Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why is Jesus different?

The celebrated wise ones of our world – Buda, Muhammad, Socrates, etc. - lived lives of introspection and self discovery. They were on a journey to discover a better way. When they thought they discovered this better way, they set themselves to work to achieve it. They taught others as they learned themselves about their journey and about this theoretical place where their journey would take them. It seemed that these masters never reached it. In most cases, it was one of their students who recorded what they learned. While they followed the master’s teaching, not one of them achieved what the master was pursuing.

Jesus was different than these renowned men. Jesus life was based on a document written more 400 years before His birth, we call it the Old Testament (OT). The New Testament (NT) writers and Jesus refer to it as the Scriptures (Mark 14:49; 15:28, Luke 4:21, John 13:18; 24:27, 32, 45). It was a document He co-authored (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible says that Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is a third part of the God head, just as Jesus. In fact, this Holy Spirit filled Jesus with His presence (Luke 4:1).

While many wrote books about the renowned men of our world after they died, many wrote about Jesus thousands of years before He was born. The Scripture spoke of Him as the ultimate goal of what mankind should become. When Christ dwelt on Earth He embodied this goal. Christ was not on a journey to find His purpose, He already knew. He said in Luke 4:18 – 21,

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
Luke 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
Luke 4:19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Luke 4:20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
Luke 4:21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Christ never pointed men into a direction they should go to become better people, He pointed to Himself. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life …” ( John 14:6).

You will ask, “Did not His followers write about Him after His death?” Yes, they did. And, here is another difference between Christ and the Worlds men of renown: As we see above, The New Testament writers always referred to the OT writings to refer to Jesus. They referred back to the OT to show how Jesus fulfilled what the OT said. Jesus Himself quoted extensively from the Scripture to talk about Himself.

Jesus did not only practice what He preached, He was what He preached. And, His goal is for us to become like Him: the One who continually yielded to His Father’s will. Christ sends to us Whom fully indwelt Him, so we can become like He was. We will not be God in the likeness of sinful flesh and yet never sinned, but the Holy Spirit will be God dwelling in our sinful flesh and we will conquer sin as Christ did, if we yield to Him. This is a big difference between Christ and His followers and other great men and their followers. The followers of Jesus can become as Christ was.

Talking in Ephesians 4:13 - 15 about the reason that we are given Spiritual gifts Paul says that it is so that, “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Faced with a decision

Years ago the president of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee (PROC) also occupied Puerto Rico’s seat of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). For so many years this was the case, that many thought that Puerto Rico’s seat belonged to the president of PROC, be default. One year the old president was retiring, so the presidency was open and so was the seat at the IOC. A new president was elected. However, to the surprise of many, the IOC elected someone else to occupy Puerto Rico’s seat. Many protested, but the president of the IOC responded, “The members of the IOC are not representing their country in the IOC; on the contrary they are representing the IOC in their country.” It was a different perspective.

When Christ was here on Earth, He represented God to man. But, now that He dwells in heaven He represents us there. It is a different perspective. Yes, He is the same Man. But, there are two different positions. Sister White agrees with his concept, “Christ came to reveal God to the world as a God of love, full of mercy, tenderness, and compassion.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the 8 Church, vol. 5, pp. 738, 739. Since He is God’s representative, whatever concept we have of God, it should be corrected when we encounter Christ.

This is the challenge that many face: to change our perspective of God. They have to make a choice that goes against their preconceived ideas of God. In the times of Jesus, the Jews had a false concept of God. When they encountered Christ their original notion was challenged. They saw a man – made lower than the angels that “hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Psalms 8:5; Isaiah 53:2). To the Jews Christ was so much made in the likeness of Sinful flesh, born of a woman, made of no reputation, in the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men, being found in fashion as a man, and made like unto his brethren that they could not conceive Him being God (Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7 -8; Hebrews 2:17). So, they had two options, 1. Reject Jesus to continue with the comfort of their pet idea, or 2. Change their concept of God to fit Christ.

Currently, man’s struggle is that he conceives Christ to be too divine to “be made like unto His brethren” (Hebrews 2:17). To many in our day, no man can be full of mercy, and with tenderness, and compassion for all. To these Christ dies for only for those who believe and are trying their best to be moral, not for the whole world as John 3:16 clearly states. To many man is incapable of these attributes because of Sin and God – although fully capable - chooses not to be like this will all because of His law. God only has these qualities for those like themselves. This is how they see God so this is how they see Christ, also. They see salvation as a reward not an undeserved gift. Anyone who does not believe like they do is an enemy of God; therefore God will pour His wrath upon them. Somehow this is true of all who deny that in one way or the other Christ came in the flesh (1 John 4: 1 – 3).

As with the Jews in Christ days, when we encounter Jesus we must opt between one of three options: 1. Reject Jesus to continue with the comfort of our pet idea, 2. Change our concept of God to fit Christ or, 3. Reject Jesus and God altogether.

Where do you stand? What choice will you make? Will you accept Jesus as a Man that loved and died for all mankind– including you – even while we were yet His enemies? Will you do it even if this contradicts your previous ideas of God? Remember you are not alone. Let the Holy Spirit change your mind to accept God’s perspective.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Creator became Created

Some say that all men seek answers to there are several basic questions in philosophy. Among them are at least three that stand out: a. who am I; b. Why am I here; c. Where am I going. Imagine Christ finding out the answers to these questions about Himself. This is something we do not often ponder. As He read the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit must have revealed this to Him, “This is about You.” Christ probably prayed about it, choosing to accept it by faith. Imagine how He must have felt when He went to Jerusalem when He was twelve, and witnessed the sacrifice of the animals. What crossed His mind? “Oh, that poor beast! That will be Me in a few years.” Not an easy thing to accept. But, Christ did. Did Christ answer those three questions about Himself? Judging by what the disciples write about Him, I think He did. Let us read some of those passages.

John 1 – 4, 14 reads,

John1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
John1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

This passage identifies who Christ is before His incarnation. Then it says Christ was made flesh. Matthew sheds light on how this was so. Let us read Matthew 1: 21 – 23.

Mat1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Mat1:22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Mat1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

This passage says that He was born of a virgin maid. The child had been conceived by the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1: 18). Then on verses 21 and 23 we find two different names for the child. Verse 21 calls Him Jesus and verse 23 calls Him Emmanuel. The meaning of Jesus in Hebrew is Savior or God saves. Interestingly, this name answers the question, “What did He do?” Of course, the answer is “save man.” Emmanuel in Hebrew is God with us. This name answers the question, “How did He do it?” The answer is, “By Being with us.” How was he able to be with us? Let us go back to John 1:14. Christ was able to be with us, by becoming flesh, in other words, by becoming one of us. This means that the One, who made all things and that without Him not anything that was made was made (John 1:3), became one of those things He created. How can this be?

God created Adam and gave Him life. When Adam was fruitful and multiplied, he gave his progeny the life that God gave him. Adam was given the capacity to multiply the flesh and life God gave to him. All of us are a product of that multiplication. So, when Christ was conceived He took the same gift of life that He gave to Adam.

God sent His Son into our world to be our Savior. The Son came as Jesus and Emmanuel. The Son came in the form of a created being; and in this form He saved man. This shows God’s love for man, in that He humbled himself to become something He created. Yes, it would it not been easier to create a new one. (Especially, since all He had to do is speak it into being.) God loved Adam, and all of us in him. A new creation would not be Adam. He wanted to save Adam and He did whatever it took, which included becoming one of us.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

God dwells in the flesh

In the Book of Daniel chapter 2 we read the story of King Nebuchadnezzar requesting his astrologers, seers, and men of wisdom to retell him a dream he had - which let him disturbed - and its interpretation. Baffled by the request his men tried to reason with the King, but he insisted. They said to the King, “…, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it” Daniel 2:7. The King then accused them of playing games to buy time and threatened to killed all the wise men in his kingdom if the matter was not told to him. These men had to admit that they were incapable of fulfilling the King’s request. They said to the King in Daniel 2: 10-11,

Daniel 2: 10 … There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.
Daniel 2: 11And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

We can see what these pagans believed. They believed in gods who were far off from men, not only in physical distance, but also in affection. Daniel, of course, proves them wrong. God uses Daniel to retell the matter to the King and give its interpretation. God Himself gave the dream to the King. It was His intention to let know the whole world that not only does He want to dwell among us He also cares about us. His name is after all, Immanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23). Yes, God lives in His sanctuary. In fact, we could say that every where God dwells is His sanctuary. So, when God dwell in us we are His sanctuary. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). But, this is only possible because Christ – the Son of God – dwelt among us as the Son of man.

We read in Matthew 16:13 – 17 about Jesus asking the disciples who He was. Let us read the passage,

Matthew16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
Matthew16:14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Matthew16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Matthew16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Matthew16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Who do men today say Jesus Christ is? The answer to that question depends on what you believe. It seems Peter believed God could dwell in the likeness of Sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). The question today is, “What do men today believe?” I would dare say they are still pagan in nature. Pagans would continue to believe this notion of “gods whose dwelling is not in the flesh.” The evolutionists do not believe God can exist, so to them that a man can be God in the flesh is foolishness. They have started from a different premise, but they end with the same conclusion of the pagans. To, both pagans and evolutionists, Jesus Christ cannot be God. (This, by the way, is the same thing the Jews said.)

To the majority of Christians Christ is God. To them, since God cannot dwell in the flesh and evidently He did, then the flesh must be different than ours. Most Christians believe Jesus could not assume sinful nature. But, the Bible says, “He was made Sin, who knew no Sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Many Christians start then with the same premise of the pagans, but end in the totally opposite of the argument: denying that Christ came in the flesh. Either way you go, you are denying that Christ is the Savior of the world. Who do you say the Son of man is?