Friday, August 7, 2020

Who is Jesus Christ?

Who is Jesus Christ? Even Jesus asked his disciples the same question, as this is the ultimate question one should answer, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13). Your eternal life depends on how you answer this question. 


Islam calls Jesus a mere prophet, less important than the prophet Mohammed. Hindus consider him as a guru (a moral teacher) or as one of the millions of gods they worship. 


Once, I attended a party. The host, who is a Christian, when addressing the guests, told his Hindu friends, you should at least consider Jesus as a teacher. Although his intentions were good, I was shocked to hear that. What good is it going to do if his friends believe Jesus as a mere teacher? In fact, it will stop them from thinking about Jesus beyond a guru. 

The disciples answered Jesus and said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." (Matthew 16:14). These are all typical Jewish answers from antiquity. People come up with all kinds of answers these days.


Jesus asked the disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).  


Jesus replied, "And I tell you, you are Peter (Πέτρος Petros ), and (καί kai; but/and)  on this Rock (πέτρα petra) I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Now the important question is, what is the Rock upon which Jesus is going to build His Church? Clearly, Jesus was using a play on words here. Simon, you are a Petros (a piece of Rock), but upon this Petra (a boulder, a feminine usage of a much bigger rock, or cliff), I will build my Church. Logically if you think, Jesus asked a direct question, "But who do you say that I am?" After he got a correct response from Peter, Jesus said, upon this (response) Rock, I will build my Church. 


The response Peter gave is, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16). This is the response on which God is going to build his Church. When you are saved, you become a part of His Church. How are you saved? "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved... ( Acts 16:31). "...If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). The saved are the members of the Church. Whether the response about Jesus or Jesus himself is the Rock does not make much difference, as the response acknowledges Jesus is the Son of the Living God. 


Some people erroneously think that Jesus told Peter that Jesus is building his Church upon Peter (Petros -a piece of Rock). Thus, some Roman Catholics believe Peter was the first Pope. 


Paul writes about pre-incarnate Christ, "...For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). Clearly, the Rock is the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. "You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth..." (Deuteronomy 32:18). Psalmist writes about God as "He only is my rock and my salvation..." (Ps. 28:1, Ps. 62:2).


How are you going to answer the question Jesus asked? Are you going to say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?"  


If you cannot say that, you are calling him a liar. Apostle John writes, "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23).



My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus' name.  

     On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

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 Click here to read my previous article on “How can a loving God send someone to hell?”



Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thank God! Our God changes His mind

         I know this title, "Thank God! Our God changes His mind "  is going to shock some in the Christian community and especially among my friends. Whenever I hear people say that our God is unchanging out of context, it bothered me a bit as it is inconsistent with the Word of God. Some say, "you are not changing the mind of God with your prayers." In other words, what they are saying is that our God is like a frozen-rock; he doesn't move, doesn't change, doesn't show compassion, doesn't answer your prayers, because he cannot change. Although they may not say in the same words, yet it conveys that message. If God is not going to change his mind, then why pray? If a person is sick and ready to die, and if God is not going to change, why pray to a God who does not change based on your prayer. In one breath, they say, "God is not going to change based on your prayer," and in the next, they say, "Fast and pray that God will (change his mind and) heal my loved one."

People usually take the following verse out of context to say God will never change his mind. "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19). The context here is important. Israel's enemy, Balak, king of Moab, is bribing the disobedient prophet Balaam to put a curse on God's people. In the first Oracle from God, Balaam spoke, "How can I curse whom God has not cursed?" (Numbers 23:8). God desires to bless Israel and not to curse them. But Balak repeatedly tried through Balaam to put a curse on Israel. Balak tried to bribe Balaam to put a curse on Israel. Balak knew how God blessed Israel with all the victories he gave against their enemies. God is not going to change his mind to curse Israel because of the bribes. In that context, God said to Balak through Balaam, "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19). See also, Numbers23:19, Isaiah 46:9-11, 1 Samuel 15:29, Ezekiel 24:14. If you read the word of God out of context, you can come up with whatever you want. Another principle, one should understand is that God's Word does not contradict itself. I can understand the reason for their position, and I agree with them to some extent, but it is only a half-truth. I thank God for he is unchanging as a promise-keeping, trust-worthy, compassionate, impartial, righteous, merciful, and just God. A part of being compassionate, kind, and merciful is to change one's mind. If one's heart (mind) is hardened to hear the pleas for help, it is not compassion.

 When God changes his mind, it does not mean his character and his attributes were changed. When God changes his mind, it does not mean he is not sovereign, omniscient, or omnipotent. It also does not mean he learned something new that he didn't know before. I agree,  Our God knows everything. Psalmist writes, "For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether" (Psalms 139:4).  I fully agree with God's foreknowledge. In fact, He knows every bit of our life. "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them" (Psalms 139:16).  It would be hard for us to explain God's foreknowledge, which we do not have. But from our standpoint (without the foreknowledge), God did change his mind (of course he knows all that before hand because of foreknowledge) in the case of Moses, Hezekiah, and Ninevites. It only means he is compassionate, loving, and merciful. God's core attributes will not change. When God says as in Malachai 3:6, "For I the Lord do not change...", it means that his attitude towards sin and judgment has not changed. Read the previous verses for the context. "Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 3:5). Again the context is important.

 The unconditional covenants or promises of God will never change. Then there are conditional statements that are contingent on the behavior of the people. In some places, God says, if you do this, I am going to bless you. If you disobey, I am going to punish you. In some cases, God does not have to be explicit in saying the conditional statement. Sometimes the context implies that there is a conditional statement. What is the point of Jonah preaching to Ninevites if they are going to die in 40 days? 

 Ninevites changed the mind of God

"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you....Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:2-4). Then when the people of Nineveh repented, God spared them from the disaster.  "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it" (Jonah 3:10). Jonah was not happy that God changed his mind. He complained to God, "for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster" (Jonah 4:2).

 Moses Changed the mind of God

Let's look at this pericope from  Exodus. "And the Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation." Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God ... (Exodus 32:9-11). "So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people" (Exodus 32:14). God was angry with the people of Israel for their sins. It is righteous anger. Yet, God showed mercy when Moses pleaded with God, and "the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people."  I do not think any of us will say God is unjust for changing his mind not to harm Israelites.

 Hezekiah Changed the mind of God

"Thus says the Lord: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.'" (2 Kings 20:1). When Hezekiah prayed to God to heal him, God changed his mind. In fact, God asked the prophet Isaiah to make a "U-turn" and go back to tell Hezekiah that he changed his mind.  "Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of David your Father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord (2 Kings 20:5).

God is not learning anything new. God is not saying, oops! I am sorry, I made a mistake.  When he changes his mind, he is not lying. When he changes his mind, it is to show compassion and mercy. In all these instances and many more in the Bible, God changed his mind.  God the Father did not change his mind when Jesus prayed to take away the cup from him.  "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).

This article is to provide a better understanding of the attributes of God as he changes his mind to show compassion, mercy, and goodwill if we ask in his will.  God will not change his mind if what we are asking is not the best for us. Of course, as a finite being, I cannot fully understand an infinite God. My desire is to give you hope in the Lord to pray like Hezekiah, Moses, and the Ninevites.


Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and share this article with your friends.

 Click here to read my previous article on “How can a loving God send someone to hell?”

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