March 5, 2017

Faith is the conviction of things not seen . . .

A Christian cult insists that Jesus is not God. One of their members jumped up and down on my doorsteps yelling that belief at me, as if his repetition would make it so. Had it not been so serious and a matter of eternal destiny, I would have laughed at his actions.

This particular group’s theology changes the Bible so that the reading John 1:1 supports their idea. All other bibles say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Their change makes it say that Jesus was “a god” — but this cannot be. First, the original language does not have the article ‘a’ so this cannot be inserted there. Second, the Bible continually says God is one, so saying Jesus is a god makes two. That does not work either.

Those who depend on Christ alone for their salvation know that Jesus is God. This knowledge is a faith matter, revealed by the Holy Spirit, but otherwise unseen or a total puzzle to those without faith. Yesterday I said that even those with faith cannot fully understand it; we just know it is true.

Faith is a gift, a revelation from God of Himself through Jesus Christ. When the disciples saw the risen Christ, this gift of faith changed their lives. It happened just after Jesus rose from the dead:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  . . . .and  breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

These men believed in Jesus before, but not with that saving faith that comes from God. Now they saw the resurrected Christ and were given the Holy Spirit.

However, one of them missed this event:

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19–31)

Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son, God in human flesh. This is the only way to make sense of verses like these:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58 cf. Exodus 3:14)
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)
“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8)

Jesus, the Scriptures are plain, at least to those who believe them. Your identity as fully God and fully man came together when You granted the gift of faith so my sinful eyes were opened to see who You are, and to experience Your gracious and loving forgiveness and salvation. Yes, Your identity is not easy to understand, but like lesser blessings (such as electricity, digestion, and  all sorts of other phenomena), I don’t need to understand how everything works to believe that it is true!

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