Posts Tagged 'Jesus'

Who Is God, Part 3

In this series on God, we have learned a couple of very important things about His nature and character. First, God is holy. This is more than just how He acts; it’s how God is. God is holy, and that means that God is separate from His creation. Every child knows this simple truth: God is in Heaven, we are on Earth. God is even separate from His children, even though we may have personal fellowship with Him through the Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus Christ, He is still “up there” and we are “down here.”

We also discovered that God is love. God not only loves, but He is love; love is part of His character. There is nothing but love about God. God loves the world – He loves all the people of the world – and He sent His only Son to save them. While God loves everybody, only some will be saved because only some will choose to choose God’s love. While God loves everybody, He especially loves those who chose to accept His invitation to become part of His family.

Speaking of that, here’s another very important thing about God: His revelation. Even though God is “up there” and we’re “down here,” God has revealed Himself to us! And He’s been doing it for a very long time. That’s the subject of this third message on the topic, “Who Is God?”

We’ll be looking at a number of verses in the anonymous letter addressed to some Hebrew Christians, but before we do, there are some verses in John’s gospel that should be looked at first.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:6 – 11 | TNIV)

Verse six is the solution to the dilemma of all men, everywhere: Where do I go after I die? Regardless of what anybody may say, everybody fears what will become of them after their last breath has been taken. Even the atheist lives in fear of “what’s next?” Nobody wants to take a chance at death. Jesus gives the simple yet profound answer: You get to God (Heaven) through the Son of God. There is no other way to enjoy eternal life in “the good place” except through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ is the way – the only way – to God. Now, that doesn’t mean that anybody is excluded, for anybody may place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”. (John 12:23 | TNIV)

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let those who hear say, “Come!” Let those who are thirsty come; and let all who wish take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17 | TNIV)

So anybody is free to respond to the call of God to be saved. Anybody! Nobody is excluded from the invitation to believe and be saved. Nobody. Of course, God in His foreknowledge knows who will and who won’t believe, but the invitation goes out, because God is nothing if not fair and just.

The point of what Jesus was saying to Philip was simply this: God is in Him and He is in God; the two of Them are inseparable. In other words, if a person is curious about God, then he should take notice of Jesus. If a person is curious about what God thinks about this or that, they should study Jesus. The two are one.

Our Lord is the ultimate self-expression of God. In an odd way, almost everybody knows this fact of God and they acknowledge it, at least one time a year when they sing the words Charles Wesley wrote:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity.
Pleased with man as man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.

And, of course, we know “Immanuel” means “God with us.” So it’s not a secret, this marvelous, miraculous fact of God’s self revelation. But you may wonder, when did God start doing this? For that, we turn to the New Testament letter to the Hebrews.

God, the revealer

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways…. (Hebrews 1:1 | TNIV)

That’s how the ultra-modern, up-to-date TNIV translated the Greek, but in this case, the good old KJV comes a little closer to what that Greek really means: “at various times and in various ways.” It may seem like an insignificant difference to you, but here’s why the KJV’s rendering of the Greek is so important to know. We’re learning here not only that God spent a long time revealing Himself to His people, but that He didn’t do it all at once, or all in once place, or always in the same way. The process of this self-revelation was a continuous one, and it was a revelation that more than one person received. God, in the past (that means throughout the Old Testament) took great care to reveal bits and pieces of Himself to “our ancestors,” that is, to many, many Jews of the past. But, as we’ll learn, nobody in the past had a complete picture of God. Nobody. Not Isaiah. Not Jeremiah. Not David. Not Daniel. Not Moses. Nobody.

Throughout the Old Testament, or “in the past” according to the author of this letter to the Hebrews, God showed some important aspects of Himself to His people through the prophets and other means. Back then, God’s people learned things like this:

• God was the Creator. From His mind and power came the material universe – all that we can see, touch, and experience – and immaterial universe – the spiritual realm that we have yet to experience.
• God was the one who established the laws of morality and ethics. He set Himself up as the judge of His people’s hearts and actions.
• God made covenants or agreements with His people. And while historically His people were always reneging on their end of the covenants, God never did. He always kept His word.
• God, as awesome and transcendent as He is, is still vitally interested in the individual. He spoke to people. He appeared to people as “the angel of the Lord.” He is seen caring for people’s needs and providing even the small things for His people’s comfort.
• God is seen as forever faithful. Though He got angry with His people and judged them, God never, ever abandoned them or walked away from them.

So, in a general sense, God revealed some astounding things about Himself to His people. And He kept it up. Continuously, all throughout the centuries of the Old Testament. But then something happened, and everything changed.

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2 | TNIV)

Contrasted with “in the past” is the phrase, “in these last days.” In concrete ways in history, God was revealing Himself. But now, in our time, something has changed. Now God is revealing Himself in His Son. Whereas in the past, God spoke through prophets, now He’s doing it through His Son. And the Son gives us a much more complete picture of the Father, because as we learned from what John wrote, and what Jesus Himself said, He and the Father are one.

That little word, “but,” that begins this second verse, tells us something important. The revelation of God throughout the Old Testament was good, BUT, with Jesus coming into the world, it’s now perfect. The revelation of God through His Son is perfect and complete. You’ll notice that now God’s revelation doesn’t come to us in “various was,” but ONE way: the Son. Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God. Or put another way, only in Jesus Christ do we get a perfect picture of God the Father.

“In the past,” God relayed His messages through human vessels, and humans are imperfect at best. And when God intervened in nature and things like that, not everybody saw it and it could be misinterpreted. But “in the last days,” in our day today, God spoke through Jesus – the Son – directly. This is vitally important because of the next verse:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 | TNIV)

Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s being. In the Greek, that’s a startling declaration. “Exact representation” is the translation of a single Greek word, charakter, which means “expression” or “stamp.” Jesus is the exact “expression” of God. He is not an approximation of God’s character, but an exact copy or version of God’s essential character – His being – has been “stamped” onto Jesus like an image is stamped onto a coin.

So when you read the Gospels and you study Jesus’ interaction with people, you’re really reading about how God interacts with people. When you see Jesus crying at the tomb of a friend who was cut down in the prime of his life, that’s also God’s reaction to a situation full of sorrow and sadness. When you see Jesus getting angry with hypocrites, that’s how God feels about them. When you see Jesus having compassion on the sick, the lame, the hungry, that’s how God feels.

God’s revelation in Jesus is complete. You can’t learn more about God any other way. He’s not revealing anything else about Himself to anybody anymore. Jesus was and is the final, ultimate revelation of God to man.

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