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Jesus – The Authorized Biography

From the series Jesus Unfiltered - Believe

This series begins with a closer look at the life of Jesus, directly from the book of John - unfiltered, uncut - the authorized biography of Jesus of Nazareth. Chip unpacks how you can know and understand the Bible for yourself and more importantly, discover how Scripture can make a positive difference in your life right now.

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Message Transcript

I’d like to ask you four really important questions as we get started. Question number one: Who is Jesus? Question number two is: Who is Jesus to you? And then maybe behind that: Why do you believe that? Whoever He is in your mind, why do you believe that is true? And then finally: What difference does that make? Any real difference in your life, in the way you live, your hope, your dreams?

How you answer those four questions really will determine the quality of your life on this earth and the future of your life after you die.

Regardless of your belief system or your background, I can tell you that the most influential person that has ever lived on the face of the earth, that has ever walked on this planet is Jesus Christ. And whether He is just the great prophet who is mentioned, actually, more times in the Quran than Mohammed; or whether He is the divine ideal of the New Age; or whether He is a miracle worker or just a great moral teacher – those are some perspectives of Jesus.

Or whether He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the founder of Christianity – here is what I will tell you, regardless of where people come from, on all the spectrum of who they think Jesus is, His life and His teaching is the center of more than just debate and controversy and ardent devotion. It’s the center of human history.

Every time you write a date down, you testify with all the world that the history of mankind is B.C. and A.D. And here is what I learned. About eighty-two percent, not outside the Church, but those of us in the Church, eighty-two percent of all of us Christians only read the Bible, at least nationally, in America, when we come to church.

So, what I know is that for most Christians, our view of who Jesus is is primarily what someone tells us or what we heard or what our family said or what we heard on the radio or what some book tells us about Jesus.

But here is the thing – most people, even followers of Christ, have not personally said, For me, I am going to look at the evidence and I am going to examine the research in the original New Testament documents to find out who He is, who He is to me, why I believe that, and what difference does it make.

And so that is what we are going to do on our journey. And we are in for a ride and it’s going to be great, because I will tell you that when you discover who He really is, how much He actually cares about you, and how relational and real He wants to be in your life on a daily basis, it will make a huge difference.

So, are you ready to roll? There are some critical questions as we begin to examine, not what other people say, not what commentators say, not what church says, but this is the authorized biography. Not the culture. This is the firsthand, eyewitness documents, this is the authorized biography of Jesus Christ.

So why study the Book? I basically said: Because you owe it to yourself.

Second is, you’ve got to ask, Why was it initially written? Two reasons. Externally, it’s 90 A.D. There is only one apostle left, it’s John. Matthew, Mark, Luke – they are called the Synoptics – they have already been written. The story about the genealogy of His life, Matthew, the Jewish side of Luke, Mark is written to the Romans. It is all done. We know the story of Mary and Joseph. We know the parables; we know His teachings.

But now, fast-forward, whew, fifty years, almost sixty years, the last living apostle. Everyone else has been martyred. He is about ninety years old. And then here is what is happening, externally. Mysticism and materialism is creeping into the Church, something called Gnosticism. The idea that everything are these higher emanations and angels and this real spiritual mystical side, but the reality of Christ, the resurrection, who is He? It’s all beginning to infiltrate the Church.

And so, John will give us ninety-three percent new material. The gospel of John has ninety-three percent material that is not in the other three gospels. Writing from his perspective to this need of this Church that has multiplied and there are thousands upon thousands, hundreds of thousands of believers going all over the world and what they need to hear clearly now is: Who is Jesus? Where did He really come from? What did He really teach? And that is the gospel of John.

And what it is going to talk about is, unlike any of the gospels, from chapter 2 to chapter 12, he is going to give seven specific signs. A sign is a miracle. Supernatural, amazing things that happen that validated in space/time history who Jesus is and was.

And then there are seven specific interviews with people so you can see, So, what was Jesus like to really religious people or people who really blew it? So you can exactly get to know Him.

And then he gets to the end of the book and he says, “You want to know why I wrote this? Here’s why I wrote it.” Chapter 20, verse 30. “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.”

In other words, this is just a sample. Man, He did a bunch of stuff. Now here is the purpose: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

If you have your own Bible or in your little one that I just gave you, circle the word signs, circle the word believe, and circle the word life. And that is the theme of this book.

He said, “I want you to know, I want you to check out, there are signs, there are specific things you can know about,” and what does a sign do? It points, right? A yield sign or an arrow that goes one way. It points. It’s pointing to who Jesus really is.

And the signs are so that you would believe. And in John’s vocabulary, believe is not, I intellectually agree with or I just comprehend. The word believe is used ninety-eight times in this gospel. And believe means to understand relationally, connect, commit, entrust, follow, develop deep relationship, and be transformed. And that is the word life.

And the word life here isn’t bio. It’s not like animal life or plant life. It’s zoë. We get our word zoology. But zoë is this eternal life, this relational life. In fact, in chapter 17, He will explain exactly what this kind of life that happens from belief is. It’s that you might know Him, the Father, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.

It’s this supernatural, relational thing that happens – God visiting the planet, living this life, offering forgiveness, then coming to live inside a mortal human being, transformationally, for today. But then as you die, translated to ever and ever and ever. That’s why he wrote it.

So, what are the parallels today? Externally, we live in a day that is characterized by pluralism, which basically means there is no one right or wrong. Every opinion, every truth claim is equal. And that is beginning to infiltrate the life of the Church.

The second is what I just call spiritual erosion. You know what? Every season of the Church has its ups and downs. Our season of the Church, most people are biblically illiterate, most people are taking other people’s words for it, we are seeing some real drift.

Teaching and doctrine of Jesus that has been solid for two thousand years is drifting inside the Church and the average believer is not having the kind of dynamic relationship that God wants. So that is why we are going to study it.

Then the final question is: How are we going to get our arms around this?

I don’t know about you, I did not grow up reading the Bible, I never opened it, actually, I did. I think it was about junior high, about fourteen, my parents were gone, family life was not going all that well. And I thought, Maybe God can help.

We had a coffee table with a Bible in the middle of it. So I opened it up. “Hitherto, unto thine, given to thy, hitherto, shebadebado…” you know? You know what? I don’t know what they are talking about, but it makes no sense to me.

And I think a lot of the reason, some of us, don’t read the Bible is because down deep you’re thinking, I can’t understand it and it doesn’t really make that much sense. And you have tried, right? You’ve read a little bit. So, you know what we are going to do? Here’s what I want you to get, the picture on the front of your notes, here’s the box. The book of John, written in the first century, revelation is delivered in A.D. 90 to a specific group. Okay?

And there was a historical context. It is written to what was going on in the world then. And guess what, the author has an intent. This isn’t just mystical little words. The author has an intent that you would read these signs, see these interviews, and that you would believe and because you believe, you would experience life, supernatural life.

And it’s revelation. It comes from God. The Spirit of God is given. Now, our job is to take the timeless principle of that same truth and we are not going to get truth delivered. We need to discern the truth.

And so, what we have here is they had a historical context, well, so do we. So, what does this truth have to do with our world? The author’s intent is exactly the same. That we might believe, that we could experience God’s power. And then, finally, theirs was revelation, it came from God. Ours is what we want. We have the truth! It’s illumination. The word illuminate, does that ring a bell? Like light? It means the lights come on! It means that instead of just a few people or pastors or you hear someone speak and you think, Oh, wow, that really makes sense. It’s like you begin to read the Bible and it goes, Whoa! I get it! God speaks clearly, personally, and powerfully to me. That is the journey we are going to go on.

I hope you’re asking, How? How could that really happen in my life? I’m glad you asked. Were you asking that, maybe? Okay. Turn the page. Are you ready? We’re not only going to learn what the gospel of John says and teaches, we are going to learn how to study it for ourselves.

You’re going to see there are about five specific things you can do, they are very, very simple, and they are revolutionary.

Number one, ask three questions whenever you study God’s Word. That’s the number one thing, first. Ask these three questions.

Question number one you want to say is just: What does it say? And it’s observation, right? Just what does it say? Not rocket science, not like [sings Twilight Zone theme]. Just what does it say? I read it; it’s talking about this.

Second: What does it mean? That’s interpretation. Okay, he said this but what he meant by that is…So you want to get there.

The third question you ask is: What does it mean to me? That’s application. And so, as you study the Bible, it’s so simple, I have been doing this for over thirty years and you get better and better and better. It’s gets easier, easier, and easier.

But you just say, Okay, I read this, what does it say? As I look into it, study it a bit, what does it mean? I ponder and reflect and I am open to the Lord, the Holy Spirit, what does it mean to me? He will speak to you and tell you and before you leave today, you’ll actually experience and see how it works.

The second thing that you do is not just ask those three questions, but read the passage repeatedly to get the big picture or the general idea. It’s just like anything. You have to read it over and over in order to let it sink in so you just get the big idea.

Personally, I often, say I’m going to read chapter 1 of John. I’ll read it as fast as I can. Twenty seconds I may get the whole thing, maybe thirty-five seconds or a minute.

I read it as fast as I can, just, What is it about? Okay, it talks about the beginning, John the Baptist, something about the first disciples, got it. Then I read it again slower and out loud, because now my eyes are seeing the text, I’m hearing the text, I read it out loud.

Then I’ll read it a third time and I’ll just read it slowly and I’ll ponder and begin to [think], What is going on here? It kind of talks about creation, it talks about Jesus, the Word becomes flesh. Okay, this John the Baptist, he keeps saying this word, “testimony, testimony, delivered.” Okay, there is something here. And so, I start making a few observations.

Here is what I would like to do, in honor of God’s Word, the first section is one of the most dynamic in all of Scripture. It’s really, really powerful. So, for the first eighteen verses, why don’t you stand with me and follow along as I read the book of John. We are going to have a few different translations. Just go with the flow, right?

But when you listen and hear it, you’ll think, Oh yeah, we’re on the same page. And before I read, here’s what you have to get. Imagine this. Imagine yourself. Because if you don’t get this down clearly, you’ll never get what God wants to say.

Imagine yourself, it’s 90 A.D., you came to Christ about twenty years ago, your kids have come to Christ. There has been persecution and it has happened like crazy. There are tens of thousands of Christians everywhere.

And then these false teachers are coming through and they say, “Jesus didn’t really come, He just came as a spirit,” and there is all this stuff happening and you’re getting confused.

And then all of a sudden, the old man, the apostle of love, John, he has written, the last living apostle, and it’s being passed around and word-for-word, carefully recorded and orally memorized by all eighty percent of the Church who were slaves. And you’re hearing this in the midst of your confusion. You got it? Now you are.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it,” or literally, some of your translations, “did not overcome it.” He introduces a battle. Light and darkness.

There came a man who was sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the Light,” – why? “so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the Light, he came only as a witness to the Light. The true Light, or the real light that gives light to every man, was coming into the world. He, the true Light, was in the world and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, the Jews, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right or authority to become children of God, children born not of natural decent nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us, we have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John the Baptist testifies concerning Him. He cries out saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me, because He was before me.”’) From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.”

Why? “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man has ever seen God – fullness, in His face, in His glory – but God, the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.”

Literally, the last word is exegete. Jesus exegeted the Father. The word “exegete” means, to explain. So, when later in the book, Jesus will say, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” John is introducing at the very beginning: you really want to know what God is like? Whoo. Jesus, His life, His speaking, how He treats people will tell you exactly how God thinks, exactly how God feels, and exactly what God is like. That’s a huge promise. Okay, you can be seated.

So, in your notes, let me encourage you then, if we read the first eighteen verses then we would say to ourselves, Okay, what was that really about? What did I learn? A quick overview would be: It introduces the Word, right? The Word, the Logos, we will talk about what that is. The origin, we could say the origin of the Word, well, He is the Creator. There is no beginning, no end. His identity, it said, well, it says, I just read it pretty quickly, but it says He was God and He was with God. Uh-oh, my head hurts. Mm, was God and was with God. I’ll have to come back to that one.

And we know His purpose. He came to reveal the Father and He came to be the Light.
Here’s what the Scripture says. God wants to speak powerfully to you and you’re going to learn in just a minute how this can happen. But He says, If you really want Me to speak, if you want to know Me, if you want to experience Me – not just intellectually, not just cognitively – if you want to know what to do about this struggle in your marriage, you want to know what to do with this financial problem, you want to know how to resolve this conflict with someone at work, you want direction and vision, here it is! If you seek Me as silver and search for Me as hidden treasure, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. That’s Proverbs 2.

The wisest man in the world says, “God wants to speak, but the jewels are not on the top of the ground.” He says, I want to see that your heart isn’t just to use Me. I want you to dig because I want to know you and I want to reveal Myself to you.

And you start by observation. And then you make some clear observations, and then we will move to how He speaks. But are you ready for this? Here are a few observations and, okay, just tell me if these are fair. I read chapter 1, verses 1 through 18. “The Word was before time began,” verse 1. True or false? Okay. You can agree or disagree, but that’s what it says. All we are trying to figure out is what it says.

“The Word is God and was with God.” It might cause a few problems, but is that what it says, or not? Okay. “The Word created everything.” Observation. “The Word is the source of all life,” verse 4. “This life is the Light of men.” That’s what it says. “The Word is Jesus,” the Word became flesh, verse 14. And Jesus reveals what God is like. That’s what it says, right?

Now, think about this. Just moving to, Wow, so would this mean, like, in all of heaven when those angels are going, “Holy, holy, holy,” and the seraphim cover their eyes and in the book of Revelation, when we hear, “Who was, and is, and is to come,” and when everyone comes in contact, they fall on their face before Him. And if He has created the source of all of life, that He made my DNA and every animal that breathes, and every solar system, and he heals all things by the word of His power, and He is the king of glory and He fulfilled all of these prophesies and He is all knowing and He is all powerful and His light shines out, that expresses to every human being and God is wooing and drawing individuals. That’s who I get to pray to? See the difference? All I did was make a couple of observations. That’s what it says.

Fourth, the observations help us see what is really being said. It’s the truth, it’s what I call “the answer.” So, what I try and do, remember the little box on the front? First century, truth delivered, 90 A.D. You know what this is? This is the answer to big issues that were happening in A.D. 90. Right? Gnosticism, materialism, fear, struggles, persecution – a timeless principle.

I now know the truth – how does this truth apply to me as…and then you fill it in. …a single mom, an overworked dad, a single person wanting to get married, a person with an addiction, a person who just really needs some direction. How does this apply to my life? Okay? God, okay, I get it! You’re the Creator – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – I heard all that stuff Chip said.

Fourth, here is how you discover this. Play spiritual Jeopardy! with the text to clarify what relevant questions God’s truth is answering, okay? How many of you have ever seen on TV, the game show, Jeopardy!? You know what I’m talking about?

Okay, what if you now know the answer? Answer: This is who Jesus is. And it was addressing issues then. What if I played spiritual Jeopardy!? Now I know the answer. What question in my life and in my world does that truth answer? Do you follow me? Let me give you an example.

Here are four questions that I pulled out of John 1 through 18 that were pretty normal. So I pretend, and I don’t really pretend because, that’s probably not a good word at all, because Jesus is not “was” – “is.” I can have a conversation with Him.

And so, if I wanted to have a personal conversation out of what I just read and observed, I would say, Who exactly are You and where did You come from? Is it fair to say that verses 1 through 5 answer that? Who exactly are You? In the first century, Who is this Jesus you’re telling me about? In the twenty-first century, you’re at work, and someone says, “You’re a follower of Jesus? Like, are you kidding me? Who is He and where did He come from?”

Jesus would say, “This is who I am. I am the Logos.” In the Old Testament, the logos was the personal, divine personality of God, the communication. John took from the Greek world, “And the Logos was the divine source of reason and truth that is behind all of the universe and all reality.” The infinite reference point.

They may not know who God was, but the Logos was whatever this communication, whatever the core behind all of life is. So the apostle John takes this Old Testament concept, knowing where people were living with all this Gnosticism, and he gives Jesus this name of the Logos, the living God.

And Jesus would say, “I am the God who was and is and is to come. I am the Creator of all that there is, I am the source of all life – your life, your future. I know the beginning from the end. I am in charge of all history.” In fact, it is “His story” – Jesus.

“I am all powerful, I am all knowing, I am the King of kings, I am the Lord of lords. Angels bow down to Me, I have no beginning, I have no end. My purposes cannot be thwarted and I personally am committed to you.”

Whoa. That’s who You are and where You came from? And then I follow it up with an application question like: Okay, if all the angels, if all of history, if all of time, if all eternity, if every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, and You are the CEO of the universe and the Creator and the source of all life – do You have the same place in my heart that You have in the universe?

Isn’t that the logical question? And then I ask that out loud, just in my little time with God. And then I sit quietly. And often I will hear little, you learn to hear, I will hear whispers of the Holy Spirit. You know what?

We have gone from reading a chapter, trying to be a good, moral person and come to church semi-often and thinking that somehow I am going to get my life worked out – to a personal, living, dynamic relationship with the Lord of lords and the King of kings who will speak to you and whose Word is written, who becomes living and it’s sharper than a two-edged sword, and it pierces to the division of soul of bone and marrow and divides the intentions of the heart, and it will begin to speak to you and give you direction and wisdom and conviction.

Question number two, in view of verses 6 through 9: I don’t want to be disrespectful, but can anyone corroborate Your story? These are fantastic claims. Isn’t that a fair question? If I was back there I would say, “Well, is there someone who can tell me that this wild story about God coming to the planet – oh yeah! John the Baptist! Oh.”

It’s not just John the Baptist, though. He quoted Isaiah. There are seven hundred prophesies about Jesus coming He fulfilled. The role of Isaiah 40. Two thousand years of testimonies of people. How do you…personal testimonies of billions of people whose lives have been transformed.

Or part of it, you know, we get so narrow, we think how we think, let’s get back to A.D. 90. You know what virtue was? Ruthlessness and power! It’s the Roman world! We take over the world. We just crushed Jerusalem, A.D. 70. What does it mean to be a real man? You treat women like dirt, kids are just – you can take them, throw them on the dump if you don’t like them. It’s ruthlessness, power, selfishness, “I am a Roman!”

But in sixty years, fifty to sixty years, instead of ruthlessness being a virtue, mercy is a virtue. Women, instead of being pieces of property to be used and abused and thrown away are co-heirs with the grace of God. Children, instead of being thrown on the pile because they weren’t a boy or a girl or some defect or you just didn’t want one, the Christians went to the dumps daily and they would take the little children and raise them as their own.

Instead of – three plagues happened in the first century. Plagues where millions of people died, the only people who stayed in the cities were the Christians. And they are willing to martyr themselves and give their lives following Jesus and they would nurse both Christians and non-Christians and they loved people.

If John was a testimony for Jesus, so people could believe, who do I know who draws me to Christ more than anybody else? And then I might ask a question like, What kind of testimony am I for you? How are we doing? What people at work? What would my kids say? What would my roommate say? What would my husband or wife say?

And then I sit quietly. And usually I get some, Atta boys! And I usually get a few not-so-atta-boys, right? And you know what I do? I thank God that there is progress and then when He whispers, You know, in that situation last week when you were in a real hurry and you did this and you did this? I think maybe dropping by and apologizing to that person would be a very Christlike thing to do.

And I get out my pen and my journal and, Oh, really? Can’t I just say I’m sorry? I’m good. Are you good? Oh no. Okay. You know? Are you seeing what happens?

Third question I would ask Him: So, in Your time on earth, what was Your greatest disappointment? What was Your greatest joy? What was His greatest disappointment? What did He say? He came to His own and those who were His own rejected Him.

His greatest joy had to be, “But as many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God,” and they got related to Him and they turned from their sin and they loved Him.

And I just think to myself, Wow. And then, are you guys getting the idea of how you begin to say, Okay, that’s what it says. That’s what it means. You know where I’m at now is: What does this really mean to me? And so, I would ask this question: Lord, I’d like to start with a positive. What is Your greatest joy with me right now? Just where we’re at. What is it about how I think, how I live, how I love that just puts a smile on the very God of heaven?

And I sit and I listen. And then, Lord, is there anything that disappoints You right now? I know You love me, I know You’re not down on me, I know I live by grace, I know You’re patient, I know I’m human, but is there anything that just is disappointing You right now?

If you asked that and I asked that out of this, do you think God would speak? See, what I am trying to explain to you is that God, He will give you graphic, clear direction and He wants to affirm you. But as He even points something out, if you act on that light, Jesus said He will give you more light. And His voice gets louder and louder and louder every time you, you know when you hear it? We have all had these, right? I think I should stop and help this person. I’m too busy. I think I should stop and jot a note to so-and-so. Oh, I will later. And you don’t do it.

Every time God speaks to me and I say, “No,” the voice gets fainter and fainter and fainter. And every time I say, “Yes,” He says, “They that have light, I will give more light. They that say ‘no’ to the light that I give them, eventually, I take away the light that I have given them.”

God wants to speak to you! He loves you! He wants to interact! Believe me, He has got software solutions. He’s got company solutions. He’s got childhood solutions. He’s got medical solutions. He wants to whisper in your ear and give you direction and wisdom and help and encouragement. He loves you!

And, finally, the question is: Why did You choose to come to earth the way that You did? What was Your purpose or mission? And the answer – why? Because the answer is in 14 through 18. And I think in my own words, this is what Jesus would say.

“I chose to come because I made you. And I want to be with you. And I miss you. And I really love you. And I wanted you to really know what I was like. And so I thought if I took on human flesh and I walked around and you could see how I respond and how I live and what I say, that you would really know who God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is. And ever since the garden, you have been in rebellion with all those other humankind, but We created you for Us. Let Us make man in Our image. And We love you. And I just, I came and I came and lived a perfect life and I fulfilled that Law because it came through Moses. I fulfilled it completely. I never sinned in thought, word, or deed. And then I came to bring truth and grace.

“And so after I lived that perfect life, I died. But I was innocent. But because I am perfect, My death had infinite value. But because I was human, fully human, fully God, the hypostatic union, I was able to die. And when I died, I took your sin and the sins of all people of all history of all time and they were placed on Me and I covered them. They are done!

“So that whosoever, you don’t have to, but whosoever would say, ‘I want what You did for me on the cross to count for me,’ they could receive Jesus and have their sins forgiven and begin a relationship with Me. That’s why I came. I miss you. I want to direct you. I want to love you. I want to help you.”

And then I would probably say something like, Lord, have I received that gift? If You want to be with me, if I have received the gift of eternal life, do I like hanging out with You? Do we spend any time together? Is this a theological set of things that someone told me I should believe and maybe or maybe not? I filled out a card or prayed a prayer or did this or did that. Or is this, is this like coming home? Is this like being loved? Is this like not just believing the facts but believing and trusting and entrusting and accepting forgiveness and like Nathanael and Philip and Andrew and Peter, I just want to follow You and get to know You, and I want to take as many people the moment I find out, with me.

Do you understand now who Jesus is? Who He is to you? What difference He makes?

We have modeled this, but the final point is to ponder deeply the implications and the application of the truth to your personal life circumstances and relationships. And I did that just a little on each one. And sometimes I spend fifteen or twenty minutes doing this and sometimes I look up and it’s been an hour. But isn’t that what you do when you have coffee with a friend? Sometimes you only have time to catch up. Sometimes you spend a half a day together.

The gospel is the good news. You are deeply valued. And He longs, not just to forgive you, but to do life with you in ways beyond your wildest dreams.