Sunday, June 21, 2009



Jesus is unsurpassed in our world in every way. There is more written about Jesus than any other person in history. Once Jesus is encountered, it's very difficult to brush Him aside as just another human. He was, at least, the greatest one who ever lived, taught and practiced what He taught. Some see Jesus as a great teacher or example for living. Others see Jesus as a religious leader. Others have come to believe Jesus is the unique Son of God. I have come to this understanding personally.

But when you use the term "Son of God", many just don't get it or understand how this can be. This is especially true among the Jews and Muslims. To them the "Son of God" sounds like all of the other Greek and Roman myths about their gods that chose to have sexual intercourse with a human woman to produce unique offspring. To them and many others, this is a gross thought, even unthinkable! It's an animalistic act, but not an act of a God.

The whole misunderstanding about the meaning of the "Son of God" is clarified best by my friend, Congressman Mark Siljander, in his book A Deadly Misunderstanding. The misunderstanding revolves around a word "to beget". The Qur'an is emphatic that God does not and could not "beget" a child, so to the Muslim mind this is an accursed thought. So, the Qur'an says 11 times Isa (Jesus) was not the begotten Son of God. On the other hand, the New Testament says Jesus was begotten by God 15 times.

If you rely on the Greek or English word to beget, you can easily see why someone could think in terms of Jesus being the product of God having sexual intercourse with Mary. However, in the Aramaic (language of Jesus and cousin language to Arabic), there are two words that describe the "begetting". One describes the natural begetting between human parents (male and female) and the other specifically describes a begetting with no male involved at all. Instead of it being a sexual act of God with a human woman, the idea is specifically defining the work of the Spirit of God with the feminine (without a male) to produce a virgin birth (no sex with man). So, "Son of God" must be clearly defined before using it loosely in order to communicate who this Jesus claimed to be.

Now, back to the myth. Read it carefully before jumping to conclusions and then come along with me to unpack this myth. For years I've held this myth up as a standard for those who believe. This myth is so embedded within Christianity. This has become the benchmark for whether or not a person is a true believer.

The primary damage of this myth that "you must believe Jesus is the Son of God to follow Him" is that it has become a doctrinal standard or proof of doctrinal purity. If you don't believe Jesus is the Son of God, you are disqualified to even play the spiritual game. By the way, one other point of damage is that when you embrace this myth that you cannot follow Jesus unless you believe He is the Son of God, you can so easily shut the door of the Kingdom to those who are interested. I shut the door of the Kingdom so many times when I presented the familiar chart that challenged people to see that Jesus was either a liar, lunatic or Lord. I continually pointed out and made fun of anyone who only viewed Jesus as a good teacher or example. I was very wrong and very hurtful to the message of Jesus in doing so.

Now, in debunking this myth I want to direct your attention again to the early disciples. When they first answered the call to follow Jesus, did they believe that Jesus was the Son of God? No!

They believed Jesus was the latest and greatest Rabbi on the religious scene. They believed Jesus was an amazing teacher and example. They believed He was able to perform miracles and heal people. They were highly responsive to Him, because He picked them out of a crowd and showed them some affirmation and attention. They weren't even very strong believers in Him at first either. They believed Jesus enough to attach their hopes to Him.

When you finally accept the fact that the early disciples weren't believers and didn't yet believe that Jesus was the Son of God, you step across a great threshold of truth. You see, there are lots of people that you know that are just where the disciples were in the beginning. They are curious, fascinated, impressed and interested in this Jesus. When I tell an interested agnostic that he is exactly like the early disciples of Jesus, he or she is taken back.

In Matthew 16, Jesus has a fascinating encounter and interchange with the disciples: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

The disciples have been following this attractive, irresistible and relevant Jesus for quite some time and now the question comes from Jesus: "Who do you say I am?" Peter's answer was right on when he said, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." This is the first time this has been expressed with a sense of conviction by the disciples. The thought was there, but this seems to nail it down. They believed Jesus was God's Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Now note Jesus' reply to Peter's answer. He first says, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah." Jesus strokes Peter for expressing the right answer to the question. But before Peter gets too puffed up for coming up with this great answer, Jesus quickly says, "This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood." He is saying, "Peter, you didn't think this up on your own and no one taught you this truth." You see, we continue to rely on teaching our people a set of doctrines or beliefs, thinking this teaching will somehow be sufficient to establish and maintain a vital relationship with God.

Jesus goes on to explain, "But by my Father in heaven" revealed this to you. "Peter, my Father gave you this great insight that I am indeed the Son of God." This is still the plan of operation today. The Father transformed the hearts and minds of the disciples, because they have been following Jesus for a long time.

In II Timothy 2, Paul counsels Timothy: Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses. Note that you don't get a heart for change or a transformation of heart and mind by any human methodology. Genuine transformation will only come as a gift from God-"in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses." God will grant this transformation to all who are interested enough to have ears to hear and eyes to see. It's a gift from God.

There seem to be three stages of following Jesus. FIRST-Jesus is followed because He is so flawless and attractive-unimpeachable. He is the one person who has truly walked the walk and the talk perfectly. No one argues with this. And the disciples believed in Him enough to follow Him. There is nothing wrong with this type of following Jesus at all.

SECOND-Then as you follow this attractive Jesus, you will begin to embrace His lifestyle, teachings and principles and find them to be very practical and meaningful for your life. Following this Jesus just makes sense.

THIRD-Finally, as you continue to follow this Jesus and find His teachings meaningful, you will at some point discover your Creator-God. You will experience transformation of your heart and your mind and see Jesus as the Son of God.

So, wherever you are in this continuum of the stages in following Jesus, ultimately you are seeking and hoping to receive this gift of transformation from God Himself. When you understand this, you then can embrace the fact of Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Muslims and even Christians who are followers of Jesus.

This is why I have dedicated my life to doing two things. FIRST-I am doing one of the toughest things I've ever set out to do in my life; I'm trying to follow Jesus and embrace His teachings as my lifestyle. SECOND-I want to do whatever I can do to introduce Jesus and His teachings to as many individuals as I possibly can. This approach to life is summed up in an old phrase: TO KNOW JESUS AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN. I encourage you to think about doing the same.