I have heard so much about you

I have this habit of talking about my wife a lot. I don’t really mean to do it, but it just happens. More than just talking about my wife I talk about my wife like people know who she is because I think they should. Sometimes I have said multiple things about her and then realize I have to clarify that Julie is my wife. It is usually just little things like Julie and I like to do ______, my wife was telling me about ______, or Julie is doing ______. I find that if I spend enough time talking to someone that by the time they meet my darling bride they say something along the lines of “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” My goal is for people to love my wife as much as I do. I want people to know what an amazing woman she is. I love when people met her and see what I see. It gives me such joy to see people see the wonder of my wife.

I want to do the same thing with Jesus. I want to talk about Jesus in such a way that people feel they just have to meet Him. That after spending time with me they think “wow this Jesus guy sounds amazing” because honestly, He is. I love Him so much and I want other people to love Him so much. The problem is that all too often I get in the way. I start to talk too much about the things of Jesus and not Him.

I can tell you all sorts of things about my wife. Fun facts and figures that would make you think me a crazy stalker. I know every mannerism about my wife. Usually, I know something about my wife before she does because I study her so much. If I told you these things you would know about her too, but it would not drive you to want to meet her. You would know a good deal about her, but they would not be things that make you meet her and say “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” Instead, you met her and say, “wow your husband knows you a lot.” By me telling you all the facts and stats about my wife you would learn a lot about me. You might even think I am awesome for knowing my wife so well. But that is not my goal. My goal is for you to meet her and thinks wow she is awesome.

The same goes for Jesus. I love to study the things about God (what we call theology). For me, it is so much fun. I enjoy talking about it and learning about it. I also think it is ridiculously important and the more I tell you about these things the more you will know things about Him too, but they will not drive you to want to know Him. The more I tell you about theology the more you might start to think “wow this guy really knows His Jesus.” But I don’t want you to know I know Jesus. I want you to know Him.

I want to talk about Him in such a way that you can’t wait to meet Him. That the more I talk about Him the more you think “I have to meet this Jesus.” That is all I want in life. I want others to know this same God who loves me and saved me from myself. I want people to know that Jesus loves them and wants to be part of their life. That Jesus looked down from heaven and said, “I want you.” That’s it, that is the good news right there. God sent His Son to come and be with you. That He says you are pretty messed up, but I want you and I am going to do something so big and so amazingly crazy to make this relationship work.

That is all I want right there. I just want to be so in love with Jesus that I talk about Him in such a way that people say to Him “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.”

Just a thought,

Mike

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Faulty Teaching or Bad Language Part 2

In the last post, we looked at the results of some ideas that were put forth by the author of an article. They were that Jesus is no longer human and that reconciliation to the Father removes humanity. This time I want to tackle the next three which deal with emotions as it pertains to Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and us (humans). As a reminder the sentence in question is “after Jesus ascended into heaven, he was no longer human. He had been fully reconciled to the Father and wasn’t experiencing human emotions and doubts anymore.” So, what we are going to look at is:

  • Jesus does not have human emotions. Statement
  • God does not have human emotions. Implication
  • God’s emotions and human emotions are different. Implication

All throughout the Bible emotions are ascribed to God. So, the question we are really asking is, when the Bible speaks of God having emotions is it anthropomorphic like when the Bible speaks of God having physical human traits (eyes, ears, arms, etc.)? Put another way does the Bible give God human emotions like it does physical attributes so we can relate or understand Him, or does He truly have emotions? Additionally, are our emotions as humans different than God’s emotions, if in fact, He has them.

First, just to give a clear picture the Bible does use figurative language about God. There are multiple passages about the eyes of the Lord or the arm of the Lord. This language is sometimes used to convey a nearness about God or His seeking of people. This type of language is used to communicate something about God in a way that we as people can understand. We can grasp things like eyes being used or seeing or arms used for strength, but we cannot grasp how the spirit seeks or has strength. It is something that is beyond our understanding. That should lead us to ask if the language used about God having emotion is similar language. Is the language used about God having emotions figurative? I say no.

To start with we must go to the beginning. Genesis 1:26 God says let us create man in our image. This tells us a lot because if I tell you I am building something like a motorcycle then when you come by you already have a reasonable idea of what you expect to see. You know what a motorcycle is, and you would expect to see something similar. Here what we have is God saying “I am going to create something like myself” so we should expect that whatever we have is like God right? Now let’s work backward. If I tell you I am building something like a motorcycle and you don’t know what motorcycle is then when you come by you have no idea what to expect. But, and here is the kicker once you see the thing I have built and learn that it is like a motorcycle you will then have an idea of what a motorcycle is like based on the new information. So, for starters what we have is an understanding that we are like God because we are made in His image. We have emotions and He has emotions. But there is more that is not simple reasoning.

I could leave it at that and I think that is a fairly decent argument but because there is more I will provide more. Theology places the perfections or attributes of God in categories. Why? Because we need more categories in the world. Anyway, two such categories are the Incommunicable and Communicable attributes of God. Incommunicable are attributes He alone possess and Communicable are ones He shares (for lack of a better term) with us. An attribute like Omnipresence (all present) is His alone but truth, while He possesses it to the ultimate degree, He shares with us. Omnipower (all powerful) is His alone but unity, as in being united as the body of Christ, we can share in. We can see there are things about God that rubbed off on us in creation. These are just two examples.

Emotion is one of those things. But how do we know this? Well, the most two popular are probably God saying He is a jealous God and Jesus weeping. However, because we are arguing the point of emotions for a preincarnate and ascended Christ we will skip over the earthly life of Christ for now even though I think that foolishness.

Here is a brief list I stole from a website because I am feeling a little lazy:

The list above shows us that God not only has emotions, but He has multiple emotions. More than that He is in control of His emotions. God is able to have emotions and not let them control Him. This, by the way, is an attribute of God which I place in the unity section because there is no division within God. He does not wrestle with His emotions like you or I do. He does not have to be conflicted over being angry at sin or feel sorry He hated something. There is perfect unity in His emotions.

I think one of the reasons people might reject the emotions of God is because to acknowledge that God has emotions and is able to remain in control (for lack of a better term) of them highlights the lack of emotional control we feel. We know that sometimes our emotions get the better of us and that we should do a better job at keeping them in control. To acknowledge that God has emotions is to either run the risk of being afraid God will fly off the handle at you or is to suggest you are not as in control of your own emotions as you think.

Additionally, we cannot attribute our general basic understanding of emotions to God. For example, we overuse and misuse the word love so much that when we attempt to think of God as love we uncut the real meaning of what that means. In the western world, and especially the English-speaking western world, we can say we love everything and the meaning can be anything from a fleeting infatuation to romantic desire to lifelong service to a spouse. The biblical definition of love, however, is vastly different. I like the way Charles Ryrie puts is when talking about love “love seeks the good of the object loved.”[1] Love is an emotion, but it is so much more too.

Lastly, because we have laid the groundwork we can probably now talk about the emotions Jesus has while in heaven and I will only mention one. Jesus sympathizes. According to Hebrews 4:15 Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. The Greek word is sympatheō. We could not even come up with an English word for the emotion or action. He intimately understands and relates to our weakness. Sympathy is an emotion and Jesus feels that for us while in heaven. This is why He lives to make intercession for His people.

None of this even gets into the emotions of the Holy Spirit see for example Eph 4:30. But whereas He is a full member of the Godhead He too has emotions.

We could probably keep going but I think the point is clear. Yes, Jesus has emotions because He is God and yes God the Father has emotions. God is not some impersonal force that is void of emotion who creates beings with emotions and then leaves them to fend for themselves. Jesus experienced all the “human” emotions and when He returned to the Father He kept those emotions.

We must be clear with the words we use to describe and talk about God because words are the basis for understanding and thinking. If we use the wrong words we start to get the wrong idea. It is not easy, and I have failed many times, but we must push forward never settling for cheap theology. We can never adequality explain God, but we can try to better understand and use the right words.

Just a thought,

Mike

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Moody: Chicago 1999), 44.

Faulty Teaching or Bad Language Part 1

I think before I get started it is important for me to preface that I know I am a little weird. I get excited with things like theology, church history, word choices, church structure, and so on. Topics like these make me happy and if brought them up in a conversation you will quickly realize this. That being said, I also think it important to note that I get excited about them because they are highly important.

I was reading an article the other day and it was good. Nothing mind blowing but more of a comforting you can do it too type article. Nothing really jumped out at me except this line “After Jesus ascended into heaven, he was no longer human. He had been fully reconciled to the Father and wasn’t experiencing human emotions and doubts anymore.” At this, I slammed on the brakes. The brakes were hit because there are some large problems with this statement which is actually composed of multiple statements. I am going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say they did not mean to express what I think this statement says and what it implies.

Here is the statement and some implications broken down:

  • Jesus is no longer human. Statement
  • Reconciliation to the Father removes humanity. Implication
  • Jesus does not have human emotions. Statement
  • God does not have human emotions. Implication
  • God’s emotions and human emotions are different. Implication
  • Jesus does not doubt. Statement

Of these statements and implications, only the last one has a biblical foundation. Jesus (i.e. God) does not doubt. That’s it. I have problems with every other statement and implication brought on by the sentence. I do not want to get long-winded here so I will try to be as succinct as possible while not doing damage to the importance of the problems brought on by these statements.

First, we have the question of the physical body of Christ post-resurrection and ascension but before we can get there we do have to look at the preincarnate and the incarnation of Christ. As Christians, we believe that before Christ walked on the earth He existed as the eternal Son. This is part of what we call the eternality of the Son. He was part of the Godhead along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. John chapter 1 speaks to this in detail. He had full rights as God. What happened at the incarnation was that Jesus came and was born of the Virgin Mary and became a man. He did not lose His deity but instead became a man as well. This is what we call the hyperstatic union of Christ. It means that the two natures (God and man) existed in Christ simultaneously but never mixing or diluting. He did not stop being God but as Philippians says He did not use that His advantage (Phil 2:6). Now there are many questions about this and not a whole lot of agreement on some of the questions brought on about this, but we have a phrase or word for it (hyperstatic union). That being said, it is a mystery. As a side note, a mystery is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you tell me you can explain or understand everything you believe you are a liar. If you could explain everything about God, you either have the wrong God or you are a little too big for your britches. Either way what we see in the incarnation is God becoming a man.

This was important for multiple reasons beyond substitutionary atonement (Christ died as a substitute for us). Jesus is called the King, Prophet, High Priest, and Apostle of the faith. For Him to be these things He had to have a physical body. If He did not, then, as an example, He could not be king in the line of David. A physical body was and is required for Him to be those things. If when we ascended into Heaven He somehow lost the body He would also lose the ability to be those things because those things require Him to be and remain human. More can be read on that here.

Additionally, to deny a continued physical body by Christ is dangerously close to Docetism which denied the physical body of Christ and said that Jesus only appeared to be human. Colossians 1:15 says “The Son is the image of the invisible God” and Colossians 2:9 says “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Docetism is a form of heresy that was denied at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Now please hear me, I am not saying the author is a heretic. My point is only that we have to be careful of the seeds we plant. I would not plan the seed for an oak tree in the garden that butts up against my house. The seed is small, but it grows into a great tree that would fracture my foundation. We have to follow seeds along their path to know what will grow from what we plant.

Moving on to the next point which is an implication. The author states that Jesus is reconciled to the Father and while I have trouble with this wording I am going to chalk it up to bad writing because reconciliation carries a very specific connotation in Christianity. For us, as Christians, it especially carries the idea of being separated by sin and no longer having free-flowing relationship or fellowship. Christ came to reconcile us to the Father and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. To say that Christ became reconciled to God would imply He experienced a time when He was out of relationship with the Father which would imply disunity within the Godhead and the whole universe would collapse because Christ as God holds all things together (see Heb 1:3). I suppose I have a bigger problem with the wording than I thought.

Anyway, the other problem with this statement is that it implies that humanity or humanness cannot be connected or near God. That Jesus being reconciled to God meant He lost His humanity would imply the same thing for us. After all the Bible says that we will be raised like Him and while this speaks to union and eternal life I see no reason why a physical body would not be included especially because 2 Cor 5 talks about a new heavenly body which is one that does not see corruption or death. This again is Docetism and Gnosticism which says the physical is evil and only the spiritual is good. This means the flesh can never be good and leads to hedonism. There is a lot more than be said about this, but I think you get the picture.

We will stop here for now and split the rest up into another post. For now, we can summarize what we have. Jesus ascended to heaven and kept a human body. He was glorified (not reconciled) by the Father and then returned to heaven again. The physical or matter is not inherently evil and when we are united with Him in heaven or on the new Earth we too will have new, but still human, bodies. Next time we will talk about emotions. That will be a fun one…

Just a thought,

Mike

Trading Glory

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 106:20 for a little over a week now and just in case this verse is not in your list of memorized verses (it was not in mine) it says, “They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating ox.” The King James says it almost the same way, but some other versions say something along the lines of “they exchanged the glory of God…” either way I think we get the point.

Two other verses that seem to go along with this are Jeremiah 33:16 and Romans 3:22. These verses are good because they highlight the fact that it is God who is our righteousness and glory. It is Him and faith in Him that provides the blessing. I am intentionally not using Romans 1:23 because that is more about nonbelievers. Anyway, that is the housekeeping portion.

What I want to get at is there are times when we as believers in the Almighty trade His glory which is our righteousness for something else. Sometimes it is as harsh and dramatic as the Israelites making a golden calf and other times it is more subtle but the result is the same. The result is we trade our righteousness and God’s glory for something less. We have this gift as Christians of Christ being our righteousness and our glory. He is the “thing” inside us that makes us something different. The indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit in us sets us apart and makes us more than we could ever choose to be. His gift to us is Himself and sometimes when we are not careful we trade that for something less. Really that is dumb. Kind of like this story…

We recently moved to Knoxville, so I can work on my degree full-time. The move has been awesome and amazing. God has been lining up all sorts of blessings. Some big, some small, and some just to show off. One such blessing is that the school provides internet. This was an unexpected blessing and will save us about $90 a month. I did not know that when we moved up here, so I had originally ordered cable from another company (rhymes with Bomcast). Today I called to cancel said service. It was easy enough but the young woman I was on the phone with kept trying to get me to keep Bomcast as my service provider. I explained to her a few times that I do not need it because I already get service for free (well I mean at least not a monthly payment) so I don’t want to pay for it. She wanted me to trade my blessing for something I would need to pay for. She was trying to get me to purchase something that had been given to me.

That is what we do sometimes. We have gifts from God and we instead fall into pride thinking we created something. We have blessings and think we need to work for more. We have faith and think work is required to earn more, and so on. We trade our glory and our righteousness for something else.

We must be careful to always turn our eyes back to the Master. We must turn our gaze back to Christ and seek His glory and kingdom and in doing so we lessen the possibility of trading Him for less.

Just a thought,

Mike