Who is Jesus? This question has been asked for more than 2,000 years. Of course, people are not shy in giving their opinion on this question either. Was he simply a good man, a prophet, a revolutionary, a teacher? Was he delusional, crazy, or mentally ill? Or was he exactly who He claimed to be, God in the flesh?
Beginning on March 12th and concluding on Easter Sunday (April 16th) we will be answering this question by looking at the very words of Jesus Himself in his seven “I AM” statements found in the gospel of John. This will be a great opportunity to invite your friends and associates who need to know Jesus personally. When I went to Israel last year, one of my most memorable experiences came when I visited a place called Caesarea Philippi (ancient Paneas and modern day Banias). It is in Northern Israel close to the Syrian border. The area around Caesarea Philippi has tremendous historical significance. Even before Abraham and his family entered the promised land this site had been used to worship many false and pagan gods. By the time Jesus took his disciples there on a winter retreat right before his crucifixion, it had become a huge center of pagan worship.
If you go there today you will find rich green vegetation in a beautiful picturesque setting. How does it get so green? There are many underground streams that come up to form the great “Jordan River” which flows down through the heart of Israel. The water comes from Mount Herman which sits up high in the background. Mount Herman is the tallest mountain in Israel and in Syria which stands 9100 feet above sea level. Often you will see the mountain peak covered in white because of the snow fall. There is actually a snow ski resort up top.
But there is also something else that you will notice at Caesarea Philippi. There is a rock structure with a massive cave. If you go into the cave you will see a very large opening at the top. In the day of Jesus, water would gush out from this large opening. It was called the “Cave of Pan.” Pan was a pagan god, known as the “Goat god”, a “god of fertility” among other things. People would come to this cave and see the water gushing out of its mouth and just assume that it was a gift from “Pan.” Therefore, this very site had been known for cultic and pagan worship. Later, an earthquake would stop the flow of water from its mouth and underground streams would then carry the water underneath the structure to form the Jordan River. Why do I share all of this?
This was the setting of Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 16 where Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” Some answered Elijah, some answered John the Baptist and some answered Jeremiah. But then Jesus looked at Peter and asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Do you remember what Peter said? “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” With the backdrop of pagan worship and idolatry in the background, Peter changed history with his statement. “There is only One God! And He is living! And Jesus is that God.” This is the heartbeat behind the seven “I Am” statements.
We are going to have a marvelous and worshipful time as we approach Easter. My prayer for our church is that Jesus would be known in our community, workplaces, family, homes, and hearts. May our beliefs move from head knowledge to transformational heart knowledge. And may our understanding of who Jesus really is change the way we think, live, and love! Lets make certain we tell as many people as possible the truth about Jesus before we go to meet Him!!
It is my honor to be your Pastor. I love you with all my heart!!
Our Strategic Planning Team along with our Ministerial Staff have identified “three key areas” or “three big things” that we as a church need to do well in, in order to move forward as the Lord would have us to. My new sermon series which starts on March 6 is called, “These Three Things.”
These three things are areas we as a church must succeed in if we want to fulfill our purpose and mission. Can you recall what our new purpose and vision statements are? Let’s review.
What is our purpose? “The Purpose of Central Baptist Church is to live for Christ, love people, and make disciples!” This is our job description. We find this very command from our Lord Jesus in the Great Commandment and in the Great Commission.
What is our vision? “The Vision of Central Baptist Church is to be a people of acceptance, healing, equipping and sending.” Whereas our purpose is our job description, our vision is our desired outcome. We find this modeled in the life of our Lord. He accepted the broken, the hurting, the sinner, and all who were heavy burdened. He brought healing to them through his touch but more importantly through his death, burial and resurrection. He equipped them by training them but also by giving them the Holy Spirit who would guide them the rest of their lives. But Jesus also sent them into the world, into the community, into His kingdom, to do his work. This should be our model as well.
So what are “These Three Things?” They are Evangelism, Discipleship, and Loving Relationships. We are calling them “Critical Success Factors.” For the months of March, April, and May we will be focusing on each of these subjects one subject at a time, one month at a time. We will also be providing you with practical steps to bring these things into priority in your life and in our church.
This spring each of our ministries will be developing an action plan on how their ministry will help the overall church find success in these three areas. What started a couple of years ago with a group of 10 lay people in the conference room will now be coming into fruition as we as a congregation get behind our purpose and vision to bring God the glory He deserves.
These are exciting days at Central and I am honored to be called your Pastor!
Until the whole world hears,