A Christmas Reminder About Jesus: Who is He to Me?”

jesusYou’ve probably said it yourself, “Jesus died for me,” but do you really know what that means?  I don’t think most people do. In fact, I don’t think most people understand why Jesus was born, why he had to be killed, and what it all really means to them.  They only know that they must believe in him.  Allow me to put it all in a nutshell for you, from the beginning.

When God first created man, he created them in perfect communion with himself- sinless, but interestingly enough, with the choice to disobey him.  He told them they may eat from any tree but one.  So Tempting.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  If he left the tree there and then put satan in the Garden, you can bet that God understood the full repercussions of his own choices.

adam_and_eveAdam and Eve chose to believe satan above God; they chose to  love satan above God.  God knew that Man would make this choice.  If not, then God is not God and the entire discussion is moot.  Satan didn’t ‘trick’ God, nor is there a ‘war’ against God.  God made satan for this purpose.  Everything that happened in the Garden was according to God’s plan for Humanity.   One must ask, why God would do this to mankind.

To me, it’s clear that mankind was not done ‘baking’, so to speak, after God made him and set him into the Garden of Eden. We needed to eat the apple to gain the knowledge of good/evil.  But we were not mature enough as a species to fully understand our choice, nor were we strong enough to choose God.  We were meant to fall the Great Fall and then, enter into the sinful world where we would be posed with the Great Question: Whom will we serve?  God or satan?  Whom do you love?  God or satan?  God gave all of mankind all the time we needed, both as individuals and as a species, to understand the choice perfectly this time.  Once we choose God above satan, we become Children of God, like him in every way, including knowing Good from Evil.  But unlike our ‘unbaked’ selves in the form of Adam and Eve, we choose God out of our love this time.  This is how we become his Children:  we choose God out of our great love for him.  And everything we are going through is part of his divine plan to make this happen.

one-godThe Bible shows us the incredible, logical roll-out of God’s plan.  He had his own timing and logic- which you will see.  God knew that mankind needed a lot of time between each step to understand what he wanted to teach them.

He introduced himself to a small number of men who followed him and to whom he explained the need for sacrifice.  He taught them that he was the one and only God.  He also introduced them to the need for animal sacrifice through the story of Cain and Abel. These men (Adam through Noah through Moses), all loved God and taught their children how to follow and obey him.  God spoke directly to these men- it didn’t take a lot of faith to believe in God when his voice was booming in your head.   This was was God’s First step of his Plan.

abrahamThen, God chose Abraham, a single man, with whom to establish his eternal covenant, or promise.  Abraham would represent all of God’s Children from that day forward.  God’s entire Plan for mankind would be established through the bloodline of Abraham.   Abraham became the father of Israel.  Indeed, later in this essay, you will understand that all Gentiles who love Jesus are now, also, the children of Abraham that were promised to him from the beginning.  We, too, are the sand on the shore he was to count.  We are all Israel.  This was God’s Second step of his Plan.

slaveNext, God wanted to teach humanity what sin was.  He wanted to teach all men, for all time, exactly what it meant to be ‘good’ and what it meant to be ‘bad’.  To do this, God wanted to give mankind the Mosaic Law, which includes the Ten Commandments.

To do this, God imprisoned the Israelites for 430 years in Egypt to make them weak and humble so that they could hear his next message (God knows people are naturally resistant to his messages.  We usually need to be completely broken before we will ever hear what we need to hear.)   He called Moses to rescue them.  This established Moses as their great hero, thus making them more open to listening to him.  He called Moses up to the mountain to give him the new, impossible, burdensome LAW.

He gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  While most people believe that God only gave the 10 commandments, he actually gave a huge number of commandments- books full of commandments (Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers) that outlined all things God considered to be sin- including sins of which they were ignorant!  He also taught them that the penalty for all sin is death.   This was step Three in God’s Plan.

God also wanted to teach mankind how they could redeem themselves back to Him after they had sinned.  This is because God loves man and doesn’t want him to die eternally.  Thus, God outlined all the sacrifices that needed to be given for each type sin.  The need for animal sacrifices became even more defined under the new Laws.  God taught man that only the most valuable blood sacrifice from the most perfect animal from his herd, given through a ritual performed by a holy priesthood, would be enough to ‘atone’ for their sins.  Only through this precious blood sacrifice could their sins be ‘washed away’ and they could be reconciled to God once more. (Is this sounding vaguely familiar?  That’s because God set up this ritual to mimic what was to come:  Jesus.)

These became known as the Jewish Law.  This was the Fourth Step in God’s Plan.

ten-commandments
God let mankind stew in that uncomfortable juice for about one thousand, five hundred years, just to drive the point home:  you are hopeless on your own. The Israelites began to learn that this Law was a terrible, impossible burden!  Apostle Paul explains to us that the Law was given by God so that mankind could understand, once and for all, that our sin is insurmountable by us.  No amount of sacrifice can atone for it.  We would be standing by the altar day and night sacrificing to satisfy the Law!     The Law, thus, became our Teacher- it taught that we can’t ever reach the state of perfection needed to be fully reconciled to God.  This is Step Five in God’s Plan.

Many centuries went by.  He gave his Chosen people prophets, judges and finally, kings.  They prophesied the coming of Jesus, but the Jews wouldn’t listen.  God told them everything that would come, including their complete destruction, that of the Temple and of their entire homeland.  They did not listen.  They continued to sin despite their best efforts and God continued to warn- but also to promise a way out of their sin someday- through their Messiah. God never leaves anything to chance, see.  By allowing mankind to ‘stew’ in its own juices for so long, helpless to help itself out of sin and God’s ensuing punishment, he made sure that mankind understood its helplessness in the face of the Law.  But throughout this entire period, God promised them that a Messiah would come to save them from their sins and from death.  This was Step Six in God’s Plan.

birth-of-christ.jpg

Only when humanity was fully ripe did he finally send his Son.  Only when humanity was groaning once more for deliverance did he send the true hero.  He even had the Romans there to step on the Israelite’s collective necks.  Once again, the Jews were slaves, only in their own land this time.  Poor, trodden upon and despised, they were once again crying out for a Savior.  All the prophets were speaking again- ‘the Messiah was near, the Messiah was near.’  God sent John ahead of Jesus to tell everyone that the Messiah was upon them and was coming soon.  Only then did he send Jesus.

Mankind was finally ready to hear God’s plan for how mankind could reconcile themselves back to God.  They already understood that there was only One True God.  They understood  death/blood sacrifice.  They knew the penalty for sin was death.  They already understood that they sinned and what kinds of sins they committed every day.  And they understood, through generations of knowledge, that humanity was hopeless in redeeming itself back to God.  They knew they needed a Savior.  And now, they had one!  This was Step Seven in God’s plan.

Unfortunately, their priests had begun to teach them that the Messiah whom they sought was coming to relieve them from their earthly problems (ie, the Roman invasion) and not their spiritual problems!  They were thinking way too small!   They didn’t grasp the enormous, gigantic, awesome gift that the Messiah was bringing instead.  Jesus had come to give them victory over sin & death forever.  He had come so that they would not die after a mere 80 or so years- so that they would live forever in perfection.

Jesus came to be the final and perfect sacrifice (and the final priest since he sacrificed himself ) just as mankind had always been required to give the very best of their flock to be their sacrifice to God.  He was the most perfect blood sacrifice.  He is much better than any goat or sheep or grain or dove because he is the only begotten, divine Son of God.  He is so much greater that his blood sacrifice was and is sufficient for all mankind forever.  God allowed Jesus to do this thing for us because he loves us that much.  Jesus did this for us because he loves us that much, not because he was forced to do it.   Thus, our need for sacrifice was eternally satisfied through his death on the altar.  Jesus told everyone that if they believed in him, they would be saved- FAITH, alone, and no longer works through the Law, was now the way to God.  Finally, a logical way back to God.  We couldn’t make it to God so God came down to us.

Even the apostles didn’t understand this when they were with him.  They asked him when the kingdom of heaven would be established.   It took them quite a while to figure it out themselves.   That is why the Jews were angry when Jesus was arrested- they thought they had been duped by an impostor.  If the Messiah was to free them from the Romans, how could be be arrested by them?  Obviously, Jesus was not the Messiah, right?   They were enraged by him.  They wanted to kill him for getting their hopes up so high.

final-sacrifice

And so, Jesus was put on the cross and killed, or sacrificed, for our sins.  We, who believed, would forever be forgiven through this sacrifice.  Thus far, it makes total sense, right?   But there is more!  Death is not where this story ends!  If it ended there, what good would it do?  We would still die!

ressBut Jesus rose from the dead!  He rose to prove he has the power over death.  He promised us not only forgiveness of sins, but eternal life.  He told us we would be reborn into perfect bodies.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, his body was different.  He was radiant, he walked through walls, he could appear and disappear.  He showed himself in these ways, I have no doubt, to prove to us what our new bodies would also be like when we are also raised from the dead.  He is the first to be resurrected.  We will also be resurrected.

We, in our current, sinful state, can no more live with our perfect God than we could allow an unrepentant murderer to live in our home with our children.  Something so completely essential must change for us to trust that person- in fact, what could possibly convince us to allow him/her to live in our home?  Nothing.   No, only a complete rebirth would do.  We, too, must be completely remade into perfect beings before we can live with God-it is only logical.   Jesus’ resurrection shows us exactly what our reborn, remake self will look like!   This is Step Eight of God’s Plan.

Jesus told the Jews that ‘whoever obeyed God were his mother and brother and sisters’, thus adopting gentiles into his family, the house of Israel.  Now, all of mankind would be qualified to become God’s Children!   We are all children of Abraham through Jesus’ adoption.  He also told the apostles to go out into the entire world to spread the good news. Now that God had so fully concentrated all his knowledge into a single people, he was going to use them as missionaries into the world.  They were to be his yeast for the entire loaf of mankind.  What a marvelous, logical plan!  This is Step Nine of the birth of Mankind.

Jesus died for you because God knew mankind needed to break away from him and move into a world of choice between him and satan.  He needed you to have a difficult choice so that he could know for sure that you loved him above all else.  He wanted you to love him so much that you would give up your earthly life for him.  You chose him so he gave you Jesus to die for your sins so that you could be reborn.  In being reborn into a perfect body and mind, you could be reconciled into an even better version of yourself than you were from the beginning and so that you will now live in perfect harmony with Him forever.  That, is why Jesus died for you.

We all look forward to the day that step Ten is complete- the return of Jesus.  That is when

All the stars in the sky will be dissolved
and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;
all the starry host will fall
like withered leaves from the vine,
like shriveled figs from the fig tree. – Isaiah 34: 4

and in Revelation 6:12-14

There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

From there… who knows?  But it will be glorious.

ret.jpg

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6 comments

  1. Most Christians know what Jesus’s dying on the Cross meant. Look at the woman in Luke 7:36-50. The Woman came responsively to seek redemption. The Two debtors in verses 41-43 had nothing to repay the debt, but they were graciously forgiven the debt. It comes from the Greek Word Charizomai , Grace. Similiarly
    we had nothing with which to repay our sin debt to God. But God’s Grace at Calvary paid the debt as you see God’s motivation in John 3:17.

    • Joe, they don’t know the full of it. But you are quite right in that they instinctively come to Christ. Everyone is looking for Jesus. Salvation itself is very, very simple- thank God Almighty for that. But many people miss the overall STORY of the bible- the symmetry of it. The symmetry of the bible is what lends such credibility to it- and to the existence of God. No conspiracy could possibly account for that symmetry. That is what I wanted to tell.

  2. I’m so glad I read this tonight. I’m a lover of philosophical debate but also a lover of logic. I’ve finally gotten myself disciplined into daily Bible study and yesterday I realized I needed to start at the beginning – Genesis – again! It’s been a long, long time since I read the Bible from beginning to end. The way you laid this out is so simple and yet so easy to misunderstand because of our tendency to read a verse here and there instead of really trying to understand the Word.
    I am so disillusioned by the state of the world these days and then today my teenage daughter accused me of something I didn’t do…acting just like her father who manipulated me for years. She lives with him now and I pray every day that she is protected from the influence of his demons. It’s put a damper on my Christmas this year, I guess. Anyway, this post helped lift my spirits. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    • Hi Luveniar, well, you get a BIG present for reading the entire article! lol. I had to edit it four times the night before re-publishing it because it was so difficult to get all that information into one article! It was a fine balance between creating a mere timeline vs. something enjoyable to read. The Bible is indeed a beautiful work of art. I speak not about the literary aspect, although that is wonderful too, but of God’s incredible plan that shines through all the millenniums. You see how God used the animal sacrifice to foretell of Christ’s final sacrifice. You see how God used the marriage of man and woman to represent Jesus and the Church’s relationship and consummation. You see how God used the priests and the Temple to represent Christ, the final priest, offering of his blood sacrifice to God when he passes through the Holy of Holies and how the Temple represents Heaven. All the most important elements of our relationship with God are represented through critical human constructs so that we can fully understand God’s message to us. God left nothing to chance. Everything is chalk full of meaning. There is no loose end. There is no hanging chad! (chuckle) And this incredibly tight, interwoven, multi-tiered onion of a story unfolds through completely unwitting human actors through thousands of years! They could not know what the end of the story would be, so they could not cheat by writing such incredible words of prophecy! They wrote their words and played their parts according to how the Holy Spirit moved them to act and write. These men and women lived hundreds and thousands of years from one another, spoke entirely different languages and grew up in completely different cultures. This people, the Israelites, were even destroyed as a People and as Nation, and YET, the story moved on without a glitch. All was preserved- miraculously preserved so that all the words of the Bible today match almost perfectly with the most ancient scraps of the bible we still have stored in museums. The Bible, of ALL ancient documents, still remains the most relevant, most historical and most accurate (proven through every method of historicity) than any other ancient document. If you throw out the Bible as unreliable, then you must throw out all other ancient documents as even less reliable. Just as Jesus told us would happen. What I’m saying is this: no one could have just ‘thought up’ the Bible. No one could have conspired to create such a book. All the people in it are unaware of each other. Therefore, there is only one conclusion to be made: GOD wrote it through the humans he moved through time. It was intentional and purposed for man. It tells our story- how were born, grew and become Children of God.

  3. First I love a good argument, but having said that you can keep this private if you want not trying to be unhelpful on your page. I love the bible but the question is how many people have read the “books” portions that the official churches don’t sponsor? How can I look at a church that tells me to read the bible to learn about god but only wants me to read the portions they approve of? How can I believe a book that the king of England had “re-interpreted” re-studied to approve divorce because his first wife only had daughters and not sons? I have a real hard time with organized religion because the second I walk in a church I’m judged by how I look from my clothes to how much I donate when the donation plate goes by. Maybe I’m wrong but God judges me on how I follow his/her teachings not how I look. Also just because I don’t worship or believe in God the same way doesn’t make we wrong or a heretic. I shouldn’t be walking in my pajamas but as the same time if all I have is clean jeans and polo shirt it’s to be decided between me and him/her not the other parishioners judgement? Here is where the “good argument” why portion of my interpretation comes into play. I have people come to my door claiming that their book is the true book of god, I go to church and they say they follow the true book of god, I read a bible at home that is the true book of god because it says so but isn’t the same book as the other two. Which one do I believe? I look at all the major religions around the world (christianity, buddism, islam, spiritualism, and judaism, etc.) and if you take all the common themes, though shall not kill, you shouldn’t steal, etc. from these religions I feel that is closer to a “true” religion that what you will get out of one book. Remember there was twelve disciples and each one interpreted Jesus’s speeches differently for themselves. Too many people in this world spend their time justifying their religion and vilifying other peoples because they worship god in their own way they aren’t the same, versus understanding that each are worshiping god in their own way/interpretation and shouldn’t be persecuted because of it. The second that someone tells me that their way is the only way to worship god I have a problem with them. My rights end where yours begin and vice versus! Not trying to cause trouble just trying to get people to think that maybe just because it isn’t their way to worship doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

    • Hi Newbie, I’m not sure if you actually read this article in its fullness. When Jesus said he is the only way to God, he is not being exclusionary, snobby, cruel or unnecessarily contentious. He was merely stating the truth. Let me explain before you get up in arms. As you have rightly mentioned, most world religions give you the SAME moral rules: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t be cruel, etc. They all center on the idea that mankind has sin, that mankind can’t help but sin, that it takes immense EFFORT to not sin, that only the best of us can live really good lives. Can we agree on that? You are very correct to say that Christianity doesn’t differ much from all world religions in this respect. Each religion begins to differ on what heaven looks like: Hindus don’t really have a heaven- only an endless ladder of life that must be undergone by each person until they can attain perfection on earth; Buddhists also don’t have a heaven- only a relentless cycle of rebirth until a person can ‘escape’ the cycle of rebirth through attaining a perfect life when he (women can’t do this at all) can finally merge with Nirvana; Islam has a wealth/wish oriented version of heaven where there are actually seven levels of heaven that must be earned while on earth. The more good deeds you do on earth, the better your heaven will be. The more sinful you are, the worse your heaven will be. And if your sins outweigh your good deeds, then you go to hell. It’s a balancing act.

      The ONE GREAT DIFFERENCE of Christ is this: He is the ONLY ONE who has offered a WAY to get rid of your sins so that you can merit entry into a perfect heaven. No other religion offers this solution to a very sticky theological question. Nobody wants a heaven that is as dirty and ugly and sinful as earthly life. In fact, can you imagine a Hitler that never dies? No. God had a REASON for putting a lifespan on sinful man- it was a mercy, not a punishment. Sin must die or it would be torturous for mankind. The entire concept for heaven, for everyone, is pleasure, contentment, perfection, joy, happiness, etc. It must be a place where people are GOOD- perfectly good. But.. how will the people ‘become’ good? How and why would a perfect, just and demanding God make each man… ‘good’? What happens to all his sins? What happens to ultimate justice for those who did horrible things? For those who did bad things? For those who did less bad things? For those of us who just did smaller bad things- but bad, nonetheless? When do we ‘face up’ to what we’ve done and how are we ‘punished’ for it? Wouldn’t a just God demand some form of punishment for our sins? A perfectly just God must require payment for sin- or you couldn’t call him a just God. He would be a mamsy pamsy God who did whatever he felt like. You wouldn’t be able to count on him. He would be, at best, a kind dictator. No. God is a perfect judge and you can count on him. The God of every religion demands payment for sin. The other religions sort of gloss over this part. HOW DO WE GET RID OF OUR SINS? HOW DO WE BECOME PERFECT SO WE CAN RESIDE IN HEAVEN, NEXT TO A PERFECT GOD?

      Would you allow a murderous thief to live in your home, Newbie? Would you give him access to your children’s rooms while you were away? Could you relax under these circumstances? No. It would take a major transformation in the character of the thief/murderer for you to trust him in your house. In fact, nothing would make you trust him unless he was reborn and raised again into a good person, right? He would have to be made BRAND NEW for you to trust him. Ditto for God and us in his heavenly home. WE need to be made brandnew. We need to be reborn into something new. In any case, we have 3 dimensional bodies that can’t live outside of time. It would have to be remade in order to live in God’s dimension in any case. God does both at the same time. BUT, there is still the question of JUSTICE. Our sins must be paid for. HOW will that happen? Our sins have one penalty: DEATH. But God doesn’t want our death. THEREFORE, he and he alone of all religions and their gods, came up with the most logical and rational solution: he sent his own son to die in our place. Because his son is divine and worth so much more than any one of us, his one death can pay the death price for ALL mankind for ALL our sins forever. Because Jesus did this VOLUNTARILY and out of love and because Jesus NEVER SINNED and had no debt himself, he was able to pay the price for all of us. Out of God’s own love, he sent someone precious to him to die for all of us so that HE, God, could look himself in the mirror and know that he didn’t break his own rules. JUSTICE was still done. All mankind’s sins had been paid for. And yet, mankind was allowed to live.

      No other religion offers this solution. No other religion gives a rationale as to how man went from sinful to perfect. No other religion explains how his sin was paid for. It’s not good enough to simply get a lesser version of heaven than anyone else. And what about forgiveness for your sins if you repented? How do these other religions account for that in their formulaic approach to heaven?

      Further, while you bristle when Jesus states that he is the only way to God, you fail to understand just how loving Christianity IS. Only in Jesus is there such a clear method of FORGIVENESS of sins. All sins- up to and including murder and torture of others. Even the most decrepit sin can be forgiven through the gift of his sacrifice. What other religion offers this? None. It is just a formula. How many good things must a person do if they murder a child? This is not to say that Christianity offers an ‘easy’ way out of immoral acts- but it offers A way out that you can COUNT on. IF you truly REPENT, in your heart, and ask Jesus for forgiveness, then Jesus WILL forgive you- whatever the sin was. There is no mystery to it. You need not lay on your deathbed in crazy fear. You can KNOW if you have been forgiven and you can KNOW where you are going. No other religion can give you that. Only Jesus, through his laid out method and sacrifice has done this great thing for mankind. No man could have thought up Jesus. No one could have imagined such an answer to humanity.

      I know this was a long answer to your question, but it is critical for you to understand this GREAT DIFFERENCE between Christ and other religions. Christ is not a religion. Christ is the Son of God. He came to earth with one mission in mind: to sacrifice himself to pay the ultimate price for all our sins. His act of love paid the penalty for all our sins forever more. HE offered his death as a ‘deal’ to God. He said, “Here, Father, instead of giving death to all these people, I died for them instead. Here is my blood to prove it. now, their lives are spared.” And God said, “Son, because you did this, I love you more than any other and I give you all the right to judge every man when their time comes. I won’t judge them- you will, because it was your blood that was spilled. And Jesus said, “Then, all I will require of every man and woman is that they believe in me and take my gift. Such is my great love- I offer it for nothing to those who will take it.”

      THIS is who Christ is. Not a religion at all. We don’t need to do good works at all. We don’t need to follow rules at all. There aren’t many versions of heaven and we don’t work for them. Christ did ALL THE WORK and we just accept his gift. Periodo. Finito. What I will never understand is anyone who denies the gift and who choose hell and emptiness instead. Or worse, choose a more difficult impossible ‘religion’ that is full of rules and requirements that NO MAN can ever attain. Because, believe me, Newbie, no man can EVER live a perfect life. So, everyone is doomed to either live in the lowest pit of hell or be reincarnated to this lousy world over and over and over and over and over again (talk about hell!)

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