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Showing posts from September, 2018

Psalm 2:7-9: You Are My Son

Psalm 2:7–9 [7] I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. [8] Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. [9] You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” (ESV) I'm thinking about Christmas. Not because it's that time of year. Not because I am greedy for a bunch of gifts. Not even because of the wonderful time spent with family and friends. I am thinking about Christmas because we are looking at this Psalm! In verse 7 of this Psalm the Psalmist speaks prophetically about the coming King, the Son of God. He has a name. You know him as Jesus. In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews quotes this very verse in reference to Jesus being the Son of God. Christmas is the celebration of the King of Kings who came in human flesh, the very Son of God. It is wonderful to see here in the Old Testament this description of the relati

Psalm 2:4-6: He Who Sits in the Heavens Laughs

Psalm 2:4–6 [4] He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. [5] Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, [6] “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (ESV) We know that God laughs. In fact, we should know that God has a sense of humor; he created us! Generally speaking, we think of God laughing as a positive thing. We think of God being the source of all joy and so it is natural to consider laughter coming from him. In fact, I fear that many of us have a picture of God as some kind of gentle old man in the sky. But, in this Psalm we find a very different concept of laughter coming from a sovereign God. In verse 4 the Lord of all Creation is laughing in mockery at the kings and nations who have taken a stand against God and His holy law. While he is laughing it is certainly not in fun. He does not view rebellion lightly. His response is one of wrath and terror. He establishes his kingdom in Zion. That wo

Psalm 2:1-3: Why do the Nations Rage?

Psalm 2:1–3 [1] Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? [2] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, [3] “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (ESV) This Psalm opens with a very apt word; "why." Why do the nations rage against God? Why do nations set themselves up against the Lord and His ways? We know that blessing comes from the Lord. Following His ways brings contentment and peace. Yet, nation after nation sets itself up as being stronger and wiser than the one who alone allows them to even exist. As you look back over the millennia of time you see nation after nation ruled by godless leaders and following ungodly wisdom. There are a few exceptions in history where a nation sought the Lord. When they did they found peace and prosperity. I think of the United Sates of America is the greatest recent example. Sadly, we seem to have wandere

Psalm 1:6: For the Lord Knows

Psalm 1:6 [6] for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (ESV) My wife and I still laugh at something our daughter said when she was a little girl. We asked her if she hit her little brother. Her response was priceless. She said, "Did you see me?" The truth is, man seems to have the same viewpoint toward God. We act as if we can do things and God won't see us. Yet, God knows everything and sees everything. Our verse today reminds us that the Lord knows! The Lord knows both the way of the righteous and the wicked. The difference is one of those ways leads to destruction while the other way does not. The righteous man faces many struggles and trials. There are even times of failing and falling into temptation. But over the course of a righteous man's life he is known by the Lord. The Lord cares for his own and guards his way. The wicked go "their own way." Amazingly, wicked people claim to be free. They are th

Psalm 1:5: The Wicked Will Not Stand in the Judgment

Psalm 1:5 [5] Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; (ESV) The wicked were described as chaff in the previous verse. They have lives of no substance. They are blown about like something that has no worth. Because they are not like the tree planted by God they have no strength and get blown from one disastrous place to another. This imagery very aptly depicts the wicked of any age. Today, we see people who are just like what the Psalmist has described. Their life is a pursuing of vain pleasures that do not satisfy. They have no place for God in their life and wonder why they are filled with a deep sense of emptiness. The pursuit of vain things is typical of a life of wickedness. The Apostle John wrote of this worldly philosophy and it's futility in 1 John 2:16-17: 1 John 2:16–17 [16] For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but

Psalm 1:4: The Wicked Are Not So

Psalm 1:4 [4] The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (ESV) The Psalms are beautiful Hebrew poetry. They have different rules of meter and rhyme, but one consistent them in Hebrew poetry is parallelisms and contrast. With parallelisms they will use different illustrations and words to repeat the same theme. We saw this in the first three verses of this first Psalm. After describing the righteous, or "blessed" man, verse 4 makes a sharp transition to contrast. "The wicked are not so." The contrast of the blessed man is the wicked man.  Interestingly, the opening verse declared that the blessed man does not even walk in the same places as the wicked. They are not the same, and they do not associate as if they are. In verse 3 the Psalmist used an illustration from nature to describe the blessed man; a lush, fruitful, strong tree. In verse 4 the Psalmist also uses an illustration from nature. The wicked are described as chaff. If y

Psalm 1:3: Like A Tree Planted By Streams of Water

Psalm 1:3 [3] He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (ESV) The Psalmist continues in his description of the "blessed man." He spoke in the first verse of the things that a blessed man avoids (wicked, sinners, scoffers). In the second verse the blessed man is described as one who delights in the Law of the Lord and meditates on that Law day and night. In this third verse he uses an illustration from nature to describe the blessed man. The Psalmist refers to the blessed man as a tree planted by streams of water. We must consider why this particular illustration from nature was chosen. Dr. John MacArthur writes, "Because of the mostly arid terrain of Israel, a lush tree served as a fitting symbol of blessing in the OT (John MacArthur, Online Study Bible Notes )." A strong, beautiful tree, bearing fruit, and prospering is how a blessed man is described.

Psalm 1:2: His Delight is in the Law of the Lord

Psalm 1:2 [2] but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (ESV) The Psalmist continues his description of the man who is truly "blessed." We discovered in the previous verse that the idea of being "blessed" means to have full contentment in God. It is not based on circumstances. It is not about accumulating material possessions or even having good relationships. The psalmist talked about the things a blessed man runs from. Now he turns to what a blessed man runs to. A blessed man delights in the law of the Lord. Consider how we tend to view God's Law. Do we usually think of it with delight? Assuredly, the sinful man looks at God's Law and all he sees is restrictions on his "freedom," not realizing that the only way freedom can be enjoyed is with boundaries set in place by a loving Law-Giver. God the Father is a loving Law-Giver. The law that he has given to us is for our good and for his glory

Psalm 1:1: Blessed is the Man

Psalm 1:1 [1] Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers Blessed. We often talk about how blessed we are. Usually, the concept of being blessed is associated with looking at all of the material possessions that we have. We compare ourselves with others and declare that we are truly blessed. We may also consider our health, our family relationships, or even our circumstantial happiness. However, the Psalmist has a different idea in mind when referring to the man who is blessed. This biblical concept of "blessed" is a deep contentment an joy that is found in God. It is not based on how many material possessions that we have accumulated. It is not based on whether or not our family relationships are healthy. It is not based on circumstances. It is the kind of joy and contentment that enables those in persecution and trials to still feel "blessed." This blessed man is fir

Psalms: An Introduction to Praises

Do you praise God every day? Praise should be such a part of the life of the believer that it is like breathing.  Psalm 150:6 declares, "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! " If you would like to make praising God a greater part of your daily life you can go directly to the book of Psalms. The Psalms are a guide book for praising the Lord. Here is what theologian and pastor Dr. John MacArthur says about the Psalms: "The entire collection of Psalms is entitled “Praises” in the Hebrew text. Later, rabbis often designated it “The Book of Praises.” The Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the OT, labeled it “Psalms” (cf. “The Book of Psalms” in the NT: Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20). The Greek verb from which the noun “psalms” comes basically denotes the “plucking or twanging of strings,” so that an association with musical accompaniment is implied. The English title derives from the Greek term and its background. The Psalms constituted Israel

1 John 5:21: Little Children, Keep Yourselves From Idols

1 John 5:21 [21] Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (ESV) This is the very last verse of 1 John. This is a letter he wrote to the church to encourage them in their faith. They had been devastated by false teachers. They needed to be reminded of the truth of Jesus the Son of God. They needed to be reminded that they belonged to God the Father and that they did not need the "secret knowledge" the false teachers boasted about. So, how should John close this encouraging letter. "Best wishes."? "Keep the faith."? "God will be with you."? That is not what John says. Rather, he says this peculiar phrase, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Is idolatry really a problem? I doubt that many of you reading this devotional have a statue of a false god that you bow down to, but can you still fall into idol worship. Here is a definition of an idol given by Dr. John Piper: "What is an idol?  It is the thing loved or

1 John 5:20: So That We May Know Him Who Is True

1 John 5:20 [20] And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (ESV) John is coming to the very end of this letter written to a church that was traumatized by false teaching. The false teachers did their best to deny the truth of Jesus Christ as both fully human and fully God, being the only true sacrifice for the sins of mankind. The church had been infiltrated by falsehood. John reminds them of that which is true. Truth. Genuine truth. It is vital. As we look at this verse we discover how truth is discovered. John begins this verse by saying that we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding to that we may know him who is true. Christ came and gave us understanding. Would we be able to discern the truth without the Lord's help? That's an emphatic NO! Jesus came and revealed the truth of who h

1 John 5:19: The Whole World Lies in the Power of the Evil One

1 John 5:19 [19] We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (ESV) Us and them. The Apostle John makes a very clear distinction between two groups of humanity. People are either from God, or in the power of the evil one. This is a distinction that many people have a problem with. If you hold to a belief that man is basically good in his nature what the Apostle John says will be repugnant to you. John has established all throughout this epistle that the only people who are from God are those who have believed in Jesus Christ. There are those who look at the requirement of believing in Jesus Christ as an optional one. They feel that they should be able to believe whatever they want about who God is and who Jesus is without being excluded from a relationship with God. 1 John 2:23 [23] No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (ESV) The world has denied the Son. They may say that Jesus exis

1 John 5:18: Everyone Born of God Does Not Keep On Sinning

1 John 5:18 [18] We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (ESV) This verse is challenging for us. John says that everyone born of God does not keep on sinning. Does he mean we will never sin again after we have been saved? We know that we all continue to fight with temptation. And John himself tells us in this Epistle that when we do sin we have an advocate in Jesus Christ: 1 John 2:1 [1] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (ESV) So, it is clear that we sometimes sin after we have been saved. The phrase, "keep on sinning," is important. It implies a lifestyle of sinning. In fact, there are those who have embraced certain lifestyles that are forbidden in Scripture and they brazenly claim, "This is who I am," while also

1 John 5:16-17: Sin That Leads To Death

1 John 5:16 [16] If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. [17] All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (ESV) What do we usually do when we see a brother or sister involved in a sin? We might tell everyone we know. That makes for very juicy gossip. Perhaps, we pat ourselves on the back, thinking, "I'm not doing that sin." Sadly, far too many Christians do these things instead of what the Apostle John is instructing. If you see your brother committing a sin, pray to God on their behalf! The confusing part of these verses is this description of a "sin not leading to death." What does this mean? Are we in danger of God killing us every time that we sin? Certainly, God is able to bring whatever justice he desires against anyone, including

1 John 5:15: We Know That He Hears Us

1 John 5:15 [15] And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (ESV) The Apostle John continues in this description of the blessing of knowing that God hears us. In the previous verse he made it clear that we need to be sure that we are asking in accordance with the will of God. This keeps us from treating prayer like a request for winning the lottery. God will supply our needs not our "greeds." I want us to consider today how we relate to God when it comes to asking things of him. I think at times we are like the prophets of Baal in that great showdown between them and the Prophet Elijah. You may remember the story found in 1 Kings 18:20-40. Perhaps you will want to go there right now and read that passage. When you come to the Lord in prayer and offer your requests do you truly believe that you will be heard? Or do you keep on begging and pleading? Perhaps you even make sacrifices in terms of gi

1 John 5:14: Ask Anything According To His Will

1 John 5:14 [14] And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (ESV) We have a wonderful loving Heavenly Father. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sin we are able to come boldly to our Father and express to him our every need. This confidence to come before him is a part of the relationship that every believer has. So, what does this confidence mean? Can we demand everything that we want and expect him to give it to us? There are many people who are trying to faithfully serve the Lord who have had confusion about what we should expect from God. This is because they have been influenced by preachers who view God as an ATM machine that has to give them all the money that they want. Below are actual quotes from preachers who are very popular on TV. The names have been withheld to protect the foolish. "If you are struggling financially, then you have not got the victory." "God didn

1 John 5:13: That You May Know That You Have Eternal Life

1 John 5:13 [13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (ESV) The Apostle John is coming to the conclusion of this letter. He has written this letter to a church that was harassed by false teachers. The false teachers had gone, but the damage was done. People's faith was shaken. John says that he has written these things, meaning the whole letter, to those who have faithfully clung to the truth of Jesus Christ. He wants to encourage them. Those who belong to Jesus Christ need not fear. The winds of false doctrine will blow. But those who believe in the name of the Son of God have assurance. They belong to the Savior. That faith is not something that can be shaken. God holds on tightly to those who belong to him. He is the author and also the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). This letter is written to the faithful believers to assure them of the eternal life they have in Jesus Christ. Let'

1 John 5:12: Whoever Has the Son Has Life

1 John 5:12 [12] Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (ESV) Have you ever been told to "Get a life!"? I certainly have. The crazy thing is that people in this world are all trying to get a life, but few are going to the very one who is the only true source of life; Jesus Christ. The Apostle John makes things very clear for us. He tells us that if we want a life it is found in Jesus. If you do not have Jesus you do not have life. Some might simply view that distinction of having a life or not having a life to be something trivial.  Perhaps they tell themselves that while they may not have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, they still have some kind of life of their own. They have pursued the things of this world and they find life in them. The problem with that kind of philosophy is that the opposite of the life found in Christ is not a different kind of life, but rather it is eternal death. Many d

1 John 5:11: Eternal Life Is In His Son

1 John 5:11 [11] And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (ESV) Let's look at the quality of this life that God has given us, and the source of that life. Life is a difficult thing. Our physical bodies are in the slow process of decay. We are prone to sickness that can at the least be annoying, and at most can be fatal. We deal with circumstances that can bring us poverty, persecution, and a loss of all kinds of freedom. God gave us life. Eternal life. It is significant to realize that the life God gives is eternal life. This is different from the life that brought us into this world. The Apostle John is describing a life that we receive from God that is not temporal like life before God's eternal life. Because we have eternal life we do not have to be overwhelmed by the temporal circumstances of this life. When a Christian receives news that they have cancer, it is sad. But it does not need to be devastating. This world i

1 John 5:10: The Testimony In Himself

1 John 5:10 [10] Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. (ESV) I want to re-word this verse just a little. "Whoever believes in the Son of God IS a testimony for God!" If you do not believe God you obviously cannot testify to God's existence. A person who has not believed in God will find the testimony of God to be false. They will have rejected the testimony of the water, the blood, and the Spirit which all testify of God.I want to look for a moment at how the testimony that God has given impacts us. WATER: We have the testimony of water. Water symbolizes purity. We use water to cleanse ourselves physically. Spiritually, we see the waters of baptism symbolizing a change from a life of sin to one of holiness. Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist. He said that it was right for this to happen. And h

1 John 5:9: The Testimony of God Is Greater

1 John 5:9 [9] If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. (ESV) Those who reject Jesus have to ignore the testimony of both men and God. The Apostle John himself is one who wrote of his eye witness testimony to Jesus. He walked with him on this earth for three years. In fact, John was such a great witness of all that Jesus did he wrote specifically about how much he had witnessed in the Gospel he wrote.  Hear John's words: John 21:24–25 [24] This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. [25] Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (ESV) In a three year span, John had seen Jesus do so many things that he claims that if books were written of all of them th

1 John 5:7-8: The Spirit, The Water, and the Blood

1 John 5:7–8 [7] For there are three that testify: [8] the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. (ESV) Jesus is the Christ. He is the promised Messiah. He is the anointed one. There are many proofs of this, and in these verses the Apostle John gives three evidences that testify to Jesus being the Christ: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. THE SPIRIT: Acts 10:38 [38] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (ESV) The Holy Spirit actively guides and directs all things. The entire Bible was written by men who were guided directly by the Holy Spirit. At the Creation of the World we find the Holy Spirit. At Jesus' baptism we find the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. And we have access to that very same Spirit. THE WATER: When Jesus was baptized he demonstrated for us what we all sho

1 John 5:6: He Who Came By Water And Blood

1 John 5:6 [6] This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (ESV) The Apostle John is one of the greatest defenders of the deity of Jesus Christ. This important doctrinal truth was already under attack in the first century church. Should that be surprising to us? Of course not. Yesterday we looked at the great enemy of our faith, the deceiver. He has been a liar from the beginning. He is always at work trying to deceive people and distort the truth. Dr. John MacArthur gives us a little insight into the actual form of heresy that John was addressing here in our verse today: "According to early tradition (Irenaeus), another form of this heresy that John may have attacked was led by a man named Cerinthus, who contended that the Christ’s “spirit” descended on the human Jesus at his baptism but left him just before his crucifixion. John wrote

1 John 5:5: Who Is It That Overcomes the World

1 John 5:5 [5] Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (ESV) This world is in bondage to a philosophy of deception. He is referred to by various names and titles in Scripture. It is significant to realize that this deceiver is temporarily in a position where he is able to cause great destruction. Those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God will not overcome the world. They will not overcome the system of deception that ensnares them. Here are the ways that the deceiver is referred to in Scripture: Abaddon (destroying angel), Revelation 9:11 Angel of the bottomless pit, Revelation 9:11 Apollyon (destroyer), Revelation 9:11 Accuser of our brethren (the devil is the chief complainer against those who believe in God), Revelation 12:10 Adversary (opponent), 1 Peter 5:8 Angel of light (messenger of light), 2 Corinthians 11:14 Antichrist (opponent of the Messiah), 1 John 4:3 Beelzebub (the dung god, ruler of

1 John 5:4: The Victory That Has Overcome the World--Our Faith

1 John 5:4 [4] For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (ESV) I like being on the winning team. I imagine you do also. I was born in Pennsylvania and have been a Philadelphia Eagles fan for most of my life. It wasn't until this past year that the Eagles finally won the Super Bowl. I spent a lot of years wishing and dreaming about what it would be like to be a fan of a winning team. It was such a great feeling to know that my team won. Now, as exciting as it was for me to watch a sports team win, I was not actually part of the team. But, I want you to imagine with me what it would be like to be a professional football player. Also, imagine with me that you were drafted to be on a team that was 100% guaranteed to win the Super Bowl! No player on any team has that guarantee, but imagine if you were on a team that did. Wouldn't that inspire and encourage you? Friend, you have been drafted to

1 John 5:3: His Commandments Are Not Burdensome

1 John 5:3 [3] For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (ESV) Commandments. That word sounds ominous, restrictive, even oppressive. Yet, John is now writing about the commandments of God and declares that they are not burdensome. This is quite different than what we would expect.  In fact, it was very different from what the Jews would have expected at that time. The Jews were led by the Pharisees. The Pharisees were religious leaders who added hundreds of restrictions on the people that were very burdensome. Matthew 23:4 [4] They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger . (ESV) These were Jesus' words. He was talking directly about the Pharisees. Pharisees made commandments to keep the people under control. They were burdens too heavy to carry. And the Pharisees themselves did not lead by example. They were com

1 John 5:2: By This We Know That We Love the Children of God

1 John 5:2 [2] By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. (ESV) Have you ever talked with someone about going to church and they share a story about why they would never go to church again? Usually, the reason for their resistance is not a doctrinal one, but rather a personal one. The last time they were part of a church they were hurt by one or more of its members. Some people are victims of gossip. There are those in churches who are far more interested in using their tongue to their own benefit and to the destruction of others. Some former church goers went to a church business meeting. In that meeting they were exposed to selfish people hatefully demanding their own way. In more extreme situations, some former church-goers were recipients of emotional or sexual abuse. The Apostle John is talking in this verse about loving the children of God. Read that verse again and replace the phrase "children of God" with &q

1 John 5:1: Everyone Who Believes That Jesus is the Christ (Part 2)

1 John 5:1 [1] Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (ESV) The idea of Jesus being the Christ has eternal implications for those who believe. Far too many people are ineffective members of the Church because they have not fully grasped who Jesus truly is. They call to him when they are in need. They blame him when things are not going the way that they desire. But, they have not realized that he is the king, ruler, and Lord of their lives. If Jesus is the Christ that means he is to be fully in charge of every aspect of our lives. When things are going well, he is to be glorified. When all of life seems to be falling apart around us, he is to be glorified. He is to direct the decisions that we make. The world promotes a notion of us being in charge of our own lives. God deserves that throne in your life. He is the Christ. John describes all of us who believe that Jesus is the C

1 John 5:1 Everyone Who Believes that Jesus is the Christ (Part 1)

1 John 5:1 [1] Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (ESV) What do you believe? And by belief I mean an unshakable commitment to something that guides your whole life? Many people believe only in themselves. Sadly, we all know that we can disappoint ourselves and so we are really not worth believing in. Others believe in a human philosophy, only to find that because it is sourced in humanity, their philosophy will eventually leave them wanting. John writes about those who have placed their belief in Jesus Christ. And he breaks it down for us. He talks specifically about what we believe about who Jesus is. He tells us that if we have been truly born of God, we will see evidence of our belief about who Jesus is. Jesus is "the Christ." We usually see Jesus' name written as Jesus Christ. It is almost as if Christ is his last name. But Christ is a title, not a name. C