Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jesus: The God who Came

John 13:2-5 (NIV) The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus Christ is the God who washed the feet of his own children, as a metaphoric representation of keeping believers clean until they come to the next life.  It wasn't enough that Jesus Christ would die on the cross for our sins.  He would pledged to live within us.  

Baptism is the symbolic event of being washed clean from all sin.  The washing of the feet of the disciples is the symbolic representation of how each day as believers walk through this world they still sin, but are washed clean daily by Jesus Christ as they confess those sins and mature as a believer.

Do you know of any other god in any other world religion that shows such a humble act as to wash the feet of humans?  Krishna didn't do this.  Buddha didn't do this.  Muhammad didn't do this.  Only Jesus.  

Jesus does this.  Then he says this:

John 13:34-35 (NIV) 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love one another!  What a zealot huh?  Oh please.  People can attack the Bible, they can misquote and misrepresent scripture, they can claim an all encompassing love for all religions, they can question and claim and argue, and mock, but what does Jesus say bottom line, "love one another." 

This is a very dark time in scripture.  Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples and encouraged them to love one another.  But then Jesus reveals that he will be betrayed.  He walks over to Judas and whispers to him "What you're doing, do quickly."  And Judas leaves.  

Then Jesus reveals to Peter, the man who will be instrumental in spreading the gospel, his close friend, that he will say three times that he doesn't know Jesus.  To protect his own life.  Which is an act of public denial against his friend.  

Jesus is going to the cross soon.  But what does he do?  He comforts his friends.  

John 14: 1-4 (NIV) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

One of the disciples questions Jesus, saying that they don't know the way to where he is going.  Then we see one of my favorite verses in scripture.  

John 14:6-7 (NIV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

This verse also utterly crushes the contention of New Age all inclusive religions of the idea of "all paths to the same summit."  No one comes to the Father except through me.  The New Agers want to claim that Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and so on are all roads to the same summit, all manifestations of the same "christ-like" entity.  But this is not the case.  In fact how could it be, because they all taught such different ideologies?  With Buddha there is no god, and it's all about getting rid of all desires and achieving a sort of nirvana of non-desire.  With Hindu beliefs there are hundreds of gods and godesses.  With Taoism, it's all about karma, being reborn endless times trying to pay off debt with good deeds for your bad deeds in previous lives.  

For a good cross-reference, Acts 4:12 (NIV) says "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."

People don't like it when Christians claim exclusivity in regard to salvation, but it's black and white in our book.  We believe in non-contradiction when it comes to truth.  All religions can't be true.  It doesn't make any sense.  It's like if someone asked me how to get from here in Wisconsin to Miami, Florida.  I wouldn't say well all roads lead to the same place.  Because they don't!  If they went north they would end up in Canada.  West and they're out in California.  East and they're in Virginia.  There is one precise route which arrives at the correct destination.  It is the same way with eternal life, there is one way to have that, and that is through Jesus Christ and believing his words.  Truth is by it's very nature exclusive, not inclusive.  

John 15:9-17 (NIV) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other."

Jesus leaves many instructions with his disciples before he goes to the cross.  In Verse 11 Jesus tells us he has taught us these words so we will have joy.  

Joy is in all believers.  Joy is a result of being loved by Jesus Christ!

In verse 16 Jesus gives a wonderful reminder to his disciples, and to us.  You didn't choose Jesus, he chose you.  Believe it.  If you're reading these words, you didn't just up and decide to search our Jesus.  He chose you from those who dying to live.  Congratulations ;)  

This isn't a buffet.  There is only one truth, despite whatever we'd want or desire to believe as people of this planet.  And my goodness, great is the joy of the man chosen by Jesus Christ to live with him forever.  It's a very, very big deal.  

In fact, what could be more important?  Nothing else matters at all to me anymore.  Nothing at all.  

John 15:1-4 (NIV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

It is wise to remain in the love and fellowship of God.  This is done by having a personal relationship with God.  It means praying/talking to him daily.  It means reading the Bible.  It means spending time with other believers.  And the more "good fruit" or good things you do with Jesus, the more people who aren't with Jesus are going to dislike you.  Eventually they'll hate you.  Maybe that's a turn off to being a Christian, but to me, it's a bonus.  Because I've always particularly disliked the ways of this planet.  It's a big mess.  I knew it was doing it all wrong.  Now I understand why.

John 15:18-19 (NIV) 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

Do you understand?  The Christian worldview is the truth.  Why?  Because it is about love, but it also will not deny evil, but call it out.  It calls for change.  The Prophets of the Christian faith came to warn us about our sins, of which we are so very good at hiding from.  But we know, deep down we do.  So Christianity provides the call for an end to evil ways.  But it can't stop there, because a person alone can't end sin in their own life.  So the Holy Spirit, the second person of the Christian Trinity exists to help us defeat sin in our lives.  Personally I have seen victory after victory in my life due to the work of the Holy Spirit in my person and in my prayers.  Drugs, gone.  Alcohol, gone.  Cigarettes, gone.  I'm not some super achiever where I muscled my way past those things.  No, they had made by the neck.  I was all up in chains, but escape was provided by the Holy Spirit.  

I know I just mentioned the Trinity, which is a doctrine that helps represent the three offices of God in his interaction with humanity.  Allow to explain just quickly what that means.  

One God, three offices of interaction.  God the Father is the office of universal command, you might say.  Jesus Christ is the office of the son, who comes to Earth to pay a substitutionary death for the sins of man kind.  Thus man is absolved of all sin, and the way is provided to eternal life.  See God is not only loving and merciful, but he is a God of justice.  There had to be a price paid for the sins of man kind, otherwise there was injustice in the universe.  So God settled the score with the office of Jesus Christ, God himself died to set justice right in the universe.  The 3rd office is Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit comes because without it, no one would even feel guilty for their sins.  And the Holy Spirit also provides wisdom as we read our Bible, and comes on us when we pray.  It's the mechanism for helping humans become Holy.     

Obviously, when a worldview like Christianity tells a depraved world that it's ways are bad, people are going to hate that way.  Just like here in the United States.  Americans, full of all manner of sin and evil, basically do a little projecting on Christianity.  They love to point out the evils of religion, of Christianity, of the corrupt followers of Christianity.  But why?  And why do atheists fight so hard against a God who they claim does not exist?  

The Bible is going to piss people off because it tells us how we're suppose to be.  We're supposed to Holy, good people.  But we're not.  We're sexually immoral, porn addicted, videogamers and party sluts at best.  So we try to change the rules, so everything is relative and what is moral is what I decide.  How convenient.  But truth is still truth.  Even when the entire culture, the whole planet even, embraces lies.

John 16:31-33 (NIV)31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We see here another instruction from Jesus Christ.  First he told us that our joy will be complete when we do things he likes us to do in the world, now he says he will be with us, and because of that we will be at peace.  I like joy and peace.  

Jesus gave his final teachings to the disciples, then he prayed to God the Father on three different issues.  First he prayed to be glorified.  Then he prayed for his disciples.  Then he prayed for all believers, for us.

John 17:13-18 (NIV)13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

Perhaps the words of Jesus Christ touch me because of the Holy Spirit working as I read them.  Perhaps unbelievers cannot and will not believe because they cannot see.  Perhaps, because they have been blinded by the god of this world.  

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

That is a hard teaching to hear.  The god of this world is the former-angel named Satan, the evil one.  He has great power here.  Jesus Christ provided victory on the cross, and in his resurrection.  But Satan still works to block as many humans as possible from receiving eternal life.

We are children of that victory to this very day.  John 17 said that we are no longer of this world.  In a very real way Christians become very different people than who they had been.  They start to look like something not of this world, in their actions, their voices, their eyes." 

Two thousand years ago Jesus prayed to be glorified, then he prayed for the disciples in the room with him, then he prayed for you and I:

John 17:20-23 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Through their message.  Which they wrote down, the gospels, the Bible itself, we today believe.  Jesus mentions something intriguing, the idea of "unity."  So first joy, then peace, and now unity.  God lives in Jesus, and then Jesus lives in us.  I think it means that as we mature as Christian believers, more and more we look like the image of Jesus.  We act as Jesus would.  Unity is the idea of having an active connection to God through Jesus Christ.   

Then Jesus prayed:

John 17:24-26 (NIV) “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus was God in person.  He lived perfectly.  He spoke the perfect truth.  Then he went and died the perfect death.  Next week we'll discuss his death and resurrection.

Take care and God bless you!