Who are the witnesses who back up Christ’s claim to be equal with God? Part 1

“There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” John 5:32

In the first part of John chapter 5, Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jews sought to kill Him all the more because He not only broke their Sabbath traditions, but He also claimed to be equal with God (John 5:1-18). When people heard Jesus’ claims, many of them asked, “How do we know He is telling the truth? What evidence does He give?” Knowing their hearts and minds, Jesus proceeds to call upon five witnesses to back up His claim to be equal with God.

Jesus said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.” (John 5:31). It is not Christ’s testimony which is false, it is the demand for more than one witness which is the issue. According to Jewish law, self-testimony was not accepted in the court of law (Deuteronomy 19:15). There must be witnesses who will confirm another’s testimony. After all, we live in a fallen age, so when people claim many things for themselves, we don’t know whether to believe them or not, because we cannot trust everybody – it would be naive to do so.

One of the things I have observed over the years in ministry is that people can hear the truth right out of the Scriptures for years and years and never seem to get it, until they hear it from another voice. That is why it is a good thing to have other speakers come to a church at times. Having said that, let’s look at the first witness that Jesus calls upon to back up His claim to be God.

GOD THE FATHER (John 5:32, 37-38). “There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” (John 5:32). The word “another” (allos) means “of the same kind as Myself.” Jesus is referring to God the Father Who has the same divine nature as Christ. The reason Jesus is so bold about His equality with God is because He is conscious of His Father’s continual confidence and support. I am reminded of a story about an eight-year-old boy who stands up to some teenage bullies on the playground because his 6’ 6” 300 lbs. dad is standing right behind him.

The Father’s testimony is explained further: “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” (John 5:37).  The verb “testified” (memartyrēken) is in the perfect tense which means that the Father’s testimony of His Son was completed in the past but continues to impact people in the present. This may be a reference to the Father’s witness when He spoke from heaven at Jesus’s baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). The Father’s testimony that Jesus is His Son validates Christ’s claim to be equal with God. Jesus has the same divine nature as His Father.

The religious leaders, like many today, had closed their ears to the Father’s testimony. Because of their unbelief, these Jews have never “heard His voice… nor seen His form.” (John 5:37b). The Father’s witness is only accessible to those who believe in His Son. “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.” (John 5:38). These religious leaders are ignorant of God the Father’s testimony of Jesus because of their unbelief. So Jesus’s claim to be God is valid because there is no higher court of appeal than God the Father Himself.

Like Jesus, we can have more confidence in witnessing to others when we realize that God the Father is on our side. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). God watches our back when we are doing His work. Since no one is more powerful than God, we do not have to be afraid of what people think or do.

In between my second and third year of seminary, I had an evangelism internship in the inner city of Dallas, Texas. I would go house to house or apartment to apartment sharing the gospel with pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and addicts. Knowing that my heavenly Father was on my side and would not abandon me, emboldened me to go to some “shady” places. I praise God for His faithfulness to keep me safe during that time.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You for Your testimony which validates Jesus’s claim to be equal with You. Knowing that You are on my side emboldens me to proclaim that Jesus is God and He alone can give everlasting life as an absolutely free gift to those who believe in Him. Like the Jews of Jesus’s day, many people do not hear Your testimony about Christ because of their unbelief toward Him. In these coming days and weeks, I pray You will soften their hearts to believe that Jesus is God so they may hear Your voice concerning Him and receive His never-ending life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.   

Is Jesus Christ equal with God? Part 1

“Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” John 5:18

In John 5:1-15, we saw that the religious leaders (Pharisees) had watched Jesus heal a man who had been lame for 38 years. They were angered that Jesus had dared to violate the regulations that they had added to the Mosaic laws about the Sabbath. So if Jesus was going to smooth things over, now was the time to do it. But instead of avoiding controversy, Jesus claims to be equal with God the Father. Rather than compromise the truth, Jesus states who He is so that they could either receive Him or reject Him. Look with me now as we discover the first claim Jesus made to establish His equality with God the Father.

The first claim of Christ is that HE IS THE SON (John 5:16-20). “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” (John 5:16). If I had been Jesus at this point, I think I would have run to the hills for safety! But Jesus does not back down, does He? “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ ” (John 5:17). Jesus claims to be imitating His Father’s work, which includes helping people and meeting their needs. So we find that Jesus acts like God and is talking as if He is God. Not only is God the Father, but God is “His Father.” The inference was very clear to the Jewish mind. Since Jesus claims that God is His Father, He is claiming an unprecedented equality with God. For the Jew, there was no more serious offense that could be made.

“Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:18). By saying that God was His Father, He was claiming to be equal with God in nature, privilege, and power. For example, if you say that someone is your father, you are claiming to possess the same human nature as him along with all the other qualities that describe your earthly dad. Likewise, when Jesus claims that God is His Father, He is claiming to possess the same divine nature as God Himself along with all of His other divine attributes. The Jews rightly understood Jesus was claiming to be equal with God. But instead of exercising caution, they were all the more determined to kill Jesus. Does Christ withdraw in order to protect Himself?

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.’ ” (John 5:19-20). Jesus expresses His dependence upon God the Father. He can only do what He sees His Father doing. Like a Son, He copies His Father. These two verses picture a son learning his father’s trade. He doesn’t act on His own initiative; instead He watches His Father at work and performs each task as His Father would have done.

So when Jesus healed the lame man, He was merely doing what His Father would have done in that situation. Now when Jesus says, “And He will show Him greater works than these” (John 5:20b), you may wonder what could be greater than the healing of this lame man? The “greater works” refer to what Jesus says in verses 21-30. Thus, Christ establishes His claim to be equal with God the Father by claiming to be God’s Son.

Jesus’ dependency upon His Father (John 5:19-20), does not mean He is less than God. Christ is describing His role to the Father, not His nature. There is a difference between one’s role and one’s nature. For example, in the biblical marriage relationship, a husband and a wife have different roles (Ephesians 5:22-33). Not only that, but a husband has a greater office than a wife. As a result, he is the head of the family (Ephesians 5:23). This might be controversial to secular society, but it shouldn’t be to a Christian.  

So, in one sense, the husband is greater than the wife because they have different roles. However, in another sense, husbands and wives are equal because they both have the same human nature (Genesis 1:27). They are equal in nature, but unequal in roles.

The marriage relationship is a dim reflection of the Persons in the Godhead. The co-equal, co-eternal Persons of the Trinity are one in divine nature. However, each divine Person has a distinct role in salvation (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14). There is a voluntary submission of roles in the work of redemption. The Son takes on human flesh and submits to the Father in giving His life on the cross.

Lest you doubt what I’m saying, listen to Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Here Paul takes the same submission language of a wife to her husband and applies it to the Son and the Father.

If we want to truly understand who Jesus is, then we need to look at all of what Scripture says. Those who deny the deity of Christ read the Bible with one eye closed. They only look at isolated verses here and there and must ignore and distort clear passages that teach the deity of Christ. However, all of Scripture must be consulted if we are going to have an accurate portrait of Jesus. And when we read the Bible with both eyes open, we see the incarnate Christ as equal to the Father in His deity (John 1:1; 5:16-30; 10:30-33; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), but also in submission to the Father in His role (John 5:19-20; I Corinthians 11:3; 15:27-28).

Like the Son, we can experience God’s POWER in our lives when we see where God is working and JOIN Him. Often, we make our own plans and then ask God to bless them. But we learn from Christ that we can do nothing of ourselves for God. We need to step back and see where God is working and adjust to Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come to You now acknowledging that You are God’s only perfect Son, possessing the same divine nature as God the Father. Because You are God, I ask You to forgive me for the many times I have made my own plans and asked You to bless them. Today, I am asking You to reveal to me where You are working so I may adjust to You and join You in Your work. Thank You for hearing my prayer my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How to be greatly used by God – Part 4

“I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:33

If God is going to greatly use us, we must recognize who we are not (John 1:19-21), who we are (John 1:22-23), and point others to Jesus Christ (John 1:24-29). This is what John the Baptist continues to do.

He pointed others to Jesus by telling them about Jesus’ Pre-existence. “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (John 1:30). John returns to a statement he made earlier in John 1:15 regarding the pre-existence of the Son of God. He wants his audience to understand that the Lamb of God is more than a man laying down His life for a good cause. The One who died to take away the sin of the world was none other than the eternal Word who has always existed (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says, “He was before me.” Jesus was always before John in His Pre-existent state as God. Christ is God without beginning or end (I John 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13).

If we are going to be greatly used by God, we need to be able to tell others of Jesus’ Pre-existence as God. We must recognize how great Jesus is! We are not worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with Him. Because Jesus is eternal, He can give life that never ends to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

The next way John pointed others to Jesus was to tell them of Christ’s deity. The Baptist refers back to that moment at Jesus’ baptism when it was revealed that Jesus was the chosen Messiah. “‘31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water. 32 And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:31-33).

Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism? The Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus to confirm Him as the Messiah and the Father testified from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). God approved the ministry of Jesus. Thus, while John baptizes with water, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. He is the Giver of the Spirit. Jesus came that people might be brought into contact with the Holy Spirit.

Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, people have longed to be free from the struggle with evil. Some of us today wish we could eliminate our struggle with sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness. There have been times when I wished I could have had a surgical operation to remove my tendency to be stubborn, critical, and selfish. When I saw the hurt I caused, I wished somehow to be able to stop doing those kinds of things.

The Bible tells us that it takes God Himself to do that. The work of the Spirit is to do that very thing. What John is saying is, “I deal with the external…that is as far as I can go. But, when I baptized Jesus, I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on His shoulder. The One who sent me to baptize had said to me, ‘When you see that happening, that is the One who will not only change men outside, but will change them on the inside, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ When that happened, I knew who He was. My own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

When we believe in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit places us in the body of Christ, the Church (John 7:39; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). That is Spirit Baptism. He comes to live inside of us and wash us clean. He gives us the power to overcome sin in our lives as we depend upon Him. Water baptism, however, does not cleanse you spiritually. When we baptize believers, we do it by immersion because Jesus was baptized that way. Why was Jesus baptized? Did He need to be saved? No. He was perfect. He was baptized because it pleased His Father in heaven and provided an example for us to follow. Christ was also baptized with water to begin His public ministry. So every time a believer is baptized with water, it puts a smile on God’s face and it initiates that believer into the discipleship process whereby he or she begins to minister to others (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the Old Testament, the animals sacrificed by the Israelite worshiper had to be “without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2-3; 14:10; 22:19; 23:12, 18) which was a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God. In order for the Lamb of God to be a perfect sacrifice, He had to be sinless. The only way this could be possible, was for the Lamb of God to be fully God and fully Man.

Is it any wonder then that John’s public testimony climaxes in his identification of Jesus as the Son of God. “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). John wants his audience to know that the Lamb of God is more than a man laying down his life for someone. The Lamb of God is God in human flesh. He is fully human and fully God. He is the One who was with God and who was God (John 1:1-2). This is the only way He could be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world (John 1:29).

What a testimony this was from John the Baptist! What a witness! What a voice! John points people to Jesus. He recognizes that it is not about him. He understands both who he is not (the Christ) and who he is (a voice). He understands his role: point people to Jesus.

Understand who Jesus is, so that you might believe on Him, and believing you might have life in His name (John 20:31). Recognize who you are not. This takes humility. Also recognize who you are. This takes confidence. You are a voice, a highway builder. Tell others of Jesus. Do not be ashamed. We are to be like bird dogs. As they point to a group of birds, we are to point people to Jesus, who is the eternal and perfect Lamb of God.

A father and his small son strolled down the street in Chicago past the place where a skyscraper was being constructed. Glancing up, they saw men at work on a high story of the building. “Father,” said the little boy, “What are those little boys doing up there?” “Those are not little boys, son. They’re grown men.” “But why do they look so small?” “Because they’re so high,” his father answered. After a pause the boy asked, “Then, Father, when they get to heaven there won’t be anything left of them, will there?” It’s so true, the closer we get to Christ, the less others see of us and the more they see of Him. Point them to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me not to lose sight of who You are in the midst of this crazy world.My heart was deeply touched by the contrast between John’s baptism with water and Your baptism with the Holy Spirit. You are far more concerned with my heart than you are my appearance. You are in the business of changing lives from the inside out. When the Father said to You at Your baptism, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” I think this is something every boy longs to hear from his own earthly father, but they often don’t. Jesus, please help me to hear the Father’s voice saying to me, “I love you and I am very proud of you.” That is the cry of my heart, Lord. In fact, I believe it is the cry of many hearts belonging to men. I want to grow closer to You, Jesus, so others will see more of You and less of me. I love You, Lamb of God. Thank You for always having time for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What is God like?

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18

What is God like? Let’s see what some fifth graders said when their teacher at a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God. God is like BAYER ASPIRIN. He works miracles. God is like a FORD. He’s got a better idea. God is like COKE. He’s the real thing. God is like HALLMARK CARDS. He cares enough to send His very best. God is like TIDE. He gets the stains out that others leave behind. God is like GENERAL ELECTRIC. He brings good things to life. God is like SEARS. He has everything. God is like ALKA-SELTZER. Try Him, you’ll like Him. God is like SCOTCH TAPE. You can’t see Him, but you know He’s there. God is like DELTA. He’s ready when you are.

On a more serious note, what would you say God is like? Many people have misconceptions about God that are rooted in their family of origin. We think that God will resemble our parents or authority figures from our childhood (cf. Psalm 50:21). Look at some common misconceptions about God from Sandra Wilson’s, Released from Shame Revised Edition (2002), pp. 142-143:

The cruel and unpredictable God” is the most extreme distortion of God’s nature and is   found among those who received brutal and unpredictable abuse in childhood most often at the hands of their fathers, stepfathers, or father figures. If you are one of the bruised believers who experienced severe physical or sexual abuse as a child, this might be the way you see God and you understandably struggle to trust your Father in heaven. 

The demanding and unforgiving God” is often the view that Christian adults have whose parents were rigid and perfectionistic. No matter how hard you try, you can never measure up  to the demands of this distorted deity who does not forgive nor forget your sins. When you fail, watch out! His cruel side is manifested. He seems to delight in sending financial disaster or physical disease to emphasize His intolerance of your spiritual failures. Understandably, it is difficult for you to approach Him and experience His forgiveness and love.

The selective and unfair God” is a distorted view of God found among Christian adults who experienced spiritual abuse by parental authorities in childhood. This might be the God you worship if you feel Jesus has revealed Himself more fully to other Christians who, in turn have a deeper relationship with Him than you do. You probably struggle with being a different and “less-than” Christian. 

– “The distant and unavailable God” may care about His worshipers, but He is off somewhere running the universe and cannot get too involved in their lives. If your parents were physically or emotionally unavailable through prolonged absences, perhaps because of death, divorce, illness, military duty, working overseas, or neglect, you may experience God as eternally distant and unavailable. 

– “The kind but confused God” is a clumsy and powerless deity who is confused by all the chaos in the world. If you had parents who were overwhelmed by uncontrollable chaos in their lives and your family, you may have this view of God.

Do any of these misconceptions about God resonate with you? If so, our verse today will be especially meaningful to you. John the Baptist says, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). We can know what God is like by looking at Jesus Christ.

John begins by saying, “No one has seen God at any time” (1:18a). You may wonder, “How can this be true when the Bible speaks of people seeing God?”(e.g. Exodus 33:21-23; Isaiah 6:1-5; Revelation 1:10-18). Those encounters with God did not reveal the fullness of His glory or His unveiled divine essence. If people saw God’s unveiled glory or divine essence, they would not live (cf. Exodus 33:20).

The only One Who can and has seen God in the fullness of His glory and divine essence without dying, is His Son, Jesus Christ (John 6:46). The reason Jesus could do this is because He also is God. He has the same divine nature as God the Father. For example, when people say of a man named Clarence Smith, “He is the son of John Smith,” they are acknowledging that he has the same human nature as his father. Likewise, when the Bible says that Jesus is “the Son of God” (John 20:31), it is affirming that Jesus has the same divine nature as His Father in heaven.

This is why we can discover what God is like by knowing His “only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father” (1:18b). The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents, as many false religions teach today. The compound Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenḗs, which literally means “one (monos) of a kind (genos).” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind. He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14). This is the message of the gospel of John.

The writer of this gospel, the apostle John, goes to great lengths to show Jesus’ deity (John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 10:30-33; 11:27; 20:28; et. al). Jesus was unlike any other Person who has walked on this earth. In the Old Testament, the phrase “I Am” is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). “I Am” is also how Jesus identified Himself to the people of Israel. He makes several “I AM” statements in the gospel of John: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the door” (John 10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:14), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), “I am the true Vine” (15:1). Each one of these staggering statements attested to the fact that Jesus was and is God.

Jesus also claimed to be equal with God and to be God Himself (John 5:17-18; John 10:10-33). This is why His enemies wanted to kill Jesus for blasphemy (Leviticus 20:10; cf. John 5:18; 8:59; 10:31-33; 11:8). For example, when Jesus said, “He and the Father are one” (John 10:30), the Jews understood Him to claim to be God. They said, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33).

Did Muhammed, the founder of Islam, Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, or Charles Taze Russell, the founder of Jehovah Witnesses, claim to be equal with God? Jesus Christ not only claimed to be God, He proved He was God through His works (John 1-12), the greatest of which was His resurrection from the dead (John 20:1-18; cf. Romans 1:3-4)! Hallelujah brothers and sisters in Christ! What a precious Lord and Savior we have in Jesus Christ!

John also goes to great lengths to show Jesus’ humanity (John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; et. al). Jesus had brothers and sisters like you and me (John 2:12; 7:3, 5; cf: Mark 6:3). Christ ate food and got thirsty just like you and me (John 19:28; 21:12, 15; cf. Matthew 9:11; 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34). He experienced physical fatigue and even slept (John 4:6; cf. Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23). Why? He became a man without ceasing to be God so He could understand what it is like for you and me to have family, food, and fatigue. The God of the Bible is not some distant uncaring deity like the religions of the world. He understands our needs and He came to earth to meet our most fundamental needs to be seen, safe, soothed, and secure.

When John says that Jesus was “is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18b), he is referring to Christ’s very close and intimate relationship with God the Father. The word “bosom” (kolpos) refers to the upper part of the chest where a garment naturally folded to form a pocket. The picture here is that of a son resting his head on the chest of his father, experiencing a very close and intimate relationship with him. Jesus had the closest and most intimate relationship with God the Father. He knows the heart of God the Father better than anyone because His head often rested upon His Father’s chest in eternity past.

Who better to tell others what a Person is like than the One who is closest to that Person and has known Him the longest in an intimate relationship!?! There is no one more qualified to tell us what God is like than the only begotten Son of God who has known God the Father forever in the closest of relationships with Him.

This is why John then says, “He has declared Him” (John 1:18c). The word “declared” (eksēgéomai) is where we get our English words, “exegete” and “exegesis” from. In seminary, we learned to “exegete” or explain God’s Word, the Bible. We were taught to “read out” of the Bible God’s intended meaning through a grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation instead of “reading into” the Bible our own biases and assumptions.

God the Son, Jesus Christ, has “exegeted”or “explained, interpreted, or narrated” what God the Father is like. Jesus is more qualified than anyone else to explain what God the Father is like because He, being God, knows God the Father longer and more intimately than anyone else.

For some of you reading this article, it may be very difficult for you to perceive God as your Father because you have been deeply wounded by your own earthly father through his absence or even his abuse towards you. You may detest the thought of God being a Father because your own earthly father caused you a lot of pain. Hence, you want nothing to do with fathers.

Please understand that God the Father is nothing like your absent or abusive father on earth. God wants you to know Him for Who He truly is. And there is no one more qualified to reveal God the Father to you than Jesus Christ.

This is why Jesus said,He who sees Me sees Him [the Father] who sent Me” (John 12:45). He also said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7).Christ said,He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b) because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father.

If you want to know God the Father, get to know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, because He is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; I Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20). You can begin a relationship with God the Son and God the Father through faith. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

To believe in the Father Who sent Jesus is the same as believing in Jesus because Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father, being God Himself. This is why Jesus could say, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me” (John 12:44).

Jesus said, “he who hears My word and believes…” (John 5:24a). Have you heard Jesus’ promise of everlasting life and believed it? If so, Jesus guarantees the person who has heard and believed that he now “has [present tense] everlasting life” (John 5:24b). You do not have to wait until you die to experience everlasting life. If you have heard Jesus’ promise of everlasting life (John 3:16) and believed it, you can now experience His forever life every day of your life on earth and beyond!!!

Christ also guarantees to the one who has heard and believed His promise of eternal life that he “shall not [future tense] come into judgment” for his sins in the future (John 5:24c). Why? Because Jesus was judged on the cross for all of our sins when He died, and God the Father was satisfied with Jesus’ payment for our sins (I John 2:2). Therefore, we will never be eternally punished for our sins if we have heard and believed Jesus’ promise of everlasting life.

Lastly, Jesus promises that the one who has heard and believed His promise of everlasting life “has passed [past tense] from death into life” (John 5:24d). This means that eternal death is behind you, not ahead of you. It is past, not present or future. You are now in the sphere of “life” or relationship with God. When God looks at our life after we believe in Christ, what does He see? He sees only the blood of His Son and His goodness in our lives (Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5; 12:11). In the sphere of “life,” God has no charge against the believer (Romans 8:33). The believer is “justified” (“declared totally righteous”) of all things based on his or her faith in Christ (Romans 4:5). All our sin has been covered by the goodness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are seen by God as completely holy and perfect because of His grace (Ephesians 1:4). That’s why God can let us into heaven when we die if we have believed in Christ as our Savior.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to explain what God the Father is like so I may have a very close and intimate relationship with Him and You. Please help me to see the Father as full of grace and truth like You. Renew my mind so I may see You both as You truly are – abounding in goodness, grace, love, mercy, and truth. Please bring healing to those who have been deeply wounded by their earthly fathers so they may approach You as a good good Father who infinitely and unconditionally loves them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Are you investing in what lasts?

“John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1:15

After explaining that the Word, Jesus Christ, is the Creator God and only source of eternal life Who became a human being (John 1:1-14), the apostle John records the testimony of John the Baptist (John 1:15-36). He begins with, “John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’ ” (John 1:15).

We are told that John the Baptist “bore witness.” What does it mean to be a witness? Is witnessing something one is or something one does? Sometimes we think that to be a witness for Christ means “I just have to live a godly life and that is enough. I don’t ever have to tell anyone how to be saved. They will eventually come to Christ on their own.” But listen. The Greek word translated “bore witness” (martureō) is used in a courtroom setting. And it means “to testify, give evidence, or speak the truth.” What would happen if you took the witness stand in a court of law and never said anything? The judge would hold you in contempt of the court.

Living the holiest life does not tell people how they can obtain eternal life. No amount of watching your godly life tells me how I can know Christ personally. If you live a holy life, it tells me something has happened to you, but it doesn’t tell me how I can have the same experience or what causes you to live that way. Maybe you are a person of high morals. Perhaps your parents disciplined you as a child. Words are more than just helpful for me to know Christ: they are essential. Sooner or later, someone has to talk to me about Jesus in order for me to know Him personally.

If we live a holy life but never tell people about Jesus, then the world will give us all the credit instead of glorifying the Lord. Silent believers are like beautiful road signs with no words or directions printed on them. They are nice to look at, but they don’t tell you how to get where you need to go. We need a balance. Yes, we need to live a godly life, but we also need to use our lips to tell people how to have eternal life through believing in Jesus alone (John 3:16).

When John the Baptist testifies about Jesus, he is not speaking softly. The Bible says he “cried out.” The Greek word translated “cried out” is krazō. This word is imitative of a raven’s piercing cry. It expresses an urgent scream or shout from someone who has deep emotions about their message. John was extremely passionate regarding what he was about to say. Why? Because he understood Who Jesus is and he also understood his purpose. John the Baptist was “sent from God… to bear witness of the Light,” Jesus Christ (John 1:6-7; 8:12). He understood his identity as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23; cf. Isaiah 40:3). John’s purpose was to prepare the people of Israel “that all through him might believe” in their coming Messiah-God for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:7b; 3:36; cf. Acts 19:4). John’s voice was temporary, but his message was eternal.

John the Baptist’s message centered around an eternal Person. He cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’ ” (John 1:15b). The word translated “preferred” (emprosthen) denotes having greater dignity or rank than another (cf. Genesis 48:20; John 1:30).

In Bible times, chronological priority meant superiority (those who were born first were considered superior). John is saying that Jesus is superior to him because Christ came before him. John the Baptist recognized the pre-existence of the Word, Jesus Christ, as God (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says “He was before me.” How could John the Baptist say this? He could say this because Jesus was always before John in His Pre-existent state as God.

In the Old Testament, the Lord God of the universe said, “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: ‘I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God’ ” (Isaiah 44:6; cf. 41:4; 48:12). The God of the universe has no beginning and no end because He is eternal. This is what makes Him uniquely God.

In the last book of the Bible, the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). The apostle John shares Jesus’ testimony, When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last’ ” (Revelation 1:17; cf. 1:13).  At the end of the Book of Revelation the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). Make no mistake, the Lord God of the Old Testament is the same as the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This is John the Baptist’s message. He is acknowledging Jesus’ superiority as the eternal God with no beginning and no end when He says, “He was before me” (John 1:15b).

With the Coronavirus in the news a lot, all of us are confronted with the frailty of humanity. None of us are promised life on earth tomorrow. God is using COVID-19 to persuade people to think about what is eternal.

Since Jesus has no beginning and no end, we are to invest our lives in what lasts. What two things on this planet last for eternity? It is not your bank account… cell phone… video games… house… car… job… or your achievements. I have done a lot of funerals, and I have never seen anyone pull a U-Haul behind a hearse. What lasts forever on earth is people (Matthew 25:46) and the Word of God (I Peter 1:23-24). We have an incredible opportunity to invest in both by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved (Mark 16:15) and then training those who believe in Christ through the discipleship process (Matthew 28:19-20).

Whom are you sharing the gospel with and training in discipleship? If we are not evangelizing and then discipling those who believe the gospel, we are failing to invest our lives in what is lasting. But this need not continue. Today, you can decide to invest your life in what lasts forever.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, I bow my heart before You in worship. You are so amazing! You could have remained in heaven for eternity receiving glory from all of Your angels. But instead, out of love for me and all people, You humbled Yourself and became a human being on earth without ceasing to be God. And You were obedient to death on a cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins! Therefore God the Father has exalted You to the highest place and given You the name that is above every name, that at Your name, Jesus, every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that You are Jesus Christ the Lord, to the glory of God the Father! Forgive me my Lord for focusing so much on what is temporary. Thank You for reminding me to focus on what is eternal. Use my voice, Lord Jesus, to proclaim that You are the eternal God who offers eternal life to those who believe in You. Please use me to multiply followers of Yours while there is still time on earth. I pray this for Your glory and honor, Lord Jesus. In Your name. Amen.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In the first five verses of John we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is eternal, relational, and our Creator God (John 1:1-3). Jesus is the only source of eternal life and hope (John 1:4-5). So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. Jesus Christ made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So what is God like?

In John 1:14, we are going to see that God became a man in order to show us what He is like (John 1:18). The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14a). The most amazing fact of history is that the Word, God Himself, became a human being without ceasing to be God. Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being.

The word “dwelt” (skēnóō) means “to tabernacle” (John 1:14). Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.

Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him. For example, a construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to drive the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.

He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man. Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite (from Eight Vital Relationships for the Growing Christian (Dallas: EvanTell, Inc., 1982), Chapter 2, p. 6). 

This is exactly what God had to do – He became a man in order to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ (Matthew 23:14; 25:41, 46a; Mark 9:42-47; 12:40; Luke 20:47; John 1:1, 14-18; 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15). If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him (cf. Exodus 33:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17) just like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.

The reason John could say he and the other disciples “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14b) without overwhelming fear was because Jesus’ humanity veiled (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:20) the fullness of the glory He possesses in heaven (cf. Revelation 1:12-18).

Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and Him to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says of Jesus, “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.” He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.

Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.

Listen to what Christian author Max Lucado says, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands [bold lettering is mine]. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes his, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel. … Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason. So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you” (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 16-18).

The glory of Jesus that the disciples beheld was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). Christ maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace” refers to the unmerited kindness of God or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Truth” refers to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Truth says there is a right way, a best way. In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth. Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.

Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”

Why is grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.

For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.

Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Leviticus 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Jesus. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.

After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there who could condemn her…who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.

Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all of our sins (Romans 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place  (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.

But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.

Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

That’s grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It’s been wiped out. That’s the power of grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are totally amazing! You are the perfect balance of grace and truth. Thank You for telling me the truth about myself. I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions which makes me deserving of eternal separation from You in the lake of fire. But Your grace led You to take my punishment when You died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. Because You are the truth without any sin, Your perfect sacrifice for my sins satisfied God’s holy demand to punish all my sins. Your grace invites me to come to You just as I am to freely receive Your forgiveness and everlasting life by believing in You. I can know with confidence that I have everlasting life the moment I believe in You because as the truth, You can never lie. You always keep Your promises. Please, my Lord and my God, change me so I can show grace and truth to others as You have shown to me. Lead me to those who not only need Your truth, but also need Your grace. They need to know that their past is gone. It has been erased because of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 2

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3

Not only was the Word present at creation (John 1:1), He was also the Agent of creation. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Does this verse say that all things were made through evolution? No! All things were made through Christ (cf. Colossians 1:16)! Everything that exists owes its existence to the Word. He is the Creator God. Apart from Him, there is no existence. Jesus Christ created this universe. The Word is our CREATOR GOD.

I believe in the Big Bang alright. God spoke (BOOM) and the universe came into being (Genesis 1). Through Him all things “were made (1:3),” but He always “was” (1:1). The Creator knows our inner workings better than anyone; He knows our needs and what it will take to bring us to Himself.

A doctor had hired a new secretary. She was pretty and thin. Part of her responsibilities was mailing out the bills to all the doctor’s patients. The doctor began to notice that it was taking more time than should be necessary for her to fulfill this task, and so he observed her one day. He discovered that rather than using the wet sponge to seal the envelopes, she was licking each one. This took a long time. The doctor asked her to use the sponge instead of licking each one, but the new secretary said that she would rather do it the other way. The doctor tried all kinds of motivations to try and convince her to do things his way. He tried telling her how much quicker it would be, he told her that her mouth wouldn’t get so dry. He even tried switching the type of envelopes that he used to one of those kind that had nasty-tasting glue. Nothing worked.

One day, a patient came to her window to pay her bill and noticed that the secretary was licking the envelopes. She said to her, “Did you know that each envelope has about 1 ½ calories?” The secretary immediately stopped and began using a wet sponge. Sometimes it takes a woman to communicate in a woman’s language.

Likewise, it takes the Creator to communicate in His creation’s language. The Creator of the Universe loved you and me so much that He became a Man without ceasing to be fully God (John 1:14) so we could approach Him. Jesus came to us to speak our language so we could understand Him. Christ spoke to us with love when He took our place and punishment on the cross for our sins (cf. Romans 5:8) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:4-6).

Think of how our Creator God, Jesus Christ, must have felt when He came to earth? The Bible tells us, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). The Creator of the world came into the world and the world did not even know He was here. The world He made ignored Him.

Imagine how He felt as He inhaled the air He created and walked by the Sea of Galilee that He had made. As He ate the fish He spoke into existence and spent time with the people He had created, how must He have felt when no one thanked Him for the air they breathed and the Sea that provided their food and livelihood? It must have hurt for Him to go unrecognized. But it gets worse.

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Not only was the Creator ignored by the world in general, He was rejected by His own Jewish people. Unlike the world, the nation of Israel knew He was here, but like the world they didn’t care. They turned away from their Creator and Messiah. No doubt this deeply hurt the Lord Jesus. But did He give up on the world and the nation of Israel? Does He give up on us when we ignore Him or turn away from Him?

Even though the world did not know Jesus as its Creator (1:10) and His own Jewish people rejected Him as their Messiah-God (1:11), Christ did not stop loving them. He still offers salvation to individual Gentiles and Jews who would receive Him by believing in His name. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Notice that the way to receive Christ is to “believe in His name.” In New Testament times, a name represented a person. Jesus Christ is the One who died for our sins and rose again. The moment you believe or trust in Jesus alone to make you God’s child, you are born into God’s family forever.

Please understand that when the Bible says you must receive and believe in Christ, that does not mean you must simply accept Him as a Person like you would accept me as a person. Accepting me as a person will not get you to heaven. Accepting as history that Jesus existed, died and rose again will not get you to heaven. Some people accept Christ’s death and resurrection as an historical fact but are still trusting in their own works to get them to heaven.

Picture a large boat filled with refugees from Cambodia coming across the Pacific Ocean. It begins taking on water and lifeboats become a necessity. Three passengers find themselves in different situations. The first passenger has no knowledge that lifeboats save and, therefore, never steps into one. The second passenger understands that lifeboats save, but for some reason refuses to step into one. The third passenger not only understands the ability of a lifeboat to save, but actually steps into the lifeboat and in so doing relies upon it to keep him from drowning.

Which of the three is saved? Yes, the last passenger. He not only had the knowledge, but he uses it. A person is saved when he or she understands the ability Jesus Christ has to save and acts on that knowledge by trusting Christ alone. You are not saved simply by understanding Christ died and arose or even accepting His death and resurrection as a fact of history while relying on your own good life to get you to heaven. You become a member of God’s family when as a sinner deserving of hell, you trust Christ alone to get you to heaven.    

Maybe you have ignored God all of your life like the world did. Perhaps you have turned away from His loving attempts to draw you to Himself much like the nation of Israel did when He walked on the earth. Please understand that Jesus still loves you and offers you a personal relationship with Him forever. All He asks is that you “believe in His name” – His Person – and He will place you in God’s family forever!

Just as Jesus never stopped loving the world or the nation of Israel for rejecting Him, so when non-Christians initially reject the message of the gospel from us, we must not stop loving them or exposing them to the gospel. Christ never stopped loving me the first time I heard and rejected the gospel and I am eternally indebted to Him for that! The least I can do is show the same kind of patient love toward unbelievers who need to hear the gospel more than once before they believe it.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, I bow before You as my Creator God. You know me so intimately and thoroughly because You created me in my mother’s womb. You know me better than anyone, and yet You still love me unconditionally. Thank You for making me, me! Thank You for everything about me. Thank You for never ceasing to love me even though I used to ignore You or even reject any of Your attempts to love me. Because You are my Creator God, You have the power not only to take me to heaven when I die, You also have the power to take care of all of my needs. You have the ability to change me from the inside out as I learn to trust and obey You. Just as You never stopped loving me even though I rejected Your initial attempts to share Your gospel message with me, help me not to give up on those who initially reject my attempts to share Your gospel message with them. Help me to show the same kind of patient love toward others who need to hear the gospel as You have shown to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

From the opening section of the gospel of John, the apostle John addresses this question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” John wrote this gospel to non-Christians so they “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name(John 20:31). As you discover the answers to the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?”, you will be challenged as to why you should believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life. The gospel of John focuses upon the central fact of our Christian faith: Christianity is not a philosophy, it is a Person.

While other world religions focus upon rules and regulations, Christianity focuses upon a personal relationship with Christ. That is why Jesus Christ is the most widely acclaimed individual in human history. More books have been written, music composed, pictures painted, and dramas performed about Jesus Christ than any other person. Why?

Why did other great figures come and go? Why do others fade into the annals of history but Jesus Christ looms as large in modern society as He did 2,000 years ago? Why is He the most powerful Personality to ever appear on this planet? That is the question John answers in the first verse.

John begins his gospel in an unusual way. Unlike the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who begin their accounts of Jesus in an historical context, John opens his gospel in eternity. Unlike Matthew who begins his gospel with the genealogy of Abraham and Mark who begins with the story of John the Baptist, or Luke who starts with a description of John and Jesus’ birth. John moves beyond human history. He writes, “In the beginning” (1:1a). 

Do those words sound familiar to you? They take us back to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John starts with God. In the Bible, you cannot go any further back than God, and that is where John begins, in eternity past with God’s eternal purpose.

And what does he tell us? “In the beginning was the Word” (1:1b).  The term “Word” (Logos) is used by John to refer to the Person of Jesus Christ (1:14, 17). A Word expresses a message. Jesus was God’s message to the world.  He was and is the perfect expression of God (cf. Colossians 1:15).

What does the Bible tell us about the Word? He is ETERNAL. “In the beginning was the Word.” In the beginning of time and space, the Word already “was.”  The Word really had no beginning. There has never been a time when “the Word” was not, because He is eternal. The Word has existed from all eternity. At creation, the Word was already present. He is not a created being as some false religions teach. He has no beginning and no end, because He is eternal.

This is why Jesus Christ, the Word, said to His enemies, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). Jesus is saying, “before Abraham came in to being, I eternally was, am, and will ever be.” Jesus was not only claiming to have existed before Abraham two thousand years ago, but He was also claiming to be the eternal “I AM.” “I AM” was the name of the Self-existing God who had revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is the One who redeemed Moses and Israel out of Egypt! “I AM” is an emphatic form of speech and could not be normally employed in ordinary conversation. Jesus was claiming to be the Self-existent God.

The Jews’ response to Christ’s claim confirms this: “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59). To the Jews this was blasphemy, meaning they understood Jesus to claim to be the eternal God. Thus, they prepared to stone Christ in accordance with Leviticus 24:16.

We also see that the Word was RELATIONAL. The phrase “and the Word was with God” refers to the Word being “with” God the Father in a “face-to-face” relationship. “He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2a).Jesus Christ has always enjoyed a personal relationship with His Father. They had perfect fellowship with one another. The word “with” also distinguishes the Word from God the Father. Jesus is separate and distinct from His Father. He has a separate identity. Jesus is a Person, not a principle or Star War’s force. Because Christ is eternal and relational, we can conclude that He desires eternal relationships with those He created (cf. John 1:3; I Timothy 2:3-4).

Finally we see that the Word was GOD. “And the Word was God” (John 1:1c). The Word was not “a god” as some false religions mistranslate. The Greek grammar does not allow this (see endnote) nor does the rest of Scripture (cf. John. 1:1; 5:17-23; 8:58; 10:30-33; Philippians 2:6-8; I Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20).

“And the Word was GOD.” These last five words are some of the most important words in all of the Bible concerning who Jesus is. He was and is God. Whatever God the Father was, the Word was. Everything that makes God-God, the Word possesses. Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). When you look at Jesus Christ, you are looking at God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14; 14:7-11; Philippians 2:6-8; I Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20). Only God can give us life that never ends (John 5:21; I John 5:20). Only God deserves to be worshiped (Exodus 20:4-5). Yet Jesus never refused to be worshiped (Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). Why? Because He is God (John 1:1; 5:23).

What we have here is the mystery of the Trinity which means “three in one.” The Bible teaches that God is one essence (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet eternally exists in three Persons as “Father…Son…Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Both the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1-2, 26; Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 2:6-7, 12; 45:6-7; 139:7-12; Isaiah 9:6; 11:2-3; 63:10, 16; Zechariah 4:6; Malachi 2:10) and the New Testament (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; John 1:1-18; 14:16-17, 26; 16:13-14; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 1:12-20) teach about the distinction between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Trinity is equal in every way, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity.

The Word is “with” God (separate from Him), yet at the same time, He is fully God. So, John informs us that the Word, Jesus Christ, is God. If we cannot or do not believe this basic truth, we will not have enough faith to trust our eternal destiny to Him. Who is Jesus? He is God. Believe in Him. He wants you to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Do you have a personal relationship with the only One who guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him? If not, why not begin a never-ending relationship with Him today? Simply take Christ at His Word when He says in John 5:24: “Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” What does Jesus say you must do to obtain eternal life? “Hear …Believe.” Hear His promise of eternal life and believe Him to give it to you. You will never regret doing this.  

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, because You are God I can depend on You not only to give me everlasting life and a home in heaven, but I can also rely on You to meet all my needs here on earth. Thank You for pursuing me when I was an unsaved sinner and revealing Yourself to me when I was a first-year college student. Thank You for giving me eternal life then and for walking with me on this journey called life. You are an amazing Friend! Always full of grace and truth. Always faithful and trustworthy. There is no one like You in the whole universe! I bow my heart before You and worship You, my Lord and my God! I love You, Jesus. Thank You for loving me more than I ever thought possible! In Your name. Amen.

Endnote: In the phrase “And the Word was God” (kai Theós ēn ho Lógos), the Greek rule of grammar (Colwell’s rule) states that the definite predicate nominative, God” (Theós), in front of the verb “was” (ēn) will not have the article. See E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933), pp. 12-21.

How can I believe Jesus is God?

In the first part of John chapter 5, Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jews sought to kill Him all the more because He not only broke their Sabbath traditions, but He also claimed to be equal with God (5:1-18). When people heard Jesus’ claims, many of them asked, “How do we know He is telling the truth? What evidence does He give?” Knowing the hearts and minds of the religious leaders, Jesus proceeds to call upon five witnesses to back up His claim to be equal with God the Father (5:31-47).

According to Jewish law, self-testimony was not accepted in the court of law (Deut. 19:15). There must be witnesses who will confirm another’s testimony. This is why Jesus said His Self-testimony was not valid (5:31). So He calls upon five witnesses to back up His claim to be equal with God:

1. THE WITNESS OF GOD THE FATHER (5:32, 37-38). The word “another” (5:32) means “of the same kind as Myself.” Jesus is referring to God the Father. The reason Jesus is so bold about His equality with God is because He is conscious of His Father’s continual confidence and support. God the Father’s witness of Jesus (5:37) is seen when He spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). These religious leaders are ignorant of God the Father’s testimony of Jesus because of their unbelief. So Jesus’ claim to be God is valid because there is no higher court of appeal than God the Father Himself.

2. THE WITNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (5:33-35). When John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness, he said three specific things about Jesus: He is “the Lamb of God”(1:29), He is the One “who baptizes with the Holy Spirit”(1:33), and that Jesus is “the Son of God” (1:34), or God Himself.  

3. THE WITNESS OF JESUS’ MIRACULOUS WORKS (5:36) which included changing water into wine (2:1-11), healing both the nobleman’s son in Capernaum (4:46-54), and now the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (5:1-15). In fact, the people listening to Jesus saw this lame man rise out of paralysis into strength and walking again. He was standing before them so that they could not deny the miracle. Christ’s works were superior to John’s words. Only a supernatural Person could perform supernatural works. 

“But,” you say, “that was 2,000 years ago. If God would only witness like that again today I could believe in Him.” Well, God does witness like that today. Jesus still performs miracles today. We have seen Him heal people of cancer…broken relationships. We have watched Christ liberate people from drugs and alcohol. He has transformed sinners into forgiven saints!

4. THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES THEMSELVES (5:39). The Jewish religious leaders devoted their whole lives studying and memorizing the Old Testament because they thought the knowledge of Scripture would give them eternal life (5:39a). There are people like this today, students and scholars who search the Bible, but never find Jesus. Yet Jesus Himself declares, “They [the Scriptures]…testify of Me”(5:39b). Jesus is the main subject of the Old Testament! You will find Him on every page appearing as a type or shadow of things to come. For example, the animal sacrifices pictured Jesus’ death. What an amazing claim this is, “They testify of Me.” 

Muhammed, the prophet of Islam, who studied the Old Testament, never claimed that the Old Testament witnessed to him. Buddha knew some of the Old Testament, yet he never claimed it was a witness to him. Gandhi, a modern-day Buddha, never claimed that Scripture talked about him. But when Jesus makes that claim no one calls Him crazy. There is an acknowledgment of the justice of His claim, there is evidence in support of it.

It’s possible to study the Bible, to even give your whole life to it, and never see Jesus. Like many people today, these people thought that knowledge is power, education is life, and if you get knowledge of what God does you will have eternal life. What is the problem? How can people hear and see the truth, study the truth all their lives, yet never come to Christ?

Jesus tells us: “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (5:40). The problem is the will. The reason they don’t find Christ in their study of the Bible is because they choose not to do so.

Jesus goes on to tell us why someone can read the truth, know it to be truth, know that it speaks of Jesus, know Him to be who He claims to be, and still refuse to come to Him in faith. It is because they are looking for their own advancement. They are out to please themselves and to please other people (5:41-44). 

 There are two ways to study the Bible: (like the Pharisees) you can study it with your mind made up or (like Jesus’ disciples) you can study it to let it make up your mind. The choice is yours.

5. THE WITNESS OF MOSES (5:45-47). It is amazing that the very one the religious leaders of Israel are using as their excuse to persecute Jesus, will instead become their accuser. Moses will finally tell them they have ignored his words about Christ. 

 Many people are like this today. They say, “When I stand before God I will have a lot of things to say to Him. I don’t think He has treated me very fairly. I’ve had a bad deal in life and I’m going to tell Him so.” But on that day, they will stand absolutely silent before God, their own memories will testify that He is right, and they are wrong.

Listen to Jesus’ wordsFor if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words” (5:47-48)? If the Jews believed Moses (and they didn’t), they would believe Jesus because Moses wrote about Him. Moses was highly respected by the Jewish nation and Jesus was saying Moses would condemn them because they rejected the Person he wrote about. Jesus is telling us if we don’t believe the truth we know now, we won’t believe when we hear even more truth. 

Where does that leave us? We have the witness of the Father, of John the Baptist, twenty centuries of testimony about the power of Jesus to heal people, to turn them around and make them whole, the witness of the Bible, and the witness of Moses. Five witnesses were sufficient to condemn the Jews for their unbelief. The Jews were claiming a legal ground for unbelief (5:31) and Jesus shows them there is no legal basis. Where does that leave us, if we continue to pursue the empty voices of the world and seek for positions of power and influence apart from the will and the glory of God?

If you are a Christian, will you submit to Jesus Christ as God and let Him direct your life even if it means being led up onto a hill to be crucified or serving Him in another part of the world? Are you willing to live for Him and not yourself? 

If you are not a Christian, is there anything keeping you from trusting Christ right now to get you to heaven? Because He is God, He is the only One who can give you eternal life. Take Him at His Word when He says, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47

Prayer: For years I have rejected You my Lord Jesus as a mere prophet or good moral teacher. But now I have been convicted that You are truly God and can give me everlasting life. Please forgive me for the terrible things I have done and said. I come to You now as a sinner who deserves eternal condemnation. I believe You died for me and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You, Jesus (not my religion, my good life, or prayers) to give me everlasting life and forgive all my sins. Thank You for the everlasting life and forgiveness I now have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.