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Showing posts with label Son of God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Son of God. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ask Pastor Chris - Do You Have to Believe Jesus is God's Son?

Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but not believe Jesus is the Son of God?

In this series, I try to answer your questions. So post a question in the comments section so I can try to answer it in a future blog. 

According to orthodox Christian teaching, Jesus is the Son of God. The word orthodox just means the right view. So, according to the right Christian view,

Jesus is the Son of God. This is what the Bible teaches and what all true 

Christian Churches have followed for 2,000 years. But what happens if a person believes that God exists but they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God? Can they still go to heaven?

I’m going to make a disclaimer here, right up front:

Thankfully, I’m not the one who decides who does and does not go to heaven.

That is God’s decision and He is far wiser than me. He knows every person’s situation and what’s truly in their heart. I do not. So, I want you to know, I’m only approaching this question from a hypothetical point of view because it is an important lesson in the nature of true saving faith.

First of all, let’s understand what it takes to “go to Heaven” (which means to have eternal life). John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You have to “believe in Jesus” in order to go to heaven.  But what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?

We find the answer in the example of a man in the Old Testament named Abram (who’s name was later changed to Abraham). You can read about Abram/Abraham in Genesis chapters 11-25. Abraham is also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament because he is the poster child for what the Bible means whenever it says, “Believe in” or “have faith in God.”

For example, Romans 4:3 says, “For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

So let’s look at how Abraham “believed God”.

Genesis 12:1-3 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Now even though Abraham was already 75 years old and his wife was really old too, Abram believed in God’s promise and did what God asked him to do. And this is the definition of saving faith or belief. It is believing God’s promise and doing His will.

So now, let’s look back at the famous John 3:16.“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So we see that word again–believe. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.

Based on the definition of faith we know from Abraham’s example, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means we trust what he says enough to follow Him. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

No one can come to the Father [that’s in heaven] except through me.”

So, I hope you’re seeing that the kind of belief or faith that saves a person for eternal life is not merely an intellectual thing where you express your approval or agreement with an idea about God or Jesus. The kind of faith that saves you must be the kind of faith that moves you to action.

It’s kind of like a person who is trapped on the 7th floor of a burning building and the firefighters are on the ground outside shouting, “You have to jump!  We have a safety net that will catch you! Jump!” Well, you can believe what they say is true, you can believe the safety net exists, you can even believe it will save you, but unless you jump, you’re going to be burned to death.

Jesus’ brother, James, put it this way in James 2:17 - “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James then goes on to use Abraham from the Old Testament as an illustration to prove his point. James 2:22 - “[Abraham’s] faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.”

So back to the original question: Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you see the problem with the way this question is stated? It assumes that people go to heaven merely because they agree with a certain set of ideas about God. In other words, if they agree that God exists and that Jesus is His son, then they will go to heaven. But we’ve just seen from Abraham’s example that faith is not just agreeing something is true.  It’s about acting upon your belief.

So then, we should understand a person can believe God exists and that Jesus is His Son and still not go to heaven if their faith does not compel them to action because they trust Jesus. James said as much in James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

What happens to a person who believes God exists but doesn’t believe Jesus is His Son? Well, I need to know more about the situation.  Is this person’s faith only an intellectual agreement or is their belief in God something that truly moves them to act differently because they believe in God? And how does their belief in the existence of God compel them to act?

There have been many in history who believed in gods and their beliefs compelled them to take horrific actions. The ancient Egyptians believed in gods who justified drowning Hebrew babies in the Nile River. I don’t think that is saving faith that will get you to heaven.

The thing about Jesus is His words and His actions show the clearest representation of God we have ever seen. Jesus revealed who God really is.

I suppose a person could, hypothetically, believe in Jesus’ Father, God, 

and trust God enough to obey Him without ever agreeing “intellectually” 

that Jesus is the Son of God.

That was sort of the case for Abraham in the Old Testament. The Good News about God’s Son had not yet been revealed on earth in Abraham’s day.  Therefore, Abraham did not yet know about Jesus or that Jesus was the Son of God. Abraham’s faith (which the New Testament says made him righteous) was purely in God (the Father) and based on what He did know at the time. Abraham knew and trusted God and and Abraham's faith compelled him to obey. Part of the reason  Abraham’s faith was so amazing is that he acted upon it without having all the details.

Now that we have the Good News about Jesus in the New Testament, we have a much better understanding of God and His plan than Abraham ever did. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tell us that God said Jesus was His beloved Son (see Matthew 3:17, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35). In the Gospel of John , Jesus calls God His Father, and God affirms it (see John 12:28).

People may struggle to accept that Jesus is God’s Son. Perhaps they struggle to understand how God could have a Son or the whole complex trinitarian,

three-in-one nature of God. Regardless, you don’t have to understand something to have faith in it.  (I’m using a computer right now and I don’t really understand how it works, but I trust it to get the job done and even trust my computer enough to keep some of my most important files safe and secure.)

It could be that a person doesn’t yet have enough information to know that Jesus is God’s Son. Maybe they haven’t yet worked it all out or understood how that works or even that God actually called Jesus His son. Maybe they are still like Abraham in the Old Testament, walking by faith with the limited understanding they have right now.  Hopefully, one day, they will come to know the whole story of how John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world 

that he gave his one and only Sonthat whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God is gracious and patient.  God also wants to be known by His people. That’s why God’s Son said in Matthew 7:7 - “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” So someone who truly believes in God doesn’t have to go on long without discovering Jesus is God’s Son. The resources are there and God wants His people to know about Him and His Son. But if they refuse to accept it because they can’t understand it, then isn’t that the definition of disbelief? Isn’t that the exact opposite of walking by faith?

And if someone refuses to accept that Jesus is God's Son because they don’t like it or they don’t want to accept it, then isn’t that open rejection of God?God doesn’t justify those who reject Him.

Thankfully, God is willing to save those who come to their senses, repent of their sin, and put their faith in the God who sent His Son to save us. 1 John 4:10, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

My invitation to everyone is this: Turn away from your own selfish ambitions and turn to God. God sent Jesus to save you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Well, that’s my thoughts.  What are yours? Leave a comment and let me know. If you have a question, post that in a comment too and I’ll try to answer it in a future article.

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Pastor Chris Mullis

Monday, April 27, 2020

God the Son

The Trinity
God created the universe.  That sentence is only four words long.  The brevity is misleading.  Consider: it is over 93 billion light years from one side of the observable universe to the other.  In other words, it would take 93 billion years to travel from one side to the other if you could travel at the speed of light, which is 670,616,629 miles per hour.  God created the universe and everything in it.

Furthermore, God created time.  We often fantasize how amazing it would be to travel through time--to either go back in time or forward to the future.  We haven't figured out how to do it.  However, can you even imagine a reality where time does not exist, where there is no beginning or end?  God exist without beginning or end.  People sometimes ask me, “Who created God?”  The answer is a bit unsatisfying:  No one.  No one created God.  He is uncreated.  God has always existed and always will.  “Well, that just makes no sense.” I know.  It makes no sense to the human mind whatsoever because we are created, physical beings, bound by time and space.  God is not.

The nature of our infinite God is unfathomable to the human mind and indescribable by our feeble language.  The best we can do is describe God as the Trinity.  Trinity literally means a state of being three.  Throughout the Bible, we see the trinitarian nature of God.  For example, God visited Abraham in Genesis 18:1-2.  “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.”  The Hebrew word translated as “Lord” is YHWH and it is the eternal name of God.  It roughly translates to something like, "I am who I am" or "I will be who I will be" (notice the timeless quality of His name?)  And there were three men who represented God to Abraham.

Another example is when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  As he came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descends like a dove and the voice of God from heavens speaks and says, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  So we see all three persons of the Trinity involved in Jesus baptism:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity boggles the human mind.  We don’t worship three Gods.  There is only One God.  However, God is three distinct persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Now people come sometimes come to me and say, “Pastor, I have a simple illustration that will clear all this up for everyone…”  I've heard many different illustrations offered.  Every example falls short and misrepresents God in some way.  I appreciate people wanting to help, but think about this:  the Apostles and all the saints, theologians, and smartest scholars who have ever lived for the last 2,000 years have tried to break the Trinity down into something simple that everyone can understand and they’ve all failed.  Do you think you are going to come to me with a something that explains it all?  Probably not.  It is the nature of an infinite God.  It is unexplainable by human lips. 

All we can do is explain what we know.  Here is what we know:
  1. There is only one God.
  2. The Father is God, the Son is God, and he Holy Spirit is God.
  3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct persons. (The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Father, but both are God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, but both are God. And... The Holy Spirit is not the Father and the Father is not the Holy Spirit, but both are God.)

Confused yet?  Good.  You are on the right track then.  The infinite nature of God is incomprehensible to the finite human mind.  That is why it was essential for Jesus to come down to earth in human form to show us the nature of God.  Today, I want to talk about God the Son, Jesus Christ.  

Luke 1:34-35
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 

Did you notice the Trinity in this familiar passage from the Christmas story?  There is:  The Holy Spirit, The Most High (which is God the Father), and the baby (who is the God the Son)--three persons, one God.  Now, let's look at another passage from the Gospel of John.

John 1:14-18
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

Jesus Christ was Fully Human
I have kept a brood of chickens for several years at my home (which we affectionately call "Mullis Farm").  We usually keep them inside a secure pen because there are lots of predators like hawks, owls, raccoons, possums, foxes, and coyotes that would love to feast on a nice chicken dinner.  So we keep them safely inside a chain linked pen.  Sometimes, on a pretty day, we let the chickens out to free range while we keep a watchful eye on them.  When night comes, we will usher them all back safely inside there pen.  But every now and then, one of the chickens will decide she doesn't want to go back in the pen.  If you want to see something funny, come watch a 46-year-old fat man trying to chase and catch a chicken so he can put her back into the pen, all the while hoping the other chickens won't come back outside to see what all the commotion is about.  Chickens aren't that smart. Maybe that's why we call them "bird brains".  And a wayward chicken just doesn't understand me when I plead with her, "You dumb chicken!  You've got to go back inside your pen.  You can't stay outside or some viscous predator will come tear you to shreds!"  And sometimes, I have wished I could become a chicken for just a few moments.  Then, maybe, I could go up to that chicken and say, "Buck Buck Buck, BUGGOCK!" (Which roughly translates to "You silly chicken!  It's not safe out here!  Follow me back into the pen where's it's safe so some wild animal doesn't rip you apart!"

That's what Jesus did for us. He became one of us so he could lead us to safety.  Humans have very limited understanding.  And our understanding is hindered even more by sin.  Trying to understand God and what He expects of us is like a chicken trying to understand me.  God knew the only way to show us who He really is and what we need to do was to become one of us.

And so, God “…became human and made his home among us.” (John 1:14).  Jesus was born.  He is also called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”.  As a human, Jesus knows everything about us and what we experience.  In the New Testament, Hebrews 4:15 says, Jesus “…understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  Colossians 1:15 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.”  

If you want to know what God is, look at Jesus.  He was perfect; he never sinned.  He never disobeyed the spirit of God's law.  He was obedient to God the Father, doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way all according to the Father's will.  Jesus is the only man who ever lived who never sinned.  And Jesus loved perfectly because God is love.  He even loved his enemies. Jesus cared for people everyone else ignored because everyone is important to and loved by God.  Jesus searched for people who were lost; nobody get's left behind by God.  Everyone gets a chance to follow Jesus and be saved.  Ultimately, Jesus showed the infinite depth of his love when he laid down his life for us.  Jesus died on the cross for us while we were still sinners (not because we deserved it, but because we needed it).

Jesus was perfect, but he was also fully human and endured all the same trials we do.  He got tired and thirsty and hungry.  He was tempted.  He was frustrated by ignorant people.  Jesus even grieved when he lost people he loved to death.  Since his earthly father, Joseph, disappears from the biblical record before Jesus is grown, most scholars believe Jesus father died prematurely.  If you've lost a father, Jesus knew what that was like.  We also know that he would have lost many aunts and uncles and friends to death and he would have grieved just as we do.

Ultimately, Jesus faced the one thing we all must face--death.  Jesus died.  God the Son's human experience was complete because he was fully human.

Jesus is Fully God
Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus is fully man and also fully God.  How can someone be 100% God and also 100% man?  I don’t know.  It is a mystery.  How do you explain the incomprehensible nature of an infinite God?  Here’s how:  Jesus was totally and completely human and also totally and completely God.

Colossians 1:15-16 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.”

Jesus knows all about our pain and brokenness, because he was fully human.  However, because Jesus is also fully God, he has the power to save us.  If Jesus was only human, he would have died and stayed in the grave.  Because Jesus is also fully God, he was able to rise up out of the grave and live again.  And do you know what that means?  It means Jesus has the power to make you rise up out of the grave too!

Jesus has the power to give you new life. No matter how many times you've messed up, Jesus gives you the power to make a fresh start.  When you repent and turn to him, there is grace and power to start again.  And if you mess up tomorrow, there is power to start ove ragain the next day (and the next day and the next day).

Jesus has the power to give you eternal life.  Even if you die, you will live again.  For there is eternal life for everyone who trust in Jesus holy name.  This life and this world is not all there is.  There is eternal life, where there will be no more suffering or sickness or shame  or death.

Jesus has the power to set you free from sin.  You don’t have to sin anymore.  People will often do something wrong and then say, "The Devil made me do it."  However, Christ sets us free from sin so the Devil can't make us do anything anymore.  We have a choice every day to live for Christ or live for ourself (or someone else).  We don't always choose Jesus, but we have the power to.  Our job is to walk closely with Jesus everyday so we choose his way over our own.

Jesus has the power to live in you and through you.  Jesus' actions and words have changed everything and they can change your life.  Even ore amazing, when we follow him, he beings to work through us to make a difference in other people's lives as well.  Something you say or do can change the whole course of someone else's life.  It could even change their eternal destiny.  Now, it's not you, but Christ in you working these miracles.  Jesus has that power.

Jesus has come down from the glory of heaven to our broken world.  He became one of us so he could warn us, "Come, follow me out of the darkness into the safety of the light.  It's dangerous out here in the darkness.  There are predators roaming all around and they will tear you apart if they get the chance.  Come inside where it's safe, before it's too late."  And because Jesus is one of us, we can understand him and trust him.  But because Jesus is also God, He has the power to save us.  Won't you let Jesus save you today?