Summary: The most important question is: "Who do you say Jesus Christ is?" Our answer determines everything else about the rest of our lives and about our eternity.
Today we launch into a 7 week series that looks at 7 essential questions that answer the bigger question of what it means to be a follower of Christ Jesus and WHY a person would want to be a follower of Jesus.
There are good reasons that people come to faith in Christ, and there are good reasons why people continue to follow Jesus their whole lives.
Who would like to stand and briefly share, in just a sentence, why you follow Jesus?
So we follow Jesus on purpose, for good reasons. And the longer we follow Him, the more we have to testify about His goodness and faithfulness.
For this 7-week series that will lead right into Easter sunday or Resurrection Sunday, I thought it would be valuable to us to explore together some truly vital questions, and the implications of the answers to those questions.
Let’s plunge in: If I was to ask you about your identity, what would I really be getting at? I’d want to know how you see yourself. I’d want to know about your values, what makes you tick. Identity is huge. It is so incredibly important for us to understand who we are, if we’re adults. For youth, it can be a real struggle to figure out who they are apart from their parents.
Something goes wrong if we don’t do the hard work of figuring out who we are. Learning what matters to us, learning to accept who we are, learning our strengths and weaknesses and blind spots is critical to becoming a strong, emotionally healthy, humble and grateful person.
So identity...yours and mine is critical. All-round, it’s something worthwhile giving our attention to. It’s also worth giving our attention to, or occasionally rediscovering, who God is. Jesus gives us unique and wonderful insights into the identity of God. Jesus showed us that God is Abba, or Father.
Jesus showed us that God truly cares about all that He has created. Jesus showed us that God is concerned about justice and fairness.
Jesus showed us that God is not at all removed from His creation, but that He is intimately concerned about all living things, especially human beings.
But Who is Jesus? Who is the Christ? Why does He matter? Why does history seem to revolve around Him? Why does history divide at His birth between BC and AD?
Think of the year of your birth. Mine is 1962. What does that number mean? It’s the number of years from the assumed birth-year of the Saviour of the world, Jesus. Why does Jesus get to determine, get to be the way time itself is measured in years? And there’s other good questions. Why is a poor itinerant rabbi, from a backwater outpost of the ancient Roman empire in the middle East - why is He still known and worshipped all around the world today, 2000-odd years after his death?
Why do His followers still do things like run this very mission, Yonge Street Mission, that seeks to tranform people and communities with the love of God and the knowledge of Jesus Christ?
And why do so many today claim to have been changed by Him. Why do so many live better lives today than they would have without Him, because of Him?
These seem like questions that are worth exploring as we consider the notion of identity.
You know, as a young man I was familiar with a lot of important historical figures. High school brought me in the loop with important people who had shaped the way the world looked, and the way people thought. I knew about Alexander the Great and the Roman Emperors. I had learned about the ancient philosophers and why they mattered - Plato, Aristotle, Socrates. And I learned about more recent history, some of the great and some of the horrible leaders that had influenced the way the world is today.
But both the school system and life at home had left me completely ignorant of Jesus, even while both places encouraged me to embrace a worldview that did not include any notion of God. And, skipping a lot, by the time I was 16 I had come to believe that life was hollow and without meaning. I was raised in a home that never discussed God.
William Somerset was a British writer, among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the depression in the 1930s.
What he said and what another philosopher said summed up what I had come to believe by the tender age of 17. He said this:
“If one puts aside the existence of God and the survival afterlife as to doubtful... One has to make up one's mind as to the use of life. If death and all, if I have neither to hope for good nor to fear evil, I must ask myself what I am here for, and how in the circumstances I must conduct myself. Now the answer is plain, but so uncountable the most will not face it. There is no meaning for life, and thus life has no meaning”.