Jesus the God-Man

Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

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Jesus is fully God.  He made claims that couldn’t be made by someone less than God.  He said He would “send His angels” (Matt. 13:41), He claimed to forgive sins (Mark 2:5), and spoke of judging the world (Matt. 25:31-46).  He claimed to be the Son of God (John 19:7), and when asked by the high priest if He was “the Christ, the Son of God”, Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” (Matt. 26:63).  So Jesus is worthy to be worshipped.  He has equality with God, though He didn’t consider that equality something to be grasped.  He has dominion and rule, power and authority over our lives.  We must have a reverent fear for Him and know that He has an omnipotent eye into everything we say and do.

Jesus is also fully man.  He had a physical human nature, and grew “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52)  He experienced hunger when he fasted (Matt. 4:2).  He also experienced thirst (John 19:28).  He experienced fatigue when He travelled (John 4:6).  He suffered physically and died, in fact in John 19:34 we read that a spear was thrust into His side and water and blood mingled came out.  Jesus thought, reasoned and felt.  He experienced joy (John 15:11), as well as anger and grief (Mark 3:5). (This summary is owed to Millard J. Erickson’s chapter on “The Humanity of Christ” in his comprehensive book, “Christian Theology”).

But what does this all mean for us?  It means that “…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)  Because Jesus has faced the temptations to sin that we have, and yet never gave in, He is fully able to meet us in our time of need and provide us with a way out.  When we are faced with temptations we can trust Him and His sacrifice that He will give us power to resist and overcome sin, just as He did.

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Jesus’ Blood

Jesus Bloody Christ

Alright- I’ve written many little stream of consciousness rants about my life and spirituality and such.  But recently I’ve had the privilege of answering some serious theological questions in the process of getting licensed.  So I thought I’d share them with you in little snippets.  Simple and quick to read and think about. Here’s the first one about “JesusBlood” and what it means according to scripture.  I want to give credit to Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears book “Doctrine:  What Christians Should Believe” and Millard Erickson‘s “Christian Theology” for giving great summaries to build upon in the next few blogs I will put out.

JESUS’ BLOOD

The penalty for our sin has always been death, and in the Old Testament period blood sacrifices were offered to appease God’s wrath and displeasure at our sin.  Yet Jesus died for our sin.  It was a substitute for our death, and it was entirely for our benefit.  Jesus’ death was a “substitutional sacrifice” because he paid the penalty for all of our sinsIsaiah prophesied of this hundreds of years before it happened in history.  He spoke of Jesus before He existed on earth, “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.”  We should have been on that cross that Jesus was on.  It was our sin that put Him there.  Yet He freely volunteered Himself to be on that cross and die for our sins, thereby offering us right relationship with God.  This is the good news of the gospel.

When I was 19, I had a Spiritual and Psychological Breakdown in Manchester New Hampshire

View of Elm Street, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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When I first got captivated by Jesus, I had absolutely no “Sunday school” type of teaching to wrestle with.  So I really became a total zealot at first, at the age of 18, and coming out of a party lifestyle.  I felt like I had to preach at everyone, including my poor parents, who put up with me condemning everything they had raised me to be, and trying to blast the fear of hell into them.

Since my attitude got disputed so much by both my parents and friends of the time, who seemed to act with far more kindness, I pretty much gave up at trying to be a zealous Christian.  I started to buy into a lot of New Age teachings, which seemed to bring people more peace than I had at the time.  I didn’t really have any Jesus followers in my life to tell me different, so I gave up on ‘trying’ to be Christian for at least a year.  The fact that I was ‘trying’ to be a Christian proves how little I understood the gospel or Jesus Himself.

I got into Buddhism, Astrology, Hinduism and Native American Spirituality.  I began to believe in weird omens, revelations and epiphanies.  The Native American spiritual book I was reading told me that spiders were a symbol of jealousy…  Once I was trying to get a date with this girl who my friend liked.  We were all in the same room together.  It was just the girl, my friend and I.  A spider shot itself down from the ceiling on a spider web string right in my friend’s face!  Creepy stuff man!

I used to do Yoga and meditation every day too.  I totally believed that it was making me feel peaceful and centered, and to some extent that was true.  I was doing it the most during a time in my life when I lived in Manchester, New Hampshire.  I can’t explain why I specifically chose New Hampshire, I just really dug the east coast.  I moved out there when I was nineteen to go to a junior college, because they had dorms, and it would give me a chance to get away from Ohio and all the whacky friends that would probably drag me down.  It was my chance to get a fresh start.

I thought that New Hampshire would be an escape from bad influence.  When I came in for my first day in the dorms, my R.A. offered me a bong rip!  Also, the college was a renovated part of an old, abandoned shoe factory next to a Velcro factory that spewed plastic smoke into the sky all day out of a smokestack.  It contained a select group of young people coming out of the ghettoes of New York and Boston.  People were blowing coke there, and getting in crazy fights.  Onetime someone punched the glass out of a window and bled all over the hallway.  Another time someone was threatening people in the dorms with a gun.  This sheltered, Upper Middle class white boy was totally freaked out in that scenario!

So I meditated a lot to keep peace.  I did it at least an hour a day.  I remember I used to do it, and I would hear people yelling and screaming at each other the whole time.  I would finish my meditation… all filled with peace.  Then someone would get in a fight in the hallway again.  I’d be all mad and throw a temper tantrum, cussing society out at the top of my lungs for everyone to hear.  I sometimes thought maybe Buddha meant that the “middle way” he spoke of was to go from one extreme to the other.  But one thing I knew is that all the spiritual stuff I was doing wasn’t working well.  It could have been immaturity on my part.  Yet I was getting mixed, confusing, contradictory messages.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead told me to find peace and holiness by separating myself from culture’s influence through methods of isolation and pacifism.  Astrology told me to seek out people who I was cosmically aligned with.  And granted, many things I learned were ethically good.  But generally, I was distraught.

One time in New Hampshire, I put myself totally over the edge.  I got a job at a bakery, working 30 hours a week, while taking 18 credit hours of class.  I was traveling all over New England in my car every chance I got with my buddy Joel.  He lived in Boston but didn’t own a car so I’d always have to drive into the city 40 minutes there and back and pick him up.  I was operating on a steady diet of health food, caffeine and Zen meditation, and trying to keep myself pure even in the crazy situation of all the madness, drug use, crime and sex going on all around me at the abandoned shoe factory Junior College.

I was working a long shift one night at the bakery, and was totally worn out and overwhelmed with all I was doing.  My body basically shut down in the middle of trying to work the bread line and serve customers.  My chest got real tight and I felt like I couldn’t think straight or even move my limbs.  I sat on the floor in the middle of my shift and started begging my manger for help.  I called my poor parents and told them that I thought I was dying of a heart attack, and that I was going to the hospital as soon as I could.  I begged my manager to call the ambulance, and he refused.  He just gave me a $20 bill and told me to call a cab myself.  I looked up a Taxi company in the phone book, and told them where I was.  I went out into the parking lot and waited for the cab, and for the first time in a little while, I looked up into the sky and began to pray to God, not really sure if He was there or not, but nonetheless asking Him to make everything all right.  I felt like He was speaking into my conscience at that time, and reminding me that my pursuits were heading towards a dead end once again.

I got a taxi ride to the hospital and found that there was nothing wrong with me at all, it was just the effects of stress on my body (and some serious hypochondria!).  I went back and immediately quit my gig at the bakery, shoved a butt-load of Chinese food down my throat and into my guts, then went home and crashed like a rock.

If I understood at the time, I would have “kept myself in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of (my) Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” as the 21st verse of Jude’s letter says.  But instead, I got “anxious” about foolish things.  No wonder why it was natural for God to slow me down, because I was trying to be super human.  No wonder why my body quit on me- because it wasn’t made to take that kind of strain.

False teachings are false because don’t work out consistently in life.  Every type of wrong teaching will always have blaring inconsistencies…holes that can be poked in their logic.  The reason I believe the Bible now is because the more I read it, the more it pokes holes in my logic.

I Am the Rotten Step-child of My Mother: the Hipster Church and My Father: Evangelicalism

hipster halloween

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Back in 2007 I worked at a medium sized evangelical church, and also went to a smaller, radical community church in an intellectual college town.  At first I felt spiritually bi-polar, not to rip on a mental illness, I just felt like I was getting a different teaching at each place, and each one was making me suspicious towards the other.  I was trying to figure out the whole time, as I would spend Sunday morning at the evangelical church, and Sunday night at the smaller bohemian church, which one was right and which one was wrong?  I was younger in my spirituality, so I went to extremes in my analysis.

My dichotomous thought process could be described as follows:

Were the medium sized evangelical church people lukewarm?  Some people that went there tithed a lot, used a lot of Christian “lingo”, and came to church every Sunday.  But some spent their lives saving to buy the latest luxury car and biggest house.  Some made fun of gay people and liberals.  Some generally didn’t have many friends outside of the church and immediate family.  Some appeared judgmental and prideful to the outside world.

Was the bohemian small church community heretical?  Some of them bought into dangerous, experimental theology.  Some of them swore a lot in the name of Jesus.  Some called themselves radical Christians but barely read their Bible. The Sunday talks/sermons spoke of helping the poor and changing the way the church is in America today- good things no doubt.  There were plenty of liberals and people outside of the Christian Community that came there.  But some self proclaimed followers of Jesus were getting hammered on weekends.  Others were just getting into the radical stuff Jesus said and ignoring the rest of scripture.  Some people were falsely interpreting what the scriptures said.

So I would go to the evangelical church, and learn a lot of good things about the Bible.  Then I would go to the bohemian community church, and talk to people about the things I was wrestling with at the evangelical church.  Sometimes the people at the bohemian community church would seem offended, and other times I’d find people that would be wrestling with the same things, and they’d often generally say “That’s what we really need here, Is some strong teaching in the Bible”.  I think they had always felt that way, but just didn’t want to speak up and look stupid.  I, on the other hand, didn’t often know when to shut my mouth at that time.  So I started to speak up about the things I was wrestling with to Scott the pastor and many other great people there.

I’d visit the bohemian community church, and then go back to work at the medium sized evangelical church all week.  I’d have conversations with people about how I was wrestling with the scriptural ideas of helping the poor, selling more of my possessions, living simply, and reaching out and showing mercy and the love of God to people outside of the Christian community.  Sometimes people would be taken aback by my comments (especially those of a more extreme nature).  As I’d have conversations with people of the congregation, I’d find that a lot of people felt the way I did, and were trying to live out what the scriptures were saying.  They’d say (generally), “That’s what we really need here, more outreach to the poor and compassion for people outside of the Christian community”.  So they agreed, but didn’t want to speak up and look strange.  They just needed a voice in leadership to support their convictions, and for a time I was privileged to be that voice.

As the some of the skeptics at the evangelical church began to see that people of the congregation were really responding to these ideas, which were totally Biblical, they began to change their minds. Then we got a new head pastor who totally believed in helping the poor and instituting social justice ministry.  So the rest of the staff really followed in suit.  Like I said, that church is currently doing many great things.  They bought mattresses for people in Section 8 Housing, made room in their budget to give to people in need, threw a Christmas dinner for a homeless shelter, and even championed a unified effort of churches to get together and do a Christmas show, and give ALL of the benefits to a Veteran’s Shelter!  The small little community bohemian church even worked with them to put together the benefit for the Veterans.

So as you can see, in the end these two totally opposite churches worked together for the Kingdom.  They left behind some of their theological differences, and recognized that they were both trying to follow the Jesus who came in the flesh and was fully God and fully Man, as revealed in the Scriptures.  So they left obvious yet petty differences aside, and realized they were simply the broken Body of Christ.  Amen to that!

So it is possible for seemingly opposing forces to join forces and make great impacts for Jesus in our world.  We should never let our theological systems, or our prejudices get in the way of unity in the body of Christ.  I think we can keep our theological convictions, and even work with people we disagree with.  If we do it right, strongly rooted in God’s Word, we’ll be able to speak truth in love to anyone.  If anyone is purposefully messed-up in their thinking, they won’t want anything to do with us because of the truth we speak!  At least it will be they who work against unity.  Yet as followers of Jesus the Messiah, we should always work FOR unity, and NEVER against it.

 

I Love Cynics Because I am One

Mencken is fictionalized in the play Inherit t...

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I do have a deep worry for those in my generation who are seeking out to find who Jesus really is.  My worry is this:  that they will stumble over the legalisms and false obstructions that were put in place by the previous generation.  The only people who defend these legalisms and false obstructions are those who have no relationships outside of their doctrinal fold, or even basic beliefs.  I think it’s unfortunate that a generation would find followers of Jesus totally irrelevant when they’re truly looking for Jesus.

So this is one of the main reasons why I write:  I love cynics!  I am one myself!  When I began to believe in and follow Jesus it was because I tried to poke a hole in every belief system and ideology, and the Ancient Text called the Scriptures, the Word of God, only poked holes in my ideology and belief system.  The reason why I follow Jesus is because I couldn’t deny that He is God- because the accounts of this in the Bible pointed me in that unmistakable direction.

I want to pave a way for my cynic friends!  I feel that there are many of us out there who are on our way towards the true Jesus, and I don’t want unbiblical religiosity to be a stumbling block to my friends coming in to be a part of “the church”.

And when I say “the church”, I’m talking about God’s people– a mish-mash of folks from all different backgrounds that get together and love each other because they have been found by Jesus also.  It’s alright to meet together in buildings, sing to the God of heaven, and hear people speak of Him and His Words.

So from the mouth of a recovering cynic I have to plead with with my fellow church leaders!  Let’s not get in the way of all these wonderful people who are on their way towards knowing Jesus.  It would be much like the Christians of a Jewish background wanting to force Gentile Christians to get circumcised and follow the laws of Moses– as the book of Galatians indicates.  Of course we want to see all true followers of Jesus live holy lives, but shouldn’t force them into our social constructs.  We must be careful here to see what is really from the scriptures, and what is simply comfortable “religion” to us.  For as Jesus said, “no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'” (Luke 5:37-39)