The Bible teaches that Jesus is God Incarnate, fully God and fully man, born of a virgin and sinless throughout His life, the one and only way to experience a reconciled relationship with God the Father, the Father’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity. This is what the Bible teaches and yet anyone who has openly shared the Bible’s teaching already knows that life would be made much easier if we would simply adjust our thinking to the popular belief in our society today that says that Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, and one of the many ways we can get to know God.
Fewer and fewer people in society are denying the existence of Jesus, but more and more people are recreating Jesus in their own image, making Him out to be who they want Him to be. Dr. Deepak Chopra is a well-respected physician, best-selling author, and public speaker. He was Chief of Staff at the Boston Medical Center in Stoneham, Massachusetts and taught at the medical schools of Tufts University, Boston University, and Harvard University. He has published more than fifty books which have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. In 2008 he wrote, “The Third Jesus.” This is what he wrote about Jesus in the Foreword.
Jesus did not physically descend from God’s dwelling place above the clouds, nor did he return to sit at the right hand of a literal throne. What made Jesus the Son of God was the fact that he achieved God-consciousness. Jesus said as much, over and over, when he declared that “the Father and I are one.” He knew no separation between his thoughts and God’s thoughts, his feelings and God’s feelings, his actions and the actions God wanted performed. (Chopra, Deepak. The Third Jesus: The Christ We Can’t Ignore. pg 4.)
The book was named one of the best “spiritual books” of 2008 by Spirituality & Practice. Dr. Chopra may know medicine, but I can assure you that he doesn’t know the Bible because what he writes about Jesus isn’t found in the Word of God. In the very first verse of our study this morning, John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” Dr. Chopra says, “What made Jesus the Son of God was the fact that he achieved God-consciousness. Jesus said as much, over and over, when he declared that ‘the Father and I are one.’” That’s really interesting because Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” only one time, not over and over again. The problem we have is that those who read the statement by Dr. Chopra won’t go and check to see if what he wrote was true. I mean who am I to question him? He’s brilliant, he’s a doctor, he’s sold millions of books, and if that weren’t enough…he’s friends with Oprah!
You can believe what Dr. Chopra believes about Jesus and fit in perfectly fine in our society, but if you hold to the Bible’s teaching about Jesus and openly share that teaching in our society then you will draw all kinds of criticism, you’ll be labeled as a bigoted, backwoods, narrow-minded, Bible-thumping-fundamentalist, and declared to be dangerous to the public.
Sadly, more and more people who claim to be followers of Jesus and sit in a pew on Sunday are espousing beliefs that are more closely aligned with the cultural assessment of Jesus than with the Word of God. The Barna Group released a survey in April of 2015 that illustrates what I’m talking about. They say,
Although a core teaching of the Christian faith is the divinity and perfection of Jesus Christ, tens of millions of Christians do not accept that teaching. More than one-fifth (22%) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat. Holding the opposing view were 9% who disagreed somewhat and 46% who disagreed strongly. Six percent did not have an opinion on this matter. (The Barna Group, “Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or The Holy Spirit Exists.” April 2015)
Now, you have to remember the poll is based on what Christians believe. They didn’t quiz atheists, pagans, Muslims, Buddhists, or those who say they are “spiritual.” Thirty-nine percent of Christians believe, to some degree, that Jesus sinned? Really?
One more example before we move on. Steve Cable is the Senior Vice President of Probe Ministries. Two years ago he published, “Cultural Captives: The Beliefs and Behavior of American Young Adults.” His study targeted believers who are 18-29 years of age. What he learned, based on his interviews, is really eye-opening. One of the most eye-opening discoveries is that only one in three people in this age group who say they have been “born-again” believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to get into heaven. Cable writes, “This means that two thirds of them do not believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.” How do you justify that belief in light of Jesus’ words in John 14:6 where He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)
As sad as all of this is, it’s not new. Societies have always debated the significance of Jesus, who He was, and what His life meant. In the Church there have always been those who have denied the claims Jesus made for Himself. Yet, in each generation there have been those who refused to give in to the pressure placed on them by society and pop culture to adjust their beliefs into something more palatable, more acceptable for everyone. For those of you who doubt what I am saying and think you can look back to a time when the Church was totally united in its beliefs and free from the fight for truth, I want to invite you to read about the history of The Nicene Creed written in 325 A.D. We won’t take the time to go through it this morning, but let me give you the one line synopsis: The leaders of the Church came together to make a bold statement that they affirmed the Bible’s teaching of the full divinity and eternal nature of Jesus. They did this because there was a group of folks who claimed to be followers of Jesus who denied these teachings. Now, let’s turn to our Scripture for this morning found in John 10:30-42.
30 I and the Father are one.” 31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”‘? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be set aside– 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. 40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus. (John 10:30-42 NIV)
I’ve spent a lot of time with this Scripture this past week. During that time it dawned on me that Jesus’ adversaries knew full well what He was saying when He said, “I and the Father are one.” We know that because we are told, “Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him…” Jesus saw them bend down and pick up rocks. He knew what they were planning to do. Jesus said, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” They answered Jesus by saying, “We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Did you hear that? “You, a mere man, claim to be God.” Let me assure you they had not just read Deepak Chopra’s book and were inferring that Jesus had reached “God consciousness.” They knew what Jesus was saying because He had made the claim, in various ways, before.
The most controversial section of our Scripture this morning is found in verses 34-36. This Scripture is loved by those who mistakenly say that each person has a “spark of the divine” within them, that we can achieve “God consciousness,” and those who hold to the Mormon teaching of “Theosis,” which is the divine potential of human beings. Lorenzo Snow was the fifth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints back in the 1800’s. He once said, “As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may be.” This is hardly what Jesus was teaching when, in John 10:34-36. Read it with me.
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”‘? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be set aside– 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? (John 10:34-36 NIV)
If you will notice, Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament. He tells us that when we read, “Is it not written in your Law…” Let’s take a closer look by turning to the place where Jesus found the phrase, Psalm 82.
1 A psalm of Asaph. God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? 3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ 7 But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.” 8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance. (Psalm 82:1-8 NIV)
You can see that Jesus was quoting from verse 6, “I said, ‘You are gods;’” If you simply read that statement in isolation then you can make of it anything you want. You can use it to validate Deepak Chopra’s belief, you can use it to validate the teaching of Mormonism, and you can get creative and come up with some crazy belief all your own. The thing we have to remember is this: When we study the Word of God we have to remember that context is the best teacher if we want to learn the intent of the author. You can’t read a verse in isolation from every other verse around it. The entire 82nd Psalm is an indictment of the judges of Israel. James Montgomery Boice, in his commentary on John 10, comments about these judges.
They are consecrated to a special task, indeed a holy task; and in God’s name they exercise authority and power. ‘Now,’ says Jesus, ‘I too have been sent into this world by God the Father and that for a specific task. In that task I exercise authority and power, just as the judges of Israel did. If the word ‘gods’ can be used of mere men because of their function—if judges can be called gods—then how much more should I be called God in the full sense since I have received a unique commissioning and exercise unique power? (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: Volume 3. pg. 792-793.)
The judges had been given authority by God, but they weren’t God. Jesus said if they were given authority and called “gods,” those with authority and power, why doesn’t it make sense to you that the One the Father has set apart and sent into the world for a special task is truly God? The judges of Psalm 82 showed they were far from God because of their failure to carry out the assignment given to them by God. Jesus on the other hand never failed to do His Father’s perfect will. In John 6:38-40, Jesus told the listening crowd,
38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40 NIV)
Jesus was sent on assignment from God to carry out the Father’s desire to save those who were estranged from Him, to reconcile sinners to Himself, to redeem the lost—that’s you and me.
Some will admit that Jesus was different from us, yet He wasn’t God. I’ve read some Bible teachers this past week who have said that it’s the Church and not Jesus or the Bible that make Him out to be God. I looked into that. We’ve already seen where Jesus unashamedly proclaimed that He was God, that’s the very reason His accusers wanted to stone Him to death over and over again. What about the Early Church, what about the authors of the New Testament who wrote about what they had experienced? Well, I would think that if any of Jesus’ followers would be willing to tell the truth about Jesus that it would be the Apostle Paul. Paul wasn’t one of the original disciples; he came to know Jesus while he was hunting down His followers. Paul was a Jew, adamantly opposed to Jesus and what Paul and his Jewish religious leaders considered Jesus’ blasphemous ways. Yet, after Paul’s conversion, his mind was changed. If you will turn with me to Colossians, I want to show you what Paul wrote about Jesus after he was converted. Paul wrote,
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV)
Paul uses a very interesting word in verse 19 that we really need to understand if we want to fully understand the meaning of what he is teaching. The Greek word, “???????” (pleroma), translated, “fullness” in verse 19, means, “That which has been filled.” Most believe that Paul borrowed the word from an early form of Gnosticism that taught that the “pleroma” was the sum total of all divine powers that were divided among the various emanations or beings. Paul said that all of the divine powers of God were found in Jesus and Him alone. Paul uses the same Greek word in the next chapter of his letter to the Church in Colosse where he writes,
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10 NIV)
I run into people quite often that say, “Well, you know the Bible was written by men. It was written to suit the interests of those who wrote it. You really can’t trust it.” That’s really interesting to me. That’s certainly not how Jesus viewed the Bible. It’s not the way His opponents viewed the Hebrew Bible either. Jesus used Scripture to prove His point because He knew the religious leaders diligently searched the Scriptures. After quoting Psalm 82, Jesus said, “and Scripture cannot be set aside.” Some other translations, like the ESV, KJV, and the NAS translate the Greek, “Scripture cannot be broken.” What Jesus means to remind His listeners is that Scripture can’t be faulted, Scripture can’t be wrong, or in error.
The Bible, throughout history, has been held as the Word of God, not the word of people about God. St. Augustine was born in 354 A.D. and at the age of 31 was converted to Christ. He was one of the most brilliant thinkers of the Early Church, a Church Father, and the Bishop of Hippo in Northern Africa. When the Roman Empire fell and the faith of God’s people was shaken, Augustine wrote, “The City of God,” and reassured God’s people that the Kingdom of God, the City of God, was unshakeable. Many hung on Augustine’s every word and yet he wrote,
Do not follow my writings as Holy Scripture. When you find in Holy Scripture anything that you did not believe before, believe it without doubt; but in my writings, you should hold nothing for certain. (St. Augustine. “Preface to the Treatise on the Trinity.”)
“Believe it without doubt.” I could offer no greater advice to you than this when it comes to God’s Word. Believe it without doubt. Study it, examine it, wrestle with it, but believe it without doubt. Trust God’s Word above all else. When you fail to understand God’s Word, trust God’s Word rather than your own intellect or intuition.
My question to you before we leave here this morning is this: “Who” or “what” will you give the final authority about what is of greatest importance in life and about how you should live your life? We all rely upon someone or something. Stop and think about that for a moment. We have many teachers in our church. When you stand to teach your students the lesson for the day you have drawn up your lesson plans based on sources. Not all sources are the same, not all sources are reliable, but you’ve found reliable sources that you trust, that you rely upon in passing on information to your students. This is true for every profession. You learned your profession from those you trust, those you found to be reliable. You make decisions, informed decisions, based upon the authority and reliability of those you trust and hold in high regard. If you are a stock broker you might not want to ask me what I think or you’ll end up broke. You might want to call Warren Buffet or one of Bloomberg’s stock analysts. If you are a new mom or dad you’ll want to talk to someone that you respect, someone who has already walked that path and faced the challenges of raising children.
We don’t want to base our beliefs about Jesus, salvation, our understanding of who we are and why we are here on unreliable sources. Ravi Zacharias told the story about a psychiatrist who was trying to convince one of his patients that he was not Moses. No matter what the doctor said the patient insisted that he was indeed Moses. Finally, the doctor said, “Who told you that you were Moses?” The patient said, “God did!” The man in the next bed raised up and said, “I did not!” Who we listen to, who we allow to have access to our mind and heart will shape our thinking about what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Our first priority is to give our heart and mind to the thorough study of God’s Word so that we can accurately learn about God and what He has to say about Himself, you, me, and the world around us. We can learn these things in God’s Word. If you will do this then you will find that God says He loves you with an everlasting love, a love so great that He sent His Son, Jesus, to give His life on the Cross so that you and I might be reconciled to Him.
Jesus was no mere mortal, He didn’t need to pursue God-consciousness, but He was God Incarnate, God come down to rescue His lost people. In the very first verses of John’s Gospel we read,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4 NIV)
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” By the time John got to the end of his Gospel he was every bit as convinced as he ever had been that Jesus was who He claimed to be and that there was no other means of possessing the life that God intends for His own. In John 20:30-31, he wrote,
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)
What will you do this morning? Will you humble yourself and acknowledge your need for Jesus? Will you continue to resist, to claim that you know what’s best for your life, and turn away from the One who loved you enough to die for you even though you have no desire for Him? I pray that this morning will be the day you turn around and fall into His arms of grace.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 20, 2015