This post was originally published on the Biblical Counseling Coalition site.
The last few years have seen a significant rise in the importance of helping a counselee understand his or her identity IN Christ. We have welcomed (okay, many of us) this emphasis with open arms recognizing that this was an important emphasis in the Scriptures. Practically speaking, when a person understands their identity they are able to love because they are loved by Jesus, they are able to respond with grace because that is how Jesus responds to them, and they are able to be compassionate and merciful because
that is what they receive from Jesus.
But the Bible emphasizes not only our identity IN Christ, but the identity OF Christ. I would like to suggest that the more we reflect on the identity OF Jesus the more we will appreciate Jesus, the more we will want to run to Jesus in the midst of our suffering, and the more receptive we will be to love Jesus with all our mind, soul, and strength (Matt. 22:37), and the more we will respond like Jesus in the midst of our challenges and victories.
While the identity OF Jesus can be found in many places in the NT, the pride of place belongs to the four gospel books. John explains that the reason he writes is “so that you may believe that Jesus IS the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In other words, one of the two primary purposes of the entire gospel of John is so that you might know the identity OF Jesus. Similarly Luke explains that his book is for the purpose of knowing “the exact truth about the things you have
been taught.” While Luke’s statement goes beyond the identity OF Jesus in the “things you have been taught,” it only takes a surface reading of Luke to understand that the identity OF Jesus is crucial to his purposes. Matthew quotes the OT on numerous occasions in order to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Finally, Mark also begins his gospel, not with a statement of Jesus’ birth, but with a quotation from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 showing that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God. What is often helpful to remember is that all the gospels were written long after the events occurred (25-60 years). In some
cases (e.g., Mark), the gospels were not primarily evangelistic. They were written to strengthen the faith of those already possessing the name of Christ. In other words, God thought it was important for believers to reflect on the identity OF Jesus.
While one post is not sufficient to cover the identity OF Jesus in the gospels, some of the more common identity truths include:
1. Jesus is Yahweh (the covenant name for God in the OT). The richness of that expression is practically boundless. Israel continually struggled to keep their responsibilities of the covenant. The covenant had to be affirmed on multiple occasions and in the striking metaphor Israel is the idolatrous Gomer and Yahweh is gracious and pursuing Hosea—a love story where the love flowed only in one direction.
2. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the deliverer and the redeemer of His people.
3. Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Man. These titles gain their richness from the OT Scriptures that define them. Jesus is the one who receives the kingdom from the Father.
4. Jesus is the Suffering Servant. The servant songs in Isaiah find their fulfillment in the person of Jesus.
5. Jesus is God because he does things that only God can do. He forgives sin, he exercises authority over the Mosaic Law (the Sabbath), and in fact abolishes it.
6. Jesus is our substitute. All four gospels commit about 25% of their space to explain the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus. Jesus pays for our sin and humbly endures the wrath of God designed for us.
In our counseling and one another ministry, people need to be enamored with Jesus. They need to love Jesus more than anything else. It is their love for Jesus that will drive them to radical behavior (grace instead of wrath, compassion instead of anger, mercy instead of judgment, love instead of hate, and forgiveness instead of resentment). The gospels, accounting for more than 40% of NT literature (by word count), show that one of the way to get that done, is to emphasize the identity OF Jesus. May we follow suit.
Join the conversation: How have you used the gospels in order to help your counselees love Jesus more?