Tuesday, August 7, 2007

WHO IS HE?

Our Christian faith is based upon the revelation of God. It is different from all other religions which are attained through meditation, conjecture, and searching. We believe that the Bible is God's revelation to us. In other words, it is His spoken word to us. We also believe that God has become a man, who is the very Jesus of Nazareth. God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ constitute the basis of our faith.Let us begin by looking at the position that Christ occupies in our faith, or we may say, in Christianity. However, Christianity has been altered and is not what it ought to be. At the present we will not mention what Christianity ought to be. Rather, we will only draw a comparison between Christianity and other religions in order to see the distinctiveness of our faith. We will not try purposely to exalt Christianity and debase other religions. We will only draw an objective comparison between them.First, let us consider Confucianism. Actually, followers of Confucius never formally assert that theirs is a religion. Confucianism merely exercises great influence on Chinese culture, education, ethics, and philosophy. One thing, however, is certain: the teachings and doctrines of Confucius are of foremost importance, while the person Confucius is not as crucial. I do not mean that Confucianism has no concern for Confucius. The man indeed was an extraordinary person. However, in order to be a part of Confucianism, one only needs to understand the doctrines of Confucius, abide by his teachings, and be thoroughly acquainted with his books. It does not matter whether one understands the man Confucius or not. The principles, doctrines, and teachings of Confucius are the essence of the religion.Next let us consider Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism was Sakya Muni. Once he preached to his disciples about evil persons being reincarnated through the Wheel of Rebirth after death. This is something that attracts man's attention. But in all of Buddhism, the point of emphasis is doctrines and theories. Concerning the man Sakya Muni, although he has a history and biography, they are something parenthetical. They do not form the crux of Buddhism. The center of the religion is not the man Sakya Muni. Whether there was such a person is unimportant to today's Buddhism. All that is needed are the doctrines and teachings.Other religions such as Taoism and Mohammedanism are all of the same principle. After each founder set up a religion and left his teachings, doctrines, and regulations as the content of his religion, the founder himself was disassociated from the religion and had little to do with it.But our faith is entirely different. From its outset, Christianity is built on the man Christ. It is not built on the doctrines and teachings of Christ. It is amazing that when you open the Bible, you will not find too many chapters of doctrines. Passages where pure doctrinal issues are expounded are rare and of less concern to people. What concerns one the most is the man Himself and what kind of person He is. All who have read the Bible know that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are not outstandingly voluminous. His person draws our attention. He alone is the foundation of our faith.The word Christ came from Greek, meaning the Anointed One. According to the Chinese, when a man takes up a task, he is given a letter of employment. The Jewish equivalent of this is anointing. When God summons a person for a work, He pours oil on the person as a seal of commission. Christ is the very God who was set apart to come to earth to be a man for the manifestation of God, in order that man may know God. Christ is the Anointed One. He is commissioned to such a task.Due to this basic distinction, Christ is different from the founders of other religions. Once He asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Over and over again He demanded that His disciples believe in Him. He said that he who believes in the Son has eternal life. Again He said, "He who loves father or mother above Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter above Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:37). Unless a man loves in this way, he is not worthy to be His disciple. Words such as these have been uttered only by Him. No other religious leader ever said anything like that. Confucius never said to Yen-weh or Tze-lu, "Believe in me," nor did he ever say, "Love me." Neither did any of the other leaders, such as Sakya Muni or Mohammed, demand of their disciples faith in them. All it takes to be their disciples is to believe in their doctrines.Hence, the true Christian faith is based on a person. It is built on Christ and not on some doctrines. The crux of the true Christian faith is a question of who Jesus is! Is He merely a Jew? Is He only a prophet? Or is Jesus the Son of the living God? The whole matter hinges upon who Jesus of Nazareth is. The difference between a genuine Christian and a false one lies not in the knowledge of the doctrines of Christ. Rather, it lies in the knowledge of who Jesus is!Who is this man from Nazareth? Since this is a crucial question related to our basic faith, we have to find the answer in the Bible. We will pay more attention to the Gospel of John and discover that only Christ Himself is the center of the Bible and the focus of the whole of Christianity.Before taking up the Gospel of John, we have to take a look at the background of the book. Prior to the coming of Christ, a forerunner was sent by God to prepare a way for Christ that men might be ready to acknowledge Christ. The forerunner was John the Baptist. Because of his powerful preaching, many people were convicted. As a result, many thought that he was the Christ who was supposed to come.But John 1:8 says, "He was not the light, but came that he might testify concerning the light." The light means Christ. He is called the light because light reveals and manifests. John was not the Christ. He was only bearing witness to Christ.Concerning this light, verse 9 says, "This was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." In this dark world, if a person has Christ, he will know all about God. When this light shines forth, man will say, "Here is God." They will recognize the light as God.Up to verse 9, we still do not know who this light is. Read on from verse 10 to verse 15: "He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, yet those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name, who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality. John testified concerning Him and cried out, saying, This was He of whom I said, He who is coming after me has become ahead of me, because He was before me." Have you realized, after reading the above verses, that all that is recorded here are actual facts, rather than many doctrines?What did John the Baptist say about Christ? He said, "He...is...after me." And yet He who was after John would be before him. This is because Christ was before him in the first place. This is the beginning of the testimony of John the Baptist.John 1:27: "He who is coming after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." The preaching of John is the beginning of our faith. He came just to tell others who Jesus of Nazareth is. Not only was Christ before John, He was so much greater than John that he was not worthy to untie the thong of His sandal and be His slave.John 1:29: "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"Verse 30: "This is He of whom I said, A man is coming after me who has become ahead of me, because He was before me." When John introduced Jesus, he said, "This is He"! (v. 30). The Gospel begins by showing us who Jesus is!This is the word of the forerunner. But what about Christ? What did He say? We admit that in the Bible there are a few basic doctrines. For example, regeneration is one of the basic truths. Buddhism and Mohammedanism also talk about regeneration. In their teachings they teach that whatever is past is considered as dead yesterday, and whatever is hereafter is considered as born today. But what did Jesus say about regeneration? Let us look at the record of John 3."There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to Him by night" (vv. 1-2a).Nicodemus was a ruler. He was also a learned and aged person. He came to Jesus to discuss some problems with Him, and Jesus brought up the matter of regeneration."Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3).Jesus showed Nicodemus the matter of regeneration, telling him that he needed to be born again. After Nicodemus heard this, he was confounded. He wondered how an old man could be born again. Did that mean that he had to go into his mother's womb and come out again? Jesus told him that this is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth of the spirit. If a man is not born of the Spirit, even if he could go into his mother's womb again, the flesh would still beget flesh. Only the Spirit begets spirit. Here you can see that even in such a basic and fundamental matter, Jesus did not expound much doctrine. He only mentioned a very simple fact—the need to be born again.No wonder Nicodemus asked, "How can these things be?" Jesus told him that this is not an earthly matter. It is something heavenly. That is why he could not believe. How can a man be born again? "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes into Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God" (vv. 13-18). Have you seen this? This is regeneration!Jesus was saying that regeneration is not a doctrine. It is believing into Him. To be born again is to believe into Him. If a man does not believe into Him, he cannot be regenerated. After saying so much, it all comes back to "Him."What is our concept of regeneration? We think that if one was a thief yesterday and returns his booty to the owner today, that this is regeneration. Or, if one thought of having a mistress yesterday, but gives up that idea today, that this is regeneration. We think that as long as we quit doing whatever was bad in the past, considering it as dead, and strive to do well hereafter, we are born again. But this is man's concept. This is not the regeneration that Christ gives.The way of Jesus depends on whether you believe into Him or not. He who believes into Him has eternal life! God gave His only begotten Son that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned. This is not a doctrine. It is a matter of the person. It is a relationship between Him and man.Besides regeneration, there is another crucial matter, which we call Christian satisfaction. A genuine Christian feels that his hopes are fulfilled, his aspirations attained; he has no want; he is absolutely satisfied. But this satisfaction is very different from the contentment that people commonly talk about. Contentment is to see things in an optimistic way, to let things come and go by as they are without insisting on anything. There may not be much wealth or position. There may not be much honor or renown. But as long as one can live in peace and be left unbothered, that is good enough! This is contentment. But this is not satisfaction. When a person is satisfied, he feels that he has what he wants and that he has no more desires.There is an excellent record in John 4. What did Jesus say to a Samaritan woman there? "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again" (v. 13). If you desire worldly glory, renown, wealth, position, etc., you will never be satisfied. When you have ten thousand dollars, you will want a hundred thousand, and when you have acquired a hundred thousand, you will start dreaming about a million. There will never be satisfaction. He who drinks of this water will thirst again.How do you quench this thirst? The Lord Jesus said, "But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall by no means thirst forever" (v. 14). An amazing fact is that neither Confucius nor any other religious leader ever said such a thing. The teachings of Confucius and Mencius only tell you to be content and to abide in your poverty. The person Confucius or Mencius has nothing to do with your contentment. However, the person Jesus has a great deal to do with your thirst-quenching.Naturally the woman desired to drink of this thirst-quenching water. When she asked Jesus for this living water, "Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (v. 10).Was Jesus preaching a doctrine? No. There was no doctrine. The only thing He did was point to Himself, as if to say, "Well, if you know who He is, you will ask of Him at once, and He will give you living water, that you may never thirst again." Have you seen this? The whole question is who Jesus of Nazareth is.The Samaritan woman was not a decent woman. The fact that she had had six husbands showed what kind of woman she was. She must have been dissatisfied with this one and that one. One husband could not make her happy; another could not make her satisfied. As a result, she changed from one husband to another, and then to a third and a fourth, until she came to the sixth. One day she came out to draw water, a symbol of her being one who drinks and is still thirsty. The remarkable thing is that on that day, her life was changed. She became satisfied! What did she do? She did not do anything! On that day she realized who Jesus of Nazareth is and she was saved. Let us look again at the process through which she came to know Jesus and believe in Him

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