Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Son of Man

“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Apparently this vision was quite surprising to Daniel, but why? When we read this we know that the “Son of Man” refers to Jesus and the “Ancient of Days” refers to God. Nothing too alarming. Here’s what’s strange about Daniel’s observation. Up until this point in the Bible the phrase “Son of Man” always refers to just that – the son of man, a human. Daniel doesn’t know he’s seeing Jesus. He’s one that looks like the son of man, a human, coming in the clouds and receiving a kingdom from God. This was unexpected. From this point forward through the Bible, that phrase, “Son of Man” is used as a distinction for Christ. We are all a son of man, but Jesus is the Son of Man.

Like the name Son of God indicates his divinity, Son of Man indicates his humanity. The fact that Jesus is called the Son of Man is not an arbitrary fact. He’s called the Son of God 45 times in the New Testament but called the Son of Man 84 times. Why does it matter that Jesus was the Son of Man? What does his humanity mean to the human race?

The Divinity of Christ

Understanding the importance of Jesus’s humanity begins with proving his divinity. Before Jesus became Jesus, Jesus was God. John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He was more than a heavenly creature. He was more than just like God. Philippians 2:6 explains: “who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” Or like other translations read, Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. His status as God was a matter of fact.

The Humanity of Christ

When Jesus arrives on Earth in the New Testament, something changed. What was Jesus while he was on the earth? Completely God? Completely Man? Was he both? This has been a point of contention from the very beginning. 1 John 4:3: “every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” There’s something a little unbelievable about God becoming a man.

Fortunately, the Bible answers the question for us – Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Jesus was a human being born in the flesh.   God was given a human body built by flesh and blood just like the rest of us. For us, this is old news, but for people hearing the gospel for the first time this was an earth-shaking truth that turned their world upside down. This is a basic piece of the gospel. God became a man. John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Paul says the same in 1 Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” God, who had for so long reached out to his people from a distance, delivered himself in the form of a man to live and die among men.

Theological Implications

What did Jesus give up just to be human? Everything. He was the perfect sacrifice. Not just because he was morally and lawfully perfect, but because he gave everything to be the savior. He was the complete sacrifice.

The Perfect Sacrifice

Consider what Jesus sacrificed just to become human. He left heaven, he left his father, and he gave up his divine nature. Jesus sacrificed complete power for this mortal, fragile body. He sacrificed absolute knowledge and all wisdom for the meager mind of a man. He left all his glory behind and humbled himself as a human. Jesus went from being creator and master of the universe to live like the simple son of a carpenter. And then while he was here, we killed him. The Son of God died as a criminal suspended on a cross among thieves.

We could give the whole universe back to God, and it wouldn’t amount to a fraction of what God gave to us. There is no greater sacrifice than when God repressed his divine nature, lived like man, lived under his own law, and died at the hands of his own people. He was the perfect sacrifice which makes him the perfect savior.

The Perfect Savior

Jesus lived the complete human experience: 1) he was made like us, 2) he suffered like us, and 3) he was tempted like us. This is the message of Hebrews 2:17-18:

“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Hebrews 4:15-16 is even more specific about Jesus’s experience as a human:

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Everything we experience, Jesus experienced. Jesus was in all points tempted as we are. He was prone to pride. He was tempted by material abundance. Because he was a man I believe he was also prone to lust. Jesus had to suppress his sexual desires just like all men are called to do. He knows what it’s like to feel lust beginning to boiling up inside his human body. Most importantly, he knew how to restrain himself, even to the point of death.

There could be no sacrifice more perfect, no savior more sufficient than the Man, our God, Jesus Christ.

~ Tad Morris

Treasures in Heaven

The parable of the unjust steward is among the most thought provoking of all the parables of Jesus. The steward, who was soon to lose his position due to either incompetence or negligence or both, negotiates with his master’s debtors, settling with them for pennies on the dollar. He does so to win favor for himself and not in his master’s best interest.   Curiously, the master commends the steward’s shrewd handling even though the master did not receive in full what he was owed. Jesus remarks about the superior cleverness of worldly people and then urges us to “make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home” (Luke 16:9). Lest we be mistaken, Jesus does not share the parable to endorse unjust or even unethical business practices. No, the purpose of the parable is simple: we should use money as a means to make friends for eternity.

From the church’s earliest moments, we see God’s people using their money to care for one another. In both Acts chapters 2 and 4, Luke observes that the early disciples viewed their possessions as something to be sold in order to help vulnerable saints. Luke says their generosity was so overwhelming that no one among them lacked anything (Acts 4:34). At first, money was laid at the apostle’s feet, pooled into a communal fund, and then distributed to those with needs in the body of Christ (Acts 4:35).

The tremendous growth of the church demanded that the apostles appoint men to oversee the dispersal of the common fund (Acts 6:1-6). The apostles delegated to these seven men the task of “deaconing” (literally ministering) to the Christian widows who depended upon the kind generosity of their brethren to survive in an era before an IRA, social security, 401k, or life insurance was available for their care. From 1 Timothy 5:3-16, we know that the church continued to support widows whose family was either unavailable or unwilling to help them. The early disciples used their communal funds to care for widows.

Poor saints also received the help of the early church. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 directed the congregation to collect money each week. Corinth was one part of a larger effort. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia were accumulating a gift for the poor saints in Judea and Jerusalem (see Romans 15:25-27 and 2 Corinthians 8-9). Paul says such a financial gift from the Gentiles was appropriate since they had spiritually benefitted from the Jews. This also fulfilled a pledge Paul made to Peter, James, and John in Galatians 2. As they parted, the three apostles sent by God to the Jews urged Paul “to remember the poor” (verse 10). Paul expressed his eagerness to do so and fulfilled it in his final trip to the homeland of his fathers, taking with him relief for the poor Jewish Christians in Judea and Jerusalem.

When Agabus came from Jerusalem to Antioch, he indicated through the Spirit that a great famine would affect the whole world (see Acts 11:27-30). Moved by the prophet’s prediction of a future calamity, the brethren in Antioch decided to pool their money together and send a gift to the brethren in Jerusalem and Judea. Perhaps they – like the Macedonians and Achaeans – recognized the spiritual debt they owed their Jewish brethren and sought to repay it in some small way. Whatever their motivation, their example is clear: the body of Christ took care of fellow brethren facing great calamities.

The church also cared for those who preached the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, Paul recognizes that the one who preaches the gospel is entitled to receive support from the church for that work. The apostle refused the Corinthians’ support while he was among them, choosing to make tents for the sake of the brethren (see 2 Corinthians 11:8 and Acts 18:3). When Philippi learned of Paul’s need, they sent him help (see 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 and Philippians 4:15-16). Elders who ruled well and ministered the word were also eligible to receive financial support from the body of Christ (1 Timothy 5:17-18). In the case of both elders and evangelists, Paul appeals to the Old Law for support (compare 1 Timothy 5:18 with 1 Corinthians 9:9). It is both scriptural and appropriate for the church to financially support those who labor in the word.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them–those who are mistreated–since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3). Ministering to the general prison population is certainly a good work. However, it seems likely that the Hebrew writer calls us to remember those who are incarcerated for the sake of the testimony of Jesus Christ.   Persecution of the church had evolved from the local and regional levels to across the empire. While in Roman prison, Paul received a gift from the church at Philippi (4:18). Epaphroditus nearly lost his life bringing the gift to Paul (2:27). Like all Roman prisoners, Paul depended on the generosity of those outside for both necessities and comforts. The Philippian congregation saw fit to help him by sending a gift.

These five examples offer compelling evidence for how the early church used their collective funds. In each case, the money was dispersed to people, specifically to fellow Christians. Can you think of an instance where the collection taken up by the church was used for any material purpose? As Jesus taught in the parable of the unjust steward, money will end one day. In the Sermon on the Mount, He teaches that what can be purchased with money will also perish (Matthew 6:19-21). How then can the church layup treasures in heaven? By investing in what will last for eternity: people.

~ Wade Stanley

Choosing Kindness

 

Aesop told a story of a lion startled by a mouse. The lion slapped a paw over the mouse and was about to lick it up when the mouse pleaded for her life, promising that someday she would repay the kindness. The lion was amused by the idea of the little mouse ever helping him but decided to be generous and let the mouse go on its way. Sometime later the lion was caught in a hunter’s net and all his strength and fury only resulted in the net drawing about him more tightly. The mouse heard the lion’s roars and came to see what had happened. Quickly she began to chew through the rope securing the lion, and soon the lion was free of the net. The mouse said to the freed lion, “You laughed when I said I would repay you, but now you see that even a lion may be helped by a mouse.” Aesop’s concluding moral, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Solomon observed, “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth. A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself” (Proverbs 11:16-17). Does kindness truly pay? Yes, there are “gains” and “benefits” that come from being unselfish and kind, even in everyday experiences. Reputation, personal satisfaction, better relationships, and potentially favors received for favors bestowed certainly come from choosing to be kind.

Even so, there are stronger reasons and greater incentives for kindness. Jesus said:

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

God shows kindness to all (see Acts 14:14-18, Matthew 5:43-48). Kindness to the undeserving is described as an exercise in mercy and a binding example for the children of God. God’s children must be kind to others, even when kindness is an act of mercy.

Someone has said, “Treat everyone with politeness. Even those who are rude to you. Not because they are nice, but because you are.” Paul wrote that he practiced this principle when treated badly. “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a). Like Paul, every Christian should practice blessing, kindness, and congenial manners in all our dealings, and especially with one another! “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Tommy Lee Jones has said, “Kindness and politeness are not over rated at all. They are under used.” And again we are reminded in scripture that kindness and not being rude are characteristics of the love God’s people must practice.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

One everyday way to exercise love is to show kindness by being polite, even if others are not, while one of the most common ways to be unloving is to be unkind by being rude. Good manners, courtesy, calmness, patience and forgiveness are all companions of kindness, and commanded by God. Love is kind… it is not rude.

If it is sometimes hard to practice kindness in what we say and do, we know that we can learn, grow, and improve in our everyday practice of thoughtfulness. This calls for us to “take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of” (Jim Rohn). Blaming others, or blaming circumstances which we cannot control when we behave badly, is the surrender of our ability to change, and denial that we can in fact obey God who has commanded these things. Time and circumstance will not make us better people, but practicing the commands of Jesus will. Remember, God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” This is a commandment, not an inborn personality trait. Treat people as you would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), not because you like them, and no matter what you expect of them in return.

The Greek philosopher Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” To recognize that others also have their struggles facilitates everyday kindness. In fact everyone really is struggling and needs the blessing of being treated with kindness and its companion virtues, as Paul wrote:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

It may become easy in reviewing such instructions in scripture to slide past the injunctions to be kind, humble, gentle and patient, but these are dynamic instructions! These chosen behaviors need to be so consistently practiced that it is like wearing clothes, something you just do. Not without thought, but certainly without question or hesitation. Kindness or its synonyms, and its companion attitudes, turn up over and over again in the various lists of Christian virtues in the New Testament (see Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-8).

We know that the Lord has commanded kindness, and that kindness is regularly demonstrated in simple good manners toward others. We should take it for granted that the people we know and strangers we encounter need kindness, and that we need to be kind to them. Kindness, with its associated manners of speech and action, is part of everyday life with the Spirit of God, and a persistent need for growth and fellowship in the body of Christ, the church.

~ Charles A. Fry