Facts About Jesus From John One That Many Deny

Facts About Jesus From John One That Many Deny

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Perhaps it is inevitable that someone as well-known as Jesus Christ would be subject to so much misinformation. Think about how things are said about Jesus that are not true. John’s gospel begins in a different way. His audience was wider than just Jews, just Romans, or just Greeks. His was truly a universal gospel, so he was writing to the whole world. In just the first several verses of his gospel, he affirms several things people subsequently denied about Him.

  • He is eternal (1-2)–“In the beginning was the Word” (see also 1:15,30).
  • He is deity (1)–“The Word was God” 
  • He created everything (3,10)
  • He became flesh (14)
  • He came to show us God, the Father (18)
  • His coming was to take away the sins of the world (29)
  • He is the Son of God (34)

There are those even in religion that say Jesus was a created being rather than being co-eternal as God. There are those who would reject the idea of the worship of Jesus being acceptable, though He is expressly called God. There are those who say that everything came into being by the process of evolution rather than Moses’ record (Gen. 1-2) being carried out by the Word (Col. 1:16-17). There are those who say God could not become flesh, since flesh is evil. There are those who deny the inspiration of Scripture, and thus would deny the New Testament actually records Jesus showing us the Father or otherwise communicating His will. 

It is incorrect to say that we can accept the biblical record of Jesus without faith. He existed eternally before becoming flesh. He was born of a virgin. He lived a totally sinless life. He died a death that satisfied God’s justice as a substitute for our sins. He was buried in a tomb, but was raised from the dead to live forevermore. He appeared to many of His disciples over forty days before ascending to heaven from which He will some day come again to judge the entire world. How can we say it takes no faith to follow Jesus? Instead, we should say that it takes more faith to embrace any competing explanation. The leading candidate to rival the biblical account is godless evolution. Try examining that with any level of care without discovering the infinitely greater amount of faith to explain how random chance and mindless, amoral matter produces the meticulously orderly, complex universe filled with intelligent life. 

Sometimes we are benefited by going back to basics. John one is written so simply and straightforwardly, yet it contains some of the biggest, broadest truths which so many reject. May we reflect carefully on the power of those truths so that it causes us to live better and differently! 

What’s My Purpose?

What’s My Purpose?

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

As humans we want our lives to have direction and meaning. We want to wake up and know what our goal is for the day. Having purpose is what keeps us from feeling like we are spinning in place, it gives us a reason to live. When our lives lack purpose, what does it look like?
 
There will be confusion. When we don’t have purpose our goal in life is unclear. We will ask questions like, “why am I here?” And “what have I accomplished?” A lack of purpose leads to confusion, a lack of clarity, and direction.
 
Without purpose there will also be doubt. We will find ourselves second guessing every decision. If there’s no purpose, then we will begin to doubt the choices we make.
 
A life without purpose contains uncertainty. As humans we want to know for sure that we are making the right call. When we make those important decisions we want to be confident that it was the right choice. If there is no purpose, we will have no ultimate goal to base our decisions on.
 
A life without purpose is a wasted life. So what is our purpose?
 
1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
 
As Christians we are described as:
 
  • Chosen Race (God chose you to be part of something far bigger).
  • Royal Priesthood (we no longer have to be a Levite to gain access to God).
  • Holy Nation (set apart and useable by God).
  • Owned By God (a part of The Creator’s possessions).
 
Because we are chosen, royal, holy and owned by God, we have a purpose to fulfill. Peter tells us that our purpose is to proclaim the excellence of God, the one that called us out of darkness and into light (10).  
 
Our life now has a purpose. We have a calling that is greater than anything else we could set out to accomplish. We are a part of God’s plan.
 
He needs us to help Him. Our purpose in life is to help change the eternal outcome of those trapped in sin. We have meaning and direction.
 
We no longer have to worry about what we should be doing with our lives. God had told us our purpose, and we can find true happiness in serving God.
A Notch On A Wrench And A Stigma For The Savior

A Notch On A Wrench And A Stigma For The Savior

Neal Pollard

Tim Gean has a 5/8 wrench that belonged to his dad, who is now deceased. He and his dad overhauled several cars together. His father owned that wrench for decades. Tim had his hands on that wrench countless times through the years. Several times, Tim was in a garage with his dad and his dad’s brother. They would sometimes argue over to whom a tool belonged. Finally, Tim’s dad decided to resolve this problem. He put a notch on his wrench. If you saw it in a yard sale, you would ask why that notch was there. But, Tim knows. It identified it as clearly belonging to his father.

Did you know that what was true of Tim’s father’s wrench is true of you and me? It certainly was true of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). “Brand-marks” is from the Greek word “stigma,” “to undergo experiences which mark one as the slave of some master” (Louw-Nida 808). Arndt, Danker, and Bauer adds, “Paul is most likely alluding to the wounds and scars which he received in the service of Jesus” (945). Whether literal, physical persecution or some other sort of experience that comes which serving Jesus, people should be able to look at us and know that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). 

Christians are sanctified people, people who give personal dedication to the interests of God (BDAG 10). Using the analogy of slavery, Paul writes, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). When we surrender our lives and will to Him, having been baptized into His Son (Rom. 6:1-6), we become “a people for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). From that point forward, we have a new purpose. We are “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).  We bear His mark, and others will know we belong to Him. What a source of joy and pride, to know that we are the Father’s and He uses us to accomplish His purpose!

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A Wonderful Savior!

A Wonderful Savior!

Neal Pollard

Since I was a boy, “A Wonderful Savior” has been one of my favorite hymns. A multitude of reasons are cited in this beautiful song, all of which builds my adoration for the Lamb of God! Let me suggest three reasons why I think Jesus is a wonderful Savior.

He has a wonderful nature. Jesus is Divine and eternal. He possesses all the traits of Deity without qualification or limitation (Col. 2:9). That means He has the power to save “to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25). Not only does He, as God, have the power, but He has the love (1 John 4:8). He has not only the power and the will, but also the desire.

He demonstrated wonderful love. Again, what could drive the perfect God to die for woeful, sinful, and wicked man? There was nothing in us deserving of love, so this says everything about Him and nothing about us. He loves me because HE is wonderful (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:25; cf. Rev. 3:9).

He has opened wonderful doors of opportunity. Paul loved using this terminology. He told Corinth in two letters about the Lord opening such doors for him (1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12). He told the church at Colosse (4:3). He reported as much to the church at Antioch at the end of the first missionary journey (Acts 14:27). We cannot separate these opportunities from the Savior. Who do we seek to promote? What is our message? Who is the object of hope? He opens doors because of who He is. The Godhead, when we pray and seek His will, opens the doors through divine providence. How enriching and rewarding when we step through those wonderful doors!

Fanny J. Crosby had in mind the event up on Mt. Sinai when Moses received the ten commandments and the Lord descended in a cloud and stood with Moses there. It is a beautiful picture of a God who condescends to lowly man. That’s what Jesus did! He lowered Himself for us (Phil. 2:5ff). Thank God for such a Savior as we have!

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CONSECRATING THE PRIESTS

CONSECRATING THE PRIESTS

Neal Pollard

An interesting ceremony occurs in Leviticus 8:4-11. Moses summons Aaron and his sons into the doorway of the tabernacle and consecrated them. This action consisted of four distinct things.

  • A command (4-5)—“This is the thing which the Lord has commanded to do”
  • A washing (6)—“Moses…washed them with water”
  • Specific clothing (7-9)—tunic, sash, robe, ephod, breastpiece, turban, and the golden plate
  • Anointing and sprinkling (10-11)—anointing the tabernacle with oil and sprinkled the oil on the altar and all its contents

For those of us in 21st Century America who are millennia removed from this ancient ceremony of the Jewish people, those actions are about as foreign as any that we might consider.  But, they all worked together as part of a process of “consecration.” Yet, the idea is timeless, that of being regarded as holy because of having been devoted to the Lord.

The New Testament tells Christians that we are “priests” (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6). Aaron and his family engaged in religious ritual and ceremony as well as representing people to God. While our function includes the latter, “proclaiming the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9), we have also been set apart to engage in religious actions for God (1 Pet. 2:5). Romans 12:1 tells us we offer up our bodies as living and holy sacrifices. Our lives are to be dedicated to Him, set apart for His use.

But the process of becoming a priest is just like the process mentioned there in Leviticus 8, if only in a spiritual sense. We are commanded to become priests (cf. 1 Pet. 1:22ff; 3:21). Our induction into this job requires a washing (Rev. 1:6; cf. Acts 22:16). We are given “special clothing” (1 Pet. 3:3; 5:5; cf. Gal. 3:27). The New Testament speaks of this in terms of “anointing” and “sprinkling” (1 Pet. 1:12). When we came into Christ, we entered a life of significance and importance. We were accepting a grand, sobering job. We have been made holy by the blood of Christ, special and dear to God. At the same time, we are set apart for God’s use. One is an undeserved blessing. The other is an unsurpassed responsibility. Let us be grateful for Jesus’ gift that made this priesthood available to us, then let us embrace the monumental task of representing Him to the world and showing the world about Him through our very lives!

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BEING SANCTIFIED WITHOUT BEING SHELTERED

BEING SANCTIFIED WITHOUT BEING SHELTERED

Neal Pollard

Sanctification is one of those words used in more than one sense in the New Testament. It usually means the state of having been made holy (Rom. 6:19,22; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pt. 1:2), but it also is used in the sense of moral purity (see especially 1 Th. 4:2ff).  There is no doubt that God calls us to live pure, godly lives in Christ.  Because of this, we must watch the company we keep (cf. 1 Co. 15:33; 2 Co. 6:16ff).

How do we balance this need of keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Js. 1:27) with the ability to reach out to those who are not followers of Christ?  David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in their book UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Matters, discuss several factors that lead two generations—they call them “Mosaics” (born between 1984 and 2002) and “Busters” (born between 1965 and 1983)—to be more radically disconnected from and antagonistic toward “Christianity” as they perceive it.  One of the factors is their view that Christians’ lives are too sheltered for them to relate to it or find it desirable as a lifestyle choice.  We’re often thought of as living in our own world, providing too simplistic answers for our complex world, being ignorant and outdated, speaking our own, exclusive language, and our outrage and offense at being putdown and mocked by the world. I don’t know how this hits you, but perhaps it gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves.

The authors make a great point worthy of our consideration: “Christianity begins to shift its sheltered reputation when Christ followers are engaged, informed, and on the leading edge, offering a sophisticated response to the issues people face” (132).  The answer is not to replace congregational singing with rock concerts, recruit women, homosexual, or hard-edged shock-sermonizers who are foul-mouthed and irreverent to replace faithful gospel preachers, or the like. The answer is much more New Testament, more aligned with what the early church was.  The answer is “engagement.”

That means we engage people in the world.  We create opportunities or enter environments where “outsiders” (non-Christians) are to be found and we become salt and light, opening doors for the gospel through relationship-building and our genuine concern for people’s (often messy) lives.

It means we engage ourselves in “active faith.” We let faith have arms and legs. We move from being “believers” to being “doers” (Js. 1:22). We urge, encourage, and enable people to actively serve and live out faith in their daily lives.

It means we engage people like those Jesus and His disciples targeted.  That means the woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus, the lame man, Blind Bartemaeus, the 10 lepers, the Samaritan woman, and others like them.  We cannot forget what Paul said, that God has chosen the foolish, weak, base, nothing, and despised types to be His people (1 Cor. 1:27-28). The people God chose to be heirs are not the pretty, popular, influential, and wealthy (Js. 2:5).  The authors of UnChristian specify groups like “loners,” “self-injurers,” and “fatherless” people (135-137). We can add to that list, but people like these do not often top the “prospect lists” we might make.

Divine Truth must prevail and guide us in matters of salvation, our teaching, our personal morality, our worship, etc.  If it will guide us in reaching the world with the Word, we had better stop sequestering ourselves and our faith from a world in desperate need of the only message with eternal implications. Reflect on how Paul’s words apply to this, when he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We’re not just meant to prove that to each other. God wants us proving it to those outside of Christ.

Bear Valley youth feeding the homeless in downtown Denver

Good Deeds

Good Deeds

Neal Pollard

Good deeds don’t make the nightly news.  When a person serves or is nice to others, it rarely goes beyond the circle of occurrence.  That’s OK, because Jesus urges us, “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before me, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mat. 6:1).

That probably wasn’t a problem for Titus, since the Cretans weren’t renowned for doing good deeds. In fact, a Cretan prophet said of his fellow-citizens, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Ti. 1:12). How would you like to live in a neighborhood or work on your job with such charming people as that? Paul calls them lying, wild, evil animals and slaves to their stomachs.

So, Paul spends some significant time in his letter talking about good deeds. There were some on Crete, particularly Jews, who by their deeds denied God and were “worthless for any good deed” (1:16). Thus, he urges Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds (2:7). These deeds were not to earn salvation (3:5), but instead to please God. Notice how Paul emphasizes deeds in this letter.

  • Good Deeds Show The Right Example (2:7). I heard about a pair of identical twins.  One was a preacher and the other was a doctor. It was impossible to tell the two apart. A woman approached one of them and asked, “Are you the one that preaches?” He said, “No, ma’am. I’m the one who practices.” Paul tells Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds in three areas: (1) Through sound teaching, (2) Through a serious life, and (3) Through his speech.
  • Good Deeds Show Where Our Passions Lie (2:14). Christ wants us zealous for good deeds. Wrongly directed zeal is destructive.  The Jewish zealots of the first-century helped bring about the demise of Jerusalem. But, a zealot with the right cause and conduct is powerful!  If we appreciate that we’ve been redeemed from every lawless deed (13), we’ll be zealous for good deeds. It should be natural for us, when saved from our sins, to be passionate about it to the point that our lives boil over with gratitude! That shows up in good deeds.
  • Good Deeds Show Our Faith In God (3:8). Paul urges Titus to share with all believers the need to be ready for every good deed (3:1). What will motivate us to do these good deeds? God’s mercy (3:5)! What will this motivate us to do? Share the good news (3:7-8). The world walks by sight and not by faith. Our challenge is to rise above that disbelief and show by our deeds our faith in the God who saved us from our sins! Our challenge is also to rise above the strife and division of those who profess to believe but whose lives yield evil deeds (3:9-11).  Doing good is broad and takes in the whole will of God for us, being all He wants us to be in marriage, parenting, the church, our neighborhood, the workplace, the nation, and in our relationships (cf. Titus 2). What will our good behavior in all these relationships tell others? Simply, that God is the guide of our lives and we put our trust in Him.
  • Good Deeds Meet Pressing Needs (3:14). Paul ends the letter by mentioning four Christians by name. The last two, Zenas and Apollos, would need financial help. Paul’s encouragement in Titus 3:14 seems directly related to this need. Whether it’s supporting missionaries or weekly giving, we are God’s hands on earth to help the needy when we give.

The old adage is true.  “Actions speak louder than words.” Paul writes of some who profess to know God, but in works deny Him. What a reminder that the Lord will not say, “Well said,” but “well done!”  Dorcas was a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36). The woman with the Alabaster box did what she could (Mark 14:8).  What about us? What will be said about our deeds?