Jesus. Though He is the most complex ideal, concept, person, divine being, whatever you consider Him to be, He is, even more so, the epitome of simplicity. We often forget the simplicity of Jesus when we try to figure Him out or get to know Him. Where do we start? Prayer? The Bible? And if so, what book or chapter or verse? Or maybe there’s a special devotion or study that would be best to help us get acclimated to Him before trying to tackle the Bible, and if so, which one is it?
In a world with so many resources, so many starting points, so much to delve into and take in, how could we possibly know how to simplify Jesus? I propose to you that whatever road you’re on right now, you take a sharp right turn onto the road of perception. Start there and let me walk with you for a few minutes.
I’ve been tagging along with my husband in pastoral ministry and counseling for fifteen years now, and currently I’m about to wrap up a degree in School Counseling which has a clinical edge to it. Of all the theories and coping mechanisms and responses that have come across my eyes in textbooks, none have impacted me like the concept of perception. It’s the filter through which we process anything. It’s the reason two people can experience the same tragedy and react so differently. Perception is behind levels of all forms of trauma. It can make or break you in a situation. It’s why there is so much science and effort behind remapping your brain and your thought patterns in order to be successful. It’s why businesses built around thinking positively and having a growth mindset are so lucrative. If you can change your perception, you can change your world — literally.
So, what does this have to do with Jesus? That, too, is simple. Your perception of Him might be muddling up your starting place, causing a hindrance in getting to know Him, and may even be responsible for your negative thoughts about Him and Christianity in general. So, let me help you with your perception of Him.
Who is Jesus and What Does He “Look” Like?
I’m not talking about his stature or physical appearance, though I happen to think He is handsome with inviting, loving eyes; dark complection; wild, unruly hair; a gorgeous smile; and the most fun guy at the party who always puts the smack-down on bullies and reaches out to the underdog. Dreamy. Totally glad I’m His bride. Anyway, I’m talking about His heart, who He is, what His intentions are — those kinds of things. You need to know what He looks like so you can have the right perception of Him. Let me take you through the entire Bible, real quick, on a crash course about our King, because plopping yourself down in Lamentations and trying to understand this whole Christianity thing might leave you perplexed and frustrated to say the least.
Jesus is the prophesied Messiah, pointed to in the Old Testament in various ways hundreds of times before He got here. And if you don’t know, the OT is reliable. We’re talking about naming people who would become king and liberate the Jews hundreds of years before they existed. By name, mind you! We’re talking about describing the death of the Messiah centuries before that execution method existed! There are literally hundreds of fulfilled prophecies from the OT, several even in our lifetime. What I’m trying to say is: it’s old, but we can trust it, and we can learn a lot from it. Though it was written to Jews as an ancient text, it is beneficial for us all to get to know so that we can lay a foundation of trust in our Creator and understand that Jesus was not an afterthought by God. He was and is and is to come. He was present in creation and already promised to come down to it and strike the head of Satan, even as early as Genesis 3:15. It gives us glimpses into the spiritual battles in the heavenlies, the need for a Savior, and the sufferings without Him. The OT is hard to understand with all the genealogy, the Kings, and the back and forth of the Nation of Israel — it’s a lot. But, if you can ever take the time to get through it, it’s amazing. I don’t, however, recommend starting there, especially past Exodus.
Enter The New Testament. Ah, our Savior is here, and He entered our world through the miracle virgin birth at the exact place in the exact way that the OT promised hundreds of years before. We learn through the first four NT books that He was precious but powerful, loving but an incredible leader, man-like but miraculous. He grew up living as an earthly son but communing with His Heavenly Father. He loved His momma. His earthly dad died when He was young. His siblings didn’t believe in Him for the longest. Yeah, He had family hardships and drama — so relatable!
He began His major ministry in His thirties when He began to show people who He was and what He could do. He spoke with love but authority. He confounded the wise. He baffled the prideful. No one could trip Him up. He tamed nature, He healed ailments from small to life-threatening, and told dead people to get up and walk and they did! He was the biggest political and religious upset that ever walked the planet. He established a new order and a new access to God so that everyone could get there, and pompous, pious, man-made rules and traditions, or money had nothing to do with it anymore. Sweet Jesus declared that even people who were not Jews could get to God. That’s us, the Gentiles. And He forever set into place that being perfect or doing millions of good works is not what gets you to God — only Grace, which you can only obtain through believing in Him and His finished work on the cross.
All. This. All this power and might and yet He, humble as a Lamb, allowed Himself to be slaughtered because that’s what it took. He lived His entire life sinless and though Satan thought he was winning when he “took out” the Messiah, what he didn’t realize in his finite understanding was that when this King of all Kings willingly sacrificed Himself, He bought a ticket, legally stamped and bound through a contract signed in blood, for every person to escape Hell’s clutches and get a free ride to Heaven so that the Lord could spend eternity with us. Wowza. If that’s not the steamiest love story ever written, I don’t know what is.
The best part is that three days later, He arose from the grave, and walked around for a time showing Himself to witnesses that would proclaim unto death that Christ is who He said He was. It would start the grandest movement in the history of the earth that millenniums later can still not be wiped out. And when He headed back to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us, all who believe, with the power to do even greater things than what He accomplished (His own words). From the fifth book of the NT (Acts) and beyond is the historical record of this great movement through letters and testimony and it ends in Revelation with the promise of what’s to come.
That’s Jesus and that’s the Bible in a nutshell, and even condensed, it’s a lot to take in. So, my love, I’m going to propose that you begin with the perception of Jesus — not as this mystical creature that flitted down from Heaven to clean up a mess, not as a hateful, cruel entity that wrings His hands and delights in ways to punish you because you misbehaved, not as a weakling who got busted and put on a cross. Let your perception be of THE King of All who is madly in love with you and not only made a way to spend eternity with you, but empowered you to do even greater things than He did while you’re here waiting. Now that’s love. That’s a great leader. That’s who I want to look up to. Check your perception and then begin your journey with this: you are loved enough to die for. And from there, as you walk with Him, you’ll grow so close to Him, you’ll feel His very heart beat. Just keep seeking Him.
Where Do I Go From Here?
I’m not going to leave you hanging on a limb, but I’m not going to give you a starting point past perception; instead, I’m going to give you a process.
Let me give you three verses that you can cling to as you go on your way.
1. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, and WHOSOEVER believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
2. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
3. “Ask and it will be given to you; SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
You are so loved that even with all your wrongs, Jesus still died for you — not after you cleaned up, not after you got it all right, but WHILE you were sinning! He loves you and went through a lot to get to be with you forever. He’s not trying to play hide and seek. And He promises that your seeking of Him will not return void.
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