When I First Saw Jesus

When I First Saw Jesus

The first person I ever remember living a life in such a way that drew me to Jesus was a woman named Naomi Hunke.  She was a Sunday School teacher at White Oak Hills Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA, and I was one of her lost, arrogant, disinterested students.  I was married, in my late 20’s, and had pretty much given up on church, Christ, and Christianity.

Yet there was something about her that was captivating.  Something I couldn’t write off or explain.  There was something in her that made the Christian life, at least the way she was living it, simply irresistible.

And that something was Jesus.

It has been over thirty years and I have never forgotten how her example of authentic, raw, unashamed devotion to our Lord led me to Him and how she later discipled me through some rather dark times in my young spiritual life— my “dark night of the soul” as they say.  She’s one of my spiritual heroes and all that I am and have become I owe to her childlike faith and obedience to both her Lord and mine.

I can’t thank the Lord enough for bringing Naomi and her husband Bill into my life.

Naomi went to be with the Lord in 2009 at the age of 80.  I have attached her memorial and picture below so you will know a little more about her when we meet again in heaven.  The picture was taken in December 1946, just a few months after her marriage to Bill.

If there are those in your life who have made a difference like Naomi did in mine, be sure to let them know what they mean to you before that opportunity is taken away.


Naomi Ruth Hunke

NaoimHunke-300Naomi Ruth Hunke, 80, of Youngtown, Arizona, passed away Wednesday, October 14, 2009 following a period of illness. Cherished husband of 63 years, sister, mother, grandmother, cousin, friend, minister to many in nursing homes, she enriched many lives.

Born Naomi Ruth Savage on a small farm in Wilson, Oklahoma on May 14, 1929, Naomi’s family moved to the drier climate of California in 1943 because of her health. She graduated as co-valedictorian of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno in 1946. On August 29, 1946, she married Edmund William (Bill) Hunke, Jr. who was recently discharged form military service. Bill Hunke was the son of Edmund William Hunke and Clare Lucille Holding.

Naomi earned a bachelors degree from Pacific Bible Institute and attended Fresno State University, and earned Masters degrees in English Literature from Grand Canyon College (now University) and in Education and Sociology from Arizona State University. Much of her college course work was done at night school, after caring for her young family during the day; yet, she was always at the top of her class, graduating with honors and as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies.

With her husband, Naomi helped to start new churches everywhere that they lived, including California, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Georgia, and Canada. She taught English and Literature at Alhambra and Carl Hayden High Schools and Grand Canyon College in Phoenix, Alaska Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific University) and the University of Alaska in Anchorage, and DeKalb College in Atlanta, before retiring in Arizona at the Village of Oak Creek, Cottonwood, and Sun Lakes.

Naomi authored three books on Baptist ministries in Alaska, Arizona, and Oklahoma and a fourth book on ministering to seniors, and regularly contributed writings that were published in daily devotional periodicals. Beginning as a young teenager and continuing for more than 50 years, Naomi ministered to shut-ins and people in elder care, nursing homes, and Alzheimer’s facilities, bringing God’s message of hope to people in need. In 2002, Naomi and Bill were named Arizona Volunteers of the Year for their work with assisted-living and nursing home patients.

Wife of Edmund William (Bill) Hunke, Jr., originally of Taylor, Texas. Daughter of the late Dixie B. Savage, originally from Blue Ribbon, Oklahoma, and Rebecca Roberts, originally from Agnos, Arkansas. Sister of Kenneth Dean Savage of Palm Desert, California. Mother of Dixie Hunke of Sun Lakes, Arizona, David Hunke of Hoover, Alabama, and Jimmy Hunke of Springfield, Virginia. Naomi has five grandsons: Kenny Hunke of Alabaster, Alabama, Tommy Hunke of Salt Lake City, Utah, Billy Hunke and Brian Hunke of Arlington, Virginia, and D.J. Hunke of Springfield, Virginia.

A memorial service was held at the First Baptist Church of Sun Lakes on October 17, 2009. In lieu of flowers, donations are welcome; they can be made to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions (North American Mission Board) or Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (International Mission Board) in honor of Naomi’s love for missions. A small graveside service with family members will be held at Sedona Community Cemetery in Sedona, Arizona.




The Price of Extravagant Worship

The Price of Extravagant Worship

Sometimes, as true followers of Jesus, we have to stand alone.

Now I’m not talking about standing alone against the onslaught of evil in our society or the corrupt individuals in our government or even the forces of darkness that align themselves against us. No, I mean to “stand alone” when it comes to worshiping our Lord in the manner He is most pleased with, in a way that brings Him the most glory.

Let me explain.

True Worshipers vs False Worshipers

When Jesus was confronting the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar He made a statement about true worship that has rocked me to my very core.  And it should have the same effect on you if you are one of those who truly desires to leave the spiritual lukewarmness of our Laodicean heritage that has become the mainstay of much of what we call church today.  His words have put a longing in my heart for more of Him, that “I may know (1097 – ginōskō) Him and the power (1411 – dynamis) of His resurrection, and the fellowship (2842 – koinōnia) of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10).  And it’s my prayer His words will do the same for you.

So what exactly did Jesus say to the woman at the well?

Their discussion was about worship.  The woman was playing on the inherent prejudice between Jews and Samaritans regarding the location where proper worship should take place, either on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem (John 4:20).  But Jesus would not be goaded into a fruitless argument. Instead, He said:

“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship (4352 – proskyneō) the Father.  You worship (4352) what you do not know (1492 – eidō); we know (1492) what we worship (4352), for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship (4352) the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking (2212 – zēteō) such to worship (4352) Him” (John 4:21-23).

Did you catch that?  Jesus said the hour is coming when the true worshipers, as compared to false worshipers, would worship the Father in spirit and truth and that the Father is actively seeking true worshipers to worship Him that way.  In other words, there is a type of person who worships the Lord in a way He actively seeks, that He earnestly desires, that He is striving to find.  And it’s possible, even probable, for you and I to become that type of worshiper.

But what does that mean?  And what does that look like?  And what does that have to do with “standing alone” in regards to true worship?

Standing Alone in Worship

Fast forward a year or so and we now find Jesus coming back to Bethany just six days before His last passover.  He’s at a party given by Simon the Leper (Matt. 26:10) along with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha (John 12:1-2), and His disciples.  After supper, Mary quietly comes up behind Jesus and breaks an alabaster jar of very costly oil of spikenard and begins to anoint the head and feet of Jesus and then wipe His feet with her hair (John 12:3).  The sight of Mary’s raw, open, unashamed devotion to her Lord was unnerving to both those at the party and to us had we been there.  It’s far too extravagant, way too lavish, and an extremely unwise use of money.  It was a classic example of financial irresponsibility, especially when you consider her gift of spikenard would cost about $25,000 in today’s dollars.

In fact, those who also loved the Lord, His disciples, felt like we probably would about what Mary did.  Their conviction at her love and devotion, and embarrassment at their own lack of love and devotion quickly turned to anger, condemnation and judgmental indignation.  In fact, they called the anointing of Jesus, their Lord and Master, a “waste” and said the money could have been spent better on the poor, on a stranger, on someone less deserving that they didn’t even know (Matt. 26:8-9).

But Mary kept on worshiping her Lord by wiping His feet with her hair while the whole “house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3), with the sweet aroma of her worship to the One who meant more to her than life or reputation or acceptance or the approval of her family and friends.

Jesus Understood

No one came to her defense.  No one said, “Hey man, cut her some slack.  If she wants to worship our Lord that way, so be it.  It’s a free country, she can do what she wants.”  Even Peter, who just a few days later would categorically deny any knowledge of the very existence of Jesus, stood with the others in condemnation of her appalling and disgraceful actions.  And even John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), remained silent.

No one came to Mary’s defense.  No one stood by her side.  No one offered a kind word of encouragement or a nod of understanding or a polite smile.  She was standing alone among those who also loved her Lord but were indignant and resentful of the way in which she chose to express her love for her Lord.

But in the midst of that hostile crowd, someone noticed Mary.  It was the same someone who permitted her to worship Him the way she did and even defended her actions.  Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (John 12:7-8).

Jesus graciously accepted Mary’s act of worship and devotion.  He was pleased at her willingness to give so sacrificially and recognized that Mary understood the whole picture of why Jesus came, she grasped the rest of the story, she got the point.  Mary knew that Jesus was born to die.  And this lavish, loving, costly gift of hers was in honor of His death and burial.

And I think Jesus wanted Mary to know that He knew that she knew that He was soon to die.

But she had to worship Jesus alone.  In the midst of friends and fellow committed followers, those, like her, who had given their all to Jesus, she still stood alone in her worship.

And sometimes, so will you.

Often the greatest enemies of a faithful follower of Jesus are those who claim to be His faithful followers, but aren’t.  Our churches are sadly filled with lukewarm, half-hearted, tepid, followers of the one and only Son of God.  When confronted with an act of devotion like Mary’s, these Laodicean church members will criticize and denounce the true worshiper only to make their lukewarm efforts seem worthy.  They will viciously tear down others to make themselves feel better.  They live in the gray, the shadows, and are frightened of those, like Mary, who live in the light.

After all, didn’t Jesus say the same?

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).

Leaving Laodicea

So understand this, if you truly desire to know Jesus more and more, you will find you’ll make some enemies along the way.  And often, actually, more than not, those enemies will be found nestled in your church and family and among your friends.  Why?  Because they have a vested interest in keeping your spiritual temperature about where theirs is.  Lukewarm.  And if you get too hot for the Lord and make them feel guilty or ashamed or embarrassed, you’ll face, like Mary did, their indignation, rejection and condemnation.

In essence, you must commit yourself to leave Laodicea at all costs and run, full speed, into the non-lukewarm world of fervent worship directed to an audience of only One.  And His name is Jesus.

So if you truly desire to be the kind of worshiper the Lord seeks as His worshiper, you may have to do that alone.  And that’s totally OK.



1097 – to know intimately or by experience, to place favor upon, to choose, a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
1411 – explosive, dynamic, achieving, miracle working strength, power, or ability.
1492 – to know cognitively, to perceive with the mind, to comprehend, to understand.
2212 – to actively seek after, to look for, to strive to find, to desire earnestly.
2842 – participation in, communion, partnership, the close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them, being a member of a family.
4352 – to worship, to fall or prostrate before, to kiss as a token or respect or homage.




We Become Just Like What We Worship

We Become Just Like What We Worship

The Scripture teaches us that we will become just like what we worship.  If we worship the world, we become like the world.  If we worship self or conceit or greed, we will become selfish, conceited and greedy.

Think about it.  Is the world harsh and unforgiving?  Of course.  And we will also become harsh and unforgiving if we worship the world.  Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Psalm 135:15-18 tells us we will be like the idols we worship.  We will become just like the things we trust.  Consider the following:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.  They (the idols) have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath in their mouths.  Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them (Psalm 135:15-18).

As David Murray puts it:

  • If we worship supermodels, we’ll become vain and self-centered.
  • If we worship football players, we’ll become aggressive, bombastic, and women-demeaning.
  • If we worship actors and singers, we’ll become foul-mouthed, immoral, and sad.
  • If we worship corporate America, or the dollar, we’ll become greedy, oppressive, and materialistic
  • If we worship academia, the pursuit of degrees, letters, titles, etc., we’ll become proud, arrogant, condescending, and conceited.

Why?  Because we’ll become just like what we worship, good or bad.  It’s a truth that’s always true.

“So, does that truth also apply to Jesus?”  Absolutely.  And that’s the good news.

When we worship Jesus, we become more and more like Him.  We reflect His glory (2 Cor. 3:18), we will bear His fruit (John 15:8), and we’ll walk as He walked (1 John 2:6).  And isn’t that the point of the Christian life?  To be more like the One we love?

Consider carefully where you place your affections.  Why?  Because “friendship with the world is enmity (or, hatred) with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

And nobody in their right mind would want to willingly make themselves an enemy of God, right?  So keep your heart open and soft for only One— and His name is Jesus.




Is There Something I’m Missing?

Is There Something I’m Missing?

One of the most glorious pictures of our Lord Jesus is found in the first chapter of Colossians. Here, in these few words, Jesus is revealed as God Himself.  He is the imprint, the exact representation, the perfect image of the invisible God. Jesus is presented as the Preeminent One, the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).

But what does that mean?  What are the specific implications of these verses?  And what impact does it have for me today?

Theologically or Devotionally?

Do you mean theologically?  Or do you mean devotionally?  Let me explain.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, I tend to look at things from a theological vantage point and not a devotional one.  For example, when I view a passage of Scripture theologically I am wanting to know what it says and what it means.  I want to define the original words and terms in the passage and I want to make sure I understand them in their proper contextual meaning.  I then want to make sure my understanding of the truths of a passage fits within the framework of the other truths expressed elsewhere in Scripture on the same subject.  It’s pretty much an intellectual study whereby I cognitively hope to comprehend new truths or understand old truths in a new way.  And when I am done, I now intellectually know something new.  Or I know something I already knew— better.  Either way, it’s academic at best.  Why?  Because I may, or may not, be changed by what I have just learned.  God’s Word may remain stuck in my mind as just theology and never be allowed to move down into the core of my being, into my soul, my heart, to the place where I live and feel and believe and trust.  It remains lodged in my head, and not my heart.  After all, theology is defined as “the study of God.”  And the operative word is study.  Academic.  Mental.  Sterile.  Non-emotional.  Simply the acquiring of knowledge and data and facts.

Is there Something I’m Missing?

But when I view a passage devotionally, I’m asking a whole new set of questions of God and the text.  And those questions have to do with me personally.  They may sound something like this:

“I believe that Jesus is God.  But how can I become more like Him by just knowing that fact?  Is there something I’m missing?”

“I understand the “just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).  But I’m not sure what faith really looks like.  And how can I have more faith? (Luke 17:5).  How can I be more like my Lord and trust in Him like He trusted in His Father?  Is there something I’m missing?”

“I acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Trinity.  I got that.  But Who is He and how does He live in my life?  How can I please Him and how can I keep from grieving Him? (Eph. 4:30).  How do I turn my life over to the Holy Spirit and how do I let Him live through me?  Is there something I’m missing?”

These are the “so what?” questions, the “how does that help me get through today?” questions, the never-ending “why?” questions.  They are the questions we all asked in Algebra class in High School but never got an answer.  “Uh, teacher.  Why do I have to study this stuff?  I’m never gonna have to use it.  Geez.  What’s the big deal?”

The Doctrine of the Trinity.  Important?  Yes.  But why?
The Doctrine of Man.  Important?  Very much so.  But why?
The Doctrine of the Atonement.  Important?  Absolutely.  But why?
The Doctrine of the Church.  Important.  You bet.  But why?

While I don’t, in any way, want to downplay the vital importance of understanding correct doctrine and theology (1 Tim. 4:16), I do want to point us to the opposite side of the continuum.  I want to focus on the devotional meaning of the passage.  I want for us to experience, deep down in the depth of our soul, where we live and breathe, what this says about our Lord and what that means for each of us on a day-to-day basis.

One and the Same

So, let’s put on our devotional hats and dig deep into Colossians.  And pray, before we even being, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into a fuller understanding of Christ and we will see Him, maybe for the first time, in living color and not just in black and white.

Colossians 1:15He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created from nothing).

Let that single verse sink in for a moment.  Then read it again.  Slowly.  Out loud.  Can you begin to feel what our Lord is saying about Himself?

Jesus said that He, Christ, the One who walked on the water (Matt. 14:22-33), who broke bread with His disciples in the upper room (Matt. 26:26), who held little children in His arms (Mark 10:16)— He, Jesus, is the exact representation, the perfect replica, He is the “image of the invisible God.”  He is the exact likeness of His Father, and our Father— God.  He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  How?  Because “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).  Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3).  In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.

But what does that mean for me today?  How does that fact help me love Him more?

Simply this, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of Jesus.  It was His choice, mind you, and not something we earned or deserved ourselves.  Remember, He didn’t have to reveal Himself to us at all.  It was a profound gift of grace that He wants to have anything to do with us since we’ve all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  So when you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9).  If you want to know what the Father is like, look to Jesus.  They’re one and the same.  “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).  So when you’re alone, discouraged, and faced with your dark night of the soul and wonder aloud, Is God loving?— ask yourself this, Is Jesus loving?  Yes.  Then so is God.  Or, will God forgive me for all I’ve done wrong?  Would Jesus?  Yes.  Then so would God.  Why?  Because they are one and the same.  When you see Jesus, you see the Father (John 14:9).  When Jesus forgives, the Father forgives.  When you pray to Jesus, you are, in effect, praying to the Father.  They’re exactly the same.  Jesus is the exact representation, the perfect replica, the express image, of the Father (Heb. 1:3).

So rejoice!  For as much as you love and know and understand Jesus, you also know and love and understand the Father, the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15) the Great, I Am” (Ex. 3:14).

The Firstborn

But the verse continues by saying that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation.”  What does that mean?  What does being the firstborn imply?

First, the word does not mean, in this context, being chronologically born first as we would understand it today.  It doesn’t mean Jesus was the first one born to a family of other brothers and sisters.  No, the word refers to position or rank.  It means preeminence.  It denotes an exalted position, one “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1).  It means a place of priority and sovereignty.  In other words, Jesus is the firstborn, the preeminent, the One having priority.  Jesus has the position and rank of sovereignty over all that was created or that ever will be created.  He’s Number One.  There’s no one greater than Jesus.  Ever.  Anywhere.  At any time.  There’s no one worthy of more honor, more glory, more praise, or more love.  And Jesus, the “firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)— that’s over the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the angelic realm, all life, you and me, everything!— this Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to fallen humanity, and to call us His friends (John 15:15).  That fact alone should take your breath away.  It does mine.

Why would Jesus, the exalted One, choose to stoop down and reveal Himself to something of so little worth and value as me?  Or you, for that matter?  Why would He do that?  What does He gain?  Where’s the payoff for Him?

And then He goes a step further and calls us His friends (John 15:15).  Really?  Jesus considers me His friend.  Why?  Being a friend of someone opens one up to the threat of betrayal and hurt and rejection.  We’ve all suffered that from our own friends, haven’t we?  So why would Jesus expose Himself to me, or you, like that?  He’s sovereign and knows all things.  Nothing gets past Him.  He knows what I am and what I’m capable of and what a terrible, fickle and unfaithful friend I could prove to be (John 2:25).  And He knows about you too.  What type of friend are you committed to be to Him?

Jesus, who is the exact image of God the Father, has chosen to become a man like me in order that I may become like Him. He put on flesh so I may someday put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54). He took my nature and replaced it with His nature so I would become the “image of the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Just think, what Jesus was to the Father, the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3), He wants to be with me and you (Rom. 8:29). He offers us sonship, to be joint heirs with Him as the firstborn, the One who inherits all from the Father (Rom. 8:16-17). And He did all this for us for no other reason than the “good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5,9). Or, to put it bluntly, because He wanted to.

But as overwhelming as all this may seem, there’s something even more amazing.

Christ Has Longings

Jesus, as God Himself, doesn’t have needs.  How could He?  For to have needs would imply that He is lacking something that must be supplied by someone else.  For Jesus to have needs or longings or desires means He was incapable of being all-powerful and all-sufficient.  Somehow, He comes up lacking.  And God cannot lack anything.

But Jesus does say in His Word that He has a desire.  And the object of that desire should again, take your breath away.  Why?  Because the object of Christ’s desires and longings is— you.  That’s right, Jesus longs for those He loves and those He redeemed.  Look at what Jesus said in His last prayer before the cross:

“Father, I desire (or, will, wish, purpose, seek, crave) that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, (why) that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Did you read His words?  Do you see what the longing, the desire, the craving of our Lord is?  It’s for you and me to be with Him in heaven, where He is.  And why would He want us with Him?  Jesus said, “that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24).  Jesus wants us, His friends, to come to His home that He is preparing for us (John 14:2) to behold His glory given Him by His Father.  That’s an honor reserved for only the closest of family.  And Jesus offers it to you and me.

Again, why?  Because He wanted to.  Because He felt like it.  Because it made Him happy.  Because He could.  Just think, we are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) for no other reason than Christ wanted us to be with Him where He is (John 17:24).

That’s how much we are loved and chosen in Him.

What Do I Do Now?

So, tell me what problems you have that compare to this blessing?  Tell me what you lack in this life compared to what you already possess in Him?  You are the Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal God’s friend (John 15:15).  You are His chosen child (Rom. 8:16-17), His special possession (1 Cor. 16:19-20).  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Himself (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

That’s who you are.  And we have only looked at one verse, Colossians 1:15.  Take a look at what else is in store for us:

Colossians 1:16-17 – For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

But we’ll look at these verses next time.




Don’t Confuse Me With the Truth!

Don’t Confuse Me With the Truth!

Finally, it was done.  He’d come clean and they had him trapped in His own words.  The Pharisees accused Him of ducking the issue, of speaking in generalities, of not telling the whole truth.  They said, “How long do You keep us in doubt?  If You are the Christ, tell us plainly (or, clearly, publicly, openly)” (John 10:24).

“No more spin.  Tell us who You are.”

And He did.  He, clearly and for all to hear, said: “I and my Father are one.”  That’s “one” in the neuter and not in the masculine.  It speaks of one in substance, one in essence, one in character, and not just as one person.  Jesus, in the clearest way possible, was saying that He and the Father are of one essence, one substance, are equal, are one and the same.  In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.

But this really shouldn’t have surprised the Pharisees, nor anyone else for that matter.  After all, Jesus had been telling them this for quite some time.

Who Are You, Jesus?

For example, from John’s gospel:

John 5:17-18 – But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Looks like the Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying.

John 8:24 – “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Note, the He in your Bible is italicized.  That means the He was added by our translators to make the Greek more understandable in the English.  No big deal, they do it all the time and they let us know when they do by italicizing the word or word phrases they added in the English.  But it actually reads, “if you do not believe that I am (the I AM of the Old Testament, the God of the burning bush), you will die in your sins.”  Jesus is clearly identifying Himself with the God of the Old Testament, the “I Am that I Am” (Ex. 3:14).

Confused?  Well, don’t be.  There’s much less ambiguity just a few verses later when Jesus basically says the same thing.  Only this time, the translators got it right.

John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

That’s pretty point blank and direct, isn’t it?  No confusion here.  Jesus clearly and publicly states that He and the God of the burning bush are one and the same.  He is, and always has been, God.  But there’s more.

John 14:6-7 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you had known (1097, to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship ) Me, you would have known (1097) My Father also; and from now on you know (1097) Him and have seen Him.”

Wait a minute.  I think I’ve got the know part down, but when have I ever seen the Father?  In fact, when has anyone ever seen the Father?  I thought that if we ever saw the Father we would die?  Isn’t that what God told Moses? (Ex. 33:20).

That was the exact question Philip had.  He said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).  In other words, Philip still has some issues with God and Jesus being one and the same.  I mean, God the Father is in “His heavens and He does what He pleases” (Ps. 115:3) and Jesus was standing right in front of them, alive, in the flesh, in living color, and close enough to touch.  I can understand some of Philip’s frustration.  Can’t you?

Seen One, Seen All

When Jesus answered Philip you can almost feel the exasperation in His words.  It was like He was saying, “Really, Phillip?  Are you serious?  Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been telling you?”

John 14:9-11 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known (1097 – to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship) Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”

Jesus was affirming for Philip, and for you and me, that when we see Jesus we have seen the Father.  That’s right.  Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).  So what’s the Father like?  He’s like His Son.  And what’s Jesus like?  He’s just like His Father.  He’s the exact representation, the imprint, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).  What Philip didn’t realize when He looked into eyes the of Jesus was that he was also beholding the Father, the infinite God, the Creator of the Universe, the Great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14).  The God who no one could see and live (Ex. 33:20) has made Himself known to us.  Why?  So we can behold His glory, the “glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  I know it’s hard to understand, this idea of the Trinity, but it’s glorious to believe.  Why?  Because Jesus reveals to us, to fallen man, to you and me, who the Father is and what the Father’s like.  And the Father’s like His Son and His Son is like His Father.  If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  Isn’t that wonderful?  Doesn’t that fill your heart with peace?

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).

Three True Statements

To understand, somewhat, this idea of the Trinity, we must recognize that the following three statements that summarize what the Scriptures teach about God are all true— even if they seem illogical or contradictory to us.  It’s a glorious mystery that we will never fully understand.  And that’s ok.  After all, God is God and we’re not.  And He says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).  In other words, it’s sheer foolishness for the creation, that which was created from nothing, you and me, to try to understand all there is about the Creator.  Why?  Because we can’t.  We don’t have the capacity to fully grasp God and everything about Him.  No created thing can ever know all there is to know about the Person who created them.  It’s impossible and ridiculous to even try.  Why?  Because the Creator creates something, by definition, less than Himself.  The One creating doesn’t duplicate Himself and create another Creator.  No, He simply creates something less than Himself— you and me and the universe we live in.  And we cannot fully grasp all there is to know about God the Creator because we are, by our very creation, less than God.  The best we can hope for, as creations, is for God, our Creator, to choose to reveal some of what He is like to us.  And He has.  And when we struggle to make sense of what He has revealed to us about Himself, we must simply believe what our great God and Creator reveals to us about Himself as truth.  We must accept what He says by faith.  I mean, to not believe what the Creator reveals about Himself is to think we know more about the Creator than the Creator knows about Himself.  And how stupid is that?

So here are the three seemingly contradictory, yet absolutely true, statements about God as revealed in the Scriptures.  Your task is to either believe them or not.  It’s your call, your choice.  Your future.

God is three persons.
Each person is fully God.
There is one God.

Now read that again slowly and let the magnitude of this Biblical teaching sink in.

God is revealed to us in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We’ve got that and we see it confirmed all through Scripture such as at the baptisms of Jesus when all Three Persons of the Godhead, the Trinity, made an appearance.

We also know the Bible teaches us there is only one God.  Just one.  Not many, not multiple, not a handful, not even three— just one.  After all, the most familiar passage of the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which states: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  Got it?  There is one God, and only one.

But some struggle with the second statement:  Each person is fully God, and I’m not sure why.  Over and over again the Bible confirms for us, by their attributes, characteristics and deeds, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are indeed God.  The attributes of God: omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, infinitely wise, perfectly holy, infinitely loving, pure, etc. are all true of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.  After all, only God can do the things God can do.

Which brings us back to the last comment Jesus spoke to Philip.  Remember?  He said, if you can’t believe My words, then “believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11).  In effect, let My works point to Who I really am.  Let what I do speak louder than what I say.  If I do only what God can do then draw the logical conclusion about who I am and Who sent Me.  Think.  After all, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck… well, it’s no great leap of faith to believe it is a duck.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Of course.  But the Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t.  In fact, they rejected the proof He offered and condemned themselves by doing so— just like so many do today, both in and out of the church.  When Jesus boldly and confidently asserted that “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30)— well, the war started.  And it still rages today.

Some Homework

Let me give you some homework before we tackle the claim of Jesus to believe in His works.  It’s found in Colossians 1:15-17 and gives the clearest statement in all Scripture, at least for me, that Jesus is God.

He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created).  For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Couple of Questions

What does it mean that Jesus is the image of the invisible God?
What does it mean to be firstborn?
Does this mean Jesus was the One who created all things in Genesis?
What are “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”?
What does it mean “all things were created for Him”?
What is this verse actually saying?

Chew on these for a couple of days and we’ll pick up here next time.