Feb 272015
 

Jesus and apologeticsLast week we looked at the use of logic in apologetics. We have a reasonable faith and so therefore it should be understood using logic and reason. Just in case you are still not convinced I thought it would be fun to look at how Jesus, the most brilliant thinker in history, used logical arguments to refute His critics and establish the truth of His views. If Jesus used these methods, and we are followers of His, then logically we should do the same.

Jesus’ use of persuasive arguments demonstrates that He was both a philosopher and an apologist who rationally defended His worldview in discussions with some of the best thinkers of His day. This intellectual approach does not detract from His divine authority but enhances it. Jesus’ high estimation of rationality and His own application of arguments indicates that Christianity is not an anti-intellectual faith as opponents frequently portray.

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). Word translated here in Greek is Logos and it is from this word that the word logic derives.

As an apologist for God’s truth, He defended the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as His own teachings and actions.

Presenting Jesus as a worthy thinker can be a powerful apologetic tool to unbelievers who wrongly assume that Christian belief is a matter of blind faith or irrational belief.

Jesus didn’t use logic to win arguments, but so that his listeners would understand and gain insight. It wasn’t about scoring intellectual points, as many of the so-called intellectuals didn’t ‘get it’ and yet everyday people and even children did.

We see in the gospels a number of occasions where the religious authorities tried to trap Jesus and we are then treated to a masterful demonstration of Jesus defeating their arguments through logic. For example in Matthew 22:23-38

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, hoping through their questions for Jesus to change His mind and admit that the resurrection was absurd. They tried to corner Him to admit that either there was no resurrection or that heaven allowed for monogamous marriages.

Jesus, using logic, showed they were basing their arguments on false premises. He then skilfully used their own beliefs to show them why they were wrong.

This is quite a common device used by opponents to Christianity. Their arguments will appear logical but will be based on false or misleading statements and premises.

Jesus was fond of using logical arguments which are called ‘a fortiori’ (Latin: “from the stronger”) The basic form of this argument is as follows

1. The truth of idea A is accepted.

2. Support for the truth of idea B (which is relevantly similar to idea A) is even stronger than that of idea A.

3. Therefore, if the truth of idea A must be accepted, then so must the truth of idea B.

Consider Jesus’ argument against the Pharisees concerning the rightness of His performing a healing miracle on the Sabbath:

Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:21–24)

Jesus’ argument can be laid out simply:

1. The Pharisees endorse circumcision, even when it is done on the Sabbath, the day of rest from work. This does not violate the Sabbath laws, because it is an act of goodness.

2. Healing the whole person is even more important and beneficial than circumcision, which affects only one aspect of the male.

3. Therefore, if circumcision on the Sabbath is not a violation of the Sabbath, neither is Jesus’ healing of a person on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ concluding comment, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” was a rebuke to their illogical inconsistency while applying their own moral and religious principles.

Jesus argued in a similar form in several other conversations regarding the meaning of the Sabbath. In Luke 13 after He healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler became indignant and said, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Jesus reminded him that one may lawfully untie one’s ox or donkey on the Sabbath and lead it to water. “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus’ argument looks like this:

1. The Jews lawfully release animals from their confinement on the Sabbath out of concern for the animals’ well-being.

2. A woman’s well-being (deliverance from a chronic, debilitating illness) is far more important than watering an animal.

3. Therefore, if watering an animal on the Sabbath is not a Sabbath violation, then Jesus’ healing of the woman on the Sabbath is not a violation of the Sabbath.

Luke recorded that Jesus “As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.” (Luke 13:17).

A wise apologist will make good and repeated use of ‘a fortiori’ arguments. Here is an example from comparative religion: Many reject the Gospels because they are ancient documents that are supposedly historically unreliable. Many of these same people, however, trust ancient Buddhist and other Eastern religious documents, which have far fewer manuscripts

Jesus would often appeal to strong evidence to back up His teachings. When John the Baptist sent word from prison asking if Jesus really was the Messiah, Jesus answered him

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (John 11:4-6)

Jesus’ logic was as such:

1. If one does certain kinds of actions (according to the scriptures), then one is the Messiah.

2. I am doing those kinds of actions.

3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Let’s look at one more logical tool Jesus used in His arguments. He used a common tool used by Philosophers and other debaters calledreductio ad absurdum’ arguments. The term means “reduction to absurdity.” When used successfully, powerfully refutes an illogical position

Let’s see how Jesus used this argument in Matthew 22:41-46

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Jesus’ argument can be laid out as follows:

1. If the Christ is merely the human descendent of David, David could not have called him “Lord.”

2. David did call the Christ “Lord” in Psalm 110:1.

3. To believe Christ was David’s Lord and merely his human descendent (who could not be his Lord) is absurd.

4. Christ, therefore, is not merely the human descendent of David.

Jesus’ point was not to deny the Christ’s ancestral connection to David, since Jesus Himself is called “the Son of David” in the Gospels (Matthew 1:1), and Jesus accepted the title without objection (Matthew 20:30–31). Jesus rather showed that the Christ is not merely the Son of David. Christ is also Lord and was so at the time of David. By using this reductio ad absurdum argument, Jesus expanded His audience’s understanding of who the Christ is and that He himself is the Christ.

Jesus employed another reductio ad absurdum when the Pharisees accused Him of driving demons out by Satan himself in Matthew 12:22-32. In reply to them He said:

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? (Matthew 12:25–27)

Let’s look at Jesus’ logic step by step:

1. If Satan were divided against himself, his kingdom would be ruined.

2. Satan’s kingdom, however, is not ruined (since demonic activity continues). To think otherwise is absurd.

3. Therefore, (a) Satan does not drive out Satan.

4. Therefore, (b) Jesus cannot free people from Satan by satanic power.

A bit of a longer blog today but I hope you have found it useful. Hopefully you will start to see how arguments are broken down into a set of statements and analysing these statements will show you where the errors occur (if any) Next time we will continue our look at apologetics and we will see some more examples of logic.

 February 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics 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 »
Apr 252014
 

Rabboni “11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18)

Last week we finished with the ‘I am’ names of Jesus, but continuing with the Easter theme I want to touch on another name Jesus was called: Rabboni.

The name Rabboni is only used twice in the bible (also Mark 10:51). The meaning is not fully clear but it is generally translated as ‘beloved teacher’. It seems funny to me to put those two words together because I don’t think I thought of any of my teachers like that at school! I tolerated a few of them, but no more than that.

Jesus of course is altogether different. Jesus was also called ‘Rabbi’ on a number of occasions which is the usual title for a spiritual teacher. However Rabboni means a bit more than that. A Rabboni was someone who didn’t simply teach but also produced teachers. Jesus was a great teacher, but more than that, His whole mission was to pass on His teaching to His disciples and then on and on throughout the generations. I think we can safely say He has achieved that mission.

Another aspect of this name is that it came from the lips of Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been constantly scorned and rejected throughout most of her life. She had a chequered past but Jesus had forgiven and accepted her and now she experienced the unbelievable privilege of going to the disciples as the first witness, ‘teaching’ them what Jesus had said to her. This would have been highly unusual in that society and further shows the value and trust that Jesus places on women.

I don’t know if you are a person who easily disqualifies yourself, but take heart from this example of Mary Magdelene, a person who had every reason to disqualify herself but was wonderfully taught and discipled by Jesus. Many would have thought “why is Jesus wasting His time teaching her?’. But Jesus didn’t consider it a waste of time at all and it would seem she went on to grow into a leader of women amongst Jesus’ disciples.

There has been plenty of nonsense written about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, with suggestions made that they were lovers etc. The above verse I think clearly says otherwise. Lovers don’t refer to each other as teachers, especially using this formal term. There was clearly love between them but a pure sort of love that I sometimes think the world is incapable of understanding. She loved Him dearly as her teacher but that’s as far as it would ever go.

The lesson that I think we should take from this passage of scripture is to not disqualify ourselves, but rather to continue learning from the greatest teacher who ever lived and whose words are still available today. Let us make the most of them.

 April 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 182014
 

The_Resurrection_And_The_LifeSometimes when people proclaim great names over themselves they have a hard time proving it. For instance, Muhammad Ali called himself “the greatest”. Now there is no doubting he was a very good boxer, but he did lose on quite a few occasions. When Jose Mourinho (the newly appointed Chelsea manager) labelled himself “the special one”, he did prove to be quite good, but has failed to conquer all before him and be really ‘special’.

When Jesus labelled Himself with a name He went on to prove Himself as well worthy of that name. Have you noticed how often, when Jesus says ‘I am’ something, He backs it up with hard evidence? When He said “I am the bread of life” He had just fed 5,000 men (probably up to 20,000 if you include women and children) with a few loaves and fish. When He said “I am the light of the world” He proceeded to bring sight to a man born blind. And when Jesus stated “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) He went on to demonstrate His mastery over death by raising Lazarus to life after being dead for 4 days.

Little did anyone realise as Lazarus was being unwrapped from his grave clothes that Jesus would further demonstrate His power over death in just a few months time, during these momentous days of the first Easter.

Eventually Good Friday would come, and even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the grave just a short time previously, they struggled to see how this dead body on Good Friday could raise itself from the dead. But this is the wonderful truth we celebrate at Easter.

Jesus Christ is alive and He has defeated death for all time. In the book of Revelation, John meets again the glorified, risen Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’”. (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus is The Life. He gives life to every living creature. Every one of us has breath in our bodies because He says so and when He allows it, that breath will be taken away from us.

If you are a Christian you have been transferred from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life.

Let’s expand today’s passage even further. After Jesus had declared He is the resurrection and the life He then says: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

You see, for the Christian, the sting of death has been completely taken away. Even though we will die physically, we will continue to live beyond this life. The New Testament on many occasions speaks of Christian death as falling asleep. I don’t know about you but I quite like falling asleep; there is certainly nothing to worry about. That is what Jesus has won for us and what He proved when He said He is “The resurrection and the life”. What a wonderful thing to celebrate this Easter!

 April 18, 2014  Posted by at 7:30 am Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Feb 072014
 

son of man

Welcome to my 100th blog!

If I asked you “what do you call yourself?” it wouldn’t necessarily be the name on your birth certificate. Most of us have names we like to be called. I quite like being called ‘Ade’ by my friends and family. (My old football manager didn’t quite get it right and used to call me ‘Ades’ which I didn’t appreciate due to the obvious connotations.)

If you read the gospels carefully you will see that Jesus refers to Himself on many occasions as ‘The Son of Man’, which may seem rather strange until we take a closer look.

I always thought that Jesus calling himself ‘Son of Man’ was a bit of an understatement. Surely He would be better to call Himself ‘Son of God’ to highlight His divinity. Thankfully, Jesus is not like me; He was completely humble and never needed to ‘big Himself up’.

By calling Himself ‘Son of Man’ He was firstly highlighting the fact that He was a man. He wasn’t God in disguise (although He was fully God) but fully a man, with all its limitations: He got tired, hungry, sorrowful and definitely felt pain. When He called himself that name He was in fact saying “I am just like one of you – I am human”.

There was another reason why Jesus called Himself ‘Son of Man’ and we find a clue in the book of Daniel. In a vision that Daniel saw he describes the following:

13 “I saw in the night visions,and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus would have known full well about this verse and the fact that it referred to Him, because He says this in Matthew 25:31-32:

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

The High priest at His trial also knew full well what he was referring to:-

63” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” (Matthew 26:63-66)

The high priest had absolutely no doubt that Jesus was linking the fact that He called Himself ‘Son of Man’ with that name in the Daniel 7 passage, evidenced by his reaction: he tore his robes, calling Jesus a blasphemer.

So in one name Jesus is highlighting both His Humanity and His divinity; there is no contradiction between the two-He is fully both! What a wonderful truth! The son of God became the son of man that we might become sons of God!

 February 7, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jan 312014
 

The wordThe bible describes Jesus as ‘The word of God’ in a number of places, probably most clearly in John 1:1-3 where it says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

We know John is referring to Jesus because later he says: “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (verse 14).

The Greek definition for ‘word’ here is ‘logos’, a word which is not easily translated into English and is very rich in meaning. “Logos” is a philosophical term used in Jewish and Greek intellectual circles. To the Greeks, the ‘logos’ is what lies behind the universe and maintains its order; to the Jews it is more that God had a concept in His mind and spoke it into existence. So John is very clever here by appealing to both parties and using a word they both understand.

This verse is one of the key verses to understanding the trinity. He is not a god (small g) as translated (wrongly) by Jehovah’s witnesses, but the God (large G). He is one with God and as God the word, spoke creation into being:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

It is amazing to think that from merely speaking, the universe came into existence. This is the power of ‘the Word’.

So not only was He there at the very beginning, as God, speaking creation into being, he also speaks through His prophets and chosen messengers throughout the Old Testament, bit by bit revealing His plan for salvation. Then at one momentous point in history, the ‘Word’ became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Jesus did not just speak God’s words when He walked on this earth; He demonstrated the will, purpose and power of God. That is why ‘Logos’ means much more than ‘Word’, in the same way that Jesus did much more than just speak the right words.

Jesus is also the ‘word’ who inspired the bible, the one who whispered into the ear of Moses, David, Peter, Paul and the rest. His words that we read in the bible speak to our souls and still transform lives today. I always wanted a bible with all the words of Jesus in red, but I have since realised that every word in the bible is the word of Jesus. If you are going to colour in any words at all it should be all of them!

“Word” also means ‘truth’. We say “I give you my word” when we want someone to believe us. Jesus apparently used the phrase “I tell you the truth” 78 times in the gospels (I say apparently because I have not had the time to double check for myself! – but suffice to say it is mentioned many times). Unlike the imperfect human beings that we are, when God said “I’ll give you my word” He meant it. Jesus demonstrated this by accomplishing everything He had intended to do.

 January 31, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Dec 272013
 

whats in a name For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Have you ever considered the importance of names throughout history? Alexander the Great wouldn’t sound quite as good as “Alex the quite good”, or William the Conqueror as “Bill, the chap who sometimes does quite well”. Silly examples, but I’m sure you understand what I mean.

Parents can sometimes take a long time choosing names for their children. So many names have meanings behind them and we wouldn’t want to inadvertently label our children with an inappropriate moniker that would cause embarrassment for the rest of their lives.

In biblical times, a name would have significant meaning. It would often define a person’s character.

On a few occasions we see God change the names of people in the bible. For example, Abram was re-named “Abraham” which meant ‘father of a multitude’. Jacob, whose name meant ‘supplanter’ (quite apt), after wrestling with the angel, had his name changed to ‘Israel’, meaning ‘he who prevails with God’.

Jesus famously changed the name of His disciple Simon, to Peter (meaning ‘rock’).

However, of all the names that have ever been, the most important is Jesus, whose name is…”above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21b). And again in Philippians 2:9 it says “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Our passage today is heavily associated with Christmas. There are 4 names for Jesus which we will look at over the next few weeks. We will then continue to look at the many other different names of Jesus, which all describe a different facet or characteristic of this wonderful man who has transformed history.

It is my prayer that over the following weeks we will discover new and wonderful things about Jesus. Come back each Friday to discover more.

Until next year, have a very happy and peaceful New Year.

 December 27, 2013  Posted by at 12:00 pm Name of Jesus No Responses »
Dec 172013
 

jesus v santaThis is not a personal attack at Santa, honest! But just after I pressed ‘send’ on my last blog post, I discovered a link to a great podcast by John Piper on exactly the same subject as mine and of course he put it so much more eloquently than I could.

It’s only six minutes, so I have put a link to it here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/rethinking-santa

To briefly sum it up he said;

“It is mindboggling to me that any Christian would even contemplate such a trade, that we would divert attention away from the incarnation of the God of the universe into this world to save us and our children. … Not only is Santa Claus not true — and Jesus is very truth himself — but compared to Jesus, Santa is simply pitiful, and our kids should be helped to see this.”

· Santa offers only earthly things, nothing lasting…. Jesus offers eternal joy with the world thrown in (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).

· Santa offers goodies only on the condition of good works: “he knows when you have been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.” That is a pure works religion….. Jesus offers himself all the gifts freely, by grace, for faith.

· Santa is make-believe….. Jesus is more real than the roof on your house.

· Santa only shows up once a year….. Jesus promises, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

· Santa cannot solve our worst problem…… Jesus did solve our worst problem, our sin and our alienation from God. Santa can put some icing on the cake of the good life, but he cannot take a shattered life and rebuild it with hope forever. And our kids need to know that about Christmas.

· Santa is not relevant in many cultures of the world……. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords over all the peoples of the world.

· Santa will be forgotten some day……. Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

There is no contest, Jesus wins ‘hands down’ Santa is simply irrelevant.

So my counsel is to give all your efforts to making your children as happy as they can possibly be with every kind of surprise that is rooted in the true meaning of Christmas. Let your decorations point to Jesus. Let your food point to Jesus. Let your games point to Jesus. Let your singing point to Jesus. Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus.

If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know him well.

 December 17, 2013  Posted by at 11:06 pm Christmas 1 Response »
Jul 252013
 

relationship with JesusDuring the summer holidays I thought I would use some of the Foundations material I have recently written at church, looking into the wonderful subject of being in a relationship with Jesus.

When somebody becomes a Christian, they don’t just have their sins forgiven and a ticket to heaven when they die; they enter into a relationship with their saviour, Jesus.

Many religions focus on various rituals you have to perform and things you have to do in order to get on God’s good side, or to somehow gain his favour. But as we have discussed before we are saved by grace through faith. Effectively all our religious rituals and requirements have already been fully completed in Jesus. He has done everything required. This means that everything we do subsequently is purely out of our relationship with Him.

Just like any other relationship, we will want to deepen our relationship with Jesus by spending time with Him, getting to know Him better and finding out what His will is for our lives.

It is important to stress from the outset that setting time aside to study and read God’s word and to seek Him in prayer is out of relationship with Him, not through any obligation, sense of duty or striving to gain extra merit points. We are saved by grace and we must continue in our faith by grace as we seek to know Him better.

What I am going to cover over the coming weeks may sound like a list of obligations we have to go through to get more standing with God: a daily check list where we tick off 15 minutes bible study, 20 minutes prayer and listen to a worship song, that’s my ‘God bit’ for the day. It is actually very easy to slip into that way, especially if you have been a Christian for a long time, but this is not at all how I want it to come across.

We seek Jesus because we love Him and because we want to please Him, and this is not through any sense of duty. Imagine if I gave my wife a bunch of flowers and said that it was a requirement due to a nuptial agreement we made during our marriage vows. That would not go down too well. My wife wants to hear me say ‘I love you’ (and as I have discovered, not just the once!!).

Over the next few weeks (and I have no idea how long this will continue) we are going to look at 4 ways that will help us develop and deepen our relationship with Jesus. They are not the only ways, but they are certainly good places to start. I have alluded to some of them already but you’ll have to come back each Friday to find out what the next subject is.

 July 25, 2013  Posted by at 6:27 pm Uncategorized 1 Response »
Mar 292013
 

EasterI’m taking a short break from my series on ‘Law and Grace’ as we find ourselves in Easter week. I want to offer some thoughts at this very special time in the Christian calendar.

I love Easter week and I try to take some time aside to meditate and think again about what Jesus has done for us. It’s just the same when I am taking bread and wine; a moment to pause and wonder again at Christ’s sacrifice.

My thoughts this week are from Hebrews 12:2:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fix our eyes on Jesus

What a good idea to fix our eyes on Jesus. It would seem the obvious thing to do wouldn’t it? But we get so easily distracted with the busyness of life, even church life, that we can forget about the centre of our faith. Our prize, our goal, is Jesus. He is the one we long for, the one we love, the one we want to please. Every week is about Him but especially this week when we remember His sacrifice.

He is our pioneer, our example. He has gone before and paved the way. He has shown us the way forward and He is still in the process of perfecting our faith, making us more like Him.

The joy set before Him

What was the ‘joy set before Him?’

As He proceeds to the cross, what possible thing set before Him could bring Him joy in the anguish and brutality that He was about to endure? What is it that will help Him endure such suffering and heartbreak on the cross, the shame of being nailed up, naked and alone?

Partly He did it because He was obedient to the Father. It was the plan and will of God that Jesus should do this. It was the only rescue plan and He suffered it willingly. Jesus wanted to demonstrate just what the father is like, He wanted to show the compassion and perfect sacrificial love of the Father. The joy he received was from doing the fathers will. But it was also from knowing He was on a rescue mission. He loves us so much that the joy of restoring our relationship with Him compelled Him to act.

That’s right, the joy that carried Jesus through was rescuing you!

He loves us so much that He willingly suffered agonising pain so that we could be rescued and spend eternity with Him. He considered you worth it.

God is so passionate about you. He was thinking about you before time began (Ephesians 1:4), He is thinking and praying for you now (Hebrews 7:25) and one day in the future He will bring you into His kingdom to spend eternity together with Him (Revelation 21:1-4). Past, present and future.

Joy for us too

For me, this means that whenever I go through trials and difficulties, I can call on the same joy that Jesus has because:

  • He has gone before me
  • He has won the victory over every work of the enemy
  • He is with me
  • He knows what I am going through
  • He won’t let me go
  • He has promised to carry me through to the end
  • He has RISEN!!

I don’t know about you but I think this is very good news!

 March 29, 2013  Posted by at 8:50 am Resurrection No Responses »