Monday, March 14, 2016

A Fact-Based Look at the Life of Jesus Christ

In the life of Jesus Christ we find the idea of truth. Truth is described time and again by Jesus. But what is truth? Truth is indeed a great breathtaking challenge. What is the truth about life? As believers in this chapel, here to worship God, we know that 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. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 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 multi-pronged 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 rifled with paradoxes and deep philosophical constructs.

In our search for the truth, we’ll break it down into five categories. The categories are: Origin, identity, meaning, morality, and destiny. 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

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 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 to the cross and forsaken by God almighty. 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)

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 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

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

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

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

The Bible is really God’s word. I think there is a wealth of reason to believe the Bible. But ultimately, man is looking for a way out. 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.

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.” Those words were penned by the captain of a slave ship.

He offers grace, and grace after grace. Total forgiveness! Complete absolution! No questions asked! Forgiveness!

We see the life of Jesus in the first four books of the New Testament describing his life and ministry. 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 Colossians 1:15-20 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 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. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 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.

Ephesians 1:18-23 18 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, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 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. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Romans 8:31-39 If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 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? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 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. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written:

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

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.

If there is one message that I try to carry it’s this: God is really real. He’s really here. It’s not just a tradition or a religion it’s a description of reality as it really is. He veils himself to allow for a real choice: For those who despise him and wish to ignore him, they are free 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.

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 Hoyle, Hoyle on evolution, Nature, Vol. 294, No. 5837 (November 12, 1981), p. 105

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."

Many 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, many of them Nobel prize winners.

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.

Written in the Reformation Study Bible, which is just an amazing resource… we see the state of man, described by Paul is five distinct ways. “2:1–3 First, 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).

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. We want things our way. We want to define truth as we see it, not as how God sees it. 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.

Let me share my past struggles with you: 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 legend, based on lies and fabrications from human history. I thought it was a giant, pathetic joke.

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 a message for the worst of the worst. And we have to carry the gospel message to the worst. Because as many as can ought to receive eternal life.

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. We who follow Jesus are destined to live 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 chose to pre-destine for election into the city 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. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 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. 4 ‘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.”

5 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 centerpoint 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. And we may boil down the life of Jesus Christ to 7 I am statements he made, that were recorded in the gospel of John. In conclusion, I want to leave you with the 7 “I am” statements. Contemplate these truths, they define the mystery of life, God and ourselves. 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)

7.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

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