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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Simply Jesus

             With Christmas only days away, I thought I might address one of the bedrock beliefs of the Christian faith.

The basic belief held by Christians for two thousand years is that Jesus was born of a virgin. The passage from the Bible that underscores this belief is primarily taken from Matthew 1:18-23. “The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for ‘God is with us’).” (The Message translation of the Bible throughout this article).

The passage from Matthew references another passage from the Prophet Isaiah which foretells this bit of divine prophecy: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us).”

Now here’s where I enter with what I call the “So What Factor.”

The “So What Factor” is the question I ask myself when I’m wrestling with truths, principles and life values. It goes something like this: Does it really matter whether I believe this certain thing or not? If not, then I don’t sweat the details. Let me give you an example. There are Bible scholars and theologians who spend their lives studying the Scriptures in an attempt to determine when Jesus is coming back; or put another way, when the Tribulation will take place; or yet another way, when the Millennium period will begin. The question I then ask is, “Does the answer to any of these theological conundrums really matter, or do they have any effect on my relationship with Jesus? If the answer is No, then I don’t trifle with it further.

In the case of Jesus being virgin born – well now . . . this is a big “So What Factor.” The Savior of the world, the Son of God cannot be just any ordinary two-legged homo sapien. This personage must be of a quality and character that eclipses any other human being who lives, has lived, or will live. It simply would not make sense for salvation to come through someone who is flawed.

So then, how would God present himself to a world that has fallen into a state of chaos and anarchy? What could God possibly say or do that would make an impression on any one of us where we might be inclined to say, “You know, that makes sense.”

Consider the irony of God’s choice in revealing himself to us. God, who is the Eternal One, created everything that exists by speaking it into existence. He is awesomely powerful. He could snuff us out like the flame of a candle. If he were to simply withhold a couple of seconds of oxygen, every last one of us would be dead in moments.

On the other hand, God did not come down on us in a heavy-handed manner breathing threats if we didn’t straighten up and fly right. He did tell us of the blessings if we turned from our wicked ways. And conversely, he spelled out the troubles we would bring upon ourselves if we ignored his council and warnings.

Instead, the most powerful being in all creation chose to present himself to us as a baby, helpless, yet perfect. Only in this way could God identify with us.

This baby would grow to manhood just as we all strive to do. He would endure and tolerate abuse, criticism and insults his whole life. This same Jesus is the one who made each and every one of us. Yet, the Bible in Isaiah 53 says we despised him. “Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?  The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.”

          So where do you stand with Jesus? Have you experienced your sins carried by him to the cross?

          Jesus has to be God in order to take care of the sin problem. I can’t take care of my own sin. Neither can you do a thing about your sin. Only Jesus can do that. This is why I believe in Jesus, the perfect Son of God, my Savior.

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