Manifest Contrast

Jun 26th, 2011 | By | Category: Spotlight, Sunday Sermon

‘There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within the bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.’ (Exodus 3:2, NIV)

‘When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.’ (Exodus 3:4-6, NIV)

‘After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the LORD came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-7, NIV)

‘Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:5-7, NIV)

The Onus of Oneness

The world is filled with many people filled with billions of thoughts, millions of ideas, and thousands of objectives to attempt on any given day, most of which are at odds with others. It is observable on many levels in our daily activities, whether one is cheering on a favorite sports team, navigating the roadway, climbing (or sliding down) the corporate ladder, or searching for a parking space—with so many folks on the planet competition is inevitable. Most competition is good and some can even be health-inducing; but some competition can be disastrous. And where competing ideologies (belief-systems) stand in direct disagreement and close proximity, the results can be catastrophic and deadly. Wars and armed conflicts are a general result of competing ideologies.

Ideologies are a concoction of political, social, religious, and cultural values that guide the general conduct of citizens living within those belief-systems. Foundational principles of human behavior and civil interaction are defined by each belief-system. The purpose of government is to maintain civil order, establish and enforce the laws, and protect the populace within its boundaries. Government by and of itself is tyrannical and imperial in nature. How governance is carried out determines the success or failure of any government as well as which ideology may prevail. But an ideology or belief-system is not necessarily a religion any more than any particular faith is a government. Though many in the political arena, Hollywood film industry, and the media repeatedly portray the Christian Church as a factory of fundamentalist fanatics flouting foundational freedoms in the United States, such a generalization is nothing more than a flagrant attempt to vilify the underlying belief-system of the society. That such freedoms can be exercised (and liberties taken) in this country without a harsh backlash in retaliation from Christians speaks volumes about the foundational principles of faith and freedom. It points to something greater than just the belief-system.

And of those billions of thoughts generated throughout mankind’s history, the ideals of freedom from oppressive governance were collectively concocted and crafted by the founding fathers of the United States of America from that singular belief-system; great thinkers, as well as men of faith in one God, with one God in mind, established a country based upon freedoms granted by one God and no other. With reverence and deference to God Almighty, the founders declared independence from the King of England, broke free in battle, and formed a sovereign nation received as a divine blessing of Providence from the Creator. Where else in the world was there such a place as the United States of America? Never was faith in one God more evident than during the hardship and struggle of the Revolutionary War. And nowhere in the the history of the world was there such a manifest contrast (through the freedoms expressed and experienced) of God’s blessings poured out upon one nation. One need only compare the outcomes of the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution (a few years later) to see the manifest contrast.

And though it has been said that there are many ways to God through a myriad of religious teachings, one teacher stood in manifest contrast to those many ways and teachings. Intent upon demonstrating to the world who had sent him on his mission of divine mercy, a rabbi from Nazareth named Jesus walked throughout Judea proclaiming the kingdom of heaven while telling everyone about God, the Father. The Jewish ruling class of Judea were as amazed at his authority and knowledge of Scripture as they were embarrassed and humiliated by his rebuke of their behaviors and attitudes toward God and their fellow mankind.

Jesus was more than just a teacher: He was also a miraculous healer. Throngs of sick and disabled people flocked to him to be freed from their infirmities and unchained from their disabilities. Like a lightning rod, Jesus surged with the power of God so that others could see and feel God’s Spirit for themselves. People who had been blind from birth could see, the lame could walk, the deaf could hear, the mute could talk, and lepers were cleansed because God, The Father, loved them! Jesus even had the power to heal people without being in close proximity (healing the servant of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13.)

Jesus was more than a miraculous healer: He supernaturally read people’s thoughts and knew things about them no one else would know (as with the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-19 and the calling of Nathanael as a disciple in John 1: 43-51.) Some of Jesus’ parables were given in response to the thoughts the Pharisees were thinking at the moment of some incident (as when Jesus was believed to be in league with a demon, while casting out a demon, in Matthew 12:22-25.) Jesus also accurately predicted the destruction of Solomon’s temple (Mark 13:1-2), which occurred four decades after his crucifixion.

Jesus was more than clairvoyant: He had command over the physical world of nature. He fasted for forty days (Matthew 4:1-2), changed water into wine (John 2:1-11), walked on water (Matthew 14:22-32), calmed a storm (Matthew 8:23-27), fed four thousand (Matthew 15:29-39) and five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) people on two separate occasions with a few fish and loaves of bread, brought a dead girl back to life (Mark 5:21-43), and raised his friend back to life after Lazarus had been dead for four days (John 11:1-44.) Clearly these were supernatural demonstrations of a power only Jesus possessed.

Jesus was more than a teacher, more than a miraculous healer, more than a clairvoyant, and more than a master of the natural world: He was a man born of God, sent by God to do the will of God for the benefit of mankind. Jesus was God with skin on, an approachable God who was willing to teach, heal, feed, and bless others by his presence and through his death. And in doing so, Jesus bore in himself the onus of oneness with God. He bore the burdens of our sins in his sinless life through selfless sacrifice for freedom from sin’s eternal death sentence and the certainty of God’s salvation plan. Jesus stood in manifest contrast to all other ways to God and declared he was the gateway and only way to find God. For in his death, burial, and resurrection he demonstrated the truth about his relationship to God, the Father, and his identity as God the Son.

Freedom is not an entitlement. It is a gift from God. Have you opened your gift yet? Believe and receive it. Heaven is closer than you think.

For God is only one prayer away.

(copyright 2011, Gregory Allen Doyle)

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