Who Is Jesus … REALLY?

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.

And so the passage in its context reads:

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.”

Isaiah 9:6 tells us more about this miracle Baby:

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.”

And again:

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.

 

 

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7 Responses to “Who Is Jesus … REALLY?”

  1. FMC Says:

    At a young age, I too started attending church and was rather young when I came to the knowledge and accepted Christ. Although I have had some spiritually rough periods in my life, I always seem to come back to the Bible and Jesus Christ.

    Back in April, a friend of mine was killed on lake Erie. She was only 33 and her tragic death effected many people. Our friendship was purely plutonic and we would frequently meet for lunch or dinner and discuss all the crazy people in our lives. She was a nurse who described the hospital where she worked as a veritable nut house and she thought most of her family belonged in a nut house, too. Me, I am just the run-of-the-mill freak magnet – it has to be some kind of curse, because I am constantly trying to get people out of my life……it never ends. For the most part, we had a lot in common and shared many crazy and unbelievable stories. Heck, her cousin was even one of the women involved with Tiger Woods when he was cheating on his soon-to-be ex-wife. I have actually met her in person…. weird, huh.

    A couple of times she brought up God and I realized she did not believe in God and basically thought it was a mere fairy tale. For being so much alike, in this aspect, we couldn’t be more different. The last time I seen her, we were eating dinner and she brought up the subject of God again. She didn’t have too many good things to say about the subject and then she asked me what I thought. I didn’t really know what to say, because I know that she has absolutely no Biblical knowledge whatsoever. So I asked her how she thought all this came to be, why are there male and female, how could a world so intricate and complex just happen. Anyway, she didn’t have much to say about that. Then I asked her what she thought happens when people die and she just said I don’t know. I didn’t really know how to proceed with the topic and I just let it be. That was basically the last time I talked to her.

    Unless a miracle happened between that conversation and her death, my friend is eternally lost. I often think if there was more I could have done. I often feel that I should have done things differently and been more forward in those conversations. Sometimes I feel that it is my fault that she is where she is. Her family are all heathens and have a mickey mouse mentality about spiritual matters and think that she is on a heavenly cloud somewhere. During the funeral I felt sick to my stomach, not only because of her death, but because of how deceived her family and close friends were. I did not stick around long.

    My friend’s death has cast a dark cloud over this summer season. I haven’t been the same since. It is times like these where I realize what kind of world we really live in and what is at stake. What is even more depressing is that you can tell people the truth until you are blue in the face, but most of them will not listen. I learned about her death when another friend texted me. The text just said, “Did you hear about Amy.” For some reason, I knew that something tragic had happened to her. I immediately remembered the last conversation I had with her about God. I never had a good feeling about her since that last conversation.

  2. Michael Eden Says:

    FMC,

    I don’t mean to channel Bill Clinton here, because he is a truly glib man who has the emotional states of a rattlesnake, but I literally feel your pain coming from your words.

    I wish I could say it’s all alright, it wasn’t your responsibility to tell her about God, I’m sure she’s fine now. But none of that is true.

    It IS believer’s responsibility to earnestly and urgently witness for Christ, as just a few passages illustrate:

    but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence — 1 Peter 3:15

    Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. — Jude 1:3

    Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. — 2 Corinthians 5:20

    “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16

    Every true Christian has a duty to learn how to witness his or her faith. And it is a duty that isn’t merely to God or to the Kingdom of Heaven, but also to humanity. If you believe as a true Christian does, in heaven and in hell, and know as every Christian does that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Light and that no one gets to the Father except through Him (John 14:6), we should an INCREDIBLE burden to tell people about Jesus and warn them of where their present life is leading them.

    You have the duty to tell unbelievers about Jesus just as I also have the duty to tell believers to be witnesses of their faith.

    Now, I imagine those words and those passages might come across as quite stinging.

    While you suffered the death of someone you knew you should engaged with about Jesus, we have ALL of us done that, haven’t we? Which is to say that the difference between you and me is that somebody died (that you KNOW of, given the fact that there are “random people” you bump into and never see again and had a chance to share Jesus with and you didn’t and whatever happened to that person? Maybe we’re lucky that we don’t know that we had a chance to share Christ and that guy got ran over by a bus right afterward).

    And I’ll also say this: YOU are not the reason your friend is in hell; that would be incredibly unjust of God when you think about it, wouldn’t it? SHE was ultimately responsible for her own life, her own decisions and her own choices.

    I can’t just whip out a Bible verse to prove it, but I believe that if someone would have chosen Christ, then God would put a witness to that person in his or her path so that he or she could have an opportunity to believe. That if unbelievers reject the light they have, God may literally prevent them from receiving more light as it would literally only increase the magnitude of their guilt as they refuse Christ’s death for their sins over and over and over again. Versus if that same unbeliever receives the light he or she is given, then God will give that person more light, and then more light again, until he or she has enough knowledge to accept Jesus Christ.

    So no, while I understand your sadness and your self-recrimination, I reject that it is your fault that she is where she is even as I agree with your prior statement that yes, there was more you could have done.

    There may well be plenty of people in hell blaming somebody else for why they are there; but it won’t be true: the people who are in hell will be there because of themselves.

    This is my counsel to you as a friend: that you use this tragic experience as a great positive in your life and – prayerfully – perhaps in the lives of many others whom you lead to Christ as you learn how to be a more effective and more passionate witness for Him.

    Do you know where the most effective witnessing begins? WITH YOUR OWN FAITH STORY. We live in a postmodern age, where people literally deny objective truth altogether as well as denying that we can ever really “know” truth if it exists. But due to their “inclusive” theories, what they CANNOT reject without being hypocrites is YOUR STORY. And your story is about how you came to faith and what Jesus Christ has done in your life. Every Christian has a story, and we should all be able to tell our story. I’m able to provide a “grocery store line” version and a detailed “sitting at the coffee table” version as well as an intermediate length version. How much time do I have to tell you about Jesus, in other words. The longer, the better, but if we’ve got two minutes, here’s my two-minute story.

    Jesus has changed my life. And He’s done it in many ways and I will tell people all about it.

    There’s also the Bible and being able to clearly explain what the Bible teaches about salvation and our need to be saved. There are well-known witnessing approaches that accomplish this, with the most famous being “Roman’s Road.”

    Then there is what you were trying to do when you were saying, “So I asked her how she thought all this came to be, why are there male and female, how could a world so intricate and complex just happen.” It’s called “apologetics,” which means “a reasoned defense.” A reasoned defense of the Christian faith and why we should be Christians as opposed to atheists or Muslims or whatever else. And we can address science or we can address philosophy. Most of the “scientific” objections to Christianity are actually nothing more than philosophical, where people conflate and pervert and distort the former with the latter.

    God allowed you to go through this experience for a reason. And when you realize you screwed up – which is something that EVERY CHRISTIAN routinely does – then you confess your failure and you get on your feet and you learn from your mistakes.

    One of the things I tell people who have failed is that wisdom is the result of experience; but that experience is very often the result of poor decisions in the past. God is giving you an opportunity to confront your present, confess your past, and commit your future to learn and grow from your past mistakes.

    I truly hope you are able to recover your joy after this tragedy. But I also truly hope that you allow this tragedy to soften and grow and build your heart so that you NEVER have to so agonize over your “what ifs” when it comes to presenting your faith ever again.

    I hope my words here move you toward that positive direction rather than merely focus you on your pain. Because God doesn’t want His people hurting; He wants them healing.

  3. dog walker Says:

    This is some interesting dialog and I appreciate you guys for having it.

  4. Michael Eden Says:

    dog walker,

    Thanks for that.

    Ultimately, it is up to every single human being – who are all image bearers of God – to exercise the choice that God gave them when it comes to their eternal destination.

    The angels had the same choice. We know from Scripture that prior to the creation of the physical universe, an angel named Lucifer rejected God and led one-third of the angels in rebellion. They had the ability to exercise free will, just as we now have that same ability. Their choice has been made and it has been ratified and they cannot go back and undo it; just as we will not be able to undo our choice. We are eternal beings. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God set eternity in our heart.” We alone of all physical creatures in creation have the ability to consider our deaths, to ponder that mystery, and can imagine life after death.

    That’s a category fallacy for atheists, btw. Imagining life after death is akin to imagining a square circle. It is absolutely impossible for me to do it, they tell me. Because just as a square circle is not possible, life after death is not possible.

    And yet I’m literally doing it right now. Because they’re wrong and there IS life after death.

    God created us as SOULS. I am not my brain; I am the kind of thing that HAS a brain. There is a physical aspect of me that was born and will die. The Bible says that from dust we were made and to dust we shall return. But there is a spiritual side – the part that truly makes us image bearers of God – and that part was born but will never die.

    And we each of us have a choice. God gave us rational minds. God gave us free will. And God gave us His image in us, which includes our moral natures.

    He holds us accountable for His image in us, for our moral natures. God is holy and perfect. He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6) because He is perfect and if He changed He either would have not been perfect before or will not be perfect now.

    God is everlasting (Dueteronomy 33:27 Psalm 90:2). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

    God created Adam and Eve perfect. WE changed.

    But the Bible teaches that God the Father – who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) – had a plan from the beginning to glorify His Son. Read the Book of Ephesians, chapter one for that. Literally, the purpose of Creation was for God the Father to declare, “Look at My Son! Isn’t He wonderful?” And the only right response is, “Yes, He is truly wonderful.”

    And so according to the Father’s plan, the Son created the world and humanity (John 1:1-3, 10; Colossians 1:15-17). God created man in His own image knowing that ultimately He would assume the image of man in the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth when a human woman of the lineage of King David (and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, etc.) was found to be with Child by the Holy Spirit.

    It wasn’t God in a bod. It wasn’t God walking around in a meat body. In every way that it was necessary to be human, Jesus was fully human. The only thing he lacked was a sin nature – which was NOT essential to humanity because God had created Adam and Eve without sin natures. The sin nature was a perversion of the righteous natures that God endowed us with and holds us accountable to.

    Here’s the thing: the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the wages of sin is eternal death and separation from God (Romans 6:23). This was true throughout God’s Word. In Isaiah 64:6 God’s Word declared, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Psalm 51:5 declares, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” We have sin natures now, a depraved will, that prevents us from living the perfect moral lives that God created us to live and which He – our unchanging, holy, righteous God – holds us accountable to live.

    We could NEVER in the aftermath of the Fall in the Garden of Eden EVER earn our way to heaven by our own righteousness. How many sins does it take to be a sinner? Just one. How many lies did you have to tell to qualify as a liar? Just one. And any human being capable of personal self-introspection ought to know in his/her heart that we cannot live morally perfect lives no matter how hard we try. There’s literally something wrong in our moral wiring now.

    But the Father knew that would happen. And it was part of His plan to deal with our sin.

    Right from the beginning, it was God who provided. When Adam and Eve realized they were naked and were ashamed, it was God who provided the animal hide to cover them. In other words, right from the beginning, we have a substitute, a sacrifice. Adam and Eve sinned, and the wages of sin was death, and something literally had to DIE to pay in blood for the transgression against God’s nature and moral law.

    That’s what the entire sacrificial system was throughout the Old Testament: we sin, a life must be forfeit to cover that sin over in blood. And God provided a substitute. A sin bearer, to take the blame in our place.

    What was it ultimately based on? Faith in God. We know that from Genesis 15:6. “And Abraham believed the LORD, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This link was one I quickly found to help you understand that: http://thegospelofgod.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/justification-abraham-believed-god-romans-327-425/
    And here is another: http://truthmagazine.com/archives/volume10/TM010284.html

    St. Paul in Galatians 3:6 and again in Romans 4:3 explains that it was faith all along. We don’t earn salvation; God earns it on our behalf. It is Him and Him alone we should trust, rather than in our goodness (which is like filthy menstrual cloths according to Isaiah). Even when we’re at our best behavior, there is still something radical flawed in us. But there is nothing wrong with our God. We can and should trust HIM.

    In the story of Abraham’s son Isaac, we have a picture of the Gospel. Isaac was the promised son whom God said He would fulfill all of His promises to Abraham through. But one day God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. And Abraham, after a lifetime of trying to play games to manipulate situations to his advantage, showed that he had come to a point of total trust by obeying God and travelling with Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. It was, of course, a test to show Abraham and to show the world that it was FAITH that saved.

    Because God provided a substitute for Isaac, a ram whose horns got caught in a thicket. It’s in Genesis chapter 22.

    God provided a substitute for Abraham’s son, Isaac. But God could not provide a substitute for His own Son, Jesus, because ultimately Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who takes away the sin of the world and HE was the ultimate substitute for us all.

    Hebrews 11:19 points out that Abraham literally reasoned that since Isaac was the son of promise, that God would literally raise Isaac from the dead if he were sacrificed. THAT’S the level of faith that Abraham had.

    Let’s call it resurrection faith.

    It’s the same faith that I have to have to be saved. Paul sums up the essence of the Gospel as follows in Romans 10:9:

    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    It’s all about Jesus. He came to die on a cross of wood, yet made the hill on which it stood. And He who came to live a perfect life to substitute the life we could not live, and who died the death that we deserved in our place for us as the Suffering Servant, will one day return in glory as King of kings and as Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

    We’re all accountable to make our decision about Jesus.

    But as Christians, God gave us a mission. We are His ambassadors on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippinas 3:20). We WERE citizens of hell but Jesus Christ transferred us into His Kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

    And we most definitely have a duty to be blabbermouths for Christ, telling everyone we can about how to be saved.

    I remember one illustration of a Christian being like a beggar who tells another beggar where the food is. And in this case, the Food is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and the Water of Life (John 4:14), Jesus.

    Christians are fallen people saved only by grace, dog walker. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes. We screw up constantly.

    It is rightly said that a Christian is unique in that Christianity is the only club that one first has to admit he’s a sinner in order to join.

    In every religious system, the basis is man progressively working toward his salvation. In Judeo-Christianity, it was always, “God has earned your salvation for you; now work to show what God already did for you.”

  5. Michael Eden Says:

    FMC,

    A couple of years ago I was in a shopping mall and I helped a couple of women who turned out to be Jewish. I was wearing a Star of David around my neck and the two women were so happy that a Jewish man would so help them.

    I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was a Christian who wore the Star of David as a testimony, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

    I should have told them. It occurred to me since that maybe it wasn’t so much a matter of “I didn’t have the heart” as much as being so identified with Israel that to have a couple of Jews accept me was flattering. But I didn’t tell them about Jesus, and I have wondered several times what happened to those two women and prayed for them.

    Obviously, had those women died shortly after my encounter with them, I would be wondering the same things that you are wondering.

    Very recently, I was giving the announcements and opening prayer in my church. Earlier in that week, a member mentioned to me that a former member – who had moved to Peoria, Illinois a couple of years before – had sounded weak on the phone and she was concerned about her. Well, I could have prayed for her health with the whole congregation. But this woman had been away for several years because she had spent a couple of years prior to her move in an assisted living facility and had rarely been able to go to church even before her move to Peoria. Most of the congregation simply wouldn’t have known her. So I didn’t pray for her before the congregation. And then I learned that she died a couple of weeks later.

    Would my prayer before the congregation have changed that? Obviously, I can’t know that. I would probably do the same thing again, given the circumstances and the value of the one hour of time we have in our church service. I can’t mention every former member whose been gone for five years not feeling well. But nevertheless, it should and does soften my heart to the need to pray when we learn things and to act spiritually when we know we should act spiritually.

    We don’t EVER want to just shrug our shoulders and keep on trucking. We want to have hearts soft to God’s leading.

    We can’t any of us undo the past. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and strive not to keep making them.

  6. dog walker Says:

    Dang! You are a good writer. I like the way you posed that because the imperfection of Christians has been a sticking point for me. My wife is a pretty darn good well behaved Christian. Most others cause me a good bit of indigestion. I believe in God and believe in Jesus as the redeemer but I ain’t a very good advertisement for Christianity as much as the guys that give me indigestion. Causes me a good bit of introversion. Sometimes I think I should be one of them monks who takes a vow of silence. If I can’t do no good at least I shouldn’t do any damage.

  7. Michael Eden Says:

    dog walker,

    Thanks much for the compliment regarding my writing. I enjoy writing, and it is very nice to be affirmed in one’s talents.

    Regarding Christians and “the imperfections of Christians,” there’s much to say just from the Bible itself. The thing about the Bible is it shows even the saints for what they are, warts and all. Abraham spent most of his life playing games with people to his advantage. In Genesis 12 he literally gives his own wife to a king’s harem. King David was even worse – literally a murderer and an adulterer – having one of his most faithful soldiers murdered so he could take the man’s wife. Peter denied Jesus three times. And even after being restored by Jesus Paul had to upbraid Peter for basically being something of a coward by turning his back on Gentile believers and kowtowing to Judaizers who believed you had to be a “Jew” to become a real Christian. See Galatians 2:11-21 for that. Paul and Barnabus had a major fight over John Mark as recorded in Acts 15:36-40. And Paul frankly got into the faces of the Christians at Galatia and Corinth over some really awful things they were doing.

    The Bible puts it this way: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” — 1 John 1:8.

    I mean, look, dog walker, if you want to see a claim that Christians aint perfect, all you have to do is read the Bible. God’s Word points it out over and over and over.

    The fact of the matter is, dog walker, that a lot of people who call themselves “Christians” are anything BUT. You’ve got cultural Christians who exploit Christian culture to get business advantages or personal relationships, you’ve got all kinds. But even your TRUE Christians who really have the Holy Spirit inside them and are really trying often fail miserably at least some of the time. The life of faith is a moment-by-moment walk. It’s an easy thing to have a bad moment, a bad day, or just backslide for a while and really lose it.

    I was such a Christian for a number of years during my young adult life. I’d had my faith mangled. I never renounced Christ – and as a teen ager I had genuinely converted to Christ. But my faith was broken by doubt and I lived for quite a few years every bit as wildly as any pagan. It’s an awful thing, being backslidden: on the one hand, you can’t really enjoy your sin because you always know deep down what you’re doing is wrong, WRONG, WRONG. On the other hand, you don’t have the relationship with Christ that you once had and miss and then can’t connect with. It’s an awful place until you repent. I finally reached the place where I started seeking Christ, and the promise, “Seek and you shall find” proved true. I don’t ever want to go through that ever again. I’d rather have Jesus than anything else in the world given what I learned in those years.

    The thing about being a Christian is that the Creator God of the Universe is intimately and personally dealing with your life. He HATES it when Christians compare themselves with ANYBODY else. We are to compare ourselves to Christ in us as we find Him in our hearts and in God’s Word. God is dealing with me all the time, but not because I’m 12% less “spiritual” than Christian ID # 40127-a, but because He’s got a plan for ME and I need to get my personal act together to be part of God’s special and unique plan for MY life. Which is to say that God relates to me like I’m the only soul in the world. Because He’s a big enough God to relate to each and every believer that way.

    I fail all the time, dog walker. Every day I pray I begin by confessing my sins. And the thing that most galls me is that very often they are the SAME sins. I truly believe, but it’s like the guy who knows that pizza will give him a heart attack but he keeps eating that pizza anyway because darn it he’s weak and he just can’t help himself. Christians are weak people just like everyone else. Like I said, we literally TESTIFY that we’re weak people when we confess our sins and confess Christ as our Savior. We acknowledge that WE screw up, that WE can’t do it, that WE will fail. But we have a God who never fails us. We have a God who is always there, patiently working in our lives, never giving up on us EVEN WHEN IT TAKES YEARS TO FIX THE MESSES WE MADE OF OUR LIVES.

    If I am still a miserable wretch as a Christian, all I can tell you is I’d be far MORE of a miserable wretch WITHOUT Christ. That’s for sure. All humans are flawed. All Christians who are truly saved admit that they are flawed people. We’re broken and we need healing and we fall on our knees before a healing God. One of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha, the healing God, the God who mends what is broken.

    I’m broken. As a Christian I admit it every day. One day at an event called the Rapture and described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Jesus Himself will come for me and transform me into the perfect me that I was always meant to be, the me I long to be. I’ll keep trying to be like Jesus all the days of this life. But it will be Jesus Himself who completes that process in me. And then I’ll be able to look Him in the eye and walk with my Creator God in the Garden in the cool of the day, just like Adam did.

    I believe so deeply in heaven. And yet here I am on earth. And it’s so easy to get distracted, influenced, bribed by the world. It’s all around us. The world, the flesh and the devil is literally the air we breathe. It’s so easy to stumble. The Christian life is a walk on a tightrope where it is easy, moment-by-moment, to become weak or distracted and lose your balance and fall off to one side or the other (legalism or libertinism, for example). It’s so easy to fall off to one side and be judgmental or fall off on the other side and accept unacceptable wickedness. It’s amazingly difficult to live a perfectly balanced life all the time, 24/7.

    And yet, in spite of all my many failures, Christ is working in me. He never quits on me. He never gives up.

    It’s NOT about me and how “good” or “successful” or “righteous” I am as a Christian – and thank GOD it’s not; it’s about Jesus Christ.

    2 Timothy 2:13 puts it this way: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” And the point is that as a Christian, Christ IS in me. And Christ won’t ultimately deny me no matter how wildly I fail because that would literally mean denying HIMSELF. He’s always faithful even when I’m faithless.

    What I’m trying to say is that Christianity is NOT about Christians; it is about CHRIST. Look at Jesus. Read about His life. Consider His claims about Himself. Compare Him to ANYONE else. And if you find Him to be faithful and true, believe in Him. And follow Him with everything you have. And if you find Christians obnoxious hypocrites, resolve NOT to be the sort of obnoxious hypocrite Christian that you legitimately found so contemptible.

    One of the reasons I find Bible prophecy so interesting is the parallels between the Old and the New Testaments. Ultimately, the Old Testament people of God – the Jews – failed. And the prophets told us they were failing even as they foretold the failure of the people of God and foretold the consequences of judgment for their failure. And then Jesus came and provided what the world most needed: the answer to human sin. He took our sins upon Himself as the Lamb of God. And He inaugurated the New Covenant whereby the life of grace and faith fulfilled the Old Covenant Law. But guess what: the same prophets as well as the New Testament prophets that foretold that the Jews would fail also foretold that Christians would fail, also. The Bible speaks a great deal about the last days. The Antichrist is coming not because the Church succeeded heroically but because we largely FAILED.

    The message of the Bible isn’t that Christians are perfect people who will make the world wonderful. It’s that human life is so desperately and radically flawed – even the lives of Christians – that ultimately God must return and succeed where WE failed. That’s the message of the Book of Revelation. The final Church Christ deals with is the Church that represents OUR age: the Laodicean Church in Revelation chapter 3. And ultimately, it isn’t Christians who win the day; it’s JESUS when He returns and King of kings and as Lord of lords.

    Christianity is about the perfection and glory of Christ.

    Anyway, having said all that, I’d still say show me a better group of people than the true believers in any Bible believing Church. Because I know so many wonderful saints it’s unreal and everywhere else I go I don’t find anybody anywhere NEAR so beautiful as the Christians I know. As bad and hypocritical as we can still be, we’ve still got Christ in us. And even when He shows just a little in them, He is still far more beautiful in His people than in any other life who doesn’t have Him in it.

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