Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Divine Mysteries of Jesus Christ

"Many people—particularly the young—have been persuaded that such a search is futile. They have been told from their preschool days on that one person’s opinion is as good as anothers, that each person can pick his or her own truth from a multicultural smorgasbord. If one choice proves unsavory, pick another, and so on, until, in a consumerist fashion, we pick the truth we like best. I think the despair of Generations X, Y, and now E comes from this fundamental notion that there’s no such thing as reality or the capital-T truth. Almost every new movie I see these days features a bright, good-looking, talented young man who is so downright sad, he can barely lift his head. I want to scream, “What’s wrong with this guy?” Then I feel a profound compassion because his generation has been forbidden the one thing that makes life such a breathtaking challenge: truth.”
Charles W. Colson, The Good Life  

The famous evangelical leader Charles Colson could see what was happening in our culture in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  His primary ministry was in the prisons of America.  He was a great leader.  Yet he also was a man with a deep need for the grace of God.  Colson was part of the Nixon administration.  He was sent to prison for his part in the Watergate scandal.  Later on he found faith in Jesus Christ.  And he became a missionary to the prisons that once housed him.  

He was concerned about young people, and how young people were being told to abandon the greatest search of all: the search for the meaning of life. Why am I here?  What is the purpose of my life? And of all life?

Truth, the great breathtaking challenge.  What is the truth about life?  As believers we know the truth is as follows: 

John 1:1-5, 9-14: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

In Jesus Christ we find the answer to the overarching theme of life itself, a multipronged description of God.  The word of God made the universe, the word of God became a man, the word of God became a son of God to enable the sons of God to become children of God.  The truth there is rife with paradoxes and deep philosophical constructs.  

But in any search for the truth, the search can be broken down into five categories.  These categories are: Origin, identity, meaning, morality, and destiny. (These categories are defined by Dr. Norm Geisler in his book "I don't have enough Faith to be an Atheist.")  

Origin – Where do I come from?  Identity – Who am I?  Meaning – What is meaningful in life?  Morality – What is right and wrong? And destiny – what future do I have?

So in Jesus we find the answer to our origins: Our current predicament in the state of humanity: man has fallen from positive regard with God, and currently struggles in an attempt to create systems outside of a need for God.  

In Jesus we find the answer to our identity: “we are made in the image of God” Genesis 1:27. The natural entailment is that all life has value, high value.

We find the answer regarding our understanding of the meaning of life: You are an eternal being designed to live in joyous connection to your maker.

We find the answer in understanding the proper allocations of morality; the teachings of how life ought to be lived.  We see in Jesus the perfect union of contrasts between mercy, justice, love, truth, judgment and grace.  

We find the answer in understanding our future destiny in glory: We are destined to know Jesus, to know peace, and live in a perfected state of existence.

How can the life of one man do so much to redeem humanity?  How can the life of one man change the world forever?  Let’s look at the life of Jesus.

The Life of Jesus
The life of Jesus was something very special. It was a union of contrasts.  Jesus was a healer.  Jesus was a lover of his friends.  Yet Jesus also spoke the most severe words about sin, indicating that if our arm causes us to sin, cut it off!  He declared seven woes upon the Pharisees, the political and religious rulers of that time, demanding of them how they hoped to evade the fires of hell.  Yet Christ’s tender character and warm heart caused the children to come to him and rest in his arms.  He spent his entire 3 year ministry helping and saving others, but he allowed himself to be nailed forsaken by God and nailed to the cross.  He drove the bankers from the temple, yet he sat and ate with the worst of sinners.  

His life was filled with divine mysteries, and the presence of God.  A Voice called to him from heaven.  A Spirited dove descended on him from above.  He was transfigured, meeting in glory with Moses and Elijah.  He walked upon the water as if there was no depth to it.  He wept so bitterly that blood dripped from his eyes.  He gave up his glorious position in heaven to offer up his own life as a sacrifice for those who presently held weapons in rebellion against his him.  And as he died, crucified in a midst of a garbage dump, hung between two criminals, he begged his heavenly Father to forgive those who killed him.  And in his purity and utter righteousness death itself could not cling to Jesus Christ.  His own righteousness, his divine nature resurrected him from the dead.  God brought Christ out from death itself; Yet forever bearing the marks of his gift to humanity, with holes in his hands and feet.
This man Jesus, this God of ours then walked among the people, showing himself to those who had killed him, and came after his disciples, coming to show himself to them.  Having risen from the dead, he promised eternal life to all who would believe in him.  Then he commissioned his disciples and commissioned us today, to carry the message of the gospel, the good news of eternal life to all nations and all people.  

Jesus Christ, before he moved back into heaven indicated that he would return at the end of the age to rule and reign on this Earth.  And he most certainly will do so.  

We’ve never met him, yet we know him.  We’ve never seen him, yet we believe in him. (1 Peter 1:8)  And Jesus Christ himself said truly blessed are those who have not seen me, yet believe in me.  That is you and me he was referring to. (John 20:29)

Four Experts
Can we believe these things?  Or are they just the writings of man?  I’d like to share some testimony.  Even the best of us sometimes doubt and lose faith.  So I hope this testimony will help encourage your trust in Christ and the word.  Let’s ask two of the greatest scientists in history what they think of the Bible: Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.

Well, Sir Isaac Newton what do you think about the Bible? 

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” –Sir Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician, co-founder of calculus, developed the first reflecting telescope, and laid the foundation for classical mechanics

And how about you Mr. Galileo Galilei, are the scriptures nonsense?

“Holy Scripture could never lie or err...its decrees are of absolute and inviolable truth.”
–Galileo Galilei, Italian astronomer, considered the father of observational astronomy, modern physics, and the father of science itself

Well… What do scientists know about the Bible anyway?  Let’s ask two historians. 

Let’s ask the noted British historian William Lecky. What do you think of the Bible and the ministry of Jesus? 

“The simple record of these three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the discourses of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.”
William Lecky, Irish historian and political theorist

Secondly, what does C.S. Lewis the writer and historian have to say about the Bible? 

He said, “All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that's my job...And I'm prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legends or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I've read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.” –C. S. Lewis, Held academic chairs at Oxford (1925-54) and Cambridge (1954-63), Author of the Narnia Series

The Bible is really God’s word.  I really believe that.  Many don’t, I do.  I think there is a wealth of reason to believe the Bible.  But ultimately, man is looking for a way out, man is looking for a way to turn his back on responsibility. Because no man wants an arbiter of his actions.  He wants to do what he wants to do.  Thus comes a convenient skepticism toward a book like the Bible that charges a man with personal responsibility.  And worse yet, the requirement of a humble admission of need for redemption.

We turn again to the reformed criminal Charles Colson.  He said, “The Bible- banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it is more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced together scraps of Scripture have converted whole villages of pagan Indians.” 
Charles W. Colson

Indeed it was the great hymn writer, who wrote, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

But this man was no saintly theologian penning this hymn at the desk of a cathedral, no, he was the captain of a slave ship.  But the words of the scriptures captured his heart, and he wept bitterly, and found grace in the cross of Christ.  Amazingly also, was Charles Colson, the accomplice of Richard Nixon, having lost everything, thought of the words in the scriptures, on his way home found himself overcome, he had to pull the car over, in the rain… he wept bitterly in that car for an hour, having been touched by the message of grace.

Total forgiveness!  Complete absolution!  No questions asked!  Forgiveness!

The Apostle Paul
We see the life of Jesus in the first four books of the New Testament describing the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  After these accounts we see the book of Acts which describes the activities of the apostles in their missionary work and the beginning of the ground shaking ministry of the apostle Paul.  

Today we know that the apostle Paul wrote 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. More than half! 

Paul’s descriptions of Jesus Christ are incredible, glorious, majestic, astounding, some of the most beautiful sentences penned by any man in history.  Let’s look at a few.

In Ephesians 1:3-10: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ."

In Colossians 1:15-20: "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers 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. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

In Ephesians 1:18-23: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."

Again in the letter to the Philippians Paul wrote: "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11)

And finally in Romans 8:31-39: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The glory and majesty of the real God who made the world through the real savior, Jesus Christ, is revealed powerfully through the letters of the new testament.  Though originally written in Greek, these words translate powerfully into English, causing us to feel the weight of the glory of God in our hearts and minds.  

I’m burdened for the young people of this world.  If there is one message that I try to carry to young people, it’s this: God is really real.  He’s really there.  It’s not just a tradition or a religion it’s a description of reality as it really is.  God is really real, though we cannot see him with our eyes, he is at work in the world.  He veils himself on the basis of choice, to allow those humans who wish to ignore him to do so, and he makes enough of himself known the through the glory of creation, the universe, and his word for those who really want to know the truth, that they may find it in Jesus. 

The Existence of God
Indeed it is the order in creation that makes the existence of God so real and obvious.  The self evident truth is this: something so complex and functional could not come about by chance. 

The famed astronomer Fred Hoyle said:"The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." -Fred HoyleHoyle on evolution, Nature, Vol. 294, No. 5837 (November 12, 1981), p. 105

He was talking about unguided evolution.  Or Darwinian evolution, the bizarre notion that nothing suddenly exploded into everything billions of years ago, rocks evolved into protein sequences which evolved into plants which evolved into goo, which evolved into monkeys which evolved into you.  From goo to you through the zoo, right?  My first questions would be: Where did the rocks come from?  “Oh a big bang” Where did the big bang come from? Life can’t appear out of nothing can it?  Of course not, even a child knows that.  But in their reeling from a God they’d rather not believe in, scientists have made fools of themselves with these bizarre theories which leave out such massive facts, like the first cause question, the finely tuned universe, the existence of highly complex life forms, which exist in an ecosystem precisely set to allow for stability. 

But they always say well, who made the universe, but who made God! Which is not an infinite regression, they are in fact making a category error, for God to be God he would have to be timeless and eternal. As young people in my generation would say growing up: “No Duh.”  

Evolution is the competing worldview, but more so, naturalism is the competing worldview.  Or maybe, the competing worldview is “I don’t care I just want to have fun and sleep with whomever I choose.”  That would probably be closer to reality for people my age.  But for people my age I simply insist that what matters most has to be what’s true!  What is the truth about Earth, ourselves, and the universe?  

The likelihood of the universe coming about by chance is.. well, impossible.  Charlie Campbell notes a Princeton study in this quotation: "Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science calculated the odds against our universe randomly taking a form suitable for life as one in: 10,000,000,000124. One in ten billion to the 124th power! This is a number so large, it is safe to say that the universe did not come together randomly. It was created by an incredibly intelligent and powerful designer." Charlie H. Campbell (Always Be Ready)

“If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.” Robert Jastrowagnostic astronomer, author of God and the Astronomers

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Francis Crick, biochemist and spiritual skeptic, shared the Nobel Prize for discovering the molecular structure of DNA

“When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see, that conspires to plant the idea that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it.” John PolkinghorneEnglish theoretical physicist, professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge (1968-1979) 

“It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science, it is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.” – Allan Sandage, American astronomer, staff member emeritus of Carnegie Observatories

“Many have a feeling that somehow intelligence must have been involved in the laws of the universe....I strongly sense the presence and actions of a creative being far beyond myself and yet always personal and close by.” –Charles Townes, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Some of the greatest scientists say... “hey, it looks designed.” And these aren’t crackpots on history channel’s ancient aliens.  These are scientists who have shaped our understanding of the universe.
When we look at the stars and when we look at cells, it looks designed, very designed.  Whether scientists look through the microscope or the telescope, they see design features.  Interesting that this never gets talked about in the media, on the news, or in academia?  Sounds like a heart problem.  But my generation knows only too well that the truth is often surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.  

God is real.  Now let’s talk about ourselves.  

Anthropology, the State of Man
Written in the Reformation Study Bible we see the state of man, as described by Paul in Ephesians: “2:1–3 The natural state of all human beings is a kind of spiritual death. This spiritual condition is universal: both Gentiles (v. 2) and Jews (v. 3) are “by nature children of wrath.” Second, they are in active rebellion against God. Third, they are subject to the evil rule of Satan. Fourth, they are totally unable to change themselves from rebellion against God (John 3:3). Fifth, they are exposed to the just anger of God (v. 3; 5:6; Rom. 1:18–20)." -Quotation from the Reformation Study Bible (access free via Biblegateway)

We’re a species, in flight, with basic notions set within us that go contrary to the truth about reality and the truth about ourselves.  It’s ingrained by our society, and just by the fact of our fallen state.  We want things our way.  We want to define truth as we see it, not as how God sees it, or more specifically, how reality truly is.  My own infinite skepticism in my teens and twenties is a testament to this.  I didn’t want anything to do with God.  I had decided I was going to make up in my own mind, my own way, and simply ignore religious thought.  Many in the world today, especially in our country do the same thing.  Just ignore the God question.  But we can’t ignore it!  It’s far too important to ignore. 

Past Struggles and Future Glory
Let me share my past struggles with you, so you realize that I’m not some church boy, raised cradle to college in gentle walls of theology and safety.  Much the opposite actually.  I experienced the world out there.  I experienced the drug culture.  I experienced the party life on liberal college campuses.  I experienced the post-modernist mindset of me, me, me.  I used to write about how I didn’t believe in God or the Bible.  Even at age 18 I refused to be confirmed in the Catholic church because I didn’t think any of it was real.  I thought it was a stupid, hocky legend, based on a lies and fabrications from human history.  I thought it was a giant, pathetic joke.  And I wanted to show God that I could do it myself and create a little paradise on earth myself!  Haha well.  Isn’t it ironic that at the same time that I rejected the legends of the Bible I also hated God for not being real, yet I was going to show him alright!  Such is the mindset of many young people who have been led astray by a world  and a culture that quietly pushes God off to the side.  

I was a drug addict and alcoholic, smoked cigarettes, engaged in questionable activities of all kinds.  And let me tell you something.  That person that I was is exactly the person that needs Jesus Christ.  That is exactly the person who is fit for the church, who is fit for ministry, who is fit to eat at the marriage supper of the lamb.  It’s not for the do-gooders, the self righteous, the people who ‘aren't that bad’ it’s a message for the worst of the worst.  And we have to carry the gospel message to those we assume are too sinful to receive it! 

Eternal life depicted in Revelation
Finally we see God’s description of reality in the expression of eternity.  God’s description of the meaning of life, is to know Him through Jesus Christ his Son and to participate in the elevation of the human race from depravity and selfishness to a state of perfected redemption, to enjoy happiness in the full presence of God for eternity in a restored universe, a redeemed universe, a state of reality perfected in a city established before the foundations of the Earth to house those God almighty choose to pre-destine for election into the restored reality we read in the scriptures depicted as “the new Jerusalem.” 

It is written in Revelation 21:1-5: "Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

In conclusion, the entire keystone, the cornerstone, the formula, the equation, the mysterious center-point of the Christian saga is found in Jesus Christ. The truths are mysterious, but may be broken down, boiled down to the life of Jesus Christ. In conclusion, we discover Jesus in 7 “I am” statements he made on Earth. These truths are part of who you are, and in conclusion, they are as follows:

1. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

2.“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)

3. "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

4. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”(John 10:11)

5. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”(John 11:25-26)

6. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)