Wineskins Archive

December 5, 2013

It’s Your Choice (Oct 2012)

Filed under: — @ 3:38 am and

By James Wood

I’m one month in to teaching high school freshmen about the life of Christ. In four short weeks we’ve covered most of the major Christological debates that have plagued the church throughout the course of history. We haven’t solved them, but we’ve talked about them. Their young, inquisitive minds almost invariably go to the heart of the matter: How can Jesus be fully human and fully God?

The questions weren’t that sophisticated, but the idea was still the same. Jesus’ decision to become a human being is incredibly important to understanding the gospels, the Bible and God. Jesus made a choice, to abandon heaven and embrace humanity. But we’re constantly tempted to nullify the choice he made.

Almost Live
The popular heresy among my students is Docetism. They don’t know that’s what it’s called, but they’re gravitating toward it. So too, do many Christians. Essentially Docetism teaches that Jesus only seemed to be human (this is a drastic simplification, I know). The way this works out with my students is they don’t want to believe that Jesus truly struggled with temptation, that he dealt with physical issues or that it was possible for him to sin (not that he did sin, but that it was possible).

If we deny that Jesus was fully human, with all the human frailty and all the human emotion, then we deny the power of the choice he made to give up heaven and join us. We deny the power of the choice we make to follow him as an attainable example of life.

Good Teacher
The other view of Jesus is that he was fully human, but not fully God. People want to avoid the scandalous nature of Jesus being the Son of God by saying he was only a good teacher with good ideas. We can avoid conflict with Muslims if we agree that Jesus was a prophet. We can make our beliefs palatable to atheists if we affirm that Jesus was just a man with good ideas.

But if Jesus was not fully God, we deny his choice to die, his choice to fight sin and death on our behalf and his choice to open the door to resurrection. We also deny our own choice to follow his teaching, not just because it’s full of good ideas, but also because it allows us to reflect the God in whose image we’re made.

Jesus made a choice to be both fully human and fully God. He chose to walk on earth, be tempted, suffer and die. He chose to defeat death and rise again. He chose to invite us to be his brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom. Those choices only have power if he was fully human and experienced every temptation, every weakness and every struggle that we face. Those choices only have power if he was fully God and had the ability to forgive sin, defeat death and restore us to our place as image bearers of the Almighty.

Your choice to follow Jesus only matters if he was both fully human and fully divine. If he was not completely, physically, emotionally and spiritually human, then you have no hope of following him or being his disciple. Jesus’ whole life centered on the idea that we can follow him and your choice to follow him is vain if he wasn’t human. Yet your choice to follow him is folly if he’s only human. What purpose is there in following the teachings of one person over another? Only if Jesus is fully God do his words have authority and your choice to follow him has meaning.

God’s Men (and Women)
“But,” you’re probably saying, “how can I be like Jesus if he was God? Of course he didn’t sin; he’s God. What hope do I have?”

That’s where the Spirit comes in. Jesus chose to give up heaven, come to earth and show us how to live. When we choose him, we are giving up earth and embracing heaven. Through the Holy Spirit we are empowered, just as Jesus was, to live a holy life. We become like Jesus. Not just a little bit, not in appearance only, not just after we die. No, we become God-filled human beings whose true home is in heaven. Then, just like Jesus, we live out the rest of our lives as Kingdom people who choose to live as if heaven is already among us. We do God’s will on earth just like it is in heaven. Then, just like Jesus, we have victory over death and will rise to a new life in a new body.

Jesus did what we couldn’t do on our own. Jesus was the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. But we are truly his brothers and sisters (if we choose to be). We are joint-heirs, co-siblings, royal-priests along with Jesus. Because of Jesus’ choice to be both fully human and fully God, we are invited back to Eden.

What choice do you make?

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