Saturday, November 05, 2005

Do You Believe Jesus Is For You?

The following article appears in the November, 2005 issue of Charles Stanley's "In Touch Magazine." The name of the piece asks "Who is the real Jesus?" It is an excerpt from David Gregory's book entitled, "Dinner with a Perfect Stranger."

I was so moved by how our loving Savior is described in this article. I immediately felt led to share it here on my blog. Understanding and sharing the heart of Jesus is our goal when witnessing to others. This author does so in such a beautiful and uplifting way! It fills our hearts with eternal love for our Lord Jesus and blesses us with such faithful hope!


Let's say you've received an invitation to dinner with none other than Jesus of Nazareth. And you accept...

Do you think He’ll glide to your table
saying, “Verily, verily” in a somber voice?
Will He resemble an affluent American
pastor? Perhaps He’ll sit down and explain
the 12 steps to successful Christian living.
Would you recognize Him at all?

Few Christian apologists would consider
writing a modern-day story with Jesus as
one of two main characters (the other being
Nick Cominsky, a cynical 30-something
Chicago native who wants nothing to do
with Him). Who’s to say exactly what tone
of voice, facial expressions, or especially
words Jesus might use in a given situation—
particularly in an Italian restaurant?

Admittedly, in writing Dinner With a
Perfect Stranger
, my book about a skeptic
having dinner with the Son of God, I faced
many potential pitfalls. But my task was
made easier by this: the Gospels tell us a
great deal about the sort of person Jesus
was (and is): a real person to whom people
were irresistibly drawn. That’s also true of
God the Father, whom the Son shows us
perfectly. (Hebrews 1:3) Besides reporting
Jesus’ words and actions, these stories also
reveal His character and personality.

What was it about this man that made
thousands follow Him through streets and
up mountains? His healing ministry and
spellbinding, authoritative teaching (as well
as His considerable humor, which is largely
lost on us today) attracted many. But the
Lord’s personality drew individuals to Him
on another level. Everyday people simply
liked being around Him.

Are we drawn to Jesus by His character?
Do we actually know Jesus and relate to
Him as someone with the personality He
revealed while living on earth?

Jesus was tender and compassionate.

Whether weeping with mourning friends,
raising a widow’s son from death, or calling
for children to approach, Jesus constantly
displayed His heart of compassion. Perhaps
that’s why women, who were normally
overlooked, felt so free to approach this
man of power and truth. Even when Jesus
challenged people to change, He did so
with genuine love. Consider His encounter
with the Samaritan woman or the rich
young ruler. (John 4:9-29; Mark 10:17-22)
Do you picture Jesus (or God the Father)
as harsh and demanding? Or do you believe
He’s compassionate toward you, understanding
your weaknesses and extending
mercy and grace? (Hebrews 4:15-16) Are
you experiencing Him as He truly is?

Jesus knew people thoroughly, yet
wasn’t condemning.

We all like to be around people who
accept us. Still, our sense of acceptance is
often only partial. They accept me, we think,
because they don’t know the real me.
The Lord knew people completely,
discerning even their thoughts. (Luke 5:22)
But He, who had the right to condemn,
didn’t. Though Jesus knew the adulterous
woman’s background, He told her, “I do
not condemn you . . . from now on, sin no
more” (John 8:1-11). For Him, the main
issue was what He wanted to offer her.
(John 4:10) Or consider the example of
Peter, who swore he’d never deny Christ.
(Matthew 26:33-35) Jesus knew he would,
but no condemnation accompanied that
foreknowledge. Instead, He simply told
Peter, “I have prayed for you, Simon, that
your faith may not fail. And when you have
turned back, strengthen your brothers”
(Luke 22:32 NIV). Peter was Jesus’ man,
even though he was about to deny Him.
Jesus knows you thoroughly. He knows
how you might fail Him tomorrow, the
next day, and the next. But that’s not what
He’s looking at. His focus is on who He’s
making you to be, and how much He
delights in and loves the “real” you.
Do you live as though Jesus is scolding,
condemning, and expressing constant disappointment
in you? Or do you live as one
loved and accepted unconditionally?

Jesus was patient with people.

“Do you still not understand?” This
question from Matthew 16:9 (NIV) wasn’t
unusual for Jesus, who tirelessly explained
His words to the disciples. Even knowing
they’d all desert Him when the pressure
was on, He never gave up on them.

Luke 7:18-28 is a good illustration of
the Lord’s unfaltering patience. John the
Baptist was in prison, and things were not
going as expected. In discouragement, he
sent two of his followers to ask Jesus, “Are
You the Expected One, or do we look for
someone else?” (v. 19) After all God had
revealed to John, we wouldn’t expect him
to doubt. Nonetheless, he was doubting.
Jesus, however, didn’t react negatively.
Rather, He instructed John’s disciples to
take back word of the awesome things
they’d seen Him do, knowing their testimony
would answer the question. Later,
He actually told the crowd that John was a
great man of God! (vv. 24-28)

Do you see Jesus as being easily annoyed
with you? Okay, so you’ve blown it. Over
and over again. We all have. But Jesus
remains ever patient with us, because He
knows that He will bring to completion
and perfection the work He has started in
us. (Philippians 1:6)

Jesus enjoyed people—and having a
good time.

We often forget that Jesus was accused
of being “a gluttonous man and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners”
(Luke 7:34). Though the first half of the
accusation was untrue, Jesus didn’t earn
that reputation by being a stuffed shirt.
Rather, He attended gatherings that made
the legalists gasp, and He associated with
people who knew how to have fun. Just as
they undoubtedly enjoyed Jesus’ company,
He also took pleasure in being with them.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus simply
loved being around people—whether His
close friends, Zaccheus the cheating tax
collector, or the folks at Matthew’s house.
As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1:9,
we’re “called into fellowship” with Jesus.
The Lord wants to be with us throughout
eternity; He saved us because He delights
in having relationship with us.

Do you believe Jesus merely puts up
with you? Or does He truly take pleasure in
spending time with you? Is He someone
who likes doing only “religious” things
with you, or does He desire to share in all
your joyful experiences? (John 15:11)

Jesus was for people.

We all like being around someone who’s
for us—who both stands by us and stands
up for us. Jesus’ mission was to fight for
people, to set them free (Luke 4:18), and
to give them hope. He considered people
more important than man-made religious
rules and sided with outcasts instead of self-righteous
religious leaders. (Luke 6:1-5;
13:10-17; Mark 2:15-17) He even blessed
an “immoral woman” who demonstrated
faith, while rebuking the Pharisee who
judged her. (Luke 7:36-50)

Do you believe Jesus is for you? It is not
His voice accusing you of constantly falling
short; He’s the One who “lives to intercede”
for you. (Hebrews 7:25 NIV) As
Romans 8:31-39 teaches, God is always for
us, Jesus always defends us, and because
we’re loved, nothing can overcome us.
Two thousand years ago, these qualities
of Jesus’ drew people to Him. Are we just
as drawn to His character? If not, maybe
we aren’t seeing Him as He truly is. Jesus
is the same today as He was then—just as
unconditionally loving, patient, and passionate
about every person. And He’s still
extending the same invitation:

To purchase Dinner with a Perfect Stranger: An
Invitation Worth Considering
by David Gregory, go to In Touch Bookstore.

I stand at the door and knock;
if anyone hears My voice and opens
the door, I will come in to him and
will dine with him, and he with Me.
(Revelation 3:20)


Susan Smith said...

It is chilly, windy and rainy in the Holy City this weekend.

Thanks for such a beautiful and warm post, Christine. The greatest witness we can share is our life.

God bless you abundantly this week as you give your life to others. (ss)

Christinewjc said...

This sentence:

"Jesus’ mission was to fight for people, to set them free (Luke 4:18), and
to give them hope."

...reminded me of the scene in The 'Passion of the Christ' movie where Mary his mother reflects back on when Jesus was a child. In the memory, she rescued Jesus from a fall and cradled him in her arms to comfort him. Now, back to the present scene where Jesus is carrying the cross to Calvary. He is bloody, battered and exhausted. He stumbles and falls. Mary rushes to his side, but realizes that she is helpless in rescuing him this time. Jesus, seeing his mother, finds the strength to get up and go on. Jesus tells her, "Mother, I am making all things new."

What a powerful moment in the film.

It demonstrated that Jesus did this for his mother, as well as all of us.

Jesus died to rescue US from OUR sins. He did this willingly. He makes all things new. He makes us new!

We know from the Scriptures that he could have summoned legions of angels to rescue him from that horribly painful death at the cross. He hung there for 6 hours. For us!! But if he rescued himself, he wouldn't have been our Savior. He wouldn't have paid the price that we could not ever pay on our own. He alone, rescued us from our sins. If he didn't, we would have no way back to reconciliation with God the Father.

Jesus would have returned to heaven alone.

Instead, Jesus took it all. The beatings, the scourging, the whippings, being mocked and spat upon. He endured the agony and death on the cross for our sakes.

He did this for us.

Susan Smith said...

Amen, sister! It helps me to remember Jesus came to save/deliver me from my sins... He did not come to make me financially rich, comfortable or even happy. Abundant life is ours for free; however, some Christians only accept half of salvation as I did for many years. That is the half that tells us our sins are forgiven.

I had no victory over sin and I was a defeated and discouraged Christian. In fact, I was miserable most of the time, because I could not remove sin from my life by the power of my flesh... it is impossible. The flesh must die with its passions and desires (see GAL 5:24)... we HAVE been crucified with Him on the cross (past tense). My positon in Christ was perfect, yet my experience had no victory over sin in my life. It is impossible to commit suicide by crucifixion. We accept our crucifixion by faith, just as we accept the forgiveness of our sins. It is DAILY... we take up our cross.

I was saved yesterday, I am being saved today and I will be saved tomorrow. Praise His Name! Much love to a beautiful sister on the West Coast from the Holy Land. (ss)