I grew up going to church. If you had asked me what is a Christian and if I am a Christian, I would have had a puzzled look. I might have said, “What kind of question is that? Isn’t it obvious? Of course I’m a Christian. I go to church. A Christian church. And I’m not a Buddhist or Muslim or something else. So what else would I be besides a Christian?” But I couldn’t give you any specifics on that.
In the simplest of terms, one way the Scriptures would answer that is to say that a Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ.
In this scene in the Gospel of Matthew,
Matthew 4:18–20 CSB As Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter), and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
These two brothers, Peter and Andrew, knew what Jesus meant when he said, “Follow me.” They did it in a very literal, physical sense. They left the family business—fishing— and spent the next 2-3 years following Jesus around. They knew what it to follow him. Do we? If I were to ask you, or if a friend asked you, “What is a Christian? What does it mean to follow Jesus?”, what would you say?
We are beginning a 3-week series on some foundations of the faith to help answer what it means to follow Jesus. Each week will focus on one key word:
- Week 1: Believe
- Week 2: Be baptized
- Week 3: Belong
In three weeks, we can’t cover all that it means to “follow Jesus,” but we hope to give you a few of the core aspects of that… to help establish a solid foundation of Christianity.
This morning we will focus on one word: Believe. And fundamentally it’s not about believing a system of religion or believing I should go to a church service on Sunday. Fundamentally it’s about believing in a Person. In the deepest of senses, to follow a Person. That person is, of course, Jesus.
Our core text from the Bible is from the Gospel of John, especially chapter 1. We will examine who Jesus is and what he did as revealed in his names. The names and titles ascribed to Jesus.
John 1:1–14 (CSB)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name,
13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Let’s begin in vs. 1:
The Logos of God.
John 1:1 CSB In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Vs. 1 is fascinating: Jesus Christ is assigned the name, “the Word of God.” That’s a strange title. What does that mean?
The NT was originally written in Greek, and we still have many of the ancient copies of the original writings in Greek. In the Greek language, the word “Word” here in vs. 1 is the Greek “Logos.” Logos means “word” or “speech”. In any language, words express thoughts. So in this sense, Jesus expresses God. And he expresses God in the deepest, truest, fullest sense possible, revealing God’s heart, mind, and will. When we see Jesus, we have seen the Father.
What is fascinating about the Greek word, “Logos” is that in the Apostle John’s first century world, the word “Logos” was already a well-known term. An intriguing one. In the centuries before Christ came to earth, Greek philosophers used this word logos to describe the divine, the unseen world, the origin of life, and an understanding of good and evil. Philosophers gave it a wide variety of possible meaning to this “logos,” but there was some commonality to their views. In general, logos referred to some sort of rational principle of the universe. Some creative energy. All things on earth came from this logos. People derived their wisdom from it. Some viewed this logos as personal. Some saw it as impersonal, like a principle or force.
If you know anything about Star Wars, you know about The Force. In Star Wars, the Force is not a person but a pervasive energy in living things that gives life and guides life.
In the 1970’s when George Lucas was creating Star Wars and this “Force” theme, he very much had in mind this ancient, pagan philosophy that Greek philosophers called Logos.
In the first century when John wrote his Gospel, people were searching for answers to life. For our origins. For the purpose of our existence. For explanations of the cosmic battle between good and evil. But the problem in that century (and in ours) is there were no definitive answers to those questions.
So in this Gospel, John testifies boldly and audaciously: this Logos of God that you have all been wondering about and searching for over many centuries… He is divine. He existed in the beginning. He created the universe. He has come, descending from heaven to earth. By calling Jesus “The Logos of God”, John is blowing the minds of the first century world. What was previously unknown and largely merely speculated on has now been fully revealed.
From last Sunday:
Acts 17:22–23 CSB Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus [the place where philosophers gathered to debate] and said, “People of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
Both Paul and John are saying, “This “Logos” you are searching for….He is not some Force. He is a person. He is real. He is God. His name is Jesus.” Instead of “The Force be with you,” John would say, “May the Logos of God be with you.”
And importantly, John says this Logos of God created all things.
John 1:3 CSB All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.
Few things could ever be said that are more foundational to our lives here on earth. In one simple sentence, John clears up centuries of philosophical confusion and darkness: We are here because the Logos of God created us.
If we want a purpose for our existence, it begins here: The Logos of God has created us, and he has created us for a reason:
The Apostle Paul has similar words for us.
Colossians 1:16 CSB For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him.
We have been created BY the Logos of God FOR the Logos of God. Let that sink in.
The implications are staggering.
We are not here by some cosmic accident. We are not here by luck or fate. We are not here to live life however we choose. We are here for the purposes of our Creator, Jesus, the Logos of God.
Within a few months after I believed in Jesus when I was 19 years old, I began to understand this: I have a purpose for living. And Jesus determines what that purpose is.
So when we hear Jesus’ commands like Matthew 4:19 to FOLLOW him, this is why. He made us FOR him. He has Creator-rights over us. This doesn’t answer every question we may have about the specifics of how we should live, but we must begin here. You are here for a reason.
Jesus Christ is the Logos of God. The Creator. And he is also “The Life.” In this brief passage are two other terms that are assigned to Jesus: The words “life” and “light.”
Let’s look first at “life.” Vs. 4 says, “In him was life.” John certainly means physical life. After all, the Logos is the Creator. Life is from him. But it’s clear throughout the Gospel of John that spiritual life is also intended. The phrase “eternal life” is used at least 17 times in the Gospel.
Life doesn’t come from impersonal, Star Wars’ midi-chlorian in our cells, or from any other imaginations of the philosophers’ minds. Rather, life comes from the very personal Logos of God who came as the Incarnate God named Jesus.
Later in John 11, Jesus calls himself “The Resurrection and the Life.”
John 11:25–26 CSB Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
We’ll come back to this important question, “Do you believe this?”
But first, Jesus says that He is the source of life forever and ever. This is crucial for us to know, for our worst enemy today and in any age is not an evil tyrant who rules over a nation. Our worst enemy is not a disease. Our worst enemy is death itself.
But death is no problem for the Logos of God, for he is the Resurrection and the Life. He has conquered death by rising unto a new, eternal, glorified body. And by that same power, he will raise his followers from the dead.
Let me give you one of the many implications of Jesus, the Resurrection and Life to our lives.
Jesus’ followers need to fear death no longer.
Hebrews 2:14–15 CSB Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.
Many of us live in fear of death. We’re afraid of heart attacks or cancer. We’re worried about a madman with a rifle. We’re consumed with fear of car accidents and strange diseases. But followers of Jesus have been released from their prison….their slavery to fear of death. For He is the Resurrection and the Life.
So Jesus is the Logos of God. The Creator. The Life.
And fourth, he is “The Light.”
Back to John 1, John says,
John 1:4–5 CSB In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.
Throughout Scriptures, the word “light” typically refers to God and his attributes, like his holiness, glory, and purity. But we are in darkness, spiritually blind—a condition far, far worse than physical blindness. Jesus, the Logos of God, came not only to extinguish the impacts of darkness and sin, but to be the Extinguisher.
Jesus said beautifully,
John 8:12 CSB “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
(Note the word “follow” again.) Our sin against God has deceived our own hearts and blinded us from the true answers about life and eternity and God’s glory. But to all who will follow Jesus, he is the Light of the World to open our blind eyes, enabling us to see God. To finally see truth and life. To finally have hope. To finally know where we’ve been and where we are going.
Implications: for the Light of the World:
When we know and follow the Logos of God, Jesus, the Light of the World, we have hope. True hope. And hope (by definition) always has a future aspect to it…a confidence that something good is coming.
Peter commanded us:
1 Peter 1:13 CSB …set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Our hope shining like a bright light into the future is the return of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, who is coming back to bring salvation to all who know him and reign as the King of kings over heaven and earth.
We all would like to know the future. What will tomorrow bring? What will 2024 bring? What will happen with my health, my finances, my employment? What about the dangers my children and grandchildren will face?
In a way, we want light to shine on our path to know if our future is good. We want hope. Jesus as our Light doesn’t give us the specifics of tomorrow’s events. But he does something better: He shines his Light into eternity and gives us a sure hope in the midst of the many, many uncertainties of this life. So Jesus is the Logos of God. Creator. Life. And Light.
The Lamb of God
Another name is ascribed to Jesus by the prophet, John the Baptist. Later in chapter 1, we read this:
John 1:29 CSB The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Six weeks ago, in our series on the Book of Exodus, I talked more at length about this. (If you want more, find my sermon from November 19 on Exodus 29. https://stonebrook.org/sermons/exodus-29-consecration-of-the-priest/ )
I can’t repeat that entire sermon, so let me summarize. God is holy, pure, and righteous. Mankind—all of us—are unholy. We reject God. Resist him. Sin against him. And the consequences of that sin—the wages—is death.
So we are faced with only two options:
- We die for our own sins at the hands of the God of justice.
- Or, we receive the mercy of God by means of a substitute. Something or someone who will die in our place. Someone who will take the death we deserve. The word is Substitutionary Atonement. God has offered his own Son as the Substitute Lamb of God. Jesus came to die so that I might live.
Implications of the Lamb of God
What are the implications of Jesus as the Lamb of God?
The Lamb of God takes away the guilt of our sin, and gives us peace with God. He brings us forgiveness, cleansing deep within us.
One of my favorite verses:
Romans 5:1 NIV Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Peace with God. Peace. The righteous anger…the wrath…of God has been satisfied through Jesus, the Lamb of God. So now all who have faith…who believe (our key word for today)…are at complete peace with God. The hostility is gone. The tension with God is gone. We can exhale a sigh of relief, and so we rejoice in the mighty work of the Lamb of God. Peace reigns.
Other Names and Titles
We don’t have time to look at the many other titles and names given to Jesus:
- Living Water who quenches the deep thirst in our souls. John 4:13-14
My wife and I have a friend who was powerfully impacted by Jesus’ name here. When she heard this, she realized she had a deep thirst for something. It was a God-given thirst for something real. Something eternal. Spiritual.
She discovered that Jesus was Living Water for her soul.
- Bread of Life who satisfies the inner hunger we have in our starving and malnourished souls. John 6:26-40
- The Good Shepherd who feeds, guides, and protects us in our helpless state as sheep. John 10:1-18
- The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus guides us out of our world of lostness and deception into Himself, the True Way. John 14:6
So let’s go back to the beginning. Jesus commanded us to follow him. What does that mean?
If I sat down with you for coffee and asked you, “Are you a Christian?”, what would you say? If a friend asked you, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”, can you explain it to him or her? My prayer is that these names and titles of Jesus Christ will help us to answer those questions.
First, to be a Christian means that we follow someone—we believe in someone—who is extraordinary. To follow the Logos of God—the very expression of this invisible God. He is far beyond all so-called gods ever invented by man or by the devil.
The first and most foundational response to Jesus is found in one word: Believe.
Back to John 1:
John 1:11–12 NIV He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
His own people, the Jews, did not receive him. But anyone who did receive him….welcome him…embrace him…and importantly, BELIEVE in him, that person is adopted by God Almighty as his own son and daughter.
BELIEVE means to trust. It’s the word, “FAITH.” So whoever has trust in and faith in Jesus, the Logos of God, that person finds real life. Finds light. Finds forgiveness.
And we repent. We turn 180 degrees from all that is opposite of Jesus, the Logos of God. We repent of our independent ways, of thinking our lives originate from ourselves and belong to ourselves. We repent of our lifeless ways. Our dark ways.
As Jesus said to Martha:
John 11:25–26 NIV “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me f never die. Do you believe this?”
As Jesus asked Martha, so he asks us: Do you believe this?
“Do you believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life? Do you believe he is the Logos of God, the very Word and Message and Expression of God? Do you believe he is the Light of the World, to extinguish all darkness in your heart? Do you believe he is the Lamb of God, who alone can take away your sin?”
Eternity hangs in the balance with our answers to those question.
So here is your homework: In order to answer questions about Jesus for yourself….or to answer questions others may ask you…Read the Gospel of John, one chapter a day. Tomorrow is January 1st. By January 21st, you can finish the book.
As you read, look for the names, titles, and the deeds of Jesus. Consider who he is. Consider what he has done.
Then believe in him. And follow him. This is Christianity.