In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! – Galatians 1:8
“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” – Charles Spurgeon
Baby Jesus: It’s that time of year when even the staunchest atheist might hum along with songs about Mary’s baby Boy, the cuddly little Babe in the manger. And when the Christmas season is over and the manger scenes are put away, so are any further thoughts about Jesus until His birthday next year. But Christ-followers know there is much more to this “Babe” than the songs playing in the mall tell us.
Are we so caught up in the sweetness and the sentimentality of the season that we fail to stop and ponder the wonder of the Incarnation – “Emmanuel’ – “God with us“?
I for one appreciate the Christmas carols that tell the whole story – that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place, as the atoning sacrifice to pay for our sins, so we can be restored to fellowship with the Father and live forever. – “God and sinners reconciled!”
That Baby in the manger was born for one purpose, to die so that we could live.
And yet, if you ask the simple question, “Who is Jesus?” you will get varying responses.
The illogical Jesus: Many say Jesus was a good man, a great moral teacher, like Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius. But as C. S. Lewis famously pointed out, this is not an option. Jesus claimed to be God, and this claim was one of the reasons His enemies set out to kill Him. Such a radical claim must be either true or false. He couldn’t have been “sort of God.” If Jesus isn’t God, then He was lying, and moral people don’t lie about something as basic as who they are. The other option is that He was mistaken – He only thought He was God. And that, as Lewis said, puts Him on the level of a man who thinks he’s a poached egg. Great teachers know who they are. The only other option is that He was and is who He said He was. So, to say Jesus was a great moral teacher but not God incarnate is not a logical option.
The liberal Jesus: To many church goers, especially in America, Jesus is our Big Brother, the example we want to follow to live good, moral lives. But to stop there and fail to see Him as our Lord and Savior, the God who created us and to whom we owe everything, is to miss the point. And the point is, we can’t follow His example. Jesus was perfect, and to try to live as He lived for one day – one hour – is to see how woefully short we fall. This is the very reason we need Him as Savior. Nothing we do or say can pay for one sin we’ve committed. Even sacrificing our own lives would be insufficient, since God requires a perfect sacrifice, and we are far from perfect! To presume that we could follow His example is pure arrogance.
One of many “gods.” This Hindu belief has the same problem as the “illogical Jesus.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.“ Jesus claimed exclusivity; therefore, He is either the only true God, or not a god at all.
The Muslim Jesus was a prophet, but not divine. Again, can someone be a true prophet and miss the mark on something as basic as his own identity?
The Mormon Jesus: Mormons call Jesus “the Christ,” but their view of Him is not in line with mainstream Christian teaching. To a Mormon, Jesus is not the second Person of the Trinity but the half-brother of Satan. (Doctrines and Covenants 76:25-27)
The Jehovah’s Witness Jesus was created, not begotten. He is inferior to Jehovah but superior to the angels. After His death He was resurrected as a spirit creature.
Partial Savior: Several religions belief systems recognize Jesus’ atoning death on the Cross but don’t believe His sacrifice is enough to pay fully for our salvation. Works must be added, and life becomes a feverish race to do enough good deeds to cover the bad. Some believe that Judgment Day will have a giant scale to weigh every person’s good works on one side and sins on the other, and if the good deeds don’t outweigh the bad, that person is not saved. Sadly, believers in this system never know the peace of being secure in their Savior’s love.
The true Jesus of the Bible: As Jesus died on the cross, He declared, “It is finished!” meaning, “Mission accomplished!” or “Paid in full!” We can rest in the assurance that our sins are paid for. Good works will follow, but they’re done with joy, out of gratitude for our salvation, not an attempt to earn it. And the biblical Jesus rose bodily from the grave on the third day to seal the promise of eternal life. He specifically said to His disciples that He was not a ghost: “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)
It’s not enough to say we believe in Jesus. The question is, which Jesus? It’s not necessary to study all the different versions of Him, just the Bible. The Jesus you find there is the true Savior. If you haven’t turned your life over to Him, do it today. Then, as you celebrate His birth this year, know that you have given Him the one gift He wants most from you – yourself.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, as the world celebrates Your birth with activities and trappings that really have nothing to do with You, help us to stay focused on the wonder of Your love, that You would leave Your home in glory and come to earth to be one of us and die for us, so we can be Yours forever. In Your name, amen.