“The Real Jesus Is All You Really Need” (John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14)
In Sunday morning Bible class, we’re doing a study based on the book, “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.” And in these midweek Lenten services, we’ve been picking up on themes from the book, as well. “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.” The premise of the book is that in our society people come up with false christs to fit their own presuppositions and desires. The real Jesus does not fit their idea of what he should be like, so they redefine him, stripping away the parts they don’t like, and adding to him things they do like. And so they come up with a false christ who is different from the real Jesus we meet in the Bible.
For example, so far in the book we’ve met Jillian, the ethical hedonist, who redefines Jesus to be merely a mascot, who will cheer her on in her pursuit of pleasure. We’ve met Tamar, the religious pluralist, who reduces Jesus to just one option among many in the smorgasbord of world religions. We’ve met Mr. Darby, the possible atheist, who pays lip-service to Jesus as a good teacher but nothing more than that. And this past Sunday we met Wendy, the life coach, who sees Jesus as a sort of therapist who will help you have a happier life and who, if you yield your life to him, will move you up from being an ordinary, carnal Christian, up to being a first-class, super-spiritual Christian. That’s so far, and in the weeks to come, we’ll meet other people who redefine Jesus into a false christ of their own making.
These are people you know and work with. They are your friends and neighbors and relatives. So I encourage you to come to our Bible class, and let’s find out more about how these false christs compare to the real Jesus. Then you will be better equipped to be an effective witness for Jesus in your conversations with folks. And who knows, you may even discover that you yourself have been harboring some false ideas about Christ that need straightening out.
Now what I want to say tonight is this: “The Real Jesus Is All You Really Need.” This is true for you. You need the real Jesus. It is true for your friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. They need the real Jesus. The false christs they have constructed cannot save them. Only the real Jesus can do that. And the church, too–we need to have the real Jesus at the heart and center of everything we say and do. We dare not rely on a watered-down message or on entertainment or countless programs to keep the church afloat and bring the customers in. No, let’s give people the real Jesus, not some false christ of our own imagining, a false christ who may be more popular but who is not the real deal.
The real Jesus is all you really need. This raises some questions: Who is the real Jesus? What do we know about his person and his work? And why is he all we really need? Our readings tonight, from John 1 and Ephesians 1, will give us the answers.
Let’s start with the person of Christ. Who is he? That seems like a good place to start. The reading from John 1 tells who he is. First of all, he is identified as “the Word of God,” the Word, the Logos. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” This is John’s way of speaking of Christ as the eternal Son of God. He is distinct from the Father, yet also divine in his nature.
The Word, the Logos, the eternal Son of God, was active in creation, speaking the universe into existence: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He has life within himself: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” So Christ as the Word of God upholds the entire universe. It all hangs together in him.
But then at a certain point in time, what happened? “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is the incarnation, the coming in the flesh of the eternal Son of God. This is a great mystery, but it is essential to knowing who the real Jesus is. He is God in the flesh, true God and true man in one person, our Lord Jesus Christ. If you don’t have this Jesus, you don’t know the real one.
Why is it so important we get the real Jesus? Because in him, and in him alone, we receive God’s grace and know the truth about God and man. Christ came “full of grace and truth,” it says. “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” “From his fullness we have all received.” See? There is nothing lacking in the real Jesus. You don’t have to make him into something else. You get Jesus, you get everything you need. Grace upon grace, gift upon gift.
And if you don’t know the real Jesus, you don’t know God, either, because Jesus is the one–the only one–who reveals God to us, makes him known: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” There are not many ways to God. There is just one. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” One way, one truth, one life, and they’re all found in the one Lord Jesus Christ.
But how did Jesus come? What did he do to bring grace and truth, and life and light, and open the way to the Father? This is getting at the work of Christ, what he did to make it so. We get a hint of it in the reading from John: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
Rejection. This is what this passage is talking about. Jesus was rejected by the very people who should have welcomed him. Christ met opposition and unbelief in his ministry. The leaders of his own people rejected him and condemned him and handed him over to be crucified, a most shameful death. Yet in this very rejection, Christ would be doing his work. His saving work, to redeem the world–to redeem us, from our sins. When the Son of God dies for all the sinners of the world, that is surpassingly effective. It gets the job done, big-time. Nothing more needs to be added.
So the person and the work of Christ combine to give us all the benefits, all the blessings, we will ever need. Our reading from Ephesians says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” “Every spiritual blessing.” Did you catch that? Every blessing, all you will ever need.
What are these blessings? It says that God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” God chose us, he predestined us. This takes the pressure off of us. We can take comfort that it is God who chose us. This gives us great assurance. We are now sons of God, his dear children, loved by God and blessed.
What else have we received in connection with Christ? “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” By Christ’s blood, shed on the cross, we have been redeemed, set free from our bondage to sin and death. We are forgiven. Our sins have been removed off our backs and sent away and are remembered no more. God is not skimpy or stingy with his gifts. He has lavished them upon us richly. With the forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. So you have new life now and eternal life forever. “In him we have obtained an inheritance.” You have something waiting for you at the end of the road, and it’s going to be great.
The real Jesus is all you really need. The false christs that people construct in their minds cannot do what the real Jesus does. The real Jesus is all you really need. He is your Savior, who gives you true life and light. The real Jesus is all your friends and neighbors really need. And guess what? You may be the one to tell them about him. The real Jesus is all the church really needs. All the life-coaching and entertainment and programs don’t mean a hill of beans if the real Jesus gets lost in the shuffle.
But the good news is, we have the real Jesus! “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Truly, God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.”