Regular, Normal Christianity ~ Jesus of Nazareth
I started this series of "Regular, Normal Christianity" articles by setting forth my intent, and disclaimers (that I am sharing my own understanding and not asserting that I am THE arbiter of what ought to be counted as authentic Christianity), in the initial and hub "Regular, Normal Christianity ~ The Premise And Definitions".
I then began our examination of contemporary American Christendom in light of historic and Biblical Christianity by presenting the first article, on the reliability of "The Bible", followed by an article on the concept of "God". With this article we look at how Jesus is perceived and presented by His church.
Please see the bottom of this page for a list and links to the previous and subsequent articles.
In His own day both The Roman Empire and religious Judaism tried to rid themselves of this carpenter from Nazareth and extinguish any influence He may have had - Jesus defeated both
Jesus did not come to teach us the way to God
The single greatest and most consequential question any man is confronted by is, who is Jesus of Nazareth. Who this one man is, what He did, what He taught, etc, is as significant a matter for our attention today as it was when the Roman governor Pilate asked Jesus "Where are you from?" and stood Him before the people of 1st century Judea calling them to "Behold the man!". Year after year television networks and national magazines ask 'was there really a historic Jesus?', 'who was the real Jesus?', 'what did Jesus actually teach and do?', etc. It has been observed by many that Jesus never traveled more than 200 miles from where He was born, He was the leader of no nation, He never wrote a book, etc, etc - yet no one has ever had the impact on all the history that followed after them as Jesus has had. In His own day both The Roman Empire and religious Judaism tried to rid themselves of this carpenter from Nazareth and extinguish any influence He may have had - He defeated both, even after His execution at the hands of both, He was yet unimaginably victorious and continues to direct the course of history.
So, beyond opinion and apart from our own surmising, what did Jesus Himself tell us about who He is and what He did and what He taught? What is the historic Biblical understanding of Jesus of Nazareth? First and foremost, we know from Scripture that Jesus of Nazareth is God, the God of the Old Testament, the God who created all that exists. He was born, at a particular time and in a specific location, but He is nonetheless the eternal and infinite God . . . we, of course, can't quite grasp this idea, it is a spiritual truth and we are material creatures, it's sort of like, Jesus' divinity is a 4th dimensional concept and we are 3 dimensional beings. We will simply state the case here and look into the workable idea of it when we get to our examination of The Trinity.
We also know from Scripture that there is a reason God became a man; we considered briefly in the previous article on "God" that there is a difference in the original Greek (the language of the New Testament) between the words 'made' and 'begotten', that God made trees and rocks, and man, etc, but He begot Jesus, indicating that God is not in the things He made and they are not God, but that God is in the things He begets and they are God - Jesus is God incarnate, God in a material body, God born of a woman. The reason for this most significant event in the history of this world is to provide man a Mediator. God is a Spirit - we are creatures (created beings), God is eternal - we are mortal, God is infinite - we are material, etc, etc . . . we simply do not own a capacity to discover, know, or love God unless He determines to condescend to reveal Himself to us. Jesus is that condescension of God, God became man and is now both God and man that He might unite us together in Him. Jesus is the God-man, the Mediator between God and man, between the spiritual and the material, between the Creator and the created.
And this truth suggests to us another great truth of who Jesus is, what He did, and what He taught . . . the way that Jesus unites God and man is not through providing us some teaching that, if we follow sufficiently, will lead us to into a relationship and fellowship with God. Jesus didn't come, He was not born of a woman, to teach us how we can find God within us, or to give us rules to follow that will make us worthy of God's acceptance, or to lead us to a path of duties and rituals that will show us the way to God - Jesus came to actually do something that would fully accomplish all of that for us . . . it is not through any teaching that Jesus left us, it is through His own work, it is through what Jesus did, that we have God within us and are made acceptable to God and are placed on the path of duties and rituals that we delight to follow because we enjoy a relationship and fellowship with God fully accomplished for us and freely given to us.
Those who know about Jesus prefer a 'Jesus' who was merely one of many teachers, a 'Jesus' who left teachings that are but one of many paths that aid us in finding God within us - those who don't merely know about Jesus, but intimately know Jesus, know that it is not what He taught but what He did that reveals God and enables us to know and love Him. And what Jesus did was die. All creation was ordained, created, and is for the accomplishment of this great event - the death of Jesus of Nazareth. All the Old Testament prepares for it . . . from the slaughter of the beast in the garden to cover Adam and Eve, to the giving a law we are unable to keep, to the establishment of the temple and the sacrifices because we cannot keep the law, etc, etc, everything points to the promised Messiah, the one who would come and sacrifice Himself for His people (we will consider how the sacrifice of Jesus accomplishes the salvation of men when we look at "The Atonement").
And both of these ideas, that Jesus is God and that He didn't come to teach the way to God but came to die and accomplish the way to God, leads to the final point of our introductory question, "Who this one man is, what did He do, what did He teach" - our final point, what did He teach? This is the point at which many folks cringe. Many people much prefer a 'Jesus' who, like them, encourages any religious thinking, counts all religious paths to be useful, has nothing but positive endorsements for any notions anyone might have about God and doing good and striving for spiritual enlightenment, etc - but the truth is that Jesus said boldly and directly that He alone is the only way to God, He said that all others advancing some other path are liars . . . Jesus was very clear that no one can come to God except through Him. People didn't like that message then and people don't like that message now.
I recall working with a girl many years ago, who was delighted to talk all day about religious ideas . . . we talked about God, about the Bible, church, the second coming, speaking in tongues, heaven, etc, etc, etc, she was happy to talk about anything religious - except Jesus. Whenever I tried to introduce Jesus into our discussions she would get agitated and the conversation would come to a halt. An older woman I used to sit with on a daily bus ride would talk about her church activity and we would share missionary efforts and Sunday School studies, etc, our respective churches were involved in - when I mentioned one day my thankfulness that Jesus provides us the way to God, Jesus being the only way to God, she got furious screaming "I've been going to church all my life, since I was a little girl, I don't need Jesus to 'save' me!". There are those who have corrupted the historic Christian faith, who have replaced the Bible with a man-concocted idea that any and all religious paths are sufficient for us to find God within ourselves, and they can talk about heaven and God and angels till the cows come home - but they cannot tolerate the true Jesus of history and of the Bible. They cannot embrace the Jesus who declares that He is the only way and that "you must be born again".
To many folks, when Christians present Jesus as He is, our only hope and the one way to God, they can only hear us saying 'our religion is better than your religion', they count us gigantically arrogant to assume that we are right and everyone else is wrong, and they hold that for God to provide only one way to Himself is an unfair and ugly teaching. But here is what they don't understand, and what we as Christians have failed miserably to keep straight ourselves and present properly; Christianity is not a religion, we meet together at specific times and at particular locations so there is necessary organization, but we are not following a religion we are simply trusting in and sharing with the world the historic account of the event of Jesus' coming, death, and resurrection. We're not saying our religion is better than other religions, we're not saying we are better than others who aren't Christians, etc - we are simply saying this thing happened, and it's for all . . . the story isn't that God only likes Christians and only Christians get to go to heaven etc - Muslims can come to Jesus, Hindus can come to Jesus, Wiccans can come to Jesus, etc, etc, etc, and many, many have.
It's not that our religion is better than yours, it's that God ordained and prepared and provided the way men can know Him, unite to Him, and love Him, and the way He ordained and prepared and provided is that He Himself would come into His creation to freely give us His very own Spirit that we might know, be united to, and love Him. Jesus and His sacrifice is the way God has planned and provided for men to move into eternity with Him. That is why the Bible calls the birth of Jesus "the fullness of time", the coming of God into His creation is why He created this world in the first place, it's the whole point . . . God created space and time and put His creation into it, and in the fullness of time, at that point that was the centerpiece and reason for everything, God was born a man.
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It's not that we're right and everyone else is wrong, it's not that our religion is better than other religions, it's not that Christians are doing anything that makes them special to God, etc - it's simply that Jesus is the way to God, He is the Mediator between God and man, we are material creatures and God is an eternal spirit so we must be born from above. Christianity isn't setting forth all the right teachings to get people into to heaven - Christianity is simply pointing back to a historic event, Christianity is simply announcing 'Jesus came and accomplished salvation'.
please share your comments below ~
1. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Bible"
2. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "God"
3. Regular, Normal Christianity ~"Jesus of Nazareth"
4. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Trinity"
5. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "Man, Sin, And Spiritual Death"
6. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Covenant, The Promise, The Covenants, And The Gospel"
7. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Atonement - Law & Grace"
please share your comments below ~
Next ~ we will continue, in an orderly manner, examining the concept of the Trinity, the atonement, the gospel message, the church, etc, etc . . . once we cover these essential Christian teachings from an orthodox historic and Biblical perspective, we will examine some of the specific ideas popular contemporary American Christendom advances.