What is the biggest or most important the two great religious holidays Christmas and Easter (you can substitute Resurrection Day for Easter if you like)? Those who take a secular worldview very quickly say that Christmas is the biggest and most important. For most people Easter is just just another long weekend, another chance to get away for a few days.
Both are very important to Christians, but most Christians would agree with non-Christians that Christmas is the biggest holiday. It's the time of year when we gather with family and friends to sing carols, decorate the tree, and exchange gifts. Christmas is the climax of the whole year.
We Christians justify this by saying that at Christmas we celebrate the birth, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Why is Christ’s birth so important? One reason is because of who He was: the divine Son of God. He was God in human form – fully man, but also fully God. Only Jesus could say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Only Jesus could say, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
But Christ’s birth was also important because of what He did. He came to show us God – but more than that, He came to open the way to God. We are separated from God because of sin – but Jesus came to take away our sins. He did this by becoming the final and complete sacrifice for sin through His death on the cross.
Because we get so caught up in the way that the world celebrates Christmas,and they aren't all bad things, even Christians view Christmas as a bigger holiday than Easter.
Think about it, if Easter had not happened Christmas would just be another day. If the tomb is not empty, the baby in a manger means nothing. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then He really is just a Jewish rabbi with delusions of grandeur. If Easter never happened, then Christmas is only the story of an insignificant baby born in an out-of-the-way village 2000 years ago. Easter gives Christmas its meaning.
Let’s see if we can determine which event became was most important to the writers of the New Testament and early church. First of all there is no what the writers of the New Testament say about Christmas and Easter major doctrinal point is ever built upon the the virgin birth of Christ. Not one. It's true. It happened. But it's never discussed or mentioned. In fact, Mark and John, two of the gospels, don’t even mention it.
The resurrection, on the other hand, is everywhere in the New Testament. It’s in every gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and it comes up again and again throughout the New Testament. Read Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36) He mentions the resurrection throughout it.
Acts 2:22-24, 3-33(NLT)22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. 32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. (emphasis mine)
When the first Christians gathered, they didn't mention Bethlehem; they talked about the empty tomb. They never got over the fact that on Easter Sunday when they went to the tomb, Jesus was gone.
Romans 1:3-4 (NLT)3 The Good News is about his Son, Jesus. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line,4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:5-11 (NLT)5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:1-9 (NLT)1 Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it.2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve.6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.
1 Peter 1:3 (NLT)3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,
Revelation 1:18 (NLT)18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (emphasis mine)
I’ll ask again; “What’s the biggest holiday Christmas or Easter?
This beautiful poem really blessed me in my quiet time this morning. It is from my YouVersion Lenten Reading Plan, 2018 Lent Daily Devotional provided by Tearfund*
Luke 23:44-46 NIV It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
On Friday my hope died.
The sky wept itself dark
the ground broke apart
and all creation cried
for the bloodied innocence
hammered into a tree.
There were whispers
of a torn curtain
but they didn’t reach my ears
or mend my mangled heart
or stem the bitter tears
as we took
On Saturday we grieved,
hiding from the troops
whom we’d once believed
would be overthrown
by the carpenter’s boy,
who had preached
and fed and healed
and was now dead.
But then on Sunday –
the devastating beauty
of that Sunday –
when time and space
were blown out of shape
and angels wrapped in electric grace
rolled the impossible away.
He is not here
for glory had risen
our failings were forgiven
and the rules of time and space
as an empty tomb declared:
Love is alive.
Gideon Heugh, Tearfund
*The following is from the Tearfund website:
Tearfund is a Christian charity called to follow Jesus wherever the need is greatest.
In 2006, we set an ambitious target: we launched a ten-year vision to see 50 million people lifted out of material and spiritual poverty through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.
A decade on, the statistics are striking. In ten years, we have touched the lives of more than 45 million people – the equivalent of almost the population of Spain. We reached more than 32 million people through our community development work and more than 13 million through our response to disasters.
Contributing hugely to this success is the fact that we have envisioned and mobilised more than 154,000 local churches, inspiring our Christian family to be catalysts for change.
We have spoken up with many poor communities, and acted on their behalf, and seen more than 300 policies influenced and changed as a result. We pray that our joint advocacy will bring a rich harvest in reducing poverty further over the next decade.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND HOW YOU CAN HELP VISIT THE TEARFUND WEBSITE https://www.tearfund.org
You probably know most of the prophets in the Bible like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and the others with Old Testament books named for them, but the bible identifies many more prophets. In this blog series we will get to know most of the prophets of the Bible, the ones with books named after them, and those whose names you may not know at all.
The English word prophet in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “nabiy” which means “spokesman” or “speaker”. The Greek word for prophet is “prophētēs”, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.” Prophets are also called “seers,” because of their spiritual insight or their ability to “see” the future, as directed by God.
LikeIsaiah, the subject of the last post in this series, Jeremiah warned Judah time and again about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of the Jewish people.
As the son of a priest Jeremiah would have been expected to follow in his father's footsteps however, there is no record that he served in that capacity. God chose him to be His prophet.
Jeremiah 1:1-3 NIV The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
God forbid him to marry or have children
Jeremiah 16:2-4 NIV “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.” For this is what the Lord says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: “They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like dung lying on the ground. They will perish by sword and famine, and their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.”
He is called the “weeping prophet” because he cried tears of sadness, not only because he knew what was about to happen to the nation but because, no matter how hard he tried, the people turned their backs and would not listen to him.
Jeremiah 32:33 NIV They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline.
So, along with the burden of the knowledge of impending judgment, he also must have felt very lonely.
Jeremiah was nearly twenty years old when he began to prophesy, and he served in that office all of his adult life from 627 BC to about 582 BC. He was based in Jerusalem. During his prophetic ministry Judah was under constant threat from Assyria, Egypt, and their eventual conquerors, Babylon.
Rather than responding to the warnings from Jeremiah with humility and repentance, the people of Judah disregarded both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.
What We Learn From Jeremiah
The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book of Jeremiah includes an honest and transparent look into his feelings and emotions. It shows him as not only God’s prophet but a real human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well.
Jeremiah 1:4-8 NIV The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord ,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord .
Jeremiah 11:18-20 NIV Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.
Jeremiah gives us one the clearest glimpses of the new covenant God intended to make with His people once Christ came to earth.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV “The days are coming,” declares the Lord , “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the Lord . “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord ,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
This new covenant would be the means of restoration for God’s people, as He would put His law within them, writing it on hearts of flesh rather than on tablets of stone. Rather than fostering our relationship with God through a fixed location like a temple, He promised through Jeremiah that His people would know Him directly, a knowledge that comes through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 8:6 NIV But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
Because Jeremiah prophesied in the final years of Judah before God’s people were exiled to Babylon, it makes sense that the book’s overarching theme is judgment. Indeed, the first forty-five chapters focus primarily on the judgment coming to Judah because of its disbelief and disobedience. However, an element of grace is also present in these events. God has always been and continues to be merciful. That His chosen people routinely ignored the covenant they made with Him for the better part of a millennia without immediate death and destruction should give us hope in our own struggles with living well for God. Though we fail Him, He is patient with us, working in us to bring about the best for our lives.
When you write blogs about faith in God as being the key to peace, confidence, joy, freedom, love and salvation you get a lot of comments from those who don't share your opinions. While most agree that peace, confidence, joy, freedom, and salvation are good things and things to pursue many disagree on the source of these good things. They believe that if you work hard enough, and are a good person (by human standards) that you will eventually get them. The only problem is that most, actually none, get them permanently. They can peace, confidence,a joy,,a semblance of freedom on a temporary basis but can never really feel the confidence of salvation from damnation.
Most of those people deny the existence of God and when given the evidence of the creation on the universe in its intricate design one of their fall backs is “If this God of yours is so loving how do you justify His ordering genocide?" Here are few of the scriptures these “biblical scholars” use.
Deuteronomy 7:1-6, 16 NIV When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord ’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.
Deuteronomy 20:16-18 NIV However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.
Joshua 11:10-14 NIV At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself. Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed.
To be perfectly honest these scriptures and the subsequent violence associated with them are bound to bother you. If you're a follower of Jesus you're bound to wonder because didn't Jesus say to love your enemies.
Matthew 5:43-48 NIV “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Why is God declaring war and commanding to completely destroy the enemy, even seemingly innocent ones?
We'll let's start with the fact that the Bible says that the Canaanites were morally corrupt. They engaged in acts that would be considered criminal in any civilized society–incest, infant sacrifice, ritual prostitution, bestiality, as was described in Leviticus chapter 18. Plus God waited a long time for them to hear rock bottom.
Genesis 15:13-14, 16 NIV Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Hyperbole Is Exaggeration Not Meant To Be taken Literally
We must agree that things like; “destroy them totally”, “destroy all the people”, “do not leave alive anything that breathes”, do appear to say that should be total annihilation. However if, as I have said over and over in my blogs you must read the Bible as you would any other literature, so you must read it in it's total context, and in light of the way that similar literature was written at the time a specific scripture was written. In the case of God’s commands to the Israelite's, with regard to their their attack and conquest of Canaan, you can readily see that these commands as written are hyperbole (exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally), and not literal. First, the Israel was commanded to “drive out” or “dispossess” the Canaanites, but this assumes Canaanites would be alive—not killed—if driven out. Second, the “utterly destroy” or “leave alive nothing that breathes” language is hyperbolic like other Near Eastern war texts of that day. Today when we say that our favorite sports team completely destroyed their opponents we know that simply means that they had an overwhelming victory. The basic idea is that the accounts of Israel’s early battles in Canaan are narrated in a particular style, which is not intended to be literal in all of its details and contains a lot of hyperbole, and literary expressions for rhetorical effect.
Let's look at our opening Deuteronomy 7 scripture again. Israel is first told to drive out the Canaanites, then to totally destroy them, and that's followed by commands not to intermarry with them or enter into business dealings with them. You can't marry someone that you destroyed.
The same applies to the stories in Joshua. In Joshua chapter 10 it says that Israel left no survivors in the cities of Hebron and Debir
Joshua 10:36-39 NIV Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it. Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.
However later in chapter 15 we see these towns and they are still populated.
Joshua 15:13-15 NIV In accordance with the Lord ’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).
So what we see is that this fits with other ancient battle accounts by using non-literal hyperbolic language as part of the narrative style. So the word genocide doesn't actually fit when we see it doesn't match the other stories about Canaanites who did turn to the God of Israel like Rahab, and the Gibeonite which show that God was open to those who would turn to Him.
Joshua 2:8-9, 12-13 NIV Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
Joshua 6:24-25 NIV Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
Joshua 9:3, 9-10, 24-25 NIV However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.”
As the book of Josiah, which details Israel’s entrance into Canaan and the subsequent battles in that invasion, end it is clear that the Canaanites were not totally destroyed.
Joshua 11:23 NIV So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.
Joshua 13:2-5 NIV “This is the land that remains: All the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
The first two chapters of Judges repeat the fact that Israel failed to even drive all of the Canaanites out of the land.
These accounts show God bringing justice on human evil at a unique time in history, and how He delivered Israel from being annihilated by the Canaanites. These battles were limited to the handful of people groups living in the land of Canaan. In fact Israel was commanded to pursue with all the other nations.
Deuteronomy 20:1, 10-15 NIV When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
Psalms 32:1-11 NLT Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord .” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord . So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
The Happy State Of The Person Whose Sins Are Forgiven
This is a psalm of David that many believe is written from personal experience. He is joyful because he know that God has completely forgiven him. This joy and relief comes after he acknowledges his sin and confesses (agrees with God that he has sinned). God has forgiven him and he knows that God will forgive everyone who acknowledges and confesses their sin. If they’re in Christ, their sins are covered by His blood!
David then instructs his readers saying that God will teach and guide the person who is sensitive to Him. If we confess our sins and grow in sensitivity to His Word, He will direct us in His ways. We’re not to be stubborn or self‑willed, like a horse or mule, so that God has to put a bit and bridle on us to direct us. Rather, we are to be sensitive to His Spirit and His Word. God will direct the forgiven sinner into paths of righteousness.
Whether David wrote this psalm because of his sin with Bathsheba or from some other incident, it shows that he knew how it felt to have the joy and relief of experiencing God’s forgiveness. He instructs us so that we too can know the blessings of God’s forgiveness.
David ends the psalm by contrasting the wicked, who have many sorrows, with the righteous, who are surrounded by the Lord’s unfailing love. The righteous are not those who never sin, but rather those “upright in heart” because they have confessed their sins. The thought of God’s mercy to sinners who don’t deserve it causes David to break forth with joy . Those in Christ are free from the weight of their sins, free from condemnation, because Christ has paid the penalty! There is no greater joy than that of knowing that your sins are totally forgiven.
There are 55 direct, explicit quotations from Isaiah in the New Testament making Isaiah the most quoted of the prophets by the New Testament authors. Jesus quoted from the book Isaiah as His first sermon.
Luke 4:16-21 (NKJV)16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)1 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Isaiah’s name literally means “Yah is salvation”, was a prophet of Judah, the southern kingdom and he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was was married to a prophetess and had two sons.
Isaiah 8:3 (NKJV) Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, "Call his name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz;
Isaiah 7:3 (NKJV) Then the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller's Field,
He received his prophetic call in a vision while in the temple.
Isaiah 6:1-8 (NKJV)1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged."8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
Isaiah prophesied from 739–681 BC. Judah because of disobedience, including idolatry, had turned away from God. Their worship of God had become meaningless.
Isaiah 1:11-15 (NKJV)11 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts?13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
Why Is Isaiah So Important?
The book of Isaiah provides us with the most comprehensive prophetic picture of Jesus Christ in the entire Old Testament.
The announcement of His coming.
Isaiah 40:3-5 (NKJV)3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth;5 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
His virgin birth.
Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV)14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
His proclamation of the good news.
Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV) "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
His sacrificial death.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NKJV)13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;15 So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider. 1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.9 And they made His grave with the wicked-- But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
His return to claim His own.
Isaiah 60:2-3 (NKJV) For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.
Isaiah contains one of the clearest expressions of the gospel in all the Old Testament.
Isaiah 1:2-17 (NKJV)2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: " I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me;3 The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master's crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider."4 Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward.5 Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints.6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment.7 Your country is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire; Strangers devour your land in your presence; And it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.8 So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, As a hut in a garden of cucumbers, As a besieged city.9 Unless the LORD of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah.10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah:11 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.12 "When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts?13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
Starting with the first chapter it’s clear that all have sinned and fallen short.
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Yet God miraculously holds out hope to this unrepentant people, offering cleansing of sins and the blessing that comes with faith and obedience in Him.
Isaiah 1:18-20 (NKJV) 18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword"; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah’s message is also a call for believers to come back to purity in our love for God and for our neighbors.
Luke 10:26-28 (NKJV)26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"27 So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' "28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
Praise God For A Miraculous Deliverance
Psalm 124 calls on the people of God to take notice of their deliverance and to praise God for it. David wrote this psalm to celebrate and give glory to God for deliverance from some very great danger. It may have been a foreign invasion of an insurrection. Whatever the issue he was personally affected as were others. He realized that had it not been for the goodness of God in making a way for them to escape it would have resulted in disaster. He is careful to give all the glory to God.
When we think back over our lives imagine what would have happened if the Lord had left us, and then reflect on what has happened because he has been faithful to us. Just thinking about it should, like it did David, make us sing unto the Lord.
I know that’s a bold statement and you will get a lot of push back from people who will pull things for all over the Bible and point to other things that appear to them to be contradictions. Since most of us Christians don’t spend as much time studying the Bible as many skeptics the only answer we can give is that the Bible is God’s word and He doesn’t make mistakes so you have to just accept that the Bible doesn't contradict itself. That is a horrible defense for a book that you believe holds the key to life.
Since God knew that there would be those who would not take the time or have the desire to do the kind of study to answer the skeptic He through the Holy Spirit has given some the spiritual gift of teaching. Those with this gift have studied the scriptures and have the answers from the scriptures to show that the are no contradictions, discrepancies, inaccuracies, or conflicting statements in the Bible.
The following is an excerpt from the book The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, In it the award winning author, Lee Strobel, replies to doubts about Christianity, including the problem of evil, the contradiction between miracles and science, whether God is worthy of worship if he kills innocent children, whether Jesus is the only way to God, and the church's history of oppression and violence.
Lee Strobel is the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and best-selling author of more than twenty books. His classic, The Case for Christ, is a perennial favorite which details his conversion to Christianity. Lee who was an atheist started an intense investigation of the Biblical claims about Christ, after his wife’s conversion. At the conclusion of his investigation he became a Christian in November 1981. He documented his investigation in the award winning book the case for Christ in which retraces and expands his journey toward becoming a Christian. The book summarizes his interviews with thirteen evangelical Christian scholars in which they defend their views regarding the historical reliability of the New Testament. His personal experience while encountering these scholars and their beliefs was portrayed in the movie The Case For Christ released in 2017.
This excerpt addresses the claim made by skeptics that the Bible is full of contradictions and gives you the ammunition to respond with evidence.
The Case for Faith: Coping with Contradictions
by Lee Strobel, from The Case for Faith
Editor’s Note: In this excerpt of The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel is having a theological debate with Norman Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. What a fantastic discussion to share with a friend who is seeking to know the truth today!
When I asked about alleged contradictions in the Bible, Geisler leaned back in his chair and smiled. It was an issue he had spent a lifetime studying.
“I’ve made a hobby of collecting alleged discrepancies, inaccuracies, and conflicting statements in the Bible,” he said. “I have a list of about eight hundred of them. A few years ago I coauthored a book called When Critics Ask, which devotes nearly six hundred pages to setting the record straight.1 All I can tell you is that in my experience when critics raise these objections, they invariably violate one of seventeen principles for interpreting Scripture.”
“What are those?” I asked.
“For example, assuming the unexplained is unexplainable. I’m sure some sharp critic could say to me, ‘What about this issue?’ and even though I’ve done a forty-year study of these things, I wouldn’t be able to answer him. What does that prove — that the Bible has an error or Geisler is ignorant? I’d give the benefit of the doubt to the Bible, because of the eight hundred allegations I’ve studied, I haven’t found one single error in the Bible, but I’ve found a lot of errors by the critics.”
I cocked my head. “Is that really reasonable, though, to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt?”
“Yes, it is,” he insisted. “When a scientist comes upon an anomaly in nature, does he give up science? When our space probe found braided rings around Jupiter, this was contrary to all scientific explanations. So do you remember when all the NASA scientists resigned because they couldn’t explain it?”
I laughed. “Of course not,” I said.
“Exactly. They didn’t give up. They said, ‘Ah, there must be an explanation,’ and they continued to study. I approach the Bible the same way. It has proven over and over to be accurate, even when I initially thought it wasn’t. Why shouldn’t I give it the benefit of the doubt now? We need to approach the Bible the way an American is treated in court: presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Critics do the opposite. They denied the Hittites of the Old Testament ever existed. Now archaeologists have found the Hittite library. Critics say, ‘Well, I guess the Bible was right in that verse, but I don’t accept the rest.’ Wait a minute — when it has been proven to be accurate over and over again in hundreds of details, the burden of proof is on the critic, not on the Bible.”
I asked Geisler to briefly describe some of the other principles for resolving apparent conflicts in Scripture.
“For example,” he said, “failing to understand the context of the passage. This is the most common mistake critics make. Taking words out of context, you can even cause the Bible to prove there’s no God. After all, Psalm 14:1 comes right out and says it: ‘there is no God.’ But, of course, in context it says, the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’ Therefore, context is critically important, and most often critics are guilty of wrenching verses out of context to create an alleged discrepancy when there isn’t one.
“Another mistake is assuming a partial report is a false report. Matthew reports that Peter said to Jesus, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Mark said, ‘You are the Messiah.’ Luke said, ‘God’s Messiah.’2 Critics say, ‘See? Error!’ I say, ‘Where’s the error?’ Matthew didn’t say, ‘You aren’t the Messiah’ and Mark said, ‘You are.’ Matthew gave more. that’s not an error; those are complementary.
“Other mistakes include neglecting to interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones; basing a teaching on an obscure passage; forgetting that the Bible uses nontechnical, everyday language; failing to remember the Bible uses different literary devices; and forgetting that the Bible is a human book with human characteristics.”
“Humans make mistakes,” I said. “If it’s a human book, aren’t errors inevitable?”
“Except for, say, the Ten Commandments, the Bible wasn’t dictated,” Geisler replied. “The writers weren’t secretaries to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they used human sources or used different literary styles or wrote from different perspectives or emphasized different interests or revealed human thought patterns and emotions. There’s no problem with that. But like Christ, the Bible is totally human, yet without error.”
“However,” I interjected, “people bring up alleged contradictions all the time.”
“Like what, for example?” he responded. “What are the most common you hear?”
I thought for a moment. “Matthew says there was one angel at Jesus’ tomb; John says there were two. The gospels say Judas hung himself; Acts says his bowels gushed out.”
“You’re right; those are frequently cited,” he replied. “But they’re easily reconciled. Concerning the angels, have you ever noticed that whenever you have two of anything, you also have one? It never fails. Matthew didn’t say there was only one. John was providing more detail by saying there were two.
“As for Judas’ suicide, you hang yourself in a tree or over the edge of a cliff. It was against the law to touch a dead body in those days. So somebody came along later, found his body, cut the rope, and the bloated body fell onto the rocks. What happens? The bowels gush out, just as the Bible says. They’re not contradictory, they’re complimentary.”
All in all, I had to admit that Geisler was on track. I remember as an atheist peppering ill-prepared Christians with a flurry of apparent biblical contradictions and discrepancies. They would get flustered and embarrassed because they couldn’t answer them, and I’d walk away feeling smug and self-satisfied.
But because they weren’t able to answer them didn’t mean there weren’t answers. As with the troubling passages about the Canaanites and Elisha, the more I delved into the historical evidence and subjected the issues to scrutiny, the more they tended to fade away as objections.
]Why Is It Hard to Believe?
It was almost time for lunch and I was getting hungry. “Do you want to get a bite to eat?” I asked Geisler.
“Sure,” he said. “There’s a little sandwich place down the road.” I glanced through my notes. I thought I had covered everything I wanted to discuss — but then I noticed a quotation I had brought along with me. It was a sentiment that reflected the frustration of a lot of people: why does God make it so difficult to believe in Him? I didn’t want to end the interview without asking Geisler about it.
“One more thing before we go,” I said as I read him the colorful words of a frustrated spiritual seeker:
So if I want to avoid hell, I presumably have to believe that a snake talked to Eve, that a virgin got pregnant from God, that a whale swallowed a prophet, that the Red Sea was parted, and all sorts of other crazy things. Well, if God wants me so bad… why does He make believing in Him so… impossible?.. It seems to me that an all-powerful God could do a much better job of convincing people of His existence than any evangelist ever does… Just write it in the sky, nice and big: “Here’s your proof, Ed. Believe in Me or go to hell! Sincerely, the Almighty.”3
Looking up at Geisler, I said, “What would you say to him?”
Geisler was a bit bemused. “My answer would be that God did do something like that,” he replied. “Psalm 19:1 says, ‘the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.’ (RSV) In fact, it’s written across the heavens so vividly that more and more scientists who search the stars are becoming Christians.
“The great cosmologist Allan Sandage, who won astronomy’s version of the Nobel Prize, concluded that God is ‘the explanation for the miracle of existence.’4 Sir Fred Hoyle, who devised the steady state theory of the universe to avoid the existence of God, eventually became a believer in an Intelligent Designer of the universe.
“The astrophysicist Hugh Ross, who got his doctorate in astronomy from the University of Toronto and did research on quasars and galaxies, said scientific and historical evidence ‘deeply rooted my confidence in the veracity of the Bible.’5 Robert Jastrow, a confessed agnostic and director of the Mount Wilson observatory and founder of the Goddard Space Institute, concluded the Big Bang points toward God. And I like what mathematical physicist Robert Griffiths said: ‘If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.’6 The evidence, Lee, is so clear.”
Not to a skeptic like Bertrand Russell, I noted. “He said if he someday stands before God and is asked why he never put his faith in Him, he’ll say he hadn’t been given enough evidence,” I reminded him.
Geisler, one of whose hobbies is collecting quotes from atheists and agnostics, pointed out something else Russell said. “He was asked in a Look magazine interview, ‘Under what condition would you believe in God?’ and he essentially said, “Well, if I heard a voice from Heaven and it predicted a series of things and they came to pass, then I guess I’d have to believe there’s some kind of supernatural being.’”7
In light of our discussion about the miraculous fulfillment of predictive prophecies in the Bible, the irony in Russell’s statement was obvious.
“I’d say, ‘Mr. Russell, there has been a voice from heaven; it has predicted many things; and we’ve seen them undeniably come to pass,’” Geisler declared.
“Then you don’t think God is making it hard for people to believe?”
“On the contrary, the evidence is there if people will be willing to see it. It’s not for a lack of evidence that people turn from God; it’s from their pride or their will. God is not going to force anyone into the fold. Love never works coercively. It only works persuasively. And there’s plenty of persuasive evidence there.”
I felt an obligation to disclose the identity of the person I quoted as asking why God makes it so difficult to believe. I told Geisler his name is Edward Boyd, and he made that remark to his son, Christian philosopher Gregory Boyd, as they exchanged a series of letters in which they debated the evidence for Christianity. In 1992, after personally weighing the evidence, the formerly skeptical Edward Boyd decided to become a follower of Jesus.8
Geisler smiled at the story, and then he turned personal, even poetic, as he closed by discussing his personal faith.
“For me, I say the same thing that the apostle Peter said: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ (John 6:68) He’s the only one who not only claimed to be God but proved to be God. When I compare this to all other claimants of all other religions, it’s like the poet who said the night has a thousand eyes and the day has but one; the light of the whole world dies with the setting of the sun.’ ”
Geisler’s voice softened but kept its intensity. “At the midnight of human ignorance, there are a lot of lights in the sky. Noontime, there’s only one. And that’s Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Based on the evidence for who He was, there really aren’t any competitors.
“So I cast my lot with Him — not the one who claimed wisdom, Confucius; or the one who claimed enlightenment, Buddha; or the one who claimed to be a prophet, Muhammad, but with the one who claimed to be God in human flesh. the one who declared, ‘Before Abraham was born, I am!’ (John 8:58) — and proved it.”
Excerpted with permission fromThe Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, copyright Lee Strobel.
Who Is Jesus is an entire category of posts on this blog. Those posts, to this point, have been my and others thoughts of who Jesus is based on the truth of scriptures. The following is from the first post that I published in the Who Is Jesus blog category.
The Bible attributes many different names and titles to Jesus. All of the 200 or so names and titles give us insight into His character and Who He really is. I’m not going to attempt to list them all here but I do want you give you those that I believe are some of the more important ones related to His work on earth on our behalf.
Author and Perfecter of our Faith
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Bread of Life
John 6:35, 48 (NKJV) And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 48 I am the bread of life.
John 15:15 (HCSB) I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
John 10:11, 14-15 (HCSB)11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me,15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.
Hebrews 2:17 (HCSB) Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1 Timothy 2:5 (HCSB) For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human,
Hebrews 8:6 (HCSB) But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (HCSB)1 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.3 They all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.
John 15:1-5 (HCSB)1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
The Faithful Witness
Jesus came reveal the character and ways of His Father . The miracles He performed proved that He is the Son of God.
John 14:9 (HCSB) Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
First Born From the Dead
Colossians 1:18 (HCSB) He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
Jesus raises men to power and He is the one who removes them. This is what Jesus told Pilate who was the representative of Rome the most powerful empire in the world at that time.
John 19:11 (HCSB) “You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.”
John 1:1 (HCSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All these names and titles describe the person who also claimed that he was the only way to heaven and eternal life.
John 14:6 (HCSB) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Did Jesus Claim to be the Only Way to Heaven?
Charles Stanley (Scripture references mine)
One of the best ways to understand someone is to find out what he thinks about himself. Jesus said many, many things about who He was -- He said that He is the Son of god,, that He and the Father are one,, and that the Father is the One who sent Him.
Matthew 16:16-17 (HCSB)Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! ” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.
John 10:30 (HCSB) The Father and I are one.”
John 5:37 (HCSB) The Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me. You have not heard His voice at any time, and you haven’t seen His form.
He also announced that He did not come to be served, but to serve and that He came to give His life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:28 (HCSB) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.”
He came as a substitute payment in behalf of humanity. He agreed with His accusers when they called Him "King of the Jews." His "I am" statements from the book of John reveal that He claimed to be the Good Shepherd who loves the sheep, the Bread of Life who can prevent hunger, and the True Vine who abides in us as we abide in Him.
(John 10:11 HCSB) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 6:48 (*HCSB)I am the bread of life.
“John 15:1 (HCSB)I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.
Jesus also said He was the Door to Heaven
John 10:9 (HCSB) I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
In John 14:6, He expanded on that thought: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." That statement has caused many people to back away, thinking, What a bigoted, egotistical statement! How narrow-minded to think that the only way to Heaven is through the person of Jesus Christ. And yet, this man called Jesus is exactly who He says He is. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life. He's the way, the truth, and the very life itself. Because, you see, in order for us to have eternal life, we must receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.
Now, if you believe all the other things Jesus said, but decide He can't be the only way to Heaven, then you are saying He told partial truths or lies. You can't have it both ways. Either Jesus is who He says He is, or He is not. So you cannot say, "Jesus is a good man, a wonderful teacher, an effective preacher, a great healer, philosopher, and humanitarian, BUT..." Whenever your belief in Christ's validity has caveats, you make Him a liar. When it comes to all that He said about Himself, either He is a counterfeit and a fraud, or He is exactly who He says He is--the eternal Son of the living God, the Savior of the world, and the One who will someday judge each one of us.
Excerpted from "What Difference Does It Make Who Jesus is?" by In Touch Ministries (used by permission).
People love it when you talk about the grace of Jesus. They love to hear that God so loved the world that He gave Jesus so that we can have eternal life through Him.
John 3:16 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
But they get upset when the realize that Jesus asks for everything. It’s true that you don’t have to give up anything in order to receive salvation. All it takes to receive it is to believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that He came to the earth, gave His life for your sin, was buried, rose on the third day, and is now in heaven with God the Father.
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
That’s salvation. However once saved Jesus does ask that you give up something and that something is your life...everything. It shouldn’t be a surprise it’s not like Jesus didn’t give you a “heads up”
When people asked Jesus what they had to do to become one of His followers He told them what they needed to do.
Matthew 19:21 (NLT) Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Mark 10:21 (NLT) Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Luke 14:25-26 (NLT)25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them,26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.
Luke 18:22 (NLT) When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
They thought that Jesus had no right to ask for everything from them. To put their whole lives, desires, and passions at His feet.
They all liked Jesus up until then. He heals, he blesses, feeds them, finds money in the mouth or a fish. What a guy. Then all of a sudden He says if you want to follow Me and continue to be a part of this you have to give up everything, and give Me your total allegiance. That’s when folk start leaving. It’s great to get stuff but not so good to give, especially if it's everything.
How dare He. Who does He think He is?
We All Worship Something And That Something Asks For Everything
One of the definitions for worship is to to love or honor (someone or something) very much or too much. Whenever you give a lot of attention to anything you are really worshiping that thing. Those things ask for your life. For your all. For every last drop of your allegiance. Power does. Sexual fulfillment does. Athletics do. Your spouse does. Your significant other does. Your job does.
These and the other things that we worship ask us to give up everything. They use fear, false promises, and force to get us to give up everything. When Jesus asks us to give up everything it’s only after He gave up everything first. He gave His life before asking for yours. When He asks there’s no force, no false promises, just His love.
Romans 5:8 (NLT) But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
1 John 3:16 (NLT) We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
He gives love so great that it compels us to lay down our lives in return.
Romans 12:1 (NLT)1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Some of us would rather settle for less because we don’t think we have to give up anything. Well think again.
Everybody Worships Something
If that someone or something you worship isn’t God then it’s an idol, and the worship is idolatry.
Here’s what the Bible says about idols.
Psalm 115:4-8 (NLT)4 Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands.5 They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see.6 They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell.7 They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound.
8 And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.
In other words they have no power to do anything for you even though the ask for your everything in worship. The only power that an idol has is the power that you the worshiper gives it.
You can’t count on an idol no matter what it is; a person, alcohol, sex, anything — they all make for cruel gods. When the effects of the alcohol or the euphoria of sex wears off, or that person upsets you, your emotions bounce up and down like a basketball. God is constant. Always forgiving. Always loving. Never changing.
Numbers 23:19 (NKJV) 19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV) 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
When we make another person an idol, we end up squeezing the life out of them. Only one person has the ability to sustain being God, and that’s Jesus.
When we worship Jesus, we can love that person even more because our center isn’t tied to or defined by them. If they upset us, rather than affecting us negatively every time, we can give back love, grace, and forgiveness because our self-worth comes from God.
Idols need to be defended. When they don’t bless us, or show us love, or prosper us then we have to defend them. We have to rationalize why they did come through for us. But Jesus doesn’t need defending. He never defended Himself but gave Himself as an offering and in the process defeated evil (in a moment when everyone thought evil had won!).
Charles Spurgeon said: “The Gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage.” The mystery of Jesus is just like the mystery in Revelation 5. He’s called the Lion of Judah, but when John looks, he sees a lamb slaughtered. Jesus is a powerful, victorious lion who achieved that victory by the act of the lamb who was slain.
The only one who deserves our everything is the one who gave everything. He his the only one worthy of our worship.
Just like the creatures around the throne we should give our everything, worship the Lamb who gave His everything, and sing His praise:
Revelation 5:11-14 (NLT)11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders.12 And they sang in a mighty chorus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”14 And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
Some excerpts from It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.