Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who is Jesus?

My Life Group lesson from Sun., Sept. 7 ...

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

Today we start a 13-week study of the book of Hebrews:

--- We don’t know who wrote Hebrews. Possibilities include Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Mark, Phillip, Silas, Apollos, and even Priscilla (Aquila’s wife). Whoever it was had extensive knowledge of Jewish customs and the scriptures, and was possibly heavily influenced by Paul. Only God knows for certain.

--- We don’t know exactly when it was written. Probably just before 70 A.D. and the fall of Jerusalem.

--- "The letter of Hebrews is more like a sermon, delivered to a group of people who are thinking of giving up on the Christian faith." (From the Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook)

--- The writer is like a preacher drawing them back to spiritual safety. Hebrews calls us to stay strong in the faith, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

*** QUESTION TO OPEN THINGS – How do you explain God and Jesus to your kids, nieces and nephews, or how did your elders teach you as a child? Did they simplify it?

--- How do you clearly get across the point who Jesus is and what He did?

--- To my kids I try to keep it simple: God loves you, He always has, He always will, as the book goes from David Jeremiah, who coincidentally is also the editor of this study guide!

--- The author of Hebrews goes back to the basics. You’ve probably heard Pastor David tell the story of legendary college basketball coach John Wooden. He would start the first practice of the season with what you would think is the simplest of the simple: How to put on your socks correctly. If you don’t do that, you get bad feet and right away you’re useless.

--- Today we’re going to look at the basic but very important question: “Who is Jesus?”

Now let’s break Hebrews 1:1-4 down, verse by verse. The main idea of today's lesson is that as God’s Son, Jesus revealed God finally and without equal.

GOD SPEAKS (Hebrews 1:1-2a)

1 Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2a In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.

*** Verse 1 - Long ago, in a galaxy far far away …

Many stories begin with a phrase such as, “Once upon a time,” “A long time ago,” or “Once there was a...” These opening lines usually lead us to a story that’s full of fantasy, such as fairy tales or science fiction.

But the author of Hebrews begins with the words “Long ago,” not to take us away from reality, but to show that this wasn’t a new message, but one foretold for centuries. The message refers to the times of the Old Testament when God spoke to His people through the prophets – including Moses, Samuel, Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

--- God told the Israelites to trust the prophets:

Amos 3:7 - Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophet.

Moses: Deut. 34:10 - And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face...

Samuel: 1 Sam. 3:20 - And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.

Elisha: 2 Kings 3:11 - But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."

Isaiah: 2 Kings 20:1 - In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Jeremiah: 2 Chron. 36:12 - He did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the Lord.

--- These prophets faithfully spoke God’s words to the people of Israel. Yet they also pointed to the coming of One—Jesus Christ—who would be God’s perfect Spokesman. Jesus said that that in Matthew 5:17 - “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

--- Isaiah 9:6-7 - 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

-- Jeremiah 31:31-34 - 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.34 No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

--- However, the Jewish Christians of the late first century hadn't heard from God in centuries. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written about 430 B.C.

--- QUESTION - It's been 2,000 years since the New Testament was written. We know that Jesus was the new covenant and the scriptures speak to us. But do you think that makes a difference when trying to explain Jesus and the Bible to nonbelievers?

*** Verse 2a - In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.

*** "The last days" refers the time from Jesus' birth forward, not necessarily saying that we are in the end times. The phase is talking about the separation of the two ages, before Jesus and after Jesus.

*** The Old Testament has books by 17 prophets, all revealing bits of prophecy about Jesus. He even said as much while walking with the disciples after His resurrection: --- Luke 24:27 - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

--- The first age pointed to what would come in the second: 1 Pet. 1:10-12 - 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

GOD REVEALED (Hebrews 1:2b-4)

2b God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

*** Seven truths about Jesus are revealed in verses 2 and 3.

(1.) Christ is the “appointed … heir of all things.” - This phrase alludes to Psalm 2:8, where the psalmist foretold that the Messianic King from the family line of King David would be given the ends of the earth.

(2.) Christ is the one through whom God made the universe. - Jesus is the Heir of all things precisely because He was with God in the beginning as the Agent of creation.

--- John 1:3 - Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

--- Colossians 1:16 - For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

(3.) Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.”- This phrase means that to see Jesus Christ is to see the glory of God.

(4.) Jesus is the “exact expression” of God’s nature and being. - Once when Philip asked Jesus to show the Father to the disciples, Jesus responded by declaring that to see Him was to see the Father (see John 14:8-9 - 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?). While the Father and the Son are distinct Persons, they are of the same divine nature.

(5.) Jesus upholds all the created order. - Unlike the mythical deity Atlas, who is pictured as holding the earth on his shoulders, Jesus is the Creator and Commander of all created things. He sustains everything by His powerful word—and He is not the least bit taxed by the effort. It is deeply assuring.

--- QUESTION - What are some things that might cause Christians to question whether Jesus is in control of all things?

(6.) Jesus makes purification for sins. - This is a preview of a major theme in Hebrews, Jesus sacrifice for our sins. In Old Testament times, the high priest offered an atonement sacrifice once a year for the Israelites' sins, but none offered themselves as a perfect sacrifice. None were qualified. Jesus was and is.

(7.) He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. - Jesus the Eternal Son of God lives and rules with the power of God the Father, doing so with all authority as the One who bears God’s own name.

*** QUESTION - What keeps people from trusting Jesus with every aspect of their lives? How do these verses strengthen your resolve to endure in faith?

*** Verse 4 - So He became higher in rank than the angels, just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs.

*** Jesus the Son, through whom God has now spoken in a full and final way, is greater than the angels.

*** QUESTION - Why would it have been important for the writer of Hebrews to establish the fact that Jesus has a higher rank than angels?

--- The writer of Hebrews adds in verses 5 through 14 that no angel shared the relationship Jesus the son and God the father. Angels are servants; Jesus is the Divine Son. We need to remember that the first readers of Hebrews might have been tempted to return to Judaism. They needed to understand that Jesus surpassed the nature and role of angels in the Old Testament just as He surpassed the prophets.

--- Given who Jesus is, then, we can trust Him in everything. That was the writer’s intention for those early Christians and also for us today.

*** Question - What makes some people uncomfortable when asked to speak about what they believe about Jesus?

*** So who is Jesus? Adrian Rogers writes:

“Nobody knows the exact date of His birth, and yet His birth has divided all of history to A.D. and B.C. As far as we know, Jesus never wrote a book, and yet more books have been written about Him than any other person who ever lived. He never painted a picture or composed any poetry or music that we know of, and yet He has been the inspiration of the greatest music, art, and poetry that the world has ever known.

“Jesus did not travel extensively, and yet His influence is worldwide. He never had any formal education, yet more schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries have been founded in His name than any other person who ever lived. In His own life, He was relatively unknown outside of His own friends and countrymen.

“That’s who the Lord Jesus is, and, friend, we need to understand this: Never has there been another like the Lord Jesus Christ! And there never will be.”

(Love Worth Finding)

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

*** Think of someone who needs to know that God has revealed Himself in Christ. Pray for that person this week.

*** If that person is you, seek out the Bible for answers. Talk to someone about it.

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