Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:58-59 ESV)
I want to be SUPER SPECIFIC and CAREFUL here. There is really only 1 church- the triumphant invisible church that has been selected, saved, and sealed by the King.
"So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again." John 10
But there are MANY false teachers, false gospels, and we must always be careful to study and test for TRUTH. Are there true Christians in false churches? Yes. Are there false Christians in true churches? Yes.... Jesus covers this in the parable of the wheat and tares.
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So how do I know if I am in a congregation of truth? It takes time... because of human nature... it takes wisdom.
But is always BEGINS with Jesus Himself.... not theology. What do you say about Him?
And a good starting point with Jesus is to consider all of His "I AM" statements.
When it comes to Biblical ‘code’ (pardon the term), nothing identifies Jesus as God more than saying “I AM”. It was how God revealed himself to Moses and it is the identifying and unifying mark of Jesus to the Father.
This is a distinguishing characteristic of the Gospel of John that has, as its theme, the compilation and presentation of Christ as God. I have always been impressed by the beautiful compliment of John’s account with the other three gospel accounts which we refer to as the ‘synoptic (same view) gospels’.
Now, how do you counter liberal theologians and their views that the life of Jesus has been twisted to fabricate events and statements that, they would say, He never made? A core principle of liberal theology is a dismissal of the miraculous and an academic interpretation of ‘the historical Jesus’ as a more likely scenario.
I have always said the premise should start with the possibility of the miraculous if someone like God is in the equation. And if God does exist, then all of the testimony AND the protection of the narrative is very plausible.
If you remove the miraculous, even on ‘objective- scientific’ grounds- you have removed a huge variable AND you have to come up with a narrative that explains creation, life, and current human existence including love, language, logic, law- including all of the ‘psychological’ factors of humanity- desire, significance, etc.
I have read some of those theories….. they take more faith to swallow than anything the Bible presupposes!
Why do I believe the gospel accounts of Jesus and the Spirit empowered teaching of the apostles as they proclaimed God’s covenant promises to the world?
Something VERY significant happened to change cowards into world changers.. to change the symbol of the shameful execution of criminals to become a symbol of hope found around the globe.
And something was SAID or done by this person for Him to be executed on the cross.
See, whether you believe in Jesus or not, there are FACTS that are accepted by legitimate scholars of history on both sides of the debate. Jesus did exist…. He was crucified… He did die….. He was buried…. and His body was never presented after the claim of resurrection and His disciples gave their very lives to the testimony that He rose from the dead.
If you run into skeptics who do not accept those minimal facts…. then you are dealing with a dishonest person or an uneducated/deceived person.
Liberal theology, which I believe was a subtle slide into heresy, was a product of intellectual elitism- those who wanted to stay relevant to the world and who compromised difficult truth to acquire academic acceptance. It elevates man’s thoughts/wisdom above Biblical claims. And in the end, presents a false Jesus. A Jesus, they say, who did good, preached love, was a good teacher who did good things and whose example is good to follow.
They would say all of this supernatural, resurrection stuff was an add on years later to propagate the myth of the man. Or to interpret the resurrection as ‘figurative’ or ‘symbolic’ and not real. And 2,000 years later we are smart and educated enough to sort out the real from the fabricated.
But they wanted to stone Him….. why?
Because HE did make the following statements and those around Him KNEW what He was saying.
John 6: 35, 48 I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 I am the light of the world
John 10:9 I am the door
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 15:1 I am the true vine
One commentator makes an interesting comment regarding the greek text here:
When Jesus says, “Ego eimi,” Jesus refers to his divine being. Ego eimi is translated as “I am”—ego is “I” and eimi is “I am”. As you can see,ego eimi is an emphatic form. In Greek, to say “I am”, all you need to say is eimi. The proper way to translate ego eimi would be, “I myself am”. But when Jesus says those words, it means more. Earlier in John, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” When he said this, the Jews tried to stone him to death? Why? For what Jesus said spoke clearly, at least to the Jewish mind, that he was God. For God called himself, “I am that I am.” And Jesus presented himself as the eternal God by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” So when Jesus says in John, “I am [something],” his divine nature is implied. And when Jesus says that he is the good Shepherd, it means more than that he is a great leader of people; it means that he is God, who came to shepherd his flock.
Friends…. never before has the foundations of faith been under attack. I spend hours reading and listening to Biblical analysis from all sides.
The tragedy is saddest of all when those who claim to be ‘evangelical’ buy into the teaching and presuppositions that come from liberal traditions of Biblical interpretation.
If your church or teacher does not have a high view of Scripture as the the truth of God, given, protected, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit….
If they do not teach a high view of Jesus- THE Son of God WHO is the ONLY way to a Holy God….
If they do not teach a salvation that is by God’s sheer grace alone… not merited at all by our good works…..
If they seem to counter simple Biblical commands with all kinds of caveats and ‘ social updates’…..
Then it is likely they are not teaching the “I AM” Jesus…
If your church presents a ‘social gospel’ – do good things for good people to get a good grade by the good God….
If your church teaches a ‘prosperity gospel’- sow the seed of faith to be wealthy and healthy….
If your church teaches an ‘accommodating gospel’- live any way you want to- It’s OK…..
If your church teaches a ‘Wordless gospel’- don’t worry about reading the Bible- just be like Jesus….
If your church teaches a ‘Workless gospel’- don’t worry about holiness because Jesus is cool with you…
Then it is likely that they are not following the “ I AM” Jesus….
So is there a way to KNOW you are trusting in the “I AM” Jesus?
Is HE your bread of life? Do you have to feed on Him to make it?
Is HE your light and you see Him as THE LIGHT of the world? Our only true hope and truth?
Is HE your door to salvation? You only trust in Him to grant you access to God’s Holy throne?
Is HE your good shepherd? You read His word, listen to His voice? Follow Him?
Is HE your resurrection and the life? Do you see that He conquered death?
Is HE your way, your truth, and your life? Forsaking all others?
Is HE your true vine? You are merely branches? Apart from Him you can do nothing?
And if I am honest I will say…. I would like for all of that to be true, but I fall so short!
Maybe I am just ‘saying’ I want it to be true….but if I am honest, I have failed.
‘Lord, help me!”.. I am not even CLOSE to having this kind of trust and dependence on YOU!
And that is why the ‘gospel’ is GOOD NEWS. It begins with a simple realization…”I have failed!”…that results in a trust in the Great I AM…it means falling on His offer of forgiveness based on His sacrifice on the cross. It is proclaiming that He is God and He is trustworthy to do what He has promised. It is a willingness to forsake of your evil heart desires and endeavor to follow Him as the lover and purchaser of Your life. It is a recognition of Him as the King and a trust that He has forgiven you and you are now His adopted son or daughter. And if that is true, it means a desire to live as a royal ambassador in a world that is dying in darkness, needing the same Savior that they naturally despise and hide from.
It is never too late..cry out to Him today! He is no mere ‘historical’ Jesus- He is the Living One- the Alpha and the Omega!
See the simple way His beloved disciple said it:
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
(1 John 5:11-13 ESV)
It is simple…. Do you have the Son?
If you don’t know, ask Him to show you….
Please seek out Bible believing pastors, counselors, or friends to help you get grounded in your faith.