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Q&A: Why does Jesus say the Father is greater than he and call him "my God" if they are equal?

Q: Why does Jesus say the Father is greater than he and call him "my God" if they are equal?

The reason you're struggling with this question is entirely understandable. We don't call it the mystery of the incarnation for no reason. But the truths that we see in God's Word concerning Jesus and His coming to earth are not for the mind. Rather they are truths for the heart. We accept them because they are revealed in His Word. And what we see is this:

Jesus is CLEARLY declared as "God" in several places in the New Testament. (John 1:1, Titus 2:13, 1 John 5:20, Colossians 2:9. Hebrews 1:3 and many, many more.)

Also, Jesus made statements that NO ONE could make except God. One of the clearest is in John 8:58 where He said, "Before Abraham was born, I AM." (He actually used the Divine Name that God used to identify Himself when speaking to Moses through the burning bush. The words "I am" mean I had no beginning and I will have no end. That's something ONLY God could say.

But we ALSO know that Jesus condescended to become a human being. The Apostle Paul writes: "...Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:5-7)

The Apostle tells us that even though Jesus was "in the form of God" He nevertheless "emptied Himself." That is language that absolutely transcends our ability to understand. How can God "empty Himself" and become a man and yet still be God? We have NO IDEA. All we know is that it happened in the Person of Jesus.

Jesus called God His Father because He was a man. He died for our sins on the cross and rose again on the third day because He is God.

We know these things by revelation — not by human intellect.

Q&A: Was Jesus really in the tomb three days and three nights?

Q: I was watching your teaching on Jonah tonight and it touched on something that has recently started confusing me. I always hear people saying Jesus rose on the 3rd day, and to me it always seemed that he died on the cross on Good Friday and rose from the dead early on resurrection Sunday. To me that always seemed like two days. And in Matthew 12:38-39 Jesus even said, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” So, was it two or three days?

For modern readers of the Bible it appears very much like Jesus was only in the tomb for two days. But that's because today we reckon "a day" as a 24 hour period. But the Jews in the first century didn't think that way. In the ancient Jewish mind, any portion of a day constituted a full day. That means if I came to visit you at your home, arriving on a Friday evening just before sunset, stayed all day Saturday and then left just after sunrise on Sunday morning, I would say I visited you for three days. In other words, in the first century, a day didn't have to last 24 hours to be considered "a day."

It's the same with the comment from Matthew 12 where Jesus spoke of "three days and three nights." To us that means daytime all the way to nighttime. To the Jews it did not. It was a common Jewish idiom to refer to even a part of a day as “a day and night.”

So you see, sometimes when reading your Bible you have to get into the mind and culture of the speaker/author. 🙂

Q&A: What would you say to the person who is fearful of praying against God's will—His plan for their life?

QUESTION: What would you say to the person who is fearful of praying against God's will—His plan for their life?

A: I would begin by cautioning against giving in to irrational fears and anything that could be exploited by the enemy. Next, I would encourage a deeper understanding of God's Word that would supplant the places where this kind of fear might choose to dwell.

The idea that a person can pray themselves out of the will of God is a diabolical thought that is sure to steal both the pleasure and the intimacy of prayer. God wants you and I to come to Him and pour out our hearts, and you can be sure when you do, there will be times when you speak things in prayer that are not in the perfect will of God. We all do this. It's part of being an imperfect creature who sees "in a mirror dimly." But Jesus modeled for us the perfect prayer for any such request that may miss the mark of God's will. This is recorded for us in Matthew chapter 26 where it says...

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (ESV) 

Did you notice how Jesus amended His request? "...not as I will, but as you will.”

This is the attitude in prayer that God would have us bring into all our petitions. Jesus included this instruction also in The Lord's Prayer, when He told us to say, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)

We don't pray this way out of a fear that anything less will override the will of God in our lives, but rather we say it out of an attitude of submission that always desires to quickly and humbly kneel before the sovereign wisdom of our heavenly Father. This is the attitude that Jesus always modeled for us. This is outlined for us in the book of Hebrews where is says...

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Hebrews 5:7 (NIV) 

Why were the prayers of Jesus heard? "...because of his reverent submission." Jesus wanted the will of God the Father above all else. However, that desire never kept Him from praying.

Don't ever let fear keep you from the place of prayer. Come before Him with confidence and lay your petitions before Him as you would a loving Father who knows what you need even before you ask Him. And know this also, that God has promised to lead you according to His will and He will not go back on that promise.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8 (ESV)  

So when you pray, add the word of submission to all your requests, asking that God's will would sovereignly trump your own should you ever seek anything contrary to His plan. 

God bless you!

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (ESV) 

Q&A: In light of God's sovereignty, does it really make a difference for us to spend time in prayer?

Q: The more that I learn about the sovereignty of God the more it seems like prayer can’t actually change things. The thought comes to my mind that it’s okay to not spend time in prayer because His will is going to happen anyway.

Yes, our God is sovereign, but you're forgetting a few things about both God's sovereignty and prayer:

1. In His sovereignty, God created mankind with a freewill. That freewill doesn't override God's sovereignty but it works within it and our prayers can make a difference in our own and other people's lives.

2. Because God is sovereign, He has given into the hands of His children the right and privilege to participate in the work of His kingdom and the instigation of His will. One of the key ways we do that is through prayer. God has sovereignly determined that our prayers will make a difference. That is why we are told, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." (James 5:16)

3. When the disciples failed to release a young man from demonic possession, Jesus told them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29) Prayer empowers us to do the work of the Lord. (See also Acts 4:31)

4. Prayer is not just about changing things. It's also about being strengthened to stand. On the night our Lord was arrested, He exhorted His disciples to "...pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:46)

5. Prayer is one of the things God has given us to develop and grow in our relationship with Him. We don't just go to the Lord when we have a need ― we go to Him so that we might know Him better and know His will for our lives. We often think of prayer as just "talking to God," but it should also include listening and leaning into our Lord that we might learn to hear His voice.

I've run into many Christians who stumble over the idea of prayer simply because they are attempting to reconcile it alongside God's sovereignty. But sovereignty doesn't mean that everything is fixed and immovable. We know this to be the case because Peter wrote that God is not willing that any should be lost but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) and yet Jesus told us that "...the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."  (Matthew 7:14) Jesus, therefore exhorted us, saying, "therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)

Prayer does make a difference and God is looking to His children to pray believing. 


Passages cited:
James 5;16; Mark 9:29; Acts 4;31; Luke 22:46; 2 Peter 3:9; Matthew 7:14; Matthew 9:38

Q&A: Why did Jesus refer to Himself as "Son of Man"?

Q: Why did Jesus refer to Himself as "Son of Man"?

A: Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man for two main reasons:

1. As "the Son of Man" He came to represent mankind and to undo the failure of our first representative — namely, Adam.

2. Our Lord also used the term Son of Man because it was a title used of Him in the book of Daniel chapter 7. That passage says:

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV)

By referring to Himself as "Son of Man" Jesus was identifying with that prophetic passage to show that He was the one Daniel saw in his vision and wrote about.

Q&A: What about the Apocrypha? Are there really lost books of the Bible?

Q: What about the Apocrypha? Are there really lost books of the Bible?

A: For those who may not know, the word apocrypha means "hidden" and when we talk about the Apocrypha we're referring to a collection of writings that are not found in the Bible. The apocryphal books were written primarily during the intertestamental period — roughly 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. The books of the Apocrypha include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees, as well as additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. Some, but not all of these can be found in the Roman Catholic Bible.*

While these books were looked upon with respect by ancient Jews and even considered useful for the historical information some of them contain, they were never considered to be inspired Scripture. The books contain theological errors and some of what is claimed as historical is questionable or just plain wrong. So, these books are not lost. They are just non-biblical writings.

Personally, I've never given the apocryphal writings much of my time since there is so much in the 66 books of the Word of God to study and understand.

*Roman Catholicism officially added some of the apocryphal books to their Bible at the Council of Trent in the mid 1500s A.D.. This decision was primarily a reaction to Martin Luther's claims that the apocryphal books were not inspired and therefore should not be considered canonical. 

Q&A: Is it implied in the Bible that God will respect our free will choices or is it specifically addressed in the Word?

Q: Is it implied in the Bible that God will respect our free will choices or is it specifically addressed in the Word?

A: The divinely respected free will of man is everywhere implied in the Bible, especially in passages such as:

"...choose this day whom you will serve," (Joshua 24:15)

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37)

"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD" (Isaiah 1:18)

The numerous appeals to mankind through both the Old and New Testaments clearly communicate that God not only honors our free will choices, but He actually refuses to force Himself on anyone. Instead, He calls to those who are willing to listen and respond.

Consider the following two passages as proof that God respects the free will determinations of mankind:

The Lord is...not wishing that any should perish, (2 Peter 3:9)

"...the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." Matthew 7:13 (ESV)

In the first passage, the Apostle Peter explains that God is not willing that any should perish. And yet, Jesus reminds us that those who choose the path of destruction "are many." Clearly God honors the free will choices of mankind even when those choices are contrary to His own perfect will.

I’ve been asked many times over the years why God allowed Satan into the Garden to tempt Adam and Eve. The answer centers around this very issue of mankind’s free will. At some point, Adam and Eve simply had to be tested to see which way they would choose to go. 

I suppose God could have created Adam and Eve as puppets or automatons who fulfilled His bidding without question, but it is clear He wished for all who come to Him to do so freely and of their own choosing. 

I firmly believe that the gift of free will is what uniquely sets us apart from the rest of created life and is the key to understanding what it means to be created in the image of God.

Q&A: How do I discover my spiritual gifts?

Q: How do I discover my spiritual gifts?

A: I have five tips for discovering your spiritual gift.

1. Understand what the Bible says about spiritual gifts.

Study the biblical passages that speak of spiritual gifts. Specifically, I would encourage being thoroughly familiar with 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. Those chapters not only reveal spiritual gifts but also address motives as well as the orderly use of spiritual gifts. Also study Romans chapter 12.

2. Ask the Lord to reveal your spiritual gift and trust that He will do it

Spiritual gifts are given by God (see 1 Corinthians 12:4–7) therefore spend time praying that God would reveal your spiritual gift. But be very careful about putting an expiration date on your prayer. Most of us start praying with predetermined expectations about when God should give us an answer. Don’t give God a deadline. Wait patiently and don’t allow yourself to give in to frustration while waiting. Waiting is never easy but God’s timing is best.

3. Be open to the empowering work of the Holy Spirit

Spiritual gifts are empowered by the Spirit of God. Never forget that. Pray that God would empower you with His Holy Spirit and be open to whatever manifestations of the Spirit He wishes to grant you. Read through the book of Acts and note the times that God’s servants were filled with the Holy Spirit and enabled to do what would have otherwise been impossible.

4. Get busy serving in your local church

In my own case, my spiritual gift was discovered as I just got busy serving. My local church needed some helpers in the youth ministry and Sue and I got busy helping in whatever way we could. Eventually, the ministry leader left and we were given the leadership reins for the youth and I was thrust into sharing the Word. Not only did I discover that I loved it, but I eventually came to realize that God had bestowed on me a spiritual gift that He wanted me to keep using to encourage His people. 

You may have some areas of ministry in your local church that are hit and miss, but that’s okay. Learning where you are not gifted can be just as important. Stick with it and keep opening your heart to new possibilities and opportunities.

5. Be faithful as you wait

The Lord may have you in an area of ministry that isn’t your favorite but He may just want to see if you’re willing to be faithful. Remember the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. (Review Genesis 39 and 40) Faithfulness is everything, so stick with it and continue to trust God to reveal your spiritual gift. Do what you’re given to do and follow this exhortation: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV)

Q&A: What is "Oneness" Theology and why is it wrong?

 Q: What is "Oneness" Theology and why is it wrong?

A: Quite simply, Oneness theology teaches that God is one person who manifests himself differently — sometimes as God the Father, other times as God the Son and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. Oneness (also called modalism or Sabellianism) is known more commonly by the name “Jesus only” since adherents of this teaching usually believe the name of the One God is “Jesus.”

This teaching is traced back to the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries when two particular men, Praxeas and Sabellius, popularized and propagated this theological idea. Such teachings have always been considered aberrant and heretical by the Christian church at large and that is because Oneness teaching flies in the face of clear biblical revelation. 

The Bible reveals that there is One God who is revealed within the pages of Scripture in Three Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even in the opening pages of the Word we are privileged to overhear a conversation between these Three Persons at the time of Creation:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26–27 (ESV)

And, at the baptism of Jesus by John, we are shown all Three Persons of the Godhead at once, as the Son emerges from the water and Father’s voice is heard from heaven while the Spirit descends on the Son in the form of a dove. (See Mark 1:9–11; John 1:32-34)

A.W. Tozer writes:

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption. (Knowledge of the Holy)

(See also Matthew 28: 19; 1 Peter 1:2)

Q&A: How do I meditate on God's Word?

Q: How do I meditate on God's Word?

A: The Bible doesn't give instructions on meditating on the Word. In fact, the words meditate and mediation don't even appear in the New Testament. But the word "meditate" means to think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time. 

Personally, I think mediating on the Word is a good idea. Believers may come up with many different ways to meditate on the Word but here are what I hope will be some helpful suggestions:

1. Take a verse or passage and read it several times

2. Pray for the Lord's illuminating work in your heart

3. Write the passage out on a piece of paper and highlight or circle what you believe to be the key words

4. Think about or look up the definitions of those key words even if you're familiar with them

5. As yourself some of the following questions:

  • Does this chapter/passage/verse teach or reveal anything about God Himself?
  • Is there an example or instruction about godliness in this passage?
  • Is there an example or instruction about sin that I need to take note of? (Is there a command to obey?)
  • Is there a promise for me to take hold of?
  • What can I praise and thank the Lord for based on this passage?
  • Is there anything the Lord is speaking personally to me from this passage?
  • What would the Lord have me DO or what areas of my life do I need to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus? (Commit this to prayer.)

Doing these things will help you as you meditate on God's Word.

Q&A: Is it necessary to prove God's existence?

Q: Is it necessary to prove God's existence?

There is nothing in the Word of God that requires believers to prove the existence of God. In fact, the Bible itself never sets out to prove God's existence. It is always taken for granted from the very first page, which starts out saying, "In the beginning GOD..." No explanation, no introduction, no details...just GOD.

Furthermore, in the Psalms, the Holy Spirit moved upon David to write about God's existence saying, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." (Psalm 19:1) That verse tells us that we don't have to prove anything about the existence of God because the Creation itself is constantly proclaiming that He is. This "proclamation" is so convincing that the Apostle Paul wrote that all men are without excuse. 

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)

The Bible speaks of defending and confirming the Gospel, (Philippians 1:7) but not God's existence. If someone chooses not to believe in a Creator God, it is because they have chosen to close their eyes to the evidence all around them.