Jesus Makes All the Difference

Who Jesus was and what He did are integral to a lifestyle of faith. Believing in Him, Getting saved, Giving Him your heart, Converting, Being born again . . . whatever you want to call it makes the difference between a life marked by faith or that marked by philanthropy.

Here’s the thing, I had a long, lively and somewhat noisy conversation about the message of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus tonight with an old friend. At one point, I gave the impression that Jesus dying on the cross didn’t matter all that much except to prove that Jesus was/is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. That’s not what I meant to convey. Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the words of the prophets of old, and to die a sacrificial death in our place, but that’s not all. He also came to teach us how we should live!

Most of Jesus’ ministry was about teaching people, healing the sick, traveling his “neighborhood” in a certain manner and telling people to keep quiet about it. From what I can tell, most of his public activities were about the ways people should live and not about his God-ness. The conversations about his divinity and the prophetic purpose(s) he came to fulfill were reserved for only those he was closest to–his disciples.

If his death and resurrection, his eternal sacrifice, was the ultimate action of his earthly existence then what was all the teaching and preaching and personal contact stuff about? We should not ever minimize the power of his teachings and the example of his lifestyle. He came to teach us, again, the way that we should live. The way God intended for humanity to live from the very beginning. Jesus was the perfect example of what a life lived by God’s kingdom-principles really looks like. And he had to live this way and teach us these things, dying as he did so that we could, also, believe who he was and, in turn, follow what he taught.

In the same way that I never want his teachings to be minimized, neither do I want the truth of the cross to take a back seat. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the evils of favoring one factor over the other. I’ve seen the message of the cross preached to the detriment of Christ’s teachings, leaving a lot of lazy, mean, discontent heaven-bound earth-abiders. But I’ve also seen what happens when the teachings of Jesus are taught with little said about His saving work at the cross–Christ-ian paparazzi (knowing everything about Him without truly knowing Him).

Knowing all about Jesus doesn’t make up for personally KNOWING him. But neither does knowing Jesus make up for not knowing what he was about. We have to have both or our lives will lack meaning.

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