Jesus, Lord and Savior-Part 4 (James 2:14-26)

As an associate pastor, one of my responsibilities at the church I serve is to teach children’s church on a regular basis. I am always grateful for the opportunity to share the Word of God with the children and point them to Jesus Christ. I also recognize temptations in teaching children the Bible. The first is to teach Bible narratives as if they are merely stories with a good moral point. However, if the Bible is truly the Word of God, the narratives found in Scripture are based in history. Children need to hear the narratives of David and Goliath and Jonah and the big fish are not fables but were actual events. This is not the only temptation with teaching children, though. A second temptation is to water down the response of the gospel. It is this second temptation I want us to consider in greater detail.

“Jesus Wants to Be Your Friend”

A common phrase I have heard some use to encourage children to respond to what Jesus has done on the cross is “Jesus wants to be your friend”. After all, does it not say in James 2 Abraham “was called a friend of God” (2:23)? Moreover, the Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus is accused of being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (7:34). These two verses seem to indicate Jesus can be your friend. The issue needing to be dealt with here has not to do with the text but with the context. In other words, James 2:23 is clear Abraham was a friend of God. Yet, to understand this friendship rightly the context of James 2:14–26 is essential.

Jesus: A Different Type of Friend

When we think about friendship, we do not think in terms of hierarchy. We view each other as equals. One person is not in authority over another. Now consider the same framework in describing Jesus as your friend. Does such a mindset contribute to a biblical concept? No. Jesus is a different type of friend. James 2 teaches us this. In verses 14–26 James is making the case saving faith is evidenced by good works. True faith in Jesus Christ will produce works for Christ. He uses the example of Abraham to illustrate this. He says, “and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God” (2:23). Abraham was called a friend of God because He placed His belief and trust in God. To be sure, this belief was not found without proof. James continues, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24). James is not saying here works are required for salvation. This would be in contradiction to the testimony of Scripture and to the gospel. Rather, James is making the case true saving faith will be seen through good works. To state it another way, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (2:26).

Our Lord and Savior, then Our Friend

Just as Jesus is our example only after we trust in Him as Lord and Savior, Jesus is our friend. If we have not repented of our sins and placed our trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then we are still enemies of God (James 4:4). To tell children, or even adults, to respond to the gospel by saying, “Jesus wants to be your friend” misses the point. To be a friend of God, we must confess our rebellion and sin against Him. We must place our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The evidence we have believed in Him as Lord will be evidenced through obedience to His Word. When we ask for forgiveness for our sins and look to Christ only for salvation and hope, we will be found as friends of God!

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it important to understand Jesus is our Lord and Savior before we say He is our friend?
  • How does understanding Jesus is our Lord and Savior before He is our friend affect the way we encourage people to respond to the gospel?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Jesus, Lord and Savior-Part 3 (1 Peter 2:21-25)

ww_jesus_landsGrowing up, I remember wearing a wrist bracelet with the letters “WWJD”. If I were to ask you what those letters stood for, chances are you would correctly answer “What would Jesus do?” This phrase encourages the Christian to follow the example of Jesus by asking what Christ would do. While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking this question, I believe we need to ask a question prior to this. Before we consider what would Jesus do, we need to believe in what Jesus did. In other words, prior to following Jesus as our example, we need to trust in Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus, Our Example

Because there is a false notion of Jesus as our example, a corrective is needed. There are some circles of belief, even with those who profess to be Christians, which see Jesus primarily as an example to follow. As a result, we are left to ask: “What does Scripture say about this?” While a number of passages may shed light on the discussion, 1 Peter 2:21–25 lays out a succinct answer. In the context of Christian suffering, we read, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (2:21). Clearly stated, as Christians, we are to follow the example of Christ, particularly in suffering. He is our example. But that does not answer our question completely. The matter is not whether Jesus is our example to follow but whether His role as our example is primary. I would contend with you it is not. He is our example to follow only after we understand His saving person and work.

Jesus, Our Savior and Lord

The Apostle Peter continues by laying the example of Christ, showing He committed no sin (2:22) and He entrusted Himself to God the Father in His own suffering (2:23). Yet, the suffering Christ faced and the death He endured is not portrayed merely in terms of serving as an example. 1 Peter 2:24–25 make this clear: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” The suffering and death of Jesus Christ was for the salvation of sinners. As those who have sinned against God, we deserve the judgment of God. The way of salvation, then, is not to try better or to follow the example of Jesus. The only way of salvation is trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ lived the perfect life we failed to and He died the sinner’s death. As our substitute, He died on the cross for our sins, so that we may be forgiven. The person and work of Jesus Christ is the basis of how we can die to sin and live to righteousness. We trust in His saving work and we acknowledge His authority as Lord. Only when we place our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord can we then follow Him as our example.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it crucial to understand Jesus is our Lord and Savior before we see Him as our example?
  • What are the implications of seeing Jesus as primarily our example to the neglect of Him as our Lord and Savior?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Jesus, Lord and Savior-Part 2 (Hebrews 10:19-25)

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It seems to me some believe merely “Jesus and me” is what it means to live Christianly. While it is true our Christian faith ought to be personal, we should not commit the error of viewing the Christian life as private. As Christians, we have repented of sin and have placed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But Jesus is not merely my Lord and Savior; Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Consider what the writer of Hebrews said as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. After explaining the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sinners (Hebrews 10:1–18), the writer of Hebrews shares for those who have trusted in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they are able to confidently enter before the throne of God. This is not based on their own righteousness but solely based on the blood of the righteous Christ. It was Jesus who came to live as God in the flesh, living a sinless life and dying a sinner’s death, being sacrificed so that we could find salvation in Him (10:20). He also serves as our high priest, making intercession for us who are in Christ (10:21). Therefore, this truth is only for those who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior. For only those who have Christ can draw near with full assurance of faith (10:22). Only those who have Christ can hold fast the confession of our hope in the gospel (10:23). Yet, those who have Christ not only have Christ to live out the Christian life. They have the church. Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation but the evidence of possessing that saving faith is found in living the Christian life and the Christian life is not lived in isolation. That is why Hebrews 10:24–25 command us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Because of the person and work of Christ, seen in His sufficient sacrifice for sins, we can be saved by placing our belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. What we need to understand, though, is when God saved you, He adopted you into a family. This family of God is what is known as the church. The visible representation of this family is found in the local church, where priority is given to meeting together for the sake of worshipping our Lord and Savior together. As well, in our times together we need to be living as brothers and sisters in Christ, considering how we can help one another grow in Christ by loving and doing good to each other. One of the ways we do that is by making it a priority to meet together. As we see, one of the concerns for whatever reason was some professing Christians had neglected meeting together for the sake of worship and fellowship. What was true then is true now. You may be someone who lives by the mindset that your spiritual life is nobody else’s business or maybe you know someone who thinks “Jesus and me” is enough for living out the Christian life. The reality is such statements are a product of culture and not truths from the Bible. As Christians, we must understand the importance of the local church and see the necessity of accountability in the Christian community. God has saved a people for Himself. Jesus is not simply my Lord and Savior. For all who repent of their sins and trust in Him, Jesus is our Lord Savior.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you have the mindset you all need to live the Christian life is “Jesus and me”? How does understanding Jesus as our Lord and Savior contribute to the importance of the local church?
  • How can you make it a priority to gather with the church and in what ways can you display love and good works to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Jesus, Lord and Savior-Part 1 (Romans 10:9-10)

ww_jesus_landsI have an interesting relationship with my parents. They are not only my parents but attend the church where I currently serve as associate pastor as well. Therefore, I am their son and their associate pastor. From time to time, my father will joke around and say, “But you are my son first.” To that, I tongue-in-cheek respond, “That is true, but it does not negate that I am also one of your pastors!” I am not only their son. I am both their son and their pastor.

While such an illustration is meant to be lighthearted, there is a similar mindset among some Christians that is serious, contributing to a faulty understanding of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. There is an accepted idea that somehow a person can have Jesus as Savior but not trust in Him as Lord. They are willing to say they believe in Jesus and know He died for their sins, but they may not yet be ready to surrender to Him as Lord. They don’t think they need to trust in Jesus as both Savior and Lord to be saved.

With matters eternal, this is not an issue to overlook. It is serious and worthy of our attention to clarify. The question we must ask, then, is: What does Scripture say? The testimony of Scripture, particularly the New Testament, shows Jesus as Savior and as Lord. In speaking of Christ’s incarnation, Luke 2:11 says, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Still, while it is true Jesus is both Savior and Lord, we have not answered the question in terms of how that impacts what it means to be a Christian.

In Romans 10 we find an answer. In the context of Romans 9–11, concerning Israel’s unbelief and God’s sovereignty over the salvation of His people, we are told that the means by which people respond to the Gospel is through the hearing of God’s Word (10:17). How does one respond to the Gospel in order to be saved? By confessing and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9–10,

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

There are a number of observations we could make from this text, but there are two in particular that are pertinent to our discussion. The first is recognizing what we are confessing. We are confessing Jesus is Lord. The term here used for Lord conveys the ideas of authority. Pertaining to Jesus, it “acknowledges the superiority of Jesus over all things (e.g., Rom 10:9, 14:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil 2:11) and his universal rule over all things on behalf of God (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:25, 28; Rev 1:5, 17:14).”[1] In other words, we could say Jesus is King. He is the King who has died to bring us into His kingdom. He died on the cross to save us from our sins. In understanding the saving work of Jesus, we must believe God raised him from the dead. He is the Lord who is over all and He is the Savior who has died for all who repent and believe.

This leads us to consider the second point from these verses. A belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord is not merely a doctrine to affirm. It is a truth to take to heart. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul, he wrote, “confess with your mouth” and “believe in your heart”. It is not in mere words but with a sincerity of heart. This belief is not merely intellectual either. It is a belief, or trust, evidenced by actions. What is the action? Confessing your sins, repenting of them, and following Jesus Christ. How do we know how to follow? By studying and obeying God’s Word. We are not saved by our obedience, but our obedience is the evidence that we are saved. That is why it is eternally significant to understand that a Christian is one who has repented of their sin and has placed their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it important to understand that a Christian is one who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?
  • Read John 14:15–17. How do Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” contribute to this discussion on the Lordship of Christ?

[1] Lo, J. (2014). Deity. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.