Pulpit Reflections by Cory Gonyo, Associate pastor Choices, choices, choices. Which fast food restaurant? When there, which burger? Which gas station? Which grocery store? Which retail store? How many kinds of peanut butter are there anyway? Which brand of vehicle should I drive wearing which brand of shoes that match my favorite sports team (this year)? Which shampoo do I use?
And what does all this have to do with religion? In our culture today we are bombarded with choices to such an extent that it is only natural for us to see religion as a choice. Many people see religion like a salad bar of sorts. When approaching what choices to make about what one believes, one can pile up on their plate a little of this and a little of that from a smorgasbord of options, taking their most liked items and leaving the less desirable. But is this the way religion must be done? What if amidst a sea of choices only one option will truly satisfy? What if there are some 'foods' that are good for you and some that are bad? Is choosing different religions wrong?
One point often raised about Christianity is the issue of whether or not Jesus actually claimed to be God. Proponents and opponents seem to agree at least on this, if Jesus did claim to be God, that would make the argument different. But the basic problem is that too many disagree whether or not Jesus actually made such a claim. After all, if Jesus Christ, the namesake of the Christian faith, did actually identify himself as deity, creator, all-sovereign God, then the issue for any human is not which god/religion to choose to follow, but simply whether or not to accept or deny Jesus.
So, here it is. In Exodus 3, God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush. Moses asks God what his name is so that Moses can tell the Israelites. God's reply is, "I AM WHO I AM" (verse 14, NASB). Further, God states, "This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations" (verse 15, NASB). Though the name "I AM" sounds a little unique to us, it has profound meaning for God and the people of the Bible. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, whenever God is referred to by his proper name, He is called the "I AM." This is translated in most Bibles with the word LORD (in all capital letters). LORD is literally, "I AM."
What does this have to do with Jesus and religious choices? Well, in the gospel of John, chapter 8, Jesus himself declares, "Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins" (verse 24, NASB). And at the end of that same chapter, Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am" (verse 58, NASB).
"I am what?" you say. This appears a little awkward. Why did Jesus just say "I am"? Did you see it? Jesus specifically uses the memorial name of God, I AM, the proper name of God forever from Exodus chapter three, in referring to himself and to the forgiveness of sin. In the ears of the first century audience, Jesus' statement would have been a glaring and obvious assertion that he is calling himself by the eternal name of God. Jesus not only claimed to be God, but claimed the proper name of God for himself.
Though the statement is spoken by Jesus in an exclusive way, "unless you believe ?", it must not escape our attention what the full meaning is behind his claim. It is equally true to proclaim Jesus' statement in another way. That is, "If you do believe that Jesus is God, and all that that entails, you do not have to die in your sins but you can have forgiveness and eternal life." Hence, to accept Jesus' claim of deity will lead one to honor him as creator. To accept Jesus as God will lead one to listen to all of Jesus' teachings with humility and awe.
Not only does he tell us who he is, but he shows us that we can be forgiven by drawing close to him by believing. This belief is in a living person, the Lord Jesus, who created the world, came to earth, died on a cross for sin, and rose again on the third day so that all who believe in him need not die but can have eternal life (see John 3:16).
So, if Jesus claimed to be God, what difference would it make? Well, if Jesus claimed to be God, and he did, then we no longer need to build our own religious salad in the hopes of finding true peace and forgiveness of sin. He has shown us the way of real life and true blessing. He has invited us to a banquet set by his own plan, a banquet of forgiveness in the presence of our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Do you believe that Jesus is God? Do you know the forgiveness of sin through faith in
Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection? You can! Please attend a Bible believing church soon and learn more about Jesus, our God and Savior.