KNOWING CHRIST - KNOWING GOD

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley

STUDY THREE: JESUS - IDENTIFYING THE TRUTH AND EXPOSING ERROR

[This Study relates to Knowing Christ - Knowing God Worksheet 3 designed for use in group study situations. Some of the suggestions in the study tasks are specific for group study leaders; these can be adapted for personal study.]

INTRODUCTION:

We have seen in the first two studies the great and overwhelming darkness of the world. We have seen that the core meaning of this darkness is ignorance of God, and the resultant life of separation from God. We have seen that Christ has come as the Light of the world, shattering the darkness for those who believe in him.

Jesus Christ replaces the darkness with light. He replaces the ignorance and erroneous thinking about God with the truth. In fact he claimed: I am the truth [John 14:6]. This is an absolute claim. Jesus is not saying that he is one source of truth among many. He is not saying that he is part of the truth. He is the truth - not relative, not qualified, not conditional. He is the truth. If we do not find truth here we will not find it anywhere. If we believe we have found the truth, but we have not found it in Jesus Christ, then the truth we think we have found is not the truth at all. Jesus Christ defines the truth. Anything additional, anything alongside, is at the worst a lie, and at best a watered-down, wishy-washy corruption of the truth, and therefore error.

At the deepest level all of our spiritual questions can be answered in Jesus Christ. He is the truth - about God, about ourselves, about life, about death, about salvation. No matter what the question its true answer is here, in this one place: Jesus Christ.

Task #1: Get the group to brainstorm examples of common 'spiritual' questions that are asked by either Christians or non-Christians. [Responses can be scribbled on a white board if you wish.] If you wish, get the group to discuss whether or not there are answers to these questions, and get them to think about how Jesus Christ gives us the answer to each of these questions. NB: Don't spend a great deal of time here.

A word of caution: We must not minimize the meaning of Jesus' claim to the 'the truth'. We must not here think that he is simply speaking of being honest. When he claims to be 'the truth' he is claiming to be the ultimate reality, the ultimate and absolute truth by which the essential meaning of everything is defined. The meaning and definition that Jesus gives to everything is its true meaning. This is essentially how the Scriptures talk of the truth. [See the Appendix A for an extensive list of New Testament references.] Thus we find in the Bible that:

  • 'the truth' is the sum total of what is true about God and all that is
  • 'the truth' is the arena in which true worship of God takes place
  • 'truth' is a synonym for 'the Gospel'
  • 'the truth' is the arena in which those who believe in Christ live out their lives
  • 'the truth' is something to be obeyed - so that one's whole life is to be lived in accordance with the knowledge contained in the truth.
  • a lifestyle of sin confirms that one does not know the truth and is not in the truth
  • 'the truth' is the opposite of all erroneous perceptions about God and life
  • 'the truth' is something of which Satan and those who are in his clutches are ignorant, and their lives and perspectives are characterized and dominated by the perceptions, principles and priorities of he arena of error/darkness in which they are trapped.

In our Christian walk our goal should be to live in the light of 'the truth' - expressing in all of our relationships the perceptions, passions, principles and priorities revealed in and by Jesus Christ, 'the truth'.

A. JESUS CHRIST = THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD

A.1 When we see Jesus Christ we are seeing God

Here we will pick up some of the verses mentioned in Study Two and look at them in greater depth, along with some other significant verses.

Matt 11:27

' ... no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'

Here Jesus says straight out that no one knows God the Father unless he, Jesus, reveals the Father to them. In other words, no matter what we think we know about God we actually do not know him unless Jesus reveals him to us.

John 1:1

'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'

John here affirms the eternal deity of Jesus Christ, 'the Word'. He goes on to affirm that he was the Creator of all things, and the source of all life. [See also 1 John 1:1,2]

John 1:18

'No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father's side, has made him known.'

Again we are told: no one has seen God. Then we are told that Jesus has made him known. The Greek word used is exegeomai - to unfold, to bring out the meaning of. Jesus Christ has unfolded to us the true meaning of and nature of God.

John 8:12

'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'

The clear inference of this verse is that everyone who is not following Jesus is actually walking in darkness.

John 8:24

' ... if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be you will indeed die in your sins.'

Meaning: if we reject the truth that Jesus revealed about his true identity there can be no forgiveness.

John 10:30

'I and the Father are one.'

When Jesus said this the Jews immediately picked up stones intending to stone him to death for blasphemy. They understood exactly that by these words Jesus was claiming for himself equality and identity with God. Here, in Jesus, God stands before us.

John 12:44-45

'When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.'

Here is the answer to anyone's question 'What is God like?' That answer is: look at Jesus. What Jesus is, God is. What Jesus does, God does; what Jesus says, God says. It is as simple and as deep as that. Similarly, to believe in Jesus is to believe in God.

John 13:20

' ... whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me ... '

Again, the identification.

John

14:6-9

' ... I am the ... truth ... No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.' Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father?" Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? ... '

This is a powerful interchange.

Jesus is amazed that Philip hasn't got it yet, that, after being with Jesus for three years, he still has to ask to be shown the Father. He should have understood by now that in knowing Jesus he actually knew God the Father. Anyone, says Jesus, who knows him actually knows the Father. The logical opposite of this is that if a person does not know Jesus he does not know God the Father. If he hasn't 'seen' Jesus Christ he simply hasn't seen the Father.

John 17:6,26

'I revealed you to those you gave me out of the world ... . I made you known to them ... .'

Jesus actively made the Father known to his disciples.

Romans 9:5

... . Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!

Here Paul comes straight out and identifies Jesus as God of all, to whom eternal praise is both given and due.

Romans 10:9

... if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord" ... you will be saved.

Here the affirmation that Jesus is God ('Lord' is one of God's common OT names) is the prerequisite for salvation.

Hebrews 1:2,3

' ... he has spoken to us by his Son, ... through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being ... ' [See Col 1:16]

This verse teaches us that Jesus Christ displays, radiates, the glory of God - all that God is shines out in Christ; in addition, Christ is, exactly, the essence or substance of God. What God is, he is.

1 John 5:20,21

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true - even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Three points here teach us that in knowing Jesus we know God:

[1] 'he has given us understanding so that we may know him ... ' Jesus enables us to know God.

[2] 'he is the true God and eternal life' - these words refer to Jesus Christ: he is the true God.

[3] 'keep yourselves from idols' - nowhere else in this letter does John refer to 'idols' - only here right after he has identified Jesus as the true God. What is he saying? Simply and powerfully this: that any 'god' concept that is not co-identical with Jesus Christ, is an idol. Jesus defines the one true God.

Task #2A:Lead the group through this task, particularly in identifying the implications of these verses for the listed questions. These verses are highly discriminatory and exclusive. They allow for no reduction of their meaning that only in Jesus Christ can the one true God be known.

A.2 When we see Jesus we see God in action - we see the kinds of things God does

Many teachers consider that Mark's Gospel is about Jesus, the man. Mark, however, introduces his Gospel with the words: 'The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' As we read through this gospel we see God in action, displaying his power and authority in every situation. God incarnate, Jesus Christ, demonstrated beyond doubt that God is both interested in, involved in and interferes in, life on planet earth. He is not some distant and removed deistic god, nor even a fatalistic uncaring god to whom it is useless to pray. He is with us; he is here, close at hand, able and willing to act and intervene. [For more detailed input on the points below go to Mark's Answer in the Who is Jesus? studies on this website.]

  • He has authority to command people [1:16-20; 2:14].
  • He has authority over the truth [1:21,22] - he knows what the truth is - he is, after all, 'the truth'.
  • He has authority over evil spirits [1:27, 34b,39; 3:20-30; 5:1-20; 7:24-30].
  • He has authority over sickness and disability [1:30,31, 40-42; 3:1-5; 5:25-34; 7:32-37; 8:22-26; 10:46-52]. In all of this we must realize that Jesus is here displaying his divine authority over the curse of Genesis 3, demonstrating that he has the power and the right to undo and reverse it, as he will do eventually at the end of the age, when all sickness and suffering is no more.
  • He has the authority to forgive sin [2:1-12]. Again, this is what God does. God can and does reverse his own judgement on sin.
  • He has authority over the Law [2:18-28; 3:1-6]. The Law is not what men make it. The Law is God's law: he knows its true meaning and its purpose.
  • He has authority over nature [4:35-41; 6:30-44; 6:45-52; 8:1-10]. Jesus here commands and controls nature as its divine Creator and Lord. He is amazed that the disciples did not realise who he was purely on the basis of these incidents [see 6:51,52; 8:17-21]. [See Colossians 1:17: 'in him all things hold together' - Christ is the cohesive principle of the entire universe; without his sustaining word all things would disintegrate and cease to exist. See also Hebrews 1:1-3.]
  • He has authority over death [5:21-24, 35-43; 8:31; 10:34].
Task #2B: The significance of this section is that Jesus reveals the truth about God in action, making prayer a significant exercise, and potentially putting great confidence into our lives as we recognize that God is active in this world, that he is active for us, and that nothing is outside or beyond his authority and control. Lead the group to see this truth revealed in the actions of Jesus.

A.3 When we see Jesus we see the love of God

Many people question the love of God. They look at 'all the suffering' especially of the 'innocent' or the 'righteous', and they cannot see that God can possibly be loving. In Jesus Christ those accusations and questions fall to the ground. In him the love of God was clearly demonstrated, not only in the way he eased our physical suffering, which we have already seen in the references from Mark, but also in that ultimate expression of love in which God the Father sent Jesus Christ, his Son, to stand in our place as our substitute to bear the punishment due to us for our sin:

John 3:16

'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

Romans 5:8

'But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'

Ephesians 1:6-8

' ... to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves ... the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding ... '

Ephesians 2:7

' ... that he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus ... '

Ephesians 3:17-19

'I pray that you ... may have the power, together will all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge ... '

1 John 3:1

'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!' [We can only be called his children because of the cross-work of Jesus Christ].

1 John 4:9,10

'This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.'

Jesus Christ is God's final affirmation of his love for us. Nothing can surpass this demonstration. If a person can look here, at this Christ on this cross, and not see the love of God, that person will never see it anywhere.

Task #2C: This task is very sensitive and personal. Guide the group into a true and deep appreciation of the love of God revealed in the coming and dying of Jesus Christ. Everyone in the group should be touched here in the very core of their being, overwhelmed by the sheer immensity and liberality of God's love.

B. JESUS CHRIST = THE TRUTH ABOUT MAN

The life of Jesus Christ reveals the true nature of 'man'.

When we look at Jesus Christ not only do we see God, we also see the only authentic man. Here in Jesus is human life lived as it was created to be lived. Here, in Jesus, we see the full meaning of man made in the image of God: a human life lived in complete and willing dependence on God, in complete and willing conformity to God's Word, and expressing completely the nature of God - fulfilling the God-ordained role and destiny of every man - to reflect (to image) God - the role and destiny that gives to man his unique identity.

  • This authentic man so loves God that he is committed to glorifying God [John 17:4; Hebrews 2:12,13].
  • This authentic man lives in dependence on the Word of God [Matthew 4:4, John 4:32-34].
  • This authentic man's heart and mind are in sync with the mind of God [Hebrews 10:7-9].
  • This authentic man is subject to the Word of God [Matthew 3:15; 4:7,10; Luke 22:37; 24:44-46; John 15:25].
  • This authentic man, the man totally fulfilling his God-given role, is without sin [Luke 23:4; John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22].

[Much more could be added here - e.g. Jesus shows us how the true man loves, Jesus shows us how the true man prays, Jesus show us how the true man relates to persecution, etc, etc.]

Jesus of Nazareth lived the only really human life. The rest of mankind since Genesis 3 have been trying to live as humans outside the criteria set by our Creator, which is, in the ultimate sense, an impossibility. We cannot be authentically human, human in the way God intended, while we are in a state of severance from, and discord with, God. Hence the inner severance and alienation and the interpersonal severance and alienation that characterizes human life as we see and experience it: we cannot live authentic human lives while we are severed and alienated from the One who gives meaning, purpose, identity and dignity to human life.

Task #3: This task can be turned into a challenge to the group members to strive to 'follow' Jesus, the authentic, or true, man.

C. JESUS CHRIST REVEALS THE TRUTH ABOUT SIN AND JUDGEMENT

C.1 The teaching and attitude of Jesus Christ expose the true nature of our sin.

Sin is something we need to be saved from [Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10]

  • He commanded people not to sin any more [John 5:14]
  • He knew that everyone is a sinner [John 8:7,8]
  • He sees sin as an enslaving power [John 8:34,35]
  • Forgiveness of sins is a cause for joy [Matthew 9:2]
  • To die 'in your sins' is the fate of those who do not believe in him [John 8:24]
  • Our sins involve us in an immeasurable and unpayable debt [Matthew 18:21-35]
  • The foundational and ultimate sin is the rejection of God [Mark 3:28,29; John 15:24; 16:9].

C.2 The death of Jesus Christ on the cross shouts out the truth about the horrific consequences of sin, and what God thinks about sin. [Note: The death of Christ will be more in focus in later studies.]

When we look at the death of Christ we know: this is how wrong sin is; this is how much God hates sin; this is the penalty for sin that hangs over each one us. No one looking at the cross of Christ can ever again think that sin is okay. If someone claims to believe in Christ and at the same time also thinks that it doesn't matter if they sin, they do not really know Christ, they do not really know the truth revealed in his cross: that God hates sin with a terrible hatred, that sin has horrific effects, and that God's just judgement on sin is extreme. No one really seeing Christ in the act of dying for their sin can flippantly say to him, 'Oh, you're paying for my sin, Jesus. Great! No I can go and ... ' To do so is to act in a way that is incongruent with the truth and ignorant of the truth, and to demonstrate that one is a stranger to the truth. It is to live in the arena of Satan's lie.

Jesus in his dying reveals the truth: this is what sin does. This is what God thinks of sin.

Task #4:After you have communicated the content of this section, get the group to discuss the impact of this for their lives, and to fill in the box with their own personal response. Again this is a very powerful and sensitive truth, and if it fails to impact someone they certainly need some pastoral care and/or discipling! Again, this section is a challenge to the group members to be determined in their hatred of sin.