is a thief and a robber.... I am the door" (10:1, 7). Paul affirmed these words in 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." There's only one: Christ and Christ alone. That's a narrow viewpoint. But that is Christianity. And it is the truth. You have to enter on God's terms, through God's prescribed gate. Christ is that gate. Holy God has the right to determine the basis of salvation, and He has determined that it is Jesus Christ and Him alone. You can enter only through Him, by faith....
To come through the narrow gate, you must enter with your heart repentant over sin, ready to turn from loving sin to loving the Lord. When John the Baptist was preparing a people to receive the Messiah, they were coming to be baptized because they wanted to have their sins forgiven. To any Jew, preparation for the coming of the Messiah and readiness for His kingdom meant purging the heart of its sinfulness.
You must also enter the narrow gate in utter surrender to Christ. No one can be regenerate, as Christ indicates in Matthew 7, by simply adding Jesus Christ to his carnal activities. Salvation is not an addition; it's a transformation that leads to willing submission to His Word. The whole message of 1 John is that if you are truly redeemed, it will manifest itself in a transformed life in which you confess sin, characteristically obey the Lord, and manifest love for the Lord and others. The divine miracle of a changed life reveals true salvation, resulting in a heart that desires to obey the Lord. As Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (John 8:31)....
The choice, then, is between these two destinations: the broad way that leads to destruction and the narrow way that is the only highway to heaven. All forms of the religion of human achievement—from humanism and atheism (the ultimate religion of human achievement, where man himself is God) to pseudoChristianity—are going to end up in the same hell. As John Bunyan said, "For some the entrance to hell is from the portals of heaven." What a shock it's going to be for some people. On the other hand, the narrow way is going to open up into eternal bliss. The broad way narrows down into a terrible pit. The narrow way widens into the endless glories of heaven, the fullness of an unspeakable, everlasting, unclouded fellowship of joy with God that we can't even imagine.
Build Your Life on Him. The broad way that leads to destruction is all sand. The narrow roaders build on rock. What exactly does that mean? We could make a case for the fact that the rock is God, and you are literally building your life on God, which, of course, is true. We could say the rock is God, but so would the Pharisees. Or we could say the rock is Christ. Peter called Him the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). Paul said He is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4).
But plenty of people say they've built their lives on Christ. Most commentators say "rock" in this passage means God or Christ, but I want to take it a step further. Jesus is interested in "whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them." The rock is true faith in the Word of God, resulting in an obedient heart and the end of self-righteousness. Yes, God is a rock; yes, Christ is the chief cornerstone. But I believe that what our Lord was saying here is simply this: "These sayings of Mine become the bedrock foundation of the true church, the redeemed church, the true believer."
Look at Matthew 16:13–16: "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?'" And the answer was, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." But Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Excerpted from Jesus by John MacArthur, John Eldredge, Max Lucado, Charles R. Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, Billy Graham, Dee Brestin, Kathy Troccoli, Anne Graham Lotz. Copyright © 2004 W Publishing Group. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Jesus, the Lord, 1,
Jesus, the Mighty Warrior, 23,
Jesus, the Friend, 45,
Jesus, the Teacher, 69,
Jesus, the Healer, 91,
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, 113,
Jesus, the Lover of My Soul, 133,
Jesus, the Savior, 153,
Bible Reading Plan, 176,
Scripture Index, 179,