The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
This lesson is part of a series called “What Does It Mean To Be A Christian”. To see an overview of this series, click HERE.
Before you can say you follow someone, it’s probably safe to say you have to know who that person is. If I didn’t know anything about Meredith, how could I say I love her and have a relationship with her? The reason why people go through dating (or ‘courtship’ or whatever people do in their own cultures) is because you have to get to KNOW someone before you can really say you are going to follow them into any sort of personal or professional relationship.
Look at Matthew 16:13-15.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15)
This is the question we’ll be answering today. Who do WE say that God is? How much do we know the God we claim to be following or do we really even know him at all? When we move into the weeks to come, we’ll take that a step further to say “have we REALLY been ‘saved’ by the God we know exists or do we need to recommit ourselves?”
In the Bible, we see God playing many ROLES. Sometimes he’s a creator, other times he’s a protector, and sometimes he’s even a judge and destroyer. Each one of these roles tells us something about God’s PERSONALITY. It’s a little weird to think about God having a ‘personality’, isn’t it? Typically, we think of God as this “concept” floating around in space controlling things. It’s almost like we treat God like the Force from Star Wars… just some cosmic magic that doesn’t really have a face, desires, passions, or feelings. The truth is that God is absolutely a ‘person’ in a lot of ways. Remember the story of creation… we were created “in his image”!
Before we get into this, let me make this comment. There is a lot of scripture to cover in this lesson and I want you guys to learn what it means to read the Word of God and get something out of it. As we read each block of scripture, I want you to ask yourself “what is the role God is playing?”
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the CREATOR. Let’s look at the next one from the story of Noah.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:11-13)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the JUDGE. God is judging the righteousness of the world and judging the dedication of Noah.
The next one is from the story of Abraham who was tested by God. He was told to take his only son… the individual who would care for Abraham in his old age and was promised to Abraham when it looked like he would not have a son… and sacrifice his son on an alter. Once Abraham and his son, Isaac, got to the top of the mountain, this is the picture.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:9-18)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the GUARANTOR. What is a guarantor? Just look at the word. A guarantor is someone who guarantees something. God promised Abraham a son. When God tested Abraham’s faith, he made good on that promise by sending an angel to save Isaac and providing a ram in the thicket. When God guarantees something, it happens. Let’s look at another passage from the story of Moses.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:7-12)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the REDEEMER. God is working through Moses to redeem the captive Hebrews who were enslaved in Egypt. Let’s look at another story following the Hebrews escaping pharaoh.
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:1-6)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the PROVIDER. God provided for the people in the desert even though they were doubting Moses and God’s goodness and power. Let’s move on to another story.
Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. […] Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the unsuspecting army. Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army. (Judges 8:4, 10-12)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the Victor. God worked through many people like Gideon to conquer enemy armies and show that with God all things are possible even in the face of the biggest trouble.
The next section is from a story we really don’t cover much. This is from the story of Job. Job went through a period where he lost everything. His family had been killed, his property and possessions were taken away, and many of his friends had abandoned him. During this entire time, we never once abandoned God, though he did get frustrated with God. He said that what was happening to him wasn’t “fair” and that God hadn’t treated him well enough. God eventually spoke out to Job, directly, and figuratively put him in his place. How dare Job question God’s plans?! This is what God said.
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
“What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
“Can you bind the chains[b] of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
or lead out the Bear[d] with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s[e] dominion over the earth?
“Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who gives the ibis wisdom[f]
or gives the rooster understanding?[g]
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the POWERFUL. Each statement God makes emphasized exactly how mighty and powerful God truly is. Sometimes we get a little cocky and start thinking that we are in control of things and that God is just an observer. Don’t be mistaken: God is Lord of all, whether we decide to follow him or not. God doesn’t “need” us because he already has everything he could want.
This is counter-culture from what a lot of Christians seem to think. Doesn’t God do everything “for us”? The story of God is not focused on what we get or what we want… it’s on what God wants and God WANTS for us to choose to follow him. The fact that God doesn’t need us, but rather WANTS us, is seen in Philippians 2.
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
What role is God playing? This sounds like God the SACRIFICE. God willingly served as a sacrifice because he WANTED to have a relationship with you. The same God that commands the stars in the sky and forms the planets is the same God that wants to be reunited with you, despite our sin. This is why he serves the role of sacrifice for us all.
Why would such a powerful God who doesn’t “need” us do such a thing? Why would he decide to be a sacrifice instead of just let us all die? Let’s read more in Philippians.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
In this final role, we see God the GLORIFIED. We talked about glory several weeks ago. God’s glory encompasses his power, his justice, and his goodness. By providing us a path back to him, God is expanding his Glory. When we choose to submit and commit our lives to God, we contribute to God’s glory.
The picture painted in each of these pieces of scripture is a God that is everything we can imagine. That’s part of his INFINITE nature… he’s everything. It’s so crucially important that you understand, as Christians, that when we say we follow God, we are saying we follow a God that isn’t some optional accessory to our lives. God is, in reality, the ONLY thing there is in life. God is the very breath that you breathe and every thought you have. He is infinite in his power and mercy. This is the God that sent himself in the form of Jesus Christ to die on a cross so that we would have the chance to decide whether we wanted to follow this infinitely good and powerful God or follow our own sinful ways. That’s the decision that you make when you decide to follow Christ and it’s the decision you have to keep making daily. You see, “being a Christian” isn’t a decision you make in an instant, it’s a decision you make with each waking moment.