Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why. Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces its particular topic.
Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.
Last week in Letter No. 4: Why Jesus Was Born on Earth, I wrote about how despite God’s generosity, kindness and protection most of Abraham’s descendants chose not to trust in God. This week I write about how God’s Son, Jesus, changes everything by opening up a way back to God.
Here are some more details about Jesus’ birth, to add to what you already know:
- He was born to a teen-ager named, Mary, who became pregnant with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, married her and took her to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born.
- Joseph’s relatives had no room to put them up, so they ended up staying in a kind of cave, which shepherds would use for shelter.
- The Son of God, the Savior of the world, was born to a poor, ordinary couple, who had to use an animal feeding trough for his cradle.
From a human point of view this is an outrageous plan. But God knew what He was doing. Nothing about Jesus’ birth was an accident.
From an early age, people recognized that Jesus was somehow different, but nobody guessed that he was the Son of God. Everyone in Israel was hoping God would send a Savior, a Messiah, but most people expected him to be a mighty king and warrior or a powerful priest of the Temple. Jesus just didn’t look or act the part. And the religious leaders didn’t trust him, because Jesus criticized them for taking money from the poor and for not living up to the true intent of God’s laws.
But Jesus did have a large group of followers, who saw him work miracles and who were spellbound by his teaching. Jesus confided in a few of these followers, whom he called, disciples, that He was God’s Son and that he had come to save the world. These disciples believed him, but Jesus didn’t want them to go off and tell everyone, until the time was right.
Jesus was fully God and fully human. He ate, drank, slept, worked, laughed and cried, just like us. He knew what it was like to be rejected, scorned, and run out-of-town. He also knew what it was like to be tempted. In fact, after he had grown up and just before he began his public ministry, the devil tempted him, mightily. But unlike us, Jesus didn’t fall for it. He did not sin. The way he lived his life on earth was how God was hoping all of us would live – completely trusting in God, while doing His will and enjoying His company.
In time, the religious leaders grew jealous of Jesus and fearful that they would lose their influence over the people of Israel. They came up with a plot to have Jesus put to death. God allowed this to happen, because He was going to use this for great good. Jesus trusted in God, even though what awaited him was very scary. He was arrested, charged with a made-up crime, and put to death by being nailed to a cross. This was a cruel form of punishment that the Romans used on notorious criminals. But Jesus was innocent.
Immediately after his death, Jesus’ disciples were in disarray. They had believed what he said about himself, so they did not expect him to be put to death. The Savior was not supposed to die (or so they thought). They were fearful that the religious authorities would come for them next.
But an amazing thing happened: Jesus was raised back to life by his Father! He died on a Friday and on Sunday he was resurrected. He was the same Jesus, but something was different. His resurrected body still bore the scars from the crucifixion, but his body also had new properties. Jesus could walk through locked doors. (John 20:19) He could be in one place one moment and in another place the very next moment. (Luke 24:30-31)
By dying and being raised back to life Jesus conquered the power of sin and death. He conquered the things that separate us from God, make us miserable, and cause us to grow old and die. Most important of all, by being completely faithful to God, through his life and his death, he created a way back to God for all of us. The apostle, Paul, whom Jesus himself commissioned, writes about this in his letter to the Romans. He says:
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Chapter 10, verse 9)
The apostle John says the same thing in his first letter:
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (1 John 4:15)
The way back to God, as Paul says, is to confess, to tell the truth. The truth we own up to is this:
- We’ve sinned against God by not respecting the boundaries He sets for us.
- We cannot consistently obey God, no matter how hard we try.
- Only Jesus provides us with a way back to God. He is our only hope.
- We will turn over the reigns of our life to Jesus and let him steer us in the right direction from now on.
Jesus has the power to change our hearts and minds so that we sin less and less and trust God more and more. In the next letters, “Why Jesus Had to Die” and “Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us,” I’ll explain in detail how this all works. The most important thing to know as I bring this letter to a close is that God became a human being, at enormous cost to Himself, to save you from your sins. There is no greater love than this. You can trust God completely.
Discussion Questions for Eleventh Installment: Why Jesus Was Born on Earth
1) What did Jesus do that no one else could do?
2) What is the one way back to God?
3) What do we need to confess? Have you done so?
Next week: Why Jesus Had to Die.