Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SBC needs to get back to the basics

Last week, the results of the 2007 Annual Church Profile were released, and the results were not good. Southern Baptists reported a decline in both total membership and total baptisms. Membership in our 44,000 churches has gradually tapered off over the past decade and is now showing measurable attrition. Baptisms have declined 7 of the last 8 years, and are at their lowest level since 1987.

The release of these figures has sent the Southern Baptist blogosphere into a frenzy. Now, I know the kingdom of God is a lot bigger than the SBC, but as a pastor in an SBC church, I would be remiss not to comment on these findings.

One of the first bloggers to offer analysis was Ed Stetzer, Director of Lifeway Research. Stetzer observed three issues that seem to rise to the top and help explain our denominational decline. First, he said, we’ve been steadily losing denominational leaders, most notably among the younger generation. Second, we’ve become known for our frequent infighting. Many of our meetings, churches, and even our blogs are distinguished by conflict and pride. Third, and most importantly, Stetzer said we have lost our focus on the gospel. Evangelism has taken a back seat.

Another insightful post came from Nathan Finn, Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Nathan candidly shared his concern over the SBC: “I fear we are too insular, too sectarian, too pugnacious, too ‘Southern,' too reactionary, too pragmatic, and for sure too proud to have any real future. I hope I’m wrong. I pray that I am not the very things I accuse the convention of embodying, though I suspect I am at times. I hope the SBC does have a future, mostly because we had a great – though imperfect – past. I love who we were. I struggle with who we are. I am very fearful of who we will become.”

What’s the root problem of our denominational decline? And what can bring true reform? One thing is certain. The solution is not another denominational “program” or “conference” or “curriculum” or “initiative.” What we really need is radical, local church reformation. I believe Stetzer hit the bulls eye when he remarked, “Our denomination is only as strong as our churches, and these statistics remind us our churches are in trouble.”

That's the key. Denominational reform must begin at the level of the local church. The Southern Baptist Convention may be capable of conducting a survey and identifying a problem, but it hardly has the ability to effect widespread change. Reformation is a work of the Holy Spirit that must take place one Christian at a time, one leader at a time,
one worship service at a time, one ministry at a time, one small group at a time, until the local church begins to conform more into the image of Jesus Christ!

But how can pastors and church leaders facilitate change? When I consider the path toward local church reform (and thus denominational reform), I can think of no better resource than “9 Marks,” based out of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. As their name suggests, this ministry presents nine basic marks which promote genuine church health and growth: expositional preaching, biblical theology, a biblical understanding of the good news, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of membership, biblical church discipline, a promotion of Christian discipleship and growth, and a biblical understanding of leadership. Mark Dever has written a book which develops each of these themes. There is simply no replacement for these God-ordained fundamentals.

If there is to be a bright future for the Southern Baptist Convention, we cannot look to Nashville for the solution. We need to get back to the basics. Reform must begin with the local church. Even more fundamentally, it must begin with each one of us. This isn't about denominational pride. It's about the glory of God in the church of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

If God called me home today...

If God called me home today, what would I have to show for my life? I know my eternity is secure, for I've trusted wholly in the blood of Christ for my forgiveness. But have I stored up any treasure in heaven (Mt. 6:19)? Have I performed any deeds of lasting value, like gold, silver, and precious stone (1 Cor. 3:12)? Would I hear those tender words from my Lord, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Mt. 25:21)?

I ask this question, not because death appears immanent, but because Robert Murray M'Cheyne was exactly my age today when the Lord took him home. M'Cheyne was a Scottish minister who lived from 1813-1843. He is one of my greatest heroes of the faith. And in just 29 short years, he accomplished more for the kingdom of God than most people who are twice his age.

Despite several battles with illness, M'Cheyne remained a man of
deep devotion, compassion, self-discipline. At the age of 24, he pastored a church with 4,000 members. In 1939, he spent six months in Palestine to scout out future missionary work in the region. He wrote many letters and tracts, and preached frequently throughout Scotland. Though he never saw the full effects, M'Cheyne was instrumental in a national revival and the founding of the Free Church of Scotland. His memoirs and shorter biography have been an inspiration to me and countless other Christian leaders and laymen for over 150 years.

I thank the Lord for this humble servant, Robert Murray M'Chenye. I don't know the day or the hour God will take me home, but as long as He keeps me on this earth, I pray I will live with a growing urgency and devotion like this great man of God.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dr. Daniel Wong's Testimony

Dr. Daniel Wong is a Bible Professor at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, CA. His testimony is a vivid example of the trials and joys of Christian discipleship in a land of persecution. As Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mk. 8:34).

Monday, April 21, 2008

The American mission field

"You are now entering the mission field." This message has been posted above the exits doors of countless church buildings. And there's a lot of truth in it. Perhaps now more than ever, as illustrated by David Wells:
"The United States," writes Gordon Melton, "is currently home to more than 1,500 different religious organizations - churches, sects, cults, temples, societies, missions," each the primary focus of spiritual allegiance for its adherents. Some of the more conservative Christian groups continue to speak of America as a Christian country, or at least that it should be... The reality, however, is that America is the world's most religiously diverse nation now and from a Christian point of view it is as fully a mission field as any to which churches now are sending their missionaries. This is true, not only because of the arrival of these new immigrants with their diverse religions, but also because of the post-modern decay in American culture." (Above All Earthly Pow'rs, p. 108)
This doesn't undermine our great need for foreign missionaries, but it does remind us of the spiritual darkness of our own country. It should also cause us to rethink our strategies for global evangelism. Let's not be deceived into thinking America is a "Christian nation." Time is short, and the need for the gospel in America is perhaps greater than ever before.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Favorite Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes (or paraphrases) from the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference and Band of Bloggers seminar. You can download all the messages for free on MP3 at the T4G website.

"According to John 17:13, If you denigrate doctrine, you are a killjoy" - Ligon Duncan

"Christ's blood creates a deeper lineage than our genes" - Thabiti Anyabwile

"Soft preaching makes hard people. Hard truth will make a soft person" - John MacArthur

"We have the only profession in the world where we can take no credit for anything we do" - John MacArthur

"It's not about how cool you are. It's about how clear you are." - John MacArthur

"An evangelistic spirit unmoored from theology will lead to liberalism" - Mark Dever

"Pastors have the only job with a report card that comes after we're done" - Ligon Duncan

"The gospel could not be more kind. It is grace and kindness to tell the truth and then make provision for it." - Al Mohler

"Jesus was the ultimate obscenity" - R. C. Sproul [This statement still sends shivers up my spine as I consider the curse Christ bore on my behalf. See 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13]

"The pure gospel is the only hope we have, and it is hope enough" - R. C. Sproul

"After preaching, we should feel dissatisfied (which motivates us to grow), but not discouraged (which reveals pride)" - C. J. Mahaney

"There is an interconnectedness to the gospel. When you deny penal substitution, you eventually reject other fundamental doctrines as well" - Al Mohler

"Let your ministry have a radical, risky flavor" - John Piper

"Yes, Christ and His work are a means to something (justification, sanctification, glorification). But more importantly, Christ becomes my end. The ticket becomes the treasure. Christ is our final reward." - John Piper

"The sweetest fellowship with the Savior is the fellowship of suffering" - John Piper

"When preparing for a sermon, I pray, 'Lord, show me what's there, and help me feel what's there.' We need both the light and the heat." - John Piper

"In suffering, the possibilities of making much of Jesus are staggering." - John Piper

"Let the cross overshadow everything you write in your blog" - Tim Challies

"Always check your heart before you hit the post button" - Tim Challies

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Racism and the gospel

As reported by Tim Challies, Tuesday night's message at Together for the Gospel was on the topic of racism. It was led by Thabiti Anyabwile.

This issue of racism came up for me several months ago when preaching through John 4. In that chapter, Jesus rejected social norms and the prejudices of His day by talking to a Samaritan woman. This event was shocking because (1) she was a Samaritan and (2) she was a woman. She had two strikes against her before she even arrived at the well!
But Jesus approached her with love, humility, and respect. Neither the woman (Jn. 4:9) nor the disciples (Jn. 4:27) could understand why Jesus would talk with her, but Jesus recognized she was created in God's image, and that He had come to seek and save lost people just like her.

As I watch Jesus minister to this Samaritan woman, I am forced to ask myself, "Is it possible that I have racial prejudice?" My immediate answer is, "No, of course not! I've been born and raised in a culture of equality and color-blindness!
And as a Christian, I treat people of all colors and nationalities with dignity!" Or do I? Perhaps, at times, I have harbored racial prejudice deep within my heart. In doing so, I fail to love my neighbor and give glory to God.

Here are some soul-searching questions that may reveal racism:
  • Do I have less compassion on illegal immigrants because they look differently and speak another language?
  • Am I reluctant to adopt a child of a different skin color?
  • Do I make judgments about a person’s intelligence, abilities, etc. based on their ethnicity?
  • Do I frown upon marriages that are 'interracial'?
  • Would I hesitate submitting to a pastor with a different color skin?
  • Do I tolerate humor that ridicules other nationalities?
  • If I boarded an airplane and discovered my seating assignment was next to an Arab man, would I treat that person with any less respect?
  • Would I be willing to incorporate into our worship service styles of music that represent other cultures?
  • Is my conception of Jesus that of a White, Anglo-Saxon?
  • Do I ignore the painful discrimination that people of another skin color have experienced in the past or present? ("weeping with those who weep," Rom. 12:15)
  • Would I be willing to give my life to share Christ with people of another ethnic heritage?
Wretched man that I am! Why would I ever consider my language, or my culture, or my skin color superior in any way? Why would I give preference to people who look or sound like me, while showing prejudice against those who are different? This is just another example of pride. It must be confessed and purged from my thinking.

What does the gospel have to do with all this? Thankfully, Jesus Christ abolished racism, not only in His life, but ultimately in His death. By shedding His blood on the cross, He died for the sins of all humanity and became the "Savior of the world" (Jn. 4:52). With the price of His blood, He purchased for God "men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9). There is no racism in heaven, and there should be no racism in the church. The final remedy for racism is the cross of Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The courage to be protestant

Eerdmans has just released a new book by David Wells called The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. It's the summary and culmination of his last 15 years of research and writing.

Wells is a deep thinker, and is very perceptive when it comes to identifying problems and offering gospel-centered solutions for the contemporary church. Though humble and soft-spoken, he is a theological heavyweight who takes powerful swings at both the seeker-sensitive and the emergent church models.

Here are some endorsements for his latest work:

"David F. Wells speaks for a great many commentators inside and outside the evangelical camp when he contends that American evangelicalism is sick at soul . . . His work is being hailed as a bombshell by evangelical leaders who hope it will wake up American evangelicals and alert them to their peril."
-- The Christian Century

"David Wells is one of the most profound Christian thinkers of our time . . . .His insight is keen, his burden righteous, his moral pain deeply felt." -- Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

I'm very excited about this book, and plan to begin blogging through it in May, taking one chapter per week. Would you like to join me? If so, just order your own copy, and I'll give reading instructions as we get closer. I'd love to get your impressions of the book and to use this blog as a forum to discuss some of the issues Wells brings up.

Do YOU have the courage to be protestant? Why not read the book and find out?

Friday, April 11, 2008

A review of the HCSB

Someone recently asked me what I thought of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). This translation was published in 2003 and is doing quite well. In fact, it ranked #7 in Bible translation sales in February, beating out The Message and my own personal preference, the New American Standard Bible (you can see the full report on the CBMW Gender blog). In the introduction to the HCSB, the editors list four goals:
  • to provide English-speaking people across the world with an accurate, readable Bible in contemporary English
  • to equip serious Bible students with an accurate translation for personal study, private devotions, and memorization
  • to give those who love God’s word a text that is easy to read, visually attractive on the page, and appealing when heard
  • to affirm the authority of the Scriptures as God’s inerrant word and to champion its absolutes against social or cultural agendas that would compromise its accuracy
In his book How to Choose a Bible Version, Robert Thomas gives a mixed review of the Holman Bible. (The parenthetical numbers represent his five main criteria for choosing a Bible.) He says,

The HCSB has the same goal as many other versions of the Bible: to obtain the ideal balance between faithfulness to the original text and readability. It has probably sacrificed too much of the former in order to achieve the latter, however. For example, it has omitted many conjunctions of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek originals, and has rarely if ever translated into English the original's basis for the familiar 'and it came to pass' (KJV) or 'and it came about' (NASB) that occurs so frequently in the text. That and similar factors reduce the effectiveness of this version as a study tool (#3). The presence of two English stylists on the eight-member editorial committee overseeing the project probably accounts for the diminishing of literal renderings, but also increases the readability value for the casual reader (#5). Also, the version's decision to render the Greek word Christos as 'Christ' in some context (426 times) and 'Messiah' (125 times) in others introduces interpretation of the translators into the text and thereby weakens its value as a study tool (#3). As a rule, the HCSB has allowed an Alexandrian text-type, but has clouded the issue by not clarifying instances where the reader must choose between the Alexandrian and Byzantine text-types. The version has created this confusion by including ancient uninspired texts from Christian tradition and interpretation alongside the inspired text without alerting the lay reader in each place which text is inspired and which is not. This is a weakness in the area of textual basis (#2) as it is also in the area of theological bias (#4) because it implies a weak view of biblical inspiration. One would hasten to say, however, that this impression does not reflect the translators' view on the inerrancy of Scripture. As a whole, the version is theologically conservative, including its determination to avoid gender neutral inclinations (#4). Of course, the HCSB falls outside the Tyndale tradition of translations and thus possesses no historical lineage (#1). (quoted from pp. 156-57).
Picture a line with word 'readable' on the far left, and 'literal' on the far right. Every Bible translation falls somewhere on this continuum. Versions on the left side are what scholars call 'dynamic equivalence,' while versions on the right side are 'formal equivalence.' The goal is to find a translation that finds a balance of both, but there is always going to be a trade-off. In general, the more readable or conversational your translation is in English, the less faithful it will be to the original Hebrew or Greek.

I think it's good for many people to start with a more readable translation, like the NIV or HCSB, and then gradually work toward a more literal translation like the NASB, NKJV, or ESV once they become more skilled at reading and more familiar with the flow of Scripture. The more literal versions are not as enjoyable from a literary standpoint, but they are more conducive for deep Bible study.

Perhaps the best solution is to keep 3-4 translations at your fingertips and to compare between them regularly. But I think we all eventually fall in love with one particular translation. And as long as we are regularly reading and applying it, that can be a very good thing.

December 2010 Update: I'm becoming more and more impressed with this translation, and have been giving it a "test drive" from the pulpit this month. With the Apologetics Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, and a 2009 revision, I believe this translation has really matured and gone more mainstream. Here's a paper by Dr. Bill Barrick showing the exegetical accuracy of the HCSB. 

October 2011 Update: After a year of testing, I finally decided to go with the ESV translation. Click here to find out why.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

7 trends for the modern american church

Last Saturday, I attended the "Equipped for Excellence" conference in Riverside. This annual event is organized by the Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association and hosted at Cal Baptist University. The conference began 17 years ago as a Sunday School Teacher Training workshop, and has evolved into quite a large-scale teaching conference. This year, attendance surpassed 1500 - what I believe is a new record for "E for E."

There were three things I really enjoyed about this year's conference. First, the fellowship with other church members. A total of seven members from our church attended. It was so good to spend the whole day with them, traveling together, singing together, eating together, and learning together. It made the day not only a time of personal enrichment, but of mutual edification and team building.

Second, I appreciated the organization. From publicity, to registration, to meals, to speakers, to handouts, the whole event was executed almost flawlessly. It's obvious that Marty Leech and his staff put a tremendous amount of time into planning and praying for this event. I applaud them for modeling good organization, communication, and spirit of excellence to all of the Sunday School teachers who were present.

The third highlight was the parables class. After an opening general session, all the attendees split up into different electives. Several from our church chose to attend a class on the parables, taught by Richard Mobley, New Testament professor at Cal Baptist. Mobley did an outstanding job giving an overview, interpretive framework, and specific examples in the parables. His passion and knowledge held our attention all morning and afternoon. Perhaps I'll share some of these principles in a future post.

For now, let me summarize what was said during the general session. We were privileged this year to have Thom Rainer as the keynote speaker. Rainer is the president of Lifeway Christian Resources and has written many books including The Unchurched Next Door and Simple Church. The title of his message was "7 Trends for the Modern American Church." Rainer is a statistics guru. So it came as no surprise when he said most of these observations came from statistical or anecdotal evidence. Here are the seven trends, with some brief reflections:
  1. More and more churches are de-emphasizing evangelism. As Rainer said, evangelism must be taught and modeled by leadership. But even more importantly, the gospel must become more central to all we say and do as a church. We must "guard what has been entrusted to us, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called 'knowledge'" (1 Tim. 6:20). As our people develop a higher view of God, a more accurate view of man, an appreciation for the work of Christ, and an understanding of human responsibility, we will naturally begin to share the gospel with greater compassion, frequency, and effectiveness.
  2. The increasing receptivity of lost people to the gospel. While lost people are probably becoming more receptive to spiritual things, this does not necessarily mean they are receptive to "the gospel." Our postmodern society is driven by feelings, opinions, and experiences, but many resist any claim to absolute truth. We must offer them biblical truth and certainty in a spirit of grace and humility. We must proclaim with confidence that Jesus Christ is exclusively "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6).
  3. The closing of 100,000 churches in the next 10 years (though many others will be started in this same time period). This statistic is too broad to mean much. Does this include all religions? Only Protestant Christianity? The mere existence of a church does not guarantee spiritual health. A little town with 30 churches may be better off with only 10 churches a decade from now, if those 10 churches are more faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, our goal is not simply more churches, but healthier churches.
  4. Sermons and Bible studies based on the same text. If synchronized sermons and Bible studies are helping more churches get into the Word, then praise the Lord! But if more preachers would just be faithful to exposit the Word of God, this would not be a problem. There is a spiritual famine in modern evangelicalism, and many of God's people are starving for biblical truth. Those of us called by God to be pastors have a responsibility to feed the sheep (Jn. 21:17).
  5. Churches implementing a process of discipleship (often tied to a purpose statement). I'm thankful that more churches are becoming clear in their goals and proactive in discipling new believers. We must make sure that these goals and priorities align with the Word of God.
  6. Churches are moving toward four major emphases: right structure, right content, right attitude, and right action. Rainer was moving pretty fast by this point, and didn't have a chance to develop his last two points very much.
  7. Great disparity between the churches that do survive. Rainer didn't explain what he meant by this, but I can attest that churches seem to be growing more diverse rather than more alike. In fact, this seems to be part of the NAMB church-planting strategy. They want to plant a church to reach every sub-culture. So, you end up with a hip-hop church, a biker church, a yuppie church, an emergent church, etc. The problem with this is that the church should be a "melting-pot" of all ages, races, and cultures. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). We must balance our zeal to reach different sub-cultures with our zeal to promote Christian unity. I believe churches should have ministries that cater to these different sub-cultures, but we should ultimately be able to put aside our differences and serve and worship together. Otherwise, we will lack diversity and become dangerously self-centered. One of the hallmarks of the local church should be our ability to co-exist through our common bond in Christ. It may be difficult at times, but I believe it's worth the effort.
At the end of his message, Rainer encouraged us to stop majoring on the minors, keep our priorities straight, and remember that "It is a sin to be good when God has called us to be great." God has chosen to do His kingdom work through the church, and we must learn to appreciate and support it. Very true!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Still growing

Kirk Cameron recently published a biography called Still Growing. I enjoyed reading this review by Tim Challies, and thought you might as well. It gives some interesting details about his life as a movie star, and how he came to faith in Christ. Kirk now spends much of his time doing evangelism alongside Ray Comfort through the Way of the Master.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Time saving trick

I think “hidden text” is one of the most under-appreciated features in Microsoft Word. It’s become an invaluable tool in my weekly lesson planning and Bible teaching. First, let me explain how to create hidden text, and then I’ll demonstrate how to use it.

To create “hidden text,” you first need to select the text you want to hide. Then go to Format > Font. A little window will pop up, and one of your “Effects” options is to create “hidden text.” Once this button is checked, your highlighted text will be hidden both on your screen and in your printed documents. However, you can easily view hidden text on the screen by clicking the “Show/Hide paragraph” button on the Standard toolbar.

Why is this helpful? I first heard of this feature a couple years ago while reading a discussion thread by some teachers. One of the teachers said they used “hidden text” when creating a True/False or multiple choice test. They would create the test with blanks, and then “hide” the answer key right in the document.

It then occurred to me - I could use the same trick to create a Bible lesson handout with blanks, then include all my answers and lecture notes in the same document as hidden text. This saves me the time of having to create two separate files: one for the teacher and one for the students. You can view a sample document here. Again, you can toggle the hidden text on/off by clicking the “Show/Hide paragraph” button. To print a document with hidden text visible, go to File > Print > Options > Include with document: hidden text.

I’d encourage you to experiment with “hidden text” a little bit. If you find yourself starting to use it regularly, you can create a simple keyboard macro to save time. First, go to Tools > Macro > Record New Macro. Name your macro something like “hiddentext”. Assign a keyboard shortcut (I use “ctrl + w”). Once the macro recording has started, click on Format > Font > Hidden text. Then click the red square to stop the macro recording. That’s it! You’ve created a new macro shortcut. You can now create hidden text at any time simply by clicking “ctrl + w”. One further tip: to distinguish hidden text from visible text, I like to put my hidden text in blue. You can add this step into your macro recording so that “ctrl + w” will hide the text and change color to blue all at the same time.

Note: Hidden text should not be used to store sensitive information, because it is easily made visible.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The deity of Christ

No, this chart does not represent the number of foreclosures in California. It shows the number of active members in the group known as "Jehovah's witnesses" across the United States. Jehovah's witnesses have grown exponentially in the last few decades, but their denial of Christ's deity has remained the same. Are they wrong?

We can't afford to be wrong about Jesus Christ. In 1 John 2:23, we are warned that "whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." If we deny or disregard the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, we have denied the Son and called Him a liar. And tragically, those who deny the Son "do not have the Father." God has no part with them. If on the other hand we accurately confess Christ, we have a wonderful promise that we "have the Father also."

So, who is the Son, and how can we make sure we're believing in the right one? Was Jesus merely a moral man? A great prophet? A wise teacher? The "highest" of all created beings? No, none of these phrases adequately describe Him.
He is not merely a moral man; He is the holy fulfillment of God's Law (Matt. 5:17). He is not just a teacher; He is the author of all wisdom (Col. 2:3). He is not only a prophet; He is the living Word of God (Jn. 1:14). He is not the "highest" of all created beings; He is the very one who created all things (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). Jesus Christ is God.

Although there are many verses in the Gospel of John that teach the Deity of Christ (e.g. John 1:1, 14; 8:59; 10:30; 20:28), one of my favorites is John 5:17. In this passage, Jesus has just healed a lame man and been accused of violating the Sabbath. In response, Jesus makes an incredibly bold statement: "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." To our ears, it may sound harmless at first, but to a first century Jew, Jesus has just thrown down the gauntlet. Notice two claims to deity in this verse:
  • First, Jesus claims to work in the same way as God. Obviously, God does not stop His work on the Sabbath day. Even when humans rest, God continues to sustain life, cause crops to grow, keep stars on course, and sovereignly superintend over all events. Our powerful creator never ceases to work. (And we can be very thankful He never takes a day off or falls asleep on the job!) Even the Jewish leaders acknowledged this. But here's the rub. Jesus claims equality with God when He says "My Father is working...and I Myself am working." Two verses later, He adds, "whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (Jn. 5:19). That's a pretty bold statement. Jesus has the same power and prerogative to work on the Sabbath as His Father does. In fact, Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Lk. 6:5). Jesus is God because He does the work of God.
  • Second, Jesus claims to have a unique relationship with God. Notice that Jesus does not call Him "the Father" or even "our Father," but "My Father." Jesus has a unique and intimate union with His heavenly Father that has existed from eternity past; He knows and loves His Father to a degree that you and I will never fully appreciate. The Jews immediately sensed what Jesus was getting at here. They knew He "was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God" (Jn. 5:18). And because they rejected this claim to deity, they sought to kill Him. Nevertheless, Jesus is God because God is uniquely His Father, and Jesus is the only begotten (one-of-a-kind) Son of God (cf. Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18).
While never violating the monotheism of the Old Testament (Deut. 5:7; 6:4-5), Jesus expands our understanding by showing that God is actually three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus claims to be equal with God in both the way He works and in the way He relates to His Father. And unless we accurately believe in Jesus as God the Son, we do not have God the Father.

New Blog

Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...