deity of Christ

Christ’s Ascension: Eternal Hope in a Chaotic World

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-11, New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

He ascended into heaven,
       and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead (The Apostle’s Creed).

As I am writing this post for the Feast of the Ascension, tragedy fills the news. For the last three months, many of us have been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We weep over the continual suffering of the Ukrainian people. Our economy has suffered: skyrocketing gas prices, food shortages (particularly infant formula), a nosediving stock market, etc. Now, reports and images of a new flurry of mass shootings flood the media, including one on May 24 at an elementary school in Texas. Nineteen fourth-graders and two teachers are dead. I have a grandson who is graduating elementary school this week; his little sister, my only granddaughter, is entering the fourth grade in the fall. This massacre hits close to home.

Where is our hope? Politicians offer false hope: some think we can eradicate mass killings with increased gun control; others say schools need better security. You can read my thoughts about the political and social aspects of mass shootings and gun control here and here.

The Feast of the Ascension reminds us that Christians serve a risen Lord. Jesus has conquered death, is now seated in glory at the right hand of His (and our) heavenly Father, and will come again in power and glory. He will judge the living and dead. His kingdom will have no end.

This is our hope. No matter how chaotic our world becomes, God is still in control. This world is not fair, but God is just. In the end, His justice will prevail.

In the meantime, we mourn for those who suffer. We cry out for change. Christians must be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We do not use the weapons of this world or fight the forces of this world; our enemies are the spiritual enemies of God. Our weapons are those that Jesus has given to His church (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-13). He has given us a mission to change the world one soul at a time: Preach His gospel; make disciples of all nations; bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of His vengeance; comfort all who mourn; etc.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1-2, New American Standard Bible).

Reach out to somebody today with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

“Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

What does Jesus’ exalted status, having ascended to heaven, mean to you? Does His promise that He will come again comfort and encourage you? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, divine sovereignty | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Word Became Flesh. V: Grace, Truth, and Glory in Plain Sight

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:14-18; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image via Pixabay.

This post concludes a five-part series looking at the introduction of the Gospel according to John. These 18 verses set the stage for the rest of John’s Gospel. This introduction reaches a climax here. None of John’s original readers could misunderstand what he was saying: Jesus is a man, but He is also God.

This central truth of the Gospel—the incarnation—is essential for our salvation. Because of sin, we are separated spiritually from God. We cannot do anything to solve that problem. However, by becoming a man, God the Son bridged the gap between us. He entered our world and shared our experiences so that we could share His eternal life.

He did this while maintaining most of His divine attributes, particularly His moral attributes. John ascribes three key divine qualities to Jesus: grace, truth, and glory. Jesus revealed His glory particularly several times during His life: during the Transfiguration and at His resurrection, for example. He also showed His glory by living a sinless life despite facing the temptations common to mankind. [Jesus laid aside some of His divine attributes (see Philippians 2:7), such as omniscience and omnipresence. The fact that He spent approximately 33 years confined to a small locale in the Middle East does not negate His deity.]

John writes that “The Word became flesh.” To a Jewish reader, the word would suggest the Word of God, the laws and prophecies contained in their Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. It was the complete revelation of God to His chosen people. A Greek reader would immediately recognize the logos, the Greek term for “word,” from the teachings of Plato and other philosophers. They believed that the logos is the force that governs the universe. It is logical (the English words “logical” and “logic” are derived from logos), rational, constant, and spiritual—distinct from and above the physical, material realm. To a Jew, the notion that God or His Word could become a physical entity—particularly a human being—was absurd. Likewise, Greeks would find the idea that the spiritual logos could assume any physical form to be preposterous.

Nevertheless, by becoming a man, Jesus demolished those boundaries. The logos became physical and took on a human body and biological life. The force that governs the universe became a distinct individual. He dwelled in a small town in an insignificant province, on a medium-sized planet circling an average-sized star in the outer branches of a galaxy floating somewhere through space.

He accepted a very ordinary life, facing many challenges. He was born to a poor family in a stable, not royalty in a castle. He probably spent much of His young adulthood working an ordinary craftsman’s job as a carpenter, deprived of the luxuries most Americans take for granted. Scripture tells us that He was born of a virgin; Christians accept this as a fact, but it must have been hard to swallow in His day. People probably assumed that Mary and Joseph had sex before marriage (or that Mary had cheated on her fiance). Neighbors probably whispered and gossipped about them. This accusation arose even during His ministry, when His opponents said, “We were not born of fornication” (John 8:41). In the end, He endured a brutal, humiliating form of execution. He accepted a low status in life so that He could raise us to fellowship with God. Through it all, Jesus embodied the divine nature and all we need to know about God.

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Perhaps it seems far-fetched to us. It seemed that way to Jesus’ followers and to John as well. God supersedes our wisdom. Jesus could only reveal Him to us by becoming one of us. Laws, prophecies, wisdom writings, philosophy, etc., could only give us a glimpse of His glory.

God became man to bridge the gap that separated us from Him. He entered our world and shared our experiences so that we could share His life. By sharing our humanity, He could share His grace, truth, glory, life, and light with us.

“Jesus is not only what God is like; He is also what humanity was intended to be” [The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988)].

I would like to hear from you, especially if you have just recently welcomed Jesus into your heart. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Word Became Flesh. IV: The Light and the Life

“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible [1995] unless otherwise indicated).

Photo by form PxHere

John’s Gospel often repeats several key concepts. They seem like simple terms that we use every day, but Jesus gives them a deeper meaning. Two are “light” and “life.” We might talk about them in everyday conversations. Scientists tell us that light is made of particles—photons—which have a wave-like quality. Many think of life as a series of chemical reactions, which somehow generate consciousness and thought for some organisms.

In Christ, though, light and life hold a deeper meaning: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:4). Somehow, the life Jesus brings is the light of men. Life and light are intertwined. They come from Him.

John 1:9 then tells us that Jesus is the “true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” Bible scholars disagree about what this means. How can Jesus enlighten every man if so many do not believe in Him? One theory is that Jesus sheds light on the truth about mankind:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (John 15:22-24).

Jesus reveals God’s justice and righteousness. As the Son of God, He reveals what God is truly like (see Hebrews 1:1-3). However, since God created humans in His image, and Jesus became a man, He shows what we should be. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988), in its notes on John 1:9, says, “Jesus is not only what God is like; He is also what humanity was intended to be.” Part of the glory of everlasting life in heaven is the opportunity to be like Him, as God intended:

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Christians are children of God (1 John 3:1). He invites us to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:5). In Christ, we have the privilege of becoming children of God, not because of anything we can do, but because God drew us to Himself, by His grace through faith in Jesus.

Even though Jesus brought light to humanity, many people do not receive it.

The world did not know Him. Jesus said, “I am the … truth” (John 14:6). The Roman governor asked, “What is truth?” while the truth was standing right in front of him (John 18:38). The world still does not know Him. Many do not know who He is. Many who know about Him refuse to accept Him as Lord, God, and Savior.

The Jewish people of His time did not recognize Him as their Messiah:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

Even today, many people search the Scriptures—even the New Testament, which bears His name on every page—and do not come to Him for eternal life. They accept His teaching, but they reject His light, His life, and His spirit.

Even His own family did not always recognize who He was. Many are familiar with the story of Jesus in the temple as a 12-year-old boy. When Joseph and Mary found Him, they asked how He could mistreat them by staying behind and causing them to worry. I suspect they needed a reminder. They knew from before He was born that He was the Son of God. Perhaps, though, they had grown comfortable thinking of Jesus as their son. Maybe Joseph was beginning to train Him to take over the carpentry shop.

“When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.’ And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:48-49).

Jesus reminded them that His Father was God, and He had to prepare to do His Father’s business. At the peak of His ministry, His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5). The Light was shining in the darkness, and the darkness and those who lived therein could neither overcome (John 1:5, NASB1995) nor comprehend (NKJV) it.

However, He gives abundant life to all who believe in Him (John 10:10). Come to Him: place your faith and trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. He will give you light, understanding, and wisdom as you grow in the knowledge of Him. If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus, please join in this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my heart, and I ask You to come in. Take control of my life, and make me the person You want me to be. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

May God fill you with the light, life, and love of Jesus as you follow Him by faith.

I would like to hear from you, especially if you have just recently welcomed Jesus into your heart. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Word Became Flesh. III: Testifying to the Light (John 1:6-8)

“There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light” (John 1:6-8; all Scripture quotations are from the NASB1995).

Depiction of Jesus and John the Baptist, Église Saint-Martin, Réthoville, Manche, Basse-Normandie, France. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en), via Wikimedia Commons

John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Word of God and the Light of the world. A summary of John the Baptist’s ministry interrupts this introduction. John the Baptist served a significant role in God’s plan of redemption. He was the Messiah’s forerunner, the last prophet of the Old Testament era, and the prophet who paved the way for Jesus to introduce the New Testament.

The apostle emphasized that John the Baptist was not the Light. Jesus is the true Light of the world (John 8:12). Nevertheless, He would tell His disciples that we—His followers—are also the light of the world:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

As I shared in a previous article, the Christian becomes the light of the world by reflecting Jesus’ light to others. That was John the Baptist’s role: He was not the light of the world, but his ministry pointed people’s attention to the true Light, the coming Messiah, Jesus. John’s job was to point others to Jesus, to testify that He was coming soon, and to preach a message of repentance so that they would be ready to believe in Christ.

John the Baptist knew his role. He knew that Jesus deserved more honor.

“John testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me”’” (John 1:15).

Later, as his popularity dwindled, some of his disciples left him to follow Jesus. In response, he would say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). His job was to point people to Jesus. Once they started following Jesus, his work was finished. It was time for him to disappear from the limelight.

While John the Baptist was Jesus’ forerunner, he was also an example for all who would follow Christ. We, too, must decrease so that Jesus’ presence, power, and prominence may increase in our lives and spheres of influence. Sometimes, Christians want to build our own little kingdoms when we should advance the kingdom of God: “This is my church, my ministry, or my blog. I must make sure more people know who I am so that they can hear my message.”

By Alvinysf (Crossmap) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

That is how a fallen world thinks. It is not a very Christian attitude. We must decrease. Like John the Baptist, we need to keep pointing to Jesus. We need to testify about how Jesus has changed our lives and, more importantly, what He has done to bring salvation to all who will believe in Him. We have to glorify Him so that others will praise, worship, and follow Him. We must live in such a way that people will come to know Jesus through us.

Let us take the spotlight off of ourselves and shine it on Jesus, so that those we meet may follow Him.

What are some ways that you have been able to shine the light of Jesus to others? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Word Became Flesh. II: The Word Was God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5; all Scripture quotations are from the NASB1995).

Image via Pixabay.

The Gospel of John is often called “the theological Gospel.” Whereas the three other three Gospels mainly report what Jesus taught and did, John’s Gospel interjects explanation and commentary. He also shares more “private teaching” that was deeper and more complex than what Jesus said in the other Gospels. John wrote near the end of the first century when several heresies were developing in the church (see his three letters for more background on those). Therefore, his Gospel rebuts many of those false teachings.

One such teaching was the notion that Jesus was not fully God and fully man. Some Christians thought that Jesus was just an ordinary man. Others said He was God but only looked like a real person; they also claimed He only seemed to die on the cross but only fell unconscious and woke up while in the tomb.

In response to these teachings, John writes the verses we read above. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This might confuse us, but it probably made more sense to John’s readers: first-century Jews who knew rabbinic tradition and Gentiles familiar with the philosophy of Plato.

Jews would immediately recognize the Word of God with its many facets. They had their sacred writings, which we now call the Old Testament. But, God’s Word was also a creative force that exercised His power. God spoke the universe into existence at creation (Genesis 1). It was not merely letters on a scroll or the wavelike vibration of air molecules to generate sound. It had power.

Jews would also associate God’s Word with wisdom, which is described as having a personality in the Old Testament, for example, in Proverbs 1:20-33 and 8:22-26:

“Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings…” (Proverbs 1:20-21).

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world” (Proverbs 8:22-26).

Image via YouVersion Bible app.

It would not surprise a Jew or a Platonist that the Word was God. Followers of Plato would say that the Logos (the Greek word translated as “Word” above) is the wisdom, logic, and order that guides the universe. What made it different was the idea that this Word or Logos was not only God but also became human:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

The Word was not just letters on a page, nor was it a set of abstract concepts or ideas. It became a man, Jesus Christ. He became a man, but He was always God. From before the beginning of time, Jesus—the Word of God—was God. He did not grow up and learn how to be God, declare Himself to be God, or figure out how to show us that we are all divine. No, in a unique way, He was God: before He was born, while He lived, after His resurrection, and throughout eternity.

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…” (Colossians 2:9).

When He was conceived in Mary’s womb, the fullness of deity dwelt within a single-celled zygote, then an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a child, and eventually a Man. At all points in His earthly life, He was God.

The Word and Wisdom that shaped the universe entered creation as a vulnerable child. John wrote that “the darkness did not comprehend it.” Indeed, few understood Him: not those who lived in spiritual darkness, nor the religious leaders, nor even His own family. His disciples usually did not understand Him. Christians who boast that we walk by faith in Him do not fully understand Him. If the idea that Jesus could be fully divine when He was just a single cell within His mother’s body blows your mind, you are not alone. The mystery that Jesus could be both God and man overwhelms our understanding. To follow Him, we must take a leap of faith. We must remember and believe that God is beyond our comprehension. We have to trust Him and not our understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The power that created the universe became human. That power now dwells personally with and in us by His Holy Spirit. Since He can govern the galaxies, He can easily deal with the problems we face. The Life Recovery Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1998) shares the following lesson from John 1:1-13:

“The same Power that created the universe is available to create a new life from our shattered hopes. The light of life that exposes and drives away the darkness of the human race is the same light that brightens the dark corners of our world. This source of all life and true light of the world is the source of all recovery. Eternal life and true recovery are ours when we believe what God says, renounce our tendency to do things our way, and receive the one whom God sent to help us.”

Just trust Him.

Do you have any thoughts about this passage that you would like to share? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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