Some passages on the Trinity and the Incarnation

I thought it might be helpful to think through a couple of passages that teach how Jesus Christ pre-existed before he came into the earth, and that he came from Heaven where he lived with the Father to be among us. I will cite passages in bold and you should look it up on your Bible and then read on.

First turn to John 1:1-18. In this passage we see this thing called “the Word” with both existed “in the beginning that was both “with” and “was” God. Put another way, this thing, from the creation of the world, was somehow both “with” the Father (“with God”) and “was” of the same stuff as the Father, i.e., the Word shared in the Father’s deity (“was God”). So this thing, the Word, was with God and is also divine just like God is. Verse 14 then teaches that this thing, “the Word” was “made flesh” (was made “incarnate”, literally, “enfleshed” form the Latin: carnem = flesh; compare the English word “carnal” or being “fleshly”/”worldly”) and pitched a tent/dwelling among mankind in Israel, as it says in verse 14; and in that same verse, this “Word” is identified as “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

There are other reasons to think that “the Word” figure is a personal agent. Two passages spring to mind. Genesis 15:1 depicts a figure called “the Word of the LORD” appearing to Abraham in a vision and referring to himself in the first person pronoun (“I”). And in Revelation 19:13, the Heavenly Rider (who is Jesus Christ) is explicitly named “the Word of God.”

Secondly, Philippians 2:6-11 is an ancient creed (or statement of belief) from the early church. In it, in verse 6, we are told that Jesus Christ is “in very nature God”, that is, is truly divine, who is also “equal” with God. Verse 7 then describes how this person did something to themselves, namely, “made himself nothing” and took on a “human likeness.” In other words, this is an act that the subject of the sentence (Jesus Christ) did to himself; Jesus Christ made himself nothing and entered into human form. And that is what we call the incarnation: God the Son entering into our world into a human body and nature and becoming one with our race so as to be made the bringer of our salvation through the sacrifice of himself (compare Hebrews 2:14-18).

Third, I would point you to a couple of simple statements in John from Jesus that indicate that he believed he had come from heaven and was returning there. In John 6:38 Jesus says he has “come down from Heaven” (compare the crowd’s reaction in verses 41-42). Then, later on, in John 6:62, Jesus speaks of his “ascension” (going up) to where we “was before” clearly indicating a prior existence in Heaven before coming to earth, so as to make it possible not merely to “go” there but to “go back” or “return” there via “ascending” upward towards it. Last,  in John 17:5, at the beginning of his great and final prayer before crucifixion, Jesus speaks of having had “glory with” the Father “before the world began.” Jesus existed with the Father in the unity o the Holy Spirit prior to the creation of all things, and Jesus asks to return to that state, which he does after his resurrection from the dead. This is in perfect tandem with later on in John 17:24, when Jesus mentions how he was “loved” by the Father before the world began. Of course, you can only love a person. And Jesus was loved by the Father before the world began. Why? Because Jesus existed with the Father in the unity of the eternal godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — which Christians call “the Trinity”: one God in three persons; not three gods, not one person in thee different ways: but one God who is a great unity of three.

Hopefully, these passages are interesting to you and help you think through who Jesus is, according to the Scriptures. Hey, you might also like to check out this neat video.* It gets to the heart of the Christian faith, in how the Trinity and the incarnation illustrate most supremely the great love of God in the Word of God’s entering into our world into human flesh to dwell among us.

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you and dwell in your hear through the Son, who entered into our world, and gave himself up for our sins, and conquered sin and death on our behalf so that we might not die the death we deserve, and that we, in him, may too share in the newness of life.


Thoughts about Christian Love and Freedom

What should life look like for the committed Christian? Should life merely be a list of rules and regulations? Should we wage war and force others to submit to Jesus’ way? Is that how God works? Is God a faceless, war-waging legalistic deity of “Dos” and “Don’ts”?

Well, I don’t think so.

According to my Bible, God is a Father. And Jesus, his Son, said: “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were my people would fight… [M]y kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36.)

Jesus taught that his kingdom — the Kingdom of Heaven — should conquer the world, but not by the physical sword. Heaven should conquer spiritually — not by cleaving open men’s flesh with physical blades and blows, but by slicing through men’s hearts and souls by the sword of the Holy Spirit — that is, the Word of God — by the grace and love of God, making alive the conscience, and turning dead men away from sin, Satan and darkness back to follow Christ’s light, walking closely with God.

Consider what the apostle Paul said: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ” (Ephesians 6:12.)

Paul believed the Christian’s fight in this world — our purpose — was to strive, not with people, but with Satan (the Enemy of mankind) and his evil spiritual kingdom. Our weapon? The Good News (or Gospel) message about Jesus: that because of what Christ has done in dying for us and rising again, we can be completely forgiven of all our sins and enter back into a living, loving relationship with God our Father forever and ever, if only we trust in, follow and obey him.

Satan hates this message because it alone gives people hope to escape death and hell. The Gospel causes people to turn from their evil ways to live a life of love for God and their neighbour. Satan hates love, because “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16), and Satan hates God. In fact, Satan hates all that God loves, and God loves the whole world — every man, woman and child: “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalms 145:9).

Indeed, love is the highest rule of the Christian’s battle: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2.)

And again: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ” (1 Corinthians 13:13.)

What is love? The biblical word I am thinking of is agapethe total sacrifice of one’s whole self for the good of the other person. According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love — first for God and then for neighbour — as the Bible says: “‘Love [agapao] the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27)

In contrast to the Christian God, the God of Islam — Allah — provides a helpful comparison and contrast. According to the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, Allah (God) is not a God of love. According to the Qur’an (Koran), Allah does not love non-Muslims (a.k.a. “infidels” or “unbelievers”). (See Qur’an 3:31-32 and 30:43-45.) Of all the names of Allah in the Qur’an — Most Merciful, All-Seeing, Wise, etc. — not one of them is “Love.” Allah is called “Loving” (that is, toward the Muslim people alone). But Allah is never called “Love” itself. Should we really be surprised, then, that 10-15% of Muslims in the world (about 100 million people) are radical terrorist Jihadists (jihad means “holy war”), who will fight in Allah’s name to spread their religion forcefully and violently, without mercy, slaying all those who might resist them? Corresponding to the unloving nature of God in Islam, God is actually quite non-relational towards puny creatures like us humans. For Allah, we humans are like tiny ants, and who could ever have real affections for ants? And Islam as a religion is extremely legalistic and good-works orientated. Islam is all about rules.

In contrast, the God of the Bible became an ant. More exactly, God became human and was made flesh to dwell among us and show us the way back to himself: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Why? Because he loves us. Indeed, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16). According to the Bible, God himself stepped into our world in the person of Jesus to express his love for us by dying for us and rising again, simply to save us: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16.)

God’s love sets us free to die to self and to live a life of love to him and others to the fullest extent possible. We love God and others not to earn God’s favour, but because we are his children, and we want to be like him, knowing that our purpose and being is bound up in God’s purpose to make us children of light and full of love, just as God is. As Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10.)

God has made us free always to enjoy what life gives us. But we always have to remember to put God first. For instance, we need to know that physical training (sport, exercise, diet, etc.) is of some value, but godliness of character (“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” — Galatians 5:22-23) is even better (1 Timothy 4:8). Similarly, money is good. But we must keep out lives free from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5-6) knowing that we cannot serve both God and riches (Matthew 6:24).

According to the Bible, life and enjoyment are not bad things. What is bad is merely snatching them from the Father’s hand without any thanks to or regard for him who has given them all to you, and without any interest as to what he might want you to do with them.

The Book of Ecclesiastes 11:9, which was probably written by King Solomon (Israel’s most wealthy and successful King), puts it this way:

“You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.”

God invites us all to live a life that is truly life — a life in full communion or relationship with him. We as Christians can take God’s blessings and enjoy them in full freedom. But our freedom cannot become a license to sin. We must always be humble and give God the glory for everything that he has given us, because — as Jacob (translated “James”), Jesus’ own brother, said almost two thousand years ago: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James [Jacob] 1:17).

For the Christian, it is not hypocrisy to enjoy life. God intends for us to live that way. But because sin is so deceptive and all-consuming in our world, we must walk in wisdom. ust becasue God wants us to be free and enjoy life doesn’t mean we can just go out, get blind drunk and have heaps of non-marital sex. (Actually, sinning in such ways will always invariably lead to greater unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. It’s little wonder, then, why God would teach us to avoid them in the first place: — they will ultimately harm and destroy us.) Rather, as Paul says: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the chains of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1.) God has freed us to live as God intended: not in bondage to sin, but in the liberty of the Spirit: “For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Therefore, true life and enjoyment both can and must be found outside of sin and in keeping in step with the Spirit of God, and living how God wants you to (Galatians 5:25).

So what about those “Christians” who would physically wage war with the sword or with fists or with cruel words in Jesus’ name? What about those who turn Christian religion into a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts”? Well, I’d point them back to the Bible. Those persons are simply not living consistently “CHRIST-IAN” (= “Christ-like”) lives. They’re blind to the reality taught and modeled by Jesus and his earliest followers. Having true faith means living a vibrant life of love walking with God and each other. It is our highest joy and strength to walk as the Lord wants us to walk. Would not “the Author of Life” (a reference to Jesus in Acts 3:15) know how to live life well? People who fail to see this are living against Christ and his plain teaching, ad contrary to all reason and good sense.

We all need to judge Christianity (or any religion for that matter) on the teaching and example set by its founder. How did Jesus himself live? Or… “What Would Jesus Do?” Can we find any fault in him? If you strive to live as Jesus lived, putting God first, others second, and yourself last, then in such godliness you will have contentment, find true freedom and real inexpressible joy serving God as a disciple of his Son.

May God richly bless you.


[Words = 1631.]

The Lord is our Lion

Recently, I was watching a documentary about lions narrated by Sir David Attenborough on YouTube.

One of the most interesting parts of the documentary was when it talked about when outsider nomadic male lions try to take over a pride by force (see 44:15 to 46:40 of the video, below.*)

Apparently, when nomadic male lions from the outside want to join the pride, they will first challenge and attempt to kill the current pride leader, and then they will kill all the male offspring of that pride leader and begin anew.

What the pride leader therefore has to do is to defend his pride and send these outsider nomadic challengers packing.

* * *

 As a Christian, this had me reflecting on two passages of the Bible, both of which describe both Jesus and the Devil as lions:

Revelation 5:5. “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.”

1 Peter 5:8. “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

In the first passage, Jesus is said to be the victorious Lion from the tribe of Jesse, David’s father’s line. In the second, Satan is said to be prowling around like a lion seeking to devour believers.

Thinking about how nomadic lions challenge the leaders of the pride, we can imagine an analogy where Jesus is the leader of our pride and Satan is a nomadic lion from the outside prowling around the wilderness trying to seek to take over Jesus’ pride, the Church, and devour its young, the believers.

But just as the leader of the lion pride will fight for his pride and fend of the adversaries in the animal kingdom, so too will Jesus fight for us against the Devil when he comes to challenge Jesus’ leadership in the heavenly kingdom.

The one point of dis-analogy would be that sometimes the leader of a pride in the animal world can be defeated by the challengers from the outside.

But Jesus never fails us.

So I hope you take encouragement from this today. The Devil may prowl around seeking whom he may devour. But the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has triumphed.

* * *

*Video (see 44:15 to 46:40): 

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Prayer and Anguish


“The LORD is nigh unto them that call upon him,
To all that call upon him in truth.
He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him:
he will also hear their cry, and will save them.”
Psalm 145:18-19
(KJV)


Recently, I was concerned about a friend. Essentially, my friend was in the process of making some choices I believed were unwise.

As I pondered my friend’s choices, they weighed so heavily on my heart that I prayed to the LORD concerning this friend every day.

My soul was anguished on behalf of my friend. Every day I was on my knees. I was fretting. I was weeping. I was groaning.

How long has it been in your life since you’ve had a real encounter with God in prayer? I tell you, friend, so often I am all too consumed up in myself to give much thought to God in prayer. I am too consumed by the things on this world to focus on Jesus. All too often do I set my mind on things below, and not on things above!

But God has a better way for us. Instead of us just buzzing around relying on ourselves all the time, God wants us to come before him and place our worries in his lap. He wants us to stop for a minute, and to simply sit, be silent, and know that God, the LORD, is God. He wants to refresh our souls in his presence; he wishes to fill us with songs of deliverance.

In the end, my friend never went through with his choices. I couldn’t have been more relieved. But I have to be more careful to remember what precipitated this miracle: not my own strength, but the power of God through prayer.

I think if we be genuine with God, God will be genuine with us, and make his presence known to us.

God bless.