Category Archives: Christianity

What Is “Organic” Church?

The following is copied directly from my notes for this Sunday morning’s sermon. I thought it would be worth sharing.

“Organic Church”

In thinking of ways to promote our little church, the word “organic” came to mind. But why? What does the word organic mean, anyway? I went to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary to find an answer. Here is the definition in four points:

Organic

adjective

1    relating to or derived from living matter.

▶   Chemistry relating to or denoting compounds containing carbon and chiefly or ultimately of biological origin. Compare with inorganic.

2    Physiology relating to a bodily organ or organs.

▶   Medicine (of a disease) affecting the structure of an organ.

3    (of food or farming) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.

4    denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole.

▶   characterized by natural development.[1]

 

Thinking about the first part of this definition, what is church if not “relating to or derived from living matter”? What is the Church but the body of Christ in the earth, with Jesus as the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23)? Do we not derive our life from Him? Without a relation to a living Being, aren’t we nothing more than dead sepulchers?

Ephesians 1:22-23 – And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Colossians 1:17-18 – And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

I find it interesting to consider, too, that “organic” means something that is “ultimately of biological origin.” Even though the Church is a spiritual body, does it not find its origins in the actual living body of the risen Jesus Christ? YES! Jesus, God in flesh, the God-Man, is the Chief Compound from which the rest of us get our DNA.

1 Corinthians 15:14-17 – And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Thinking of the second part, it might be difficult at first to draw a connection. However, “relating to a bodily body of organs” is absolutely pertinent and applicable to whom we are. South Soddy Baptist is one organ in a body of organs; we are part of the Body as a whole. Even though we may have our own structure and unique characteristics, we are organically related to a larger organ, the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:16 – From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Paul made it abundantly clear that not all parts of the body are the same, nor do they all function in the same way. Some are more prone to honor, while others are humble and rarely thought of. Nevertheless, each one is important and useful and needed to help with the function of the whole. Even the smallest organ in the body, if it becomes infected, can spread sickness and death, affecting other parts of the Body in ways that might not be felt until long down the road. Therefore, even though a large church in an association may serve the function of a major organ, such as the heart or the lungs, the small church, like an infected tooth, or a torn tendon, can render the collection of organs ineffective, if not worse.

1 Corinthians 12:14-16, 20, 22 –  For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. … Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

The third part of the above definition has to do with food and farming, and that’s really where our modern society has become the most familiar with the word organic. Organic foods are sold for a premium because they are supposedly produced “without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.” People want “naturally-grown” food, not the kind that needs engineered and artificial influences to produce what is assumed will appeal to the mass market.

What is organic church but the result of seed planted, rooted in doctrinally-rich soil, watered by the Spirit, and exposed to the radiance of the Son? Will it be a product that the mass market will desire? Not likely. It doesn’t usually conform to the manufactured standards and the whims of finicky consumers. Will it meet the desires of every taste? Not when the average palate has grown accustomed to added sweeteners and flavor enhancers, as opposed to the simple, wholesome sweetness of heavenly manna itself.

Numbers 11:5-6 NKJV – “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; “but now our whole being [is] dried up; [there is] nothing at all except this manna [before] our eyes!

Psalm 19:9-10 NKJV – The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The modern church, in so many cases, is nothing less than the result of market analysis and product enhancement. So often, instead of being simple, rough around the edges, oddly shaped, and maybe a little small – i.e., organic tomatoes – the many of the more well-attended churches are often dosed with unnatural additives meant to appeal to the increasingly desensitized taste buds of the average worshiper.

Psalm 119:140 – Thy word [is] very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Then there is the fourth part of the above definition: “denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole,” and “characterized by natural development.” Let’s try to unpack that a little bit.

Something that is organic should have as a characteristic the tell-tale signs of everything having worked together as designed to produce a product that is typical of the original, natural design. It should also display signs of having naturally aged, matured, and ripened.

What healthy church is one that is at odds with, in contention with, or in competition with other elements within the whole? How can there be “harmonious relationship” when one branch fights with another branch of the same plant? How can a healthy church “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” when it eats its own?

What healthy church is in conflict with the soil in which its roots take hold? What healthy church repels the water of the Spirit? What healthy church is in conflict with the light of the Son? What healthy church grows to great heights overnight? What healthy church – what organic church – produces food with empty calories that leaves the hungry fatter, yet more malnourished than when they first consumed it?

What are some additives we need to watch out for?

  • Elaborate facilities?
  • Mood enhancers, such as lighting, stage sets, pre-service promos, etc.?
  • Creative outlines and sermon series?
  • Committees on committees on committees?
  • Denominational teaching curriculum?
  • Worship times and schedules?
  • Titles and positions?
  • Social and cultural programs?
  • Celebrity status?

What does the unmodified, unaltered, heirloom-seed quality product look like?

Acts 2:42-47 – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. [43] And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. [44] And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [45] And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. [46] And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, [47] Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

James 1:27 – Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) [24] And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The only kind of foods that look exactly alike, like the ones in the bins at the supermarket produce section, are the ones that have been genetically modified, chemically enhanced, and very often forced to mature and ripen earlier than nature’s schedule. They are presented that way in order to appeal to the preconceived notions and tastes of the largest number of consumers.

Organic fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will not always look alike; they may have little flaws here and there; and size will always vary. But one thing is for sure, they will be much better for you and your family; they will require a lot more care to keep fresh; and you’ll definitely pay a higher price to obtain them.

Let’s ask God to work in us, purify us, and make us into the organic church He wants us to be.

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, Preaching

Things to Do In 2019: More Mercy, Compassion, and Grace

I Broke the Law

Oh, I know what you’re probably thinking. Being that I am a Christian, a preacher, and “the recovering legalist,” by breaking the law you think I’m referring to something of a spiritual or biblical nature, like eating pork, or smoking a cigar.

No, I literally broke the law! Like as in a statute recorded in a City Hall – the kind for which a police officer can arrest someone.

What did I do?

Well, this morning I drove my daughter Katie to where she is student teaching in Dayton, Tennessee. She directed me off the main highway and through a part of the town where I rarely visited.

As I came to a 4-way intersection, I looked all over for a stop sign, then up for a traffic light, but I saw nothing (which I thought was odd), so I proceeded cautiously, looking to my left, then right.

That’s when I saw the bright red light. I had just run a red light! I’m a professional driver – I don’t do that kind of thing!

And when you’re in a little 2-horse town, that’s NOT a good thing to do, especially when there’s a budget crunch!

So, why didn’t I see the light? It wasn’t where I expected it to be – nowhere close. It was on the other side of the intersection, about 6-ft off the ground. I just didn’t see it until I crossed the intersection and there it was on my right, shining at me through the passenger-side window.

Breaking Our Laws

Thankfully, there was not a police car anywhere close. I can only hope there were no traffic cameras, or else I’m going to have to pay a fine, for I did, in fact, break a law, and ignorance is no excuse.

But how often do people break OUR laws? And by that I mean the kind of regulations and legalistic standards we all have; the kind that lead us to judge others’ spirituality based on how they dress, the tattoos on their face, or what’s in their glass at the restaurant.

Even when our standards of conduct and demeanor are biblically justified, what if the other person just missed the light at the intersection? What if they never read that verse?

When you have the time, I would encourage you to read or re-read the whole chapter of Romans 14.

If the truth be known, much of the time we find ourselves judging others based on OUR laws and regulations, not the ones the Lawgiver has written. So, in reality, who are we to hold them accountable? It’s not our job.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4 ESV

This year I want to criticize less, be less judgmental, and show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace.

I know that’s what I would have wanted when I ran that red light.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Do not judge, grace, legalism

Things to Do In 2019: Avoid Whining and Complaining

I used to hear it said that the world hates a complainer. However, is the world not full of whiners and complainers these days?

The average SJW (social justice warrior) is nothing more than a pale-skinned, black-clothed, fit pitcher with unnaturally-colored hair and absolutely drunk on whine (see what I did there?).

Turn on practically any news station and all you will hear is complaining about something Trump did or didn’t do.

Say the wrong thing to the wrong people and off they’ll trot to the nearest complaint-filing station and whine and complain about how their feelings were hurt.

And, sadly, many Christians are no different; they live like the world in the world and then gripe and complain when the world around them treats them with contempt.

Aren’t we supposed to be different?

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; – Philippians 2:14–15 

How can we be “lights in the world” if all we do is gripe about the darkness?

You may have thought that when I said that I wanted to “avoid whining and complaining” that I meant the kind of whining and complaining that people do when they don’t get their way. If so, you are only partly correct.

Sure, I want to complain less about stuff and things, because, after all, living here in America makes me one of the richest people in the world! What have I got to complain about?

But what I’ve really got to watch out for is the type of whining and complaining that comes when one looks with disgust at a fallen, sinful world and yet does nothing to make a difference.

Dr. Tony Evans put it this way:

“You can’t blame things for being dark if the light bulbs aren’t working. So we’re complaining about the darkness when the bulbs aren’t working, and the Bible says that we are the light of the world.”

Jesus said that we are to let our “light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

If all we do is complain about what’s wrong and never shine the light of the gospel into the darkness, the darkness will never flee, it will be ever-present and grow darker, and we will wind up the antithesis of Philippians 2:14… we will find ourselves guilty, harmful, not acting like “sons of God,” and rebuked by the very crooked and perverse nation we complain about.

Lord, help me to be a light-bearing changer instead of a dim whit complainer. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christianity, current events, Future, ministry, Witnessing

Beginning a 10-Part Series

Happy New Year (2019) to everyone! 

If I was rich, and if I had a secretary who brought me coffee and handled all my correspondence, I would have sent every one of my followers a Christmas card and a New Year’s card – but I’m not rich and I don’t have a secretary, only my wife. She put water in the coffee pot for me this morning, but I’m not going to push my luck.

So, I hope all of you have had a blessed season, even though I wasn’t able to express my feeling with a Hallmark.

The Starter Sermon

Last Sunday, the last one of 2018, I preached a sermon entitled “Things I Want to Do In 2019.” It was a 10-point sermon, but it only took 30 minutes to preach. Unfortunately, it didn’t record! Oh well.

So, what I want to do is take the points – the individual things I want to do – and spread them out over the next couple of weeks, unpacking them in a little more detail than time allowed me to do from the pulpit.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if this series will interest anyone or gain me a bunch of hits, but I feel it needs to be done for myself, if no one else.

As it’s been said many times in the past, if you don’t write down your goals you’re unlikely to reach them.

As a teaser, here is the basic outline I’m going to follow:

“Things I Want to Do In 2019”

James 4:17; Colossians 3:17, 23

  1. Lose an “X” in my clothing. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  2. Avoid anger. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
  3. Avoid whining and complaining.  (Phil. 2:14-17)
  4. Show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace. (Rom 14).
  5. Don’t take time for granted.  (Psalm 144:4).
  6. Strengthen my marriage.  (Proverbs 5:18).
  7. READ more, starting with my Bible. (Ps 119:105, 140; John 17:17)
  8. Never preach another boring or routine sermon.
  9. Pray. (Psalm 55:17)
  10. Win One More. (Proverbs 11:30)

So, may God bless you and and be with you this year. With God’s help we can do more than we think possible.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Living, Christianity, Future, Preaching

“What Can I Do to Help Stop [Christophobia]?”

A funny thing happened while I was doing research…

In preparation for an upcoming post, I came across some information on Planned Parenthood’s website. What I found was a list of things one could do to in order to “help stop homophobia.”

That got me to thinking… What if we took out the words homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and replaced them with other terms, such as Christophobia, Christian, and religious?

What is Christophobia? Well, why don’t we go ahead and practice a little word replacement in Planned Parenthood’s definition of the term homophobia?

“The [Christophobia] definition is the fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are [Christians]…”

See how that worked? Pretty simple.

Is Christophobia a real thing? I think so, but you can decide. Below are the re-worded suggestions from Planned Parenthood’s website. I think they speak for themselves.


What can I do to help stop [Christophobia]?

No one has the right to discriminate against or bully another person, or to hurt them emotionally or physically. There are several things you can do to help stop [Christophobia]:

  • Don’t ever use negative or offensive language to describe [Christian] people.
  • Be careful of how even casual language — such as saying “that’s so [Christian]”— can hurt others.
  • Don’t believe stereotypes about [Christian] people or make assumptions about them.
  • Be a vocal supporter of the [Christian] community, regardless of your own sexual orientation and identity. This is called being an ally.
  • Let the [Christian] people in your life know that you’re a friend and ally.
  • Educate yourself on [Christian] issues.
  • Respect [Christian] people’s decisions about when and where to come out.
  • Join your school’s [Christian] Alliance, or start one at your school. [Lifeway] can help with that.
  • Remember that being [Christian] is just one part of a person’s complex identity and life.
  • Show as much interest in your [Christian] friends’ or family members’ partners as you would show in [your own] partner.
  • If you feel safe doing so, speak up when other people are being [Christophobic], such as making offensive jokes, using negative language, or bullying or harassing someone because of their [religious] orientation or identity.

Interesting, don’t you think?

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Filed under Christianity, current events, General Observations, politics

Pray for Ben

First of all, it’s getting to be a very busy time of the year, and, along with sicknesses, injuries, caring for others, funerals and weddings, preaching, family parties, business parties, etc., etc., etc., I’m going to try to keep some posts coming…

but they will be fewer and farther between.

Therefore, whenever I find something like the following video to share, my work is essentially done 😉

Please watch, then pray.

The following video is worth every minute of the time it will take to watch it. You will rarely get a chance to watch and listen to a more substantive, rational, respectful interview by anyone anywhere, but especially when dealing with such heavy and controversial matters.

Ben Shapiro, a man with brain as sharp as a razor, an Orthodox Jew with strong conservative views, brings in John MacArthur (a legitimate biblical scholar), to discuss the differences between Judaism and Christianity.

What follows is the perfect example of how two brilliant men discuss their differences. But it’s also a beautiful example of one sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ without apology.

All I would ask is that you take the time to watch this exchange and then pray that God will open the eyes of Ben Shapiro to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah he has been waiting for.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, salvation, Witnessing

Corresponding With a Muslim About Jesus

A couple of months ago I was asked to visit (as a guest) a mosque here in Chattanooga. It was not my intention to debate anyone. For that matter, I did my best to avoid conversation. However, there was a man there who had met my daughter the month before and had discussed with her the divinity of Jesus.  When he found out that I was there this time, he came over and began to talk to me. In other words, he started it, not me.

Hammad used to go a Baptist church, but converted to Islam after reading the Quran. Later he wrote The Evidence, a small book meant to prove that Jesus was never crucified and that He never claimed to be God. When he sat down to talk with me, he was amazed to discover that I had actually read his book. He asked, “So, what did you think about it?”

“Honestly,” I replied, “I thought it had a lot of errors in it.”

A little taken aback by my forwardness and honesty, he said, “Oh, really? Like what?”

From that point I began to point out places in his work where he had misapplied Scripture and made unrealistic claims that were obviously contradicted by other passages in the Bible. I told Hammad that if he really wanted his arguments to carry more weight, it might be good for him to better learn the Bible he was trying to discredit and deny.

One particular claim he made was that none of Jesus’ disciples saw him crucified, therefore there were no actual witnesses. That is why, as he explained, Jesus appeared to the disciples – to prove to them that He was alive…that He had not actually been killed.

I said, “However, there were witnesses to the crucifixion, and one of those was an actual disciple. Jesus even spoke to him.”

“Who was that?” he asked.

“John. Jesus spoke to him and told him to take care of his mother, Mary, who was also there,” I replied.

“I’ve never read that before. Where’s it written?” Hamaad asked.

“In the book of John.”

“Really?” he said as he looked a little stunned. “Can you send me that in an email?”

“Sure,” I said. “I would be happy to.”

We agreed to correspond by email, therefore I sent him an email addressing some questions he’d asked. He sent an email in response, attempting to show me where I was wrong, using the Quran to prove it. He then went on to ask me to answer one question, if nothing else: “Where did Jesus ever say, ‘I am God’?”

I responded with two back-to-back emails, the first one dealing with the authority of Scripture, the second being the one I’m including in this post.

Yes, it’s long, but it’s here if you want to read it. Who knows, you might find something interesting in it.

Please pray for Mr. Hamaad. Pray that he will come to a better understanding of the faith that he left, that he will actually come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.


Greetings,

In my last email, I primarily focused on one thing: the veracity and authority of the Bible. I hope you understood it was not my intent to be offensive in any way, only to point out the differences between you and me, primarily that we have very different opinions of the Bible and the Quran. I hope it was helpful. It will certainly have a bearing on the subject matter of this email, that’s for sure.

There were some other questions you asked, and there were other issues in your book on which I disagreed, but I guess one question you asked me to address is surely one of the most important: Did Jesus ever claim to be God? It’s along the same line as the question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

I am well aware that one of the cornerstones of your faith is the shahada: “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” I’m also aware of John 17:3, a passage Muslims typically use in an attempt to show that Jesus denied being God.

But aside from John 17:3, which could be debated at another time, I believe you issued the challenge to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually spoke the words, “I am God.”  You were confident that I would never be able to provide you with those exact words, and rightfully so, for those exact words are not found in the New Testament.

However, I would like for you to consider the fact that even though Jesus never spoke THOSE exact words, He did say other words that carried the same meaning, thereby supporting the conclusion that Jesus did in fact believe and say that He was Divine, and Muslim interpretation of John 17:3 is out of harmony with the whole of Scripture.

But again, if at this point you are looking only for those three words – “I am God” – then nothing I say will be helpful. If you have already determined that you will reject similar statements that carry the same meaning, then I guess what I’m writing is futile. However, I will do my best to give you an answer to what you requested.

To begin with, I would like to take you back to the Old Testament, back to where the Messiah was foretold. Before Jesus was ever born, he was spoken of in terms that were nothing short of shocking: He would be “God with us.”

In Isaiah 7:14 we read the prophecy that the promised Son would be born of a Virgin and called “Immanuel.”

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

That this verse was speaking of Jesus was confirmed by Matthew when he recorded the words of the angel of the Lord as he comforted Joseph regarding Mary’s pregnancy:

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

If Isaiah 7:14 wasn’t clear enough, Isaiah 9:6 states that the coming Messiah “shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Now, stop and think about that verse for just one moment. Who besides God could be called God? There is no other God but God, correct? Who besides God could be called “everlasting”? Even if this verse was not prophetically speaking of Jesus, is there any other person who could fit the bill? Who else besides God is uncreated (“everlasting”)?

Speaking of “everlasting Father,” what is a characteristic of God that no one else can have? There are several attributes that are unique to God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.), but just looking at this one thing, only God can be eternal, correct? Only God has existed before time was created. Only God has always been, always in the present, eternal.

You asked me to show anywhere Jesus said, “I am God.” Well, based on the above verses, it would seem, then, that a clear example would be found in John 8:58

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus was clear enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him. In the present tense and indicative mood He made it crystal clear He was more than a man, more than a prophet, but actually the eternally existent, the “I am.” What did God say to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14)?

I Am that I Am…

The Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus meant when He said that, and that is why they wanted to kill Him.

Again, I believe that what you wanted from me was to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually made the claim or said the words that He was God, correct? However, would you accept any other verses in the Bible that claim it for Him? For example, there is the classic passage of John 1:1-3. There, Jesus is referred to as the Word of God who was “with” God and “was” God.

“In the beginning was the Word, 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.” – John 1:1-3

You know, many like yourself argue that Jesus was a created human being, not eternal. However, the above verses plainly state that all things were made by Him, and nothing that was made (and that would include any created being) was made without Him. Verse 4 of the same chapter goes even further to make this truth clear: Jesus was not just a man; He was the light and life of all men, which necessitated His pre-existence.

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” – John 1:4

And besides the many other places, the Book of Revelation makes it pretty clear Jesus was way more than just another prophet:

Behold, he cometh ewith clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.  I am Alpha and Omega, hthe beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:7-8).[i]

For that matter, it is in Revelation 1:17-18 that we read where Jesus Himself spoke of His death and resurrection: “…Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”[ii]

The “I Am” statements…

Now, if you will notice, just like in the last verse, there are a lot of places where Jesus claimed “I am…” this or “I am…” that.

In seven passages John records the well-known “I Am” sayings where Jesus describes himself using a graphic metaphor: “I am the bread* of life*” (6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I am the light* of the world” (8:12; 9:5); “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, 9); “I am the good shepherd*” (10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the true vine*” (15:1, 5).[1]

In each one of these statements Jesus was doing a lot more than illustrating with metaphor; He was declaring fact. Jesus didn’t say that He was just a door, or a way, or a light; He claimed to be THE Door, THE Way, THE Light. He emphatically declared that He was THE Truth and THE Life.

By declaring these things, Jesus was saying that all other “truth” was subordinate to Him. He was saying that there was NO other way – no path, no road, no pilgrimage, no hajj – to God but through Him. But even more, He was declaring that He was more than the One who spoke or demonstrated truth; He WAS Truth! The same applied to all the other “I AM” statements.

The “Truth” Claim…

If Jesus had never once said the exact words “I am God,” He essentially said the very same thing with the “I Am” statements. Why? Let’s just consider the word “truth.”

The Bible does not provide a systematic account of the nature of truth in either its theological or philosophical dimensions. Nevertheless great prominence is given to the idea of truth in Scripture because God is the God of truth (Pss 31:5; 108:4; 146:6) who speaks and judges truly (Pss 57:3; 96:13). God is the God of all truth because he is the Creator, and it is impossible for him to lie (Heb 6:18).[2]

If Jesus had been only a man, there would have been an element of untruth in Him. As a matter of fact, 1 John 1:8-10 states that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Even worse, if we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his Word is not in us! How, then, could Jesus have claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

What man, even a perfect man, could be the actual embodiment of Truth? Only God, who took on flesh, could claim such a thing and not be a total liar.

Like I said in the last email, all that I’ve just written will carry little weight unless you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you approach it as flawed, misinterpreted, corrupted by men, and superseded by the Quran, then does it really matter what Jesus said? If your only accepted record of Jesus is found in a book that was written long after the Gospels, over 400 years after the last book written by John (around 90 A.D.), what does it matter what Jesus said in the Bible? He could have plainly said “I AM GOD!” a thousand times, but it wouldn’t matter to you, would it?

Think about it… You trust the words of a denier of the divinity of Jesus over the record of His own words and those who actually walked with Him.

The only logical way for you to prove to me that Jesus is not God, or at least that He did not claim to be God, is to show it to me in the cannon of Scripture. And as I have just now written, that will be a difficult challenge, indeed.

Please forgive me if I have in any way offended, for I am not fully versed in what is appropriate and what is inappropriate when discussing Islam with a Muslim. It is my hope that since you came from a Christian background, you can discern my intentions are genuine and in the spirit of love.

I would like to close this email by suggesting you ask for a copy of the late Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? Qureshi was a Muslim who converted to Christianity, but only after he was able to answer for himself the question you have asked me. You might find his perspective enlightening.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to correspond, and happy Thanksgiving!

Respectfully,

Anthony Baker


[1] G. M. Burge, “‘‍I Am‍’ Sayings,” ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 354.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Truth,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2108.

[i] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:7–8.

[ii] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:17–18.

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