Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Grave Can't Hold Me

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

We look for the resurrection of the dead




Per the Holy Bible:

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

1 Corinthians 15:12-23 (NLT)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...the most audacious claim of Christianity is also the most important. Paul has said it well. If there is no resurrection...if death is the final chapter...then Jesus was either a well-meaning teacher who was suffering from a major delusion, or the foulest fiend the planet has ever seen.


Next week...the final phrase from the Nicene Creed, and it's about our final outcome.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

One Baptism

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins



Per the Holy Bible:

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.

Matthew 3:16 (NLT)

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit."

John 3:5

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 2:38

As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 8:36-39

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

Ephesians 4:5

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we mortals have managed to turn this simple, Scriptural imperative into a multi-faceted controversy. However, reading Scripture at a basic, no-twisting-required level, we can agree with those fine folks in Nicaea back in 325 A.D. that a baptism that gives witness to a person's faith, repentance, and submission to Christ is an expected part of a Christian's journey.

A quote from one of my sermons of long ago:

You may say to me, "I've loved Jesus for over 20 years. You're telling me I have to be baptized?" And I may say to you, "You've loved Jesus for over 20 years and you're telling me you haven't been baptized?"

Grace and peace to you.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

One Church

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one holy, universal, and apostolic Church




Per the Holy Bible:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Contrary to the signs outside all the church buildings around the world that proclaim different denominational names and conferences and traditions, there is only one Church, and it spans all man-made distinctions and trivial divisions. Christ is the head of this one Church, which is comprised of all persons who have been joined to him through faith. The Church is not limited to any particular time, place, ethnic group, language, religious heritage, denomination, or institution.

As for the word "apostolic"? It comes from the Greek word for people who are sent on a mission (apostello). As Christ was sent into the world, he has sent his followers into the world (John 17). The Church is apostolic not only because we are sent on a mission, but because the teachings of the first apostles  -  those called and sent by Jesus himself  -  are authoritative for the Church. The New Testament Scriptures have apostolic authority and are God-breathed.

Truth is...No matter what side discussions and opinions about controversial subjects may seek to divide us, the Church stands united by the Love of the Father, the Lordship of Jesus, and the Leading of the Holy Spirit. The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Spirit Has Spoken

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

[The Holy Spirit] has spoken through the prophets.




Per the Holy Bible:

"In the last days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants — men and women alike — and they will prophesy."

Acts 2:17-18 (NLT)

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

2 Peter 1:20-21

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is..."All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Timothy 3:16) A more literal translation for "inspired by God" is "God-breathed". Put that together with the knowledge that the Hebrew word for breath and spirit is the same, and you've got a picture of how it is that the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets, in both the Old and New Testaments.



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Praise the Spirit, Too

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

With the Father and the Son, [the Holy Spirit] is worshipped and glorified



Per the Holy Bible:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Matthew 14:33

For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.

1 John 3:24

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...because the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son, He deserves our worship just as much. It may feel a little strange for those brought up in more conservative circles...or certainly so for those raised with no spiritual background at all, but the Spirit provides our most intimate contact with God. It is only "natural" that we worship Him through song, meditation, and obedience.



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Where Did the Holy Spirit Come From?

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

[The Holy Spirit] proceeds from the Father and the Son.




Per the Holy Bible:

But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.

John 15:26

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It seems reasonable to me to believe that humans have not invented the Holy Spirit and that He is a real aspect of the Triune God. I mean, why would anyone make up something as hard to understand as this?


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A Body Without a Spirit Is a Corpse

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

[One name for the Holy Spirit is] the Giver of Life

Shedding Graveclothes


Per the Holy Bible:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

John 14:16-17 (NLT)

And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Romans 8:2

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Romans 8:11

Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Galatians 6:8

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Without the Holy Spirit, we couldn't experience any kind of "Christian life" whatsoever. Moral, upstanding citizens? Sure. But what made Jesus exceptional and unique was his unswerving dependence on the leading of the Spirit and entrusting himself to that leading...even to the point of death. Our efforts at being little Christs (Christians) will only be exceptional and unique if we do the same.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lord Holy Spirit

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord



Per the Holy Bible
:

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 (NLT)

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.

Matthew 3:16

On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Acts 2:1-4

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...There is much more to be said about the Holy Spirit, and it will be said in the next several phrases in the creed. For now, let's just begin one step ahead of some believers in Ephesus that Paul encountered in Acts 19:

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.

“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Never-ending Kingdom

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

And his kingdom will have no end


Per the Holy Bible
:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.

Psalm 145:13 (NLT)

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.

John 6:47

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

1 Corinthians 15:50

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...as I've said before, eternity is a concept that my human brain can't quite get a grip on. But if God's rule is a perfect rule, and his kingdom is literally heaven on earth, then it makes sense that it would never come to an end.

Lead on, oh King eternal...


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Why Jesus Is Returning

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

To judge the living and the dead


Per the Holy Bible
:

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15 (NLT)

We apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all — the living and the dead.

Acts 10:39-42

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...people nowadays don't much like the word "judge". "Judge not lest you be judged" (Matthew 7:1) is a far-more-quoted verse than even John 3:16. We don't like the idea of being held accountable for our actions. But the really good news is that when Jesus judges, the action of submitting ourselves to His Lordship, no matter how imperfectly we may live it out, trumps all the sins and mistakes we ever make. He won't pretend that we've never done anything wrong, but he will apply HIS payment of OUR penalty to our ledger.

"He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west."

Psalm 103:12


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Return of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

He will come again in glory



Per the Holy Bible:

Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 40:5

After saying this, [Jesus] was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Acts 1:9-11

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...perhaps the most hope-inducing words ever uttered by Jesus are found in John 14: 1-3.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

And of course, Rich Mullins has a highly appropriate song for this occasion. Enjoy...




Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The "Where" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

[Jesus] is seated at the right hand of the Father.



Per the Holy Bible:

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Romans 8:34 (NLT)

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 1:19-20

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...This is another one of those things that are Scriptural but maybe not all that important. However, what Jesus is DOING there beside the Father is absolutely mind-blowing: "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." (1 John 2:1)

Jesus is our defense attorney!


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Ascension of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

He ascended into heaven



Per the Holy Bible:

Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.

Luke 24:1-12 (NLT)

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Acts 1:6-11

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...the ascension of Jesus holds no great theological importance other than what Jesus told his disciples about it in John 16:7: "It is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the [Holy Spirit] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you."

Stay tuned. There will be more about the Holy Spirit in five weeks.



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Resurrection of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

On the third day, [Jesus] rose again in accordance with the Scriptures



Per the Holy Bible:

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”

But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Matthew 12:38-40

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...there would be no Christianity without the resurrection. Make no mistake, the first Christians did not make up the story of a resurrection in order to validate their "cause". The resurrection of Jesus turned them into Christians. Otherwise, they would have been just one more group of disappointed fans.



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Burial of Jesus


Per the Nicene Creed:

[Jesus] suffered and was buried



Per the Holy Bible:

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.

This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.

Mark 15: 16-46 (NLT)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Believing Jesus died is an important part of Christianity, and not just because "he died for our sins." If he had not actually died, then the resurrection would be a farce and, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world." (1 Corinthians 15:19)

 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Death of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate


Per the Holy Bible
:

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

Matthew 27:24-31 NLT

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...the "he was crucified" part isn't so much a matter of faith as the "for our sake" part. There is extra-biblical evidence that a man named Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion during Pilate's term as Roman governor. The amazing thing about that crucifixion is the belief that it was an example of the truly innocent willingly paying a penalty in the place of...for the sake of...the truly guilty.

Thank you, Jesus.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Live On, Mom

 

Sunday, April 11, 2021...Georgina Della (Smith) Roth has been in a state the professionals call "actively passing" for three or four days. Around 1:30 AM, she completes the process.

At 7:00 AM, my brother, the oldest of my surviving siblings and the one who had been daily providing care to Mom before the medical incident that put her in a nursing home by way of the emergency room...my brother calls me and says "This is the call."

"This is it," I respond.

"Guess who woke up in heaven this morning?"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Mom had spent six years and 9 months as a widow, and I doubt she truly enjoyed a single minute of it. Yes, she was sometimes distracted by happy events and visits from children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but there was always a longing to go Home. Enjoy your sweet victory, beloved saint!

Psalm 73:23-26

Yet I am always with you;

    you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

    and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

    but God is the strength of my heart

    and my portion forever.




Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The "What" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

He became incarnate from the virgin, Mary, and was made man



Per the Holy Bible:

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord."

Luke 1:35-46

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:14-17

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Just so we don't turn "incarnate" into some mystical, purely-religious term, let's remind ourselves that it has a universally understood definition: "embodied in flesh; given a bodily, especially a human, form."

Truth is...While occupying Planet Earth, Jesus was not a visible spirit, magically hovering six inches off the ground and never quite "one of us." When people refer to Jesus as "God in the flesh," that is exactly what they mean. Jesus had a human body, just like you and me.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The "How" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

By the power of the Holy Spirit


Per the Holy Bible
:

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God."

Luke 1:35 NLT

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This clause of the creed is simply explaining how God the Son took on human form. Well, explaining is probably too strong a word to use. It's more like giving credit without really understanding any behind-the-scenes making of the sausage. For God the Son to take on flesh, it took some kind of special power, and that power was administered through God the Spirit.

Truth is...I don't understand it, but I don't really expect to be able to understand everything about God.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The "From Where" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

He came down from heaven


Per the Holy Bible
:

No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.

John 3:13 NLT

He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.

John 3:31

After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.

John 6:12-38

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Truth is...the idea of coming "down" from or going "up" to heaven may be a bow to our limited, human understanding, so let's not get all excited about getting in a rocket and blasting out into space looking for a physical place called heaven. The point being made is that Jesus existed in a purely spiritual "form" before being birthed on Earth having taken on the form of a human being. (Philippians 2:7)


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The "Why" of Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

For us and for our salvation


Per the Holy Bible
:

I have seen your salvation.

Luke 2:30 NLT

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

1 John 4:14

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...there are plenty of people who say plenty of things as to why Jesus came to Earth. "He came to show us how to love." "He came to be an example." "He came to teach us truth." But primarily, it was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that made it possible to restore mankind's relationship with Father God. He saved us!


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Jesus Creator

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

Through him [Jesus] all things were made


Per the Holy Bible:

God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.

John 1:3-10 NLT

Through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see - such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

If you've been paying attention, you might be saying, "Hey, wait a minute! The second phrase in this creed says that God, the Father Almighty, is 'maker of heaven and earth,' so what's the deal all of a sudden saying that the SON was the creative agent?"

Pay attention to the two Scripture references above. God the Father did the creating, but he did it through the Son.

It might help to take the opening of John's gospel literally for a moment when it equates Jesus with "the Word" and then reread the first chapter of Genesis where God speaks  -  pronounces a word  -  and things come into being.

Truth is...It's as if God the Father sits enthroned eternally and any personal interaction, like touching or creating, is accomplished by God the Son.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Father and Son Unity

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

Of one being with the Father



Per the Holy Bible:

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

John 14:10-11 NLT

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
John 17:22-23

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Truth is...If it helps to think of deity as being a physical substance, then we can say that God the Father and God the Son (stay tuned for truth about God the Holy Spirit) are both made up of the same "stuff". 


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Begotten

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

Begotten, not made



Per the Holy Bible:

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.

John 1:1-2

Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.

John 16:28

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I have to admit, this whole "begotten" thing has always been a mystery to me, so for this step in our journey through the Nicene Creed, I turned to the depository of all earthly knowledge, YouTube, for help. The One-Minute Apologist has this to say:

Now, while I find that kind of helpful, it's not really an answer. And neither is Merriam-Webster: "brought into existence by or as if by a parent", which is exactly the opposite point the creed is trying to make, that being, that even though it appeared that Jesus of Nazareth "came to the world in the usual way," he was not conceived in Mary's womb by any human union, but that the eternal God-the-Son put on flesh by miraculous means.

Truth is...there's a lot more studying that can be done to sort out terminology, and a person could do worse than deciphering through the article that is the source for this post's graphic, "Begotten, Not Made", by Josh Malone in Creedo Magazine. (To read it, CLICK HERE.)


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

God from God

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God


Per the Holy Bible:

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.

God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John 1:1-14 NLT

The Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.

John 16:27-28

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The Nicene Creed may be guilty of a little overkill here for the sake of poetry, but the point is that Jesus is God the Son, not Joseph and Mary's son, born in some backwater Palestinian village. He emanates from Yahweh. Stay tuned, there's more to come.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Eternally Jesus

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

Eternally begotten of the Father



Per the Holy Bible:

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.

John 1:1-2 (NLT)

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!”

John 8:58

For through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see — such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.

Philippians 2:6

We'll deal with "begotten" in two weeks. The point today is "eternally" and the assertion that, like the Father, there was never a time when Jesus didn't exist.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...infinity and timelessness are things that make my mind get all wobbly, but for Yahweh to always be the Father, there has to have always been the Son. As it's been stated before, if God could be totally explained, he wouldn't be all that worthy of worship now, would he?


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Son of God

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

...the only Son of God...



Per the Holy Bible:

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father.'"

Psalm 2:7 NLT

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Matthew 3:17

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

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For Yahweh to be eternally identified as "Father," there has to have eternally been a "Son". That loving, authoritative/submissive relationship has always been present in the Godhead and is beyond our complete comprehension. How can Jesus be both God and Son? That is a mystery clearly taught in Scripture, but never fully explained.

Truth is...if I could completely understand God, I don't think he'd be worth worshiping.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

One Lord

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

"We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ..."

Per the Holy Bible:

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

John 20:28 NLT

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”

Acts 16:31

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Truth is...there are SEVERAL more Scriptures calling Jesus Lord that could be quoted, but the point is this: there is only one Lord, and a person can't have divided loyalties. As Jesus himself said, "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13) And as Bob Dylan said, "You gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the lord, but you still gotta serve somebody."

Bonus Truth: Serving the one lord is what makes a church body a church body. Please watch and enjoy this music video ("One Lord One Body") from the church body I call home.



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Of All That Is, Seen and Unseen

 

Per the Nicene Creed:

"...of all that is, seen and unseen."


Per the Holy Bible:

"Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16 NLT

"God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him."

John 1:3

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Truth is...Just as "All that glitters is not gold" and "All that's gold does not glitter," so too, not everything that exists can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched. Beauty cannot be quantified, loneliness cannot be stored in a closet, and love can only be seen by the actions it inspires. "Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens." (James 1:17)