Alpha & Omega

Idolaters Anonymous
Stealing God's Glory

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What are the common kinds of idols? How do idols affect hope and meaning? What does joy have to do with idolatry? What frees us from idolatry? How does forgiveness bear on idols? Who is Jesus? What is Gethsemane? What is spiritual warfare against idols? What is the Good News? What is Idolanon?
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Who is Jesus?

Jesus prays as follows regarding the lessons of his life's mission.

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:25-26, NRSV; cf. Luke 10:21-22).

Jesus claims that he is the unique Son and sole revealer of God. Such a claim would seem delusional on the lips of any human other than Jesus. We'll note some of the indications of Jesus’s authority. Jesus himself, as the human image of God, serves as distinctive evidence of God’s reality. Indeed, he is living proof of God's reality and self-giving love.

The earthly life of Jesus exhibited, in word and deed, a kind of authority and power unique among humans. So, a central message of the New Testament is that Jesus has unsurpassed authority and power in human history. Jesus remarks that acceptance (or rejection) of him amounts to acceptance (or rejection) of God (Matthew 10:40). In addition, Jesus claims authority to forgive sins apart from God's Temple (Mark 2:1-12) and to arrange for the final judgment as God's king (Luke 22:29-30). Likewise, Jesus symbolically presents himself as the long-awaited everlasting king of Israel, after Zechariah 9:9, in his humble entry into Jerusalem on a colt (Mark 11:1-10). He also intimates that he is King David's Lord (Mark 12:35-37), and that he is greater than even King Solomon (Luke 11:31). Indeed, in reply to a question from John the Baptist (Luke 7:18-23), he alludes to Isaiah 61:1-2 and 35:5-6 to suggest that he is God's Messiah. Similarly, Jesus claims to be the messianic son of God in response to the chief priests (Mark 14:61-64). This claim, according to Mark 14:64, elicits the charge that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy, of exalting himself in a way that dishonors God.

Jesus suggested that in his own life and ministry the kingdom of God has arrived:“if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Luke 11:20, NRSV). This is a central theme of the Good News he preached and exemplified. In the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:1-12), Jesus suggests that he is God's beloved Son who is heir to the things of God but who will be rejected by humans. Jesus predicted on at least three occasions that he would be put to death by humans but then resurrected (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34). The resurrection from death is God's vindication of Jesus as the obedient Son (Phil. 2:8-11). In keeping with this theme, as risen Lord, Jesus functions as the one uniquely qualified to send the Spirit of God to empower people to live (Mark 1:8, Acts 2:32-33). The obedient death of Jesus is no less important than his resurrrection. Jesus claims that his death will inaugurate the (new) covenant of God for people (Mark 14:24). He thus suggests that his death on the cross has saving (or, redemptive) significance for others. Some Jewish literature around the turn of the eras acknowledges that human suffering can atone for sin, even for the sin of others (see 4 Maccabees 6:27-30, 9:23-25). The novelty is that Jesus, this Galilean outcast, regards his death as the means of God's new covenant of redemption. The covenant is God’s loving plan to save humans from their destructive ways via reconciliation with God as an unearned gift.

New Testament scholar E.P. Sanders observes that Jesus himself shared the Gospel writers’ view that “he fulfilled the hopes of the prophets.” He adds that “Jesus’s actual claim may have been ... not only spokesman for, but viceroy of, God; and not just in a political kingdom but in the kingdom of God.” The previous New Testament data suggest that Jesus regarded himself as God's unique Priest, Judge, King, Messiah, Son, and Redeemer (=Savior). He saw himself as the one sent by God to fulfill the hopes of Israel for an everlasting kingdom under God. No other human could make such authoritative claims with any real plausibility. Jesus thus shatters the limits of human authority in a way that merits our attention. Jesus is no mere moral reformer, spiritual guru, or philosophical sage. He is either (i) patently insane (Mark 3:21), (ii) Satanic (Mark 3:22), or (iii) God's unique Son and viceroy (Mark 15:39). Sanders himself rightly concludes: “He was not a madman.” His not being Satanic should go without saying, after one attends to the pattern of his compassionate life and teaching. The third of our three options thus recommends itself seriously for our endorsement. So, we should take Jesus’s claim about his unique authority seriously.

Jesus portrayed his own mission as a liberation movement against powers of evil.

Jesus ... spoke ... in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house (Mark 3:23-27, NIV).

Jesus regards us as under the influence of powers of evil. He regards himself as the one who limits powers of evil in order that we might be set free. He offers freedom from the idols that rob us of freedom.

By submitting faithfully and obediently to Jesus as our Lord, just as he submitted to his Father in Gethsemane, we receive his power to live in unselfish freedom and love. In this regard, we must be crucified with Jesus. As the apostle Paul writes: "We know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Rom. 6:6-8). We die to our old self as we obey the Father of Jesus. We thereby become free of idols as we enter in to friendship with God. Our response to Jesus will determine whether idols keep us from lives of true love, joy, and peace. Our response to him will determine whether we live or die. Jesus asks each of us: "who do you say I am?" (Mark 8:29). We owe him an answer, sooner rather than later. The apostle Paul has given us a good hint of the right answer: "God proves His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Be Lord

Be Lord of my waking,
as dawn it shines breaking;
the first breath that I take
in the day of Your making.

Be, Lord, my fresh start
in the depths of my heart;
all the Joy that I sing
knowing Love never parts.

Be Lord of my smiles,
in my tears and my trials.
Be my Friend for all time,
Who in Grace reconciles.

Be Lord of this prayer,
which so seeks to share,
some small way to say thanks
for Your Life in me here.

 

Immanuel

On this day, a child is born,
to dwell among us, tired and worn.
His birth it offers hope and peace,
for lives of joy that never cease.

The Father sends a precious thing -
the kind of gift a child would bring.
By grace He pours from heavenly towers
a Love that with Him can be ours.

He only wants us to return
the Love we could not ever earn.
All we need is to receive it,
Thank you, Lord. We praise your Spirit.

Because we feel this awesome story,
you and I can live its glory.
We can seek to love each other
as first He did our heavenly Father.

He is here forever more.
He was also here before.
Christmas Day is always now.
Let us celebrate its glow.

Outline of Jesus in Romans and 1 Corinthians