Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Mark of Faith

Earlier I referenced some marks of a genuine believer that we can see in the biblical letter known as 1 John. In general, he explains the marks of faith, obedience, and love.

We talked about the mark of faith in three posts, so I simply wanted to link them together here in one place. We see the mark of genuine faith in what we can and cannot trust as described in 1 John:

In this way, we can't help but see the mark of true faith.

In the next two posts, I'll briefly address the mark of obedience and the mark of love, in one post each.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Teaching You Cannot Trust

John the Apostle, in his first letter, not only writes about who and what we can trust, he also tells us what we cannot trust.

What you believe about Jesus matters. John wrote to clarify that a true believer in Jesus will be shown by certain distinguishing marks: faith, obedience, love. We have previously seen that John says we can trust that Jesus had a real human body and that, at the same time, He was and is really God. Believing that Jesus is God, who took on a human body in order to rescue us, really matters.

But that means that you cannot trust any alternative teaching about Jesus.

You cannot trust teaching that denies the full divinity or full humanity of Jesus.

John tells us this in clear, stern terms:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. (1 John 4.1-3, HCSB)

What in the world does that mean? Since they did not yet have the Scriptures that we now know as the New Testament, God provided prophets for the churches. They spoke from the Holy Spirit. They preached the gospel. Many prophesied and taught, and most of them taught the truth.

However, John was saying that some were speaking from another spirit, the spirit of the antichrist. Simply put, they were spreading lies. So John said the church should test these prophetic statements ("test the spirits"). The statements should be tested against other known truth. And one way to know that a prophetic statement was not from God was if it denied the humanity of Jesus, and by implication, the divinity of Jesus. This kind of teaching, John says, is not true, and you cannot trust it. (You can see this type of warning also from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5.20-22.)

Notice that the "spirit of the antichrist" has been around since even the first century A.D. He has been deceiving people for a very long time. So John says to be on guard, because you cannot trust teaching that denies the full humanity (or full divinity) of Jesus.

If Jesus was not really a man, then He didn't die in your place, and you are hopeless. But He was, and He did. It matters.

If Jesus is not really God, then He didn't have the power or authority to save you and you are helpless. But He is, and He does. It matters.

Is your life marked by genuine faith?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jesus Was (and Is) Fully God

To say that Jesus had a real human body does not mean that He wasn't God. The opposite is true. When Jesus entered this world, He was fully man and fully God at the same time.

John the Apostle was clear that if you are a genuine believer, what you believe about Jesus matters. A true believer in Jesus will be shown by certain distinguishing marks: faith, obedience, love. Here we're talking about the mark of faith. True followers of Jesus will be shown by their faith. Believing that Jesus is God really matters.

You can trust that Jesus was (and is) also fully God.

Not only was it clear to John, who was there with Jesus, that He had a real human body, it was also clear that He was the divine Son of God. He says it this way in 1 John:

And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. (1 John 4.14-15, HCSB)

So believing that Jesus is God really matters. It matters that we believe that He was really a man, and that He was really God—at the same time.

It is not merely that God the Father saw a remarkable and holy man named Jesus from Nazareth, and then decided to adopt him. That is a heresy known as Adoptionism. Those who take this wrong view would essentially say that Jesus was such an amazing man on His own, that God saw Him from heaven, decided that Jesus would make a great Savior, adopted Him as His son, and then gave Him power and authority. This view completely contradicts key sections of Scripture.

Jesus was indeed born of God into this world, after the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1.35; Matthew 1.18), but that does not mean He was created. Jesus, the eternal second person in the Trinity, was already with God the Father when they began creating (John 1.1-3).

The Apostle John simply affirms Him as the anointed God-man, the Messiah. And whoever believes in Him as the Messiah will be saved:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. (1 John 5.1, HCSB)

Many centuries earlier, Isaiah had prophesied that His name would be Immanuel, translated God With Us. And that is exactly who He is.

You can trust that Jesus had a real human body, and that He was and is also fully God. When you do, it's a mark of faith.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jesus Had a Real Human Body

The Apostle John wrote a biblical letter known as 1 John concerning what we can know about God, and about us. And he says we can know that we know God through Jesus Christ.

But false teaching had apparently cropped up where he was ministering. Some said then, and now, that Jesus only appeared to have a body, or that He merely seemed to die on a cross.

That may sound odd that some would question that Jesus had a real human body. But that seed of doubt has been used for centuries to cause people to stumble. So it's important to establish that Jesus did in fact have a real human body. And John clarifies that for his readers, and down through the centuries, for us.

John was trying to get across the idea that if you are a genuine believer, what you believe about Jesus matters. A true believer in Jesus will be marked by certain distinguishing marks: faith, obedience, love. The first that we'll talk about here is the mark of faith. True followers of Jesus will be shown by their faith.

And that faith must be rooted in the God who took on a human body to live perfectly, and then die and rise, in our place, instead of us. To do so, Jesus had to have an actual body, in which He actually died (and rose).

You can trust that Jesus had a real human body.

John says you can believe that. Why? Because he was there. John and his friends were with Jesus. They saw Him, they heard Him, they ate with Him, they touched Him, and they knew that He had a real human body. They were eyewitnesses in these early days of Jesus' ministry:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1.1-3, HCSB)

God's word says that Jesus really took on a human body. If you can trust Scripture—and you can—then you can trust that He had a real body. John and his buddies were there, and that's among the most important early facts they reported to us about Jesus.

When Jesus came back from death and showed up in the locked, fearful room the disciples had created, He joined them in their room and wanted to reassure them. "Peace to you!" He said. And then "He showed them His hands and His side" (John 20.20, HCSB). He was real.

Then a little later when Thomas kept having doubts, which were normal, Jesus wanted to reassure him also, and said:

Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don't be an unbeliever, but a believer. (John 20.27, HCSB)

Thomas saw and believed. Jesus said those who hadn't seen and still believed are blessed, but He knew that these close friends would soon attest to the fact that His body was indeed real. He really died. He really rose from death.

This is the incarnation. He put on flesh. He put on bones. Specifically this is what we celebrate at Christmas each year. Born into this world, He put on a body.

If He didn't, or hadn't, we would be hopeless. But He did. And we have certainty, and we believe. And our lives are marked by faith.