Further Proof that Jesus is God

Titus 3

3Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us.

4But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. 5He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. 6He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. 7He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. 8These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trusts in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial for everyone. (Titus 3:3-8, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“The Bible never claims that Jesus is God!”

Perhaps you’ve heard someone make this claim. The argument essentially says that the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is God, but teaches that Jesus is something less than God, such as “Son of God”, or “Son of Man”, or “Messiah”, or “anointed one”, etc.

Because the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is God, then Jesus must not BE God and therefore, the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus is divine must be false. Hence Christianity is false.

But is it true that the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is divine?

No.

The evidence for the deity of Jesus is overwhelming and generally falls into three categories: 1) Direct claims of deity that Jesus made – I covered one such incident here.  2) Passages that show Jesus has attributes that only God could possess and 3) passages in which Jesus’ followers clearly identify Jesus as divine. This passage in Titus is one such example.

Jesus’ divinity is not hard to demonstrate from this passage and only a basic understanding of logic is necessary to prove that Paul believed and taught that Jesus was God.

Verse 4 says clearly:

“But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love.”

Verse 6 states that:

“He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did.”

So in one verse, Paul refers to God our Savior, while just two verses later, he refers to what “Jesus Christ our Savior did.”

These two verses show that God is Savior AND Jesus Christ is Savior. Therefore, Jesus Christ is God.

There are dozens of other passages that demonstrate that Jesus’ own followers saw him as divine and even worshiped Him. Keep in mind that for the Jew, worship was reserved for God alone. Therefore, when a Jewish person worships Jesus, they are doing so because they believe He is God and therefore worthy of worship.

This one passage may not be enough to convince your non-Christian friends that Jesus is indeed God, but it should help convince you. Jesus not only made direct claims of deity but His followers also ascribed deity to Jesus and promoted their understanding of Jesus’ nature to others.

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the nature of Jesus? In what ways have your views changed or been substantiated?

In what ways do you find the above logic regarding proof of Jesus’ divinity convincing? In what ways are you not convinced?

If you are not convinced that Jesus is God, what are your reasons for not believing? Conversely, what basis can you give to support the idea that Jesus IS God?

Why do you think it matters whether a person has a correct understanding of the nature of Jesus? What are the consequences for having a wrong understanding of who Jesus is? (For my thoughts on these questions, see my posts here, and here.)

 

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Where Did that Ball Come From?

Romans 1

18But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. 19For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes.

24So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen.

26That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27Note And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men and, as a result, suffered within themselves the penalty they so richly deserved.

28When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done. 29Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They are forever inventing new ways of sinning and are disobedient to their parents. 31They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving. 32They are fully aware of God’s death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway. And, worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. (Romans 1:18-32, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

I heard a humorous story a long time ago that goes like this:

A guy is talking to his atheist friend and poses this series of questions:

“You’re walking along the beach and you see a tennis ball. What do you assume? Is it the product of random ocean forces that somehow mixed random ocean materials together to create a tennis ball and then washed it up onto the shore?

“NO! It’s a tennis ball. I assume someone left it here after playing with it on the beach.”

“Ok. Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and you see a bigger ball, like a soccer ball. What do you conclude? Was it designed or did it create itself through some random process?”

“It was obviously designed and placed there by someone.”

“Ok. Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and you see an even BIGGER ball, like a weather balloon. What do you conclude?”

“Well, since a weather balloon has purpose, it must have been created by someone who understood that purpose.”

“Great. What about an even BIGGER ball? What if you’re walking along and you see the EARTH? What do you conclude? Was it the product of an intelligent designer?”

“Oh no. The Earth was not created by an intelligent being. It’s the product of billions of years of random chance processes.”

Romans 1 is the classic Bible chapter outlining the process by which people, in the futility of their own mind, devolve into the depths of their own sinfulness.

Paul speaks to the fictional exchange above in verses 18-20, which state that it’s obvious when you look around that there must be some powerful, creative force behind all that we see. Given our own understanding and experience with creating and designing advanced, complex machines and electronics, how could anyone come to the conclusion that something like our universe, which is so intricately, beautifully and purposefully designed is the result of random chance?

It really makes no logical sense.

William Paley, in the early 1800’s, posed this scenario when he developed his “Watchmaker” analogy. In his analogy, he said in effect,

If I stumbled upon a stone and asked how it got there, I would think the question is absurd. It has been there forever. But if I stumbled upon a watch and asked how it got there, the answer would be different, for a watch is obviously designed with purpose, showing evidence of a designer.

So what is the reason people will acknowledge that man-made items such as watches, computers and automobiles are obviously designed, yet something much larger, more complex and intricate that includes biological living things and entire eco-systems, is NOT the product of a designer?

Paul’s answer in this chapter is spelled out in the first verse of this section (verse 18), when he says:

“But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves.

The short answer is that people suppress the truth that is inherently obvious to them. To suppress truth is to deny it and reject it.

Paul’s discourse outlines the depth of the problem of sin. Sin is not just doing bad things or saying bad things, but sin has penetrated to the very depths of our heart.

The heart represents our will, our most inner motives and desires. Paul is saying that though God’s qualities are obvious to all through creation, people end up suppressing (rejecting) this truth through a downward spiraling pattern of inner rebellion.

How does this happen?

It starts when people who know God, or at least know there is a God, refuse to give thanks to God or acknowledge His role in our lives. Next, people develop an image of God that matches their own preferences. They fail to acknowledge God as He is, but instead begin to create a god in their mind who matches their own desires and preferences.

As people begin to follow and worship their own view of god, their hearts become darkened. Why? Because they are not following the truth but they’re following a distorted and false image of god that represents their own preferences and desires. In effect, people begin to train and condition their own moral values away from God’s standards and towards their own sinful desires.

As people continue on this course, God gives them over to their own base desires. In other words, He gives people the freedom to follow their choices and also experience the natural consequences of those choices. People’s thoughts, attitudes and actions become more and more vile and wicked as they reject God’s standards of morality and choose to follow their own inclinations.

The end result is that people develop their own moral values that contradict and oppose God’s values in varying degrees. What sinful humanity now thinks and calls normal and good, God views as wickedness. These rebellious acts show up in every possible area of our lives, from the way we talk to others, the way we conduct our business, our sexual practices, etc.

The final stage in this rebellion is a declaration that our sinful acts are righteous (thus, morality is redefined) along with an encouragement for others to follow these new moral guidelines.

In order to justify the new moral order, people either eliminate God altogether (atheism) or they re-create God in such a way that He actually advocates and endorses these attitudes and behaviors that have traditionally been seen as sinful (paganism/idolatry).

I think verse 31 is a fitting summary that characterizes the attitude of the person Paul is describing, when he says,

“They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving.”

This sounds a lot like our current culture to me, and the thing is, none of us are immune to these outcomes. If we are not intentional about caring for our spiritual life, we may find ourselves, over time, slowly drifting away from God until one day we resemble the person described in Romans 1:28-32.

How can we avoid this?

I’m sure there are many practical steps that could help but if we did these three things consistently: acknowledge God, give thanks to Him for His goodness, and worship Him for who He is, we would likely safeguard ourselves from entering the downward spiral which starts the progression.

Reflection

What are the typical reasons you hear people giving to reject God and His existence?

What examples can you see in our current culture where people are redefining morality and changing their view of God in order to accommodate their own life choices and preferences?

What biblical moral standards do you struggle with the most? What do you think are the reasons you (and others) struggle with those particular moral values?  

In what ways are you most tempted to re-define God in order to meet your own personal moral preferences?

 

Photo by Kevin Mueller on Unsplash

Which Hoax Do You Believe?

Matthew 27

62The next day—on the first day of the Passover ceremonies*—the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. 63They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will be raised from the dead.’ 64So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he came back to life! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

65Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” 66So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. (Matthew 27:62-66, NLT)

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Matthew 28

11As the women were on their way into the city, some of the men who had been guarding the tomb went to the leading priests and told them what had happened. 12A meeting of all the religious leaders was called, and they decided to bribe the soldiers. 13They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you and everything will be all right.” 15So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today. (Matthew 28:11-15, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, we are still in our sins. Hence, if you can disprove the resurrection, you can disprove the entire Christian faith.

The early church could have been squashed before it even got off the ground if the religious leaders did just one simple thing – produce the body of Jesus, thereby demonstrating that Jesus had not risen from the dead but was still resting in the tomb exactly where he had been laid.

The religious leaders were aware of Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead on the third day, so they went to Pilate to secure reinforcements and armed security at the tomb to make sure that the disciples wouldn’t be able to steal the body and perpetuate a hoax on the people.

But as it turns out, Jesus rose from the dead anyway, and with his body now gone, the religious leaders found themselves in an unusual predicament. One option is they could realize that Jesus must be who He claimed to be all along and repent of their hard-heartedness and wickedness that led them to crucify Jesus.

Or they could go the other route, which is to do whatever is necessary to maintain their power and position over the people they lead.

Not surprisingly, the religious leaders chose the second route, which included bribing the soldiers who guarded the tomb to tell people that the disciples had stolen the body while they were sleeping.

The irony of this whole situation is that the religious leaders secured the tomb site in order to prevent the disciples from being able to perpetuate a hoax, but instead, the religious leaders ended up creating and perpetuating a different hoax of their own.

This story – that the disciples stole the body and then claimed that Jesus had been resurrected – is still being promoted today among those who staunchly dispute that Jesus was resurrected.

Though it’s a popular theory that seeks to explain the empty tomb, this story has so many holes in it that it is easily debunked.

First off, if the soldiers were sleeping, how would they know who it was that supposedly stole the body?

Second, how likely is it that all the guards were sleeping at the same time? Given that sleeping while on duty was punishable by death, what is the likelihood that JUST ONE of them had fallen asleep? VERY LOW.

Now what is the likelihood that ALL of them were asleep at the same time? EXTREMELY LOW.

And if they were to have fallen asleep, how is it that the disciples were able to move a HUGE stone (estimated to be at least 2000 pounds or more) without waking any of these guards?

It takes more faith to believe this story than it does to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, removed the stone and emerged from the tomb alive!

In addition to the details of their story not lining up, this explanation also requires us to believe that the disciples, who had all scattered when Jesus was arrested, somehow came together and mustered up the bravery to steal the body of Jesus so that they could perpetuate a resurrection narrative that they not only knew to be false, but that brought persecution upon them and ultimately led to their death.

Most people will do whatever it takes to save themselves from pain and death. It is simply not believable that all the disciples were willing to die for something that they knew to be a lie.

Lastly, this theory doesn’t explain the many post-resurrection appearances Jesus made. It’s reported that after His resurrection, Jesus made multiple appearances to many different people and once appeared to more than 500 people at the same time.

So in the end, we must decide which hoax fits the facts more reasonably.

Is it more believable that the disciples are the ones perpetuating an elaborate hoax that has deceived billions of people over the centuries? This hoax requires us to believe that trained soldiers fell asleep on the job, yet still somehow knew that the disciples were the ones who stole the body.

Furthermore, what was the motive of the disciples’ fabrication? This hoax requires us to believe that these disciples, who were afraid for their lives when Jesus was arrested, suddenly became brave enough to steal the body of Jesus and declare Him to be resurrected to an unsuspecting populace. This elaborate deception resulted, not only in intense ongoing persecution, but ultimately in their deaths.

Or is it more believable that the religious leaders are the ones who perpetuated a hoax for the purpose of maintaining their power and authority over the people? The Scriptures tell us that they bribed the soldiers and told them to propagate the stolen body story in order to explain the empty tomb.

In the end, the religious leader’s hoax is the more likely hoax because the one thing it requires me to believe is eminently believable – that people are selfish and will often go to great lengths to maintain their power and authority over others.

Reflection

Which of these two hoaxes do you think is more believable and why?

Describe a time when you lied in order to protect yourself? Conversely, when is a time you lied for the purpose of bringing about great pain and hardship?

Given the circumstances, why do you think the religious leaders continued to resist Jesus as the Messiah?

Can you think of a time in your life when your stubbornness caused you to act irrationally? What was the situation? How did you overcome your stubbornness? What happened to help change your attitude?

 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

 

 

Does the Existence of Evil Disprove God?

Psalm 75

1We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near. People everywhere tell of your mighty miracles.

2God says, “At the time I have planned, I will bring justice against the wicked.

3When the earth quakes and its people live in turmoil, I am the one who keeps its foundations firm.

Interlude

4“I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’ I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists!

5Don’t lift your fists in defiance at the heavens or speak with rebellious arrogance.’”

6For no one on earth—from east or west, or even from the wilderness—can raise another person up.

7It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall.

8For the LORD holds a cup in his hand; it is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours the wine out in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it, draining it to the dregs.

9But as for me, I will always proclaim what God has done; I will sing praises to the God of Israel.

10For God says, “I will cut off the strength of the wicked, but I will increase the power of the godly.”

(Psalm 75:1-10, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The biggest, most potent argument the atheist has against the existence of God is the presence of evil.

The atheist argument against the existence of God generally goes as follows:

    • If God exists, he is all-powerful and all-loving
    • An all-loving God would WANT to eradicate evil
    • An all-powerful God would BE ABLE to eradicate evil
    • Since evil is not eradicated then God must either not be all-loving or not be all-powerful
    • Therefore, an all-loving, all-powerful God doesn’t exist

This argument is logical and if the premises are true then the conclusion, which logically follows, must also be true.

But are the premises true?

Does it follow that because evil exists, then God must not be all-loving? Because evil exists, does that mean that God must not care about it?

Or does the fact that evil exists mean that God is unable to do anything about it? Does it mean that he’s not all-powerful but is instead an impotent deity? Or worse, an imaginary deity?

The problem with the argument above is really premise number four, and it’s exactly what Asaph, the psalmist, addresses in verse 2 of his psalm when he says:

God says, “At the time I have planned, I will bring justice against the wicked.

The fact that evil exists doesn’t mean that God is unable to deal with it, nor does it mean that God doesn’t WANT to deal with it. It only means that He hasn’t dealt with it YET. And in this psalm, we learn that God DOES have a time plan for dealing fully and completely with evil.

Why would God possibly delay in dealing fully and forcefully with evil?

One reason that God is waiting to fully and finally dealing with evil is PEOPLE.

If God were to bring about justice and completely eradicate evil now, Jesus would need to return and put an end to the current world system which promotes and perpetuates the evil we see and experience. And that would mean that all people would enter into immediate judgment. That means people would no longer have a chance to respond to the message of hope and forgiveness that is offered through Christ’s sacrificial death.

Peter, in his second letter, said it this way:

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9, NLT)

There may be other unknown reasons God has for waiting to bring about ultimate justice. We simply cannot know everything about what God has planned or why He has planned it that way. One thing we know from reading the book of Job is that God is all-wise and He is infinitely more knowledgeable than we are. The idea that we could indict Him for what we think is some cosmic injustice when we really know next to nothing about God or the way the universe works is somewhat laughable. And yet, we, in our human arrogance, think we know more about fairness and justice than God does!

The presence of evil doesn’t mean God is unaware of it or unable to deal with it. It simply means that His plan for eliminating it hasn’t been fulfilled or fully enacted yet. This is exactly what the Scriptures tell us.

Furthermore, the presence of evil is an issue even for the atheist. It may seem like evil is an ironclad apologetic that disproves the existence of God but if you believe God doesn’t exist, you still have evil. Removing God doesn’t have the effect of removing evil. It only removes God as a factor in understanding evil.

How exactly are we to make sense of evil acts without the presence of God? What I mean by that is how does not believing in God make it easier to understand and cope with the existence of evil?

I don’t think evil can be explained or understood if you take God out of the picture. If God is removed, how does one explain the existence of evil? Where did it come from and how can we explain its ongoing presence?

The truth is evil seems to be on the rise in our world. There doesn’t seem to be a coherent explanation and solution to the problem of evil that doesn’t include God.

God DOES care about evil.

God WILL eradicate evil.

But He will do it in His timing, according to His ultimate plan, part of which includes, in His cosmic goodness, the patient delay of justice so that we might repent of our own evil deeds and turn to God for forgiveness and redemption!

Reflection

If you are Christian, or a believer in God, how have you previously understood and made sense of the presence of evil?

If you are an atheist, how do you explain the existence of evil? What is your solution for eradicating evil?

What are some reasons you think God might be delayed in dealing with evil and bringing about justice?

When we talk about evil, how do we even know what evil is? Whether you are a theist or an atheist, what is the standard by which you measure actions and are able to label them as evil or not?

 

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

Dealing With Doubts about God

While scrolling through my Twitter feed recently I saw a post from Sean McDowell with the title “Hawk Nelson’s Lead Singer Shares He Has Lost His Faith in God.”

My heart sank as I thought, “Not again.”

If you’re not familiar with Hawk Nelson, they are a Christian pop/rock band that has produced a number of top songs, including the enormously popular “Drops in the Ocean” and “Diamonds” from their 2015 mega-hit album “Diamonds”.

Jon Steingard, front-man for the Christian pop/rock band Hawk Nelson, recently announced via Instagram that he no longer believes in God.
Photo by Dave Lowe

I clicked on the link and read the article, as well as the 2200 word Instagram post from the lead singer, Jon Steingard, where he declared to his fans and to the world that he no longer believed in God.

What happened?

Steingard grew up as a pastor’s kid in a loving Christian home. Church was a way of life and since everyone he knew was a believer, he naturally became a believer. It was all he knew. He discovered his musical talents early on, participating in church worship and ultimately joining the Christian band, Hawk Nelson.

Steingard described his slow deconstruction of faith like wearing a sweater with a loose thread. As he pulled on the thread of doubt, the sweater of faith slowly began to unravel. Eventually, there was no sweater left.

What are the doubts that caused Jon Steingard’s sweater to unravel? The doubts mostly seem to stem from unanswered questions about the nature and character of God and the veracity of the Bible.

Steingard compared his faith deconstruction like a sweater with loose threads that began to unravel
Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

For example, Steingard began to question the evil in the world. If God is loving, why wouldn’t he stop it? And what about natural disasters? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Steingard wondered why God seems so angry in the Old Testament and yet so loving in the New Testament.

Steingard also questioned various Biblical contradictions he saw and wondered how these inconsistencies could occur if God was really the author. He finally concluded that the texts were not authored by a perfect God but were the product of fallen, imperfect people like himself. It was at that point that Steingard realized there were no more threads to pull.

It’s a sad reality that more and more young adults like Jon Steingard are abandoning the church and the faith with which they grew up. There are a myriad of reasons for this but doubt and uncertainty about the truthfulness of the Bible and the Christian worldview is a common “thread” (pun intended) in the stories of many prodigals. The truth is, doubts are common. But they don’t have to be an onramp that leads to the deconstruction of your faith.

How should we handle doubts?

First, I think we need to acknowledge doubt and do our best to give space to those who have real questions without making them feel like 2nd-class Christians. Highlighting those who have struggled with doubts and allowing them to share their stories could go a long way to helping de-normalize the phantom-Christian caricature (who never doubts) that many hold.

Doubts and questions, while common among Christians, don’t have to be an onramp to deconstruction of our faith.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Secondly, while we acknowledge that doubt is real and common, we also can affirm that being a Christian does not mean being anti-intellectual. It’s popular in our culture for people to promote the idea that faith is anti-science (whatever that means). The reality is that faith and science aren’t in opposition to one another and Christianity is and always has been based on truth.

Third, we need to help those with doubts to reinforce the loose threads on their sweaters instead of pulling them and unraveling their faith altogether. We do this by helping them to see the truth in the foundations of the Christian faith. This is a primary role of apologetics.

The questions Jon Steingard wrestled with are not new. They are the same questions Christians have been wrestling with for two thousand years. The good news is that there is a lot of scholarship that affirms the Christian position and provides reasonable responses to many long-standing doubts and questions.

How is your sweater of faith? Are there loose threads of doubt? If so, reach out to someone who can help show you appropriate ways to reinforce your faith with a foundation of truth.

Nobody, whether Christian or non-Christian has all the answers. Life is complex and chaotic. But we believe God has revealed himself to us clearly through the Scriptures and through the person of Jesus Christ. This isn’t just some Sunday school fairy tale but is based on solid evidence.

If you’re struggling with doubts, let us know. We don’t have all the answers but we can point you to resources that you may find helpful.