Tag Archives: incarnation

God Is Great

Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, 

whose power is in the heavens. 

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; 

the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  

Praise be to God! 

(Psalm 68:34-35)

What does it mean to say God is “great”?

I have already affirmed Anselm’s definition of God as the being that no greater can be conceived.  The term omnipotent may be used,which means that God is all powerful. Only an omnipotent being could have created the universe from nothing beyond his own resources. This alone qualifies God as great. We could also say that God is great means his glory is above all else. He is worthy because of what he has done, and for who and what he is. We are wise to recognize him and revere him and praise him. 

So, we could stop right there. God is great. However, as you are aware, there is a problem. What about the evil and apparent imperfections of our world. If God is all powerful, then why couldn’t he create a better world? If God is good, then why wouldn’t he create a perfect world? Why is there so much suffering and evil? This why some have said God is not great, and others have said God must not exist at all.

What Omnipotence Cannot Do

The title above may seem contradictory, but we need to understand what is meant by “all powerful.” Let’s look at some quotes concerning God’s omnipotence.

“Omnipotence means to be able to do all that is intrinsically possible.” (C. S. Lewis in The Problem with Pain)

“Nothing that implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.”  (Thomas of Aquinas)

“But I know very well that if it is self-contradictory it is absolutely impossible.” 

“You may attribute miracles to him (God) but not nonsense…. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but non-entities.” (C. S. Lewis)

The word intrinsic (used by C. S. Lewis above) means what is related to the essential nature of something or someone. God can do what is humanly impossible, but some things are intrinsically impossible, which means they are “in themselves” impossible. God cannot make a red green thing. Since color is actually the reflection of a certain band of light on the electromagnetic spectrum, permit me to to clarify: God cannot make an infra-red ultra-violet thing. Why? Infra-red and ultra-violet exist at opposite extremes on the electromagnetic spectrum. One cannot be the same as the other.

In a world of genuinely free creatures it would seem to be intrinsically impossible for God to force persons to do what he wills when they choose to do otherwise. Thus, it is intrinsically impossible for God to force free people to love him. Forced love would not be love at all, but a monstrous mockery of it. Love is intrinsically free, so it must come from a person with free will. This opens up a very complex subject: Determinism vs. Freedom.

Can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?

If you answer yes to the question above, then you agree implicitly that God may be limited by his creation. If you answer in the negative, then you affirm God is not omnipotent, since there is indeed something His power is incapable of. This dilemma is intended to stump those of us who affirm that God is all powerful. The resolution I offer will serve to prove both God’s omnipotence and give insight into his character.

My answer to the question is, yes God can—and has—created such a “rock.” The rock in this case is the human will. You and I can resist the will of God for our lives. We are even capable of choosing not to believe in His existence! God’s power is such that he is capable of limiting himself for a greater good. His character is such that he has created beings in his image, persons with a free will who may choose to love and live with Him forever, or reject Him and go their own way. The former is heaven, the latter is hell. Without human free will in rebellion against God there would be no hell.

The capability and willingness (courage!) to create beings with free will who inhabit a world where that will may be genuinely actualized demonstrates God’s greatness. Systems of theology or thought that downgrade or eliminate human free will in an effort to elevate the sovereignty of God ultimately fail to give God the glory he is due. The world is imperfect because of human rebellion against God. The world remains in its fallen state (for now) in order that rebellious humans may experience life without God, and its consequences.

The Incarnation

The pre-eminent example of God’s capacity and willingness to limit himself is the incarnation of His one and only Son. Jesus of Nazareth affirmed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Apostle Paul proclaimed “For in him all the fullness of deity lives bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus continued to be God and to have the nature of God, but chose to lay aside his divine power and privileges to take on the limitations of a human nature. The baby born in a manger “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man,” and remained in unbroken communion with, and dependence upon, God the Father, throughout his time on earth. This Jesus was and is one with the God of the universe. However, the Son of God didn’t just pretend to be human, he became one of us. A popular songwriter from a previous decade asked:

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home? 

Jesus Christ became just that. He took every bit of our humanity upon himself. As one early theologian put it, “What is is un-assumed is unhealed” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus). This means the Son of God had to take on the fullness of humanity in order to take away all of our sin. On the cross Jesus assumed all of our sin and selfishness and sickness and then died the death we deserve. 

“He who knew no sin became our sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He came and died and rose from death so that we may be saved from this corrupt world, and have the hope of eternal life in a new and perfect world. 

That is the epitome of love, and it required self limitation.

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”  (Philippians 2:6–9, ESV).

“He who knew no sin became our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

However, Christ didn’t remain dead. “Ain’t no grave can hold my body down!” The Author of Life rose from the grave on the third day, and now He always lives to provide salvation for any who will put their faith in Him. 

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Is it any wonder the Apostle Paul would write a paean to this Great God:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV).

God’s true greatness is about more than possession of raw power and incomprehensible intellect to make things and people as he wants them to be. The limitless God can limit himself if he chooses. God has created beings in his image with free will. God has limited himself by permitting the independent exercise of free will, even when it opposes his own. God also limited himself by becoming one of us, so that the destructive exercise of human free will may be atoned for and corrected. God has chosen to limit himself in order to achieve the ultimate purpose of his glorious will to raise up a people who have freely chosen to love him, and who have decided to follow their Lord, who said, “not my will, but thy will be done.” He is in the process of calling people to be his own, who will freely align their wills with God’s without coercion or fear of punishment.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

God is very great indeed.

Six Miracles

Parthenogenesis is a virgin birth. This doesn’t happen among mammals in nature. However, with intelligent assistance a female mouse was genetically engineered to give birth to its own offspring without the involvement of a male.
Humans cannot naturally do this. However nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).

What’s a miracle?
/Miracle/ means something exists or occurs supernaturally, above and beyond nature. In other words, a miracle means something didn’t just happen, or come about naturally.

1. Existence.
“Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does anything at all exist?” -Leibniz
The fact that anything at all exists is the first miracle.
Existence didn’t just happen. Nothing cannot cause or result in something. “From nothing, nothing comes.”
Something, or Someone has always existed, and whomever or whatever that is, is by definition a miracle, since it is beyond the natural world in which we exist.

2. The Universe
For those who conclude as Carl Sagan did, as the Greeks did, that the universe is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be, the argument that existence is a miracle might seem foolish, but I believe the question is still, why? Why does the universe exist? They would respond that it is just a “brute fact,” and feel smug and comfortable that the “why question is a foolish one,” as Dawkins states. Yet many of us are still asking this very human question. Moreover, the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe has far and away the best and most prolific evidence, and it demonstrates that the universe began to exist 13.7 billion years ago. The universe is a miracle.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its existence. The best explanation is that the universe was brought into existence by a personal Creator, who existed prior to it. Personal because only a person is capable of freely making something happen apart from a prior cause. God is a personal, infinitely powerful, unimaginably intelligent being who, by definition has always existed. God is the uncaused cause of the universe, and everything else that exists.

3. Life.
Evolution as an explanation for the origin of life is ridiculous. In the same respect as nothing cannot result in something, so non-life cannot produce life. Ironically, evolution is a poor explanation for the origin of any species. The infamous Miller-Urey experiment that every high school student is shown as proof that life began to exist as a result of natural causes fails to prove anything. Miller intelligently designed the experiment, using elements that he already believed would produce an amino acid. That’s an example of design, not chance. Additionally, Miller was wrong about the composition of the early earth, so an amino acid couldn’t have been produced the way he demonstrated. Finally, a single amino acid is not life. It is a long, long way from amino acid to viable protein, and much further to even the simplest single celled organism.

Biochemist Doug Axe demonstrated in an experiment published by Cambridge University’s Journal of Molecular Biology in 2004 that the likelihood of a single viable amino acid resulting from sheer chance would be 1 in 10 74th. To give you an idea of how ridiculous those odds are, consider that there are 10 65th atoms in our galaxie.

The belief that life could come into existence without apparent cause, is called /spontaneous generation/ People once believed that this happened all the time. For instance, mold seems to spontaneously appear and grow on a pile of damp rags sitting in the corner of a room. This was a very unscientific conclusion prior to knowledge of microscopic organisms. Yet, if we are to believe that evolution is the explanation of the origin of life, we’re forced into the same farcical understanding. In reality, life is a miracle. It came about as a result of something or someone above and beyond nature. Life was (and is) created by the same God who made the universe and the earth.

4. Consciousness.
We take for granted the reality that we are conscious beings. You are more than a body, you are a self. You don’t have a “me”; you are a me. You perceive qualities, not quantities. Not all life is conscious life. Self-awareness is not something that arose naturally via some sort of evolution. There must be something else present within a living organism to make it personal and conscious. That something is a non-corporeal essence, which some call soul, but would more accurately be understood as spirit. Human beings are both self-conscious and God-conscious, because they have been given a spirit from God and like God’s own. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). God breathed into us and endowed us with a supernatural component that enables consciousness (Gen. 2:7). It is the spirit that makes us aware of our own thoughts. The spirit is like a mirror, reflecting the mind and the self. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his inmost parts” (Prov. 20:27)
The spirit is like a phone, communicating God’s voice, but via intuition rather than spoken words.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”
(1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV).
God’s Spirit knows his thoughts and communicates them to us as God wills.
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us”
(1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV).
The soul is conscious, earthly life. The spirit is subconscious and capable of communing with God and receiving eternal life. I understand God’s revelation via His Spirit who communicates with my spirit, once it is revived through the new birth.

This is miraculous, supernatural, not natural.

5. Incarnation
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with Advent. The Christmas story centers around the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God who became a man. That is called the incarnation, and that is what Christmas is actually all about.
“although he existed in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God as something to be held onto, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
Jesus’ mother, Mary was a young, unmarried virgin. The virgin birth is foolish in the eyes of those who do not believe in God or the miraculous. However, once you see that existence, the universe, life and consciousness are all miraculous you will likely find it quite easy to believe in the possibility of the virgin birth, which is necessary to bring about the incarnation of the Son of God. The God who created everything can certainly create within a virgin’s womb the sinless body of his incarnate Son.
The Gospel of Luke testifies that an angel visited the Virgin Mary. This was a supernatural messenger from God. When Mary asked how she could become pregnant, the angel replied: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God… For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35, 37).

6. Resurrection
The baby born in a manger grew to be the sinless man who died on the cross and rose from the grave. Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead,” and the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” When you and I confess our sin and put our faith in Jesus who conquered sin, death and hell, we are given a new status as God’s children and a new hope as those who will follow Jesus through death to eternal life. That is the greatest miracle for us!
So, will you believe today? Will you put your hope in God’s offer of eternal life in Christ. Do you have hope that one day you will rise from the grave like Jesus. You can. If you only believe. That is the hope I offer you today.

7. A Transformed Life.
Will you be the 7th miracle? Believe in the incarnate, resurrected Christ. Pray and call on  him to save you now.

The Reason for Jesus

Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and he really is. Jesus is the reason for Christmas. But do you know the reason for Jesus? I mean, do you know why Jesus came to earth to be born?

Nobody knows the exact day that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but we do know that a miracle happened over 2,000 years ago when God chose Mary to be the Mother of His One and Only Son. December 25th was chosen as the date to celebrate his birthday long ago.

Would it surprise you to know that Jesus existed before he was born? That’s not true of you or me. Every human being, except Jesus Christ, came into existence inside their mother. But Jesus has always been the Son of God. His existence didn’t begin at his birth. When baby Jesus was laid in the manger, he opened his eyes and looked out upon the world for the first time as a human being. Before that, the Son of God was with his Father in heaven. Jesus came to earth to become one of us, lived a perfect life like none of us, and then he died on the cross and rose from the grave for all of us. God showed his love by sending his one and only Son.

You see, Jesus knows what you and I are going through down here because he experienced human life: happiness, sadness, weakness, weariness, pain, and finally death. He knows what it feels like to be a human being, and he cares about all of us.

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood… it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Hebrews 2:14a, 17–18.

Jesus became a human being so that he could take away our sins. Everybody does bad things, and we call those bad things sins. Every time we do wrong we make God unhappy. Whenever you sin, you hurt God, you hurt yourself, and you hurt other people. When Jesus died on the cross, he showed us just how much it hurts when we sin.

If we do wrong we also have to pay for it. If you steal something, then you have to give it back. If you break something, then you have to pay for it. That’s the right thing to do. We also deserve to be punished when we do wrong. If you steal you could go to jail for it. When Jesus died on the cross, he was punished for our sins. But Jesus never sinned! He never told a lie, never stole, never disrespected his parents, never cursed at anyone, or hit anyone. From the time he was born in the manger until the time he died on the cross, Jesus never sinned. That’s why he could take the punishment for all of our sins.
“Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God.”
The Everyday Bible: New Century Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 2 Corinthians 5:21.

So, that’s why Jesus was born: to show us how much God loves us, and to pay the penalty for our sins. You and I sin, don’t we? We really do need Jesus. We need him to take away our sins and to help us to live better lives. Jesus wants us to live well. That’s one of the reasons our church is called Lifewell. He also wants all of us to go to heaven to be with him some day.

Jesus came back to life after he died for our sins, and showed himself to his family, friends and followers. Then he went back up to heaven to be with His Father. He is alive and can never die again. That’s why we can pray to Jesus, and that’s how we can have eternal life in heaven. The Bible says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You see, you are the reason for Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Why don’t we pray right now and call out to Jesus. Let’s thank Him for being born and for dying on the cross.

Dear Jesus, we love you and we believe in you. You were born in a manger. You grew up, but never sinned. When you were a man you died on the cross for our sins. We believe you came back to life.

Now, you pray. Call on Jesus to save you and give you eternal life.

Jesus, I ask you to come into my heart, take away my sins. I love you and I want to live my life for you.  

Amen.