When I was 12 years old, I made a decision to give my life to Jesus Christ. The minister of our church, following each sermon, issued an altar call. An altar call is an invitation extended by the minister to accept Jesus Christ, recommit your life to Christ, or join the church. I remember it like it was yesterday, my grandmother encouraged me to go to the altar and I went. As I look back on the moment in time, I realize my decision was prompted by my grandmother God bless her heart. She wanted to make sure that my relationship with Christ was right. However, in retrospect, it was a decision of the head and not the heart. Several years after my decision to accept, Christ I eventually left the church for a period of time. I was in pursuit of something more fulfilling and at that point, in my life the church was not doing it for me.
In Matthew 11:38, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and, I will give you rest.” I realize today something was missing. Even though I made a decision, nothing changed – I did not feel any different. There is a distinct difference between being weary, burdened and rest. Most people notice a difference between a hard day’s work and a good nights rest. I believe this is what Jesus was intimating, when we come to Him, at some point we should feel different.
This raises several questions for me, especially as it relates to proclaiming and sharing the gospel. There are people who have asked me bluntly, how can I know if Jesus is real? This question started me to thinking, with all of the skepticism and cynicism in our world today, how can we who live in the 21st century confirm the reality of Jesus?
I believe that the apostle John helps us to answer this question. John states, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Throughout the Scriptures there are many titles used in reference to Jesus. “The Word,” is one of the titles for our Lord found only in the writings of John. For John, it is clear that embracing the reality of Christ is tied to understanding whom Christ is. Earlier in this chapter, John informs us that Jesus, “The Word,” was with God and “The Word” is God and has been from the beginning.
John says The Word became. Theologians and biblical scholars have maintained that “The Word” comes to us in three manifestations. There is the spoken Word, the written Word and the living Word. As we open the pages of Scripture and throughout the first chapter in the book of Genesis, we are introduced to the spoken Word. As the spoken Word, Jesus became the agent of creation. Using His divine creative power, Jesus spoke and as He spoke a new element of creation came into existence. Many people underestimate and do not realize the power of the spoken word. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” As the spoken word, Jesus has the power to speak into our lives and bring about transformation. He can speak and bring life to dreams, hopes, and aspirations that were dead and help us to become a creative by-product of the words He speaks into our lives.
The entire bible is the written word. Peter Enns states that, “The primary purpose of Scripture is for the church to eat and drink its contents in order to understand better who God is, what he has done, and what it means to be his people, redeemed in the crucified and risen God. The written word provides us with the recorded words of our Lord. Through these words and narratives we are able to gain comfort, assurance, hope, and when necessary correction. As the written Word Jesus becomes the standard for the people of God who desire to come to know God and to live according to the will of God. It is through the written word that Jesus reveals the mysteries of God, the coming and formation of the kingdom of God and how we should prepare ourselves if we desire to enter and be a part of God’s kingdom.
Despite the fact “The Word” became, there was a need for more and greater revelation. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God has made attempts to reveal Himself to humanity for the express purpose of cultivating a relationship between God and His creation. From the beginning of time, God has revealed Himself to the world through creation. As we look around today, we can see that creation confirms the reality of God. Yet, there are those who in the face of overwhelming evidence deny the reality of God and deny that the world was created by God. For some people, seeing is not enough.
God has also revealed Himself to us through the written word. In another attempt to provide humanity with an opportunity to come to know God and engage in fellowship with God, God has given us His written word. As we read through the pages of God’s written word we encounter God working in the lives of ordinary people and empowering them to do extra-ordinary things. Nonetheless, there are some who reject the written witness and dismissed it as urban myth and legend. For some people, reading about…is not enough.
John says, “The Word became flesh.” Literally, the Word that spoke creation into existence became the Living Word. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the one whom the prophets spoke of and wrote about throughout the Old Testament became a reality within the realm of human consciousness and sphere of human activity. In other words, Jesus became like us, human. He became God-Man. Even though Jesus was clothed in flesh, a human body, He never stopped being God.
Throughout history, God has always taken the initiative to express His love for His people. In a final attempt to reveal Himself to the world, God became the living word. John says, “He came to his own, but His own did not receive Him.” There are some who claim that Jesus was a good moral teacher, but they will not acknowledge the divine nature of Jesus. Many people have tremendous difficulty reconciling the divinity of Jesus with the humanity of Jesus. In their minds, Jesus was either one or the other, but He could not be both.
Recognizing humanity’s struggles, John mentions that in addition to “The Word” becoming flesh, He made His dwelling among us. The word dwelling actually means, tabernacled or to pitch a tent. In other words, Jesus tabernacled, He pitched a tent in our midst. When we think of a tent, most of us think of some temporary shelter constructed in the woods to protect us from the elements. However, the idea behind the tent that Jesus pitches is that it is not a temporary dwelling, but a permanent residence. Another way to look at this is that Jesus became like us to move into our neighborhood, our communities, our relationships, our marriages, and our personal and professional lives.
In spite of previous rejections, Jesus Christ, “The Word,” has tabernacled among us to give us the opportunity to experience the power of God up close and personal. To open our eyes and our understanding so that we will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is real. Jesus has pitched his tent in our midst so that we do not have to look for Him, but rather all we need to do is to turn to Him because He is already here.
How can we confirm the reality of “The Word?” We confirm the reality of “The Word” at the point we identify with “The Word.” Jesus became like us so that He could identify with us in our humanness. At the point we recognize that Jesus laughed like we do, He cried like we do, He got angry and frustrated with people just like we do. He felt the pain and sorrow associated with losing loved ones, just like we do. He was slandered, falsely accused, rejected by His own family, closest friends, and people, just like some of us have been. The moment we begin to identify with someone, it signals that we either see ourselves in them, or we see them in us. Either way, a reality is confirmed and a connection is made.
How can we confirm the reality of “The Word?” We confirm the reality of “The Word” by the impact of “The Word” in our lives. As I mentioned earlier, many times we do not realize the impact words can have on us. One of the things I love about women is that when they read a card whose touches them they remark who lovely it is. Let me ask you, how much more should we not be touched by the spoken and the written words of Jesus? I think of the countless number of people who in the midst of tragedy and depression have found comfort in the Psalms, the gospels, the epistles, and the words of Christ – “Let not your heart be troubled, and neither let it be afraid.”
How can we confirm the reality of “The Word?” By opening our hearts and inviting Jesus Christ to come in and pitch His tent and dwell with us. In other words, confirmation of Christ’s reality comes as we personally experience Christ living on the inside of us. As one of the younger members of our church said following his baptism, “I feel him inside of me.” Now that is confirmation that “The Word” is real.
February 14, 2010