Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"
 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."
 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered, "You are the Christ." [NIV]
Jesus asked His disciples who the people thought He was. Their answers revealed that many people had different perceptions of Jesus. Even today you can ask that question and you will get varying answers. From, Jesus never existed, He's a fairytale, a good person, a community organizer, and even Muslims claim him to be their 2nd prophet. His name is used in curse words, or exclamations of surprise. Some claim He is a created being who has been 'promoted' to God status by His deeds.
Make no mistake no matter who people think Jesus is, they will one day stand face to face with Him and their whole life will be laid out publically. It is every individual's responsibility to decide who Jesus is and be ready to live with that decision for all eternity.
Jesus' next question was to the disciples. What answer would you give? For those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, the answer of who we believe Him to be is still very important. Is He the genie in the sky that will meet your every want? Is he all love and nothing more? Is He a good guide to living happy? Is He God who is to be exulted and honored before you?
Many people have a distorted view of who Jesus is. Sometimes this is due to their emotions, they want Him to be their big brother who protects them and loves them, but not their Father who disciplines them. Some people's view is clouded by doctrine they have been taught but never bothered to judge against God's word. If your view of Jesus doesn't line up with the whole Bible then you need to re-evaluate your view.
In the first chapter of John, John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus is the Word of God and that He was both God and with God in the beginning. We are also told that He is the Creator and that nothing was created that He Himself didn't create. If the Jesus you worship hasn't been God for all eternity past, if there is anything that exists that He personally didn't create then you are worshiping a false god, not the God of the Bible. If you believe He started life as an angel and was promoted to God, your view doesn't line up with the Bible and is false. If you believe He was the first creation and then He took over as creator, your view doesn't line up with scripture and is false. Again if your view is other than He is and always has been God and He personally created everything, then your view doesn't line up with God's word and you need to find the truth and believe it!
When we read in Genesis that God walked in the garden in the cool of the day that was Jesus. Of course this was before He became one of us, as a physical human being. He had not taken the name Jesus yet, His name was God. He would become the Son, a human being named Jesus, who was still God. He is the ONLY human being ever born without a human father, and therefore without a sinful nature. This was the one and only Immaculate Conception, ever. Adam and Eve were created without sinful natures but earned theirs by disobedience and we all were given ours because our physical father is Adam, who passed it down to all of us.
In Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestles with a man and then exclaims he has seen God face to face, this was Jesus. In Isaiah 9, we are told the Messiah would have these names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace. As we know Jesus is the Messiah, or in Greek the Christ.
You can't separate the God of the Old Testament with the God (Jesus) of the New Testament, they are ONE. Does the God of the Old Testament make you uncomfortable? He may, but it isn't because He has changed it is because in the Old Testament He was showing us our need for Him to be our Savior. The reason we say we live under grace is because since Jesus' death and resurrection God has withheld judgment pending judgment day. In the Old Testament judgment was often immediate, but again neither God's ways, nor His decrees have changed, just the timing of His judgment.
In Exodus 4, it is Jesus who met Moses on his way back to Egypt and was going to kill him because he listened to his wife and refused to circumcise his sons. Does God demanding our obedience scare you or make you feel uncomfortable? Well it should because He does demand obedience, but not without mercy. This same God who was going to kill Moses for his disobedience is the very same God who became one of us, and became obedience to earthly parents and to His heavenly Father even unto death at the hands of the very creatures He created.
Do you think there was no mercy from God in the Old Testament? If that is what you think you haven't been reading your Bible. Read the book of Jonah. Jonah wasn't what you could call a bleeding heart, in fact he tried his best to defy God and not preach to Nineveh specifically because he knew that if they listened and repented God would relent and not destroy them. God forced Jonah to go to Nineveh, but his message wasn't one of compassion or repentance, all he did was walk through the city telling them that God would destroy them in 40 days. Nineveh repented and God showed mercy on them, just as Jonah knew He would. Jonah wasn't happy about it either.
Without understanding God's call to obedience and demands for payment for disobedience, we can't possibly understand His great love. When, Pharaoh refused to allow God's people to go, God struck down the first born male of every house, but He gave provisions for the saving of the Israelite first born, by sacrificing a lamb and placing the blood on the door posts. The families were required to stay inside while the Angel of God came and struck the first born males of the Egyptians. This was the first Passover and it was an indication of the perfect sacrifice to come, the one who would cover our sins with His blood.
People often romanticize Jesus and I understand why, but they are wrong. They only see the gentle side of Him, I have been accused on occasion of being un-Christ-like because I dared to tell the truth in a way that wasn't as subtle or as gentle as someone thought I should be and I am often told that Jesus never would have spoken to anyone harshly. I understand that people view Him as a gentle man who spoke lovingly and had compassion, He was gentle and loving, but He also had zeal and told the uncompromising truth.
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. [NIV]
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. [NIV]
Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, but don't miss my point, He had righteous indignation and didn't mince words when He spoke. He was even blunt with the disciples:
Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
 "Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. [NIV]
I am not trying to make Jesus out to be a bully or mean or any of the other things people will accuse me of, all I am trying to do is make sure people know that Jesus is God and He has not changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. He has always demanded obedience and if you think that has changed you are dead wrong.
If you read your Bible you are likely to find things in the Old Testament that make you uncomfortable, but if you read the New Testament there will be things there that are likely to also make you uncomfortable.
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. " [NIV]
That sounds pretty harsh doesn't it? Let me explain what the word hate meant in Jesus' time. It wasn't what we view as hate, meaning a deep emotional dislike of a person. Hate in Jesus' day meant to reject, or put in second place. Jesus is telling us that if we place anything or anyone, including ourselves ahead of Him we can't be His disciples. Again, total obedience is required of us. People will claim you can get to heaven (be saved) without ever becoming a disciple, rubbish! Being a disciple means to follow someone, so they are claiming you can refuse to follow Jesus and still be saved.
1 John 2:3-6
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. [NIV]
Don't listen to feel good doctrine, it is a death sentence. Many people, pastors and whole churches will teach this type of feel good doctrine, but all they do is pat people on the back as they skip down the wide road that leads to destruction. We are warned about such things:
2 Tim. 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. [NIV]
If the doctrine you believe includes loving one's self (self-esteem), having God meet all your needs and wants, opening the windows of Heaven and pouring out material riches on you, and God loving you so much that He will ignore your disobedience, then you are believing false and destructive doctrine which will cost you your soul unless you reject it and turn to the truth. No one, or anything can come before Christ in your life.
Without understanding God's demand for justice, you can't truly understand His love in taking that punishment upon Himself. Who He is in your mind, will make a difference as you live this life and it will make all the difference in eternity. Make sure you know the real Jesus, not some figment of your or anyone else's imagination.
To celebrate Passover and Easter is to celebrate the perfect sacrifice that can take away our sins, but to ignore the very real implications of not being obedient and thereby allowing that perfect sacrifice to take your punishment is just foolishness.
These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.
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