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Jul 252014
 

man of sorrowsHe was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

Famous men throughout history have had titles that they are associated with, but few as well known as this particular ‘name’ or ‘title’ of Jesus. This is because so much of Jesus’ earthly life was highlighted by sorrows of many kinds. In comparison to Abraham Lincoln, for example, whose biography dedicated just 25 pages out of 5,000 to his very famous death, large parts of the gospels concentrate on the final week of Jesus’ life. One third of Matthew and Mark, a quarter of Luke and a half of John’s gospel are taken up with Jesus’ last traumatic and sorrowful week. This amount of space devoted to Christ’s suffering and death is disproportionate to the rest of His life; there is no mention of His childhood or youth (save being left behind at the temple), nothing of His teens and nothing of His twenties either. We are only left to speculate. But when it comes to that last week we have a daily update, a full graphic account of every painful experience. Is it any wonder He is known as the ‘man of sorrows’?

God becoming man is incredible enough, but God suffering so much pain and anguish is almost beyond comprehension. It is a subject so amazing it would take an eternity to try and comprehend. His physical suffering went almost beyond human endurance, but it wasn’t just the physical pain we should consider. Many people have written of the graphic horrors of crucifixion and I don’t propose to repeat them here. But as if that were not enough, He had many more reasons to be sorrowful:

  • Jesus more than likely lost His earthly father before He was thirty. Joseph is not mentioned at all during Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had quite a number of brothers and sisters so when Joseph died (or left) Jesus, being the eldest, took on the responsibility of providing for the family and providing the emotional support needed by His mother, all the time Himself grieving at the loss of His father.
  • He was not accepted by the religious leaders, the very people who should have been waiting for His coming. They missed completely who He was and instead hounded Him wherever He went, constantly watching, continuously trying to find fault.
  • He felt the fate of lost sinners, those who were clearly told the truth but refused to listen and believe. We can see this in the account of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 who went away sorrowful. Jesus was more sorrowful because He knew what the man’s fate would ultimately be.
  • He knew what was going to happen to Him a long time in advance. He had to live with the full horror of this fact on a daily basis, continuously casting a shadow over Him.
  • He was frequently misunderstood by the people and His very dull disciples. He had to repeat himself again and again and appeared quite frustrated on occasions.
  • He felt the pain of His friends when Lazarus died. One of the most poignant verses in the bible is the simple phrase ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35).
  • The bible describes Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as being in anguish and overwhelmed with sorrow as He faced up to the full enormity of what was about to happen, asking the father if there was any another way possible.
  • He was abandoned by His best friends who had been with Him for 3 years sharing life together in the deepest way. The only one left was John but even he looked on from a distance, unable to help.
  • But perhaps the most terrifyingly sad time was on the cross, when the father turned his face from Him as He bore the full weight of every vile and disgusting sin that has ever been committed. He had always had the father’s presence, always enjoyed the father’s love and affection, until now. Eternity is a concept we are unable to grasp. The agony of eternal unity broken, excruciatingly and intolerably alone, Jesus hung on that cross; broken, despised and humiliated; abandoned and alone.

He was beset on both sides. As fully man He experienced every pain and every emotion, just as we do. As fully God in a fallen world He felt the full horror of sin surrounding Him on a daily basis.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

I want to end this blog on a positive note though, so let’s consider that the sorrow that Jesus went through was for a purpose. It was so that we could have a relationship with our heavenly father. He loved us that much that He considered all that sorrow to be worth it. Consider that you can please Him and make Him smile by living a life of obedience to Him; by every right choice you make on a daily basis and for every person you tell about Him. Let’s go into this week trying to make His smile as broad as possible!

 July 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 182014
 

ServantThis is one of the most amazing names and titles of Jesus. If you were to invent a story about God, the creator of the universe, the one who spoke life into being, visiting this planet, you would more than likely imagine Him making His entrance at a palatial mansion; a place full of opulence and grandeur; a myriad of servants at His beck and call. I think this is one of the major stumbling blocks for people to believe in Jesus and take Him seriously. Why would the creator of the universe choose to serve us? Why would He choose to be born in a smelly cattle shed in a third world country?

The bible mentions the fact that Jesus was a servant in a number of places. His purpose was to serve, but it took His disciples quite a long time to grasp this concept. I find the account in Matthew 20 quite amusing: Jesus has just told His disciples that He is going to suffer and be crucified. Quite a bombshell! But without seeming to have heard what Jesus has just said, the mother of James and John asks Him that her two sons be given the best positions in heaven. (James and John are referred to as the ‘sons of thunder’-not so thunderous really if they get their mum to speak for them!). Rather than rebuking her Jesus uses this opportunity to describe what true servant leadership is all about: “….whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

The most outrageous statement we could ever utter is that the God who created us chose to be our slave. No wonder people have a hard time believing it! The disciples had a hard time believing it so Jesus demonstrated His servanthood to them on many occasions. One way that really shocked them was when Jesus washed their feet: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him. (John 13:3-5).

Then later on in verses 12-17: “he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Throughout His life Jesus demonstrated these humble, servant qualities. He never lorded it over anyone but always found ways to serve people. He was a servant to the father by only doing what the father asked Him to. He served the people by healing them and giving of His time, and He ultimately served us all by voluntarily going to the cross and deliberately taking the place for our sins.

Jesus never sought glory for Himself but always looked towards others. This is why the father glorified Him. He would never seek it for Himself but God the father was waiting to give Him the glory that He deserved. In one of my favourite passages it says: “Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11).

We follow a humble servant, a leader who would never ask us to do something that He was not prepared to do Himself. Now He is the sort of leader I am happy to follow!

I’ve included a lovely Youtube video below on this theme. I hope you enjoy it

 July 18, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 112014
 

physicianJesus twice referred to Himself as a physician. One time He was referring to the rejection of Himself in His native town: “and he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” (Luke 4:23). This may just have been a passing reference or turn of phrase, though it is worth noting that Jesus had just been reading in the synagogue from Isaiah (Chapter 61) about God’s servant being sent to proclaim liberty, recovery, and healing.

The second time He is recorded as calling himself a Physician can be found in three of the gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. On this occasion Jesus is at Matthew’s house, dining with “tax collectors and sinners”. The Pharisees are grumbling and they ask Him why He eats with such people. Jesus replies; “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

These two occasions tell us the following:

  • Jesus equates sickness with sin, therefore implying we are all of us sick.
  • Jesus equates healing from this sickness with repentance.
  • Jesus declares Himself to be a physician, in fact the only physician who is capable of dealing with the sickness of sin.

Of course Luke, being a doctor himself, would have been more acutely aware of just what Jesus did. Jesus was a doctor who didn’t need medicine. His word was enough. He spoke and sicknesses left. It wasn’t just physical sicknesses either, He healed those oppressed by demons; He saw body parts grow back, blind eyes see, deaf ears open. He even had control of death itself, commanding Lazarus to come out of a tomb after he had been in there dead for 4 days. That is some power!

The gospels are packed with accounts of Jesus healing people. Jesus loves people, He has so much compassion. On many occasions during His life He would have been tired to the point of exhaustion but He kept going because of this love. We must never lose sight of this reality – God loves people. He loves them so much He gave up His life for them.

We looked recently at the power of the actual name of Jesus. We as Christians have been given the authority to use that name. As apprentices of this great physician we have been commanded to do the same things He did-we can see the sick healed in his name!

Jesus as the author of creation has provided for healing through what is called ‘common grace’. This is the healing grace that is available to all and can be seen in the following:

  • The natural world. There are literally hundreds of plants and herbs containing healing qualities within them which herbalists over the years have used for thousands of remedies.
  • The modern day herbalists we know as chemists have created all sorts of drugs for the healing of many maladies. God has given them this skill.
  • Doctors in the same way have been given skills to diagnose and cure sicknesses, diseases and all manner of other afflictions of the human body. These skills have been developed and improved over the centuries and life expectancy has gradually risen.
  • The body itself has written within its own amazing DNA code the ability to heal itself, continually defending itself against disease and infection.

These and many other ways are evidences of God’s common grace and His desire for us to be well, healthy and whole.

But greater than our need for physical healing is our need for a cure to the greatest illness of all; our sin. Every person healed by Jesus eventually dies; their healing is only temporary. They may live a full and contented life for many more years but they will eventually succumb to the disease that affects every single person: death. Death is the consequence of sin.

As the greatest doctor who ever lived, Jesus knew that the only prescription which would bring a complete cure was His own death. Jesus defeated death (and sickness) at the cross by becoming sin for us. He offered the full medicine at the cross and in doing so defeated death forever. Of course we will still die, but for a Christian this is now described as simply falling asleep; the power of death has been broken. Our death will transfer us directly into the arms of Jesus who paid the full price for our sins.

 July 11, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Healing, Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jul 042014
 

CarpenterYou might think that Jesus being a carpenter was just another job title. The fact that He was a carpenter gives us yet more wonderful insights into His character and how He relates to us.

As we have seen in this series, many words used in the bible don’t quite translate exactly into an English meaning. Most of us probably understand carpenter as a person who deals exclusively with wood; a ‘chippy’ on a building site who works alongside plasterers, roofers, bricklayers etc. The word used in the bible is ‘tekton’ which actually means ‘one who is an artisan, a craftsman or a builder’. Jesus may just as likely have been a stone-mason due to the fact that His village in Nazareth was near to a new city with plenty of buildings needing to be built of stone. That is where a lot of His work would have come from. This would also explain I Peter 2:4-8 which contains numerous references to building, especially Christians being built together as stones with Christ as the ‘chief cornerstone.’ Having said this, living in a small town Jesus would have probably done all manner of building tasks with all sorts of materials.

There are actually only 2 references in the bible which suggest Jesus was a “tekton”. The first is Matthew 13:55 where it says He was Joseph’s son (Joseph being a teckton) and Jesus would have almost certainly continued the family business. The second is in Mark 6:3 where the people in the synagogue were astonished and said “Is not this the carpenter?’.

But whatever Jesus did, it is amazing to think that this ordinary looking man who carried out manual tasks for a living was the same one who created the heavens and the earth (and all the materials He was now working with). He spent the majority of his life doing this mundane, hard work in obscurity. What a task for the king of heaven! This is a clear sign of His ongoing humility; He didn’t want to draw attention to Himself. Even when His public ministry started He was still much more interested in drawing attention to the heavenly Father.

His earthly father, Joseph, more than likely died fairly early on in Jesus’ life, therefore Jesus in His trade would have had to provide for His mother Mary and His numerous brothers and sisters. I imagine it was only when He reached the age of thirty that His younger brothers would have been old enough to take over the family business, which would then have released Him to go about the task of saving the world.

Jesus wasn’t some effeminate hippy character but a rough tough workman and I can imagine the disciples being initially impressed when He called them to follow Him. They could follow Him with confidence and respect. This was a “man’s man”, although they were to appreciate His other tender and caring characteristics a lot more later on.

This is also another reason to be sure that Jesus understands our working life; the toils, deadlines, sweated brows and not a few challenging days. He can identify with us and knows just what we are going through because He has walked that path Himself.

If Jesus did work with wood, I would have loved to see the craftsmanship with which He skilfully made each item. A beautifully finished table, or a polished smooth yoke for oxen, each item lovingly crafted. If it was anything like His initial creation it would have been a thing of beauty! This craftsman who once skilfully built with items of wood and stone now shapes lives for His glory and transforms us from rough ‘off-cuts’ into useful instruments for His kingdom.

 July 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jun 272014
 

JesusI hope you have been enjoying this ‘names of Jesus’ series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Even though some of the names have had similar meanings, they have all revealed slightly different facets of this most wonderful character. This central figure of history is certainly worth studying. Many of these names are titles given to Jesus, or names He has called Himself, but this week we are going to look at His actual name – Jesus.

The name “Jesus” was chosen by God Himself and proclaimed to His mother Mary and earthly father Joseph by a heavenly angel:

(To Joseph)”… and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. (Matthew 1:21)

(To Mary)”…. behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus”. (Luke 1:31)

This is His primary name. In the gospels this name is used over 500 times and 909 times altogether in the New Testament. Of all the names, this is the name most endeared and loved by His followers.

To know what the name of Jesus means to a person, see what their reaction is when you mention it. For some it is just a swear word, but for many His name is precious above all others.

One of the ways we express our love for His name is in song. There have been wonderful hymns and songs written over the years about the name of Jesus. I have listed a few below which immediately come to mind, but if you have any suggestions feel free to put them in the comments.

  • How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! (John Newton 1774) (Full lyrics below)
  • At the name of Jesus (Caroline M Noel 1870)
  • All hail the power of Jesus’ name! (Edward Perronet, 1780)
  • Praise the name of Jesus (Roy Hicks Jr, 1976)
  • No other name but the name of Jesus (Don Moen, 1993)
  • There is power in the name of Jesus (Noel Richards, 1989)
  • Jesus, Holy and anointed one “your name is like honey on my lips” (John Barnett, 1988)
  • Break every chain – There is power in the name of Jesus (Jesus culture)

The name Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means Saviour. It is the name that gives the essence of His life because He came to this earth with one purpose – to save us from our sins.

There are many similarities between Joshua and Jesus. Joshua led the people from the wilderness into the promised land; Jesus did this spiritually. Joshua succeeded Moses the lawgiver; Jesus succeeded the law. Joshua and Jesus both interceded for the people etc.

Jesus of course far surpassed Joshua’s feint shadow. Joshua was just a taste of a saviour whereas Jesus is the full banquet, as Peter declared in the book of Acts:

“….there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”. (Acts 4:12)

As a couple of the above songs suggest, there is also power in the name of Jesus. Since ancient times people could speak or act ‘in the name of’ someone because the name would represent authority and power. Decrees could be issued and oral messages delivered in the name of a king, for example. For christians, the name of Jesus Christ is the most wonderful and most powerful name in existence.

In Psalm 72, although King David was mostly writing about his son Solomon, he also speaks prophetically of Jesus Christ. Verse 17 says, “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!.”
Jesus Christ has given christians the right and authority to use His name. This is the equivalent of being given power of attorney. Legally, power of attorney is the authority to act on another person’s behalf, at their request. It is Jesus’ authority allowing believers to take action on His behalf.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23, 24)
The name of Jesus Christ is not a magic word. The power is not in simply repeating the name (Just ask the 7 sons of Sceva in Acts 19!), but in understanding and believing all that the name of Jesus signifies. His name represents all of His finished work on the cross, fulfilling God’s plan of redemption and salvation, victory over sin, death, and over all the powers of darkness. When the name of Jesus Christ is invoked, it carries all of the power and distinction God gave to it. God raised Jesus from the dead, elevated Him to His right hand, and gave Jesus a name above “every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:21)
Philippians declares, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10)

I’ll leave you this week with the words of that great hymn, listed earlier, by John Newton. Let them stir your soul as you think about the wonderful name:

1 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.

2 It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.

3 O Jesus, shepherd, guardian, friend,
my Prophet, Priest, and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.

4 How weak the effort of my heart,
how cold my warmest thought;
but when I see you as you are,
I’ll praise you as I ought.

5 Till then I would your love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of your name
refresh my soul in death.

(John Newton 1774)

 June 27, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 2 Responses »
Jun 202014
 

Arm of the LordWe know of course that God is Spirit (John 4:24) and does not have physical arms or body parts. But the bible will often use human aspects (such as physical appearance) to help us understand God’s qualities and different aspects of His character.

There are a number of verses in the bible which speak of God’s arms:

You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.” (Psalm 89:13)

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” (Psalm 98:1)

The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.” (Isaiah 63:5)

As Jesus is the physical manifestation of God, He is the one who displays God’s arm. The arm is a symbol of a person’s power. It signifies strength, control and authority. An example of this authority is in the modern day phrase, the ‘long arm of the law’. Jesus stated that all authority had been given to Him (Matthew 28:18) and the book of Revelation shows that He will yield all power and defeat all enemies. (Another physical description of that power is that everything will be under His feet, signifying subservience and subordination).

As we have seen in recent blogs, the bible clearly states the appearance of Jesus to mankind twice, firstly at His initial incarnation approximately 2000 years ago, and secondly at His still awaited for second coming at the end of the age. In their own unique ways they both show strength. His second coming will display the power and authority that was just mentioned, however His first appearance may not at first glance seem nearly so dramatic. Born as a baby in a dirty stable, in a poverty stricken 3rdworld country, He came as the suffering servant, described in Isaiah 53. The power that was demonstrated was in the setting aside of his divine attributes (Colossians 2) and in the enduring of the weight of sin for us all. To have all that power and yet set it aside is strength indeed. This is the ‘right hand’ which is spoken of in the above verses, which worked salvation. Salvation is the outworking of that power, which made a way for us to approach a Holy God through Him.

Isaiah 53 starts off with a question:

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)

The answer to that question is us! The arm of the Lord has been revealed to us who have experienced His wonderful salvation.

Arms of course signify strength for the fight, but they are also used to embrace. God is not distant and aloof but desires to embrace us. The picture of Jesus on the cross with His arms stretched wide is a graphic picture of His love for us.

Finally, His arms are strong enough to carry us through every situation we find ourselves in. That is comforting to know!

 June 20, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jun 132014
 

anointed oneOne of the names of Jesus we see regularly is ‘Christ’. We use the name Jesus Christ so often that we can think that Christ is His surname. In reality His name would simply have been Jesus Bar-Joseph (son of Joseph). Why is He called Jesus Christ so often and what is the significance of the name ‘Christ’?

The meaning of “Christ” originates from the Old Testament. God promised the ancient Israelites that a Messiah would come to deliver them from their sins. The idea of the Messiah is carried over into the New Testament with the title ‘Christ’. The Greek word Christos (Christ) is the translation of the Hebrew term “Mashiach”, which is where we get the word “Messiah” from. These words all mean “to anoint”. So when the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, it is saying “Jesus the Messiah,” which literally means, “Jesus the Anointed One.”

In Old Testament times, people were anointed when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, Samuel anointed Saul when he first became king in 1 Samuel 10:1: “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?”

David was anointed in the same way along with the priests, as we can see in Exodus 28:41: “And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” Prophets too were anointed: “And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” (1 Kings 19:16).

In a sense, anyone in the Old Testament who was anointed and set apart for a task for God was a sort of messiah as they received a special anointing.

The people of Israel however were looking for the Messiah, someone who would perfectly combine the roles of prophet, priest and king. Sadly, after waiting for centuries, they somehow missed him.

It is amazing to think that when Jesus began His earthly ministry, very few recognised who He was even though He continued to walk in that anointing by healing the sick and raising the dead. He wasn’t even subtle. He started his ministry revealing His fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy with the proclamation in Luke 4:17-21: “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The anointing of Jesus was the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:38 it says:

“….how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

This is also prophesied in Isaiah 11 where it says: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him”. (v2).

Jesus is the only one able to function in the fullness of the Spirit: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”. (Colossians 1:19).

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”. (Colossians 2:9).

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:9).

As Jesus’ representatives we too have been anointed with the Holy Spirit; as part of Christ’s body and being connected to Him, we now walk in His anointing: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”. (Ephesians 1:13).

Many people today have positive things to say about Jesus as a model of virtue, a great teacher, and so on, but they stop short of saying He is Messiah. This is the great divide between Christians and unbelievers. Only one who has been born again can confess that Jesus is the Christ. Can you?

 June 13, 2014  Posted by at 12:05 pm Names of Jesus 2 Responses »
Jun 062014
 

Only begotten sonIf you were in Sunday school more than twenty years or so ago, it is highly likely that you would have learned the most famous verse there is in the following words:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3 v 16 KJV)

You may have wondered what the term ‘only begotten’ actually meant. The modern translations state ‘only son’ but this is not strictly true because God has many sons (people are referred to in some places as sons, as are angels). It is not a word used nowadays, it is not a modern word and its meaning can cause confusion. For example, people such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses will use it to claim that Jesus is not equal to God, a concept we have refuted many times already. It only appears 5 times in the bible in total, but I thought it was well worth having a look at to clear some of the confusion.

“Only begotten” is translated from the Greek word ‘monogenes’. The first part of the word is quite straightforward and recognisable: Mono means ‘alone’, ‘single’ or ‘one’ and is found in words such as monologue, monochrome etc. If you add the word ‘genes’ to “mono” it becomes “pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a relationship”. This meaning is clearer when you consider Hebrews 11:17: Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s “only begotten son”. Abraham obviously had more than one son but it is the uniqueness of Isaac among the other sons that warrants the use of this word ‘monogenes’. He was the only son by Sarah and the only son of the covenant.

Another variation of this definition is “pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind’. This is why John uses this word in chapter 3 verse 16. Here he is trying to demonstrate Jesus as being the son of God, uniquely God’s son. In other words, Jesus shares the same divine nature as God, as opposed to believers like us who are called ‘sons of God’ by adoption. Jesus is the ‘one and only’.

Much of the trouble we have over these terms is due to the fact that we will never be able to adequately describe God. He is Indescribable. The only reference points we have are the ones that God has given to us Himself. God gave us the example of a father and son to help us try to understand the relationship between the first and second persons of the trinity, but we sometimes go too far and try to attach other aspects of this relationship which simply aren’t there. God has revealed as much as we need to understand and we should leave it at that. As human beings we invariably try to understand more than is good for us. This is what often gets us into trouble and how cults are formed.

Let’s not get bogged down by words or by trying to grasp concepts beyond our reach. Instead let us enjoy the revelation that God has shown us of Himself in Jesus and of the rescue plan for hopeless cases like us who have rebelled against Him. The “only begotten” has ‘begat’ many after Him – we are included in that number!

 June 6, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 2 Responses »
May 302014
 

Radiance of gods gloryThe 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)

This is another name of Jesus which totally blows out of the water any idea that Jesus was anyone other than God Himself. In order to understand what it means we first need to have some idea about what God’s glory is.

The word “glory” means “brightness.” It says in 1Timothy 6:16: “he who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” In the book of Ezekiel, we read that the prophet had a vision of heaven. He described the throne room of God, saying: “And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4). When the Lord came to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, it describes His appearance as such…”Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 24:17)

The word ‘glory’ not only implies extreme brightness but also carries with it a sense of ‘heaviness’ or ‘weightiness’. When Solomon’s temple was finished, God’s glory filled it so that the priests were not even able to stand up…”And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10-11). It was more than the brightness of God’s presence which prevented them from standing. It was the sheer weight of His glory.
Now that we have an idea of what the glory of the Lord is, let’s look at the fact that Jesus is the radiance of that glory. God’s glory is communicated through Jesus Christ, but it would be a mistake to say that He merely reflects glory. It is important to understand that “radiance” does not mean reflection. When we see a full moon in a clear sky it appears to be shining pretty brightly, but of course it has no ability in and of itself to shine at all. It is a lifeless piece of rock, its brightness is just a reflection of the sun’s light. Jesus’ radiance is not like that. The sun’s light is radiated from the centre of our solar system. Christ is not reflecting God’s glory, as the moon reflects the sun, but He is the radiance of God’s glory, as the light and energy waves bring the power of the sun to us.

Without light waves, we would not see the sun. Without its energy being transmitted to earth, we would not feel its heat. Like the sun’s beams, the radiating lines of the Son’s glory are too numerous to count. Have you ever tried counting sunbeams? It can’t be done; it would be like trying to count airwaves in the wind. Without Jesus Christ, we could not see God. But now, because Christ has come, we have seen God.

Even thinking about the brightness and strength of the sun doesn’t do it justice. One day the sun will be replaced by the glory of God and there will be no more night because the glory of the Lord will illuminate the new heavens and the new earth: “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23). “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5).

I leave you with a wonderful thought that the more time we spend with Jesus, the more His radiance reflects off us. The more we spend time with Him the more we are becoming like Him and are being changed. This will attract others to Him: “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 May 30, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 1 Response »
May 212014
 

Firstborn over all creation Last week we looked at Jesus being the ‘image of the invisible God’ and before we leave this passage in Colossians, I want to look at verses 15-20 in all their glorious majesty but with specific reference to Jesus being the ‘firstborn over all creation’. Here’s the full 5 verses in all their magnificence..

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

You see there was a bit of Gnosticism creeping into the church at Colossae about whether Jesus really was God with a big G or god with a small g. Paul sets the record straight in no uncertain terms with his whole letter, but what does ‘firstborn over creation’ actually mean.

The word ‘firstborn’ is translated from the Greek word ‘prototokos’ and as with many words translated from one language to another it is very difficult to sum up in just one word. If you look at it, you will see the similarities with another word, ‘prototype’ and that is roughly what Jesus is. Prototype being the first one, he came first.

Some have tried to deny the divinity of Jesus (i.e. that Jesus is God) from this phrase by arguing that Jesus was created first of everything that was created, and if He is a created “thing”, He cannot be God. This argument completely ignores the context in which this phrase was written. Firstly it comes immediately after the phrase we looked at last week about Jesus being the exact representation of God. He wasn’t a copy or a lesser thing but God himself in human representation.

Secondly the word Prototokos doesn’t necessarily refer to just the one born first, it is a title of the one considered to have that special status conferred upon them. In the culture of the Ancient Near East, the first-born was not necessarily the oldest child. First-born referred not to birth order but to rank. The first-born possessed the inheritance and leadership.
We see in a number of places in the bible where the title ‘Firstborn’ is given to someone other than the first one to be physically born such as Jacob over Esau and David over his brothers as shown in Psalm 89:27. Jesus has pre-eminence and first place rights over everything that exists.

The description “firstborn over all creation” speaks also of Christ’s pre-existence. He is not a creature but the eternal Creator as shown in John 1:10.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him

God created the world through Christ and redeemed the world through Christ (Hebrews 1:2-4) and he now has control over the created order.
Notice too that Jesus is referred to as also being the “firstborn from the dead”. Jesus was not the first person ever raised from the dead; a number of people throughout the Bible were raised from the dead before Him; Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s son in 1 Kings 17:22 and Jesus raised Lazarus in John 11. But Jesus holds first place among all who have or will be raised from the dead because of what His resurrection accomplished and provides.
This is glorious news, because he is Firstborn and ruler over created things he will keep and protect those of us who are trusting in his resurrection and one day we will celebrate with Him a new created order in the new heavens and the new earth.

 May 21, 2014  Posted by at 9:09 pm Names of Jesus, Uncategorized No Responses »