Tag Archives: Jesus

Jews and Christians Celebrating Deliverance

By ICEJ

This is an unusual year… The Feast of Passover in Israel begins this coming weekend as Christians in the Western nations gather to celebrate Easter. The two holidays seldom coincide, but their significance is closely intertwined.

  • Passover celebrates God’s salvation of Israel from slavery to Egypt
  • Easter acknowledges God’s salvation for mankind from the bondage of sin
  • Passover recognizes the sacrificed lamb that rescued the firstborn son from Egypt’s final plague
  • Easter recognizes that God offered up His own Son to rescue us from sin and grant us eternal life
  • Passover is the climactic event that set the Jewish people on their way to the Promised Land
  • Easter celebrates Christ’s resurrection and points to a day when we will enjoy eternal life with Him

As we celebrate Easter this year, we should not only be enriched by the clear connection with Passover, but we should also remember the debt we owe to the Jewish people for giving us the Word of God, the roots of our faith, and most importantly our Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Here is an important truth… God has given us the opportunity to come into relationship with the Living God through Jesus and enjoy eternal life. While salvation first came to the Jews, we as Gentiles have been grafted in so that we can partake of Christ’s blessings.

Source: From an email by ICEJ (International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel) on April 3, 2012. To learn more about ICEJ’s work in Israel, go to http://www.icej.org.

The Meaning of Christmas

By Daniel Downs

Christmas is a celebration of the fulfilled promise of a new life, a baby. Honoring this new born destiny presents to the world a universal hope. It is about God being with us now and we being with God in the future.

Christmas is about parents, parenting, naming, and the common work of fulfilling God’s revealed purpose for the world; their world of family, our world of common good relationships, and God’s purposed world.

Christmas is thus a celebration of life-giving. Life is God’s gift to the world–to each individual, to each family, and to society. Every morally and materially good relationship contributes to the creation of abundant life for all. This too reflects God’s good will for all people. Its revelation began with the divine promise to Abraham. It was institutionalized through Israel. Its realization was pronounced by angels and manifested in the new born babe of Bethlehem—the one the angels said they would see lying in a lowly manger (Luke 2:1-20). The irony of life is that it always begins in utter helpless poverty, but God gives everyone the natural riches of loving parents, caring society, and nature’s bounty.

Material and monetary gifts as well as profits are meant to serve the prophetic purpose of life-destiny. Even the three wise men brought gifts to the new born babe that not only made him and his family very rich but also provided the means to fulfill his purpose in life (Matthew 2:1-12).

The significance of Christmas is how God reveals and fulfills His part in the destiny of human life. Human destiny is not a search to find oneself. It is not a hunt for life purpose or meaningful work. Human destiny is a divine revelation that is manifest, reinforced, prepared for, and fulfilled. It is the life-work, a multifaceted employment, of living well. Living well is not best defined by financial worth but by the quality of life made and given. A good life is not made alone. The author of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, wrote: “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” If God made us within a community of others, it stands to reason that we must do the same. Good persons are reproduced in a redemptive society of families committed to forming each newly born child into a good citizen of our heavenly Father’s world. In God’s world, the divinely ordained work of living means being and making to be good children, good parents, good spouses, good neighbors, good laborers or entrepreneurs, good citizens. As God provided for Jesus through the magi, God wants to provide everything needed to fulfill our own destiny whether it be with spouse, home, material goods, and understanding of the divine purpose for life. This God did for humanity’s first parent. God gave him a wife, Eve. God gave them a home in the garden. He gave them all of nature’s produce for sustenance. God also gave them trusteeship over all the riches of nature including all living creatures (Genesis 1:26-31 &2:7-24). Then, God gave a world full of families to help each other fulfill life’s destiny.

The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45-49). His birth was the beginning of a new humanity. The accomplishment of his life work ushered in the realization of God’s redemptive plan for all people. The revelation of Jesus his life-purpose was first given to his parents, Mary and Joseph. God’s prepared them to prepare Jesus for its fulfillment. Therefore, the life of Jesus Christ is the model of God’s plan for every parent and child.

Jesus’ life is a revelation and history, albeit a sketchy one, of how God fulfills His plan for the world through one family of chosen parents and chosen child (to be). The life-work of Jesus—the chosen child—could not have happened without chosen parents and the entire lineage of other chosen ones. Both gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly shows the ancestry of Jesus going back through King David, to Judah, Abraham, Noah, and finally to Adam (Matthew 1:1-17 & Luke 3:23-38).

The same is true for all of us. Whether seemingly big or miniscule, our individual purpose in God’s plan for the world is connected to a host of ancestors going back to Adam and Eve. Every one of them was chosen by God for our life-work to be fulfilled.

Like Jesus, every one of us was born to fulfill a specific part in the plan of God for the world.

As the new Adam, Jesus birth represents the rebirth of humanity. Every human being born since Jesus has been represented by Him to God. Everyone has had or will have the opportunity to experience the redemption, reconciliation, renewing, and parenthood of God, who never intended to father only Jesus. God wants all people to become His children, living in His household, under His authority and care. In one sense, all humans are children of God because all exist as God created them to exist. Yet, some children live without parents. Some people who have parents live as though they do not. Others exist without any sense of history, tradition, value, future hope, purpose or legacy, all of which begins in a family household connected to extended family within a society and world of families. Even though some discover it in social institutions like school, workplace, military, social mission, mosque, synagogue, temple or church, membership in them does not equate to being part of God’s household. Without a life forming relationship with God, hearing His defining words, and obeying His law or rules meant to direct behavior and work, no one can claim to be in the household of God. For life in God’s household is eternal and not limited to temporary materiality of the present.

Jesus represents life in the household of God. His birth was the beginning not the end. His untimely death was the means to a redemptive end, the fulfillment of God’s redemption of all people. His resurrection represents the future for a new humanity. As his apostle Paul taught, Jesus was the first born from the dead not the last (Colossians 1:18; Romans8:29). Every one of us will be reborn but only those who have been faithful to God will continue to live in His household.

Wayward people often behave in ways that land them in jail or prison. The faithless and unfaithful also will live eternal life behind bars in the prison called hell.

Jesus is the way of escape in the present.

Christmas is a mass celebration of eternal life. The end of life is to live eternally in and to the glory of God the Father. This is accomplished by living the good life in God’s household, doing what is right, and fulfilling one’s divinely purposed life-work.

What God revealed to Mary and Joseph, to Elizabeth and Zachariah, to Sarah and Abraham was the life work and purpose of their first born child. Each has to live so as to fulfill it. For Jesus to fulfill his life work and its purpose, he has to live without sin to the very end. We too have to learn to do the same. For without holiness (likeness of God) no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14 ). That is, knowone will see Him after this life in heavenly city.

Easter’s Glory is God’s Image R’ Us

By Daniel Downs

Over the past five years, a number of people claim seeing Jesus or an image of Jesus. It is believed that the Shroud of Turin (Jesus burial cloth) bears the image of Jesus. Photos of the image reveals a facial image. In 2008, people in Kingsville Texas saw an image on a water tower that looked like the face of Jesus. The local news report not only interviews those who saw “Jesus” but also shows pictures of it. Recently, Sun News, a U.K. newspaper, reported the discovery of an image of Jesus located somewhere in Eastern Hungary. His image was captured by the Google Earth satellite. More interesting is a report by the U.K. newspaper, Daily Mail Online, in which a sonogram reveals an image of Jesus. The young pregnant nurse was so amazed that she and her husband gave their son the biblical name Joshua.

What do all of these and many other reports like them mean?

For many like the young nurse who was experiencing a difficult pregnancy, the image of Jesus gives reassurance that God is present. These images of Jesus are a sign of God’s present. The images of Jesus offers people hope that during difficult times things will work out. The appearances of Jesus’ images reminds people of God’s grace through the one who not only died to redeem them from the consequences of their sins but who is alive today helping them live God’s way in the present.

Yet, the Bible teaches some deeper than this. It teaches that the image God wants to see is not in shrouds, in fine paintings, in fields, and not even in sonograms. He wants to see the image of Jesus in all of us. The image of Jesus is the original. It is the image and likeness of Himself created to be reflected by us. We do bear the physical representation of His image. The problem is the lack of His likeness lived by us. We fall short of the glory of God because we all have or do act in godless ways. Violence, war, envy, hate, greed, manipulation, selfishness, perversion, lying, deceiving, stealing, cursing, and the like are the daily behavior of human beings. Jesus is the opposite picture. The image of Jesus is the likeness that God seeks in us.

Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ willingness to be made the source of our renewal in the image and likeness of God. Jesus had to die in order for God to acquit us of our moral crimes, and his resurrection was necessary for our renewal. For it is the power of the resurrection by the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead at work in our lives that empowers to live God’s way. Through this same Sprit of Christ, we will be renewed to the image and likeness of God, and that is our glory.

The goal of Easter is a life of fully satisfied justice

By Daniel Downs

While Jews celebrate the freedom from oppression from tyrants like Pharaoh and Haman, they do not forget the holocaust. I have read that many Jews forsook God because of this horrific event. Yet, the senseless death of millions of Zion’s children proved to be more like birth pangs. It was a bloody birth but Israel was reborn in 1948.

Israel was birth through the bloody confrontation between God and Egypt. Even though enslaved Jews in ancient were as worthy of God’s justice for their own sins, God passed over their lives during that confrontation. Why? Because he saw the blood of sinless souls. The sacrificed life of those morally inculpable souls God deemed sufficient to satisfy justice’s demands.

Easter is the season during which Christians also celebrate God’s Passover. No, it is not the same as the Passover observed by Jews. Rather, it is a celebration of the blessings of God promised Abraham. Christians enter into covenant blessings of Zion through the Jew Jesus.

Many focus on death Jesus during this season and rightly so. The moral changes of life experienced as a result of a developing relationship with God through Christ testifies to the divine acceptance of the only sinless sacrifice capable of fully and eternally satisfying God’s justice.

From a philosophical perspective, the moral crimes of humanity cannot be fully satisfied by inculpable souls i.e. animals. For the death of an animal as punishment for human sin, this substitute must be without sin for the soul that sin dies. A soul dead in sin could hardly be acceptable. Yet, animals cannot commit moral crimes as far as we know; only human are capable and culpable of such crimes. That is why the death of animals could never cease flowing on behalf of humanity: the death of animals is not fully sufficient to atone for human sin.

As previously mentioned, only a sinless human being could fully satisfy the demands of divine justice for all time for all people. That is reason why the one apostle who saw Jesus after his resurrection and ascension to heaven, Paul, said all who accept Jesus death and Lordship as covenant with God are justified, which mean both acquitted of all charges of moral crime and regarded as righteous by God. Notice, justification is sealed by Jesus’ resurrection. Paul, a Pharisee who was confronted by the resurrected Jesus and not the intellectual myth claimed by liberalism, realized the law of redemption is completed by Christ. The moral law of God inherent the covenants of God never ceased, only the never-ending need for animals to bear the punishment for human crimes against that law of God.

Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus because he is their representative before God. His suffering, punishment and death is their suffering, rightful punishment and death. His resurrection represents their future. Hence, Christians enjoy the benefits of covenanted salvation because it is of the Jews. Jesus is the one sinless Jew who was the progeny on many Jews going back beyond King David and Jacob to Abraham. As Adam was federal head of sinful humanity, Jesus reigns as Lord over a new age of people renewed to the glory of God as those seeking to live holy lives this world now that is not yet fully His kingdom.

Sermon on the Mount : Property Rights

By Daniel Downs

As mentioned in the first post, the gospels of Matthew and Luke contain two versions of a sermon proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth most likely from Mount Gerizim. This is where Moses told half of the tribal elders of Israel to reiterate the blessings for the keeping the law as the Israelites passed from the wilderness into the promised land (Deuteronomy 27:11-12; 28:1-14).

In the Sermon, Jesus pronounces blessings to the poor who faithfully follow God’s way. Those who do so become rich in two ways: First, their relationship with God makes them full of His presence and power enabling them to live according to the divine law. Jesus’ apostle Paul called it being filled with the Spirit. (Read his letter to the Ephesians) Second, they gain legal rights to the material and spiritual benefits of citizenship in the Kingdom of God. This means they have access to resources of the Creator. (See first post titled “Sermon on the Mount: Any Relevance Today?)

Jesus proceeds by pronouncing that those who mourn and weep will laugh again. In the world, problems arise whether because of mistakes, wrongdoing, injustices, natural disasters, or other forms of loss. Like Job, God comforts and restores. (See the second post titled Sermon on the Mount: From Weeping to Laughing)

The next blessing pronounced by Jesus is only recorded in the gospel of Matthew. It goes like this:

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5: 5).

I can think of only two reasons why Luke didn’t include it in his gospel. One possible reason is it was never part of Jesus’ sermon. The author of Matthew’s gospel included it because he was a Jew who had been trained to regard humility as a godly trait. Even though this blessing may not have been part of Jesus’ sermon, it was expected of those faithful to the law of God. Another possible reason is this: Being a citizen of the Roman Empire, Luke was trained to regard meekness as weakness. Romans regarded themselves as members of a superior race and culture than most others, for example, citizens of the always subjugated people of Palestine. This is the more likely reason.

The uniqueness of this part of Jesus Sermon is not just its singular mention in Matthew’s gospel; it is more exceptional because it was a quote taken from Psalms 37, which was itself the summation of a law of God:

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret because of him who prosper in his way or because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it only leads to doing evil. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. Yet a little while and the wicked will be no more; you will look carefully for his place and he will not be. But the meek will inherit the earth and will delight themselves in abundance” (7-11).

The above verses point the familiar reader back to Exodus when the Jews were delivered from the injustices of slavery in Egypt. The Jews were not forced into slavery just as a punishment for any wrong done while in Egypt. Rather, it was because they were foreigners whose population greatly increased. There large population made a paranoid dictator fearful about their allegiance. That is, Pharaoh feared they might join Egypt’s enemies to attacking and conquering Pharaoh and his empire. The easiest way to eliminate such a potential threat was to control all aspects of their lives, which meant to enslave them. (Exodus 1:8-11)   In this context, waiting on the Lord meant to continue being faithful to God and covenant law while waiting for God to execute justice. However, God told Abraham the Jews would be enslaved for 400 years in Egypt for two reasons: (1) their sins would lead them into it, and (2) the divine justice concerning the unrelenting sins of the Canaanites would take 400 years for completion. After which time, God promised the freedom of Jews and their right to possess the land previously promised to Abraham and to his descendents. (Genesis 15:13-16; Joshua 24:14; Deuteronomy 9:5-6; 12:29-31; 18:9-12)

The moral of the story is waiting in the right way leads to inheriting the promised land.

Inheriting and possessing land over which God reigns also will result in peace, freedom, and prosperity (Deuteronomy 7:12-14; 12:10; 25:19; 28:1-14). Because this promise included all faithful citizens of God’s reign, the collective or societal benefit of protection from enemies was implied. Yet, the individual aspect of the implied benefit was personal space within the land. Inclusive within this landed space was peace, a benefit of unhindered movement resulting from societal protection and prosperity; a related benefit was freedom of movement and work resulting from protection. Because God’s law required the promised land to be apportioned to each family according to need, title to that land was part of the inherited possession (Numbers 33:51-54). Prosperity didn’t equate to being as wealthy as Pharaohs, Caesars, Herods, or other tyrants. Prosperity meant having enough to meet the need of family and self as well as an abundance for tithes, offerings, showing hospitality to strangers, and helping others as need arose.

Jesus’ apostle Paul refers to the same when writing to the believers in Corinth about wealth and helping those suffering lack in Jerusalem because of famine. In the context of redemptive investments, Paul states that Jesus became poor that they (Corinthians and all believers) might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He then defines what he meant by rich:

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having sufficiency for every need, you may have an abundance for every good work” (9:8).

By good work, Paul meant investing in the needy believers in Jerusalem. By doing so, they were cheerfully fulfilling kingdom law and increasing future returns all in the spirit of meekness. (Leviticus 25:35-37; Proverbs 19:17)

The ancient model of meekness was Moses (Numbers 12:3). Yet, Moses stood against Pharaoh face to face as God commanded. Moses led the Jews and others out of Egypt toward the promised land. Moses gave Israel the law of God. Moses led the warriors of Israel. Moses commanded the execution of Jews who had rebelled against the command and law of God. Moses interceded on behalf of the people in the face of God anger and judgment. Moses cared deeply about all of Israel. Moses trained Joshua for future leadership. Moses stood up to the opposition of jealous family members and others. However, the meekness of Moses was not defined by his courage. It was his caring and especially his obedience to God. God defended Moses against all opposition as Moses turned to God. That is, Moses trusted God. He trusted God because God carried out His word. Therefore, he was faithful to God. As a result, Moses waited on God. The one exception when he was angry about the faithless complaining of the people Moses went beyond God’s instruction. God used this as an object lesson by forbidding Moses from leading the Israel into the promised land. (Numbers 20:1-12)

In other words, not waiting on God leads to wrongdoing resulting in adverse consequences no matter who you are.

Notice, inherent in the English word “wait” consists of two implications: (1) it refers to duration of time during which a person waits for another person to respond, act or fulfill an agreement, or vise versa. (2) It more importantly refers to service to others i.e., to wait on a king, waiting on tables, etc. Just as Moses fulfilled both, those who heard Jesus’ sermon would have understood the same applied themselves. Waiting on the Lord meant waiting on God to act to enrich their lives with His wonderful presence and power, to comfort them during time of suffering, to lead them into possession of the benefits of the promise land.

The same audience also would have understood the purpose of God’s law of healing. The meek could not possess the earth if hindered by debilitating diseases. Consequently, citizens of God’s kingdom were to expect good health because they faithfully obeyed the law. (Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:12, 15) As the law promised good health, God also promised healing even if new diseases occurred. That is why healing was a prominent part of Jesus’ messianic work; the obedient were being restored in order to possess all of the benefits of the promise land.

So it is to be expected today.

The blessings of citizenship in God’s kingdom by covenant through faith in Jesus are promised to all. It is the fulfillment of God’s word to Abraham that through his descendents all peoples would be blessed. The Torah, songs of Israel (Psalms), and the proclamations of the Prophets contain the definition of the intended blessings. In his sermon from Mount Gerizim, Jesus reiterates the blessing. (Matthew 19:27-29; Luke 18:28-30; Mark 10:28-30)

Who Is God For?

Listening to another great sermon this morning, this question came to mind: who is God for? The pastor’s message was God is for you. A whole lot of issues would be resolved if you settled that in your thoughts. What I do not remember the pastor explaining is why God was for his listeners. That is the pastor did not state or explaining the premise of his argument. His assumptions were not expressed.

What were his assumptions?

The pastor’s premise informing his argument for God being FOR his listeners is comprised of at least the following assumptions:

God loves humanity.

Because the Creator does, he seeks to redeem humanity from the consequences of sin. Those consequences include alienation, sickness, impoverishment, corruption, violence, war, injustice, and the like.

Because sin is a moral crime against the laws of God in human nature, justice is demanded.

For God to forgive humanity’s crimes, means to satisfy divine justice fully must be enacted.

Because the consequence of sin is death, the penalty of death is required.

Good works and moral behavior cannot be the basis of satisfying justice. That is true for all systems of justice of all peoples as well as God’s.

Although the appeasement of divine judgment for sin through sacrificial death of animals has been a universal practice throughout most of human history, and although mammals and human share similar biological nature, animals are not culpable for intentional moral crimes.

Therefore, only the death of a human could possibly fully satisfy divine justice.

Because all humans commit sin, only a human who has never committed sin could be qualified to satisfy the divine demand of justice.

The only human claimed to have fulfilled these qualifications is Jesus of Nazareth. His death has fully satisfied God system of justice thus enabling God to acquit human of their moral crimes and to empower to begin to live sinless lives.

Because the sinless Jew and only-begotten son of God, Jesus, has fulfilled the demands of God’s justice fully, God unmerited love can be forever expressed to those who submit to God by faith with Jesus. This is also called mercy and grace.

Therefore, God is unwavering for and never against those who live under the rule of God’s redemptive justice. All of God’s promises are forever yes. Because temporary lapses in sin cause temporary hindrances to the realization of promises, the hindrance is internal not external. God’s “yes” has not changed because Jesus has already suffered the penalty for all moral crimes and thus completely and forever satisfied all demands of divine justice.

The one contingency to the above is this: Faithfulness to God. That is the underlying problem throughout all of human history. It is why moral reformations resulting in the major religions of the world have occurred. It is why moral reformation will continue to occur, which often called revivals. However, unlike in the past, such reformations without the incorporation of Jesus’ accomplishments on humanity’s behalf as planned by God will not result in the desired future, which is the perpetuation of true justice and eternal life with God.

For those who already are faithful in their practice of righteousness as defined above, implementing the principles of Isaiah 58 can help with the internal resistance.

By Daniel Downs

Sermon on the Mount : Any Relevance Today?

There are two versions of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. One is in the gospel of Matthew and the other is I Like’s gospel. Jesus’ sermon encompasses chapters 5-7 in Matthew and Luke 6:20-49. Jesus’ sermon begins with a series of nine wisdom sayings or blessings in Matthew and only four in Luke’s gospel. In this post, I will address the first blessing: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” or “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

It is possible that Jesus’ preached this sermon from the top of Mount Gerizim. What better place to proclaim the blessings of practicing the principles of the Torah than from the place where Moses did the same. In the Deuteronomy 28, Moses pronounced four blessings for practicing daily the law of God. Ironically, Mt. Gerizim is in Samaria, which in Jesus’ day it was regarded by Temple authorities as a land of unclean gentile people. However, that didn’t stop Jews from coming to hear Jesus. They came from Judea, Jerusalem, Galilee, and other surrounding regions, and most likely gentiles came as well even from Syria, Sidon and Tyre. What is relevant about this bit of history is the benefits of practicing God law.

Of particular social significance is the first blessing Jesus proclaimed to the masses of people. The two versions give us a composite picture of the blessing of God that people of all races, cultures, religions, and nations may grasp. Matthew captures the inner working of divine law while Luke shows the heart of God for struggling people.

In Matthew, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” To be poor is to lack wealth. To be poor in spirit means to lack fullness of spirit. Jesus said God is Spirit. However, Jesus did not mean to be poor in spirit is to lack God. Jesus was saying you who are needy of God are blessed. Those who depend on God for their moral and material welfare are those who are blessed. According to Jesus’ apostle Paul, God supplies all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus in the divine welfare program. It is also God who empowers the faithful to keep His law.

Luke’s version was influenced by his own experience of God redemptive grace. Luke was a Roman physician who became a follower of Jesus. He was poor in spirit and in the knowledge of God. In ancient society, poor people were often sick and without adequate care. Although he was not poor himself, he would have provided care for needy people. Therefore, Luke emphasizes God’s blessing for the poor. The poor are those lacking wealth either because of an unjust political economy that was beneficial only to elites and their immediate associates or because of terrible circumstances such as bad health. Throughout both the Torah and the writings of the prophets, God revealed his great concern for their welfare. This concern is demonstrated in Genesis 39-49, in the account of the Jews exodus from Egypt slavery (Ex. 1-17), in the law concerning the poor (Lev. 25; Deut. 15; 24:12-22), in Isaiah’s prophecies (58:6-12). This is also fleshed out in early Church as reported throughout the gospels and letter of the apostle of Christ.

Because of God’s great abiding concern, the needy have access to the greatest of all resources: God. The Creator of nature’s wealth has a welfare program specifically for them. By entering the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ, they can expect their material and spiritual needs will be met. By living under the divine covenant rule, the poor gain the right to God’s provision. The obligation of citizen in God’s kingdom is to live according to God’s law and grace with Lord Jesus.

The King of the Universe invites the poor and needy to enter His kingdom. His welfare program is eternally better than any that wealthy social elites or special interest groups can ever offer. God is genuinely concerned about the welfare of the poor and needy. All the they have to do is say Yes, Lord Jesus, I want in God’s righteous kingdom.

By Daniel Downs

Jesus & Co¹ : God’s Perfect Natural Reflection

In the post “Show Us God Before You Go,” I presented an overview of the 14th chapter of the gospel of John. Jesus was asked three questions by his disciples about his announced departure. An oversimplified summary of Jesus’ answer was that he was going to the Father. While there, he would prepare for them a place to live, and one day he would return to take them to his Father’s house to live as well.

The disciples’ questions amazed Jesus. He was amazed at how clueless his disciples really were. Therefore, he makes this bold statement: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. If you guys really knew me you would have known my Father also. So look here guys. You now know Him, and have seen Him.” (vv. 6-7)

I am not certain but I expect many disciples may still be clueless. After two millennium, it is possible many Christians still do not know what he meant. Is this possible?

Just in case I’m correct, I will attempt to explain Jesus’ bold claim, and I’ll start by analyzing the last verse (7) first.

Jesus said “If you really knew me you would have known the Father also…. You now know him, and have seen Him.”

Some seem to believe that Jesus is here further revealing his divinity. This is not the case for several reasons:

1)   Jesus neither said I am the Father nor that he is divine just as God is.
2)   He did say by knowing me you know my heavenly Father as well.
3)   He also said having seen my life and work you have seen the Father (in action).
 

One of Jesus’ post-resurrection disciples, Paul, very succinctly captured the meaning of Jesus statement. Paul described Jesus as the new Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49). The story of Adam’s creation is the story of the original human being without sin or crime in God’s world. This account is recorded in Genesis 1:26-3:14. In it, the writer explains how God made Adam in His image and likeness. The physical appearance of Adam resembles God’s. This is depicted in Genesis 18-19; Number 24:9-11; Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:1,26-28; 8:1-3; 10:1-20; Revelation 4:2-4. The purity of Adam’s way of life was like God’s as well. The fall changed that. Once Adam had violated the law of God, his life began to resemble the evil one–the one who had tempted him to do evil. Through behavior resembling the devil’s, Adam’s God-likeness became corrupted. The moral purity characteristic of God likeness continued to decline with each new generation of Adam’s descendent. So much so that God observed that evil continually filled all of their imaginations, from their youth and thereafter. (Gen. 6:5-6; 8:21)

Thus, Adam’s lifestyle in many ways ceased to resemble his Creator.

Jesus as the new Adam means one who is fully like God, and this is what is referred to in John 14:7. Because Jesus was created by God in the Virgin’s womb, because the presence of God resided in him, because he always did what God’s law commanded or prohibited, and because he did and spoke those things that God directed, Jesus demonstrated what God is truly like.

As all humans, Jesus physically resembled God. Unlike all people, his life and work perfectly displayed the unseen God. As He did through Moses, God fulfilled his word and promises through the life and proclamations of his only begotten son, Jesus.

Jesus assured his disciples that they would show the world what God was like because they truly loved Him and practiced His commandments. Just as a loving child reflects the behavior, values, and words of his or her parent, so would Jesus’ disciples reflect His. The same is true of all God’s children that follow God with Jesus Christ.

1 Co represents cohorts or followers

By Daniel Downs

Show Us God Before You Go

By Daniel Downs

In the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel, three questions are raised and answered. The subject matter concerning Jesus’ statements about is leaving them to a place where he will be glorified. (13:31-35) His disciples did not know what the heck he was talking about. They were not sure they understood where he was going. As all good Jews, they began asking questions.

Peter respectfully raised the first question that is recorded in the previous chapter and it was reiterated by Thomas here. The question is this: What do you mean? Where are you going, and why can I not follow you right now? (13:36, 37) Jesus responding by saying, “Don’t worry about it. You will follow later. I’m going to my Father’s house where I will prepare a place for you. I will come again to take you to where I am now going. Come on guys, don’t act dumb, you know the way to where I’m going. Don’t you?” (13:36-14:4)

Expressing his usual point of view, Thomas, the proverbial skeptic, pipes up and says, “What! We neither know where you are going nor how to get there” (v. 5).

Jesus’ infamous retort is “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but though me. If you really knew me you would have known my Father also. So look here guys. You now know Him, and have seen Him. Get it?” (vv. 6-7)

While listening Philip is going hmm. He says, “No Lord, I still don’t think we get it. I do not remember having seen God. How about showing us the Father. Yeh, show us God. That should do the trick” (v. 8).

Jesus seemed very surprised. No doubt he was thinking these guys are bunch of numb skulls. It shows by his question that follows. “Have I been so long with you, and you have not come to know me, Phillip?” Let me make it real simple and plain for you. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” So, “how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?” (v. 9)

From verses 10 through 21, Jesus explains how he reveals the Father and how they will also. In essence, it is because of their intimate spiritual relationship and works that the unseen God is manifested to the world. Their relationship to Jesus and Jesus’ relationship to the Father lived out in daily life is the way God is made known. Of course, God is seen through their lives lived according to the commandments of God and ministry of the Messiah.

At the end of his explanation, Jesus says, “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me and will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will disclose myself to him” (v. 21). To which Judas responds, “Why only disclose yourself to us and not to the world?” (v. 22)

In order to understand Judas’ question, one need to know a little more about him. Judas was a member of the Zealot party. Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome’s control over Jerusalem and do away with Jewish traitors who helped them. The Messiah was and still viewed as a political and military leader who will lead Israel to defeat all oppressors and enemies. To Judas, Jesus’ Messiahship was naturally one that would be evident to Rome and all the world. Christians believe that is soon to be revealed.

Jesus seems to ignore Judas’ actual question. Instead, he picks up were he left off. Jesus continues to explain that he is going to where the Father is (v. 28). However, they (God and Jesus) will come back to make their abode with those who love him. How? Through the promised helper. Jesus describes this helper as the Spirit of Truth (v. 17) and the Holy Spirit (v. 26). The disclosure questioned by Judas will happen by means of the Helper. He will teach them what Jesus reveals (v. 26; 15:26;16:13-15). He will remind them of the things Jesus has already disclosed to them (v. 26;.15:27; 16:4). He will administer the peace of Jesus, which why the Holy Spirit is called Helper, Comforter and Advocate (v. 27). These adjectives derive from the Koine Greek word parakletos and is descriptive of a relationship in which one comes to the side of another in order to aid him or her. It connotes the martial relationship explained in Genesis 2:18-24. In ancient society, it also was used to describe legal counsel or social advocacy for others. And, in the context of John 14-17, Jesus also is speaking of comfort. For example, Jesus begins and ends by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (14:1, 27). In chapter 15, Jesus deals with others hating them for carrying on the message and work of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit will testify to them of Jesus. And in chapter 16, the same Spirit will himself convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, the judgment while at the same time leading the disciples, teaching them, and manifesting God’s love to and through them.

When people see and hear God, they either attracted or repulsed. The blessed saps who are the medium of the message or “the showing” often get the brunt of human guilt or hate toward God. Jesus was crucified. All of the disciples except John were killed for their testimony to Jesus’ resurrection. People around the globe still get kicked by states, other religions and their followers, and even by those who claim to be of Christ. But, as present as He was with Moses, the prophets and Jesus, God is still a present witness.

Harp Huggers Hug Their Last On Cloud Nine

Many people still believe heaven will be like an eternal yoga on cloud nine. That is for those who find peace and relaxation through meditation. Western tradition pictures heaven as reclining on a white fluffy cloud enjoying eternal serenity while hugging a golden harp. While hugging one’s golden harp, people believe that by strumming a lively golden strings to the divine rhythm of heaven they will experience greater joy. All of this bliss is magnified by the soothing radiance of heavenly light.

Yes, it is a boring vision of man as an island–a western view of autonomous man in heaven. Autonomous man is left alone in peace by everyone, even God, to enjoy eternal life without government interference. It is an egalitarian vision because everyone that is worthy of heaven gets to enjoy their own rest and relaxation to the same everlasting degree as every other person on their own cloudy oasis. What could be more fair that that?

I have bad news for all those harp huggers. It ain’t so. Sorry to have to burst another bubble–the current economic one is depressing enough; but turning a blind eye to a false vision would be a great disservice. Exposing the false hopes, false dreams, or blinding darkness–however bright with hope may seem–is supposed to be the duty of writers.

The puffy idea that people who do more good than harm are worthy of own their own cloud doesn’t hold water. The whole concept is merely evaporated hope based on a false premise of justice and fairness. As the gospels teach us, do-gooders are no more worthy of heaven than the scum of the earth. Why? One sin is counted as a bad as all sins. Because we all have or will sin, the stain on our do-goodism can not be removed–no even with White Cloud. The only detergent capable of removing that stain, the shame, or the statutory claim against our moral wrongs is the sinless blood of a lamb or rather of the sinless son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s the gist of the gospel preached by Pastor Jon.

Can preachers like Jon and their gospel be wrong? It is claimed that they are. It is claimed that there are many ways to heaven whatever it really is. It is claimed that the exclusiveness of the gospels is dead wrong, but is it?

If humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), a collective of humans in society is likely to reflect divine justice as least a little. That being the case, do we humans merely forgive breakers of our great moral laws because we are all really nice guys whose love surpasses the need to protect others in society from breakers of those law? Actually, our system of justice forgives no one for doing more good than the last crime committed that has gone unpunished. Of course, I must give credit to the many secularists who have worked very hard to change our inherent sense of justice, but it stubbornly persists as does the persistence of moral evils performed by once upon a time do-gooders. We human do take into account past good behavior or good citizenship in the process of punishing the guilty, which is usually expressed by leniency. Nevertheless, neither God nor we humans forgive do-good lawbreakers until after they have been duly punished–if then.

The problem is God’s only punishment for sin is death. The soul that sins it shall die, declared the priestly prophet Ezekiel. The wages of sin is death, said the Apostle Paul. Because it is, only death can fully satisfy the demand of divine justice. Thus, the only cloud of serenity humans earn by greater good works than bad is a dark cloud of pending judgment. That is except for the fact that God initiated and accepted the willing sacrifice of sinless living souls on behalf of us guilty humans. (Gen 3:21; 4:4; 8:20-21, etc.) Sacrificed animals, however, are not sufficient to satisfy divine justice fully for one important reason: they are not culpable for sin. Only human commit moral crimes against God’s laws. Only the sacrificial death of a willing and sinless human could possibly satisfy divine justice fully, and only God would be qualified to offer such a sacrifice. The gospel of Jesus, his apostles’ epistles, and the testimonies of those who constitute the Church claim that Jesus is that effectual sacrifice we all need,and the evidence is their moral and God-honoring lifestyle.

Thus, the Jesus-oriented lifestyle is the only one that can lead to heaven.

Jesus freaks are weird dudes because they have given up the Western and Eastern illusions of heaven as either a cloudy bliss of liberalism or an antinomian* free ride to heaven’s gate as the Hale-Bopp comet followers proved. Even if the Boppers made it to the gate, they were likely turned away because they had failed to get the right entry tickets. Jesus freaks, on the other hand, live for the day when they will live in a renewed heaven and earth where God evidently dwells among them. Heaven will be like the new beginning that came at the end of the movie Knowing–only better. For some it will be even better than being able to eat of the fruit of the tree of life again. It will be a techie heaven where humans will continue to invent new technologies, according Pastor Jon. I must note here that Pastor Jon used to work for the computer technology giant IBM. In this heaven, we humans will also continue to enjoy music, singing, worshipping God, exploring and learning, eating good food while discussing with friends and loved ones whatever comes to mind, and other things God created us to do. There will be a great new heath care reform plan too. HMOs, Medicare/Medicaid, doctors, drug companies, their lobbyists, and legislative supporters will no longer exist. In this heaven, no pain will be regarded as great gain. Broken bones due to sports injuries or other forms of play will a thing of the past, and so will wild animals eating or otherwise harming us humans. There will be no weight loss programs or the pain of failure. Who knows, a five-day a week job in which we do work totally unrelated to our training or goals may be no more as well.

Yet, the reality of heaven is hell. At the present, we live between heaven and hell. Some of us experience as much of hell as we ever will. Others, however, experience as much of heaven on earth as they ever will, said Pastor Jon. Destiny is a choice given by God. What one chooses is the only fate there is. Eternal life in heaven or hell is the final consequence of our earthly choices. This is a fact backed by the testimonies of many who have died and who came back to life to share with doctors, researches, and us ordinary folk what they experienced on the other side. You may have heard of Don Piper who has discussed his ninety minutes in heaven publicly and who has been written down in a book by the same title. It is worth reading, and so is choosing to follow Jesus to heaven.

Those who will not be there include the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers, isolators, and all liars. (Rev. 21:8) I wonder how many people in modern business, sales, education, media, politics, or mainstream religion will make it above the cloudy illusions of success, influence or wealth to heaven?

* Antinomian is the rejection of all moral law and human accountability for it. Those who hold this view are of the illusion that Christ as the end of the law for salvation means grace is the end of all accountability to moral law rather than the means to fulfilling it. As such, grace is the equivalent of lawlessness.

Paraphrased quotes of Senior Pastor Jon Young came from this my own less than perfect memory of his Sunday morning sermon at Dayton Avenue Baptist Church on August 9, 2009