“We believe in the historical reality of Jesus Christ as the only incarnation of God. We believe in His deity, His virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-23), His sinless life (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22), His miracles (Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38), His substitutionary death (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21), His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:4), His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:33; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3), His intercession for the sins of His people (1 Timothy 2:5-6), and His future personal return in power and glory (Acts 1:10-11).”
We believe in the historical reality of Jesus Christ as the only incarnation of God. We believe in His deity. Jesus is unique. No one else in human history was, is, or will be like him. The miracle of the incarnation is that Jesus remained fully God while he participated fully in human life as a man. We see ways in which God made himself visible and known in the Old Testament, but only once did he incarnate (become human). Jesus was not simply an enlightened being (Buddhism), he was not just one of thousands of gods (Hinduism). He was not simply a prophet (Islam). He was not the kind of being that we can one day become (Mormonism).
His virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-23). If you are wanting a scientific explanation as to how this happened, I have none to offer. It’s a miracle, which simply means God accomplished something supernaturally that would not have happened naturally. We don’t claim God had sex with Mary, like the Greeks and Romans would have assumed a god would do. In a way that honored Mary’s purity, heaven and earth became one in the person of Jesus Christ.
His sinless life (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22). He was tempted as a man (so Jesus is what we often call “a sympathetic advocate” on our behalf when we pray for forgiveness for our sin), but he resisted as God. He understood the power of temptation but never compromised his perfection and holiness. When it is time for you to give an answer for your life to God, if you have accepted the lordship of Jesus in your life, a sinless Christ will stand in your place and say, “He or she is with me.” The perfection of Christ will be granted to you – not because you earned it, but because you committed your life to the One who did.
His miracles (Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38). It’s what we expect of divinity. The Creator moves in the creation. God set up what we now call ‘laws’ to give an order, structure, coherence and predictability to the physical world. #science. But God’s not bound by them. God interjects Himself into the system God created, and the system responds like God created it to respond. So, yeah, there are a lot of miracles. If God exists, it goes with the territory. If Jesus was God, he can do them too.
C.S. Lewis compared God’s miraculous intervention in the world to the way events are influenced inside a fishbowl. If someone bumps a table supporting a fishbowl, the pebbles will shake and the water will ripple. If the fish are committed to seeking an explanation only inside the fishbowl, because they do not believe anything exists outside the fishbowl, they will never find an adequate explanation for what happened. Maybe they think believing otherwise allows for a “God” who violates the laws of the nature in the fishbowl. But if the fishbowl hadn’t been effected, laws governing all of reality, not just the reality of the fishbowl, would have broken. In other words, an orderly and predictable world absorbs and reacts to miracles. Not responding would actually be the problem.
His substitutionary death (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and His bodily resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:4). A just God demands justice; a merciful God provides a way out. Jesus’ death cancelled the obligation for us to pay the ultimate penalty for our own sin. He paid what we could not. Justice is an important thing, but it’s not the only thing. And in a cosmic turn of events that no other religion even remotely claims – God so loves the world that He absorbs His own righteous demand for justice so that the people he loves can experience his mercy (more in this in a couple weeks…the concept of covenant is crucial here).
- Our sin breaks God’s just law (think back to an analogy everyone in the Ancient Near East and in the Jewish and Roman culture of the first century would have understood: living in a Kingdom with a King. Law-breaking is a treasonous dishonoring of the Lawgiver, the King)
- God’s justice demands that the price of this treasonous sin be paid, and the price is death.
- If the price is paid, the offender will be forgiven – but of course, it will be too late.
- However, as an act of mercy, the offender can be forgiven and live if the price is paid by a substitute. (In the Old Testament, we see the concept enacted in the scapegoat as well as the many ways in which substitutionary acts could pay the penalty of breaking the Mosaic law)
- If the one who offers to pay the debt of the sinner is also sinful, they will merely be paying their own sinful debt, the one for whom they are giving their life will not benefit.
- Therefore, the only answer is a sinless person, who is provided by the King – Himself, in the person of the sinless Christ.
- The price is paid on behalf of the sinner, who is forgiven, set free and given new life – as an adopted child of the King.
His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:33; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:3) and his intercession for the sins of His people (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
If His death shows us the lengths to which he was willing to go to save us, then His resurrection shows us the power he has to do it. His resurrection means life is possible for us “though we were dead in our sins.” Because He suffered, died, and rose from the dead, we can be raised from spiritual death in this life, and ultimately be raised to an entirely new life with Christ for eternity.
“The right hand” imagery is a picture of power. Jesus did not rise in broken weakness after a crucifixion. Hebrews 2:10 says Jesus’ glory was consummated or perfected in His suffering. If you thought he was awesome before, you should have seen him after His resurrection (this is anthropomorphic language…it’s an image…biblical writers are doing their best to describe a God whose glory just gets more stunning the more we understand him).
Let’s be honest. We are prone to point, especially when the sin of others is easy to see, and especially when it lets us channel our anger or grief at sin to other people. We often see what these ‘pointable sins’ are when something bad happens and we say, “Well, God is judging America because of (and let’s be honest about the Big Four) sexual promiscuity, pornography, abortion, and homosexuality.” You know what's missing from that list? Everything else that the Bible identifies as sin, especially the ones that we don’t want to point out in ourselves.
- Pride (I’m just better)
- Lust (I want that… a lot…)
- Anger (inappropriate and impactful)
- Theft (from money to online piracy to time to virtue/innocence)
- Deceit (covering up truth that needs to be known)
- Rebellion (against the proper authorities in your life)
- Judgment (of the heart, motivations, intentions)
- Bitterness (I deserve better…you don’t)
- Gossip (Did you know…? Would you pray for…?)
- Greed (lack of contentment of things or people or circumstances)
- Envy (active dislike for people for whom life is better)
- Hardness of heart (the recognition of sin and its impact on the world does not move you – neither does the lostness of sinners)
- Laziness (not purposeful rest – I mean you are just flat-out lazy)
- Meanness (attitude, words. Insults – and passive aggressive is the worst)
- Dishonor and disrespect (trample on God’s image bearers)
Why highlight this on sermon about Jesus? Because if you don’t see your sin, you will never appreciate the awesome nature of Jesus Christ.We might get all the theology – we might have a way of understanding the incarnation and substitutional atonement, and we’ve watched The Passion, and we sent copies of the Jesus movie all around the world. But if we don’t understand why the phrase “Jesus loves you” ought to undo us, we will never understand the awesome nature of Jesus Christ.
Let’s make it more personal. If everyone else in this room nailed it – never sinned, just lived perfectly – do you know what Jesus would have to do for you? He would have to become human, live a perfect life, die with the weight of your sin on His shoulders, then rise again and advocate just for you. Don't be thinking,“I hope my spouse is getting this. I wish my kids were here. I wonder if Anthony is listening to his own sermon? They really need to be broken in repentance.” I’m sure they all do. I know I do. But if you don’t see that you do too, you will never appreciate the awesomeness of Christ – and you will be insufferable to live with.
Why did Jesus have to become human? Because of your sin.
Why did Jesus have to die? Because of your sin.
Why does Jesus intercede for you now? Why does he have to continue to function as an advocate? Because of your sin.
The good news is that in spite of all that, Jesus did not come to the world to bring condemnation but to bring salvation. I don’t point these things up so we are overwhelmed by condemnation. I want us to be in awe of salvation.
“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you.” ― Timothy Keller
“...We must say to ourselves something like this: 'Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn't think "I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me." No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us - denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him - and in the greatest act of love in history, he STAYED. He said, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing." He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely.” – Timothy Keller
Jesus’ love isn’t a trivial, easy love offered to us because we are so awesome. It’s a love that required a death and resurrection so that we, the dead, can be raised to life. So that we, the image bearers of God, can show the world what it looks like when a God of Salvation loves and then saves the most unlovable and the most hopelessly lost for our good and His glory.
His future personal return in power and glory (Acts 1:10-11). There will be a day when the world sees the glory and power of Christ. There will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God.