Christianity 201

June 25, 2019

Light Has Come Into the World!

Today marks six months to Christmas, and we tend to focus on different scriptures at certain times of year, but not at other points on the calendar. Today is different. I ran this 3½ years ago, but in the busyness of the season, many may have missed it…

The Voice BibleSeveral years ago we were introduced to The Voice, a new Bible translation which we’ve used here a few times at C201. One of the interesting things about The Voice is the use of explanatory or transitional passages — they call them narrative links — which add commentary and context to what you’re reading. Further, in John 1, the phrase ‘the Voice’ is used where we are accustomed to hearing ‘The Word.’ Following our tradition here, I’ve left the Bible verses themselves in green, but the other sections which form part of the excerpt are in teal. (If too many Christmases have left you feeling you’ve heard the standard texts too many times, then just read the teal sections, but I assure you that you haven’t heard these texts themselves in exactly this manner.)

We start with John’s prologue in chapter one:

Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

The Voice was and is God.
2 This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
3 His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating,
all things that exist were birthed in Him.
4 His breath filled all things
with a living, breathing light—
5 A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.

6 A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this Light. 7 This baptizer put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light so all might believe through him. Some wondered whether he might be the Light, 8 but John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light. 9 The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos.

Jesus as the Light does not call out from a distant place but draws near by coming into the world.

10 He entered our world, a world He made; yet the world did not recognize Him. 11 Even though He came to His own people, they refused to listen and receive Him. 12 But for all who did receive and trust in Him, He gave them the right to be reborn as children of God; 13 He bestowed this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will.

14 The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor—the one true Son of the Father—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth. 15 John the Baptist testified about Him and shouted, “This is the one I’ve been telling you is coming. He is much greater than I am because He existed long before me.” 16 Through this man we all receive gifts of grace beyond our imagination. 17 You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Anointed offered us gifts of grace and truth. 18 God, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart.

Before Jesus comes along, many wonder whether John the Baptist might be the Anointed One sent by God. But when Jesus appears in the wilderness, John points others to Him. John knows his place in God’s redemptive plan: he speaks God’s message, but Jesus is the Word of God. John rejects any messianic claim outright. Jesus, though, accepts it with a smile, but only from a few devoted followers—at least at first. Of course John is crucial to the unfolding drama, but he isn’t the long awaited One sent to free His people. He preaches repentance and tells everybody to get ready for One greater to come along. The One who comes will cleanse humanity in fire and power, he says. John even urges some of his followers to leave him and go follow Jesus.

We also read from Hebrews 1:

Long ago, at different times and in various ways, God’s voice came to our ancestors through the Hebrew prophets. 2 But in these last days, it has come to us through His Son, the One who has been given dominion over all things and through whom all worlds were made.

3 This is the One who—imprinted with God’s image, shimmering with His glory—sustains all that exists through the power of His word. He was seated at the right hand of God once He Himself had made the offering that purified us from all our sins. 4 This Son of God is elevated as far above the heavenly messengers as His holy name is elevated above theirs.

Most images of angels are influenced by art and pop culture—and are far removed from the Bible. The word “angel” literally means “messenger,” and it can refer to either a human being or a heavenly being. The Hebrews author is writing about heavenly messengers.

In the Bible, heavenly messengers have several functions—executors of God’s judgment, guardians of God’s people, heralds of God’s plans. They appear at critical moments to chosen people who play important roles in God’s salvation, such as arriving to announce the birth and resurrection of Jesus and to transmit God’s law to Moses. They are no more than messengers, created beings, who serve the will of God and His Son. Recognizing their place, they bow before the Son in loving adoration.

And also Luke 2:

Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— 2 the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. 3 Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.

This political background isn’t incidental: it is crucial to the story. Conquering nations in the ancient world work in various ways. Some brutally destroy and plunder the nations they conquer. Some conquer people as slaves or servants. Other empires allow the people to remain in their land and work as before, but with one major change: the conquered people have to pay taxes to their rulers. The purpose of a census like the one Luke describes is to be sure that everyone is appropriately taxed and knows who is in charge.

4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, 6 accompanied Joseph. While in Bethlehem, she went into labor 7 and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.

Finally, here is a short excerpt from Matthew 2, after Jesus has already been born:

9-10 The wise men left Herod’s chambers and went on their way. The star they had first seen in the East reappeared—a miracle that, of course, overjoyed and enraptured the wise men. The star led them to the house where Jesus lay; 11 and as soon as the wise men arrived, they saw Him with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. They unpacked their satchels and gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These are exceptionally good gifts, for gold is what is given a king, and Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what you expect to be given a priest, and Jesus is the High Priest of all high priests; myrrh ointment is used to heal, and Jesus is a healer. But myrrh is also used to embalm corpses—and Jesus was born to die.

12 And then, just as Joseph did a few months before, the wise men had a dream warning them not to go back to Herod…


Read an excerpt of what we call the Palm Sunday passage in Luke 20 from The Voice.

Below is a page sample of the end of Mark 1 and beginning of Mark 2 showing the dramatic script translation style, and two types of transitional notes.

The Voice Bible - Sample Page

 


Related: Romans 5 in The Voice

August 31, 2018

John Knew the Incarnate Christ Better Than Anyone

This is our second time looking at the blog of Laura J. Davis. Click the title below to read at source.

How Well do You Know Jesus?

Have you ever noticed how the Apostle John started his first book? I’m sure you have as it’s not hard to miss. He is clearly making a statement about new beginnings and he does it by using Genesis as his foundation. He is making two points very strongly by using Genesis. The first is a not-so-subtle message to the Jewish people – God has started something new – pay attention. He then follows that up with who he meant by God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

​He begins when God brought everything into existence, but he makes it very clear that there was someone else at play – The Word. The Word was with God in the beginning. In fact, John says, “The Word was God.” Now that would have had many Jewish people sitting up and paying attention. Who was this Word?

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. – Genesis 1:2

He was in the beginning with God. – John 1:2

Genesis 1:2 lets us know for the first time a unique aspect of God – He is Spirit and John continues to emphasize that The Word was with God in the beginning. The Word and the Spirit are one with God.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.– Genesis 1:3-5

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.– John 1:3

God divided the light from the darkness and John uses that example to explain how The Word was similar to the light God separated from the darkness. He explains that The Word was life and that life was the light of men. In other words, His life provided light and hope to all mankind. As God divided the day from night (light from darkness) so the Word acted in much the same way – providing light to those living in darkness. But sadly, not all those living in the darkness comprehended the Light and refused to come near it.

​So, who was this Word that was also the Light and was with God in the beginning?

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying,

This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:14

He was Jesus! God incarnate who came to earth in a human vessel to lead us in the way everlasting. To show us how great the Light really is and to prepare a way for us to live eternally in that Light. Sadly, the darkness of this world STILL does not comprehend the love the Father has for them. Many are still trapped in the darkness and fog of not grasping the enormity of what God actually did for them. He came down to earth in human form. He lowered Himself to our level in order to raise us up to eternal life in Him.

Everyone can come into that light and partake of the joy of knowing Jesus. He died for sinners, not saints. In other words, He doesn’t ask you to change before you come to Him, He simply says, “Come to Me.”

I wrote a book many years ago, with that title, Come to Me. It is a novelization of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of His mother. It’s available in my bookstore. I wrote it because some people won’t bother to pick up a Bible, but they will read a novel.

If you think Christianity is what you see out in the world today, if you think that is Jesus – you would be wrong. Jesus didn’t involve himself in politics. He didn’t call out specific sins or individual sinners over others. He didn’t protest certain causes either. In fact, if he had any complaints at all, it was not directed towards government officials or causes. It was directed towards religious leaders and their hypocrisy.

So don’t judge Jesus based on the way the media portrays Christians today. Read about him in the Bible or pick up my book and read about him. But find out about him. Get to know him as he is meant to be known. You’ll be glad you did.

 

June 5, 2015

A Gospel Narrative Unlike the Other Three

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If readers find a blog or devotional site and end up making it their primary source for daily Bible study, I’m fine with that. Although our motto here is “Digging a Little Deeper;” I recognize some of you want to move from Christianity 201 to Christianity 301. Here’s a jumping off point a few of you might appreciate as they plan on spending a long time in one book. However, it just might be that someone you know who is new to the faith might benefit from this as well. We recently discovered the blog Brothers of the Book, and they have just launched into a detailed study of John’s Gospel. To visit the site, click this link. To simply read today’s article at source, click the title below as usual.

Who Is Jesus?

We begin a slow wander through the Gospel of John today. I have always loved this book and as time has gone by I have come to feel that, contrary to the opinion of many, this is not really a book for the Lost but rather a book for the Saved. I find this book to be all about maturing in Christ. Now don’t get me wrong, people have been suggesting the book of John as a good place for the Lost to begin their investigation of Jesus, and there is much to commend this book for that purpose. John himself says, later in this book, that his reason for sharing a number of Jesus’ miracles is so we may believe the Jesus is the Messiah, and that by believing in Him have life in Him (John 20:30-31). Of course the other three Gospels do this as well. And yet, John is very different from the other three Gospels, also known as the Synoptic Gospels because they are so similar.

A careful reading of John causes us to wrestle with some pretty deep theological concepts; concepts I think may be a little bit much for an unbeliever to successfully tackle. John skips the birth of Jesus; he assumes that his readers know much of this information. If we look at the chronology of the publication of the Gospels we find that the book of John was probably the last Gospel written and that John was aware of these earlier books. While he does repeat a bit of what the other Gospels share, his book skips some episodes and adds new information. More importantly, in my estimation, his book goes deeper.

John’s book also echoes the book of Genesis in that it gives us a peak at the very beginning.

John 1:1 ESV
[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Who is Jesus? This is the most important question a person will ever have to wrestle with. It is an inescapable question that everyone will have to eventually answer, either in this life or in the life to come. Your answer will dictate the quality of your life now and the quality of your life in eternity. If Jesus was just a man who said some nice things and died 2,000 years ago, you can safely ignore and forget Him, for such a man has no power to affect your life. If, however, He is God as He claimed to be, if He is the only way to be forgiven of sin and the only way to enter eternity in Heaven, then you should submit your life to His authority, worshipping and serving Him faithfully to the end of your days.

This is John’s theme; his thesis: Jesus is God. Like any good college paper, the book of John states its thesis at the beginning, goes on to support that thesis with many examples and proofs, and then it wraps things up by repeating the thesis. Here is that thesis.

John 1:1-5 ESV
[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus pre-exists Creation. It was through Jesus everything was made. And life, real life, is found only in Him. Have you ever wondered about whether or not Jesus was just a man, just a prophet, or really God Himself? John leaves no doubt. He makes a categorical statement that Jesus is God. He then goes on to prove it. Jesus as a great teacher is easy to accept. Jesus as a miraculous healer is a little more challenging to accept but we like the idea so it is not really that hard to get our hands around. Jesus as the sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away our sin, Jesus as our Savior, likewise can be a challenge but in the end it is so much to our benefit that we can eagerly accept this at some point. Jesus as Lord, Jesus as God, that is the really hard thing for so many people to accept.

You see we like the idea of someone who loves us and sacrifices for us. We like it when someone gives to us. What we don’t like is someone having authority over us. This is why so many struggle with, the idea of Jesus as God. We all like to be loved. We all like to be forgiven. None of us, however, like to admit that we are not the boss. But brother, you cannot accept Jesus’ love, Jesus’ sacrifice, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus’ blessing, without accepting His Lordship. We say Jesus is our Lord and Savior and yet we embrace His role as Savior while, by our actions, rejecting His role as Lord.

If we accept that Jesus died on the cross for us, and that through His blood we are saved, then we have to accept that we are not our own, that we were bought at a high price, that we belong to Him. We have to accept that He is God if we are to truly accept Him as Savior. As God, He has every right to give us commands and we have every responsibility to obey.

Who is Jesus? How you answer that question will determine how you live today and where you spend eternity tomorrow. Don’t you think it is important to look at the evidence so you can make an informed decision? That, among other things, is what we will do as we stroll through this incredible book together over the months to come.