© 2008 by Deidre Campbell-Jones
April Theme: Life
Life: John 1:1-4
No Life: John 3:16
In this Easter month of April, I want to do something a little differently and go back to the basics for our Bible Study. The topic this month is “life” and we’ll cover discussions such as new life, the resurrected life and what Christ means when He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6). These next studies will be a perfect opportunity for you to ask questions and make suggestions.
On a plane ride last weekend, coming home from Florida, I had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a woman who was a self-reported “New Ager” and supported the Unity church. Unity churches are interdenominational – they “accept all denominations, not just Christian,” she told me. And that struck me as odd. First of all, how can all denominations worship together? You would have to strip away all the things that separate them as denominations in the first place, and only teach those few left over things that are similar. And secondly, being “Christian” is not a denomination. It is a label that professes a state of belief and the lifestyle associated with that belief. To be a “Christian” is to be a “follower of Christ.”
So if indeed you have an interdenominational church where all “religions” – not just Christianity - worship together, then you must strip away Christ from that service because that is the only thing separating Christianity from any religion. And since Christ is the only basis of Christianity, there really isn’t anything left for the true Christian to worship at a worship service – the very nature of worship is that there is an object or individual to be worshipped – and if you strip away Jesus as that source for worship – what are you actually left to worship at that service?
I would also like to interject at this particular juncture just exactly what I feel about “religion”. I suppose that Catholicism is a religion. Baptists and Methodists, Lutherans and Pentecostals all practice a religion – as do Buddhists, Muslims and Jews. Christianity in and of itself is not a religion. In fact, most people who profess a belief in a Godly being, but not in Christ Jesus as God’s only begotten son, will often say they are “spiritual” and do not practice any “religion”. I think that’s backwards. I think more “non-believers” are religious. Fans religiously follow their teams and celebrities. Doctors and Lawyers religiously practice their trade – there are so many aspects of life that we are “religious” about. But to me, God is a Spirit – He has created spiritual beings. God is in 3 persons – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In my understanding of God, He does not exist without Jesus and the Holy Ghost and that makes believing the very essence of “Spirituality” for me.
The crux of the matter is that you cannot have Christianity without Christ. Jesus is the key factor that causes so much derision and strife and separation between religions such as Atheism, Agnosticism, Paganism, Buddhism and many others that don’t end in “ism”.
It is the truth and subject of Jesus that starts arguments, breeds contention, frustration, starts wars and separates family and friends. And it is this subject I want to discuss a little further.
Recently, Terrance and I had the opportunity to “witness” to a non-believer who is Jewish by heritage, not by practice and professes to be “spiritual”. He believes there is a God and/or a higher power. He believes God (probably more accurately “god”) is present in all things – an ethereal creative force that is the source of all thing beings in existence. He does not rule out the possibility that a man named Jesus existed and that He historically sacrificed himself for mankind, but he sees it as the ultimate act of god-like behavior and does not actually attribute the event to anything personal regarding his own life, nor even anything connected to God or a part of God. That is because Jesus is not God to him – nor is He to most of the world. He did however, ask, “How can Jesus, a man who walked this Earth also be God?” Here’s what I had the opportunity to share with him:
When I taught the primary kids in Sunday school years and years ago, I explained the trinity and our “triune” God this way: we as human beings are beings in three parts – we have our physical body, our minds – which is our heart, our emotions our thoughts and we have our soul, which is the core or our being, personality and life-force within us. We are body, spirit and soul. The bible describes it as body (sometimes might), spirit and soul as well. Deuteronomy 6:5
God created us in His own image. Genesis 1:26a: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” Notice God says, “let US make man in OUR image…” And so, He created us in the likeness of His three facets of self: Soul (God the Father), Body (Jesus the Son, in the flesh), and Holy Spirit (the breath and movement of life). Think of God in terms of water. The very nature of water is H2O. But water has three forms: liquid, ice (solid) and gas (steam). No matter what its form, it is still water - H2O.
Once again: John 1: 1-4 explains a multitude of things. “In the beginning was God. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
In these scriptures, the word “Word” is capitalized. The word of God here is a pronoun. Verse 14 describes why the Word is a pronoun. “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst men.” Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God’s voice. Words are a tangible substance – our words hold weight and they exist in this physical world. God spoke his word into flesh and became a man. God himself became man.
Genesis 1:1 says “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Now remember, John 1 says in the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word was with God. Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God and Jesus was a part of God in the beginning. And it was through His Word [Jesus] that God created all things. Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said let there be light.” And John 1:3 says “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” That includes us who were made in His image. Remember? God said let us make man in our own image… It was through Jesus that we were created and through the Holy Spirit life was breathed into us.
This is why Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The second half of that scripture says “no man comes to the Father except through me.” Herein lays the point of contention for so many. “Why is it that there is only one way to come to God?” Non-believers of Christ Jesus are sure that there are many ways to come to God because they inherently sense that there are many ways to experience God.
God’s presence is everywhere, and God is speaking to us at all times – He wants us to recognize Him and to hear his voice so that He can give us life! John 1:4 continues by saying, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Further down in verse 9 it says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” God’s light shines upon every man that comes into this world whether they recognize Him or not. Everyone – believer or not – can bask in the same sunshine that was created by God. They smell the same flowers, hear the same birds and feel the same presence of God in all things He created. And, they feel the goodness in them and desire that goodness even without desiring to know the source of that good.
John 1:10 explains it this way, “He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” For me it is as if a person believes that steam exists but refuses to believe in ice or the liquid form of water. Our “non-Jewish” Jewish friend, said – if he was dying of thirst and his life saving water evaporated into steam, then of course he’d want to know why. But to me, his analogy holds no water. Jesus is the living water that gives us life. With out him we are dying of thirst – not just spiritually, but physically as well. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever would believe on him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Without Him – we perish. With Him we have life. There are no list of rights and wrongs – just simple belief. Do you believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God? Do you believe that He was born of a virgin? Do you believe that He died on the cross for the transgression of our sins? Do you believe that He was raised again on the third day so that we could have life everlasting? Do you believe in Life?
eHomework: Compare the light in Genesis 1:3-4 to the Light in John 1:4-5
p.s. Do you want to know why Jesus is called the “only begotten son of God” if He was God? Email me and ask… I’ll tell you why.