Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WHO IS JESUS?

As Jesus and His disciples approached Caesarea Philippi, He asked them a question which has never lost its relevance: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13). Put this question to the man on the street and you will receive a variety of answers. Most people have a general idea about Jesus, but given His historical significance, one would think that there would be more of a consensus and less debate. After all, no one has changed the course of history more than this carpenter’s son from Galilee. Perhaps therein lies the problem. The Bible clearly identifies Jesus as the son of Joseph, who was married to a woman named Mary and resided in Nazareth (Matthew 13:55). His birth was natural in the sense that He was born like all other human beings, “of a woman,” but there is more to the story. According to the Bible, the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary was supernatural: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18). When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear a son, she was greatly perplexed and asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Gabriel’s reply is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Son of Man and Son of God-- what does it mean? And how could it be? In simple terms, it means that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. This is the Christian doctrine known as the Incarnation. In the Latin it means becoming flesh. One pastor described this teaching as “God with skin on.” The Man Jesus did not progress to godhood; He was the eternal God who chose to take upon Himself a fully human nature without diminishing His deity in any way. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6, 7). Jesus was fully human with one great exception-- he was completely sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).

Not surprisingly, this is a great offense to many people. Rather than accept what the Bible asserts in a most dogmatic way --“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9)-- people of many different faiths, and of no faith at all, insist that Jesus was “just a man,” howbeit a good man, perhaps even the best of men. As laudatory as that may sound, it is, in actuality, blasphemy and a blatant denial of what the Scripture teaches. No good man could make the claim that he existed before Abraham came into being (John 8:58). No good man could forgive sin (Mark 2:5-7). No good man could offer himself up in the place of sinners (John 10:11). No good man could rise from the dead (Romans 1:4). Only a perfect man, someone much more than a man-- a man who was also God-- could make such claims and do these things. Where does this leave us? We must accept without denial or hesitation that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh or perish in unbelief. There is no alternative. If God chose to come to us as He did, in the person of Christ, it was because there was no other way to provide salvation for a fallen human race. He came in the likeness of men because all mankind was born in the likeness of Adam, separated from God and without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12). The biblical solution for mankind’s hopeless state is found in Christ alone, who was made like Adam, while remaining free of the defilement that began with Adam. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15a). When He breathed His last on the cross of Calvary, His mission of salvation was complete. A way for sinners to be reconciled with God was now possible. This is the good news of the gospel of peace (Colossians 1:19-21).

If you desire to have peace with God and be reconciled to Him, you must agree with God that you are a sinner (confession) and call upon Jesus to forgive you of all your sins. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6). A famous theologian was once asked, “What is the most profound thing you have ever heard?” He paused for a moment and then replied, “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Dear friends, this is indeed a profound truth. Jesus loved you enough to come as a man so that you can have eternal life: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Won’t you receive His gift of love if you have never done so? What is keeping you from Jesus, if He has promised that He will never turn anyone away (John 6:37)? There is a wideness in God’s mercy, but you do not know how long the door of His mercy will be open. No man can be assured of tomorrow, so go to Him without delay and receive the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

"Let not conscience make you linger,

Nor of fitness fondly dream;

All the fitness he requireth

Is to feel your need of him."

In Jesus name,

Pastor Tom