I grew up going to church. I’m talking about from my earliest childhood: from the nursery right into Sunday School.
And yet I didn’t actually become a Christian until I was fifteen years old.
I can easily explain why: I had never, until that fifteenth year, truly been introduced to a Jesus I was willing to truly follow.
Oh, the Jesus the kindly Sunday School teachers described was nice enough. The pictures they had of Him on the walls of the Sunday School room were illustrative: a nice, rather wimpy-looking man surrounded by a bunch of children. Oh, and He always seemed to be carrying a lamb around His shoulders.
It wasn’t that I “rejected” that Jesus; it was rather more of, “That’s nice,” and I continued on going about my life.
I was, I suppose, too young to ask the questions that I existentially needed the answers to. Or at least, I was too lazy to ask them, anyway.
Well, between my fifteenth and sixteenth year on this earth I went to a Christian camp called “Forest Home” in California. And it was there that I first really understood who Jesus was and saw in Him someone for whom I would lay down everything and follow.
The Jesus I welcomed as my Savior and as my Lord was a Man, a tough Man, a bold Man, a Man who stood up for God and refused to back down even when hell itself got in His face. He stood up to everyone and to everything that was wrong about the world He confronted, from the culture to the government to even His own followers. This Jesus was the ultimate Hero, who came to save helpless people who otherwise would have perished.
Who is our Jesus, who is our Christ?
According to Colossians, He is the image of the invisible God, which means that Jesus is literally the answer to the question, “What is God like?” The Gospel of John in the eighteenth verse of chapter one says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” And that verb “explained” is the word from which we get “exegesis.” It means, “to show the way, to explain.” That’s what Jesus did: He explained and literally showed us God. That’s why when Philip said,”Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us,” Jesus responded, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
St. John explained the relationship between God the Father and God the Son in his introduction:
“In the beginning was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”
Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses tragically distort the true nature of Christ and in so doing preach “another Jesus” from the Jesus God’s Word presents. They insert the article “a” to teach that the Word was merely “a god” rather than God. They artificially manufacture a rule that literally excludes them from ever receiving a higher degree in biblical language. And they further show their hypocrisy by applying their “rule” only when Jesus’ deity is ascribed. For instance, by the same “rule,” their translation would say, “In a beginning” rather than “In the beginning.” Which just gets downright weird, doesn’t it?
What St. John did in Greek was to perfectly differentiate between the Father and the Son. There was a heresy called Modalism that taught that the Father WAS the Son, like the same actor who put on different hats to play different roles during a play. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses demand an article - a “the” – in the Greek for the translation to be “… and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But if that article were present, the translation would declare Modalism, that “the Word was God” in exclusion to the Father also being God. Instead, what St. John is teaching is that Christ, the Word, the Son is God, was WITH the Father from the very beginning, but is not numerically identical with God the Father. John 1:1 is actually a masterful construction that precisely differentiates the true Jesus between two heresies – the heresy of Modalism that presents God as an actor wearing three hats and the heresy of Arianism that teaches Jesus as a lesser being who was merely a creation rather than truly being God.
The Word of God teaches that it was Christ who created the world: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” And therefore, logically, it is IMPOSSIBLE for Christ to have Himself been a created being. How could Christ create “all things” and have “all things come into being by Him” and He Himself be created??? It’s logically absurd. And so Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses manufacture a word that is NOT present in the Bible and assert, “all other things came into being by him.”
There’s a short, simple, powerful rhyme that explains it well: “He came to die on a cross of wood, yet made the hill on which it stood.”
Our Christ is the preeminent One over Creation. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses falsely seize upon the description of Christ as “the firstborn over all creation” and assert that it means He was “born” in the sense of having been “created.” That isn’t true: “firstborn” is a title of preeminence, a statement that Jesus – as the Creator as the following verses prove – has a preeminent position over all of creation. Think of Abraham’s firstborn: who was it? Isaac or Ishmael? Think of Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau: who was the “firstborn”? And no matter how you answer I can say, “Wrong!” Because the “firstborn” son in birth order was NOT the firstborn son who inherited the birthright. In both of these crucial cases, the “firstborn” turned out NOT to be the “firstborn.” Isaac was given the inheritance of “firstborn” even though he was NOT born first. And so was Jacob over Esau, with Esau literally cavalierly selling his birthright for a bowl of stew when he was hungry. And the point being that “birth” has nothing to do with being “firstborn.” It is a TITLE in its most important sense that Paul uses in Colossians 1:15.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
By WHOM were “all things created”? By the One who is called “the firstborn over all creation,” by the One who is “the image of the invisible God.” And note again He created ALL things, NOT “all other things.” And not only were all things created THROUGH Him, but FOR Him. We’re taught in Ephesians chapter one that the Father had a plan to glorify His Son, to literally create a world just so He could point to His Son and say, “Look at My Son! Isn’t He WONDERFUL!?!?”
Who is our Jesus, who is our Christ? The entire universe was created through Christ and for Christ. Our Christ is before ALL things “and in Him all things hold together.”
Jesus Christ is literally the mysterious force that prevents every atom from literally flying apart. If THAT isn’t absolute power over the universe, what is?
Quite a far cry from the meek little wimp who hangs out with children with a lamb around his neck, you know?
THAT is who our Jesus is.
It was this Christ, who we now know is the Creator who made ALL THINGS according to His Father’s plan to glorify Him, who created Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:27:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
You should now understand: in creating human beings, Christ created us in HIS image such that one day He could assume OUR image.
And in the Virgin Birth, prophesied hundreds of years beforehand in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” St. Matthew completes the picture in chapter one and verse 23 of his gospel: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
Does that sound like an ordinary human to you? Does that sound like the work of anything less than God?
The angel who appeared to Joseph, the soon-to-be husband of Mary, didn’t believe so:
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:20-21
Who does the Bible teach saves people from their sins? GOD and God ALONE.
The angel who appeared to Mary didn’t believe so:
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” — Luke 130-:33
In the Incarnation, which resulted in the Virgin Birth of Jesus, Christ – who was God – assumed a human nature, a human nature untainted by the sin of the Fall that corrupted us, so that He could come to live a perfect life in our place that we could not live and then die as our substitute as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Understand the dilemma: on the one hand, mankind had sinned and mankind had to pay the penalty – which is death – for the wages of sin. On the other hand, only God can truly save us from sin. No mere man, no mere angel, can take my sins away from me, such that God cannot see them to hold them against me and rightly judge and condemn me for them.
Only God Himself can do that. That is why God Himself declares:
“I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me.”
“Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me.”
That ought to tell you what the real story of the very first Christmas, heralded by an angel, truly was:
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” — Luke 2:8-11
My Savior is none other than God Himself; and that’s why I can know that I am going to heaven. Because only God can do that work in me. Anyone else who relies on anything else is lost in their sins. Because no man and no angel has the power to be your true Savior.
Some day I plan to ask the angel who came to those shepherds and said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” to perform a dramatic reenactment of that scene. Because for all eternity that announcement will send shivers through my spine.
God was born when God the Son assumed a human nature and entered the world through Mary, a descendant of King David, in Bethlehem as God’s Word foretold centuries before:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” — Micah 5:2
He came to die on a cross of wood, yet made the hill on which it stood.
What did our Jesus do? In one of the most beautiful passages in all Scripture, St. Paul gives us a moral lesson for how we should live our lives based on what Jesus did:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. — Philippians 2:3-11
The New Living Translation just flat-out says it in verse 6: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.”
Although Jesus was truly God, God the Son, the Christ, the Word, as God He did not regard His deity something to cling to, something to be exploited for its own advantage. But instead, in His other-centered love that ONLY God can manifest, He emptied Himself. He laid aside the exercise of His deity so that He could become an ordinary man and live among us and fulfill the salvation plan of His Father that Ephesians 1 teaches His Father had established from eternity.
And so Christ came into the world, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. That’s not my notion, but Jesus’ Himself:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” — Mark 10:45
What did our Jesus do? He lived a perfect life in my place when I couldn’t. And then He died the death in my place that I should have died for my sins. The One who created the entire universe, who created me, took the blame for my sins upon HIMSELF. On the cross, Jesus literally took the blame of the sin of the whole world upon Himself so that we could be free of the power and death of sin. And by faith we die with Him – as depicted by going under the water in baptism – and by faith we are raised with newness of life with Christ. Jesus died because He assumed a human nature. BUT GOD CAN’T STAY DEAD. And so He rose bodily from the dead in Resurrection Power.
I love the words of Colossians 3:3-4
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
What is God like? He’s just like Jesus. And in what way does Jesus show us what God is ultimately like? In His incarnation. What did He show us about the nature of God? Love so astonishing that it is hard to believe.
Jesus showed us what God is truly like. And what a beautiful God He truly is.
Because no one else would have come to me the way Jesus came for me.
I’ve always believed in God. The Bible declares it is only the worst kind of fool who does not believe in God. The Bible declares that the existence of God is self-evident in Creation. The Bible points out that even the demons believe in God. What is miraculous beyond belief isn’t that God IS, but that God is so good and so loving and so gracious and so … wonderful that He would come to me even at my very worst and most loathsome point and love me enough to save me when all I deserve is hell.
That’s what my Jesus did. My Creator saved me from myself and from my sin, which many times seems like an even greater and even more profound miracle than the Creation of the whole universe. Because it’s one thing to create something from nothing; quite another to fix something that was so hopelessly broken and ruined that for anyone short of God it needs to be destroyed because it is simply too impossible to fix.
Jesus is my hero because I was lost. I was even worse than lost, I was DEAD. And Jesus saved me:
1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. — Ephesians 2:1-10
Every time a new believer enters the Kingdom of Heaven because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross, there is a staggering miracle of Creation: what was dead is made alive. What was broken beyond human or angelic repair is made whole. A destroyed, ruined, broken life becomes transformed in new life.
That transformation is at work in my own life. It will not be complete in this world, but at the moment of the Rapture I know that no matter what happens in this world I will be the ME that God always intended me to be. And I will have joy as I share all eternity with my Creator and my Savior and my Lord Jesus. St. Paul described this moment in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58:
51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
It’s like that hymn, “Because He Lives“:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
Jesus is my hero because where I had no hope, I now have hope that will literally carry me through this world and into and through the world to come.
I don’t know what anyone else has; I just no it very certainly isn’t better than what I have in my Jesus.
Jesus is my hero, because in a world filled with lies He came to testify to the TRUTH:
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” — John 18:37
I heard you, King Jesus. Thank God Almighty, I heard you.
I hope you can hear Jesus too.