June 16th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions
Matthew 8:10 “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’”
What I scribbled in the margin: “Faith and recognition of authority go together.”
I was trying to figure out what astonished Jesus, mostly because for those of us who grew up with the gospel stories in Sunday School this is one of the least astonishing. Every child knows that nothing is too hard for Jesus.
But look at the story again. A Roman centurion (Gentile) has come to ask Jesus to heal his servant, and Jesus graciously volunteers to go and do as he has been asked. But the centurion stops him. He understands Jesus doesn’t have to be with the sick man to perform the miracle. “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed,” he says. And then he explains that as a man who has authority because he is under authority he understands who Jesus is. He understands that the Son of God has the power of God to heal at any distance because he is under the authority of God the Father.
This is why Jesus is astonished. Perhaps Jesus’ authority over sickness is obvious to the child who’s experienced years of Sunday School, but it was a brand new thought to the world. Here is a Roman who “gets it” as I wrote in Marginalia #5. The disciples haven’t yet “got it.” The Jewish leadership isn’t even close to “getting it,” but this man has is acknowledging that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, and doing so in a way that demonstrates he not only grasps the main point, he has already worked out its implications. It would be three years before Jesus would declare to the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18), but this man already understood the principle — and was in complete submission to it!
The centurion’s faith is a personal challenge. Do I really believe God is with me, able to make a difference in my daily life, even when I can’t see him? Am I ready to acknowledge, as did the centurion, that power and authority (they’re the same Greek word, btw) will only flow into my life when I am under Jesus’ authority?
June 15th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
What I scribbled: “Good fruit can be artificially stuck onto thornbushes. But only fruit trees bear fruit year after year.”
Just like wolves in sheep’s clothing (see v. 15), thornbush people can fake it. They can stick on false fruits or even real fruit and pretend it grew naturally. But time is the great revealer, is it not? At some point the wolf grows tired of eating grass and wearing all that wool. That’s when he rips off the disguise and suddenly everyone knows why there has been so much blood on the floor of late. The same is true of thornbush people. At the very season of life when you would expect a true Christian to bear spiritual fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith, etc. (see Gal. 5:22), suddenly out comes manifestations of the flesh: impurity, hatred, discord, rage, ambition, etc. (see Gal. 5:19).
Let me try to explain a frustration that I’ve faced several times as a pastor these past 30 years and more. I’m speaking of those moments when Christians come to the defence of men and women who are clearly on a path to wreck the peace of Christ’s church. “But I know they mean well,” such dear hearts will argue. “Over the years I’ve seen them do a lot of good.” Then they will recite a list of the person’s wonderful acts from memory because very often they were done so as to attract maximum attention. Nor can those good works be denied. And so the wolf rages on, defended by the very sheep he is intent on slaughtering.
Would it be wrong to combine two passages of scripture to fully understand what Jesus had in mind? What if Jesus had said, “Every good tree bears good fruit in season.” That is, love in season of an attack by a genuine enemy, patience in times of real trial, joy over spiritual things, not just when the home team wins — and so on. Actually, I don’t think I’m adding to scripture at all. Did not the psalmist write that the man who’s “delight is in the law of the Lord,” is “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (Psalm 1:3). Brothers and sisters, let us learn to discern between true fruit bearers and those thorny people who cannot bring forth fruit in season, or between God’s lambs and those sheep who, though ever so woolly and white, seem to have no taste for the spiritual table the Lord has prepared.
June 5th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
What I scribbled: “I love how the Bible sometimes just introduces characters and concepts with little or no explanation. You either “get it” or you don’t, and a person’s supposed scholarly capabilities seem to make little difference. Three of these have been introduced in Matthew: 1) baptism, 2) the devil, and 3) the spiritual nature of true Israel.
One thing I love about daily Bible reading is that if I simply immerse myself in the text, engulfing several chapters at a sitting and reading for the pure joy of it, I suddenly find myself thinking in ways I might not when doing more formal Bible study. Today’s scribble is a case in point. Although I wrote it after having read the temptation story I’m convinced it would not have come had I not read the first four chapters of Matthew together.
Now let me expand a bit on the thought itself. Have you noticed that there are no precedents in Scripture for baptism? Look it up. You won’t find baptism, or anything like it in the Old Testament. But suddenly John is doing it, people are incorporating it into their lives and Jesus is embracing it by submitting himself to baptism.
When you read the passage in Matthew 3 you find something very like the New Birth being advocated. Before baptism could take place John required repentance, and evidence of a changed heart (3:8). He even placed an emphasis on a spiritual relationship with God that was entirely divorced from any Old Testament promises God made to Abraham (3:9). Nevertheless, vast crowds of people “got” what John was doing. The very people who were called a “mob” and “cursed” by the priests and rabbis (See John 7:49), were the ones who readily understood and accepted what God was doing.
The same is true for all three doctrines I’ve identified. To this day you cannot guess who will deny the devil and who will affirm a belief in his existence. Education or lack of it is no help. Income is no guide. Nor is race or cultural background. None of the usual indicators that Madison Avenue might use to help them know to whom they should pitch their products seem to work here. Rather, it seems that some people accept the Biblical teaching on the subject and find proofs of old Smutty Breath’s presence all around them, while other even deny the existence of evil, let alone a personal devil.
Spiritual Israel fits into the same category. Either you get it, or you don’t. Matthew is considered by many to be the gospel for the Jews. For example, Harold Lindsell writes in his introduction to Matthew, “The strongly Hebraic character of the book identifies its author as a Jewish Christian writing for Jewish readers.” Lindsell is undoubtedly correct. Yet too few Bible scholars see that from the outset Matthew makes a major point of emphasizing the spiritual nature of true Israel, teaching plainly that while Jesus is Israel’s long-promised Messiah, he is much more than that. He is the foundation of a new, spiritual Israel, the only Israel that counts with God.
This message comes through in chapter 1, where it is said of this “Immanuel,” this “God with us,” that “he will save his people from their sins” (1:21). In other words, as far as Israel is concerned Jesus’ people — and by extension God’s people — are not the Jews in general but those particular Jews who are saved through faith in him. If that isn’t what Matthew 3:8-10 teaches, then I don’t know that anyone could say what those verses might teach. And yet, a major bloc of modern Christians are still persuaded that somehow racial Jews have a place in God’s covenant plans apart from faith in Jesus Christ. As I said, you either “get it” or you don’t.
May 25th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
Matthew 3:9 “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”
What I scribbled: “Not even Matthew will accept physical Israel as having a covenant relationship with God.”
This verse comes in the middle of Matthew’s account of John the Baptist’s preaching, particularly the sermons he aimed at the Pharisees and Sadducees. These two Jewish sects differed over theology, but they were united at one point; they thought themselves to be in a special, covenantal relationship with God because they were physical descendants of Abraham.
The Baptist’s entire ministry was dedicated to showing that notion false. He specifically called the Pharisees and Sadducees to repentance and faith in the coming Messiah, insisting that being born to Jewish parents gave them no advantage. When the Messiah came he would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit and with cleansing fire. These baptized ones alone would be gathered to be with God.
John’s teaching is consistent with everything Jesus taught. Just as importantly, it is consistent with Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3, the entire chapter, but especially verse 29: “If you (Jew and Gentile) belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (God made to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3).
This teaching is important for two reasons. First, too many Christians today are as confused about the Jews place in God’s plan as were the Pharisees and Sadducees, and, oddly enough, they are confused in exactly the same way.
Second, it is crucial that we understand John’s principle is universal and eternal; throughout history the only people to ever be in covenant relationship with God are those who have repented of sin and believed in the Messiah, whom we know today to be Jesus of Nazareth. In B.C. times the Jews were saved only through faith in the Messiah to come. Since the birth of Christ some 2,000 years ago salvation has been only for those who believe in Jesus, whatever their racial or religious backgrounds.
May 24th, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
Matthew 2:14-15 “So he (Joseph) got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
What I scribbled: “Here Jesus is God’s Son, but before this He was God (Mat. 1:23). And when you look at the original prophecy (Hosea 11:1), Jesus is also Israel.”
You probably already know the back story for this passage. The coming of the Wise Men to worship the newborn “king of the Jews” has alerted murderous King Herod to the existence of a rival claimant to his authority and power. The flight to Egypt was necessitated when Herod, true to his previous history, determined to eliminate his rival by killing all the boy babies in Bethlehem.
But Matthew says Jesus’ trip to Egypt had a higher purpose. He went there to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” At first glance it’s easy to see that Jesus is in some manner recapitulating the history of God’s people Israel. They were called out of Egypt, so Jesus gets called out of Egypt. But if you check the original quote you quickly sense that more is going on. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Here the reference is — apparently — to Jacob (Israel) and his descendants, while in Matthew the reference is — apparently — only about Jesus.
It appears that God is conflating Jesus with Israel and Israel with Jesus, mixing them up. But to what purpose? This is the New Testament’s first hint at something the theologians call “Federal Theology,” the idea that one man can represent an entire people before God, exactly as a member of Parliament represents his constituents. Legally his vote counts as though everyone has voted.
Jesus’ federal headship is about more than voting. In Hosea God goes on to say, “But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.” Jesus, as representative head of a new Israel, did just the opposite. Instead of disobedience, he offered God perfect obedience. Instead of failure His life was a smashing success with God, as evidenced by His glorious resurrection.
Which raises a question, in what sense did Christ live and die for Abraham’s descendants? Stay tuned. Answers will be given, and even 2,000 years later they remain so unexpected that lots of people, Jews and Gentiles alike, struggle to accept their implications.
The key is that God gets Jesus and Israel all mixed up, so that what Israel did not do, Jesus is considered to have done. This “mix-up” continues into the present time, the difference being that from God’s perspective Jesus’ obedience is counted for “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.” But here we’re getting ahead of Matthew.
May 23rd, 2013 — Published Articles, Theology
Beginning with the bolded subhead below, this article is exactly as it appeared in TheChristians.com, a new website that presents news and insight about Christians and their doings all over the world. The founders’ goal is to be the premier Christian news site on the Internet and it is already closer to achieving the goal than they had any right to hope by this point. If you visit the site you will also want to check out the history book series called The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. Edited by Ted Byfield, with large swaths written by him in the first place, this set of books makes our history more alive, and meaningful, than anything else I’ve read.
As to the shroud, you need to know that I was forced by the evidence to jettison my long-held assumptions about “Catholic” relics and conclude that it is likely the burial cloth that Joseph wrapped around Jesus. For what it’s worth I had read John Wilder’s The Other Side of Rome before I was ten years old, making me a convinced anti-Catholic most of my life. I was particularly taken by his chapter on relics and spent most of my life joking about the gallons of Mary’s breast milk found in the cathedrals of Europe and making sure everyone knew there are enough pieces of the “true cross” on display to build a battleship.
But what if that isn’t the whole story? What if Satan, in order to distract the world from the one true relic, the burial cloth of Christ, filled the world with false relics in order to discredit the one true artifact that forever forces a skeptical world to deal with the fact of Christ’s resurrection?
Try as they may, skeptics find it harder and harder to explain the mysterious cloth
By Shafer Parker May 9, 2013
The face of Jesus? The faint ‘negative image,’ left; the ‘positive image,’ right when printed as a photograph.
There are two widely-believed misconceptions about the famous Shroud of Turin – the purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ locked in a sealed container in the Cathedral of Turin, Italy. One is that science has disproved its authenticity, the other that the artefact is of religious interest only to Roman Catholics. A new dating test, according to preliminary reports, puts the origin of the cloth at about the time of Christ. As for its presumed Roman Catholic identity, many Protestants like myself continue to uphold the relic’s religious importance.
Though the origin of the mysterious shroud may yet prove non-miraculous, to this day no one has been able to come even close to duplicating it or plausibly explaining how the photographic image of a crucified man could have been left on the cloth. Instead, systematic scientific research, beginning with the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) in 1978, makes a natural explanation increasingly unlikely, regardless of how old the fabric is.
Even a cursory glance at the shroud reveals mysteries that raise doubts about its oft-alleged fabrication in the Middle Ages. It is a large sheet of hand spun linen (a rare 3-to-1 herringbone twill weave, a style specifically traceable to the Dead Sea region some 2,000 years ago). It is 14 feet long and 3½ feet wide, and presents a faint but clear life-sized, whole-body negative image of a crucified man, front and back. The idea of a negative image was not understood until the invention of photography in the 1800s. The coloration creating the negative image rests on the outer fibres of the linen weave in a layer 100 times thinner than a human hair – the result, not of paint or any sort of pigment, but of rapid dehydration of the natural cellulose present in the fibres. Moreover, the nail holes visible in the image are placed not in the palms but in the wrists – a position necessary to support the crucified man’s full body weight, but a fact unknown to the Middle Ages.
Scientific inquiry has for the most part yielded results that are ever more perplexing to the skeptics. Their great retort came with radiocarbon dating test results in 1988, which found the cloth not more than 700 years old. Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Amherst, New York-based Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, argues that it must be so because three separate laboratories in Arizona, England and Switzerland produced similar test results. However, the announcement was followed by loud objections, both from Christian believers and interested scientists, questioning what exactly the tests had measured. The detailed protocols set for the tests had all been ignored. For instance, samples had been taken from the outer edge of the cloth, an area known to have been patched after a 1532 fire, and saturated with the grease from much human handling in recent centuries.
Which brings us to Italian engineering professor Giulio Fanti (University of Padua) and the research he released just before Easter of this year. In a book entitled Il Mistero della Sindone (The Mystery of the Shroud), Fanti describes how he used both infrared light (Fourier Transform Infrared, or FTIR) and Raman spectroscopy to measure the amount of cellulose remaining in shroud fibres which he says he obtained from Giovanni Riggi di Numana, part of the original STURP team. He also subjected the fibres to a series of mechanical tests designed to measure their compressibility and breaking strength, comparing the results of all three tests to nine ancient fabric samples aged from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1000. Averaged together, he says, the tests showed the linen fibres of the shroud to have been woven into cloth around 33 B.C., give or take 250 years.
Prof. Fanti has yet to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal (“Coming soon,” he promises in an e-mail.), but if his findings hold true they could yet prove the decisive reply to the dubitable results of the 1988 carbon dating tests. Either way, so much evidence has accumulated to place the shroud’s origin near Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago that one feels almost compelled to view the 1988 tests as anomalous if not scandalous.
To state my own convictions and background, unless and until the weight of scientific evidence proves otherwise, I will remain convinced that the image on the shroud was left behind when the body of Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And though I am a Baptist pastor and the son of a Baptist pastor, and though the shroud may presently rest in a Catholic cathedral, this relic – if genuine – is catholic in the larger sense of the word: of universal Christian significance.
Many Protestant Christians feel the same. The list of scholars who believe the Shroud of Turin is most likely the burial shroud of Jesus Christ includes such Protestant luminaries as Gary Habermas, co-author of two books on the subject and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. (founded by Jerry Falwell), Phillip H. Wiebe, former Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, and devout Methodist Dr. Alan Whanger, Professor Emeritus at Duke University Medical Center.
Then there is the unique example of Barrie Schwortz, STURP’s official documenting photographer and a Jew. “I came to the research as a total skeptic with no emotional attachment,” he says, “but after 18 years of study I became convinced that this cloth wrapped the historic Jesus.”
May 23rd, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions
Mat. 1:19-20 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
What I scribbled: “Joseph was a man who ‘considered’ things. This is huge. God make me a man who considers things.”
I sometimes think Joseph might have been the only man in the world who would “consider” things when faced with his situation. His wife-to-be was pregnant and he knew he was not the father. Most men would have said, “What’s to consider?” and would have immediately rejected Mary in whatever way would hurt her most.
But Joseph was not most men. He was the man God selected to be surrogate father to His only begotten Son. So it’s worth noting that when faced with the worst possible crisis in any man’s life, he thought twice, and then decided to behave in the most gracious way possible. When I scribbled in the margin a prayer that God would help me “consider things,” I was thinking of how often I react to situations with pure emotion, often with anger or a dangerous level of self-righteousness. I want God to help me consider how to react like a Christian, assuming the best, not the worst, thinking of how to help others, not hinder them, how to accord them honour, not take the lead in disrespecting them and tearing them down.
May 22nd, 2013 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions
Matthew 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.
Scribble: “If your mother is a Canaanite prostitute, it’s likely that you will have fewer scruples re your wife’s Moabite background.”
Many commentators have noted that all four of the women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus have a moral stain on their lives. Tamar (v.3) pretended to be a prostitute in order to entice her father-in-law Joseph to have sex with her. Rahab was the prostitute (harlot) who hid the Israelite spies in her house of ill repute. Ruth was a Moabitess, and although the Bible makes no suggestion that she was anything but pure, just being from Moab was a moral stain in the eyes of Jacob’s descendants. They were, after all, children of incest (Gen. 19:30-38). The last mentioned is Bathsheba, wife of Uriah and an adulteress who left no record that she ever once considered resisting David’s advances.
But what interests me just now is Boaz’s willingness to marry Ruth, the Moabitess. Whatever could have prompted him to marry so far beneath his station? Well, consider his mother, the aforementioned Rahab, she whose first career was carved out in what is sometimes called the world’s oldest profession. But that was not the Rahab Boaz knew. His mother had become a believer in the God of Israel. Her life had been transformed by God’s grace, and the mother he knew was a woman of character and an example of faith for all the world.
Maybe Boaz could get past Ruth’s heritage because he knew very well what God had done in his mother’s life. Maybe all of us could get past a lot of things in other people if we could just keep in mind how much God has forgiven in us.
December 7th, 2012 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
Whoooeeee! Who knew there are so many ways to use the word ratchet, these days? Apparently I have to be careful here. By “ratchet” you need to know that I do not mean a musical instrument, or one of the several characters who go by that name in a variety of movies, TV series and computer games. Nor am I thinking about financial derivatives, quantum physics or a particular type of female known to haunt large-city night clubs. I have in mind the lowly mechanical device that allows movement in only one direction, usually attached to a socket wrench — a favourite tool of automobile mechanics when dealing with bolts in tight places. I’m particularly fascinated by the fact that a rachet only moves in one direction. If you try to turn it the other way you will get a clicking sound, but no movement at all.
Abraham had a spiritual ratchet operating in his life. As an old man Abraham was concerned about finding the right wife for his son Isaac. (You can read the story yourself in Genesis 24.) Because he loved his son, he wanted a wife who would help him worship and serve the true God. That narrowed his choices considerably. Apart from his extended family, everyone else was pagan, which meant their lives were embroiled in a mix of idolatry, witchcraft, and demons. Oh, and gross immorality of all types. Remember, in Abraham’s day Sodom and Gomorrah were model cities.
With all that in mind, Abraham called for his servant and made him swear he would go back to his ancestral homeland to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham was an old man by then, and could not be sure he would live to see Isaac married. Thus he felt completely dependent upon his servant.
The servant had a couple of questions: “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” Abraham was emphatic in his reply. “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” he said. Even if no godly woman could be persuaded to join Isaac in Canaan, by no means was the son to ever return to Abraham’s homeland. Better he should live single all his life than either he should 1) marry a Canaanite woman, or 2) leave Canaan, the promised land.
Abraham knew that all God’s promises to him and his descendants would only ever be fulfilled in the land that was then called Canaan, but known today as Israel, or the Holy Land. So in order to stay in the place where God could bless him, Abraham had installed a kind of ratchet in his life that only allowed him to move in one direction, toward God and toward the land that God had given him. His sharpness toward his servant grew out of fear that the servant might reverse the ratchet and take his son out of the place of God’s blessing.
Did you install a ratchet in your life when you became a Christian? It’s necessary if you want to retain any progress you make in the Christian life. Like Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), you were called to faith by God Himself. Like Abraham you entered into a covenant relationship with God. Like Abraham you were called to begin a pilgrimage toward the heavenly “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
But are you as determined as Abraham not to go “back there,” back to the lifestyle, the thought patterns, the worldliness and casual idolatry of your previous life? A surprising number of professed believers regularly go “back there.” They have no ratchet to prevent their lives from turning back again and again. Then they act surprised when they find they are no longer in the place where God can bless them with a sense of His presence, peace, power and love.
Here’s the bottom line. You can’t be the person God has called you to be without a ratchet operating in your life, a ratchet that preserves the progress you make. “But how do you get such a thing?” you ask. The answer is simple, but profound. Be certain that you know God has called you, and be just as certain that you understand the nature of that call, its direction and purpose. Abraham knew that he had been called by God and he knew exactly what God wanted him to do. Then he did it — most of the time anyway.
So the first thing is to know that you are called, because every Christian is called by God. I trust you already understand this, but for a refresher go ahead and meditate upon the following verses. I think you will reach two conclusions, 1) All Christians become Christians because they are called by God and 2) God has a specific purpose in calling each person to Himself. The better you understand how these two truths apply to your life, the stronger your ratchet will be. (Acts 2:39, Romans 8:30, 9:24; I Cor. 1:26; Eph. 1:18, 4:4; II Thess. 1:11, 2:13-14; II Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1, 9:15; I Peter 5:10; II Peter 1:3, 1:10; Rev. 17:14, 19:9)
December 5th, 2012 — Bible Study, Daily Devotions, Theology
If you’ve ever been to Hawkwood Baptist Church (the church it is my great privilege to pastor) then you know that it is enjoys as good a location as any church in Calgary. At some point in the past the church decided to capitalize on our great location by erecting a large sign on John Laurier Blvd. to advertise our presence, a sign that includes a 50-inch by 120-inch double-sided reader board. That board has garnered a lot of comments, most of them positive, but all related to the witty and pithy messages that have been used to preach the gospel and confront the community with the claims of Christ. I was thinking about all this yesterday when putting up the present message.
THE BIRTH OF
GOD WITH US
This may sound crass in our politically correct age, but the thought came to me that at Christmas we Christians are celebrating something no other religion has ever dared to offer — the coming of God into the world to join Himself with the human race. Outside Christianity such a thought has remained unthinkable. Would any Muslim claim that Mohammed is “God with us?” To ask the question is to answer it. Of course not. Is Buddha “God with us?” Again, “No.” What about Abraham, or Zoroaster, Socrates, Plato or Confucius? Great men all, but not God. And obviously not God. So obviously not God that to this day the disciples of these great men will not allow anyone to call them God.
Jesus is different, isn’t he? His closest disciples were the first to call him “Lord” and “God.” Every attempt to diminish His divinity runs into the inescapable reality of His supernatural life. As Jesus walked among us He simply didn’t make mistakes. Even the best men make mistakes. But Jesus didn’t make mistakes. He related to truth as you and I relate to breathing. Truth was simply part of His life. There was no failure, no weakness, and certainly no sin in his life. And don’t tell me that this is just the way He is written up in the gospels. Sinful men simply cannot imagine a life without sin, shortcomings or failure. Nevertheless, Jesus lived such a life. The gospel writers could not have written about such a man if such a man had not lived before them.
So, as we (Christians) celebrate Christ’s birth, we should not be afraid to offer our praise and worship as a challenge to every non-Christian on the planet. “Show us what you have,” we should say. “Even on a purely philosophical level, try to find something equivalent, or an adequate substitute to our teaching that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.”
To descend to the vulgar, “Ya got nuthin!” Whoever you are, you don’t even have an adequate philosophical equivalent. But we have the birth of an actual baby in a manger, born of a virgin with only God as his Father. This is the baby Who grew to maturity, Who, at one and the same time, taught the simplest and most profound lessons in the world, Who took the sins of the world upon Himself, Who suffered and died and Who rose again in triumph over the curse of sin and the power of the grave. Thanks to Jesus, we have God with us, God for us and God in us.
So come on, people. Join us. Believe on the Lord Jesus and receive Him and all that He is so that you, too, may have God with you.