Point of Reference
by Fred Price
This question was raised during a conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which they had discussed what others thought about him. A number of opinions were voiced – some likening him to John the Baptist, others to Elijah, while a few were reminded of Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. But the real point of this exercise was brought to bear when Christ asked, “But what about you?... Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:13-15
It’s not that the contributions other people have made to your thinking and beliefs don’t matter, whether they be parents, teachers, preachers or friends; but that their declarations of faith won’t save you, their convictions won’t shield you from temptation or ridicule; their belief won’t make you do the “right” thing. Only a genuine personal faith can do that, your understanding of God and his place in your life allowing for a meaningful relationship and influence that will impact your decisions and direct your actions. In other words – ownership. Their faith becoming yours as you heed their example and the Holy Spirit’s prodding, accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior; echoing Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16,17 As a result, you too will develop capabilities and realize possibilities unknown to you before.
David expressed what is at the core of this discussion and ultimately who’s responsible for assuring our success as Christians. “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand (purposefully available) I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 David had developed an understanding of who God was, knew through experience what He could do and what He expected. As such, David could face the difficulties of life (often self-inflicted) with hope and confidence he otherwise would not have had. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”; is therefore not a declaration of health and wealth but an assurance of basic needs being met as a result of dependence on God and obedience to his will. (Psalm 23) This confidence coming as a result of understanding God’s character. David, as well as the disciples who came after him, grasped the significance of the I Am statements of God; the independently authoritative “I AM who I AM.” of Exodus 3:14. The Lord who appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 6:2,3), the first and last redeemer of Israel – apart from whom there is no other (Is. 44:6) – the past, present and future of all who believe (Revelation 1:8), fully manifested in Jesus (Hebrews 1:3), who “…before Abraham was, I Am.” John 8:58
True believers acknowledge Christ’s mission as redeemer (John 3:16), his purpose in seeking out the lost (Luke 19:10), his character as one with the Father’s (John 10:30), recognizing his desire to save combined with his right to judge (John 12:47 & 2 Corinthians 5:10), as well as his expectation of our assuming his mission as our own. (Matthew 28:18-20 & John 20:21)
So how do we define who Christ is and our purpose in relation to him? Scripture should always be the source of our answers, identifying Christ’s purpose and character as well as our own. John in particular records a number of Jesus self-identifying claims. “I am the bread of life.” John 6:35; that which satisfies the spiritual hunger of all who seek to know and understand God. (Matthew 5:6) He is our source of “living water” John 7:37-39; the Holy Spirit – leading us to a fuller understanding of God and the ability to respond to others’ needs. As, “I am the light of the world.” Therefore, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 Jesus characterizing himself as “the gate” through whom we find purpose in life, peace of mind and the security of our souls; as well as “The Good Shepherd” who leads us to safety and supplies our needs – who is lovingly acquainted with us all, willing to sacrifice himself for our benefit. (John 10:7 & 11) And finally, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;…” John 11:25,26
Make no mistake about it, he claims first place in the believers life (John 14:15) and the exclusive means of introduction into the presence of the Father; he being the way, the truth and the life. “No one comes to the Father (and thus eternal life) except through me.” John 14:6 Upon our acceptance of these proclamations we become heirs of the promises as well, sharing in the oneness of the Son and Father. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Our strength, purpose and ability to lead productive lives (Matthew 7:20) is derived from him no less than a plant which lives and flourishes as a result of its root system or branches in connection to the trunk. Jesus insisting, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 But there is more, even as Jesus is the vine through whom we flourish, “…my father is the gardener. (Who) cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (Discipling, shaping, nurturing – cutting away the bad and less productive to restore and multiply the good.) John 15:12
Which leads to a second question: “What must we do to accomplish the works God requires?” Jesus’ answer being, “ …believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28,29 This question – and answer – has echoed throughout the ages. “What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus,…” Acts 16:30 “What shall we do?... Repent and be baptized,…” Acts 2:37,38 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead,…” Romans 10:9
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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