Lesson 27
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Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.   -  Hebrews 12:2 KJV

Jesus is called the author of the Christian faith because He has demonstrated the true meaning of faith in God. Consider His destiny for a moment. Jesus did not want to go to the cross. (Luke 22:42) He had done nothing to deserve death. (Hebrews 4:15) Yet, it was the Father’s will that He go to the cross – so He obediently submitted and went to His death. This was a perfect demonstration of living by faith in God. The knowledge that sustained Jesus during the terrible ordeal of the cross was the joy of knowing that many human beings would receive the gift of eternal life. So, Jesus obediently laid His own life down and allowed cruel men to nail Him to the cross. He accepted the shame and humiliation associated with dying as a criminal. The penalty for sinners was laid on Him. Just before He died, Jesus uttered words that demonstrate the depth of His great faith. He cried out, “…Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) In such trying circumstances, His words reveal something very beautiful.

Paul says that Jesus is the finisher (Greek: teleiotes) of our faith. The word teleiotes means completeness or perfection. In this sense Jesus is a perfect example of what faith in God should be. As Jesus hung on the cross, He became totally separated from the Father. Never before had He felt the depth of despair that comes from God’s silence – He had always had the assurance of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Now, the Father actually put Jesus in the position of those sinners who will experience the second death. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) In other words, Jesus actually experienced the death required by God to pay for the penalty of sin. During His darkest moment, Jesus did not know if He would be resurrected. Yes, He predicted His resurrection on the third day (Luke 9:22), but His prediction was a statement of faith, not fact. He knew that His resurrection was contingent on receiving the Father’s approval of His entire earthy ministry. Therefore, when Paul says that Jesus is the finisher or perfecter (NIV) of our faith, few of us grasp the importance of these words. Jesus stepped across the portal from life to the second death maintaining perfect faith in God even though He did not know if He would be restored to life. Wow! What incredible love – what incredible faith!

Jesus, the Centerpiece of Bible Prophecy

Jesus is the centerpiece of Bible prophecy. (Colossians 1:18) Bible prophecy predicts a time will come when Jesus Christ is fully revealed to this world. (Matthew 26:64; Revelation 1:1-3) The revelation of all that Jesus is unfolds in a sequence of events – a grand process built into the Plan of salvation. As the revelation Of Jesus unfolds, it illuminates what the Godhead is all about. Jesus is the Word, the Spokesperson for the Godhead. (John 1:1-14) Jesus is the beginning and end of information abut God. He is the Alpha and the Omega. (Revelation 1:8) The Greek alphabet begins with a character called an alpha and it ends with a character called the omega. The character of the Godhead begins and ends with Jesus. In other words, we cannot correctly understand the ways of the Godhead without knowing and understanding Jesus. The wonderful thing about the Plan of Salvation is that a person can be saved from eternal death without understanding the Godhead or even knowing about Jesus! This is very good news when you consider that billions of people live (and have lived) on this planet who never heard of Jesus or His offer of salvation. This is a profound topic and worthy of consideration.

Salvation is not Based on Absolute Knowledge

For some people, the following concept is a completely new thought: Salvation is not based on an absolute knowledge of God. Many Christians are taught that in order to receive salvation they must know about Jesus and His offer of salvation. Instead, man’s salvation is based solely on the merits of something that Jesus Christ did for the whole world AND our willingness to obediently submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus died on the cross, He reconciled the whole world to God. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10,11) This verse says that mankind was reconciled to god through Jesus when we were still God’s enemies! This reconciliation does not mean that everyone on Earth will receive eternal life as some people claim. Rather, it means that Jesus paid the penalty due each sinner so that each sinner can receive the gift of eternal life, but only if he or she is willing to obediently surrender to the authority of the Holy Spirit. The “born again” experience occurs whenever a person obediently surrenders his heart to the control of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Paul wrote, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

God examines our mind; He knows our motives because He knows our heart. The Spirit knows whether we obediently submit to His demands in faith or whether we are living in rebellion. God cannot be fooled. The greatest of all sins and the only one that cannot be forgiven is an attitude of continuing stubbornness that refuses to submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy {rebellion} against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come.” (Matthew 12:31,32, insertion mine.)

The bottom line is this: if a person allows the Holy Spirit to live within his or her heart and soul, God considers that person a child of the kingdom. Salvation is not based on an absolute knowledge of God. Instead, it is based on submission to the Holy Spirit. This is ground zero. This is where every human being starts his or her walk with God. The Spirit approaches every person to see if He can find residence there. If He can, life begins to change. A new character begins to develop as desires begin to change. This is how knowledge fits in. Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Paul does not say that salvation comes by simply agreeing with truth. Paul says that our faith in God increases as we learn more from the teaching of Christ. A person wants to know more about Christ because the Spirit creates the interest! Again, notice the order of events. First the Spirit dwells within, followed by an obedient submission to His dominion, and then a thirst for more knowledge begins. There is an enormous difference between living in obedient faith to god and merely agreeing with certain statements about God. The demons know that God is omnipotent and they tremble! (James 2:19) This knowledge does not save them from their destined destruction. Knowledge does not save, but knowledge will increase our faith in God if the Holy Spirit has gained entrance into our hearts.

God Created Diversity

Because God ordained it, billions of people currently live (and have lived) on the Earth. Paul said, “From one man he {God} made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17: 26-28, insertion mine) God knows there are billions of people who truly love a divine entity they call God. These sincere people serve their God to the best of their knowledge and ability. Honesty and sincerity in serving God are evidence of the indwelling Spirit. This is true for the Muslim, for the Jew, for the Catholic, or the Protestant. According to Jesus, the Godhead accepts all people as “children of the kingdom” if they obediently submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit, even though they may not know about Jesus. (John 4:23; 10:16; Romans 2:14,15) This truth reveals how great God’s love is. Because mankind has been reconciled to God through Jesus, God accepts everyone who allows the Holy Spirit to have dominion in his or her lives.

Many Will Be Surprised

At the last day, Jesus will resurrect many people who have never heard of His name and give them eternal life! This is possible because God offers salvation on this generous basis: Anyone who submits to the indwelling authority of the Holy Spirit will mature into the kind of person that Gods wants to live within His eternal home. People who obediently submit to the Holy Spirit live by faith. (Roman 1:17; 8:5) The ministry of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God to all people. (See Joel 2:28,29; Romans 3:28-30 and Romans 12:3) The Holy Spirit attempts to reside in every heart. His mission is to draw people near to God, even if some of them have no knowledge about God. (John 3; Romans 2:14,15; Acts 10:34,35) The Holy Spirit creates a hunger for knowledge about God and a desire for a relationship with Him. Just because the presence of the Holy Spirit dwells within us does not mean we have an automatic infusion of knowledge about God. Instead, the first work of the Spirit is too developing a new attitude within a person’s character. He wants to produce a joyful, obedient, submissive heart that will hunger to know God and His truth! Just like steel is attracted to a magnet, any person who allows the Holy Spirit to direct his or her life will be irresistibly drawn to greater truth about God and His will. (John 3:21; 16:13) In fact, the presence of childlike humility and the thirst for the living water of truth about God is one of the most obvious signs of a “born again” person. (Matthew 5:6)

Attitude – First and Foremost

Every teacher knows that conduct is a reflection of inner attitude, and if a good attitude is established first, problems can be solved within the classroom faster and more permanently. Jesus certainly understands the process. This is why He offers salvation to man without the necessity of works. If God’s goodness and generosity do not soften our rebellious attitude toward His authority, eternal life with a bad attitude would be hell for a sinner and for everyone around him or her! Our attitude towards God’s authority is inherently rebellious because we are born under the influence of sin. The law of sin goes to work within our brain the day we are born. (Romans 7:17,23) Therefore God sends the Holy Spirit to create a sweet spirit within each of us to prepare us for His presence. Eternal life would be pointless if our attitude toward God is not amicably and warmly reconciled to the fact that He has sovereign authority over us. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10) God’s interest and love for humankind are incompre-hensible. For example, whenever a person follows the Holy Spirit’s prompting – even if that person does not understand everything there is to know about the Father, Jesus, or even the Holy Spirit – the Godhead accepts that person as a member of the kingdom. The Godhead accepts a person when his or her heart becomes willing by faith to obey the Holy Spirit and do whatever the Spirit requires. God knows that if this person knew more, he or she would do more. From God’s point of view, the essential problem with fallen man is the stubborn refusal to submit to the Holy Spirit! (Matthew 12:31) When the Holy Spirit is allowed to stay within a person’s heart, that person exhibits the childlike attitude God is looking for. (Matthew 18:3) Although my understanding of God has changed dramatically during many years of study, my thirst for truth about God remains the same. It is very assuring to know that God’s love for us is not proportionate to our knowledge of Him. Jesus loved me long before I ever knew Him. Even more, Jesus loves me even though I do not know even 1 percent about Him!

Knowledge is Constantly Eclipsed

Some well meaning people believe they know “the whole truth” about God and His will for mankind, but this is not possible. No created being on Earth or in Heaven knows “the whole truth” about the Godhead. Even if one person knew everything about God that could be known today, his or her knowledge would have to be updated tomorrow because truth about God is ever unfolding. Today’s advancing knowledge constantly eclipses the limits of what was known yesterday. Since we cannot comprehend “the whole truth about an infinite God at any given time, it is more important to live by faith. Many people in every religion live up to all they know to be right and they thirst for greater truth. These are God’s children. Remember that we are not saved by knowledge but by our faith in God. (Romans 3:21-26) So, whether a person is a Moslem, Jew, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant or even an atheist, religious persuasion is secondary in matters of salvation. A person is given Christ’s righteousness as long as he or she submits to the authority of the Holy Spirit. If a Hindu is seeking greater truth about God and is honestly living up to all the Holy Spirit has put in his or her heart, God accepts that person as His child. If you are a bit skeptical about this matter, consider the story of the Jewish zealot, Saul. Jesus called Saul into His service while he was on his way to Damascus to destroy Christians. The conclusions Saul had in his head were totally wrong, but God could see that his heart was right. (Acts 9) It may be hard to comprehend, but consider God’s magnificent grace of accepting people from all walks of life on the basis of obedient faith alone!

Knowledge Has a Place

You may ask, what is the point of having knowledge about Jesus if you are saved by faith alone? Furthermore, what is the point of promoting the gospel of Jesus to the world if the Holy Spirit already lives within people of all religious systems? These are good questions and I believe the answers center on this point: To correctly understand the will, ways and plans of the Godhead, man has to know Jesus Christ. There is no other 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 knew me, you would know the Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6,7) Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega enlightening man’s Humanity must correctly understand the will, ways and plans of the Godhead for two important reasons: First, the truth about God sets man free of superstitious burdens (nonsense) and false guilt. (John 8:32) Religion at its best is a mixture of partial truth, degenerate culture, foolish speculation and superstition. The older religion gets, the more corrupt it becomes. In general, religious leaders become more concerned with authority and control over people than with the advancement of truth and spiritual growth with their congregations. Jesus was crucified because His teachings weakened the control of the religious authorities over the people. (John 11:50) Historically, religion has caused more wars, separated more people and produced more grief than any other institution on Earth. On the other hand, greater truth about God sets people free from the heavy burden that religion can impose. (Matthew 11:28) The second reason man needs a correct understanding of God is this: Fullness of life is discovered only through knowing the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the Alpha – Architect of life and the Omega – Over comer of every problem. The more we know about the Designer and His designs for life, the higher and more fulfilling the human experience will be. If a person adopts God’s principles of life, then his or her life will be noble and honorable. Each person will enjoy the benefits of respect, and integrity will produce many rewards. So, the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His teaching is important. With this knowledge come freedom and a higher and more fulfilling human experience.

Eternal Jesus

The Bible teaches that Jesus has existed forever. (Colossians 1:17; Isaiah 48:12,13) It is hard for finite minds to comprehend that Jesus has no beginning and no end. He is an eternal being just like the Father and the Holy Spirit. He was not created and He is not a lesser God or inferior to the Father. (Colossians 1:15-19; John 5:23; 10:30) Jesus is Almighty God just like the Father and the Holy Spirit are Almighty Gods. (Genesis 17:1; Isaiah 44:6; 47:4; Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3; Revelation 1:8) If you are willing to see it, the Bible teaches that there are three distinct and separate eternal Gods in Heaven. The plurality of the Godhead is introduced in the first chapters of Genesis, supported throughout the Bible and summarized in final chapters of Revelation.

The progressive revelation of Jesus is the focal point of the Bible because the Godhead predetermined that the process of revealing all that Jesus is was the best way to illuminate their purposes, plans and actions.

Be assured, Jesus is not self-seeking or self-promoting. On the contrary, no being has sacrificed more or shown more genuine humility than the Author and finisher of our faith. When He was here on Earth, He did not travel in a gold-plated chariot with hundreds of heralds announcing His appearance. He did not dress in kingly robes or purple or wear costly jewels. He did not seek the approval or endorsement of religious and political leaders with weasel words or compromise. Even during the donkey-back parade into Jerusalem, King Jesus was not beguiled by the pseudo-praise of a spontaneous crowd. Instead, He immediately angered religious authorities by going straight to His temple to reprove the horde of greedy thieves who were conducting “business” in His house of prayer. (Matthew 21:7-14) For almost 30 years Jesus traveled the dusty roads of Galilee as a poor carpenter. He did not seek fame, and even when the devil offered to give Him the kingdoms of the world, Jesus would not bow down and worship him. (Luke 4:5-8) Jesus was not on a mission to capture the wealth and glory of this world. He did not come to entertain the carnal heart and win its affection, but to transform it. The miracles He performed were not done to impress the people with His prowess, but to reveal the Father. He came on a mission to seek and save a lost world. Every miracle He performed was calculated to confirm His testimony about the ways of the Godhead. If you really want to get a good snapshot of what Jesus was like on Earth, read the entire chapter of John in one sitting. You will be amazed at the conflict He faced and the courage and tenderness He expressed! You will be amazed at the stubbornness and meanness of carnal hearts.

The Greatest Sacrifice

Consider this point: When Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus immediately offered Himself to the Father as man’s substitute. Jesus offered to become a man and die in man’s place. Carefully evaluate what this means. First, Jesus was willing to become a man. This is an act of humility that boggles my mind. Think of it! The Creator of the universe became a mere mortal and subjected Himself to death, just like man is subject to death! The human race was created lower than angels. Jesus is God, as well as the Archangel Michael, and His offer to become the second Adam was an immeasurable condescension. (1 Corinthians 15:45; Hebrews 2:7-9) Second, we know the wages of sin is eternal death. (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15) When Jesus offered to die for humanity, He was not only willing to die as people do, but also willing to cease to exist forever so that we could have the opportunity of eternal life. This selfless offer from Jesus truly reflects the heart of our Father. This condescension reveals so much about the character of the Godhead. They were willing to disrupt their eternal union to redeem fallen humanity! (John 3:16) Yes, the Father did promise to resurrect Jesus, but His promise was conditional. Jesus had to succeed – live a perfect sinless life – in order to regain eternal life. (John 10:18; Acts 2:32,33; Hebrews 5:7-10) If Jesus had failed, He would have come under the penalty of the same law that condemns all sinners. The risk and sacrifice were great. Jesus, eternal God and Creator of Heaven and Earth, was willing to take the risk. If necessary, Jesus was willing to perish forever – just so man could have an opportunity to be restored to the Garden of Eden. It was the ultimate gift…the ultimate sacrifice! Because Jesus offered so much, the Father has decreed that Jesus will be exalted above everyone in the universe. (Psalms 2:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 5: 1-12) This exaltation is an ongoing process. As time passes, the revelation of Jesus Christ becomes greater and greater. The Plan of Salvation requires that Jesus be fully disclosed, verifying that He has all the prerogatives of God. The revelation of Jesus will be accomplished by the end of the 1,000 years and every being in the universe will know that “Michael the Archangel,” “Jesus the man,” is Almighty God.

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