SNAPSHOTS OF THE SAVIOR
February 21-22, 2004
A while back I bought a digital camera and I thought it would be kind of fun to take a snapshot of a group here at Fellowship Church to capture the nature and essence of what’s going on. So, I’ll go ahead and kind of pan the crowd. Let me see if I can get a good picture. Let me see, I’m not sure…. Okay, oh, there. Now that is an exciting group right there. One, two, three, smile. Boom! [Ed takes a picture of a group in the audience and it is displayed on the side screens.] Look at that! So attentive, so alert, so full of charisma.
If I saw you on the street and handed you that snapshot and said to you, “This snapshot, I believe, captures the essence of what’s going on at Fellowship Church today,” what would you say? You’d say, “No way, Ed. I mean those are some people, but that doesn’t capture what’s going on at the church. To capture the essence of Fellowship Church on a weekend you’d have to take hundreds of pictures. You’d have to take enough pictures to fill up several photo albums. You’d have to take pictures of the parkers, the greeters, the ushers, and the people back stage tweaking dials. You’d have to take pictures of those people working in the children’s ministry, the nursery, the preschool, and the student ministry. There’s no way with one photo, Ed, you could capture the nature and essence of Fellowship.”
A lot of us carry around a photo album of Jesus in our hearts and in our minds. Amazingly, most of the photo albums we have are incomplete. Amazingly, some of us only have two or three snapshots of Jesus, and we think that’s pretty much it. We might have a picture of Jesus in the manger, another one of him walking on the water, and another one of him dying on the cross for our sins and rising again. But that’s pretty much it. That’s why I’m beginning this series today called Passion—Snapshots of the Savior. The goal of this series of talks is simply this: I want all of us to have a complete photo album when it comes to the most important person to ever walk on planet Earth. We talk a lot about Christ’s divinity, but so often we miss talking about his humanity.
As I talked about last time, this past summer Mel Gibson’s agent called my office and asked me and several other pastors and leaders from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to go to a small theater and to watch a private, uncut version of “The Passion.” And to top it off, his agent told us that Mel himself would be in the theater. We could talk to him and ask him questions. And I was saying to myself, “Man, this is pretty cool!” I told Lisa about it and she freaked out. I’ve never seen her so excited. She thought she was going, but I said, “No, Lisa, no, no, no, no, no. I thought you were, too, but they said only pastors and hand selected leaders from the Dallas/Fort Worth area we going.”
I went with a good friend of mine who was also part of the selection and it was funny because both of our wives dropped us off at the theater and I watched them kind of hanging around in the lobby hoping to catch a glimpse of Mel. And sure enough they saw him up close. It was really exciting for them.
The movie, though, was riveting. It’s the most powerful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s Biblically accurate. I highly recommend “The Passion.” It’s a life changer. I will never, ever look at the last twelve hours of Christ like I see them now. Mel Gibson has done a phenomenal, masterful job at making the image of Jesus, his humanity, and how he identified with us so crystal clear. It’s just amazing. I’m looking forward to the great things that will happen because of this film.
There’s another goal that I have for this series. I want us, after this series, to look back seven weeks from now and say, “You know what? I had no idea that Jesus was this multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. I had no idea that he was all about these things.” So often, I’ll say it once again, we think about the divinity of Jesus, yet we forget about his humanity. We only think about the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. And you’re right. That is the point. That is the message. That is the focus. However, his identity is something, his identification is something, his humanity is something we don’t really process. We don’t really think about it. We kind of skip over it. Until this series of talks….
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed lately, but the Presidential election is already underway. It really is. You know what I’m talking about. The candidates are already campaigning. Politicians will politic, won’t they? I love to watch their different strategies. There’s one strategy, though, that every politician falls into. It’s called the photo-op tactic of campaigning. The old photo-op, here’s how it goes, and we’ll see this played out hundreds of times over the next several months.
The motorcade will come to a screeching halt, let’s say, in front of a Krispy Kreme donut shop. [Ed has a strong love for Krispy Kreme donuts] Ray Ban-wearing Secret Service agents will make a line, the candidate will walk into the donut shop, and the employees will applaud enthusiastically. Then the candidate will put on a Krispy Kreme smock and hat, he will walk behind the counter, and he’ll clumsily try to take those incredibly tasty donuts off the conveyer belt and put them into boxes. He struggles with it, because it really takes talent to be able to do that. He’s smiling while the cameras are going off, and he does this for a couple of minutes. And then when the cameras stop taking pictures, what does he do? He takes off the smock, takes off the hat, jumps in his motorcade and off they go to another scheduled campaign stop. Off they go to another place at another time for yet another photo-op.
It doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t shock me that politicians do that. The photo-op is seen all the time. We’ll see it in Time, Newsweek, The Dallas Morning News, The Wall Street Journal, and so forth and so on. What does shock me about this tactic is the reaction of the workers in Krispy Kreme. It’s the reaction of the people on the assembly line in Detroit, the textile mill in Greenville, South Carolina, or the computer plant in Silicon Valley. Look at the expressions on their faces when these pictures are taken. You would think they would be saying, “Who are you trying to fool, man? You’re not really going to be one of us. You’re not going to get paid by the hour. You’re not going to wear that smock or those protective goggles or that hard hat or these kind of boots. You’re not going to do that. You’re not going to give up your law degree from Harvard or Yale. You’re not going to give up all your multi-millions of dollars. You’re not going to do that. What are you trying to do? You’re trying to identify and connect with me?!”
You would think they would have that kind of expression, but they don’t. Instead they have crocodile grins and they’re applauding. They’re like, “Yeah!” What they are really saying is, “At least this guy tried. At least he tried to connect with me and identify with me. At least he tried.”
These people are settling for what? An illusion of identification. Our God did not accept an illusion of identification when he sent Jesus Christ to be born, to die on the cross and rise again. No, no, no. Jesus didn’t just do a quick fly over. He didn’t just come in some cosmic motorcade and walk into a donut shop, smile for the cameras for a couple of minutes and then cruise off to the heavens. No, no, no. He identified with us. He connected with us. Jesus was fully God and fully man. Something we can never totally comprehend in our finiteness.
However, it’s something we better study and better try to understand. Because if we truly understand the whole identification process of Jesus, we will leave this place (I’m talking about Fellowship Church) a different person than the person that entered this church. The identification of Jesus. Jesus identified with us. “Well, Ed,” you might be asking, “How did Jesus identify with us?”
Philippians 2:5-6 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…” (NASB). Look at verse 7, “But emptied himself (limited himself), taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” This doesn’t mean that he emptied himself of his divinity. Once again, he was fully God and fully man—divinity and humanity. It does mean, though, he voluntarily limited himself.
Years ago, I was chaplain of the Houston Astros baseball team, which is kind of hilarious because I don’t really like baseball that much. I admire people who like it and I admire people who play. But I quit during little league because the ball was too hard. It came too fast. I got hit a couple of times and it hurt! And I said, “I’m through with baseball.” Every week as the chaplain, I would do a service for the Astros in their clubhouse, then I would go to the opposing team’s clubhouse and do a service for them. It was pretty crazy.
One day, a major league all-star that I got to know asked me to come on the field and he said, “Ed, let’s play catch together.” I said, “No thank you.” He said, “Come on. I won’t throw hard.” This guy threw in the 90s. I said, “I really don’t want to do it.” He goes, “Ed, I’ll throw 20-25 miles per hour. That’s it.” Here’s the key word. He said, “I will limit my ability.” I said, “Okay.” And it still hurt my palm, you know, to catch that ball.
Jesus limited himself. He could have thrown 90, 95, 100, 200, or 500 miles per hour. But he threw 25. He threw 30 just so he could connect with you and connect with me.
Think about your job just for a second. Think about what you do professionally. Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus identified and does identify with our marketplace endeavors? Have you ever just considered that? Jesus spent more time in the marketplace than he did as a minister. He spent more time working than he did as an itinerant evangelist.
What does the Bible say about Jesus? In Mark 6:3 he is called “the Carpenter.” Not a carpenter, not the son of a carpenter, but “the Carpenter.” What does that mean? It meant that Jesus took up the trade. Back in Biblical times it meant that he was responsible for the excavation work, the foundation work, and the finish out of a project. Jesus was probably a stone mason. We have this whacked view of Jesus as some pail, frail, blonde hair, blue-eyed guy. He had a dark skin tone and long hair. The guy had to be buff. He had to be in awesome shape just to do what he did professionally. We’re talking about a man’s man.
Jesus knows all about pay disputes. He knows all about boredom. He knows all about the monotony of work. He knows all about stress and pressures. He’s been there. He’s been there. Don’t you see the genius of God? Don’t you see the brilliance of God? He knew that we would spend most of our time in the marketplace, more time in the marketplace than we would with our families even. That’s where the rugged plains of reality happen to be in your life and mine.
So often during my moments of whining…. Do you ever have moments of whining? Surely you do. “No one understands what I’m going through. No one understands this deal. No one understands my job. No one understands this pay. No one understands. No one understands.” But add two words to that statement: like Jesus. Like Jesus. To top that off, work is a gift from God to man. Work was given to us before sin ever entered the equation of life. When we understand that, our workplace can become a worship place.
Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man (that’s Adam) and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This verse should put to rest the age old debate about what is the oldest known profession. It’s landscaping. It’s right here in the Bible.
It’s about time, though, that the men here, especially, who are so great at compartmentalizing stuff, resign the personal presidency of their life and give it to Jesus. It’s about time that you allow Christ to sit in the corner office and run the show, call the shots. There is no way we can ever discover our identity in the marketplace until we synch up with the identity of Christ. Apart from Christ, I will never know who I am, and you will never know who you are. Talk to Jesus about the stresses and pressures and junk that you deal with in the marketplace. He’s our sympathetic Savior.
How about relationships? That’s another way that Jesus identifies with us. Jesus was brought up in a family. The Bible says he had four brothers and sisters. He had best friends. His best friends turned on him during his greatest point of need. Have you ever felt that before in relationships? Have you ever felt misunderstood in relationships? Maybe you’re a student and you’re saying, “My parents don’t get it. They just don’t understand. Who understands? No one understands.” You know where I’m going. Add two words: like Jesus.
Relationships—we’re all about that, aren’t we? It’s very interesting when you meet someone who’s had a similar background, someone who has “been there,” relationally speaking. Have you ever met someone like that? You’re like, “Wow! That happened to me. They…yeah, my family was like that and that’s where I am now.”
And when you have that connectivity it’s like the lights come one. It’s like you have this huge identification thing going on. I was thinking about that last weekend. Last weekend I was in the Atlanta area, and I was with a good friend of mine, Andy Stanley. Andy and I have a lot in common. Let me tell you what I’m talking about. I cannot remember a time in my life where I was not recognized by a bunch of people I don’t know. Why? Because my father pastors one of the largest churches in America. He’s on television around the world. He’s on radio. He’s written books. He’s kind of a known guy in the Christian community. So I grew up in that.
Dad always told me, “Son, if you can do anything else other than being a pastor, do that.” He said, “The only way you should be a pastor is if you know God is leading you into it. You’ve got to be led into the pastorate.” I said, “Okay, Dad.” And sure enough when I was 21, I felt led into the ministry. At 28, we began Fellowship Church and God has blessed it. It’s been an incredible ride.
Well, there is a very small group of people that I can identify with relationally. It’s a small group of people who’ve grown up like I’ve grown up. Let’s just face it. Then I met Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley’s father is Charles Stanley. Charles Stanley pastored and pastors one of the large churches in America. He’s on television all over the country. He’s written books and done all this stuff. Andy, at about the same time we started Fellowship Church, started his church, North Point Community Church. It’s a dynamic church. And Andy and I met each other several years ago and the connectivity was scary. I was at his house last Sunday after church and we were talking. It was like, “Andy, I think that. Yeah, I understand that!” And we’ve said to each other many times, that there are very few people that understand our background because very few people have that specific background.
Well, take that feeling and that illustration and multiply it exponentially and you’ve got relational connectivity on another planet, on another plane with Jesus, because he has been there. He knows you. He knows relationships better than you will ever even realize it or understand it yourself. Call out to him. Pour your heart out to your God. Pour your heart out to your Savior. Think about your relational past, what you’re going through now and also your relational future.
There’s another area, though, that I think about when I think about Jesus identifying with us. It’s about the area of temptation. The Bible says when you’re tempted, not if. We’re going to be tempted. I’m going to be tempted and so are you. It’s a part of life. The Bible says Jesus was tempted.
Think just for a second, where are you tempted right now? Are you tempted to mess around your parents? Are you tempted to be disrespectful to them? Are you tempted to maybe lie or to exaggerate something in the marketplace? To say something’s worth “X” amount but it really isn’t? Are you tempted to be unfaithful to your spouse? What area do you really feel like you’re being tempted in right now? What area do you feel that cross pull? You know what I’m saying? You might be saying to yourself, “Well, Ed, you know, no one knows the force of my temptation. No one knows what I’m dealing with. I mean, I’m on this island, man. No one gets it. I’m here by myself and there’s no one in this predicament.” You’re wrong. “No one understands.” You’re wrong. I’ll add two words again: like Jesus.
Hebrews 2:18, “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (NASB). Remember that word “aid.” He is able to come to the aid. Do you know what the word “aid” means in the original language? It’s the picture of a mother running to the cry of her infant. All these high tech parents these days have these baby monitors, and moms can hear that little cry, “Ah! Eeh! Ahhh!” They have rabbit ears and they’ll run to the cry of their infant. That’s awesome, isn’t it? When I’m tempted, when you’re tempted in any realm, all we’ve got to do is cry out and Jesus will come to our aid. He will strengthen us. And Scripture tells us that we will never get into a situation where he will not give us the strength and the power to escape.
Do you remember when Jesus went one on one with Satan? We talked about that several weeks ago. Jesus used the power of the Word and the power of the Spirit of God. Two things that are available to us right now. We don’t serve a sequestered Savior or a detached deity. We serve someone who has been there. Jesus knows the potency and the pull and the power of temptation more than we will ever know it. You know why? Because he didn’t sin.
The sinless one knows it to a greater degree than we will every experience it. So don’t let the evil one say, “You’re the only one dealing with it. You can’t say no. You can’t turn the other way.” Yes you can because Jesus will give you the strength and power to do so. He’ll come to your aid.
Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (NASB). Here’s something that is really cool. Jesus is our high priest. I don’t have to go through a priest, an earthly priest, to get to God. You don’t have to go through an earthly priest to get to God. Jesus is our High Priest. If you’re a child of God right now, the Bible says Christ, our high priest, is in heaven articulating words and prayers that we can’t even say to the Father himself. If that’s not good news I don’t know what is, because so many times when I’m praying I just don’t know what to say. Are you like that? “I just can’t find the words, God. I, I mean…” Jesus promises me and he promises you that he’ll take our mumblings, our stumblings and our words and even give us new words. And he will articulate stuff to the Father and help us and encourage us and empower us. He’s our High Priest. Theologians call this the priesthood of the believer. 24/7 we can go into the throne room of God by our High Priest, Jesus, himself.
Think about the sufferings that Jesus went through. Think about the pain. That’s something that we can identify with. Are you going through pain right now? Suffering? The Bible says Jesus was hungry. It says that Jesus was tired. It says that Jesus was angry. It said that Jesus was down. I can identify with that, can’t you?
How about physical pain? Do you have the pain of arthritis, maybe? Some other physical pain that no one really knows about but you and maybe your spouse or a couple of close friends? Or maybe you’re dealing with cancer right now? Maybe you’re dealing with some sort of physical pain. Jesus identifies. He’s experienced pain like we will never, ever experience it.
Isaiah 53:3 was penned hundreds of years before Christ came. It says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” He was rejected by men. As I said earlier, his best friends turned their backs on him during his greatest time of need. And then—check this out—as he was paying for your sins and mine on the cross, the Father couldn’t look at sin. The Father separated himself from the Son. You want to talk about rejection?
Look at Mark 6:3—here’s what the people said who were taking offense at Jesus. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” They were saying, “Hey, blue collar kid. You’re the Messiah?!” “…Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?” They teased him, “Oh yeah, aren’t you the illegitimate kid?” They knew there was some mystery behind the birth of Jesus. These guys didn’t believe in Christ until after he rose from the dead? “‘Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”
Has anyone every made fun of you because your skin’s a different color? Jesus was a Jew under Roman control. Again, he’s connected. He’s identified. He’s been there. All we think about so often is just the divinity of Jesus. And that’s great. We’ve got to do that. But we’ve got to think about his humanity too, don’t we? His identification with us?
Isaiah 53:5, let’s go back, “…He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus identified with you and me to such a degree that he became sin. He took our junk, our rebellion, our guilt, our pain, and our moral foul ups; everything we’ve ever done wrong, thought wrong; everything we will do wrong and everything that is bad in our lives. He took all of that upon himself. We don’t deserve it, but he did it. That’s how much he has identified with us.
God saw this cosmic chasm caused by our sin, and because God wanted to identify with us to such a degree, he commissioned Jesus to live a sinless life. The Bible says Jesus was 100% righteous. Isn’t that something? Perfect. And because he was 100% righteous, he voluntarily was nailed to a Roman cross. Then the Bible says he rose again. And Christ’s resurrection is the evidence of living a 100% righteous life. Thus, when I identify with Jesus and receive him, I find my identity in Christ and the righteousness of Christ is imputed into my life. So now when God sees me, he doesn’t see Ed Sinner, Ed Moral Foul Up, Ed Mess Up. He sees Jesus. He sees the righteousness of Christ. And this whole thing plays out in his humanity and his divinity, his salvation and his identification.
Let me go back to this camera for a second, this high tech digital camera. What if God could take a picture of you? What if God could take a picture of me? Think about that. What if God could do that? What would we see in the picture? Would we see a sinner? Would we see just a guy or a girl? Or would we see a snapshot of the Savior?