Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
July 19, 2015
Was Jesus more than a good man?
Jesus, the man born long ago in Bethlehem of Judea, has a good reputation among the major religions of the world. Most adherents of faiths other than Christianity believe Jesus was a good man.
As a Christian I rejoice that there is dialogue and respect between people of different faiths. We can learn from each other. Indeed Christians have learned much about meditation from people of other faiths. And nothing worthy is ever gained by disparaging people whose view of God is different from our own.
I am concerned, however, by the blurring of lines that is a popular sport among some Christians today. Some scholars would have us believe that one might become a Buddhist Christian because the views of Buddha and Christ are similar.
In this regard even the Dalai Lama, the most popular Buddhist in the world today, admits that the teachings of the Buddha and the Christ are incompatible so there can be no such thing as a Buddhist Christian. Speaking in a Christian conference on meditation, the Dalai Lama rejected the idea by employing a Tibetan expression, “Don’t try to put a yak’s head on a sheep’s body.”
There is a vast difference in the Buddhist view of Jesus and that of Christians. Buddhists do not accept the Christian concept of a Creator God nor the belief in a personal Savior. When asked what question he would ask if he met Jesus, the Dalai Lama replied, “I would ask him if he could describe the nature of the Father.”
Christians, of course, believe that Jesus was himself the greatest revelation of the nature of God. “The Father and I are one,” Jesus said. In Jesus Christ the very Word of God was “made flesh.” So the eternal God was describing his own nature in his “one and only Son.” Buddhists do not share this belief in the divinity of Jesus. For them Jesus was a good man.
The Jews, with whom Christians share a strong mutual heritage, regard the belief that Jesus is the Son of God or the Messiah or a member of the Trinity is incompatible with Jewish theology. The Christian faith is grounded in the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah. The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to appear. They believe Jesus was a good man.
Muslims believe that Jesus was one of the greatest of the prophets but reject the idea that Jesus was crucified on the cross. Islam teaches that God raised Jesus to heaven and put someone else on the cross who looked like Jesus. Strangely Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus but reject the idea that he was the Son of God. Muslims do believe that Jesus was one of the greatest messengers of God, but not the Messiah and not the supreme revelation of God.
When we turn to the New Testament we find no blurring of lines about Jesus. Yes, Jesus was a good man – but so much more!
The writer of Hebrews, for example, shares the Apostle Paul’s uncompromising view of the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Brilliantly he sums up how God has made himself known to humankind. Long ago he spoke through his prophets. Now he has spoken through his Son Jesus Christ. The first several verses of Hebrews Chapter 1 sounds almost like a paraphrase of Paul’s description of Jesus in Colossians Chapter 1.
Neither writer can speak too highly of Jesus as the visible Son who revealed the nature of the invisible Father. Like the letters of Paul, the Book of Hebrews helped First Century Christians understand that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God because the Son is “the exact imprint of God’s very being.”
Grasp that lofty concept and you can no longer think of Jesus as one of several great teachers or prophets. Indeed Jesus perfectly reflects God’s glory as no one else has in the history of the world.
The idea that God “speaks” through his Son is consistent with the entire Bible’s portrayal of God. In Genesis God creates by speaking as in “Let there be light and there was light.” Centuries later John says Jesus is “the Word” of God created “in flesh” – thus “the Word made flesh” who “dwelt among us” so we could “behold his glory.”
The Book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is greater than the angels. Angels were considered powerful beings and messengers of God but Jesus is superior to them all. Not only were all things created by Jesus, he has been given dominion over all things by his Father. Therefore Jesus has a name that is above all other names and is, in fact, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Wise we are then to exalt Jesus by giving him glory and honor with our lips and our lives. He is our Savior and our everlasting Lord. Our daily aim should be to recognize his authority and submit ourselves to him completely so that he can be Lord of all.
The writer of Hebrews is not bashful in giving praise to Jesus. Perhaps we should ponder these questions, “Do other people hear me speak highly of Jesus? Do I speak of him with words of highest praise? Do my friends and family members often hear me speak of the majesty and glory of his name?”
Usually our willingness to praise Jesus is directly related to our experience of the forgiveness of our sins. Trusting Jesus to forgive our sins normally triggers a flood of gratitude for his love. To hear him whisper in your heart, “Your sins are forgiven,” will open the floodgates of praise for his mercy.
The Book of Hebrews tells us Jesus the Son “made purification for sins.” He did this by shedding his own blood for our sins. He suffered and died so that we might be saved by grace and receive the gift of eternal life. The Son’s suffering, death, and resurrection opened the way for us all to be reconciled to God. That is why the song writers insist that “There is power in the blood” of Jesus.
Until Christians realize who Jesus is, they can never steer their churches in the right direction. The church may be busy with many things and yet fail in its primary mission to make Jesus known and loved and served. Many churches work hard doing things that are not worth doing at all because these activities are not lifting Jesus higher.
Putting people in touch with Jesus is the business of the church. Everyone needs to know Jesus because of who he is and what he can do for all who trust him. We come to the Father, and get to know the Father, through Jesus the Son.
We do well to heed the words of C. S. Lewis: “The church exists for nothing else but to draw men unto Christ. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergies, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.”
When you experience the forgiveness of your sins, and realize who Jesus is and all that he had done for us, you cannot help but lift your voice to praise and worship the Son! But be sure of this: we must do more than praise him with our lips. We must so live in our pagan culture that others, especially people of other faiths, will see how much we love and honor Jesus Christ! + + +