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This Good Friday service is a time of testimony, reflection, communion, and preparation for Easter. You need to ask yourself, who was Jesus, what was he doing on the cross, and what are you going to do with Him? You can know who Jesus is, yet never personally engage with Him. Now is the time to reflect on if you are one who follows, trusts, and calls Him Lord and Savior.
Parable of the Sower: What Is the Soil of Your Heart?
An Evening with Eric Metaxas: Miracles
Don't be a WENI - Christlike Communication
Remembering Our Core Values: Examine Your Life, Excel Still More
Get Busy: Individual Next Steps
The Exclusivity of Jesus
Living Life in the Grace and Sufficiency of Christ: Baptism Celebration 2014
The Continuing Story of Easter
Todd and Greg Answer Questions About the Faith
5 Characteristics of Relationships that Succeed
A Tender Word for Pharisees
Stewarding the Life of a Shepherd
Love is Always Better than the Law
Jesus. Just saying his name sparks controversy and divides men. Talk about him in a university setting, quote his teaching at a campus, and they'll probably look at you with pity. Tell some of your family members, your friends, or your neighbors you want to follow Jesus and they may pat you on the back and say, "He's going through a phase."
Go to a dinner party and talk about Jesus and run the risk of being labeled intolerant as the room tries to politely separate themselves from you. Celebrate his birth in a school and run the risk of a lawsuit. Publicly proclaim to want to know and follow him in some countries in this world and run the risk of being arrested.
At the same time, as polarizing as Jesus is, despite the way in which people are persecuted, ridiculed, isolated, or what have you, there are many in this room who claim proudly to know him and to love him. There are many in this room who seek to obey him and orient their lives in such a way that they live according to his will and worship him and they invite others to join them.
It seems to me as if controversy has always followed Jesus. Just open the Gospels and you'll see that even at the very beginning of his life, the governing authorities felt threatened by him and Herod sought to put to death all the male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. The religious elite of his day sought to silence him as they quarreled with him on such topics as the nature of the law, what they could or couldn't do on the Sabbath, and the nature of God's kingdom. Eventually they sought to put him to death.
When you read the Gospels, this man who the governing authorities and the religious establishment hated so much is the same man who the sick, the poor, and the oppressed ran to. He's the same man who was known as a friend to sinners, the same man who welcomed children into his arms and accepted the worship of those who bowed at his feet, who won the hearts of his men in such a way they were willing to die for him. Even now our calendar pivots around his birth.
All of this begs the question…Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this one who divides a room and stirs controversy? Who is this one who is hated and despised by many but then loved, adored, and worshiped by many of you? I love the gospel of Luke because the gospel of Luke answers that question for us. (Who is Jesus?)
Luke writes his gospel in such a way that in the first eight chapters, time and time and time again, we see those around Jesus scratching their heads and asking the question, "Who is this?" For example, after Jesus read from the book of Isaiah in the temple, the people marveled at his teaching and asked in Luke, chapter 4, verse 22, "Is not this Joseph's son?"
After Jesus healed the paralyzed man, the religious establishment questioned, "Who is this who blasphemes? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" In Luke, chapter 7, after John the Baptist was arrested, even John the Baptist begins to wonder. He asks, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"
In Luke, chapter 7, verse 49, after Jesus forgave the sins of an immoral woman, those who shared a meal with him questioned, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" After Jesus calmed the storm, his disciples questioned, "Who then is this that he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him?"
Time and time again, Luke shows us that everywhere Jesus went, in his wake people were left wondering, questioning, "Who is Jesus?" but then he leads us to the turning point of the book in chapter 9, one of my favorite portions of Scripture.
Beginning in verse 18 it says, "Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, *'Who do the crowds say that I am?' * And they answered, 'John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.' Then he said to them, *'But who do you say that I am?' Then we have this great declaration of Peter. Scripture says, *"And Peter answered, 'The Christ [Son] of God.'"
You see, Luke brilliantly weaves the gospel story together in such as way that we're forced to ask ourselves, "Who is Jesus?" He was just as polarizing in that time as he is today. He gathered his men close to him and said, "Hey, who do the crowds say that I am," and they gave their answer. "John the Baptist has risen through one of the old prophets. Maybe you're Elijah."
It would be just as if I asked you today, "Hey, who do they say Jesus is? Who do your friends, family, and coworkers say Jesus is?" You'd probably hear answers like, "He was a good teacher." "He was a prophet." "He was a good man." Maybe you'd hear he was just a legend. But just like Jesus gathered his men and he narrowed his focus, he didn't leave it out there and say, "Hey, who do the crowds say I am?" he looked at his men and said, "But who do you say I am?"
On Good Friday, gang, we gather to answer that question. "Who do you say Jesus is, and what was he doing on that cross?" I'm not asking what you think your friends, your family, and the church believe. I'm asking you personally, just as Jesus asked his men, "Who do you say I am?" How you answer that question determines everything. Who is Jesus?
I want you to hear from a couple of my friends now who are going to share with you a little bit of their stories, who they thought Jesus was for a long time, and how now, by God's grace, they answer that question differently. Caroline Coffee and John Almquist, two of my friends, are going to come up now with me and share their stories.
Caroline Coffee: My name is Caroline Coffee, and before knowing Christ, I thought of him as a benevolent grandfather. He was there when I needed him. I usually visited him on Sundays. I spent extended time with him over the holidays and would sometimes check in with him during the week. He would even watch me in my performances and cheer me on.
Jesus was kind, and he was good, but he wasn't necessarily worth my full allegiance and devotion. I also thought I could bend the rules just a little bit here and there and Jesus would still pat me on the head and say, "Oh, you can mess up a little bit. Just don't get into too much trouble and keep your grades up."
I didn't try to get away with too much as I was growing up because I was close to my family and Jesus, but that changed when I went to college. I grew distant from my family a bit when I went to college, as too many kids do because they're no longer living under their parents' roof. I also grew distant in my relationship with Christ. He didn't have a starring role before then, so during college I decided to have my fun pursuing other things.
I have found the less time I spend checking in with and catching up with someone the more distant I grow from them, and that's exactly what happened. My faith did not remain the most important aspect of my life because I didn't prioritize Jesus. Therefore, it faded into the background my sophomore year when I started making decision I never thought I would make.
When I did check in with Jesus, I wasn't fully confessing my sin because I thought that made it less real, and I wanted to avoid having a confrontation from him for fear of getting in trouble. He was my benevolent and kind grandfather, and nobody wants to tell their kind grandfather all the areas of their life in which they're struggling.
Even though I was hurting on the inside, I thought if I kept performing and doing well by the world's standard that Jesus would think I was okay too. But he didn't want to simply see me doing well, because he knew I was faking it. He wanted my loyalty, my devotion, and my love. He wanted my life. He didn't just want to be my benevolent grandfather; he wanted to be my Savior and my Lord.
My senior year I was so tired of having one foot in the world and the other pursuing a half-hearted relationship with Christ. It was exhausting trying to cover up my trail of destruction with lies and deception. I felt so empty, so tired, and so broken. I had no fulfillment on either side. I began to realize that Jesus wasn't some abstract, distant God who was fine with my mediocre relationship with him.
He was no longer someone I thought I was doing a favor for by checking in with him. I began to realize Jesus brought more fulfillment and satisfaction than any party or guy ever could. I didn't have to give in to a performance-driven life because Jesus paid it all and finished it all by dying on the cross. There's no good in me except for him, and he's worth my full devotion.
So who do I say Jesus is today? He is no longer a passive bystander; he's a proactive rescuer. He's not waiting around for me to check in with him when I feel like it; he's a part of every aspect of my life. He doesn't just keep tabs on me and my activities; he knows the depths of my heart. I'm no longer trying to figure out how his plan fits into my life but how my life fits into his overall plan for me.
I must deny myself daily so I can follow him fully. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice on the cross so that I can be a living sacrifice for him every day of my life. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Since surrendering to him I have more peace, joy, and freedom than I have ever experienced in my entire life, and he wants the same for you. You can trust him. I promise. Don't cheat on your relationship with Christ; give him your whole life. You won't regret it.
John Almquist: Hi. My name is John Almquist. I'll tell you who I thought Jesus was for 22 years of my life. I thought he was a tyrant, the so-called Christ. He was the one who had standards that I could never meet no matter how hard I tried. I heard all these claims and people saying things like, "Love him. Adore him. Follow him." But no matter how hard I tried I could never do it well enough. There was always something or some area in my life where I wouldn't make the cut.
He was this cruel king who sat busily on his throne, all the while neglecting me where I was. He was all-powerful yet never personal and never caring. The best way to describe it would be… Have you ever walked into a room, and in that room there was someone there you so desperately wanted to please?
Through your words and through your actions you wanted their approval, and in that moment you lived on this fearful edge of what you might say or do next. That was how Jesus made me feel. He was this authoritarian. A punisher. A commander-in-chief who couldn't wait to just hit you when you stepped out of line.
I knew people who called him a Savior, but in my heart all I knew was a condemner. I'm so grateful to stand here now and say that began to change. There was a season where I began to surround myself with different people. These were folks who saw Christ in a whole new way. They were one who would make mistakes and even sin and say Christ still loved them.
It was the idea that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. They told me how Christ loved me enough to die for me and didn't do this out of anger or disappointment with the hope that I might clean myself up, but he did it simply because he loved me and wanted to honor the desires of the Father's love.
At first, when I was going through all that I didn't know exactly what to believe, so I went straight to that Bible. It was there I began to read of Christ in a whole new way. He was no longer this condemner but this great rescuer who came to pluck me out and call me brother. Christ had heard me curse his name for 22 years, yet he was patient and he loved. That was when things began to change. He was no longer that same tyrant I had felt for so long, but he was slowly becoming truly that good, wonderful, and faithful Savior.
See, growing up I had always wanted Christ to prove his love for me, to show me I was enough and I could have peace. What I realized in coming to trust in him with my whole life is that's what he did at that cross. That was the moment where he said, with pierced hands, "John, you are enough. In me it is finished. I love you. Be mine."
To describe that in just another way would be that before Jesus my life was complete darkness. There were glimpses here and there but mostly complete darkness, but in him dawn broke. I can't emphasize enough how it wasn't because I tried harder, I cleaned up, and I got my act together. It was simply because I said to my King, "I can't. Will you please help me?" and he did. Because of that, Jesus is my good Savior.
Since that time I have found a newness of life…life and life abundantly…with the full assurance in knowing that as I draw near to God, he relentlessly draws near to me. At his right hand truly are pleasures, and in his presence I find fullness of joy. He never leaves. He never strays. He's always with me. My good Savior, Jesus. He's always tender with me, he's always patient, and he doesn't expect my perfection. Thank God.
Even in those moments he says, "John, I just want you to walk with me. I just want you to spend time with me. Come draw near to me, and let's see what we can do together. It's because Christ first loved me that I now desire to live my whole life in full dedication to him. He is King and Lord. Where he goes I will go. With an honest heart I can pray, "Not my will, Father. Your will be done."
Again, I thought he was a tyrant, but he changed that. He gave me a new heart, and with a new heart I now realize life isn't going to always be easy; but if I have Jesus, I have enough. If I have Jesus, I have my soul's delight. He is my good, faithful, and wonderful Savior.
Do you ever wonder what God looks like? I know I have. I know as far back as I can remember I've wondered, but I've never been satisfied with where it got me. I've thought of God as an old man, a nice grandfather figure but one who's a tad fragile and not someone who can defend me when I'm threatened.
I feared him as a strict principal, an ever-present policeman who was always nagging on me and just waiting to thumb me as the guy who did it. I once considered him to be my good luck charm. All I had to do was call on him, and hopefully he would come serve me and give me what I wanted. My own personal genie in a bottle.
I even pictured him as an absent landlord. Someone I have to pay rent to and, frankly, someone who has a lot better things to do than bother with me. I've imagined him other ways, but all my images of God are just too small. All of them, that is, except one.
God has told us in the Bible that he is spirit. He does not detail his physical appearance and, in fact, reminds us that no man has seen God at any time, but the Bible also tells us something else. It tells us that God became flesh. It tells us that Jesus makes it known what God is like, that he is the visible image of the invisible God, that in Jesus all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, that Jesus himself said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father. If you know me, you know my Father."
The Bible also says Jesus' body was not stately in form or appearance that we should be attracted to him. But, his person? Wow! Talk about attractive. When you talk about the person of Jesus, you don't find yourself talking about his strong points. You marvel that he is the exact representation of the nature of God. Every good attribute and characteristic of perfection was seen in Jesus.
Do you want to know what God looks like? Then take a look at Jesus. See how he handles the oppressed. Watch how Jesus pursues those who are lost. Notice how he deals tenderly with friends. Be amazed at how he loves and offers forgiveness to his enemies. Look at how he stands strong in the face of death.
Notice how he sacrifices himself for the good of others. Watch how he respects those in authority yet how he bows to no one. Observe how he handles hypocrites, betrayal, and deceit. Look at his response to dead religion, burdensome traditions, and the arrogance of man. And yet, notice how children run to him. Watch him serve his world and lead his men. Always loving, never failing, and continually forgiving.
Do you want to know what God looks like? Look at Jesus.
[End of video]
Todd Wagner: Do you want to know if God loves you? Look at what Jesus was doing on the cross. Jesus told his disciples it didn't matter what the people said, and for you it doesn't matter what Caroline said, what John said, what I think, or what your parents thought. What matters is what you think. Not just who he is but what he was doing on the cross.
We mentioned to you in starting this entire time together today that these were really the two things we wanted to focus on during this hour…Who was Jesus and what was he doing on the cross? There's another question that is simply…What are you going to do with him? Many people know who Jesus was. They give a biblical answer and they inform what they say based on Scripture. They even tell you want he was doing on the cross based on Scripture.
They might say, "Todd, I know what he was doing on the cross. He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening of our well-being fell upon him, and by his transgressions and scourging, we were healed." You might know, "All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way." And you might know, "But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him." But knowing is not enough. You can know who Jesus is and know what he was doing on the cross yet never personally engage with him.
You might know he was an individual who suffered for us. He bore our sins on the cross. You might know, as it says in 1 Peter, that he bore our sins, that God (in Christ) allowed him to become guilty that those who are innocent might be reconciled to God through him. You might know, as it says in 2 Corinthians, that "He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him."
You might inform your opinion of who Jesus is by Scripture and might tell me what he did on the cross based on what Paul or Peter said, but what Jesus wants to know is what you have done with that. It's good that you know that. It might even be excellent you agree that it's true, but what separates his people from an informed world are those who follow him, who trust in him, who identify with him, who sup with him, and who call him friend, Lord, and Savior.
The reason many of us are in this room is that we wanted some time today just to re-center our minds, our hearts, and our thoughts on who this Jesus was. We come today, as he's told us to do, as often as we gather together, to remember his body which was broken and his blood which was shed.
Undoubtedly, there are some of us in this room that what you say about Jesus is maybe what Caroline said: he's this kindly grandfather who you visit from time to time, and I know there are many of you who feel, as John did, that you'd better get here or he's going to get you. That you'd better show up and perform the way he wants you to show up and perform, or he's going to find you and you're not going to like it.
We pray, though, that maybe today is the day you understand that what Jesus is is God's expression of love for you, and God's effort to tell you that he cares about you personally, and God's invitation to sup with him through his provision on the cross.
Inside the feast that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night he was betrayed, there is a moment when he offers them the bread. He says, "This is my body which is broken for you," and he's not asking you today if you know his body was broken for you; he's asking if you, personally, want to take and eat, if you, personally, want to receive that provision. He's asking if you want a relationship with God that's based on the contract that he cut through the shedding of his blood.
Jesus said, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, do it in remembrance of me," but the Scriptures also warn us if you eat this bread and drink this cup in an unworthy manner that you eat and drink judgment to yourself. In other words, if you think what God wants is for you to get here because if you don't get here you're going to "get it" or if you think he's just a kindly old man who wants you to every now and then come and tip your hat to him, he says, "You don't know me, but if you do know me, you'll follow me."
It was an invitation for a lover that Christ had made the payment, and now he comes and says, "Will you wed yourself to me? Will you receive what I'm offering you? Will you take my cup? Will you acknowledge your need that only I can meet?"
We believe the Scriptures teach that all who truly have trusted in Jesus Christ… Not who know about him or who agree with certain biblical statements about him but those who, because they know and agree, have made a decision by faith to surrender to him and call him Lord and Savior. They've decided to follow him and to forsake sin.
They've decided to not go about a petty, moralistic lifestyle but to say, "I want to do everything I do in response to the God who loves me. Not so he'll love me, but because he loves me. I live for him, so I gather with other believers, put myself under subjection of Godly authority, don't lean on my understanding, and in all my ways I acknowledge him. I sanctify myself in honor. I trust him and obey him. I confess when my life is inconsistent with my profession." That's what it means to follow Jesus.
He tell us, in fact, "I don't want you to remember me if you've lived at enmity with one another. If your marriage is unreconciled, your spirit isolated, your family distant from you or you've spoken poorly of others, first go and be reconciled to them and then come and worship me." In going and reconciling, seeking forgiveness, making amends, and restoring relationship, then he says, "You're worshiping me, and then you can, in a worthy way, say you remember me."
All who have trusted in Jesus Christ are welcome here. This is the day in a year when we especially focus, but I'm going to tell you, if all we do is focus on this today we will not be his people. Today, what we're going to ask you to do is to take the remainder of the time we have together and just be still.
At your leisure you can come and grab the elements. Take the bread on your own, maybe with your family or those you came with, and just say, "This is Christ's body that was broken for us, and we eat it in remembrance of him. He is our satisfaction. In the way he gave himself for us, we want to give ourselves to each other."
In the same way, the Scripture says he took the cup after dinner and said, "As often as you drink it, do it in remembrance of me." We want to give you a chance just to do that. Take the cup and, on your own, understand that the new covenant was instituted through the sacrifice of him, the perfect Lamb of God.
Now, as a spiritual discipline, as something we choose to do this day, we're going to ask that you do something that's very unnatural. We're going to do it for a moment. We're going to choose to do this. We're not putting on a false emotion, but we're going to choose to do this that we might all just be still before the Lord and know that he is God and know that he loves you.
So, in small communities, take the Lord's reminder together and then quietly make your way out of the room back to wherever you come from to worship him today. Then, as Christians have done for centuries, when we gather again to proclaim that this isn't the whole story that Christ died for us, the whole story is that he is risen, we will come in here with joy and gladness, we will come in here celebrating, and we will come in here singing of the redemptive work he has done.
I want to let you know… You don't want to get here five minutes late on Saturday or Sunday, because there will be a song that you will miss if you're not here early that will be appropriate and right and full response to the glory of what happened after the cross, but it is a glorious, right, and wonderful response to live in light of the majesty of the cross.
We invite you here if you know him, and by that I mean you're welcome here if you have trusted in Jesus, acknowledge your sin, and acknowledge that apart from what he has done for you, you have nothing and in right and full response to that you give him everything.
If you're a person who has some work to do and needs to speak with somebody there will be a small group of friends over here on the right-hand side. We'd love to talk with you, pray with you, and help you. We would love for you to know that you're rightly related to God by grace through faith so that you can rightly come here and worship him.
Be still as long as you want in your seat, come when you're ready, go in slow and meditative silence, live with joy, return with gladness, and do what your King wants you to do, which is to go to the highways and byways and compel them to return with you to see the glory of who he is and what he has done.
If we can minister to you in the name of the God who seeks you, who wants you to know him personally. As personally as you'll taste this bread and as personally as you'll taste this juice, he wants to personally meet you. Would you let us know how you can do that right over here? If you know him, you're going to come. If you know him and you have work to do in worship, don't come; go and be reconciled.
We will worship our risen Lord together in just hours. We'll worship him the way that we live all day today, but now we quietly come as sinners humbly, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore, receiving the provision of Christ, being satisfied in it, and living for him in everything we do. The body and blood of Christ. Worship him.