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Alêtheia Christian Fellowship        (Sermon 49, 12-19-04)

~Christmas~

Next Sunday is Still Christmas Season & Return to Yeast Series.

Jan 9th Birthday Party & Testimony

Jan 16th Baptism Service

No Tuesday evening until Jan 4th

Offering – King’s Kids – Katie’s Birthday

You know we have enjoyed this wonderful play, portraying what Christmas is really about: The birth of a baby more than 2000 years ago into a completely different culture, half-way around the world.

Who cares? Why celebrate a birth? We only do that if the person so honored is I personally important to us. I celebrate my wife’s birthday and those of my children, I’m sure you celebrate birthdays of people who mean something to you.

Most people today don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, they simply enjoy the party, because Jesus doesn’t mean anything to them, they don’t celebrate Him they celebrate Santa Clause.

Some of us are different, some of us genuinely celebrate the birth because Jesus is important to us, but not because He was born in a manger, it’s because of what He did with His life after that night.

It’s not enough to be great though, the birth of some guy, no matter how great he was, is nothing to celebrate unless His life has an impact on our own. Alexander the Great was arguably the greatest General-King in human history. He was truly great, conquering the known world by the age of 32. Yet as much as he interests me I don’t celebrate his birth!

So what is it that Jesus accomplished, who was He and why does it matter?

We get the material for the play from the Bible and it is here where we must begin.

According to the eyewitness accounts, Jesus was born of a virgin who was literally impregnated by Almighty God. Jesus was therefore fully human and at the same time fully God.

In the original language of the Gospel of John it says:

John 1:1, ejn ajrch|~ h+n oJ lo>gov.

In the Beginning the Word already existed. “In the Beginning,” is the identical first words of the Old Testament Bible. In Genesis chapter one, verse one of the Septuagint it says: ejn ajrch|~.

1 “In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” In verse three it goes on to say, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Before there was anything physical there was God and God alone. God exists outside of space and therefore outside of time; in fact there was no space and therefore no time in the beginning. God chose to create the 1-space containing and as a byproduct time 2-all of the matter within and 3-all of the physical laws governing the universe and in order to do that, He simply spoke and it became. It was His Word that caused His will to be done. God created through the active agency of His Word.

2 John 1:1 says that in the beginning, before anything was created there already existed the Word and the Word was in perfect harmony and equal relationship with God and the Word was the same perfect essence as God. In verse three it goes on to say that through the Word all things were created and that nothing came into being apart from the active agency of the Word.

3 In verse 14 it says, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the scandal of Christianity that God would give up a portion of Himself to become human. As it says in the Bible in 4 Hebrews 1: 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Not only did God create all things through the Word, it is the Word that actively holds all things together. Without the active work of the Word we and our universe would literally fly apart at the speed of light. This Word who is a portion of God is the Bridge between God and man. He humbled Himself and stepped out of light into darkness to enable peace between God and mankind because God loves you so much.

God paid the ultimate sacrifice, not in dying for you, but in giving His Son. Even though this was so costly to God He will not usurp your free will, even though He’s the one who gave you the ability to choose. He will not force you to do anything, there is no brainwashing in God, He loves you so much He will allow you to spit on His gift. That is exactly what people are doing when they dismiss Jesus Christ.

People sometimes ask how a Christian can claim to believe in only one almighty God and still worship Jesus. Herein lies the answer,

Jesus is the Word of God which means His physical activity. God’s interaction with the world is through His Word.

God the Father is the wish, will and desire of God. It is here that the emotion and personality of God resides. It is easy to see why this portion of God is called God because this is the heart and soul of God.

The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew of the Old Testament is ruach kodesh or the Spirit of God, ve ruach eloheem and it is hagios pnumatos in Greek. Both mean the sacred breath of God and this is God’s intellect and reason. The Holy Spirit interacts with our spirit our intelligence and reason, revealing Truth, convicting us of sin, encouraging and comforting. When our Spirit buys what the Holy Spirit is selling we accept it into our heart, our soul. That place where our personality and emotion reside. We then have a different desire than before. Instead of desiring our own selfish good we begin to desire God’s will. When we, will to live for God then our word or our physical body obeys and carries out that wish in the physical world. We are made triune beings in the image of the one true God.

5 Then in John chapter 17 verses 3 through 5, Jesus Himself praying to the Father says,

3“This is eternal life:

that people can know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ the One You have sent.

4“I glorified You on the earth, by accomplishing the work which You gave Me to do. 5“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world began.

In 61 John, the beloved disciple, says,

1What has always existed---- what we have heard with our own ears, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands----the very Word of Life----that life that was manifested on earth, we have seen and testify and proclaim to you this eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

You may say how do I know the Bible is right?

'Other than the spoken Word in the world around us everything else comes to us through the Bible. It is a collection of 66 books written by God through 40 different authors representing 19 different professions. These men wrote from 11 different locations on 3 different continents in 10 different genres and in 3 different languages, over a 1,500 year period, completing the work nearly 2,000 years ago. And when you read it straight through, cover-to-cover, there is a perfect symmetry and a coherent progressive revelation unlike anything else in human history. It is a cohesive whole, not a series of disjointed missteps. There is no work that has been so scrutinized, examined, and reproduced 10s of billions of copies in more than 2,200 different languages.

'Through the discovery of the hundreds of texts at Qumran wadi known as the Dead Sea scrolls and the more than 25,000 ancient Greek manuscripts that have been discovered we know the Bible was what it claimed all along and not a later fabrication. “The Bible has been translated and copied so many times it can’t possibly be right?” Wrong! I translate the Bible directly from manuscripts that were written and used by the earliest Christians dating to between 300 B.C. and 200 A.D. and what I come up with has never been in conflict with the Bible you hold in your hand right now.

'Science and archeology proves with certainty that it is the same today as it has been from the beginning and not one thing anywhere in those 66 books has been proved false Archeological discoveries have proven Biblical claims that critics said never happened, like a world-wide flood, the name Abram dating to 4,000 years ago, the price of a slave in ancient times, the existence of the city of Jericho, Egyptian records of the Hebrew people, The person of Pontius Pilate, the copper mines of King Solomon etc. The Bible says in Isaiah that the earth is round and in Job that the earth is suspended in space, these are just a couple of the scientific facts found in the Bible centuries before science “discovered” them.

'People have been trying to stamp it out for thousands of years and yet today there are more copies of the Bible in more languages that any other book in history. In the tenth general persecution, the Emperor Diocletian and his evil son went on a ten-year rampage beginning in 303 A.D. against all Christians throughout the empire. Possibly, several thousand men, women and children, often whole families, were killed, and in one case an entire city, in Phrygia, was destroyed but an interesting feature of this world-wide persecution was the destruction of all Christian writings especially the New Testament Bible. Diocletian said, we have destroyed all Bibles stamping out Christianity once and for all. In about 1750 Voltaire said, “Another century and there will be not a Bible on earth.”

'The Bible is quite simply the most remarkable thing in human history. As the song goes, “It is the very Word of God and not the invention of any man.” Galatians 1:11-12 ~ I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

'The Bible claims to be the very words of God 3,808 times in the Old Covenant alone. 14 authors specifically claim to be relating God’s Word. Jesus refers to the Hebrew Scripture as the authoritative Word of God and more than 10% of His words are Old Covenant quotes or allusions, that’s more than 180 times. The New Covenant refers to at least 161 Old Covenant events and quotes from over 246 passages of the Hebrew Scripture. Jesus fulfilled 47 Old Covenant prophecies and another 33 have been fulfilled that don’t directly relate to Jesus.

'In fact it is said that just from the extant writings of the first three centuries we could completely reconstitute the Bible. Even in the first century just in the writings of three of the Fathers; Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, all of whom are mentioned in the Bible and all of who knew the Apostles personally, We have quotes and allusions to 22 NT books, The Muratorian Cannon, dated to 180 A.D., records all the books of the Bible mentioning all that we have today and no others.

God says good things about His enemies, bad about His friends and tells us things we don’t want to hear.

In addition, there are the Great Books of Western Civilization, 450 books written by 100 authors between 1000bc and 1500ad. If you read these books you will find that there is not only disagreement, but outright contradiction between them.

The Bible says God is our Savior.  What are we saved from?  God, of course, He is the only possible judge but is full of mercy to those who are righteous.  What is righteousness? Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Rom 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

We resist accepting God because He may want something from us, we may not get our own way, so we say there is no God. The Bible says in Romans 1:20 that since the creation of the heavens and the earth God’s invisible qualities have been obvious and so people are without excuse because simply from the world around us we know in our heart that God exists.

Since we know that there is a God we must contrive a way so that we don’t have to listen to Him. We say you can’t know for sure what God wants so why try?

We resist accepting the Bible because if we do then we have to make a choice to either obey what it says or to reject God.

You see if it is God’s Word, His revelation to mankind we are no longer rejecting religion or a preacher or an ancient book, we are actually rejecting God Himself. So it’s far easier on our conscience to say that we can’t know what God wants.

But why resist doing what God wants?

We are, by nature, totally self-involved. It is like the scorpion on the foxes back, we can’t help it, because it’s who we are.

There are only two possible worldview foundations; Anthropocentric or Theocentric.

Every belief system on planet earth except one and one alone is anthropocentric.

True Christianity based on the plain reading of the Bible is God’s Truth and is completely different than what man creates. It says we are nothing, totally incapable of any good in the eyes of a perfect God and therefore fall before Him humbly pleading for mercy which is selfless love. Fortunately that’s what God is, selfless love.

He has already paid the ultimate price, but you must accept with your heart. Jesus is the Word, He is God and He humbled Himself to a life among humans and an imbuement of sin and a sacrificial death and then death could not hold Him. Why? The Bible says in John chapter

God saw Jesus as you and now He sees you as Jesus and Thomas was supposed to see Jesus as God. Jesus told him:

ejgw> eijmi hJ oJdo<v kai< hJ ajlh>qeia kai< hJ zwh> oujdei<v e]rcetai pro<v to<n pate>ra eij mh< di/ ejmou~. (14:6)

So what must we do? 7 John 3:16 says that God loved you so much He gave up His One and Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will never die, but instead will live forever.

All you have to do is accept the free gift that cost God so dearly, but what does it really mean to believe?

It is obviously faith, if it weren’t faith everyone would accept and free will is lost.

Faith means to believe, but we English speaking Americans have no idea what the Biblical concept of Faith/Belief entails. The Greek verb is pisteu>w. Transliterated as pisteuÇ, pronounced pis-too-oh, it means an intellectual evaluation determining what one is convinced of added to an object. In other words the verb carries the idea that I=ve actively and carefully considered a thing, not just a concept, and I am utterly convinced by my evaluation that the thing is true. Obviously this kind of belief is far more than just a casual feeling that something is real. The noun is pi>stiv, transliterated as pistis, and pronounced pis-tis. This is the word that describes the verbal activity of believing as a genuine thing. Again it is directed toward a thing and is translated as confidence, faith, trust, and reliance. The adjective root is pisto>v, transliterated as pistos and pronounced pis-toss. It means trusting, full of faith and believing. It is absolutely held reality for the one believing.

Now if this is not enough, we get to the real issue. When the Bible talks about the concept of belief as in John 3:16, or in 1 John 5:1 & 10, it is not any of the forms we=ve talked about. Where it says that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life in John 3:16, the word believe is the Greek participle pisteu>wn, transliterated pisteuÇn, and pronounced pis-too-own. A Greek participle is similar to an English gerund, it is a verbal noun, but also contains the idea of the adjective and in addition carries an extra bit of intensity as well. Participles really incorporate all three of the forms we=ve looked at and if you can imagine that a person were to say or write the verb, noun and the adjective of believe all together in one sentence you can see they would be emphasizing that concept greatly. So a participle is first of all about an activity; they can never refer to something stationary, stagnant or sedentary. Second, they relate to an object that is a solid thing encompassing the activity. Third, they act as an intensifier.

When used this way in the Bible they also convey more information. The Greek language is highly inflected so words change internally to nuance the meaning. In this case the participle is individual, only you can do it. It doesn=t matter who your parents were or what your background is, you and you alone must accomplish the action. Next, the word is active so the analogy I use is if you genuinely and completely believe in your heart that a particular chair will hold your weight that=s not faith. Faith is when you plop your fanny on the chair. Finally, the word is continual, which really means habitual. In other words it=s who you really are. My definition: Individual, active and continuing intellectual choice reflected by what one is convinced of, directed toward an object.

Truly, without external evidence, Aworks,@ this faith is dead. You do what you are, not the other way arou nd. If I do good that does not make me a Christian. If I am a Christian then I will do good. It flows from who I really am. That=s the synthesis of Paul=s grace and James= works. If you have Biblical belief it will be obvious to the most casual observer.

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