Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

Jesus is the one and only way to God and into His Heaven. He reveals to us the truth of who God is. That’s why He could say emphatically in 14:9 – Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. And Jesus is himself the life God wants us all to have and the power to live it.

Jesus is the only Way to God and Heaven. (John 14:1-6)

Jesus and His disciples were still in the upper room where they had just observed the Passover meal together – the Jewish Seder. Jesus was preparing them for His imminent departure. He said in John 13:33, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer.” And, although the disciples didn’t realize it, within 24 hours Jesus would be lying dead in the tomb He borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea.

A point to ponder here is the omniscience and sovereignty of God. Jesus knew everything that was going to unfold in a day’s time. And, although His disciples didn’t understand, He was preparing them for what lay ahead. Jesus knew and had known for some time that this day was coming. He said only a few days before when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed His feet – “It was intended, that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” (12:7) He also explained that dying is why He came into the world: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. . .No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (12:23-24, 27) We never know what the next day may bring in our lives, but God does; and true to His Word – He goes with us and will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). That’s why Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (v.1)

While Jesus was preparing them for His imminent departure, He also promised them His imminent return: In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (vv.2-3)

Please allow me to give you Garmon’s paraphrase: Jesus said, “I am returning to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you to come and stay. When all is ready, I will be back to pick you up and take you home with me.”

“Receive” in the KJV means to “take out” – to catch away! In 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18, Paul says both the dead and living saints will be caught up together. . .to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (NIV)

Interpretations vary on the details of Jesus’ second coming; but He made some things very clear:

  1. His return is certain! He said – “I will come back”.
  2. His return is imminent! To His disciples’ earlier question “when” would it be, Jesus gave no date, no time and said only “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Mt 24:32-42) That means it could happen any time!
  3. He is coming to take us to Heaven! “My Father’s house” is synonymous with “the house of the LORD” in Psalm 23:6 and is God’s dwelling place, i.e. Heaven (Matthew 6:9).
  4. Heaven is real! If it weren’t, Jesus would have said so.
  5. Heaven is BIG! The rooms are big as mansions and there are many of them – enough for everyone who wants to go there. John gives its physical dimensions in Revelation 21:16.
  6. Jesus is the ONLY WAY to the Father who is in Heaven! “I am the way. . .No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (v.6). If you want to go to Heaven, you got to go through Jesus!

Jesus is the Truth of God revealed to us. (John 14:7-14)

I know, people believe all sorts of things about all sorts of gods, and the universal question is – who is telling the truth? It was no different in Jesus’ day. The clear majority believed in many gods (polytheism). A few believed in no gods (atheism). The Jews, and later Christians, believed in one God (monotheism). Most people, then and now, are very mixed up in their understanding of God. Jesus said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29 NIV)

The POPULAR CULTURE of our day believes there is NO TRUTH and that whatever one person or one religion believes about God is as true as any other. But TRUTH EXISTS, and it is by definition EXCLUSIVE, CONSTANT and REAL. Let us consider just one truth of God revealed to us in Jesus that is exclusively Christian, constant in Scripture and made real to everyone who believes it, i.e. the LOVE of God expressed in the GRACE of God through Jesus Christ, the SON of God.

Many people mistakenly think the God of the Bible and the god of the Quran (Islamic Scriptures) are the same God. Nothing could be further from the TRUTH!

The Quran (Islamic Scriptures) states – “If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love and forgive you your sins.” (Qur’an 3:31) “Allah loves not transgressors” (2:190) “He loves not creatures ungrateful or wicked” (2:276) “Allah loves not those who do wrong” (3:57, 140) “Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious” (4:36).[1] Allah will show mercy to those who call upon him, forgive their sins and provide them guidance to follow “the straight path” so they may please him.

Now listen to what the Bible says about God in Psalm 103:8-12:

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (NIV)

Unlike Allah, GOD LOVES EVERYONE, even sinners! The Bible says, God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:8 NLT) To be sure, God DOES NOT ignore our sins. But, realizing our complete inability to follow “the straight path” (according to Islam) that pleases Him, God sent Jesus, His only Begotten Son, into the world to fulfill justice through His death and to make us righteous through His life: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 English Standard Version) The word for the love of God expressed to us this way in Jesus is GRACE!

THE TRUTH IS, God by any other name is NOT THE SAME! Acts 4:12 declares, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (NIV) Allah requires we please him to be saved. God saves us so we can please Him. That is LOVE! That is GRACE! And, that is the God I serve!

Jesus is the Life God wants you to live! (John 14:15-31)

Jesus is much more than our example of how God wants us to live. Jesus IS THE LIFE God wants you to have and the power to live it!

The whole of a Christian’s life might be summed according to 2 Corinthians 5:7-10:

  • Living by faith in the LordWe live by faith, not by sight. (v.7)
  • Longing to be with the LordWe are confident. . .and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (v.8)
  • Living to please the LordSo we make it our goal to please him, (v.9a).
  • Looking for reward from the LordFor we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (v.10 NIV)

The only way we are able to live the Christian life is by Christ living in us: I have been put to death on the cross with Christ; still I am living; no longer I, but Christ is living in me; and that life which I now am living in the flesh I am living by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who in love for me, gave himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20 Bible in Basic English)

Through His death, Jesus justifies us. Through His life, He makes us righteous (pleasing to God):

15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:15-21 NIV)

Conclusion

If you’re alive, then you’re on your way somewhere. Life, this life, here and now, your life is not an end in itself. It is a journey on your way to eternity, and at the end of your journey you will spend eternity either with God or away from God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, this world, this life to show us the way to God and into His Heaven. He came to reveal who God is to us, that He loves us and wants us to come and live with Him forever. And, Jesus came so that we might please God in our lives both now and forever. No matter where you look, you will never find in anyone else or in any other faith/religion One who is the Way to God, the Truth of God and the Life of God. All you must do is BELIEVE!

[1] http://www.religionfacts.com/allah

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 New International Version)

This is arguably one of the most incredible statements Jesus ever made about Himself and it ought to have ended any credible claim He had to be Israel’s Messiah. Instead, by raising Lazarus from the dead, He proved that not only is He the Christ but the Son of God as well.

Jesus is the Son of God.

John’s gospel like Matthew, Mark and Luke is written in NARRATIVE (story telling) form. As much as 75% of the Bible is written as narrative. Narrative literature presents to readers a story of events sometimes factual, sometimes fictional and sometimes mixed together. All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were written by their authors and accepted by the early Church as factual accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah). Matthew begins by stating: The historical record of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:1). Mark’s account, like all the gospels, abounds start to finish with references to real persons in real places in the first century time that Jesus lived. Luke wrote in the introduction to his gospel: Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4 New Living Translation) And John states near the conclusion of his gospel that the things he writes about are factual and purposeful: The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. (John 20:30-31 NLT)

To be clear, then, the gospels, all four of them, should be read and understood as:

  1. Factual records of Jesus’ life and ministry, and
  2. Inspirational literature intended to encourage belief in Jesus Christ.

Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, perhaps more than any other miracle, authenticates the DIVINITY OF JESUS. Only a little earlier the Jews in Jerusalem threatened to stone Jesus because He claimed equality with God (10:33). And to them He responded: Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38 NIV)

Jesus proved that He could do what only God can do – GIVE LIFE!

  • Genesis 2:7 says God breathed into man the breath of life: and man became a LIVING SOUL.
  • Job 12:10 says the soul of every living thing and the breath of man are in God’s hand.
  • And Jesus said himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have LIFE IN HIMSELF.(John 5:25-27 English Standard Version)

Many make the claim or have the very mistaken idea that Jesus never claimed equality with God. They say the idea that Jesus was/is God is one that evolved in the growing first century Church. But, if you believe John’s gospel is a historical narrative of real events; and if you believe in miracles; then the EVIDENCE CONFIRMS Martha’s confession – Jesus is the SON OF GOD (v.27). A confession that Jesus not only accepted but later affirmed: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (v.40 NIV). Jesus Christ is the GLORY (the very essence and person) OF GOD in the flesh: So, the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his GLORY, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (1:14 NLT).

Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

In just two words Jesus moved the hope of resurrection from a day in the prophetic future (an hour is coming – 5:25) to a present-day reality (is now here – 5:25). Just two words redefined a religious dogma on paper as a divine relationship between you and God – “I AM” (v.25). This is the fifth of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements:

  • “I am the bread of life” (6:35)
  • “I am the light of the world” (8:12)
  • “I am the gate” (10:7)
  • “I am the good shepherd” (10:11)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
  • “I am the way, the truth and the life” (14:6)
  • “I am the vine” (15:1)

Whenever Jesus prefaced these names/titles with “I am”, He was identifying Himself as God. You’ll remember that “I Am” is how the LORD identified Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 when He commissioned him to bring His people, Israel, out of Egypt. “I Am” is equivalent to Yahweh/Jehovah transliterated in our English Bibles as “LORD” and the name by which God revealed Himself to His people (Ex 3:15). Jesus’ referencing Himself as “I am” was understood by the Jews as calling Himself God, so they threatened to kill Him (8:58).

When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was claiming to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and there is no eternal life apart from Christ. Beyond that, Jesus was also making a statement concerning His divine nature. He does more than give life; He is life, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him. Jesus confers this spiritual life on those who believe in Him, so that they share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11-12). Believers in Jesus Christ will experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, it is impossible for death to defeat them (1 Corinthians 15:53-57).[1]

Everyone wants to LIVE! Everyone wants to enjoy LIFE! Those who say otherwise are likely troubled emotionally, disabled mentally, darkened spiritually or just plain dishonest (Ephesians 5:29). The normal, healthy attitude about life is you want to LIVE IT! Death is antithetical to life and we do all we can to avoid it. We take pills, lose weight, have surgeries, exercise, etc. And, although we’ve managed to extend the average lifespan, we know death is inevitable! So, we look BEYOND DEATH to the HOPE of ETERNAL LIFE or life after death. Virtually every culture contemporary and historic believes in an afterlife. Orthodox Jews, like Martha, believed in the resurrection, a day foretold by the prophet Daniel when, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2 NIV) At Word of Life Evangelical Church, we believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord, of the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment.[2] Jesus is WHY we believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead:

  • He proved His power as the Son of God to raise the dead to life. Lazarus was the third person Jesus resurrected. He had been dead four days and already begun to decay.
  • Jesus resurrected Himself by His own power on the third day following His crucifixion, and He will never die again.
  • He rose from the grave BODILY, and Scripture declares He is the first of many who will follow: Christ (the Messiah) [is] the firstfruits, then those who are Christ’s [own will be resurrected] at His coming. (1 Cor 15:23 Amplified Bible)
  • He said those who believe in Him will live, even though he dies (v.25) – that is the RESURRECTION.
  • He said the dead (multiple) would hear His voice (just like Lazarus), come to life and live ETERNALLY [John 5:23].

Those who have no faith/religion criticize them that do for believing in things, they say, are not real:

  • Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche (19th century German philosopher spoke of “the death of God” and had a profound influence on western culture)
  • A man is accepted into a church for what he believes, and he is turned out for what he knows. — Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain – American author)
  • It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous. — Gloria Steinem (American feminist, journalist and social political activist)

And, if there were no actual SUBSTANCE of things HOPED for, or EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN, they might be right. But Jesus is, by virtue of His RESURRECTION power and by the LIFE He gives right now to all who believe in Him, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). JESUS CHRIST is both our HOPE (RESURRECTION) and the SUBSTANCE (LIFE) of our hope!

For Christians, eternal life is NOT something just ahead of you, it is IN YOU! For believers in Jesus, eternal life begins NOW, i.e. the moment you believe in Him:

  • The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in his Son. Whoever has the Son has this life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12 Good News Translation) Notice it is present tense – has this life.
  • but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. (Ga 2:20-21 Good News Translation) The life we LIVE NOW is by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
  • It is described in part by His other “I am” statements: “bread of life” – sustenance; “gate” – the way in, community; “the good shepherd” – sustenance, security, guidance; “the way, the truth and the life” – direction, understanding, purpose; “the vine” – vitality, productivity, connection.

But eternal life is more than spiritual, mystical or immaterial. It is very much physical, bodily and material. Jesus proved the SUBSTANCE of that as well:

  • Lazarus, already decaying after four days, was raised completely whole.
  • Jesus’ own resurrection was material, not spiritual. The women who were first at the tomb on resurrection morning, found the stone rolled away but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:3)
  • Jesus’ resurrection body was corporeal, powerful, incorruptible and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And our resurrection bodies will be like His:

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

45 The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 46 What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. (1 Cor 15:42-49 NLT)

Other religions can talk about life after death, but only Jesus Christ gives you the substance (ETERNAL LIFE) of what you hope for (RESURRECTION) right now! “Do you believe this?” (v.26).

 

 

 

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/resurrection-and-life.html

[2] WOLEC Statement of Faith, Article 12.

The American Idea

I witnessed something truly wonderful and altogether the other night, July 3, 2018, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park Fourth of July Laser Show and Fireworks Celebration. The show itself was the best I’ve seen in its thirty-five years history. But the wonderful and encouraging part was the people in attendance. Thousands of people! People of different ethnicity, cultures, colors, creeds – you name it – they were there. They were there for hours pressed close together on a hot, hazy and humid Georgia summer night. And they were there sitting and eating together; standing and singing together; making noise and celebrating together.

I’m very sure that among such a multitude, the opinions, politics, beliefs and preferences were as diverse as the people themselves. Yet there they were, shoulder-to-shoulder, all celebrating the one thing they had in common – the United States of America. More than a country; America is an idea worth celebrating.

America is the idea that we the people of the United States are America.[i] America is not the government or Washington, D.C. Strictly speaking, it is not even its borders or member states. America is her people! We are America! And history demonstrates that when America stands united, the enemies of freedom for humanity are overcome, the blessings of liberty are expanded in the world and secured for future generations.

America is the idea that all men (persons) are created equal.[ii] Human equality is an eternal fact not subject to human evaluation, and our Founders deemed it first among those truths self-evident.  And, although the awareness was not the praxis of all the Declaration’s signers, still they affirmed it unanimously – something quite unique in the history of nations. Also, it should be recognized by Americans today that, though America has its own record of human rights violations, no country in history has exerted greater effort or expended more blood to correct its own injustices. It has long been said, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”[iii]

America is the idea that all persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Other nations were established on the divine right of kings; some still are. America was and is established on the divine rights of all persons, not just potentates, politicians or those otherwise powerful. The Declaration’s list of rights is not exhaustive but emphasizes three: the right to life, the right to liberty in life, and the right to pursue a happy life.  It states further that the reason we have governments is to secure these rights. Prior to America, the nature and construct of governments was to preserve the governments. But the Declaration of Independence defined the responsibility of government, and the Constitution of the United States proscribed the reach of government – all in favor of the peoples’ rights.

Now we certainly can all agree that the American idea is not yet the American ideal. To parody the Apostle Paul in the New Testament – we have not yet taken hold of all that our Founders envisioned. But united together we press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:13-14).  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it probably best of anyone: ‘“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”[iv] Dr. King spoke those words during what was perhaps the most socially tumultuous and culturally trans-formative decade in American history. Yet never did he advocate the abolition of the American idea, but rather that the American dream, that all men are created equal, be fully apprehended.

Now, in our own tumultuous and trans-formative moment in history, we do well – all of us – to heed the wisdom of the Apostle Paul and remember the dream of Dr. King. Whatever our differences politically and otherwise, let us – the people of the United States – stand together to celebrate the idea that is America and to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”[v] That spirit, that attitude, that idea was on display at Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on the eve of America’s 242nd Fourth of July, and I was proud to see it. God bless America!

 

 

[i] The Constitution of the United States, Sept 17, 1787.

[ii] The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

[iii] Justice – Wikiquote.

[iv] “I Have a Dream” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, 1963.

[v] “Gettysburg Address” Abraham Lincoln, Nov 19, 1863.

John’s Gospel – Chapter One – “The Word Became Flesh”

The New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are vitally important because they are our primary source of information on the person, life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Like four different news journalists, they all report on the same story but each from his own perspective and emphasizing the details most significant to him. Matthew wanted his people, the Jews, to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) and rightful king of Israel. So, he emphasized Jesus’ fulfillment of the ancient Messianic prophecies, i.e. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” (Mt 1:23; Is 7:14). Mark is essentially the gospel according to Peter and highlights the missional Jesus who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45). Luke carefully studied everything about Jesus and wrote an orderly account of His life so that others, like Theophilus, could be certain of the facts (Lk 1:1-4). Luke’s focus is on the Son of Man who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 1:3; 19:10). John writes plainly and up front that Jesus is both divine and human: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (Jn 1:1,14 NIV). Furthermore, Jesus came into the world to bring us grace from God and to reveal the truth of God: We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14 NIV).

John wrote his gospel last, somewhere between A.D. 80 and 95, from the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) where he spent his final years teaching, preaching and writing. John was the only one of Jesus’ apostles who did not die a martyr’s death, although multiple attempts were made on his life. According to Tertullian, an early Christian author and theologian, Emperor Domitian had John boiled in oil. But God supernaturally delivered him and all witnesses to the miracle in the Colosseum were converted. Unable to kill him, the Romans imprisoned John on the Greek island of Patmos, hoping that way to silence him. It was on Patmos, however, that John received his Revelation from Jesus which became the last book of the New Testament. John’s life and ministry prove – That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5 Holman Christian Standard Bible).

John was the youngest of Jesus’ apostles – perhaps only a teen when he began following him. He was personally close to Jesus and references himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and the “beloved disciple.” John, Peter and James were an inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. They were with Jesus at His transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8) and nearest to Him in Gethsemane the night He was betrayed (Mk 14:33). But only John leaned upon Jesus at the last supper, attended Jesus’ trial before the high priest, and stood at the cross when Jesus was crucified (Jn 18:15-16; 19:26; 21:20). And from the cross, Jesus chose John to take care of Mary, His mother, for the rest of her life (19:26).  God does not respect or love one person above another (Job 34:18-19); however, He is respected and loved by some persons more than others (Mt 15:8). God invites us all to come closer: Come close to God, and he will come close to you. (James 4:8 God’s Word Translation).

Over 90 percent of the information in John is not found in the other Gospels. Only John tells of Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourse” (chapters 14-16) and His Intercessory Prayer in Gethsemane (chapter 17). Six of the eight miracles of Jesus cited by John are exclusive to his Gospel: 1) turning water to wine (2:1-11); 2) healing the official’s son (4:46-54); 3) healing the invalid at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-15); 4) healing the man born blind (9:1-38); 5) raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44); and 6) the great catch of fish after His resurrection (21:1-14). Also, none of Jesus’ parables are mentioned in John. John’s focus is on the Person and purpose of Jesus more than His teaching.

  • Jesus is the Son of God (1:1-3). This is John’s first and most emphatic point. Many say they believe in Jesus, but not as the Son of God. Some claim that Jesus’ divinity is an idea superimposed on Him by fanatical followers years after His life on Earth. But John was with Jesus; he was his closest apostle; and he says about Jesus – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1:1). It just doesn’t get any plainer than that! “The Word” or Logos (1:1) in the Greek means that Jesus is the full expression of the whole idea of God.[1] A Chinese Christian woman was preaching Christ to the scholar of a market town. He heard her courteously and after a little while said, “Madam, you speak well, but why do you dwell on Jesus Christ? Let Him alone. Instead of Jesus Christ, tell us about God.” Whereupon she replied, “What, sir, should we know about God if it were not for Jesus Christ?” How true, and this is precisely the meaning of the second clause of John 1:18: No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (TEV).[2]
  • Jesus became the Son of Man (1:14). The Son of God has always been, but He became flesh, i.e. the Son of Man (1:14). Matthew and Luke tell the story of His birth. Paul somewhat describes the act of Jesus’ incarnation (becoming flesh) in Philippians 2:5-11. God demonstrated His love for the world by sending His Son into the world to save the world (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:8).
  • Jesus came to FULFILL the GRACE of God (1:14). The Greek term pleres translated “full” comes from a root term which means to accomplish or fulfill. Before sin ever entered the world, God already knew what He would do and how He would do it to save humanity. God’s plan was GRACE – UNMERITED FAVOR.  But the whole plan depended on JESUS CHRIST and His completing all the Father required – and He did!
    • When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30 NIV)
    • And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. (1 John 2:2 Today’s English Version)
  • Jesus came to TELL the TRUTH (1:14). “To Tell the Truth” was a TV game show in the 1950s. A group of three guests would pose as the same person and the show’s celebrity panelists had to decide which of the three was telling the truth. Very much like the old shell game – all three nuts look alike, but only one contains the prize. There are a lot of “nuts” in the world that claim to tell the truth. But Jesus not only tells the truth HE IS THE TRUTH! He came to tell the truth about God and how you can know Him for yourself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 New International Version). “Without the Way there is no going; without the Truth there is no knowing; without the Life there is no living.”[3]

God’s plan of salvation has been summarized this way: “The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God.” This is why the Apostle Paul said the gospel of Christ. . .is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16 New King James Version). The way to life is the truth. Knowing the truth will set you free to live the life God has always wanted you to have. Jesus knows who you are, and He wants you to know who He is; and that’s what the Gospel of John is all about – knowing the truth of Jesus, believing it and having new and everlasting life.

 

 

 

[1] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.1252.

[2] (from Illustrations of Bible Truths Copyright © 1995, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

[3] From The Biblical Illustrator, Thomas a Kempis, Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.

 

“That You May Believe”

The apostle John was there when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).  He heard Peter answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16).  He also heard Jesus’ reply: “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18).  And John’s purpose in writing his gospel, he plainly states, is:  “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 New King James Version)  Believing in Christ is the only way to have life, and John writes his gospel that you may believe and live (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).

John’s gospel is relevant for life:

  • To rescue the perishing – John 3:16.
  • To convince unbelieversthese are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31 NKJV).
  • To instruct new believersTo the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV).  All believers are Christians, but not all Christians are disciples.
  • To answer significant questions – Greeks were philosophers – they thought a lot about life.  To know Jesus is to know LIFE:  John 14:6. Jews were theologians – they thought mostly about God. “The Word” or Logos (1:1) in the Greek means that Jesus is the full expression of the whole idea of God.[1]  A Chinese Christian woman was preaching Christ to the scholar of a market town. He heard her courteously and after a little while said, “Madam, you speak well, but why do you dwell on Jesus Christ? Let Him alone. Instead of Jesus Christ, tell us about God.” Whereupon she replied, “What, sir, should we know about God if it were not for Jesus Christ?” How true, and this is precisely the meaning of the second clause of John 1:18: No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Today’s English Version).[2]

“Who was John and why should we listen to him?”

  • John was the disciple whom Jesus loved (Jn 13:23; 20:2; 21:7,20). John leaned a little closer to Jesus than the other disciples (21:20). God does not respect or love one person above another; however, He is respected and loved by some more than others. God invites us all to come closer (Ja 4:8).
  • John, James and Simon Peter formed an inner circle among Jesus’ disciples. They went with Jesus where the others did not (Lk 9:28). Paul later described them as pillars of the Church (Ga 2:9).
  • Only John was with Jesus at the cross, and Jesus committed Mary, his mother, to John’s care (Jn 19:26-27).
  • John also penned the three epistles that bear his name and the book of Revelation which he wrote while a prisoner on the island of Patmos.
  • His final years were spent in Ephesus preaching, teaching and writing. He was the last of the twelve apostles to die and the only one who died a natural death.
  • Strictly from a human perspective, John was probably the most qualified of anyone to write a biography of Jesus. He was closest to Jesus personally, was with Jesus at the most crucial moments of His life, and simply had the most time to reflect upon his time with Jesus and to establish a solid Christology concerning both the humanity and divinity of Jesus (Jn 1:1,14).

The term “life” appears 50 times in John. JESUS is LIFE and He came into the world that we might have it:

  • “I tell you the truth, whoever hears what I say and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life. That person will not be judged guilty but has already left death and entered life.” – John 5:24 New Century Version
  • “I am the bread of life.” – John 6:48
  • He came to give abundant life – John 10:10.
  • Jesus is life itself – John 14:6.

John wants his readers to know WHO Jesus is and WHY they should believe in Him. Peter confessed both the humanity and divinity of Jesus (Mt 16:16).  John explains how the Son of God became the Son of Man – the Word that was God already in the beginning became flesh (incarnated) and dwelt among us (1:1,14). Jesus is not partly human and partly God; He is FULLY HUMAN and FULLY GOD! 

  • Only God could save mankind from sin. Isaiah declared: God is my salvation . . . The LORD, the LORD, . . . he has become my salvation.” (Is 12:2). Jesus means “Jehovah is the Savior.”[3]
  • Only man could shed his blood for mankind’s redemption. Paul wrote: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (Rom 3:23-25 NIV).
  • Any departure from either the divinity or humanity of Jesus is a heresy (untruth): The Word became a human being and . . . We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. (John 1:14 TEV).  John says in 2 John 7, anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Jesus’ works (miracles) are why we should believe He is God: believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done (John 10:38 NLT). John references eight of Jesus’ miracles which he calls “signs” because they point to His divinity: 1) turning water to wine (2:1-11); 2) healing the official’s son (4:46-54); 3) healing the man at Bethesda (5:1-9); 4) feeding the 5000 (6:1-14); 5) walking on water (6:15-21); 6) restoring a man’s sight (9:1-41); 7) raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44); 8) the catch of fish (21:1-14). The last and greatest of all the signs, of course, was Jesus’ resurrection, which John records in chapters 20 and 21.

Jesus Christ is both the source of life and the light of truth to the worldThe Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind (John 1:4 TEV).  Jesus answers life’s questions and satisfies life’s desires. Faith in Jesus Christ will transform your life: But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (John 1:12-13 NLT) Those who hear His voice (His word) will LIVE! (Jn 5:25-27). The words of Jesus are God’s words to us: These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24 NIV)

From chapter one to twenty-one, the gospel of John is about the Son of God who became the Son of Man so that the sons of men might become the sons of God. To know God is eternal life and the only way to know God is through His Son, Jesus Christ:  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 New King James Version)

[1] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.1252.

[2] From Illustrations of Bible Truths Copyright © 1995, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Word, p.614.

Living Biblically – A Changing Paradigm

Did you ever wish there was a handbook for life – a HOW TO LIVE LIFE WELL BOOK? Well, there is!  It’s called the BIBLE!  God Himself guarantees that reading and applying the Bible will benefit our lives: Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:8 New Living Translation)

The Bible is unlike any other book:

  • It took 16 centuries to write by at least 40 different writers in 3 different languages and on 3 separate continents. Yet it has one clear, central and consistent theme – God’s salvation of humankind through His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • It has improved lives, stirred controversy and inspired social change around the world, like nothing else – ever!
  • It is the most translated, most published and bestselling book in history, and it remains so today.
  • It has Jesus’ personal guarantee of blessing to all who read it or hear it and apply its principles in their lives: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24 New International Version)

Great persons have said great things about the Bible:

  • Abraham Lincoln said the Bible “is the best gift God has given to men.”
  • President Theodore Roosevelt:A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
  • English Philosopher John Locke: “The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure.”
  • Isaac Newton: “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

Just two more but very important quotes:

  • George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters.”
  • Author Victor Hugo attributed the prowess of British culture in the world to the Bible: “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.”

So much good in the world and people’s lives is directly attributable to the respect given the Bible in previous generations. Unfortunately for all of us, that is changing.

A paradigm change concerning the Bible is sweeping Western countries and culture:

  • A change in public confidence – In a published study by the Pew Research Center dated May 15, 2017, it states: “From the mid-1970s through 1984, close to 40% of Americans considered the Bible the literal word of God, but this has been declining ever since, along with a shrinking percentage of self-identified Christians in the U.S. Meanwhile, the percentage defining the Bible as mere stories has doubled, with much of that change occurring in the past three years.”[i]
  • A change in cultural significance – A recent study reveals that the Bible’s perceived significance to life and society is diminishing rapidly, especially among the young. 77% of Americans believe that values and morals are declining in our country and 32% attribute that decline to a lack of Bible reading.  Also, while the number of those friendly toward the Bible has declined (45% to 39%), the number of those antagonistic toward it has nearly doubled (10% to 17%).[ii]
  • A change in personal importance – Although most Americans own from 1 to 4 Bibles, only 1 in 4 Christians read the Bible at least 4 times per week and 1 in 4 church goers never read it. Consequently, there is a growing ignorance of what the Bible teaches.  “As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”[iii]

We are living amidst a societal catastrophe foretold and being fulfilled:

  • For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 New Living Translation)
  • When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. (Proverbs 29:18 NLT)

Endnotes

[i] At News.gallup.com/poll shows “Record few Americans believe the Bible is the literal Word of God”.

[ii] At Churchexecutive.com in article titled “What do Americans really think about the Bible?”

[iii] In article by Ed Stetzer titled “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches”.

Why Jesus’ Resurrection Matters

One of the first things we learn of in life is death. I was still very young, a preschooler, when a family member died – Uncle Clark, my dad’s brother. I remember him as a gentle, kind and friendly sort. He never seemed grouchy or perturbed by little kids, like others certainly were; and I enjoyed being around him. Then he was gone. I wasn’t allowed to sit up with the dead (like folks used to do) or attend his funeral, but I clearly remember the feeling of loss knowing that I would not see Clark again. And, in as much as my family attended a Holiness, Pentecostal, Bible believing, Jesus loving, salvation preaching, soul saving church (we really did), I heard it said multiple times: “It is appointed unto men once to die,” (Hebrews 9:27 King James Version).

To be sure – everyone dies. But inquiring minds want to know – is there anything beyond? Is there life after death? Now likely is that you do; but just let me prove it to you!

The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture in a 2014 article entitled “Do people still believe in life after death” reported that most Americans do. Specifically, 72% of Americans still believe in an afterlife. By religious affiliation – “Mormons reported the highest rate of belief in a conscious afterlife (98 percent), followed by evangelicals, Pentecostals, and fundamentalist Protestants (94 percent) …, those without a religious affiliation (or who called themselves atheists or agnostics) were least confident in life after death, at 32 percent.” On belief in heaven and hell, the figures are lower. “Among afterlife believers, 68 percent said, “Yes, I think both heaven and hell are real places.” If we presume that Americans who do not believe in an afterlife also do not believe in heaven or hell, (stands to reason) then belief that heaven and hell are real places can be said to be characteristic of 51 percent of American adults. An additional 8 percent believe in heaven only, but not hell.” (I wonder why that is?) And what about a bodily resurrection – “Overall, 37 percent of Americans believe there will be a bodily resurrection of the dead.” [http://relationshipsinamerica.com/religion/do-people-still-believe-in-life-after-death]

Dinesh D’Souza, American philosopher, author and film maker says: “If there is no life after death, then we are like passengers on the Titanic. We can rearrange the deck chairs and turn up the music a little bit, but ultimately, we are doomed. . .If there is an afterlife, then we are in a better position to face death. We have to face death in any case, but now we can face it in the expectation that it is not a final defeat, . . .” [Dinesh D’Souza in an interview on life after death with Paul Kengor, 12/9/09]

The night before He was crucified, Jesus was preparing His disciples (followers) for His impending death. After having supper with them, He said: “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” He went on to say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:19,27 NIV)

Jesus’ resurrection matters to you, me and everyone because:

  1. It DEMONSTRATES death is not the end. Craig D. Lounsbrough writes, “Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life.” Jesus’ death was inevitable, but His life is invincible! In John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (NIV)
  2. It LIBERATES believers from the fear of death. Following His crucifixion and death, the unbelieving world would not see Him again. But His disciples, those who believed in Him, loved and followed Him, did see Him again. Multiple times over a period of forty days following His resurrection. Paul said as many as 500 saw Him at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  3. It SUBSTANTIATES our hope in Jesus. Had He not risen, then everything His death means to us (our sins forgiven, peace with God, eternity with Him in heaven, and more) would be a hoax. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (NIV)
  4. It VALIDATES the Christian view of afterlife as correct. All the major religions of the world teach there is an afterlife. Only Christianity claims its founder died and rose again. Again, Dinesh D’Souza says: “the vast majority of historians would accept—the fact that Christ lived and preached, that he made enemies, that his enemies killed him, that he was buried in a tomb, that his disciples claim to have found the tomb empty, that they said Jesus appeared before them several times after his crucifixion, and that this event filled them with conviction and propelled a movement of conversion that was sustained even in the face of Roman persecution and resistance. So, these are the facts, and how do we account for them? If the resurrection stands up to historical scrutiny, if it is an historical event by the standards of historical verification, then the Christian view of the afterlife rises above the pack. It is the one to take seriously.” [Dinesh D’Souza in an interview on life after death with Paul Kengor, 12/9/09]
  5. It AUTHENTICATES Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Romans 1:4-5 says, “he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT)

Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (New Living Translation) We are destined to die. We are also destined to face judgment after death. God is the eternal judge and both the verdict and sentence are already determined against us. Our one and only hope of pardon is in Jesus Christ who died to take away our sins. “Confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

 

What Did Jesus Do for Me on the Cross?

“I am wholly deserving of all the consequences that I will in fact never receive simply because God unashamedly stepped in front of me on the cross, unflinchingly spread His arms so as to completely shield me from the retribution that was mine to bear, and repeatedly took the blows. And I stand entirely unwounded, utterly lost in the fact that while His body was pummeled and bloodied to death by that which was meant for me and me alone, I have not a scratch.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Apostle Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (New International Version of the Bible)

The sin was mine and the punishment should have been mine, but Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, took my place and yours and the place of everyone ever born or yet to be (1 John 2:2). Vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory are all terms used to describe what exactly it was Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.

The Gospel (Good News) in a nutshell is this:

  • Perfect God created a perfect world and put the perfect couple in charge of running things which He required be done perfectly.
  • Everything got royally messed up though when the couple sinned (disobeyed God).
  • The consequences of their sin (disobedience to God) included pain, suffering, hardship, conflict with each other, separation from God, physical deterioration and ultimately death. Left alone, the entire human race was destined to perish.
  • But, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 New Living Translation)
  • The sinless Son of God took on human form so that He might take our perishing (the penalty of our sin) upon Himself (Philippians 2:6-8). With Jesus’ death on the cross, justice was served, and God’s forgiveness was extended to everyone who will believe and receive it.
  • “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31

It really is as simple as A, B, C:

  • Acknowledge that you are a sinner (you have disobeyed God).
  • Believe that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died for you (He satisfied the penalty for your sin).
  • Confess Him (Jesus Christ) as your Savior (from perishing) and Lord (Whom you will obey).

If all this seems or sounds foolish, crazy, unbelievable to you; think about this quote from over nineteen centuries ago by a man who hated the Christian movement so much he hunted its members down, imprisoned and even executed them:

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

“So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So, when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.”

“But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25 New Living Translation)

What changed Saul of Tarsus from being the chief enemy of Christians to the Apostle Paul, chief Christian missionary to the world? Well, that’s the story of Easter which we celebrate this Sunday.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Seat Belt Light is On”

If you’ve ever flown aboard a passenger aircraft, then you’ve heard that announcement. It’s usually preceded by a little bell; you look above your seat and the seat belt indicator is indeed aglow. And, if you are inclined toward following directions, and you know what’s good for you, you grab the clasp of the belt with one hand and the buckle with the other and “click” – you’re done. The dynamics are really very simple. When in motion, the vehicle and passenger are traveling at the same speed in the same direction. If the vehicle suddenly stops or makes a course change, the unrestrained passenger continues at the former speed and previous direction, and you have a catastrophe. But thanks to the inventive mind of English engineer George Cayley in the mid-19th century and several evolutions of the seat belt or safety belt, such catastrophes have been substantially reduced. Many lives have been saved and injuries minimized by a simple restraint that most of us anymore just take for granted. Except when you’re on an airplane and hear that announcement.

 
In so many ways, life is like an airplane ride. You’ve taken off, and made the climb and now you’re cruising at 35,000 feet – everything smooth as silk. Suddenly, you hear the “ding,” the light goes on, and then the directive – “Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts.” Oftentimes an explanation will follow, i.e. – “There is some turbulence ahead. You might feel some bumpiness in your ride; but don’t be alarmed. Please keep your seat belts fastened until instructed to do otherwise.” Then it hits – or the plane hits it, and your seat leaves the plane seat; and were it not for that belt holding onto you, there could have been a genuine catastrophe.

 
Just a week prior to the date of this blog, the nation, the whole world was enjoying a wonderful, silky smooth ride to new heights in the international stock markets. For most of a year we saw one financial growth record after another broken. Then the course changed, and the rapid speed of incline was greatly surpassed by a more rapid decline. And, at this moment, the plummet continues. Just a little more than a week ago a very good man, traveling a route he had taken many times, lost control of his vehicle and perished. His wife and two young sons are left to live their lives without husband and father. Some weeks ago, a grandfather like me, lost his only grandchild suddenly and unexpectedly. The course and speed of life changes; abruptly and sometimes tragically. Seat belts were made and are used with an awareness, even an expectation, that such changes will happen.

 
“Ding;” “Ladies and Gentlemen – do you have your seat belts on?” Not the one invented by George Cayley, but the One who gave you life and knows everything there is to know about your life – every speed up and slow down; every twist and turn; every high and low. God is so aware of your life that nothing, absolutely nothing that happens in your life or anyone’s life takes Him by surprise. David, the great psalm writer said in Psalm 139:16 that God knows how many days you’ll live before you’ve lived the first one. And He knows not only the number of days in your life and mine; He knows the content. He literally is watching you and me and everyone else with a keen interest in everything we do: “From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Psalm 33:13-15 New International Version) God has His eye on you; but He wants to be more than an observer. The seat belt light is on; is yours buckled?

 
The safety in a seat belt comes not from your holding onto it, but from it holding onto you. And there is no safety at all unless you buckle-up. We all live our lives under God’s awareness; but only those who choose to click-it (trust the Divine Safety Belt) can rest assured of His care: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:24-26 New International Version) Many choose not to put their seat belts on – even though the evidence is they save lives. They argue that they are too confining; or they know people who actually were injured by them; or if this plane goes down, it really won’t make any difference. But, while all those arguments are to some degree true, doesn’t it just make sense to entrust yourself to something designed to cope with the sudden and ruinous turns in life. Wearing seat belts doesn’t mean you’ll never be involved in an accident; but it does increase your chances of surviving it. Trusting God with your life doesn’t mean you won’t have hardships or experience tragedies; it does mean He will personally see you through them and, in the end, bring you to a higher place. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Seat Belt light is on. If you haven’t already; it’s time to buckle up!”

 
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 NIV)

 
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;” (Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV)

“Who Was That Child in a Manger?” – The Profile Evidence

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17)

The Apostle Peter’s testimony of Jesus reveals two very important things about who He was/is:  (1) Jesus was the long prophesied Messiah/Christ (anointed of the LORD to deliver God’s people), and (2) Jesus is the Son of (same in nature as) God.  But what evidence do we have to corroborate what Jesus’ lead spokesperson confessed?  Jesus said Peter had the revelation from the Father (God) in heaven.  What do we have?

We have the sure and very certain word of the prophets which has been given to us as a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).  The word of the prophets is the Holy Scriptures and the Morning Star is Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:16).  Jesus said about the Scriptures, “They testify about me” (John 5:39).  The Bible is our final authority on the subject of Jesus, and when we read it, the same revelatory light from God that shined into Peter’s dark mind shines into ours.  And the more we read it, the more that Morning Star (Jesus) rises (becomes clearer and brighter) in our hearts.  The Bible gives to us profiles of both God and the Messiah that were uniquely satisfied in the one person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus uniquely fits the profile of “Immanuel”, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23). Colossians 1:15 says:  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.   But how can one person be both God and man?  The Bible says God is eternal (without beginning or ending); Jesus was born – He had a birthday which we still celebrate every year (Matthew 1:18).  The Bible says  God is immutable (never changing); Jesus grew and developed – He changed (Luke 2:52).  God is omniscient (all knowing); but Jesus confessed His ignorance about some things (Matthew 24:36).  God is omnipresent (everywhere at the same time); Jesus walked from place to place and even got tired (John 4:6).  God is omnipotent (all powerful); yet Jesus was taken, beaten and crucified (John 19:16).  Inquiring minds want to know – “If Jesus was God, why did He have human limitations?  And if He was human, why did He claim equality with God?

The more we read the Word of God (the Bible), the more we are able to understand the mystery of Jesus as both God and man:  The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130 NIV).  The biblical profile of Jesus is fully divine:

  • He is eternal: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2 NIV)
  • He is immutable: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)
  • He is omniscient (all knowing): Now we can see that you know all things (John 16:30 NIV)
  • He is omnipresent (all present): “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV)
  • He is omnipotent (all powerful): “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18 NIV)

The biblical profile of Jesus is also completely human.  The incarnation (God made flesh) has been called the most profound mystery in history.  But again the Bible shines the light of understanding into our simple minds:

  • Always and forever the Son of God (John 1:1; 8:58) – Jesus became the Son of Man (John 1:14 – His birthday).
  • At times He demonstrated all the limitations of humanity right down to being tired and thirsty (John 4:6; 19:28).  At other times He displayed the limitless power of His divinity (Matthew 14:18-21; John 11:43).
  • When He became human, the Son of God somehow gave up, set aside, emptied Himself of His divine privileges (either selectively or entirely) while He dwelt on Earth (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • In the Person of Jesus, the divine and human are forever One – and can never be separated (Acts 1:11).

We do not comprehend the whole mystery of incarnation, but Jesus certainly fits the profile of that one Peter confessed to be the Son of the living God.

 Jesus also fits the profile of the prophesied and long awaited Messiah/Christ?  “There are several things that the Jewish people who anticipated the Messiah expected Him to be, based on Old Testament prophecies. The Messiah would be a Hebrew man (Isaiah 9:6) born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), a prophet akin to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18), a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), a king (Isaiah 11:1–4), and the Son of David (Matthew 22:42) who suffered before entering His glory (Isaiah 53). Jesus met each of these messianic requirements.”

“Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Messiah in that He was a Hebrew of the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:30), and He was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4–7) to a virgin (Luke 1:26–27).”

“Another proof that Jesus was the Messiah is the fact that He was a prophet like Moses. Both Moses and Jesus were prophets “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10; cf. John 8:38). But Jesus is an even greater prophet than Moses in that, while Moses delivered Israel from slavery, Jesus frees us from the bondage of death and sin. Unlike Moses, Jesus didn’t just represent God—He is God (John 10:30). Jesus doesn’t just lead us to the Promised Land; He takes us up to heaven for eternity (John 14:1–3). For these and many more reasons, Jesus is a prophet greater than Moses.”[2]

Perhaps the clearest and most profound of all Old Testament Messianic prophecies is that in Isaiah 53 – the Suffering Servant.  To read Isaiah’s words written seven centuries before Christ and compare them with the biography of Jesus in the gospels, leaves no doubt that He was indeed the Messiah: 

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  And who can speak of his descendants?  For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12 New International Version)

Both as Christ and the Son of God – Jesus fits the profile!  Hallelujah!

[1] Taken from The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger by Lee Strobel [Zondervan, 2005].

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/is-Jesus-the-Messiah.html