Christianity is Christ

Selwyn continues to discuss the importance of Jesus the person – what He taught, and what He did, are just minor details compared to who He was/is - as a Person. It is, who He is, that makes all the other aspects of His life important. If Jesus was just a very nice human being, a good teacher of ethics, then His death on the cross saved no one – and we would be the greatest fools in following Him!

Therefore, verse 12 from Chapter 4 in Acts, is a challenge to most people: ” … there is NO other name under heaven … by which we must be saved.”

The following (a quote  – of the words of Archbishop William Temple) found in today’s study, captures this theme well: “The supreme revelation is given in the life and Person of Jesus. The revelation is not His teaching or His acts but Himself. Christianity is not a dedication to a system of rules or of thought, but a dedication to a Person. This is unique among the religions of the world.”

What do you think?

The Divine Shepherd

[I admire those people who are ultra-organised around Christmas time – even before the last hectic week starts they have bought all their presents and have sent out all their cards and have all the other arrangements in place. I’m not, such a person!

Plus, for some reason, this year the commercialisation of Christmas really touched a raw nerve. In some areas, the shopping centres actively avoid  any symbol of Christ, and instead of their staff wishing people a ‘Merry Christmas’, they now say ‘Happy Holiday’; and these centres of consumer excellence are in areas, where the majority of people class themselves as ‘religious’. We, in general, have drifted a very long way from ‘The Divine Shepherd’.]

The main verse for reading and meditation is a real challenge to the liberal theologians – they would really like verses, such as this one, to be erased from the Bible. (John 10:16, NIV) “They … will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  I cannot emphasise this point too many times – ‘there shall be one flock and one Shepherd’: Here Jesus is saying there is only one Shepherd who leads us into a relationship with God. His words cannot be any clearer – Jesus is either telling lies or He is telling us the Truth. Jesus, as God, will determine who is IN His flock. There is no other Shepherd who can lead us into God’s eternal Kingdom! Do you agree?

The one sentence which I liked from today’s study is: “A religion founded on the ‘Divine Principle’ is a religion where you end up talking to yourself.” All religions which are not ‘Jesus the Shepherd’ centric – fall into this category – their conceptualisation of God is so flawed that you must end up praying to yourself or idols (false images of God).

Jesus’ kind of love

I agree with Selwyn’s concern, in regard to the movement away (in some areas) from the Person of Christ to the principles of Christ.  Jesus’ teaching , if it was not delivered by the voice of God, would be useless in helping us to live in a personal relationship with God which is now possible by Christ’s actions on the cross. The teaching of a good man or woman must always fall short of what God requires because as humans we can never know God well enough, to say, with authority – ‘this is how God wants us to live’.

Jesus, who is God – can say, with all authority – “I am your God, this is how you should live and I am willing, through my Holy Spirit, to give you my power so that it may be possible for you to live in accordance with these commands.”  Consequently, Jesus being God, is true to His Word – therefore, we can have an assurance that if we believe in Jesus and the salvation He has obtained for us – then we will have restful peace with Him, in His eternal Kingdom.

If Jesus was only human, we could never be assured that his teaching was given with the full authority of God – he would only be another flawed prophet with clay feet. All human prophets made mistakes and were often far from perfect – although, when they spoke as God’s messenger – the truth of their words testified that what they said was from God.

The truth of Jesus’ words will be proven to those who don’t believe in Him but they will only come to that understanding after they die. It will be too late then, for some to say – ‘What Jesus said on earth – were words of eternal life!’ They will not be able to say to Jesus, ‘Now I know that what You said, is true – let me go back and have a second go.’ Sadly, that will not be an option, you only pass ‘go’ once.

Lastly, the main verse for reading and meditation is a very good example of the difference between human wisdom in regard to the ‘golden rule’; and God’s commandment (John 13:34, NIV): “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you  … “. The addition of the words, ‘as I have loved you’, sets the standard – before Jesus came, there was no perfect example – now, we have the standard, while Jesus was on earth He showed us His love – there is no guesswork, there is no need for debate on what God may have wanted – it is, ‘as I have loved you!

Do you agree?

Jesus – ‘God approachable’

There are two areas that I like from today’s study. The first, is part of Selwyn’s introduction: “… if we are to see God – really see Him – then we see Him best in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love the phrase which I think was first coined by E. Stanley Jones, describing Jesus as ‘God approachable’.” We don’t have the ability to imagine what God might be like – our imaginations are shaped by our earthly experiences – and nothing of this earth can prepare us for the majestic reality of God’s glorious nature.

The other area, which perhaps has little to do with the main topic, is the humorous definition of philosophy which I think does have some relevance to that section of philosophy which  attempts to define man’s relationship with a range of ‘god’ options (including the option that there is no God); independent of a Scriptural framework: “a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.” It is true that a nonspiritual person cannot see or hear Jesus – it’s impossible!

Selwyn’s concluding sentence is an old saying but a good one: “The Son of God became the Son of Man in order that the sons of men might become the sons of God.”

God’s self-revelation

The main verse for reading and meditation, sets the scene for today’s study (John 14:9, NIV): “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” When you think about these words – what Jesus said, you would have to agree that it was a remarkable claim. He was either delusional, and a liar or God Himself – there is no middle ground – no fence to sit on – you, either accept what Jesus said, or you reject it – there is no other explanation for His words other than He was equating Himself to God. If he was a liar then He would have been seriously breaking Jewish law representing God’s own commandments.

Of course, some say that verses, like this one, were added by His followers at a later date, to add credibility to their claim that Jesus is God. However, there is a steady stream of verses starting back in the Old Testament which point to the divinity of Jesus – not all of them could be amendments to the original text without some type of evidence being uncovered which would indicate that a large series of related changes had been made.  The Dead Sea Scrolls and similar ancient documents – support the integrity of Scripture regarding its spiritual truths.

Yesterday, the main verse was John 6:46, which provides another example of Jesus’ relationship to the Father: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God … “. Just how Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit ‘exist’ is beyond our imagination and our intellect -  a few centuries after Jesus returned to heaven – the Church defined a concept, which we call the Trinity. It’s true that there is general agreement, within the Christian community, as to what this concept means – however, we must be careful not to assume that because we can understand the definition of what we call the Trinity that we actually understand the full nature of God as we will experience Him, when we enter His kingdom – be prepared for a fantastic surprise.

I like the following statements (with a point of clarification), made by Selwyn in today’s study: “The nature of God (those aspects which we need to know) has been uncovered in understandable terms – human terms. I look up to God through Jesus and I now know more fully than I could through reading the Old Testament what God is like, because Christ is a true likeness of His Father. He is a good God, a trustworthy God. … We need not worry, however, that God is different from Jesus, for our Lord is God’s authentic self-revelation. We see in Jesus, God as He really is – really is!”

What’s your view?

Imperfect media

The best bit from today’s study, for me, is Selwyn’s conclusion: “When we see words such as ‘love’, ‘God’ or ‘purity’ in a book, what do we do? We read into them our highest experience of those words. But our highest experience of love, for example, is not the highest love; our highest experience of love is partial and incomplete. We see love at its highest when we see it wrapped up in the life and ministry of Jesus.”

If I can just go back to what I wrote a few days ago; and, recast Selwym’s last sentence – we can only ‘see love at its highest when we see it wrapped up in the life and ministry of Jesus’, ONLY with the help of the Holy Spirit.  There are many who have read about Jesus but all they see is a good man, a teacher who also may have healed people and was a friend to the poor and social outcasts; who preached a message about loving your neighbours. They see – only a distorted view of His humanity – it’s impossible for them to see anything else but that hazy view! 

God’s human experience of death on a cross – which resulted in the barrier between God and man being torn down – can save us from certain, eternal death. We can, if we believe it,  have access to God – now, and eternally, because of what Jesus has done for us. Do you agree?

The authentic Word

Selwyn continues to discuss that Jesus is God’s Word. Today, he says: “That Word – Jesus – is God made available. When you know Him, you know God. … The question is: Why did the Word have to become flesh? There are a number of answers we can give to that question, the first being this: God became flesh in order to reveal Himself more perfectly.”

All major religions of this world have one common theme – mankind reaching up to God. The exception, are those who follow Christ – Christians –  we can have access to God because He came down to us. Nothing we can do within the human context – no amount of good works, money or power could ever qualify us to seek, and be assured of, an audience with God. We start life off, as His enemy – in rebellion, and we can’t do anything on our own - to please Him. The good news is that He knew before time began that it would depend on Him coming to us – to save those who were lost. The Old Testament, especially the prophets and in particular Isaiah, some hundreds of years before Jesus was born, informed us that a Saviour was coming. Some two thousand years later – we continue to celebrate, the birth of our God who dwelt among us. His amazing sacrificial life provides us with something that money can’t buy – access to God – how great is that?