Gospel Vignettes

One Way.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NIV). Jesus is the only way to God, not because He has obstructed others from free competition to be alternative ways to God, but because no other way can be legitimately proven to exist. The God concept emphasizes not just strength or authority, but the idea of exclusivity — one-of-a-kind uniqueness. The very idea behind the preposition “omni” is an unrivaled singularity. If “omnipotent” is all powerful, how can another exist? With an all powerful God, no one can possibly rival or eclipse Him. If “omniscient” is all knowing, then God does not begin to understand something, but always knows everything. He cannot begin to understand something or else He never was God. If “omnipresent” is present everywhere, then God must be universal. And, simply suggesting the possibility of a multiverse or infinite multiverses does nothing to take away from the concept that the same God must be everywhere to be God. Ancient mythologies depict gods with humanlike limitations and weaknesses, but that underscores the necessity that the True God is not only unlimited, but does all things well. Myth and superstition only present a god made in the image of man, while God made man “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27 NIV).

Meaning of Life.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NIV). How does anyone arrive at such a viewpoint on life? Paul the Apostle wrote those words to the Philippian disciples in the first century AD, relating his viewpoint on the meaning of life. Whatever circumstances bring us into agreement with him represents how God has providentially arranged our lives to bring us to that conclusion. We may have different terminologies to say the same thing, but we must come to the conclusion that Christ is the essence of our existence. I know I was uncomfortable around those who seemed sold out to that idea, when I was nominally professing to be a Christian about 50 years ago. I had nothing more than an intellectual Christianity coupled to a historical Christ of whom I was afraid would not allow me the piece of the world I intended to possess. The strange part is not that the arguments for being completely given over to Christ were faulty or unconvincing, but I was afraid of what might be required of me, if I let myself be guided by those arguments. “Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:21-22 NIV). Whether or not you are required by God to sell all your possessions, give alms to the poor, and come follow Him, you must be willing, or you are insisting on controlling your own destiny without regard for Christ.

Nothing Without Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV). Yes, we have been taught of the limitlessness of possibilities of which we are capable, even by the world, but it must be remembered, we are unlimited only because of Christ. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13 KJV). If anyone other than God were to tell us that we couldn’t do anything without them, we would say they were arrogant, self-absorbed, had delusions of grandeur, and should definitely be avoided. When motivators encourage us to believe in ourselves without teaching us our utter dependence on Christ, then we must mark and avoid them as Paul advised. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17 KJV). Notice that living or remaining in Christ is a choice maintained by simple willingness, while other commands such as, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NIV), require a complexity of wisdom and power equal to the task. Much like Solomon’s request for wisdom to fulfill his responsibility of ruling Israel, we need the wisdom of God to accomplish His mission of making disciples. 
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5 NIV). Then, ours is to fashion our message in the way God has made sensible to us, while relying upon Christ for the results. May God so enable us that we, too, might be identified, even by the world, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6 KJV). 

One and Only Son.

The concept of sonship is not foreign to us. Every son has a father — someone like themselves who is responsible for their very existence. In fact, to declare sonship is to lay claim to whatever legacy offspring are duly appointed to receive. For this reason, Jesus “was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18 NIV). It was not incidental that Jesus’ “opponents picked up stones to stone Him” (John 10:31 NIV), for He had just made quite clear His sonship by the Father. Further, He had told them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?” (10:32). “We are not stoning you for any good work, they replied, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (10:33). Now, your reaction might be, I thought anyone who had been begotten into the Kingdom of God, who had been baptized into the Body of Christ, was a son or child of God. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons [Greek, teknon, children, sons] of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12 KJV). And, your understanding of sonship would be correct. John 3:16, that famous Gospel Verse declared, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). As the One and Only Son, Jesus had first claim on things by their very nature, to which we could never claim, specifically, His divinity. As great a thing as that was to look into, the love of God is the dumbfounding, awe inspiring act that transfixed even the angelic hosts of heaven, for “even angels long to look into these things” (1Peter 1:12 NIV).

Love Is the Why.

God sending His Son to atone for our sins, answers the question, “What did God do?” — “He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16 NIV). But, “Why did He do it?” is answered by “God so loved the world” (John 3:16 NIV). Love is the why, and all the theological surmising and assessing cannot take away the awe inspiring us that God has bestowed such an unspeakable blessing, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst” (1Timothy 1:15 NIV). We can proclaim the what of the Gospel message — Jesus died because of our sins, but just as God exhibited to us, only love can demonstrate the why of the Gospel — “for Christ’s love compels us” (2Corinthians 5:14 NIV). Again, we can explain the what of the Gospel — Christ came into the world to save sinners, but the why of the Gospel can only be compellingly demonstrated — “and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19 NIV). And, if this discussion intrigues you, I offer two video excerpts, to illustrate the distinction between the what and the why (3:49), and another to punctuate the driving necessity to “show me” what we proclaim (2:08). Put simply, love is the compelling reason for why we should do anything. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1Corinthians 13:13 NIV).