Saturday, April 17, 2010

Do You Know This Man?"

My Dad (The Devolutionist) was once discussing matters of faith with my uncle. Now my uncle is a Jehovah's Witness, and like many in that faith, he is aggressive about spreading what he believes to be the good news of the Watchtower. He is passionate about his faith and equally passionate about debating in general. I think if you gave my uncle a choice between a bologna sandwich and a chance to argue religion or a steak dinner with the obligation to engage only in small talk, the steak would be safe from my uncle's teeth. As usual, they went back and forth on a number of issues, concerning heaven, the existence of hell, how a person attains salvation, and so on. As my uncle countered my father's questions and statements with more of his own (in general, most practicing Jehovah's Witnesses know their Bible pretty well - at least the parts they believe to be salient to their faith), it occurred to my Dad to pose one final statement to my uncle, and it is one every Christian should know how to answer for him or herself and, more importantly, for anyone else that asks:

"You can be right about everything else, but the only thing that really matters is who is Jesus, and what are you going to do about Him."

It's a very valid question. You see, there are millions of people around us who are dying, and we are letting them die. They believe they securely strapped in their life-jackets, but the jackets they are wearing are filled with lead plates, rather than buoyant foam. And we stand by on the boat, watching them furiously tread water as their faces sink beneath the waves.

They are dying, because, all too often, our feeble attempts at sharing the Gospel begin and end with asking whether a person believes in Jesus. Very often the answer is "yes." And we let the matter drop, either because we are satisfied with that simple answer, or because we are stymied by it, and don't know where to go from there.

You see, when someone professes to believe in Jesus, we need to ask the next logical question; one that Jesus Himself asked His followers:

"But what about you? Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)

You see, many who profess faith in Christ would give very different answers than those taught by the Scriptures. The Watchtower teaches that Christ is an exalted angel, the first of God's creations. Brigham Young taught that Christ was an exalted man, the son of a glorified Adam. Islam teaches that Christ was a prophet. Even many in Christian denominations are confused about the identity of Christ, though the Scriptures spell this out very clearly. In Christ's own words:

"Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18)

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58)

In those two places in Scripture, as well as in others, Jesus takes for Himself titles that are clearly reserved elsewhere for God Himself. In Isaiah 43, the God of Jacob identifies Himself as the First and the Last. In Exodus 3, God identifies Himself to Moses as "I AM," indicating His everlasting and ever-present nature. In the Revelation, we know it is Christ speaking, because the Father never died! In John 8, we know the use of the present tense is a correct translation because of the reaction of the Jews of that day: "At this, they picked up stones to stone him..." (John 8:59) - an appropriate reaction to what they perceived as blasphemy in their misunderstanding of Christ's nature.

There are many other evidences of Christ's identity as God in Scripture. We as Christians should know them by heart, lest we let our loved ones drown clinging to a false Christ that is powerless to save them.