Resource Sheet 5 - What Does It Mean to Live?
Let's begin with some questions:
Is the Bible a book which teaches us how to live a good life acceptable to God? Is a Christian someone who tries to live a good life in obedience to what the church teaches? Did Jesus come to earth to be an example of how we should live?
The answer to all these questions is NO!
These are some of the things our society believes that a Christian is, and there is some truth in them. All major religions try to teach people how to live. They give a set of moral and ethical codes. Yet no one seems to be able to keep them.
Then why did Jesus come? What does it mean to be a Christian?
Jesus did not come to show us how to live. He came to make it possible for us to live!
"I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
Again, Jesus said:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me you would really know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:6-7)
What is Jesus talking about here? Does he mean that if we know what Jesus is like then we will also know what God the Father is like? This may be true, but it isn't what he is talking about.
His statement seems simple enough, but if you read the next verses you will see that even the disciples, who had been with Jesus for several years by then, didn't understand him.
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father.'" (John 14:8-9)
Neither do we understand this, because Jesus is talking about something new to them, and probably to us.
To know Jesus does not mean to know about him. It does not even mean to believe what we know about him. It does not even mean to act upon what we believe about him, although many Christians think that they are doing really well if they get to this stage.
What happens when a man and a woman come together and are married? The writer of Genesis says:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
For what reason do they come together? Because they belong together - they were once the same person, the same body. Eve was in Adam, and now they come back together again - as one flesh (See Genesis 2:23).
In Matthew 19:4-5 we read that God had separated the male and female at creation - "he made them male and female", and we see that in marriage they are joined together again. [In Paul's teaching about the relationship between Christ and the church being like marriage we see the same idea, but this shows that it includes those who are not married as well. (See Ephesians 5:22-33) It also appears when Paul speaks about us being in Christ and being new creatures. (2 Corinthians 5:17)]
Where did humankind come from? God made Adam's body out of the earth he had previously created out of nothing. He then breathed into it his own Spirit and made it a living being:
The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (nešãmãh = 'breath', 'spirit', 'life'), and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7).
A human's life comes directly from God.
Now let's go back to John 14 and read what Jesus said next to his confused disciples:
"Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words that I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work." (John 14:9-10)
At a later time Jesus is again with his disciples, after he has been crucified and risen again. This time they are in a locked room, and frightened, and he appears to them.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:19-23)
Jesus breathed on them. Why? Because the life of God, the Holy Spirit, is received by God breathing on us.
What could they now do that they couldn't do before? Forgive sins.
Who could do this before then? Only God. In some sense they had now moved into God's realm.
Look at Mark 2:1-12.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now, some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ... ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
Healing the disease with a word is just as much a God thing as healing sins, but easier to prove - they saw the man walk! Jesus, with the Spirit of God dwelling in him, could forgive sins - and heal diseases! In John 20 the disciples received this same Spirit and could now forgive sins too.
Why did they have this authority? Was it because they were good living, God fearing, Jesus believing, Bible reading Christians? No! Even Jesus could not do anything without the Spirit of God - the presence of Father God himself in him. There was a time when Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees that he really was who he said he was.
"Who are you?" they asked.
"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world."
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Even as he spoke many put their faith in him. (John 8:25-29)
Now let's read John 10:22-30.
Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:22-30)
Here we have an interesting passage. The Jews want Jesus to say he is God, then they think they can kill him for blasphemy. But Jesus won't say it. Instead he talks about he and the Father being one. This is not the same thing - he is in the Father and the Father is in him, so he can do what the Father does. The miracles he does prove he is doing things by the power of the Father, not his own human power, because the Father is in him.
The disciples had authority to forgive sins and heal, and do the things only God could do, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them - they were one with the Father just as Jesus was. The very person of God was within them. Jesus promised them that this would happen:
"Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:11-14)
Then Jesus prayed that we would be one as well:
"My prayer is not for them alone (the disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17: 20-26)
When we read these verses it is usually to focus on us needing to be in unity with each other so that the world will believe our message. But we neglect what Jesus says about what that oneness is - probably because it is outside our everyday experience to consider what being one with Jesus and Father God means. We have some small inkling of what a husband and wife coming together in sexual unity and being one flesh might mean (we see much more about this in the Prayer Ministry course). But we forget that this is the exact example Jesus uses in so many passages as an analogy of Christ and his bride the church!
He also wants us to "be with me where I am, and to see my glory". This is not when we get to heaven - he is talking about where (and how) we live now.
Are you beginning to see what it means to be a follower, or disciple, of Jesus - a Christian, a Christ-one? It is not about believing something, or doing something, or being good. It is about you and the Father God being one in a sense, and thus doing what the Father does - as Jesus did.
And what did Jesus do that set him apart from others?
He clearly heard God's voice in all the things of life - and acted upon what he heard, whatever it was.
Some of these things he heard were about healing and miracles, about teaching, about sacrificing himself, and about dying. He said we would do even greater things, if we are truly his!
Let's read John 10:24-30 again.
The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:24-30)
Hear his words: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me."
Who was Jesus talking about? Who are his sheep? Earlier, in John 10:14-21, we find that Jesus is not only talking about the twelve disciples, or the early Christians, but us as well (v16).
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"
But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" (John 10:14-21)
Of course, we are his sheep.
How, then, should we be living? How can we hear God's voice? And what should we be expecting to happen if we are Christians who hear God's voice and obey it? These are the subjects of further studies in this course.