Master – Savior
By: Paul McDonald
Jesus, who is the central figure of Christianity, was born of a virgin, and proclaimed in the New Testament as the Lamb, (or child) of God.
I am basing this book on that premise, since it is embedded in my mind that it is the one and only truth, in spite of what other religions may believe. The thought that it isn’t the truth is nothing but hogwash in my mind, and I will continue to praise the name of Jesus until I am called home, and no longer of this earth.
Christians come in all sizes, shapes, colors. We are either tall or short; skinny, pleasingly plump…and onward; red, yellow, black, or white, and come from all corners of our earth.
We all may not have one thing in common, other than the fact that we love Jesus, and bigger and better yet…He loves us! That doesn’t make us better than other people…just Forgiven!
Christ was crucified and died for my sins, and yours. He died on what we observe as Good Friday, and arose 3 days later, on what we celebrate as Easter.
The date of Jesus’ birth and death, and His subsequent age at the time of His death has been in the hands of scholars for hundreds of years, without any solid confirmation. Since there were no records kept back then, they can only go on time lines in history, and assume the rest. They all conclude that Jesus was over thirty, with many stating He had to be in His forties when he was crucified. This also lends itself to discussion of how long His ministry actually existed. Was it 31/2 years, or was it twelve years?
I honestly don’t know what difference it makes, nor do I care about the logistics of it. What I DO care about, is that Jesus is my Savior and Master. Enough said!
Which Way Do I Go?
Which path you decide to go in your life is totally up to you. The choice is yours, and nobody elses. Many of us hope and pray that our children will follow the road to salvation, where many others seem not to care one way or the other. It is very sad, but often true. Haters beget haters, sinners beget sinners, and so on. This is, of course, not always true, but in 87% of problem children in case studies, the child mimics their parents when it comes to most things which include, violence, alcohol and drug addiction, bigotry, smoking, and others too numerous to mention.
Does it not make sense then, that those 87% of children could instead learn obedience, tolerance, truth, honesty, abstinence, and most of all love?
If we look at the ministries of Jesus, are we not taught those things mentioned above all? Therefore…where would you like to place your child? Would you put them on the road to ruin, and yes, hell? Or would you try to lead them by example to the truth and salvation that only Jesus can offer?
The choice to me is quite obvious, and yet people who have the choices in this world are not seeing the big picture here. I don’t think they are trying to harm their children intentionally…but come on….the news has been out for more than a few years, and people still choose to ignore what is going on around them.
So…which path do you want to follow? I followed the road to salvation, and it is the happiest and most settled I have ever been in my entire life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV
Following Jesus is a very personal decision, and means different things to different people. Some may decide to follow Jesus because of peer pressure, and because all of their friends are doing it, and want to belong to the same group. Others do it because they were raised to be a follower by their parents, and that is just what you are supposed to do on Sunday morning is go to church.
Whatever the case may be, and whatever your circumstance, it is awesome that you have decided to go to church. God will do the rest, and I say that from experience.
You see, I was not raised in a Christian home. My parents are good people, and both raised to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, but something went awry somewhere and they made a decision that going to church was no longer needed for them, nor was it important for their children to go.
When I reached high school, a few new friends of mine, who all were in the choir class that I was in, went to the same church, and asked me if I’d like to go with them. I was really stoked that they chose me to be part of their group, so I immediately agreed. Every Sunday morning I would get ready to attend church…even though I really had no idea what being a Christian was all about. I was just going to “fit in” with my new group of friends. After all, they were among the most popular kids in school, so you can imagine my excitement of just being asked! Singing was a passion for all of us, and the music that came out of our section of the church was amazing.
On one very special night, after going to church there every Sunday for months, the choir started to sing “Just As I Am”, and the pastor was calling for sinners who were ready to accept Jesus into their lives. Now I had heard it all before…every week for months, and was never moved to respond…but something happened. I was standing there with my friends, singing along with the choir, when a very strange and unfamiliar warmth came over my body. Before I knew it, I turned to my friends and said, “later guys”, and started walking to the front of the church. I accepted Jesus into my life that night. It was like nothing I had ever felt before, and only a few times since. When Jesus calls you…you will know it, but you must be ready to hear it. If Jesus has not yet whispered in your ear to come home, maybe it is because you weren’t, or aren’t listening.
I realize that this happens differently with everyone, and we all have our own stories, but that is how it happened for me. The feeling of unconditional love, warmth, and forgiveness, all at one time…out of nowhere. Simply incredible, and a moment in my life that I will never forget!
* A word of praise here, my family have all turned their lives to serve the Lord, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with that!
Following Jesus is not always easy, sometimes it is downright hard. We are a willful people, and we think we know best how to live our lives. We do, once again, have that choice.
Following Jesus is not about religion, although many people think in those terms. Many denominations or religions tell us different ways of following Him. God never intended Jesus to be for only Christians… rather, God intended for everyone, from every nation, to accept His Son. Going to church every Sunday does not make you a Christian, although it is a step in the right direction. Church is a family to me. A family of believers who are of one mind…and that is to praise the Lord.
We can look at it another way, if you prefer. We are all Gods children, but Jesus was the begotten son…so if it is easier for you to talk to your brother, (the perfect brother,) then talk to him in that light. Revere Jesus as a revered older brother whose advice you cling to with all that you are. Present Him with your problems…tell Him of your successes, and thank Him for being there for you in every situation. This may not be the way the Bible explained it, but I believe that talking to Jesus in your own way is better than not talking to Him at all. Asking Him to come into your life as a big brother, is better than not having Him in your life at all.
Many people are confused as to what Following Jesus actually entails. It is really a simple premise, actually only 3 steps.
- You have a desire to follow Him. For one reason or another, or several, you have made a choice to include Jesus in your life!
- You have faith in Jesus and believe that he was sent by God, and died for the sins of the world.
- You accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and accept His gift of eternal life.
Following Jesus is not without trials. They are still with us. This was written by Paul in second Corinthians 12:1-9.
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That is why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
There is a saying that comes to mind when I hear stories of weaknesses and hardships. “Jesus and One is a majority!” In other words, whenever you think you are standing alone in your weaknesses, you are not. He is there with you, and helping you deal with those woes. Don’t think for a moment that you are alone.
This prayer always helps when I am dealing with worries, and forgetting that I am not in charge.
When you need Him, He is there. When you need someone to talk to when nobody else understands, He is there. When you are filled with grief, He is there. In any conceivable situation…Jesus is there for you. I think that everyone has seen this, but just in case, I’d like to include “Footprints In The Sand” for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
Isn’t this the kind of friend everyone needs? Those who have not found the light of Jesus for one reason or another, are walking in darkness, and will never know what the true meaning of having a real friend is.
Keeping Your Balance
The Christian walk is progressive. Once we’re saved by placing our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the journey begins. We grow from that point onward until we’re finally with the Lord, face to face, in Heaven. And how exactly do we grow?
Among other things, we grow in our knowledge of spiritual things. But here’s a reality the Word warns us about: When we grow in our knowledge, there’s an inherent danger of being “puffed up” (or pride-filled) by that knowledge.
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. —1 Corinthians 8:1 (NKJV)
It sounds like a contradiction. You would think that the more knowledge we acquire about God, and Jesus, the more we would be likely to follow on the righteous path. However, knowledge on its own is not enough to make us more like the Lord. It has to be accompanied by God’s unconditional love, which the Holy Spirit produces in us.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
If we need any proof of this, all we have to do is look at the Pharisees from Jesus’ day. These men had more knowledge about the Hebrew Scriptures than anyone. They knew each book verbatim and made a career out of “knowing.” They had a ton of knowledge but lacked God’s love, and they became blinded by pride. “We know everything there is to know, so how dare anyone try and teach us anything!” And the sad fact is that when the Son of God came to show them what they were missing, they were too proud to receive anything from Him.
Again, knowledge is a good and necessary thing in the Christian life. But knowledge apart from God’s love is a very dangerous thing, which is why we’re warned to do more than just know. We’re told that if we want to have a positive impact and edify others, we must also love.
Keeping Jesus first in your life brings perfect balance, but is rather hard to achieve for some. I’ve heard it said, “My family comes first in my life,” or “My children come first in my life,” which is a normal reaction I suppose for people who do not know that the love of Christ. You do not forsake your family, or your children when you put Christ first. He IS a huge part of your family already, whether you know it or not, and whether you’re a believer or not. He is there loving you all the same, and is ready for you to accept Him into your hearts, and into your lives.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
It is only through the acceptance of Jesus as your personal Savior, that you will meet the Father. There is no “back door” or any way around it, but I don’t understand why anyone would want to. Again, the love of Jesus is unconditional, and forever, and the balance He brings into your life completes you.
The Gift Of Life Eternal
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There was an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” where Ray was afraid of death. Of course, his father, Frank, being the caring and gentle soul that he is, yelled out in a loud voice, “You’re gonna die”. Laughter exploded from the audience, because it was, in fact, very funny. But the thought of death is no laughing matter. For some people, their own mortality is difficult to wrap their head around.
The facts are plain and simple. We are all going to die…but it doesn’t have to be anything to be afraid of. Death, and as they say, taxes, are two certainties in everyone’s life. How you choose to live your life is the real issue here.
Each of us faces the same dilemma. We have a sin debt that we owe to God but no way to pay for it. None of our solutions – living a moral life, being religious, or doing more good deeds – can take care of our problem.
God Himself has provided the solution – one that both satisfies His justice and grants us mercy. He sent His Son to pay the penalty we owed. Jesus was qualified to be our substitute because He never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21). He willingly took our place on the cross and experienced the full measure of the Lord’s wrath against our sinfulness. In dying for us, Christ secured our salvation by paying the debt for all our past, present, and future sins. When we trust in Jesus and surrender our life to Him, He becomes our personal Savior and Lord.
Therefore, if you have accepted Jesus Christ into your heart, and into your life, the thought of death is diminished…because we know that our Redeemer is waiting for us in Heaven. That is the promise given us by the Lord, Jesus Christ.
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-15
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-17
Those who fall asleep in Jesus love, awakens into eternal life.
There are people in the world…good people, who give of themselves freely to causes to ease suffering of the hungry, the sick, the poor, and the afflicted. These people volunteer all over the globe helping AIDS patients, drug users, family crisis centers, and so on. Yet, as good as they are, many have not yet accepted Jesus into their lives, thinking that their works will sustain them.
Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Your works in this life do nothing to get you into heaven. Once again, it is only through the acceptance of Jesus Christ that offers you eternal life. There is no substitute for this law, and yet people ignore it. Be a disciple, (follower) of the Lord, and your rewards will be great in heaven.
The Bible says that when we trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, our old garments are taken off and we are given new robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
So when you put on God’s garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness by trusting in Christ, you will receive the righteousness of Jesus and will be faultless when you stand before the Father’s throne.
Disciple or Apostle
I am a disciple of Christ. I am a follower and learner of his message. As best I can, I walk in the footsteps of Christ, but I am human, and therefore flawed. If you follow the teachings of Christ, you too are a disciple.
An Apostle, while being used as the same word in many instances, is quite different. All Apostles are disciples, but not all disciples are Apostles. The word Apostle, in the Greek translation, is Apostolos, which means “a delegate, a messenger, one sent forth with orders.” You are therefore not an Apostle unless you were appointed by Jesus to carry on his work. The 12 original disciples became Apostles because they were sent by Jesus, and then later, after the resurrection, Paul was called by Jesus to be an Apostle.
So, scriptually speaking, there are no modern day Apostles, although there are millions of disciples. There are many arguments on this subject, saying that John the Baptist would have to be included as an Apostle…and a few others. Maybe so, but according to my belief and interpretation, this is the way it reads. The interpretation can also variefrom religion to religion.
I can’t personally imagine myself without my church, but attending church every Sunday does not guarantee me a place in Heaven. It holds no guarantee for anyone who attends church, as all church goers are not necessarily Christians. We are saved by the grace of God, and by accepting Jesus Christ, and the faith that he lived, and died for our sins.
The Bible does tell us that the Christian life should be lived within the context of the family of God (Eph, 3: 4-15; Acts 2) and not in isolation. Hebrews 10 clearly tells us “not to neglect the gathering of ourselves together as is the custom of some”
While I know Christians who do not go to church, it actually escapes me why they would not want to gather with like minded people who get together to worship our Lord.
The praise through song, the sacrament, and the teachings of our Pastors to know our Lord more completely is priceless to me. So…do you have to attend church to be a Christian? No. Is it fulfilling to both mind, body and soul. You bet it is!
The Celebration Of Christmas
When was Christmas first celebrated? In an old list of Roman bishops, compiled in A. D. 354 these words appear for A.D. 336: “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.” December 25, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea. This day, December 25, 336, is the first recorded celebration of Christmas.
For the first three hundred years of the church’s existence, birthdays were not given much emphasis – not even the birth of Christ. The day on which a saint died was considered more significant than his or her birth, as it ushered him or her into the kingdom of heaven. Christ’s baptism received more attention than his birthday in the January 6 feast of Epiphany.
No one knows for sure on what day Christ was born. Dionysus Exiguus, a sixth century monk, who was the first to date all of history from December 25, the year of our Lord 1. Other traditions gave dates as early as mid-November or as late as March. How did Christmas come to be celebrated on December 25? Cultures around the Mediterranean and across Europe observed feasts on or around December 25, marking the winter solstice. The Jews had a festival of lights. Germans had a yule festival. Celtic legends connected the solstice with Balder, the Scandinavian sun god who was struck down by a mistletoe arrow. At the pagan festival of Saturnalia, Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor. Drinking was closely connected with these pagan feasts. At some point, a Christian bishop may have adopted the day to keep his people from indulging in the old pagan festival.
Historian William J. Tighe offers a different view, however. When a consensus arose in the church to celebrate Christ’s conception on March 25, it was reasonable to celebrate His birth nine months later.
Other scholars place December 25 as the day of conception, and Jesus was born in late September.
You can see clearly that a combination of the celebrations has been combined to the Christmas that we know today. The Festival of Lights, is of course, the decorating we do to our trees, houses, etc. The Yule Festival was originally “The 12 Days of Yule” (does that sound like some annoying song you may have heard?) and the Romans with their feasting and giving of gifts. There are religions that shun Christmas because it was set around these pagan rituals. But in fact, was placed there in spite of those rituals!
Although I don’t recall Santa Claus being amongst the Wise Men, or anywhere for that matter, he has come to be the face of Christmas. Christmas, for many, has retreated back to the pagan rituals of old…to see how much we can gorge ourselves with the goodies of the season, and give presents to one another. The commercial aspect of Christmas is all about money…and I’m pretty sure that God is not happy about that. The face of Christmas should be the one of Jesus, and ONLY Jesus.
Now it is not my intention to knock all of what the Christmas season has to offer. I enjoy it as much as anyone else does, and then some. It’s just a reminder to hold the season dear, and to remember what it is really about…the birth of our Savior!
Christmas or Easter?
Which is more important? Christmas is a bigger holiday by far. It is the last big holiday of the year, full of fun, food, family get togethers, pretty lights and decorations, and let’s not forget the gifts. However, had it not been for Easter, Christmas would have no meaning.
Had their not been an empty tomb, a manger with a child would be insignificant. There would not be books in his name, or movies, and the word Christian would have little meaning to anyone. It is only by His resurrection and ascent into heaven that changed the world. Jesus is the greatest gift ever received by man, and was given by God for our salvation. So, it is Easter that gives Christmas its meaning.
Forty days from the day He rose from the grave, Jesus ascended into heaven. Here is how Luke described the event:
Therefore, when they [the disciples and the risen Christ] had come together, they asked Him saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
“Now when he had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight…” (Acts 1: 4-9, New King James Version).
Because the date of Easter varies from year to year, the celebration of the Ascension moves with it. It always falls on the fortieth day from Easter and, since Easter always falls on a Sunday, Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday; it is frequently called “Holy Thursday.”
Ascension Day celebrates Christ’s exaltation. While on earth, He was a servant. Now in heaven, He is the ruler and Lord of all. By entering heaven as the representative of mankind, He completed the work of our salvation and guarantees the eventual glorification of all who love Him.
Just as Jesus went up in the clouds, He will return the same way. Again Luke described the scene:
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
This is the great hope of all Christians. For just as Jesus went into heaven, so will all Christians. Those who are dead will rise first; those who are living will be caught up to meet Him in the air, according to Paul, writing to the church at Thessalonica. With this hope in mind, Christians sometimes conclude their meetings with the words, “Come Lord Jesus.”
How Does the Manger Reveal Who Christ Is?
Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him. How solemnly this brings out the world’s estimate of the Christ of God. There was no appreciation of His amazing condescension. He was not wanted. It is so still. There is no room for Him in the schools, in society, in the business world, among the great throngs of pleasure seekers, in the political realm, in the newspapers, nor in many of the churches. It is only history repeating itself. All that the world gave the Savior was a manger, a cross on which to die, and a borrowed grave to receive His murdered body.
He was laid in a manger to demonstrate the extent of His poverty. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). How “poor” He became, was thus manifested at the beginning. The One who, afterward, had nowhere to lay His head, who had to ask for a penny when He would reply to His critics about the question of tribute, and who had to use another man’s house when instituting the Holy Supper, was, from the first, a homeless Stranger here. And the “manger” was the earliest evidence.
He was laid in a manger to show His contempt for worldly riches and pomp. We might think it more fitting for the Christ of God to be born in a palace and laid in a cradle of gold, lined with costly silks. But as He Himself reminds us in this same Gospel, “that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). And what an exemplification of this truth was given when the infant Savior was placed, not in a cradle of gold but, in an humble manger.
He was laid in a manger to mark His identification with human suffering and wretchedness. The One born was “The Son of Man.” He had left the heights of Heaven’s glory and had descended to our level, and here we behold Him entering the human condition at its lowest point. Thus did the Man of Sorrows identify Himself with human suffering.
The Four Gospels
Our most significant source of information about Jesus Christ comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament. Yet the four gospel accounts should not be taken as an exhaustive narrative of the life and work of Jesus. John, for example, explicitly states that his account does not contain everything Jesus did.
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25)
Instead, the four writers had a specific audience in mind to address a defined issue. To that end, each one selected and arranged the factual historical data of Jesus’ life in a way best suited for their chosen aim. Chronology and exhaustive coverage of specific events was secondary. However, this does not negate the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit in shaping and directing the writers of the gospels through divine inspiration.
Because the gospels serve more as Spirit-drawn narrative portraits, any “harmonizing” of the four accounts falls to the student of the Bible. Weaving the gospels together is possible, but the gospels should never be taken as an exhaustive biography in the modern sense. Instead, the accounts follow the common ancient method of highlighting key events and themes. Each telling presents a distinct perspective on the same life.
Matthew: Christ is the Son of David, rightful heir to the Messianic throne. Here we see Christ’s royal genealogy, the visit by the magi from the East to announce His kingly birth, and the proclamation of His laws in the Sermon on the Mount.
Mark: Here we find Jesus as the Servant of God. Although Jesus came as God to earth, He completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father in heaven and took on the form of a servant. Anything extraneous to that theme is excluded, which is why the narrative contains no references to Jesus’s birth or youth.
Luke: To Luke, Jesus is the Son of Man—fully human but unlike any other human being in His perfect submission to God’s will. For this reason, Luke traces the genealogy back to Adam (the first human).
John: John presents Jesus as the Son of God—fully divine. Jesus is not only flesh and bones, but He is also the Creator of all things in the beginning (John 1). Jesus reveals His nature as “I am,” a title God gave as His own.
In many cases, claims concerning the “contradictions” between the gospels ignore the different purposes of the four writers. The focus helps us understand what each intended to emphasize in the character of Christ. One account could never capture the complete picture.
The angels frequently attended our Lord Jesus: at His birth, in His temptation, in His agony. But upon the cross we find no angel attending him. When His Father forsook Him, the angels withdrew from Him, but now that He is resuming the glory he had before the foundation of the world, the angels of God worship him.
The angel came, rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Our Lord Jesus could have rolled back the stone Himself by His own power, but He chose to have it done by an angel to signify that having undertaken to make satisfaction for our sin, He did not break prison, but had a fair and legal discharge, obtained from heaven. He did not break prison, but an officer was sent on purpose to roll away the stone and open the prison door, which would never have been done if He had not made a full satisfaction.
But being delivered for our offenses, He was raised again for our justification. He died to pay our debt, and rose again to gain our acquittal. The stone of our sins was rolled to the door of the grave of our Lord Jesus (and we find the rolling of a great stone to signify the contracting of guilt – 1 Samuel 14:33), but to demonstrate that divine justice was satisfied, an angel was commissioned to roll back the stone. The angel did not raise Him from the dead, any more than those that took away the stone from Lazarus’s grave raised him, but by this he intimated the consent of Heaven to Christ’s release, and the joy of Heaven in it.
The enemies of Christ had sealed the stone, since this was their hour, but all the powers of death and darkness are under the control of the God of light and life. An angel from heaven has power to break the seal and roll away the stone, though ever so great. Thus, the captives of the mighty are taken away.
The angel’s sitting upon the stone, after he had rolled it away, is very observable and shows a secure triumph over all the obstructions of Christ’s resurrection. There he sat, defying all the powers of hell to roll the stone to the grave again. The angel sat as a guard to the grave, having frightened away the enemies’ guard; he sat, expecting the women, and ready to give them an account of Jesus’ resurrection.
Feeling The Power Of Jesus
I am trusting that this package is all that you had hoped it would be. I have tried to include some history on our Lord, and convey the promise of God’s eternal gift: Jesus!
As the commercial says, “The gift that keeps on giving.”
You do not have to go looking for Jesus…just open your heart and he will be there. Ask for forgiveness and it will be given to you. Ask for life eternal with Him in Heaven, and know that it is done, because you asked it in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.