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John’s Jesus

Let’s read  John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

As you read this, understand that Jesus is the Word.  Let’s re-read the verse by replacing “the Word” with “Jesus”.

“In the beginning was Jesus and Jesus was with God and Jesus was God.” 

This leads us to two distinct conversations:  the first is the deity of Jesus and the second is his eternal existence, since he was with God in the beginning – before anything was made.

First – we are told that Jesus was God.  It is important that we understand this.  It is not that Jesus was a god – one of many gods.  To make it say this, you have to change the Greek language from which this was written.  Every Greek scholar that has translated the Bible properly has translated it to mean the same thing – that Jesus was God, not that Jesus was a god. See a comparison of Bible translations here:  The literal word-for-word translation would actually say “and God was the Word”.  There is only one God and there is no doubt that what was written was that Jesus was God.

Second – we are told that he was “In the beginning” – in other words, before anything was created, before anything else existed.  In the beginning, before anything, was Jesus.  The only One who existed before anything was created, before anything else existed, was God.  When we say that God is eternal, we are saying that He has always existed, that He has no beginning – that is the definition of “eternal”.  All things have a beginning, since God made all things.  Only God does not have a beginning, because only God is eternal.  As we think about these two things together, this should make sense to us.  Jesus was “In the beginning” because he was God.

Which brings us to John 1:3:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Here we read exactly what we were just discussing – that all things were made in the universe through Jesus – nothing was made without him.  He is the Creator, along with the Father and the Spirit.  See Genesis 1:1-3 (BTW – Genesis means “the beginning”):

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

So we now see that God created all things, that Jesus was with God in the beginning and that the Holy Spirit was hovering over the face of the waters.  This is the Trinity.  There is only one God but we can see that the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all eternal, pre-existing, non-created persons who created all things.

It is Jesus and the Holy Spirit who the Father is speaking to in Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

So Jesus is the God who created the universe, spoke it into being.  He created the greatest star, trillions of light years away from us and the smallest grain of sand here on this earth.

John 1:4 tells us that it is Jesus who has created life.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

He is where life came from.  He is the one who brought the living to life.  It did not happen by accident – it was the work of the Word, Jesus.

So we see that Jesus is God, that he is eternal, that he is the Creator, that he is the giver of life.  Now we head down to John 1:14.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Here we read that Jesus was not only God but that the Word became flesh.  This is what we celebrate at Christmas:  That God came down to be born as a man.  Isaiah 7:14 says:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophetically told us that this would happen when he wrote that a virgin would give birth and would call his name “Immanuel”.  Immanuel means God with us.  This verse in John reveals the fulfillment of this prophecy in the Word made flesh.  God born in human form. Philippians 2:5-11 tells us more about this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

So we can see that Jesus is fully God but also fully man.  Why did Jesus become man? This was necessary because sin came by the first Adam, therefore it needed to be removed by a second Adam.  In other words, since it was a man who brought sin into the world, it needed to be a man who would remove it.  However, how impossible is it for a man to do this, since every one falls short of the holiness and glory of God (Romans 3:23), since nobody’s perfect, since we all have sinned?  Therefore only God Himself could do this since He is the only one who is sinless and perfect.  Do you see what a conundrum this is – that only a man could remove sin but only God is able to do this?  Yet that is exactly who Jesus is – the only one who is able to remove sin because he is fully God and fully man.

“Why would God do this?”  Only because of the Grace of God towards man.  Grace means to receive something that we don’t deserve, that we didn’t earn.  Jesus becomes a man because God has Grace towards mankind.  Recognize that man was not the only one to fall, that angels fell as well.  The greatest angel to fall was Satan.  He was one of God’s brightest creation.  However, Satan chose to try to become like God and went against God.  He sinned by doing so and brought one-third of the angels with him.  These bad angels, whom we also call demons, work against God every day.  Yet, imagine – if after centuries of going against God, sinning against the Holy One, one of these demons decided that he changed his mind.  He realized how futile it was to go against God.  He understood how evil his actions were.  He repented and asked God for forgiveness.  Would he now go into Heaven?  Absolutely not.  God has created the Lake of Fire, what we call Hell, for Satan and his demons (Matt 25:41) and there is no escape for them.

This is right and proper.  If someone were to murder your loved one, it would be a wicked judge who said, ”You are guilty of murder, but I forgive you.  You do not have to go to prison.”  If a human judge knows that it is right to punish a murderer and send him to jail, how much more must God do so, who is the most righteous judge and by nature must do what is right?  You might say, “But I’ve never murdered” but God says in Matt 5:21-22:

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

The bad angels will go to hell because it is what they deserve and it is also what we deserve because we too want to be like God, to have control, to do our own will, to think that we are right and that He is wrong.  We too sin against the Holy One every day.  Yet, if we repent and ask God for forgiveness, God will forgive us.  Why?  How?  Because Jesus did not become fully God and fully angel.  Jesus became fully God and fully man.  Why?  Here, we turn to John 3:16.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Here we learn how God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that any who believe will not perish but have eternal life.  Let’s spend some time in this verse to break down the major points: 1-God so loved the world; 2-He gave His only begotten son; 3-All who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

We ask the question again – “Why would God forgive us and not the angels?”  Because that is how much He loves us.  He loves us more than we can think or imagine – it is beyond our understanding.  Some people, perhaps yourself, might die for someone who loves them, but who would die for someone who hates them?  More than that, who would give their only son for someone who hates them?  For that is who we were – people who hated God.  We proved it by neglecting His law, doing our own will, believing that we are right and He is wrong, turning our backs on Him and ignoring Him most of the day, even though He is watching over us every moment of every second of the day.  A child who did that to their parent would be a hateful child.  A worker who did that to their boss would be a hateful worker.  A person who did that to their God would be a hateful servant.  Yet this is the Love of God: He loves us so much that He would give His only begotten son to die so that we could be with Him forever.

Our second point is that Jesus is the son of God in a way that we are not.  Jesus is the same as the Father in the same way that a natural born child is the same as their parents – they have the same genes, the same eyes, the same laugh, etc.  They’re made of the same stuff, the same substance.  Sometimes, we like to say that we are all children of God.  Here we turn back to John 1:12.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Not everyone is a child of God.  Only those who receive him are given the right to become children of God.  What does it mean to receive Jesus?  The rest of verse 12 explains – those who believe in His Name.  This means that we need to believe the things that we’ve spoken about up to now – Jesus is the eternal, Creator God who gave life and who also was born as a man to take away the sins of the world.  Not everyone is a child of God.  Only those who believe in Jesus.

Let’s come back to John 3:16, and look at this third point.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Those who are His children, those who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  We can have eternal life by believing in Jesus.  The other option is to perish.  To perish means to not have eternal life in Heaven but instead to live in Hell, in the place that was meant for Satan and His demons.  It is not the place that God created for men.  For men, He created Heaven and wants everyone to be there.  But He has given us a choice:  do we want to be with Him and give up our lives and our control and our will to Him and make Him God, Lord, Master?  Or do we want to continue to hold on to those things and keep trying to be god ourselves?  God gives us whichever we choose. If we choose to be with God, He will bring us into Heaven.  If we choose to be god ourselves, He keeps us away from Heaven, where He is, and allows us to go to the only other option – Hell.  We enter into heaven by receiving Jesus, believing all that we have just discussed about him.  We enter hell by rejecting all that we have discussed and continuing to try to enter heaven by our own efforts.

Think about what you’ve read.  Pray about it.  We urge you to give yourself over to Jesus, to allow Him to be your Lord.  If you do, let us know because we are praying for you.

Two or More are Gathered

Matthew 18:15-20 has been used by the Church to teach many things.  Church Discipline is the topic that begins this teaching of Jesus.  In verses 15-17, Jesus tells us the proper way to deal with a Christian brother or sister (adelphoi) who is sinning.  In a one-to-one discussion, we should point out what they have done and privately work to bring reconciliation.  If that doesn’t work, then one or two witnesses should be brought in. In Jewish law, if one person brought a claim against another, it was not recognized as valid unless there were one or two witnesses (Deut 19:15, John 8:12-18) . Jesus, in agreement with this law that was given to the Jews by God, concurs that it is still a valid process and continues it for the Church.  However, if there was still disagreement, then the whole Church should be brought in.  The purpose of all this is to ensure that there is agreement that a sin has been committed and that the offending person is alerted to it so that the offense can cease and repentance can occur.  If the offender refuses to cease the behavior after all of this, there is clearly a lack of agreement and therefore the offender is sent away so that the rest of the body is not infected.

Remembering that it is Jesus who has given us this process, it is a sad state of affairs when the leadership of the Church refuses to do what the Head of the Church (Christ) has determined.  If more churches disciplined sinners in their midst, the witness of the Church would be greater, the power of the Church would be stronger and the accusation of “Hypocrite!” by those who are outside the Church would diminish.  There is little disagreement regarding the understanding of verses 15-17, even if there is little observance of Jesus’ command for His Church to discipline those who are sinning in the midst of the Body.

However, as we get to the rest of this passage, we will see that there are different teachings regarding it.  The key to understanding which are the correct interpretations is to remember that all scripture must be interpreted in context.

Matt 18:18 has been used to teach that we can and should bind Satan and is used as a scripture reference to Spiritual Warfare.  While Spiritual Warfare is real (Eph 6:10-18), it is not correct to say that this passage is teaching that the Church should bind Satan.  Christ is in control of that (Rev 20:1-3) for not even the Archangel Michael dared to contend against Satan (Jude 9).  Binding and Loosing was a Jewish term for the actions of the synagogues when there was a lack of scriptural command.  It meant that if the synagogue leaders bound something, that it was an obligation for all member to follow.  If they loosed something, the behavior was not compulsory.  Having a better understanding of Binding and Loosing in Jesus’ day and recognizing the context of Church Discipline, we learn that Jesus is simply saying here that if a disagreement occurred between an individual and the Church, the Church was the authority and should be obeyed.

Here we come to Matt 18:19, where there are many today who teach that if two people are in agreement regarding a prayer request, that God will answer that prayer.  We ought to remember always that if our beliefs do not match reality, then our beliefs are unrealistic (aka fantasy) and our faith is not a true faith.  There are many times that two or more people have prayed to God in agreement and their prayer was not answered.  To teach and think that this verse is telling us how to pray to get God to do something for us, is to teach that we are gods who can control the True God by telling Him what to do.  We either remove the Sovereignty of God and make ourselves the determiners of the actions of God or we remove the Omnipotence of God and show Him to be a weak God who is unable to respond to certain requests.  If we now claim that “it is not in God’s will”, then we prove that the verse cannot possibly mean that God will answer when two or more are in agreement.

Once again, we must go back to the context of the passage and recognize that it is speaking of Church Discipline.  In this context, we remember that Jesus had just told us that if there was a disagreement between two people, that one or two witnesses should be brought in (the math shows clearly that if 1 or 2 witnesses are added to the 1 original protester, we now have 2 or more witnesses against the offender).  In other words, Jesus is telling us that when the witnesses are in agreement that a brother or sister has sinned, that God is behind them because God hates sin and He is a God of Righteousness.  When we step back and look at this verse and the previous verse regarding binding and loosing, we see that Jesus is telling us that if we follow His process for Church Discipline, God is with us for He is a Just and Good God, as well as a Merciful and Gracious God who wants all who have sinned to come back to Him.

Which brings us to the last verse in our passage.  Matt 18:20 has been used as an excuse to not attend a church because after all, Jesus said that if two or more are gathered together, then I don’t have to go to a church since myself and my (choose a partner – spouse, child, television preacher…) are together.  There are several problems with this interpretation that church is where 2 or more are gathered.  First is the actual meaning of the word “Church”.  In the Greek, it is translated from the word Ekklesia.  The literal translation of ekklesia is “assembly”.  It is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, which we call the Old Testament) to translate “assembly”.  It’s meaning has not changed.  The Church that Jesus built is an assembly and an assembly is not 2  or 3 people, nor is it simply a family gathering.  Additionally, to read this verse to mean that Jesus is with us when two or more are gathered implies that He is not with us when we are alone.  Yet we know that Jesus is with us everywhere, all the time (Matt 28:20) – as God, He is Omnipresent.  Finally, we recognize that other scriptures teach us the exact opposite idea of this concept regarding the lack of needing to be part of a church.  For example, 1 Corinthians 14:12,26 and Eph 4:11-12 teach us that Spiritual Gifts are for the building up of the Church (thus, how can you have a Spiritual Gift if you are not part of the Church?) and Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us that we should not stop meeting as some will do as the day draws near.  The Day is drawing near and too many have lost this warning to the End Times Church – we must continue to meet together.

Once again, a better understanding of the verse is to understand its context and recognize that Jesus is simply saying that He is with the two or more witnesses against the offender when the Church properly disciplines sinning members.

So we can take these six verses and assume there are four different lessons in them – Church Discipline, Spiritual Warfare, Prayer Effectiveness and the Definition of Church – or we can look at them from the proper context and see that Jesus was giving us a model for Church Discipline and was exhorting us to be confident that with prayer and this process, the Church would do the right thing for God would be with them, and so we can know that He will support and guide.  Let us read the Word of God as He intended and not as we would like.  It would make for a more powerful Church and a greater witness.

I Believe! Help my Unbelief! – Part II

In Part I, we began this topic by looking at Mark 9:14-24, where a father asks Jesus to help his son, who has been possessed by a demon which the disciples have not been able to remove.  When Jesus says to the father, “Everything is possible for one who believes,”  the father cries out what many people want to cry out deep inside – or should cry out if they were honest with themselves: “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”  We looked at this seemingly contradictory phrase and discussed three potential reasons why someone might believe in their heads, but not in their hearts.  This week, we conclude the topic by stepping through the solution to this dilemma. How can we believe in our hearts as well as our heads?

First, you must understand true salvation (as opposed to the “salvation” false Christians have).  You are truly saved if you trust in Christ only for salvation and have repented.  Only through Jesus can you have salvation. Do you think that you can help yourself in the eyes of God?  Do you think that you can convince Him that heaven is where you belong?  If you do, you need to be broken in spirit.  You must trust in Jesus alone as the only way you will get to eternal life. There is nothing you can do to help yourself – you cannot persuade God to get you in.  You do not deserve it because you are not righteous and your human nature is corrupt.  You must repent! (Matt 4:17) Repentance is not confessing your sins.  It is knowing in your mind and heart that you did wrong and hating that sinfulness, then turning from that to believing that God’s way is the right way (as described in the Bible) and finally moving forward in your life with the conviction that you are going to do what God wants from that point on.  At this point, and only at this point, is confession useful.

[dropshadowbox align=”left” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Looking for the Power of the Holy Spirit as evidence that He lives within you is misleading. The power comes from a filling, but He can be within you even without it. These are the Biblical evidences of the indwelling Spirit.[/dropshadowbox]

If you do these things, you can know that God will be found by you (Jeremiah 29:13) and that is when the Holy Spirit comes to live in you.  You can know you are saved if you have the Holy Spirit because all who are His have His Spirit (Acts 2:38, Eph 1:13).  If you are His, you have the Holy Spirit within you.  If you do not have the Holy Spirit, you are not His.  Simple enough.

So, how do you know if the Holy Spirit is within you? Test yourselves! (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Are you convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11)? Jesus gives a specific reference to the sin that the Holy Spirit convicts us of: the sin of unbelief!  Jesus helps our unbelief by His Holy Spirit convicting us that we have this sin so we can repent and come to faith.  If this topic has your name on it, then recognize that your understanding that you need help with your unbelief has come from the Spirit’s work!  This is good news because you can have peace knowing that God is drawing you and working in you!  Do not fight it or rationalize your situation – trust in Christ and repent right now and give this over to Him.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]We know when The Holy Spirit is telling us that we need to let go of something. The question is always: will you do it? Only then, can God swoop in and fill you.[/dropshadowbox]

The Spirit also convicts us of righteousness.  Are you convinced that Jesus is fully righteous – the only One who is righteous?  He sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for you right now.  Only One who is fully righteous can sit at the right hand of the Father.  Do you grasp the righteousness of Jesus?  Do you also comprehend that Jesus lived a sinless life and died so that you can have His righteousness?   If you understand the righteousness of Christ, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Then the Spirit convicts us of judgment.  Do you have the full knowledge that Satan, the ruler of this world, has been judged and condemned by God and has no power over you?  Satan has been judged already.  His greatest weapon is death and the fear of it.  Do you recognize that if you have salvation, you have no need to fear death; that it is even better to die and be with God than to live on this world? (Phil 1:21-23) That also is the work of the Holy Spirit.

[dropshadowbox align=”left” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]The moment you think you are close enough to Jesus, you can know that your faith has stagnated. A desire to grow in faith and in relationship with God is a sign that the Spirit is working. A lack of desire for these things is proof of a lack of the Spirit’s working.[/dropshadowbox]

Do you have a full knowledge of Christ – specifically pertaining to His peace (John 14:26-27)? Do you have a need to know Christ more?  Do you desire to delve deep into the Word of God to know Jesus more personally?  If you have these things (or at least are moving forward in these things if you are new to Christ), they are evidences that the Holy Spirit is within you, teaching you about Jesus and drawing you to His words and teachings so you can have His peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).

Has your life changed?  Before you were saved, you lived in the darkness.  Your thinking was futile.  Your heart was hardened. (Eph 4:17-19) If your life hasn’t changed, then you are still in the darkness, with your futile mind and hard heart.  No one in the dark thinks they are in the dark, therefore, it is foolishness to say you are in the light.  You must know that you are different today than you were before you were saved.   Those who have the Holy Spirit will have their minds set on things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5).  If you see these changes in your life and mind, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Do you have the love of God, the peace of Jesus, the Joy of Spirit.  Love, joy, peace, along with the other fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) are evidences of your salvation.  You cannot make the fruit, it comes naturally – as a result of salvation.  When you are saved, you start to comprehend the amazing love of the Father to send His Son for us (John 3:16); you begin to have the peace of Jesus since you know you have eternal life and this life is but a short blip before eternity begins (John 14:27); you begin to have the joy of the Spirit because you are realizing that no burden in this life has any eternal consequence and you are looking forward to eternity with God (1 Thessalonians 1:6).  This fruit is the fruit of the Spirit.

In Mark 9:14-24, the father asks Jesus to help his unbelief.  Today, we can ask him the same thing. He will send His Spirit to bring us to that Saving Faith that is necessary for salvation.  When we are truly saved, we will know because the Holy Spirit will be within us and we will not be able to miss His work.