Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

      When I was saved out of a cult, I was ecstatic. In my original religious life I had struggled as to how I could make my wretchedness acceptable in my own power, but at the lowest point of my life I learned that Jesus came to address my sin and take it away. However, in my immaturity, I never realized how He also came to address my condition of sin.

      It is easy to see sins that are a moral affront against God. It is understandable why God may not approve of those questionable things that must be hidden under the fig leaves of personal justification, the heavy robes of self-righteousness, and covered over by the thick darkness of unbelief and rebellion, but what is hard to get our minds around is that there is nothing good in our flesh (Romans 7:18). We always want to believe there is something salvageable in us that God can reform and use, but that concept is unscriptural. It took a few more years and many detours for me to somewhat realize just how far mankind fell in Adam.

      It was my spiritual immaturity that found me taking detours in my initial salvation. These detours are not unusual, but they are very humbling. I am sure you might relate to some of the following detours that I foolishly embarked on.

  1. I majored in Scriptural knowledge rather than seeking to know God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
  2. I made Christianity a religious practice in lieu of developing a personal relationship with Him by first learning what it means to sit at His feet as a student and at His table of communion where I would partake of who He is by faith.
  3. I erected religious bandwagons made up of dogmatic notions that I could tout my knowledge and self-righteousness from, while omitting my real responsibility to love and serve the Lord by serving others according to my commission and high calling.
  4. I looked to man to lead, rather than looking to Jesus as my Lord and Head, while being led by the Spirit.
  5. I expected to be immune from personal challenges because after all I was a Christian, and only good things happen to good people (Christians). I did not realize that character and faith are produced in adversity for the purpose of actually preparing me to be a consolation to others in their plight (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
  6. In the end, I knew of the Lord, but I did not know Him in a personal way. I knew much about the written Word, but the life was missing from it because I failed to come to the knowledge of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

      It soon became obvious that I may have been saved out of a cult, but not all of the cult was out of me. I had been conditioned to be seduced into the cult through indoctrination. Needless to say, in my unsaved state I was being indoctrinated as a product of this doomed world, designed to taste the empty, despairing, tormenting ways of hell, forever separated from my Creator by my sinful condition.

      As a new believer I struggled with my vague notions about God, but as Jesus Christ began to become the face of God to me, I began to receive and accept the idea of God. However, it was after the various detours that I could finally come to a real knowledge of Jesus, a knowledge that made Him more real to me than life itself. He was no longer bound in a box of limited doctrinal, dogmatic understandings, but He was real, living, and One who was far beyond any human logic or reasoning.

      It was from the premise of this knowledge that I could relate to Jesus as Man, causing God to no longer seem vague, impersonal, and unreachable to me. As I embraced the humanity of Jesus, His deity became the bridge of grace that connected me to the reality of the Father’s love and the communion inspired by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). Instead of God appearing aloof, I could receive the fact that He was familiar and aware of me. Instead of God being too high to reach, all I had to do was reach up by faith, and gentle arms would reach down and receive me.

      The more I grew in the knowledge of Jesus, the more I found myself loving God. The more the Spirit of God unveiled Christ to me in His humanity and deity, the freer I was able to worship God in Spirit and truth. This brings me to the importance of understanding the need for God to take on a body of flesh. In His humanity Jesus makes God real and personal to man, and in His deity, He makes man acceptable to God.

      Admittedly, my understanding of Christ possessing dual natures did not happen overnight. It started from a small seed of faith, for the Bible declares it; therefore, I choose to believe it is so (Romans 10:17). As I studied the New Testament, I found myself coming to a place of awe as I meditated on such Scriptures as John the Baptist’s statement in John 1:29-30, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.” [Emphasis added].

      John was conceived at least six months before Jesus’ miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin. Yet, John makes it clear that Jesus existed before he ever was. Jesus may have come into the midst of humanity through a virgin birth in order to take on a body to be the Lamb of God, but He clearly existed in the heavenlies and it was the Father who sent Him into the world with a mission. Various Scriptures in John verify that Jesus was sent by the first Person of the Godhead into the world (John 3:17; 4:34; 5:23-38; 6:29-57; 7:16, 28-33; 8:16-42; 12:49; 14:24; 17:3, 18-25; 20:21). Since Jesus was a sent one, the writer of Hebrews rightfully called Him an Apostle (sent one) in Hebrews 3:1

      How many times does a matter have to be declared before people believe it is so? If a person has not the mind, the desire, or the love for the truth to accept a matter as being so by faith, he or she will reject a matter regardless of the various testimonies clearly established in the Word of God.

      Another Scripture I just love to meditate on is John 8:56-58, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

      Anyone who knows the story of Moses’ experience in the wilderness knows that Jesus was using a name of God to identify Himself, and the actions of the Jews reveal that they likewise understood what He was declaring about Himself (Exodus 3:14). The name “I AM” has to do with who God is and His authority and power to bring something about. There is nothing that can be added to who He is or subtracted from who He is because He is I AM. As the “I AM” time and eternity come together according to His purpose. It is where the past and future come together in the present to ensure that His perfect plan is being brought forth in relationship to redemption. The extraordinary fact about the Gospel of John, which clearly presents Jesus as God Incarnate, is that Jesus used the term “I AM” at least 35 times to identify that He was deity in human form.

      Jesus said of Abraham that he had desired to see the day of the Messiah’s visitation, and that he actually saw it. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that Abraham received the figure of Jesus in the offering of his own son, Isaac. Isaac was a type of Christ in Genesis 22, casting a powerful shadow of the time the Son of God would walk among men. In fact, we have to remember that the light must first be present before a shadow can be cast. The light, Jesus existed from the very beginning, casting the necessary light to illuminate the image, patterns, types, and shadows. That is why John calls Him the light of the world (John 1:4-5). Let us consider the incredible similarities.

      Like Jesus, Isaac’s conception was miraculous. His father Abraham was 99 and his mother was 89 when he was conceived. Clearly, his mother, Sarah was far past the child-bearing age, but as we know, nothing is impossible with God.

      Abraham’s faith in regard to offering up Isaac in Genesis 22 was founded on the promise that since Isaac was the promised son that God would raise him up. When God provided the sacrifice of the ram as a substitute, Isaac was in a sense raised up, while we know Jesus, the Son of the Living God gave His life up on the cross, but He rose from the grave.

      Both Isaac and Jesus were designated to be burnt (consecrated) offerings on the altar, totally consumed by the fire of judgment. Jesus carried His altar, the cross, while Isaac carried the wood upon his shoulders that would be used on the altar. Isaac spent three days traveling with his father to the spot where he would be offered. Even though Abraham was a man of faith, he most likely perceived his son being dead, separated from him for a short time in that three-day journey, while Jesus’ body spent three days and three nights in the tomb after He was offered as the Lamb of God. He likewise tasted a temporary separation from the Father as He became a sin offering and was hidden from mankind for three days and three nights.

       Abraham clearly saw the day of Jesus and understood the significance of His mission and rejoiced over the outcome. He understood that God provided the sacrifice, replacing Isaac, who at that point represents a church that will be brought forth in a glorious new way because Jesus became our substitute. What an awesome revelation Abraham had of the future Messiah who would come as a Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.

      Another statement I always stop and meditate on is found in Mark 12:35-37, “And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD (Yahweh-Father) said to my Lord (Adonai-Jesus), Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself called him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.” [Emphasis added.]

      “Christ” is the Greek name for the Hebrew name, “Messiah.” Another title that means the Messiah is “The Anointed One.” We know that Jesus must come from the lineage of David to claim the throne of David, making Him a son or descendant of David. We know as King, He will conquer all of His enemies and put them under His feet as defeated foes.

      Jesus makes reference to scribes in this verse. Scribes were also referred to as lawyers when it came to the Law. Smith’s Bible Dictionary explains how the scribes wrote out the law as well as arranged its precepts. During Jesus’ day their words were honored above the Law, and it was a greater crime to offend against them than to offend the Law. Jesus was using the scribes’ teaching that identified the Messiah as being the son of David to make a valid point as to who He was. Using the scribes’ own teachings simply added weight or authority to the question that Jesus was about to ask, “If the Messiah was David’s son, why is it he called Him Lord?”  

      Jesus’ teaching pleased the common people, but if there was a scribe around, how do you think this question affected him? Jesus said things that could crack any box of theology wide open, challenge any school of thought, and turn a dogmatic mind into a pretzel. It was clear that the Messiah would have to be a man if he was going to be a king who sat on the literal throne of David in Jerusalem. However, to consider the Messiah as having existed before David, that even the respected king acknowledged His existence by addressing Him as my Lord showed that Jesus, was not simply a man, but He was (Adonai) deity as well.

      As we can see, when we consider Jesus to be the Messiah in light of Scripture, we must note even David attached deity to Him. The Messiah would have to be both the Anointed One of God and Adonai to sit on the throne of David as his descendant and king.

      There are some fascinating aspects attached to Jesus as the Messiah. The first one is that in His humanity He had to be anointed of God. We read how the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus at His baptism and anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor in spirit, heal the brokenhearted, preach deliverance to the captive, to recover the sight of the blind, and to set at liberty them that are bruised (Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 4:18). Jesus was anointed to be the great physician of the soul and spirit, to bring spiritual deliverance to the oppressed and salvation to the lost.

      It is for this reason we find this warning in 1 John 2:22-23, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” Is it any wonder that in the prophecy concerning the Messiah quoted by Jesus from Psalm 110:1 that both the Father and Son are mentioned because you cannot believe the Father without believing in His Son and you cannot believe the Son unless you believe He was sent from the Heavenly Father to carry out a specific mission.

      The other part of Jesus being the Christ has to do with Him coming back. In Matthew 24:23-24, He gives us this warning, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there: believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” I stand in confidence that as part of the very elect, I will not be deceived because of God’s faithfulness and power to keep me. However, my part is that I know the real Jesus, stand on His truth about Who He is, withstand with His promises, and continue to stand because of His faithfulness.

      Jesus said He is coming back, but how? Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9-11 describes how Jesus ascended in the clouds, and the same way He was taken up in the clouds is how He will come back again. We don’t have to run here or there or contend with every imposter that comes along claiming to be the Christ. We know how the Messiah will come back, in the clouds, in glory, and in power. Every eye will see Him coming back in His new glorified body as the King of kings and Lord of lords. His enemies will see and ask for the rocks to fall on them, and the Jewish people will see and mourn because they will know that He was the One they rejected and crucified (Zechariah 12:9-10; Revelation 1:7; 6:15-17). This is a promise we stand on as our blessed hope, ever looking up knowing our Redeemer draws nearer each day, and in spite of the scoffing and the taunting as men’s hearts grow cold with fear in these dark times, we continue to stand, knowing that He is faithful to fulfill all of His promises.

      As believers we are the most blessed people in the world. We have everything going for us, a present help in these precarious times, a refuge in the storms that are affronting us from every side, and a bright future where the God/Man will rule as Righteous King of all, Lord over all, and God who will ultimately rule above all.