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The Character of Jesus

December 19, 1999

Gospel of Mark

 

Introduction:

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"  The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:34-35 NIVUS)

 

 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18 NIVUS)

 

 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20 NIVUS)

          Mary was pregnant with the Holy Spirit. The seed of God mixed with her seed and Jesus was both God and man. He was 100% God and 100% man.

He could, and did, choose to exercise either prerogative at any time. But they could not be incompatible.

Since God is holy, Jesus the man could not choose sin. As a man he could be tempted, but as God he could never yield to it.

A similar process can begin to take place in us by faith in Jesus.

In a sense like Mary we become pregnant with the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us so that we are holy and have power not to sin. And we will ultimately be perfectly born through the new life of the Spirit into Christ-like-ness.

The Christ-child is born in us by faith. We are able to become like him, although as yet imperfectly, because we still carry sin.

We will struggle with it the rest of our lives on earth until we get to heaven. But we will be just as Jesus is when the time of our pregnancy is over.

That time of gestation may be different for each one of us, however, before we go through the labor of death into that holy crossing.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NIVUS)

          Whenever a child is born, people invariably wonder whom the child will be like in personality. Will he be like his mother or his father? And whom will he look like?

I wonder what people thought about Jesus when he was born? Do you think anyone wondered whether this child would reveal to them what God is like, since God was his father?

If I had to pick genetic predominance in a child whose mother was human and whose father was God, I'd pick God.

And if God is truly born in you by faith in Jesus, he will have his predominance in you too. Once you are impregnated with the Holy Spirit by faith, you will come to full birth.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- (Ephesians 1:4-5 NIVUS)

          And that brings me to another question. What do you think is the clearest example that we are made in the image of God? Of course, the answer is Jesus.

If God came in our image then certainly it must be true that we are created in his image like he says.

We look like God. He looks like us even though he is far more perfect than we can totally imagine.

Perhaps he just chose to look like us, and that in itself is pretty inspiring.

But much of the resemblance stops there because we fell into sin and have been genetically and spiritually messed up ever since.

He didn't come just to look like us. He came that we might return to what it is to be like him in character. We needed to experience the pattern in order to fit the mold.

Man is Made in God's Image

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NIVUS)

 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (1 Corinthians 11:7 NIVUS)

Christ is God's Image

 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIVUS)

 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15 NIVUS)

Believers will be renewed in God's Image (to be like Christ)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIVUS)

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:10 NIVUS)

          Do you know what happens when we become engrossed in the faults of each other? We become like each other more than ever because we continue to pour over those same character flaws that we don't like.

We ask ourselves, "Why, why, why, is so-and-so that way?" And then after awhile we see that we have become like them because they are constantly on our minds.

God has given us the perfect model to worship. It is enough to be like Jesus.

We must constantly pour over him. And it is a delight because there is no flaw in him. And we will grow in his likeness.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; (Romans 8:5-6 NIVUS)

Today I want us to get a picture from the Gospel of Mark of just what Jesus is like so that we can concentrate on him especially at this time of his two-thousandth birthday.

I have identified 25 character qualities from individual verses in Mark. The points are from A to Y.

Why not A to Z you ask? It just worked out that way. But if we might surmise for a minute, we could say that the "Z" factor is missing from Jesus.

We could call that the sin factor. It is a propensity we carry around in us because we are contaminated by sin.

But this propensity to sin is not in him. We see this in his perfect character.

Let's take a look at it and concentrate on it so that we can be transformed by it and worship him because of it.

When we are wallowing in whatever pit we might be in, let us consider the acronym PIT: Positive Image Therapy. That means that if we concentrate on Jesus, we will be transformed.

This is especially meaningful at this time of year when so many flaws in the character of so many people surfaces because of the rush of the season.

It seems that at the time we are supposed to be worshipping him, we are distracted by so many other things. This is his time. This is his party. Let us devote our attention to him.

          A.      Having a Sincere Concern for the Souls of Men (1:17)

          B.      Teaching with Authority the Word of God (1:22)

          C.      Being Filled with Compassion over Human Need (1:41)

          D.      Having a Heart of Forgiveness (2:5)

          E.      Leading a Balanced Life (6:31)

          F.      Having a Burden for Teaching Truth (6:34)

          G.      Seeking God in Prayer (6:46)

          H.      Promoting Courage through Faith (6:50b)

          I.       Willing to be Personally Involved (6:56b)

          J.       Being Unbound by Tradition (7:8)

          K.      Being Committed to the Pursuit of Excellence (7:37)

          L.      Having of Heart of Thankfulness (8:6)

          M.     Not Being Wasteful of Resources (8:8)

          N.      Having a Higher Purpose and Calling beyond Ourselves (8:31)

          O.      Believing in the Power of God through Prayer (9:28-29)

          P.      Having an Attitude of Expediency (9:39-40)

          Q.      Being Protective of the Helpless (9:42)

          R.      Being Filled with Love and its Expression (10:16)

          S.      Having a Heart of Discernment in Ministry (10:23)

          T.      Being Truly Humble in Service (10:45)

          U.      Drawing Men to the Mercy of God (10:48)

          V.      Having a Vision for what Faith can Accomplish (11:22-23)

          W.     Being Practical in the Application of Wisdom (12:15b)

          X.      Having a Broken Heart over Sin (14:34)

          Y.      Allowing God to be our Defense (14:60-62)

 

          Jesus was sent by God the Father to show us the way of righteousness and to prepare our way to God (1:1-3).

He came as an example, not only to save us with his righteousness by sacrificing himself on the cross, but to show us what true righteousness is like in a way of life that would please God (1:11).

He enables us to live righteously by his example and by his empowerment (10:45).

The character of Jesus would be in stark contrast to the human character that Mark’s Roman Gentile readers witnessed in those around them.

Jesus made God attractive and possible for those who wanted a more meaningful and better way of life.

I hope this message will remind us why we still celebrate Jesus' birthday 2,000 years later. It is because this child truly is, and deserves to be, the King of humanity and the world we live in.

          A.      Having a Sincere Concern for the Souls of Men (1:17)

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  Jesus said this as he called the brothers Simon and Andrew to become disciples.  He called them to come and learn and be like him, a fisher of men.  They were to become evangelists in the manner of his exemplary life. Our lives must conform to his in a way that draws others to him. His attractiveness through us makes others also want to become fishers of men so that his kingdom will swell toward completion. Christ is both the object and the pattern for being a fisher of men, a calling in life that truly makes an eternal difference.

B.      Teaching with Authority the Word of God (1:22)

         

The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Since Jesus wrote the Word, he knew it, lived it and taught it with authority.  Anyone who teaches in his Name also has authority but with great responsibility as well.  Real teaching does not take place without humility, correct interpretation and application, and from a standpoint of personal holiness.  It is only as we are in Christ that we may teach with authority, but it is his authority, and without authority nothing constructive will get taught. We are God’s representatives by what we say.

C.      Being Filled with Compassion over Human Need (1:41)

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  "I am willing", he said.  "Be clean!"  The leper begged Jesus on his knees and asked for cleansing if Jesus was willing.  Jesus was willingly moved with compassion to heal the man.  We may not be able to heal someone from leprosy, but we pray that we will always be willing to be moved with compassion to meet another's needs in ministry as God enables us to meet them.  And how can we begin to meet the needs of another unless compassion stirs our hearts to understand and identify with them?  Christ's identification with us took him to the cross to meet our needs.  He was willing.

D.      Having a Heart of Forgiveness (2:5)

         

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."  Jesus equated forgiveness with healing in this story about the paralytic who was lowered through the roof, claiming his authority to do so as the Son of Man.  Jesus was able and willing to forgive sins and heal such severe paralysis as spiritual sickness.  And we too are commanded to be forgiving, especially if we want our own prayers to be answered (11:25)

E.      Leading a Balanced Life (6:31)

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."  Jesus was aware of human need and limitation and took action to seek renewal so that both he and his disciples could continue to minister.  Ministry is hard work and spiritual effort consumes physical resources.  No one is served if the one who is called is unable.  We must have the good sense to know our limitations and seek the vision of revitalization.  Jesus is the source of all our needs; the source of both ministry and rest.

         

F.      Having a Burden for Teaching Truth (6:34)

         

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.  The same compassion that stirred Jesus to heal also stirred him to teach.  So many people wander aimlessly without steadfast spiritual truth on which to cling.  Christ, the source of truth, knew he was the answer to their need and did not withhold himself from them.  In Christ they would know deliverance from sin unto salvation.  This shepherd was able to deliver them and he freely taught the way to all who would listen.  We must be like Jesus, willing to teach with a burden to show others the way to his sufficiency.

G.      Seeking God in Prayer (6:46)

         

After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.  Jesus kept open communication with the Father.  He spent time alone in spiritual communion.  He sought obedience in prayer, became our example in prayer and was eminently effective in prayer.  We too must seek out the source of our spiritual (and physical) life in God in quietness to hear his heartbeat so that our hearts can beat in time to his.  Prayer is our link to life, and as he fills our lives so that we may overflow to the benefit of others.  A man of prayer is a man of God.  A man of God is a man of prayer.

H.      Promoting Courage through Faith (6:50b)

         

Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid."  Having all power over creation, Jesus was even able to cause the wind to cease against the boat when he got in with the disciples in the middle of the lake.  Our Lord is not subject to anything he did not willingly subject himself to.  He feared no man, no demon, no force of nature.  His courage becomes ours as we willingly subject ourselves to him.  His kingdom shall prevail.  Ministry is a spiritual battle demanding spiritual courage.  If we stand on our own we are surrounded by nothing.  If we don't stand on our faith we won't stand at all.  We stand with Christ victorious.

I.       Willing to be Personally Involved (6:56b)

         

They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.  Jesus did not remain aloof and untouchable from the crowds, thinking himself too pure and holy to mingle with common humanity.  They are the reason he came.  His love took him to the streets where the need was greatest.  They touched his cloak and he also let them touch his heart.  We can't minister if we don't mingle.  May we always be willing to be touched to meet human need in the name of Christ.

J.       Being Unbound by Tradition (7:8)

         

"You have let go of the Commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."  The Pharisees came under Christ's condemnation because they cared more for tradition then for God.  They did not understand or carry out the spirit of the law.  Christ embodied the spirit of the law.  He opposed their mindless tradition and they sought to kill him.  We must have the spiritual insight to know the difference between following men and following God.  We must live in obedience to the freedom of the law's intent and not in legalistic bondage.  Christ is our example of unhindered truth.

K.      Being Committed to the Pursuit of Excellence (7:37)

         

People were overwhelmed with amazement.  "He has done everything well," they said.  "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."  Obviously, since Jesus is God, he did everything well, for God is perfect.  And his righteousness becomes our salvation.  But he is also our example in well-doing.  In his strength we strive for excellence in all that we do - in preaching, teaching, prayer, compassion, understanding and in motivation - bringing glory to him for he is our reason for excellence and our empowerment for ability.

L.      Having of Heart of Thankfulness (8:6)

         

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.  Jesus became our example of thankfulness in honoring the Father as the sustainer of life and as perfect provider.  We have nothing we have not received.  Showing gratitude in thankfulness is proper humility to an awesome and holy God who gives good gifts to his children.

M.     Not Being Wasteful of Resources (8:8)

         

The people ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Jesus was not only thankful, he honored the Father by not wasting his precious gifts.  It is not our place to squander God's resources.  As God works through others, these gifts often come through great sacrifice.  So waste not only dishonors God, it dishonors the sacrifices of the saints.  We must be responsible recipients of God’s grace.

N.      Having a Higher Purpose and Calling beyond Ourselves (8:31)

         

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  Jesus had just confirmed in conversation to Peter that he was the Christ and now teaches the disciples his calling and purpose.  He knew who he was and what he came to do.  He was not confused nor did he waste time in a life search for significance.  He fulfilled the will of God with expediency.  We must do likewise by not being dissuaded in knowing the assurance of our calling to serve the son of Man who served us with salvation.

O.      Believing in the Power of God through Prayer (9:28-29)

         

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"  He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."  The disciples just fell flat on their face by not being able to drive the demon out of the boy.  Jesus had rebuked their unbelief and did the job himself.  He has all power to do all things.  The disciples may have forgotten that any power they possessed over evil was through Christ alone on the basis of his righteousness and they acted foolishly on their own.  We must never forget that any spiritual power we appropriate is only on the basis of Christ’s perfection and power.

P.      Having an Attitude of Expediency (9:39-40)

         

"Do not stop him," Jesus said.  "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us."  Christ did not feel the same sense of competition that the disciples may have felt against this man who ministered apart from them.  He wisely accepted all who would minister in his name.  This is a lesson for us not to be exclusive on non-foundational issues and gather all appropriate forces together to fulfill the coming of his kingdom.

Q.      Being Protective of the Helpless (9:42)

         

"Any if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck."  Jesus promised judgment against those who would defraud the innocent.  In ministry and in our own families, we too have the privilege and responsibility to protect those in our care.  We must have diligence to sense danger and the courage to act on the behalf of others in accordance with Jesus’ righteousness.

R.      Being Filled with Love and its Expression (10:16)

         

And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.  Jesus said not to hinder the children because that is how you enter the kingdom.  In fact, it is to such children that the kingdom belongs.  The children freely received Christ's love and he freely gave it.  We must let Christ’s love shine through us in the unhindered manner of a child with no hidden agenda.  We must purify our love with righteousness and let his love be the heartbeat of our emotions.

S.      Having a Heart of Discernment in Ministry (10:23)

         

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"  Jesus was able to look into the heart of the rich young ruler to see his real need.  Christ spoke to the need when he commanded the man to give up all his possessions before coming to follow him.  In ministry, it is good when the Holy Spirit allows us to see into the heart need of another so proper challenge, healing or direction can take place.  We must be able to see others as Christ sees them to have a part in matching their need to his fulfillment.

T.      Being Truly Humble in Service (10:45)

         

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Jesus Christ was unpretentious and humble in his example to us.  He was God and yet came to die.  No greater love has anyone than this.  We must be willing to serve others in this way also.  The student is not above his master.  We must have a humble heart of selfless love like Jesus.

U.      Drawing Men to the Mercy of God (10:48)

         

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  The blind man cried to Jesus for mercy and received healing by faith.  He was healed in order to see the embodiment of grace and mercy in which he believed.  We also are recipients of Jesus's mercy, being privileged to see the truth of God in him.  We must have eyes of mercy like Jesus, to heal a brother by grace in order that he too may see Jesus.

V.      Having a Vision for what Faith can Accomplish (11:22-23)

         

"Have faith in God", Jesus answered.  "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him."  Jesus just caused the fig tree to wither because it had no fruit.  He goes on to teach the lesson of faith and what it can accomplish.  We must desire this kind of faith that can move mountains.

W.     Being Practical in the Application of Wisdom (12:15b)

         

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?"  he asked.  "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it."  The Pharisees were once again trying to place Jesus in a position of self-incrimination by their question of paying taxes.  In wisdom, Jesus reverses the power play on their own heads.  The world also does this with us as Christians, assuming we are naive and easily taken.  And that may be too true.  But we must seek his wisdom to see it coming and enable us to employ righteous confidence in God’s power to deliver from entrapment.

X.      Having a Broken Heart over Sin (14:34)

         

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them.  "Stay here and keep watch."  Jesus was facing the hour of his betrayal.  He would soon face the cross where he would bear the sins of the world.  He was burdened in prayer for the soon fulfillment of his purpose.  The sorrow of sin was upon him.  Sin is a sorrowful thing not be taken lightly.  It is a right response to feel sorrow for sin either because it is in our own lives or in the lives of others.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation.  We must praise Jesus that there is victory over sin and joy beyond the cross in his resurrection!

Y.      Allowing God to be our Defense (14:60-62)

But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  Again the high priest asked him, "are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"  Jesus had no need to defend himself.  Righteousness has no need of a defense.  It speaks for itself in the sense that God is our testimony.  Defensiveness violates that purity.  In this sense, Jesus Christ is our defense because he is now our righteousness.

Conclusion:

          "The proof of Christianity is not a book but a life. The power of Christianity is not a creed but a Christ-like character; and wherever you see a life that has been transformed by the grace of God, you see a witness to the reality and resurrection of Jesus in that life."                                                    William M. Woodfin

          How much character do you have?

          How much character do you want?

          Are you a student of the character of Christ?

         

          "Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, and money takes wings. The only thing that endures is character."                                 O. J. Simpson

          Perhaps this is why we still celebrate the birthday of Jesus 2,000 years later. He had character – real character – that makes a difference. Let us worship him! And let us apply Positive Image Therapy (Php. 4:8).

          Imagine a field covered with freshly fallen snow like we have on the ground now. Off to the one side you notice two figures entering the field. The first is larger than the second - perhaps they are a father and his son. As they walk across the field, you notice that the father pays no particular attention to where he is going – he is just going about his business. But his son, on the other hand, follows directly behind making a special effort to step in his father's footprints. After the two figures pass off the scene, you notice that there is only one set of tracks visible in the field, although two people had walked across it. The Christian life is that way. In our daily walk we ought to be following Christ's example, particularly in stressful times when we are suffering in one way or another. If someone were to observe the snow-covered fields of your life, would there be one set of tracks, those of Christ? Or would he see two sets of tracks, one belonging to Christ and the other distinctly yours as you go your own way, following your own path?

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