Lesson 1: Who Is Jesus and Why Does It Matter?

Two Questions

Jesus had just fed five thousand people. Before that he had been teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God. On top of that he had been healing them of their illnesses. As you can imagine, the people followed Jesus everywhere he went. And why wouldn’t they? He was a blessing to them. (Luke 9:10-17)

But Jesus needed to get away and be alone. Well, alone with God. He needed to pray. Thus, we read in Luke 9:18-20 he and his disciples were able to get by themselves, and it was during that time he asked his disciples two questions.

What Do The Crowds Say?

The first question was, “Who do the crowds say I am” (v. 18)? Jesus wanted to know about the people they had just spent the day with. All those people he had been healingteaching, and feeding, who did they think Jesus was?

They answered, “John the Baptist. Others say you’re Elijah. Still others say that one of the other prophets has risen” (v. 19).

Those answers weren’t unexpected. Israel long believed that before God’s Messiah would come, he would be proceeded by an Old Testament prophet.

It seems the people believed at least this: Jesus was no ordinary man. He was special. He could do great miracles. He could heal. He taught as one who had authority. And he fed them.

Make no mistake about it, this was no ordinary man. But Jesus wasn’t all that concerned, at the moment, about what the crowds thought of him. He was going somewhere else with his question. He knew how fickle the crowds were. In fact, there was another time Jesus fed thousands and it seemed the crowds were all for him. Then he started teaching them hard things and one by one, they left him. They said things like, “this teaching is too hard, who can accept it” (John 6:60).

What About You?

Jesus wasn’t as concerned about the opinion of the crowds at this particular moment in time. Instead, he turned to his disciples and asked them, “But who do you say that I am (v. 20)? It was as though he was saying, “I chose you and you’ve been following me around for a long time now. Who do you say that I am?”

That’s the question, isn’t it? Perhaps the most important question ever asked. It’s a question each and every person must answer. The answer matters. The right answer matters, a lot.

Peter’s Answer

Peter knew the answer. At least he was pretty sure he did. As Peter was prone to do, he jumped in and answered, “The Christ of God” (v.20 ESV).

Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, Messiah. And they both mean, God’s Anointed One. Peter and the disciples knew Jesus wasn’t just a prophet who came to make way for the Messiah. He was the Messiah.

Rome was going to be in trouble. Why? Because God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, was going to come in great power. He was going to conquer God’s enemies and restore Israel to her former glory. You better believe, Rome was in trouble! That was the prevailing understanding of the Messiah among the Jews at the time. That’s why his coming was so important and anticipated.

Not That Kind of Messiah

But Jesus threw a curve at the disciples. Peter’s answer was right, but was only partial. The Messiah was, in fact, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, and the Lord of heaven and earth. But Jesus didn’t come to triumph over Rome militarily. He came to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes. He came to die on a Roman cross (Luke 9:21-22).

That was all Peter needed to hear. In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter, who had just confessed Jesus was the Christ, now rebuked Jesus for saying he was going to Jerusalem to die (Matt. 16:23). Unacceptable.

Jesus responded with those famous words, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:33). Jesus knew why he had come. If Peter had been paying attention, he would have also.

Right after Jesus told the disciples he would be killed, he said, “and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Jesus the Messiah, was Son, Savior, and Lord, but he was also the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. For him to be the victorious Messiah of God, he had to die first. And in his death, sin, hell, Satan, and even death itself would be defeated. His resurrection from the dead would confirm it. God would have his victory!

Eternal and Temporal Significance

It matters that we know this about Jesus. It has both eternal and temporal significance. It was with an eternal perspective in mind that Jesus told Martha in John 11, 

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (vv. 25-26)

He wanted to know if she believed it. Believing in Jesus, according to Jesus, results in eternal life. The most famous verse in the whole Bible reminds us,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What we believe about Jesus, who he is and what he taught, has eternal significance.

Yet who we believe Jesus is has enormous consequences for this world as well. Jesus says in Luke 9:23,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Deny, Take Up, and Follow

disciple of Jesus Christ is a student and follower of Jesus Christ. That’s literally what the word “disciple” means. We’re not primarily called to be disciples of the church or of values or principles. Instead, we’re disciples of a Person, and who he is matters. In our text, Jesus taught that if we’re his disciples, we’ll do three things.

Firstwe’ll deny ourselves. We’ll no longer be self-centered, but God-centered. God alone will set the agenda for our lives. We won’t think primarily of ourselves first, but God. Everything will be ordered in relation to God.

Secondwe’ll take up our cross daily. What do you suppose was going to happen to a person in the Roman Empire who was carrying a cross? They were going to their death. Jesus was painting a picture of the humility and submission he expects of those who follow him. Nobody carrying a cross was proud and arrogant. They were marching to their death.

Thirdwe’ll follow Jesus. This means identifying with Jesus and following him, wherever he leads us, regardless of the consequences.

In Luke 14, Jesus told a large crowd they needed to first count the cost of being his disciple before they signed on the dotted line. Why? Because it’s hard. It requires dying, dying to ourselves, our agenda, our sin and rebellion.

Furthermore, we must actually believe Jesus is who he says he is. This is not a sterile intellectual belief. It’s a belief that embraces and trusts in him. It’s a faith that places our lives in his hands because we believe he alone is our only hope.

That requires humility on our part. That requires submission to him and following him wherever he may take us. Are you willing to do that?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all report the same thing. First Jesus asks his disciples who he is. Then he teaches them some more about who he really is. Then he tells them they must deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow him.

Jesus never teaches on discipleship apart from connecting it to who he is. Or, to put it another way, he always grounds our discipleship in his Person and Work. Who do you say Jesus is? That’s the most important question you will ever have to answer. What will your answer be?

The purpose of this study is to help you better understand the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, in order to know Christ more clearly, love Christ more dearly, and to follow Christ more nearly (Richard, Bishop of Chichester). Another purpose is to equip you to give a faithful answer whenever God provides you with an opportunity to share your faith in Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for the Person and Work of his Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

(Each lesson has an in-depth Bible study at the end. Click here to order my book, Lord of All.)

Lord of All: Introduction

I thought I would share the chapters of my new book, Lord of All, with you. Each chapter (or, lesson) also has in-depth Bible study questions at the end. You can buy the book/study guide by clicking here. I hope you’ll check it out.

Also, you can click here to listen to an interview I did with TM Moore and Rusty Rabon at The Fellowship of Ailbe.

Here’s the Introduction…


The Center of Christianity

Christianity is a revealed religion, centered on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Thus, theologians call the Christian faith, “Christocentric,” or a Christ-centered faith. If you remove the real, historical, and supernatural Jesus from the equation, all you are left with is generic monotheism or perhaps an ethical system with a few moral platitudes sprinkled about. Thomas Jefferson tried this by literally cutting out all allusions to the supernatural in the New Testament. Removed were references to the miracles of Jesus Christ, including his deity, atoning death, and resurrection.

However, that form of “Christianity” is not really Christianity at all. It is not the faith once delivered to the saints, the faith that has been passed down from one generation to the next for two thousand years (Jude 3). That is not the faith and worldview that reconciles sinners to God and transforms individuals, families, communities, and even nations, for such a faith does not have the power to do so.

And yet, every Advent and Christmas season, every Lenten and Easter season, there will inevitably be magazines in the checkout lines at grocery stores or documentaries on cable channels that will have a “hot new take” on who the real Jesus Christ was. But it’s never a new take. It’s almost always a variant of an old heresy paraded out for a new generation. It’s presented as cutting-edge research, the kind your pastor and church don’t want you to learn about, but nothing new is ever said. It’s all there in the history books, along with the plentiful amount of evidence for why none of these “hot new takes” on Jesus holds water.

Purpose of This Study

I wrote this Bible study for a few reasons. First, there is no more important topic for a Christian than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. As I’ve already said, he stands at the center of our faith. While we are a trinitarian faith, worshiping the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God, the story of redemption stands or falls on Jesus. There is no Christianity without him. Long after we have moved on from our present cultural moment with all its attending ethical debates, our dependence on Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on our behalf will remain central and of primary importance.

My second reason for writing this is to build up and strengthen the faith of Christians. Some friendly advocates, as well as critics of Christianity, have said that the church today is three thousand miles wide and two inches deep. And while I would be the first one to say a person does not need a PhD in theology or biblical studies to be a Christian or to go to heaven, thriving in the abundant life Christ desires for us does mean knowing him. And knowing him means vastly more than “just having a relationship” with him. That’s because it’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with a person you don’t know anything about.

Jesus said eternal life was to know God and his Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). This is intimate, relational, and experiential knowledge to be sure. But that knowledge presupposes a growing and deepening understanding of our Lord – who he is, what he taught, why he came, and what it means to love, trust, become like, and follow him daily. Whether through personal reading or with a small group of Christian friends, I pray this study will help you learn who the true Jesus of Holy Scripture is. More than that, I hope it will lead you to want to get to know him better, relationally and experientially, as well as what it means to follow him practically.

My third reason for writing this is for evangelistic purposes. I suspect most who read this material and discuss it with others will already be Christians. And as I’ve said, I hope it strengthens your faith. But I also hope it equips you and gives you confidence to speak to others about this Lord and Savior you love, trust, and follow. When someone asks a Christian about who Jesus is and why they should consider placing their faith in him, we ought to be prepared to give them a good reason for doing so (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, we are commanded to. We must do better than replying, “it works for me.”

If Jesus really is who he claimed to be and truly did what Christians believe he did, then only Jesus can meet the deepest desires and needs of a person, whether those needs are temporal or eternal, or both. Whether you use this Bible study to strengthen your own faith, or to share with another person, I pray God will use it in your life to reveal the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ, which leads me to my last reason for writing this study.

I believe this is the most important purpose. I hope this study will lead to the increased worship of Jesus. Jesus was not merely a man or good teacher. He was, and is, the Holy One of God and is therefore, worthy of our worship. To be sure, we are called to know, love, and follow him here and now. But ultimately, our chief purpose is to worship him, beginning now and lasting for all eternity.

In-Depth Bible Study

I have included an in-depth Bible study at the end of each lesson’s reading. I have provided it for you to investigate for yourself what the Bible has to say about Jesus. The questions provided are there to help you reflect on the most important questions about life and how Jesus Christ is the answer to those questions. In Acts 17, the church at Berea was complimented for examining the Scriptures, to see if what Paul had been teaching about Jesus was true. That’s what I hope you will do with the Bible study portion that follows each reading. Don’t simply take what I have written as true. Instead, dig deeply into the Bible and see what it says for yourself.

A Presupposition

On that note, a working presupposition for this study is that the Bible is the living Word of God, divinely inspired, and therefore authoritative and sufficient for faith and life for those who follow Christ. Because this is the working presupposition of this study, I will not be spending time defending the historical reliability of Scripture and related topics. There are many fine books that go into depth about such things, and I would encourage you to learn more about the trustworthiness of God’s Word by reading them.

Therefore, for those who are not Christians and who may not believe the Bible is authoritative for their lives, I want to say to you, that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see you enjoy the abundant and eternal life that is available to you through trusting in Jesus Christ. However, my more modest desire for you is simply to help you understand why Christians believe what they do about Jesus, whether you agree with the Christian view or not. For Christians, I hope this working presupposition will bolster your faith and give you confidence that Jesus really is who he claimed to be, and that he truly accomplished the great work he came to do, as recorded in the pages of Scripture.

May God richly bless you throughout this study. I pray you will encounter our Lord in a wonderful way and that you will join me in declaring that there is no one else like Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dale Tedder

How Have You Changed?

The World Around You

A few years ago, the men in our church’s men’s ministry studied the words of the Apostle Paul to his young son in the faith, Titus. In chapter three of the letter that bears his name, Titus was instructed to encourage the people entrusted to his care to not be like the world around them – foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating (Titus 3:3). He then reminded Titus of something very important with these words: At one time the Christians on Crete had also been… just like that.

Paul told Titus that because of God’s love, the redeeming work of Christ, and the renewing and washing work of the Holy Spirit, the Christians in Crete were no longer like the world around them.

Have You Changed?

That fact, very naturally, brought up a painful question in our group discussion: What if we still are like that? What if we’re still like the world around us? One possible answer to the question was even more painful: If there has been no change in your life, it may mean you aren’t in Christ… that is, you haven’t been redeemed, washed, and renewed.

We’re all at different places in our relationship with Christ. And, of course, we all walk at different paces with him. Thus, we won’t all look alike. Yet, if we can’t look back at our lives a year ago, two years ago, or five years ago and see some sort of growth, some level of maturation in faith, love, godliness, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, then we may well need to ask the question: Am I truly in Christ? Of course, only God knows the heart, and this devotion isn’t about others judging you. But it is about each person doing an honest assessment of himself or herself.

There’s no getting around the fact that true faith in Christ will result in a changed life. We can’t possibly remain the same.

Facing the Music

About eight months after I graduated from college I went back to visit a few friends who were still there. I also returned to share with them the news that God had called me into ordained ministry and I would be heading off to seminary soon. I was very excited. I was also a bit nervous. Why was I nervous? Well, I had not always lived a godly life while in college. I knew it and I knew my friends and fraternity brothers knew it.

What happened? Well, my closest friends thought my news was great and wished me well. Others laughed me out of the room. I absolutely had it coming.

Glory to God

I give glory to God, and God alone, that over three decades later I can point to real change in my life. And, as the old saying goes, while I’m not where I pray I will one day be in my faith, by God’s grace, I’m not where I once was. I don’t know if I was the chief of sinners way back then, but I certainly was competing for the title. That fact makes the following words from Paul all the more precious to me.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15b-16)

If God could work in Paul’s life, as well as my own, then he can work in any person’s life. I praise God for the truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.

Where Are You?

So where are you now compared to where you once were? Do too many of the descriptions in the New Testament of the unbelieving world still describe you? Are you moving on to maturity with Christ, training yourself for godliness day by day? The progressive nature of growing in Christlikeness means it will never end on this side of heaven. But faithfulness to Christ does require we get started. We start with rebirth. We continue by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of God’s grace and Spirit. Are you moving forward? Have you started yet?

Walking Points

  • Can you think of a Christian you know whose life is different than when you first knew him or her? What about that person has changed?
  • How about your own life? Can you identify areas in your life that are markedly different than when you first came to know Christ? What are those areas? Did they change all at once or was it a slow process?
  • How did you know you needed to change? How did the process take place (i.e., what did the change look like)?
  • Name two or three areas that are still “works in progress” for you in your Christian walk. What are you actively doing to become more like Christ in those areas?
  • Discuss these issues with two or three Christian friends and actively pray for one another.

Prayer

Gracious God, you are the Lord of our lives. I confess that all too often I resist obeying and following you and resist the change you desire for me. I am grateful for your patience with me and for the wonderful news of your Gospel. Move me, by the power of your Spirit, to pursue you for all I am worth, for surely in that pursuit I will also find myself becoming more like you. Help me to find Christian friends who also seek to walk with you and help us to build up and pray for one another. Enable me to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, encourage other Christians to do the same, and bring glory to your name. In Christ I pray. Amen.

An Epiphany!

(Part 2 of a series. Click here to read Part 1)

Epiphany

One day, the young man and a friend were sitting in a garden, when suddenly, he cried out to his friend, “What is wrong with us?”

He then said,

“as I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house. The voice repeated over and over again, ‘pick up and read, pick up and read.’ At once my countenance changed, and I began to think intently whether there might be some sort of children’s game in which such a chant is used, But I could not remember having heard of one. I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me – to open the book and read the first chapter I might find. I picked up the book of the apostle, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: It said, ‘Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’”

After he read these verses from Romans he testified,

“I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of the sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.”

After this experience, the young man searched for his mother to tell her all that happened. After sharing his joy with her, they moved back to Carthage together. Two days later his mother died. It was as though she didn’t need to live anymore, for her son was now a Christian – he had tasted the Bread of Life.

Taste and See

This man who had lived a sinful and idolatrous life, whose daily life was filled with sexual immorality and drunkenness, who bowed before the altars of false gods and philosophies; this very man who tried everything the world had to offer, finally found the one thing the world couldn’t offer. He found the bread of life – Jesus Christ.

You may know this man of whom I am speaking. And those of you who don’t have probably heard of the city and beach that bears his name. His name is St. Augustine, and he became one of the greatest saints in the 2000-year history of the Christian church. Protestants and Catholics alike claim Augustine as a patron saint. God used this man with such a wretched past, to bring honor and glory to Christ’s name.

Augustine found the very bread Jesus was speaking about in John 6. The crowds were following Jesus because of the miracles he did. They wanted him to provide more bread for them to eat. But Jesus told them not to put all their hope in bread that would spoil, but instead, to seek that bread which would give them eternal life. The crowd, however, didn’t understand Jesus’ words. They said to him, “then give us this bread that you are speaking of.”

Jesus responded to them in verse 35,

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Then in verse 40, Jesus described what God’s will for them was on this matter. He said,

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

A Treasure Found

This is the treasure St. Augustine found. This is the bread he tasted. This is the single most important truth he knew he would ever find in his life. Augustine responded to Jesus, the bread of life, the way Jesus told the disciples they should.

In Jesus’ parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, two men found treasures beyond their wildest dreams. Both men sold all they had to secure their discoveries. They recognized the value of what they had found, and they determined to have it. They sold all they had so they could buy it, and that’s exactly what they did.

Jesus told his disciples that this was the reasonable thing for them to do. It would have been foolish of them to find the great treasure and do nothing about it. Augustine saw the great treasure. His mother had been telling him about it for many years, and yet he did not have eyes to see it. And then suddenly, the veil was lifted and he saw it – and he sold all he had to purchase it. He sold the pleasures of all his sin. He sold the prestige he had as a famous teacher. He sold his friendships he had with those who would no longer be his friends. This was no light decision, free of consequence.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

One Thing Needed

Luke 10:41-42 – “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

My Prayer

One way to pray Scripture back to God is by turning a verse or two into a first-person statement. I’ve done that with today’s Scripture.

May I not be worried and troubled about many things; only one thing is needed. Like Mary, may I choose the good part, which will not be taken away from me.

I have no difficulty seeing the relevance of this truth in my life. It’s living out this truth that’s the hard part.

Get Busy Doing

Martha was busy… busy cooking, cleaning, organizing, preparing, just plain busy. Her work was important. She was entertaining guests and someone, after all, had to act responsibly. She was busy “doing.”

Mary didn’t seem quite so busy. What was she doing? Chatting, listening, and seemingly lounging about. What distinguished Martha’s activity from Mary’s apparent laziness was who Mary was with – the Lord Jesus Christ. She wasn’t necessarily busy “doing.” Instead, she was being, being in relationship. She was basking in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He was an invited guest who would not always be with them. What else should she have done? Mary chose the one thing needed and was told it would not be taken from her.

In our world, many people look down on Mary’s kind. “Why, nothing would ever get done if Mary and her ilk had their way,” we might hear. But that’s not exactly true. It’s not like Mary was a habitually lazy person who lay around the house in her pajamas until noon on a regular basis. This was different. Much different. She was enjoying fellowship with her invited Guest.

Our Invited Guest

We need to take a closer look at the text. Jesus does not admonish Mary for spending time with him; he admonished Martha. Like the poor, so too our jobs, chores, errands, and all the rest, will always be with us. But what of Christ? Well, he promised to always be with us, but in a practical sense he must be our invited Guest each day. He must be the One with whom we can just “be” each day. Jesus said that is the one thing needed and it will not be taken from us when we pursue it.

Not only that, but “being” must precede “doing” or else “doing” will turn into drudgery, bitterness, and even pointlessness. This is the point of Jesus’ words in John 15 about the branches needing to be connected to the vine. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Without time to “just be” with our Lord, we will run out of gas. We’ll burn out. It will hinder us in persevering until the end. Our “doing” may shine brightly for a season, but it won’t last for the long haul because it will not have the fuel of Christ’s Spirit to sustain it. And that fuel comes only through the one thing necessary – pursuing and enjoying our ongoing relationship with the living God through his Son. We must not forget that knowing him in this way is eternal life (John 17:3).

Are you pursuing the one thing in life truly needful? There are many competitors vying for your time, energy, and attention. Some of those things are even good. But don’t let the good become the enemy of the best. Choose the best. Choose consecrated (set apart) time each day to spend with your Lord. He promises you it is the one thing needed and it will not be taken away from you.

Walking Points

Read the following quote by James Houston.

This past century is possibly the first one in which action has been emphasized and valued more than contemplation. Today we think contemplation wastes time, produces nothing, and bumps awkwardly into our schedules. A devotional life is a questionable priority for most successful people today. But are we “successful” Christians if we are so busy organizing and propagating the Christian faith that we really do not know God personally and intimately?”

  • Have you ever felt lazy for spending time just “being” with the Lord instead of being busy “doing” something instead? Why do you think you felt that way?
  • Why do you think our society often errs on the side of activity rather than contemplation?
  • What are some ways we can follow Mary’s model of being with the Lord in our daily lives?
  • If you do not have this “set apart” time each day with the Lord, what are some ways you can build it into your schedule?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, ours is a busy world, filled with noise and distractions. There are many things, even good things, that compete with our loyalty to you each and every day. Help me to be like Mary and choose the one thing that will not be taken from me, time spent with you. Protect me from my own weaknesses. Left to myself, I would choose things that would not draw me closer to you, let alone help me become more like you. By your grace, please keep me on the straight and narrow path that leads to abundant and eternal life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Lord of All: Introduction

I thought I would share the chapters of my new book, Lord of All, with you. Each chapter (or, lesson) also has in-depth Bible study questions at the end. You can buy the book/study guide by clicking here. I hope you’ll check it out.

Also, you can click here to listen to an interview I did with TM Moore and Rusty Rabon at The Fellowship of Ailbe.

Here’s the Introduction…


The Center of Christianity

Christianity is a revealed religion, centered on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Thus, theologians call the Christian faith, “Christocentric,” or a Christ-centered faith. If you remove the real, historical, and supernatural Jesus from the equation, all you are left with is generic monotheism or perhaps an ethical system with a few moral platitudes sprinkled about. Thomas Jefferson tried this by literally cutting out all allusions to the supernatural in the New Testament. Removed were references to the miracles of Jesus Christ, including his deity, atoning death, and resurrection.

However, that form of “Christianity” is not really Christianity at all. It is not the faith once delivered to the saints, the faith that has been passed down from one generation to the next for two thousand years (Jude 3). That is not the faith and worldview that reconciles sinners to God and transforms individuals, families, communities, and even nations, for such a faith does not have the power to do so.

And yet, every Advent and Christmas season, every Lenten and Easter season, there will inevitably be magazines in the checkout lines at grocery stores or documentaries on cable channels that will have a “hot new take” on who the real Jesus Christ was. But it’s never a new take. It’s almost always a variant of an old heresy paraded out for a new generation. It’s presented as cutting-edge research, the kind your pastor and church don’t want you to learn about, but nothing new is ever said. It’s all there in the history books, along with the plentiful amount of evidence for why none of these “hot new takes” on Jesus holds water.

Purpose of This Study

I wrote this Bible study for a few reasons. First, there is no more important topic for a Christian than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. As I’ve already said, he stands at the center of our faith. While we are a trinitarian faith, worshiping the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God, the story of redemption stands or falls on Jesus. There is no Christianity without him. Long after we have moved on from our present cultural moment with all its attending ethical debates, our dependence on Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on our behalf will remain central and of primary importance.

My second reason for writing this is to build up and strengthen the faith of Christians. Some friendly advocates, as well as critics of Christianity, have said that the church today is three thousand miles wide and two inches deep. And while I would be the first one to say a person does not need a PhD in theology or biblical studies to be a Christian or to go to heaven, thriving in the abundant life Christ desires for us does mean knowing him. And knowing him means vastly more than “just having a relationship” with him. That’s because it’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with a person you don’t know anything about.

Jesus said eternal life was to know God and his Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). This is intimate, relational, and experiential knowledge to be sure. But that knowledge presupposes a growing and deepening understanding of our Lord – who he is, what he taught, why he came, and what it means to love, trust, become like, and follow him daily. Whether through personal reading or with a small group of Christian friends, I pray this study will help you learn who the true Jesus of Holy Scripture is. More than that, I hope it will lead you to want to get to know him better, relationally and experientially, as well as what it means to follow him practically.

My third reason for writing this is for evangelistic purposes. I suspect most who read this material and discuss it with others will already be Christians. And as I’ve said, I hope it strengthens your faith. But I also hope it equips you and gives you confidence to speak to others about this Lord and Savior you love, trust, and follow. When someone asks a Christian about who Jesus is and why they should consider placing their faith in him, we ought to be prepared to give them a good reason for doing so (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, we are commanded to. We must do better than replying, “it works for me.”

If Jesus really is who he claimed to be and truly did what Christians believe he did, then only Jesus can meet the deepest desires and needs of a person, whether those needs are temporal or eternal, or both. Whether you use this Bible study to strengthen your own faith, or to share with another person, I pray God will use it in your life to reveal the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ, which leads me to my last reason for writing this study.

I believe this is the most important purpose. I hope this study will lead to the increased worship of Jesus. Jesus was not merely a man or good teacher. He was, and is, the Holy One of God and is therefore, worthy of our worship. To be sure, we are called to know, love, and follow him here and now. But ultimately, our chief purpose is to worship him, beginning now and lasting for all eternity.

In-Depth Bible Study

I have included an in-depth Bible study at the end of each lesson’s reading. I have provided it for you to investigate for yourself what the Bible has to say about Jesus. The questions provided are there to help you reflect on the most important questions about life and how Jesus Christ is the answer to those questions. In Acts 17, the church at Berea was complimented for examining the Scriptures, to see if what Paul had been teaching about Jesus was true. That’s what I hope you will do with the Bible study portion that follows each reading. Don’t simply take what I have written as true. Instead, dig deeply into the Bible and see what it says for yourself.

A Presupposition

On that note, a working presupposition for this study is that the Bible is the living Word of God, divinely inspired, and therefore authoritative and sufficient for faith and life for those who follow Christ. Because this is the working presupposition of this study, I will not be spending time defending the historical reliability of Scripture and related topics. There are many fine books that go into depth about such things, and I would encourage you to learn more about the trustworthiness of God’s Word by reading them.

Therefore, for those who are not Christians and who may not believe the Bible is authoritative for their lives, I want to say to you, that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see you enjoy the abundant and eternal life that is available to you through trusting in Jesus Christ. However, my more modest desire for you is simply to help you understand why Christians believe what they do about Jesus, whether you agree with the Christian view or not. For Christians, I hope this working presupposition will bolster your faith and give you confidence that Jesus really is who he claimed to be, and that he truly accomplished the great work he came to do, as recorded in the pages of Scripture.

May God richly bless you throughout this study. I pray you will encounter our Lord in a wonderful way and that you will join me in declaring that there is no one else like Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dale Tedder