Who do you say I am?

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When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked.  "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-16) Jesus poses the question to His disciples, "Who do you say I am?"  I believe that now more than ever it is so important that we begin to answer this question for ourselves, especially for those of us who are in the church.  In today's church, there are many existing views on who Jesus is.  To many Christians, Jesus is whoever we want Him to be.  To many Christians, Jesus is merely one possible way to heaven.  Many Christians are left in confusion in a sea of various opinions on who Jesus is.

In this season of my life more than ever before, I am struck by the importance of knowing the truth of God's Word for ourselves.  I believe the Bible gives us a trustworthy account of who Jesus is and what He taught.  Most Christians would agree that they believe the Bible is true, but sadly the majority of Christians only have a secondhand knowledge of the Bible.  Too many people rely heavily on their pastors or leaders to tell them what the Word of God says.  The problem with this is that many churches that claim to be Bible believing twist the Word to defend their own views.  They soften the Word of God to fit more readily into our post-modern society, using two or three scriptures that support their point of view.  People follow blindly believing anything that's said, because it was said from behind the pulpit.  I believe what was spoken in 2 Tim. 4:3-4 is coming to pass, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

I never personally understood the power the Word could have in my own life until two years ago.  I started attending a home group, in which we had required reading every day.  I grew closer to Jesus, as I set aside time in the Word.  I grew increasingly amazed as I discovered more and more facets of my heavenly Father and as I discovered what God had to say about me.  I began to recognize teaching as Biblically accurate or inaccurate.  And I began to come to terms with why it is that I believe what I believe.

We need to have a relationship with Jesus that is personal.  We can't live our Christian lives vicariously through our leaders.  When we begin to put our leaders on a pedestal and rely on them too heavily, we will find ourselves constantly disappointed and let down.  For many this can even lead to a crisis in their faith, because they never experienced true depth in their relationship with Jesus for themselves.  God has given you complete access to Him 24/7 (Hebrews 4:16).  His heart longs to be with you.  You can pour out your heart to Him and ask Him to speak to you and guide you, as you navigate life.  And guess what?  He will!  It tells us in the Word of God that the Holy Spirit is there to lead us into all truth (John 16:13).  That same Holy Spirit came to live inside of you when you chose to make Jesus Lord of your life.  We were created to live in relationship with the one who created us.  When we live in complete dependence on Him, life takes on new meaning.  It's an adventure.

When we live like this, we can learn to appreciate our leaders as sources of wisdom and inspiration.  We learn to appreciate how they encourage us to pursue or own personal relationship with Jesus.  But when they fail, hurt us, or miss the mark, we won't feel like it puts our own walk with the Lord at jeopardy, because it was never about them anyways.  We will understand more fully the power of a love that we can never be separated from (Rom. 8:38).

My encouragement to you today is to make your relationship with God personal.  Whether you grew up in the church, or are merely curious about the faith, don't be passive in your pursuit of the truth.  Be informed.  Actively pursue God.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.  As it says in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."