Friday, 4 January 2013


Today's topic: Jesus as the "God-Man", the union between the human and the divine.  As usual, we start with some Bible verses.
  • John 1: 1-3, 14: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
  • Col 1: 15-19: He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.
  • Col 2: 6-10: Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
Passages such as these led the early Christians to believe that Jesus is somehow both God and man simultaneously. Putting it another way, God the Son (the second person of the trinity) somehow became incarnate (embodied) in the human being Jesus, yet in such a way that His divinity remained fully divine, and His humanity remained fully human. Not only that, but Jesus is now reigning in glory not only as the Son of God, but also as a human being.

Is this just an obscure theological doctrine, or does it have relevance to us today? I believe it is relevant for at least three reasons:
  • If we truly believe that God himself has chosen to come down from heaven and share in our humanity, we will be full of gratitude toward Him, and unlikely to fall into the dreary despair that is so often the mark of atheists.
  • If we truly believe that God created the human body and delights in it, we will be more likely to treat our own and others' bodies with respect, and less likely to fall into the trap of despising things that are "merely" physical and "not spiritual enough".
  • One mark of a cult is that its members deny that Jesus was God incarnate. Many in the New Age movement, for example, believe that Jesus was just one of many religious teachers who managed to tap into a spiritual force called the "cosmic Christ" or "Christ consciousness".  (The attraction of this heresy is two-fold: it means that we don't have to submit to the Lordship of Jesus, and it means that we can gain spiritual power through our own efforts, rather than being completely dependent on God.)

Sunday, 22 January 2012


There are a few passages in the Old Testament which state that the "Messiah" (the one that God sends to rescue His people) will be gentle.  For example:
  • Isaiah 40:11: He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
  • Isaiah 42:1-3: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
  • Zech 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The last of these passages was shown (in Matthew Chapter 21) to have been fulfilled by Jesus.  Moreover, Jesus Himself stated that gentleness is an aspect of His character in this beautiful passage:
  • Matt 11:28-30: [Jesus said:] "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
It is a source of comfort to me that, although God is all-powerful, and completely righteous, He also values gentleness.

There are many passages in the New Testament which state that Christians should aim to be gentle in their dealings with others.  For example:
  • Gal 5:22-23: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • Eph 4:2: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
  • Phil 4:5: Let your gentleness be evident to all.
  • Col 3:12: As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • 1 Thess 2:6-7: As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.
  • 1 Tim 6:10-11: Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
  • 2 Tim 2:24: The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
  • Titus 3:2: Speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, and show perfect courtesy toward all people.
  • 1 Peter 3:3-5: [A woman's] beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of the inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.
If we call ourselves Christians but are habitually harsh, cruel, argumentative or intimidating, then perhaps we need to confess our disobedience to God, and ask God to cleanse our hearts.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Immanuel (God with us)

Since Christmas is approaching as I write, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on the term “Immanuel”, which is often used when referring to the birth of Jesus.  Immanuel is a Hebrew word meaning “God with us”.  The first time this is used in the Bible is in the Old Testamant prophet Isaiah:
  • Isaiah 7:14: The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Both Christian and Jewish scholars have debated the meaning and possible (single or multiple) fulfillments of this prophecy.  In any case, the New Testament gospel writer Matthew indicates that it finds at least one of its fulfillments in the birth of Jesus:
  • Matt 1:20-23: An angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
The idea here is that, although God is enthroned in heaven, far above all created things, He also comes near to us in the person of Jesus.  In more theological terms, God is simultaneously transcendent (above and distinct from His creation) and immanent (present in, and intimately involved with, His creation).

Here are a couple of passages from the Old Testament which illustrate this dual aspect of God:
  • Isaiah 57:15: This is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • Jer 23: 23-24: “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?  Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.
And here are three New Testament passages which emphasise the intimate spiritual union that Christians have with Christ:
  • John 14:19-21: [Jesus said:] “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
  • Rom 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • 1 Cor 6:15-20: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
The amazing thing is that, if we make a decision to give all of ourselves to God, He graciously gives all of Himself to us (or, at least, as much as we can handle)!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Today's main passage is this one:

John 14:1-7: Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

What did Jesus mean when He said that the was "the way, the truth and the life"?  Here are my thoughts.

1. Religion, philosophy, ethics or mystical experiences will never, in themselves, bring us closer to God.  It is Jesus Himself who does that, if we ask Him to.  At this point, two biblical symbols come to my mind: the ladder and the curtain.  In John 1:51, Jesus uses the metaphor of Himself as a ladder between Heaven and Earth.  This is a reference to a ladder that Jacob saw in a dream (see Genesis chapter 28).  In Hebrews chapters 9 and 10, the writer draws an analogy between Jesus' body and the curtain in the Jewish temple that separates the "most holy place" from the rest of the temple.  In Matthew 27:50-51, it says that the curtain was supernaturally torn in two when Jesus died.  The idea is that Jesus' death makes it possible for human beings to come into God's presence.

2. Although we live in a post-modern world that denies the possibility of ever knowing anything in any absolute sense, Jesus somehow both embodies truth and sustains it.  I suspect however that this is not referring to intellectual, abstract, propositional truth, but rather to a revelation of things as they actually are.  As an analogy, imagine a dusty living room that is too dark for anyone to see the dust.  Someone opens the curtains on a sunny day, the room is flooded with light and suddenly everyone can see for themselves (rather than just know intellectually) that the room is dusty.  Perhaps it will be like that when we all stand in the presence of Jesus.  There will be no arguments or debates about religion then, because everything will be crystal clear to everyone.

3. All human beings have a physical life and a mental life, but not all of them are truly alive spiritually.  The latter form of life comes only from God, and Jesus is the conduit.  In John chapter 15, Jesus uses the analogy of a vine and its branches.  The branches that remain on the vine live, whereas the ones that are removed wither and die.  Another analogy that I find helpful, which has turned up from time to time in the history of the church, is between Jesus and human mothers.  A baby in the womb can only live and grow because it is connected to its mother via the placenta.  A human being can only live and grow spiritually if he or she is connected to God via Jesus.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Our Role Model

In this post, I want to focus on the fact that Jesus is the chief role model for every Christian.  Let's start by looking at some relevant verses from the New Testament:

  • John 13:13-17: [Jesus said:] "You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
  • Romans 13:12-14: The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
  • Philippians 2:5-8: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
  • Colossians 3:1-5: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
  • Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • 1 Peter 2:21: Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Observe that these verses (and several others like them) focus on two specific aspects of Jesus' character: his humility and his holiness.  The Bible makes it clear that a genuine Christian will be growing in both.

At this point, there are two things that need to be clarified.  First, I need to remind the reader that, to Christians, Jesus is much more than a mere role model.  We believe that He was and is the Son of God.  Sadly, there are many people in the world who admit that Jesus is a good role model, but are not willing to submit to Him as their Lord and Saviour.  Second, when we speak about imitating Jesus' character, there is the danger of falling into a legalistic, ritualistic lifestyle, in which we try to obey a collection of rules or laws, in a vain attempt to earn God's favour.  The Christian message is that such striving is doomed to failure.  Instead, all that is needed is a childlike faith in Jesus and dependence on the Holy Spirit.  The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus (in some mysterious way that we will not fully understand in this life) clothes us in His own righteousness.

Finally, I want to mention that several verses in the New Testament state that Christians will, in the end, be "like" Jesus, somehow sharing in his power, beauty and glory. For example:
  • Rom 8:28-30: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
  • 1 Cor 15:48-49: As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man,
    so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
  • 2 Cor 3:18: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • Phil 3:19-21: ... Their mind is on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
  • 1 John 3:2-6:  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.  And in him is no sin.  No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
I find this amazing, encouraging and inspiring!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Worthy of Our Worship

The theme of this entry is simply this: Jesus is worthy of our worship!

To begin, let us define "worship".  The main Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for "worship", hishtahvah, means to bow down before someone with reverence.  The main Greek word used in the New Testament, proskuneo, means to kneel or prostrate oneself before someone, in order to express respect or to beg favour.

So, worship is not primarily about singing songs (though it may involve singing songs at times).  It is entering the Presence of God, our Holy and awesome King, with reverence, respect, awe, love and gratitude in our hearts.

Now, the New Testament makes it clear that we are supposed to worship Jesus in this way!  Consider, for example, the following verses from the Gospel of Matthew:
  • Matt 2:10-11: When they [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him
  • Matt 8:2: A leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
  • Matt 9:18: While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.”
  • Matt 14:33: Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
  • Matt 15:25: Then she [the woman from Canaan] came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
  • Matt 20:20: Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.
  • Matt 28:9: And as they [Mary Magdelene and Mary the mother of Jesus] went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
  • Matt 28:17: When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
So, it is Biblical to worship Jesus, in addition to worshipping God the Father.  (Interestingly, the Jehovah's Witnesses, a cult that denies the deity of Jesus, mis-translates the word proskuneo as "to give obeisance to" rather than "worship" whenever Jesus is involved.)

The fact is that every angel in heaven, and every person on the planet, will one day bow down before Jesus:
  • Phil 2:8-11: Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  • Rev 5:11-14: Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
If you are a Christian who finds worship difficult, why not ask God to reveal more of Himself to you, to show you just how awesome, holy and majestic, yet merciful and loving, He really is?  You are missing out on the most delightful and fulfilling experience there is: doing what you were created to do!  You are also missing out on the opportunity to bring delight to your heavenly Father!

If you are not a Christian, I urge to you to find out more about the Christian message as soon as you can.  The best place to start is probably simply to read through the four Gospels.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


The topic of this entry is the compassion that Jesus consistently expressed in His dealings with humanity.  Here are some relevant verses taken from the Gospels:
  • Matt 14:13-14: Jesus... withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
  • Matt 20:30-34: Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”  The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”  Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
    Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
  • Mark 1:40-41: A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
  • Mark 5:24-34: A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.  At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”  But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
  • Mark 6:30-34:  The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
     Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.
  • Mark 8:1-3: During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
  • Luke 7:11-15: Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
  • John 11:32-36: When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
I find it very interesting that, in every one of these passages, the compassion that Jesus felt expressed itself in an action: often it was a healing miracle; sometimes it was a miraculous provision of food, sometimes it was preaching and teaching.  Do we experience compassion for the people around us, and does it regularly express itself in action?

Of course, the greatest compassionate act that Jesus ever did was to offer up His life for sinful human beings on the cross:
  • Rom 5:6-8: At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The old Welsh hymn by William Rees sums it up well:

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.