Choice Is a Fine Thing

Our ability to make choices is a powerful part of what it is to be human. Every day each one of us makes numerous choices about a range of different issues, some are relatively trivial, while others can have far reaching ramifications. Raising children is an area in which we must make momentous choices, as the alternatives we examine and select, can – and often do – affect the sort of person they will become.

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Teaching children how to make wise choices for themselves is also a vital part of good parenting and part of this process is helping them to understand that it is always prudent to examine a range of alternative positions, so that they can have a full picture of just what they are choosing between.

The very concept of choice presupposes this process of analysis. Without examining alternative possibilities we are actually forfeiting our ability to choose. We are simply either selecting the dominant or most widely used choice in the culture surrounding us or defaulting to something that happens to take our fancy at the time, and admittedly, in many situations this is all that is needed.

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These less important choices might involve food, clothing, or even aesthetic taste and for these choices many of us would simply go with our gut feelings or individual predilections. Historically, for many people, availability of alternatives or the dominant culture of their geographical location dictated many of their personal choices for them. However, in today’s world, our dominant culture is shaped by new processes. We live in the era of the sound bite and the newspaper headline. Many people go no deeper in thinking about the more important choices they make than basing their beliefs on 30 seconds of on-line video or a half hour TV program that presents a neat, no-questions-needed package.

With the advent of world media and ease of travel, the formation of a dominant culture has taken a new direction. Instead of traditions and military might being the most powerful drivers of national culture, we now have new forces in play. We have international media empires and political parties, controlled by strong philosophical biases and economic theories, working to narrow our range of perceived choices to those that will benefit their own set of preferred options.

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Apart from all the choices we each must consider as we make day to day decisions, we also have one life-changing choice to take into account that will affect many of our other choices. This choice is not bound by personal preferences or national culture, it is something that is relevant to every human being on the planet and it is the most important choice any person will ever make. This is the only choice we will ever face that doesn’t just affect the time we have in this life. This choice will reach out beyond death and the grave; it will not only impinge upon how we live our lives in the here and now, it will also have a powerful influence on our eternal destiny.

The Creator had a plan and a purpose when He designed and produced the universe and all of the life-forms within it. One of His most powerful gifts to humanity was allowing us to choose whether we accept this truth, or whether we reject it and choose to believe the rather simplistic alternative, that is, that the universe created itself and it has no true purpose, it simply exists. This would mean that all of the intricate, clearly designed systems that make up our cosmos merely bear the appearance of detailed design and our brains are nothing more than the product of unplanned chemical reactions.

We know these brains are so incredibly complex that even after thousands of scientists have spent hundreds of thousands of hours working on designs to duplicate them, they have only managed to scratch the surface in creating a machine that can do what our brain does, let alone make one that can maintain and renew itself, while at times rerouting signals and neurological (digital) pathways when necessary. And our brain is only one component of a larger body that can, with the help of a uniquely designed sexually complementary partner, actually produce a new, but different version of itself.

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Image from web

Using this ingeniously designed organ, we might choose to believe the universe made itself. If this is the case, then we must also choose to believe that each and every minute detail of everything that exists came into existence, from nothing, by pure, blind chance. This process would entail literally billions of incidents of blind, random chance miraculously working together to create this mind-bogglingly interrelated, interactive, interdependent system, which functions with precise timing and perfect order.

Any scientist worth his or her salt would have to admit the universe is a superbly fine tuned system, with incredible interdependencies that could never function as individual, independent applications. As more evidence comes to hand some scientists have actually been forced to admit just that. However, over the years evolutionists have created an elaborate set of just-so stories to explain the series of random happenings they claim worked together to produce our universe and the life forms that inhabit it. But these stories are actually just that, elaborate stories carefully crafted by carefully crafted human brains.

To accept that these billions of random incidents happened at exactly the right time in exactly the right order, by chance, involves nothing more than blind faith, because this belief system is based entirely on incidents people choose to assume happened millions or billions of years in the past which means, naturally, that no one has ever observed a single one of these incidents as they occurred.

What we have observed in the world today are catastrophic geological events rapidly reshaping the surface of our planet. The Mt St Helen’s volcano, which erupted in 1980, produced 7.6 meters of finely layered sediment in a single afternoon. Thus we realise that deep layers of rock sediment do not need millions of years to form. We have also observed life forms adapting to new environments, but this is not evolution, this is part of God’s original design that enabled creatures to fill new environmental niches as they filled the Earth (Gen 8:17).

We are told evolution involves natural selection acting on random mutations that have added new genetic information to an existing life-form. What we actually observe, over and over again, are mutations that decrease genetic information within organisms and reduce genetic variability within populations. We also know that the vast majority of mutations cause harm to organisms and even though a handful have benefited populations, they have also been the product of information loss, not gain.

In other words, we have only ever observed a reduction in genetic information. Therefore this mechanism has never been observed or proven to do what evolutionists claim it can do. It is simply pure speculation that lies behind this powerful modern myth.

Many well educated people consider a far more reasonable faith is founded on belief in the God who has continuously revealed Himself to humanity throughout history – through His people, His Spirit and His Word. This alternative story was brought to its climax when Jesus Christ was born into the human community to deliver His Good News and save humanity from destruction. It is also scientifically reasonable to accept His account of God’s special creation as the most viable explanation for the origin of the universe.
nativityIt appears many people never consider looking objectively at the choices they make concerning why we are here, where we came from and where we are going; that is, the choices we make about the very meaning of our lives. Instead, they take the path of least resistance; they simply accept the dominant cultural paradigm as though they were selecting a new pair of shoes. The latest fashion is to accept the evolution story of origins. This is incredibly short sighted, when one considers how much time some people spend deciding what to eat or what they should wear.

It takes a determined effort to objectively examine the popular belief that our gloriously complex universe simply created itself out of nothing. In our postmodern culture, progressive thinking outside the dominant cultural paradigm risks ridicule on a grand scale, as we have taken pseudo-intellectual arrogance to new heights when it comes to evolution. Almost everyone with a TV has seen David Attenborough, Stephen Fry or Professor Brian Cox describe how life came into existence and changed over time. We are brainwashed with philosophical naturalism and educated into blind acceptance of a theory that has well concealed, but gaping holes in its credibility. And despite the fact that naturalist scientists boast about their field being founded on questioning and examining evidence, we are actively discouraged from questioning evolution or examining the evidence for creation. They prefer us to believe there is no choice when it comes to the question of origins.

no choiceAlthough many people have been convinced by 21st century popular culture that there is no choice when it comes to the question of origins, and social and cultural pressures often steer people away from examining the evidence for creation, The Bible tells us there is yet another very powerful reason why people choose to believe in this questionable theory. From the pages of God’s Word we learn that ever since The Fall (Gen 3) humanity has had an innate tendency to oppose the Creator’s rule over their lives. For me, Stephen Fry is the epitome of a person who has taken this reality to new heights, as he broadcasts his version of truth to the four corners of the world. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans:

God shows His abhorrence from heaven against all the ungodliness and wrong things that people do. Their unrighteous lives hide the truth God has revealed to them; they have been clearly shown what He is like by their own existence. Yes, God has made it clear to them that He is their Creator. Although there are things about God that people cannot see – His eternal power and all that makes Him God – they really have no excuse for ignoring Him, because ever since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to see and understand. They have been made clear in what God has created. So people have no excuse for their unrighteous lives.

People know God, but they do not honour Him as God, and are not thankful towards Him. Their ideas are useless as they have left the path of wisdom. There is not one good thought left in their foolish minds. They claim to be wise, but they became fools. Instead of honouring the divine greatness of God, who lives forever, some of them traded it for the worship of idols – things made to look like humans, who get sick and die, or like birds, animals, and snakes. Some people wanted only to follow their own lusts so God left them and let them go their own sinful ways. And so they became completely immoral and used their bodies in shameful ways with each other. They traded the truth of God for a lie. They bowed down and worshiped the things God made instead of worshiping the God who made those things. He is the one who should be praised forever. Amen. (Rom 1:18-25)

Paul has put his finger on the reason people deny creation right here. The creation story reveals the reality of a Creator. People who deny God need to have an explanation, not only for the miracle of their own lives, but for the very existence of the universe. The explanation that it all made itself was just one of many ideas the Greek philosophers toyed with well before Jesus was born. The modern theory of evolution is just another version of this ancient myth.

Despite our innate tendency to reject God’s way, a growing number of people in the world today are realising we do have a choice when it comes to the scientific evidence for origins. There is a constantly expanding body of robust scientific evidence that can be examined and analysed, and once we strip away the philosophical naturalism and look objectively at the data, the evidence reveals a very strong case for special creation. And if creation is a reality, then the next choice we need to make is whether we want to listen to our Creator and follow His guidance. He has given us choice and He won’t take this gift away. It was because of this great gift that mortality and suffering entered our world, but He also tells us that they are not a permanent part of His great creation project. He has a plan to eliminate them.

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Image from web

God allowed death, pain and suffering to enter His creation at the very beginning of human history and we can only speculate on why He did so. Although one reason that has been put forward is that He did so for there to be the possibility of true love between the Creator and the people He made in His own image. Humankind was created with free will; God gave us the ability to make our own choices and He does not manipulate our choices, but He has prescribed the consequences of those choices.

We can actually reject God’s love, but this will mean we will never have a relationship with Him. True love is only possible if this is the case. Love that is not voluntary is not love at all and as God has determined that love will be the foundation of the relationship we have with Him now and throughout eternity, only those who choose to love Him and accept Him as their Creator and Redeemer are given the gift of eternal life and can be part of the new creation the Father has described in the final chapters of His great revelation to humanity.

God is constantly reaching out to those who have not as yet seen and understood His great love for them. People who open-mindedly take the time to think through the issues and examine the alternative choices fully, often choose to become part of God’s eternal family, but even when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem He warned His listeners that few were finding the path to life. He said:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The road to destruction is broad, its gate is wide and many people are choosing that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few are finding it. (Mat 7:13-14)

The Father wants to pour out His Spirit into each human life (2 Peter 3:9) so that everyone might receive the gift of eternal life. However, unless we make the choice to accept His truth we will remain mortal and be destined for the final destruction that is coming upon this broken, fallen world. He has revealed to us that it is the simple minded who scorn His Word and choose the path to destruction. As Solomon said:

How long will you love simplicity, simple ones? And will scorners delight in their scorning? And will fools hate knowledge? Turn at my warning; behold, I will pour out my Spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. But I called and they refused; I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; instead they have despised all my advice and would have none of my warning. Therefore I also will sneer at their trouble and I will scorn their fear; when their fear comes as a wasting away and their ruin comes like a tempest, when trouble and pain come upon them, then they will call upon me and I will not answer; they will seek me early, but will not find me. They have hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my correction, and so they will eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own desires. For the turning away of the simple kills them, and the prosperity of fools destroys them. But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. (Pro 1:22-33)

This crucial choice is in our own hands and the Creator God has clearly explained what this choice involves. Will you be part of the new creation God is going to bring into existence when He destroys death, pain and suffering and the broken creation we now inhabit? It may not be tomorrow, it may not be in the next 100 years, but it will happen, and when it does, all those who have ever lived in this fallen world will have had the opportunity to be part of an eternal creation where there will be no more pain, suffering or death. God’s righteousness will reign supreme in this new creation (Rev 21).

It seems like a no brainer to me, but I know many extremely intelligent and compassionate people who appear to believe they have made the right choice in rejecting God’s Way to eternal life. What I always wonder is whether they have actually made any choice at all, or whether they have simply accepted the dominant cultural paradigm and gone with the popular notion of reality, instead of taking the time to examine the alternative, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and He wants to give eternal life to each and every person on His planet. He died to make this possible but He has left it in our own hands to choose which road we take.

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Why Do We Need A Saviour?

When I first met Jesus I saw Him as my spiritual guide, or guru. It was over a year before He confronted me with the concept of salvation. I’m not sure if being told I was a sinner before then would have helped much in alerting me to my need of a Saviour. What I initially understood was that there is a God who sent His Son to Earth because He loves us and wanted to reach out to us. My view, until He opened my eyes to the reality of sin, was that the people of Earth were so lost, not only did they not recognise their Creator, they executed Him for no other reason than that He told them He was the one true God.

As I became more familiar with the teachings of Jesus through His Word, I began to understand the concept of sin and our need for salvation. In The Bible I was introduced to words such as atonement and redemption, justification and sanctification. Each one of these words is packed full of significance and implications for the follower of Jesus Christ. They are all talking about a relationship that has been broken and needs mending. This is a primal relationship that was damaged almost as soon as it was forged. The human race was cut off from their Creator. This momentous event is known as the Fall.

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

The Creator could justifiably have abandoned His creation when Adam and Eve defied Him and sent His universe into a spiral of sin, pain, suffering and death. The One who brought it into being from nothing, could simply have reduced His universe to naught and started over again. Or He could have left His Earth to descend into a world that looked like nothing more than Sodom and Gomorrah from horizon to horizon – a world where brute power and savagery reigned as innocence and love were destroyed by lust, hate, greed and violence. Instead, at great cost to Himself, He set out to redeem those who choose to adhere to His original plan and purpose and live according to His guidelines, sending them out into the world as His ambassadors with the message of His love and holiness.

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God created a perfect universe, but He chose to allow the creatures He made to have dominion over His world – the people He created in His own image – to have individuality. He chose to create us with superior intelligence and free will. These unique gifts, which will make us fit to be His companions throughout eternity, were the very things that cost Him the life of His Son.To restore what was lost at the Fall, the Father sent His only Son to humanity with His message of salvation, knowing just what humanity would do in response. God did not orchestrate the crucifixion, but He foreknew it would happen and He worked through it, encompassing it into His great plan of salvation. He sent His Son into the path of evil and evil thought it would reduce God’s plan to rubble. But God victoriously raised His Son from death, as the First of His new, eternal creation. God would not only overcome evil with good, He would overcome death with eternal life. As Paul explained to the Corinthian church:

If our hope in Christ is only good for this life, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in the world. But Christ rose from death and became the First of those who are dead to be raised. Just as death came by means of a man, in the same way the rising from death comes by means of a Man. Indeed, all people die because of their union with Adam, likewise all those in Christ will be raised to life because of their union with Him. But all will be raised in the proper order: Christ is first of all, then, at the time of His coming, those who belong to Him will be raised like Him. Then the end will come. Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father. For Christ must rule until God defeats all His enemies and puts them under His feet. The last enemy to be defeated will be death. (1 Cor 15:19-26)

The message Jesus Christ came to bring the world was not only about restoring our relationship with our Creator, it was also about God’s plan to eternally destroy evil and death. To do this He must destroy this present, fatally flawed creation. The weeds that have grown up in God’s beautiful garden overwhelm and strangle the fragile flowers. Hate, lust and greed; self-righteousness, idolatry and envy, all these tendencies left unchecked will strangle compassion and mercy; love and forgiveness. But one of the greatest problems for humanity is wilful arrogance. People cut off from their Creator imagine themselves capable of guiding humanity into a better future. Deceived by their own gifts and intellectual prowess, they believe their God given ability to think and reason will enable them to live apart from their Creator. This is the very idea that led Satan to rebel.

We were created for the tremendous purpose of communing with our Creator. We cannot function to our full potential in any other capacity. If we break away from God we break away from our only eternal hope. We will ultimately be nothing more than the flowers of the field, beautiful for a short season, but destined to fade away to nothing (James 1:11). The tragedy of people rejecting their eternal destiny is beyond contemplation. My heart aches for the lost, while our post-modern culture moves rapidly away from any real understanding of our individual, personal need for salvation. Our Father has given us this season to repent and turn to Him. He has ensured His message reaches every corner of His magnificent planet and He came Himself to confirm the Truth of this message.

When Jesus was born He brought Good News for the lost, God has promised there will be an eternal Kingdom free from sin, pain, suffering and death, but we must be born again of His Spirit to take our part in His eternal Kingdom. As John records the words of Jesus:

Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, unless a person is born again, it is impossible for them to see the Kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus said, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and of the Spirit. Mortal humans can reproduce only mortal human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to eternal spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say you must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, which was called the Sanhedrin. He came to Jesus at night to discuss His teachings and he appears to be one of the few Jewish leaders who actually recognised their Messiah at that time. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the great plan God was working out for humanity through His incarnation. In John’s record of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord unveils the mystery of the ages to one of Israel’s leaders. God had become Man so that humanity might come back into relationship with God. Thus, individuals can be saved from perishing, when this present universe is destroyed by fire before the new heaven and the new Earth are created where God will dwell with His eternal people. The first heaven and the first Earth will pass away (Rev 21:1), but those people who have been born again will realise their eternal destiny in the new heaven and the new Earth.

© Samuel Micut | Dreamstime.com

© Samuel Micut | Dreamstime.com

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to be part of this new creation, people must be born again of His Spirit. They must believe and put their trust in Him. After explaining that He is the only Son of God, who came down from heaven with a mission no other person throughout human history could accomplish, Jesus asserted:

Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather, that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes in Him is not condemned: but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that Light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil or not inspired by God. For every one who spends their time on wicked or unimportant matters hates the Light and is not drawn to the Light, thus avoiding their deeds revealing their own self-centredness. But whoever acts in truth comes to the Light, that their deeds may be made manifest and it will be obvious to all that they are inspired by God. (John 3:15-21)

Jesus was pointing out that the default position for humanity is to perish as a mortal creature. When the Father finally draws this universe to its predicted end, those who have not accepted God’s gift of eternal life will perish. We can spend our time and energy on our own pursuits, these may be literally evil, or they may simply be things we think are useful or make us feel good, but unless they are centred in Truth they lead nowhere. We can spend our time pursuing pleasure, money or fame, or in conscientiously studying and gaining degrees and qualifications, but ultimately these will all pass away. Only those actions that promote eternal matters, that is, those activities that are in line with God’s guidance and Truth, will be of any eternal significance.

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If we ignore the words of our Creator and turn our backs on Jesus’ assertions that we must believe in Him, accept His death on our behalf and be born again, then we are already condemned to perish. We can only be saved from this tragic end by placing our trust in Him and accepting that His version of God’s plan and purpose for His universe and our eternal existence is God’s Truth. We must be saved through grace by the only Saviour the world will ever know. The Lord Jesus Christ was born into the human race to offer us the gift of everlasting life and a place in His Eternal Kingdom; thus saving us from perishing (The Bible also calls this eternal destruction) along with this present, doomed creation, when the Father brings an end to sin, pain, suffering and death.

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Halleluiah, Jesus Christ was born to give us eternal life. Praise God!

Who Is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? The answer to this question has occupied academics for centuries, as historian and author John Dickson asserts:

It is a conceit of every age to suppose that it has discovered the most important questions—and answers. The quest for the historical Jesus really began as soon as he left the scene in AD 30. Even the author of one of the four New Testament Gospels shows an interest in searching out the facts rather than opinions about the man from Nazareth.

Whether we believe Jesus of Nazareth is an historical figure may depend entirely upon our own pre-existing bias towards the concepts conveyed by His name. Despite the sceptics, there is very sound evidence to support the claim that Jesus was indeed a real person who lived in the Middle East 2000 years ago. Dickson suggests Luke, the physician and gospel writer was:

….. someone committed to weighing earlier sources, gathering (eyewitness) testimony, researching thoroughly and then providing an orderly account of the most reliable data.

In his orderly account (Luke 1:3) of the life and work of Jesus, Luke records Jesus posing this very question to His disciples. Luke writes:

He was praying alone, only the disciples were with Him, and He asked them, “Who do the multitudes say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist, but others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the old prophets has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20)

I believe we must each ask ourselves this question: Who is Jesus? Or perhaps we should consider just what His life and claims about Himself have to do with us today? Like many other people, my interest in Jesus had waxed and waned throughout my life, but eventually I decided to pursue an answer to this question.

As a child I was sent to Sunday School, where I heard many stories from The Bible. Some of them were about the Baby Jesus, who, I was informed, was born a long time ago and a long way away. This baby grew up and became an Important Person, but He was killed by some soldiers, who nailed Him to a cross. Amazingly, He came back to life and spent some time with His disciples, before He rose up into the clouds and went back to heaven to be with God.

Growing up in an agnostic household, we didn’t talk about this story at home. My parents didn’t attend church but my sisters and I went to Sunday School, while Mum and Dad read the Sunday papers. Church was just something some people did, but it didn’t have any significant impact on our home life. Although I loved to read Bible stories in the books I won at Sunday School, I didn’t take them too seriously. meeIn my mind they were similar to the classical myths I read in our Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia, or the stories I devoured in my Fairy Tale collections and my book of Aesop’s Fables. I stopped going to Sunday School when I was about 11 and I don’t remember anyone talking about religion in our home after that.

Teenagers in the 50s and 60s were born not long after WWII and most of us hoped to live in a world that was free from the widespread violence and aggression our parents and grandparents had seen. Perhaps we thought the two horrific world wars that tore apart the very fabric of society in the first half of the century, were products of old thinking. hippies1As the past traditions had not prevented such human carnage, we were reaching for new ways. While the post war world began reconstruction, many people began to reconstruct their concepts of reality and a more progressive concept of Jesus began to emerge.

In my late teens I started to think about this person Jesus again and it was then that I came across the Theosophists’ concept of Maitreya, who was, they claimed:

….. an advanced spiritual entity and high-ranking member of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy, the so-called Masters of the Ancient Wisdom. According to Theosophical doctrine, one of the Hierarchy’s functions is to oversee the evolution of humankind; in accord with this function the Maitreya is said to hold the so-called Office of the World Teacher. Theosophical texts posit that the purpose of this Office is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge about the true constitution and workings of Existence to humankind. Humanity is thereby assisted on its presumed cyclical, but ever progressive, evolutionary path. Reputedly, one way the knowledge transfer is accomplished is by Maitreya occasionally manifesting or incarnating in the physical realm; the manifested entity then assumes the role of World Teacher of Humankind.

From astrogems.com

From astrogems.com

Jesus as an incarnation of Maitreya seemed more appropriate for the end of the 20th century, particularly if humanity had evolved to a higher level of awareness and we were now ready for the masters to transfer information suitable to this higher plane. I found this teaching much more palatable than the ideas I remembered from the “religious” people who went to church.

From my perspective, church people appeared narrow minded and seemed to have little imagination; I perceived them as people who had simply swallowed ideas that had been passed down to them from repressive leaders, who used religion as a means of maintaining control of the masses.

This new version of Jesus was far more in line with psychedelic thinking. This Jesus had come to Earth to teach humanity a different way to the one the established church presented. Through New Age teachings I thought I could find a way to higher consciousness and enlightenment by emulating Jesus’ lifestyle and teachings. I decided Jesus was one of a number of examples we could model our own lives after, if we seek world peace and enlightenment.

It was during this time that I embarked on a quest for Truth. I had a rudimentary understand of truth being relative, and I toyed with this idea. However, I was beginning to encounter a range of “cosmic” teachings about higher consciousness and I felt it would be interesting to explore some of these ideas, which were becoming more prominent in the youth culture through the hippie movement and people like Timothy Leary. Perhaps there really was such a thing as Truth.timothy leary

I started reading books I bought at The Theosophical Society bookshop. The writers of these tomes presented Jesus as a very different person to the one I’d learned about at Sunday School. One of the books I purchased was The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi Dowling. This Jesus was portrayed as a well travelled sage, and from Dowling’s book I learned that:

By making himself, through desire, effort, ability and prayer, a fit vessel, Jesus enabled The Christ to dwell within him. Christ is therefore used as a term for the seemingly perfect human being that Jesus exemplified, a human being that has been “Christened” (anointed) and therefore made holy.

This idea struck a cord with me. I had discovered the concept of Christ Consciousness and read about the Cosmic Christ, who, along with other enlightened sages, would help guide humanity on its journey of spiritual evolution. I also discovered the concept of the ascended master. The followers of this idea believe ascended masters are:

….. individuals who have lived in physical bodies, acquired the Wisdom and Mastery needed to become Immortal and Free of the cycles of “re-embodiment” and karma, and have attained their “Ascension”. … According to the Ascended Master Teachings, gaining “mastery over matter planes” means learning to consciously use 100% of one’s Creative Power of thought, feeling, and spoken word to create greater perfection, joy, and love in the world, as opposed to using thoughts, feelings, and words to create greater limitations, bondage, and chaos in one’s own experience and in the world at large through carelessness and lack of awareness of the extent of one’s influence in the world.

In the course of my quest I left my job and went to live on a commune in the hinterland behind Cairns, far north Queensland. This property was owned by a fellow called Jan Daube, who had come to Australia from Germany, with the express purpose of setting up a community for people to come under the spiritual guidance of his Master. According to Jan, his Master had ascended from a community in Spain in the middle ages, and she was drawing people to the Cairns commune to learn from her through Jan.

We were to learn about living in such a way that we would elevate our cosmic vibrations, enabling us to more easily communicate with higher forms of consciousness. These were the gods of the universe, who would be our guides as we moved into the Aquarian Age. We lived on a strict gar shu vegan diet, which meant we avoided animal products that would lower our vibrations and anything that grew under the ground, away from the purifying rays of the sun. I spent many months learning from Jan about the Master’s teachings.

kurandaTowards the end of my time in this community I came to the conclusion that, rather than following Jan’s Master, I would adopt Jesus as my Ascended Master. Jesus became my guru and I began to speak with him throughout the day. My life took on a completely new shape. Where there had been a sense of emptiness and a longing for love and a place in the world, I found peace.

Jesus became my friend and companion and when I moved from the commune back to Sydney I decided to seek out other like minded people. However, most of my friends were into Indian gurus, they saw Jesus as western and not at all exotic, and of course, he represented the western culture against which they were rebelling. I didn’t mind, Jesus had brought something into my life nothing else had ever achieved.

Although I still believed in conservation and a counter culture philosophy, I found the whole hippie lifestyle very disappointing. People continued to be people, and many used and abused those around them, while chanting peace and love. I decided I needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of Sydney so I found a little shack I could live in and moved back to the country to pursue my “spiritual” studies through meditation and the library of books I had collected relating to spiritual growth. I still saw Jesus as one of the ascended masters, he was one of many who could help people on their way to self-actualisation and enlightenment, but he was my Master.

From astrogems.com

From astrogems.com

During hunts through second hand bookshops I discovered Brother Lawrence’s book The Practice of the Presence of God and also Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. Then one day I found a book called The New Life by Andrew Murray. With the help of this battered old volume I began to read the little Bible I had carried with me through years of hitch-hiking up and down the east coast of Australia. It had been a present from my parents for my 10th birthday, but I never actually read it, I just liked the way it looked and felt. It was beautifully bound and it had rice paper pages with gold edging. What I discovered was that the words inside The Bible were more beautiful than I’d ever imagined.

In The Bible I read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and without Him not a thing was brought into being that has been created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overtake it. (John 1:1-5)

The Bible was telling me that my Master, Jesus, was actually the Creator of all that existed on both the physical and spiritual planes – He brought all things into being. He was also the Light carrier, who was far more powerful than any dark force. I also read:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (1 John 4:7-9)

I had traveled thousands of miles wearing plastic sandals with Peace painted on the back of one and Love on the back of the other, but I had now found both at the feet of Jesus. He became not only my Master, guru and friend, but also my Lord. I began to understand that He is unique. He is not an ascended master, He is the only begotten Son of God and the only person who has ever been raised from the dead with an immortal body. The uniqueness of Jesus began to unfold before me as I read The Bible. I also read:

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you know me, you know my Father also: from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:6-7)

This is a momentous claim. Jesus is asserting He is totally unique, He is the only Way for us to know the omnipotent, omniscient God who created all things through Him. This God, who has revealed Himself through The Bible, His Son and the Holy Spirit, calls Himself our Father, and Jesus is the human embodiment of the Father. He is indeed God incarnate.

Until that time I had perceived God as an impersonal force; in a sense I saw Him as the collective consciousness of all lifeforms in the universe – He was therefore nothing more than a product of evolution, just as all living things were. We were a great cosmic accident that was unfolding and becoming. Now I discovered we were no accident. There was a God who was immortal, eternal and infinite and He had a very specific message for the people He had created in His own image. He said:

Truly, truly, I tell you, We speak about the things we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you don’t believe our witness. If I tell you about earthly things and you refuse to believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He that descended out of heaven, the Son of man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes may have eternal life in Him. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:11-16)

I came to understand that the real Jesus is the Jesus revealed in the pages of His Bible, the written Word of God. The only way to know this Jesus, who is the only begotten Son of God, is through the teachings in His Word that are opened to His followers by His Holy Spirit. This Jesus came to Earth from heaven and went back to heaven, and He said quite clearly that He was the only one to do so. He assured His followers that those who believe in Him and His teachings will be given eternal life.

It took me some time to come to terms with just a few of the ideas I found Jesus preached through the pages of His Word. It became evident that His teachings were not only multifaceted, they were multilayered. I had started with the concept that God is Love and moved on to the uniqueness of Jesus and His claim to be the only Way. I did not begin to explore the concept of sin for a number of years after I started to follow Jesus, but when I did it enabled me to more fully understand why He went to the cross. From the book of Hebrews I read:

…..He has once for all, at the close of the ages, appeared to abolish sin by His sacrifice. And just as it is appointed for all people to die once, and after that face the judgment, even so it is that Christ, having been offered once to take upon Himself the burden of the sins of many – once for all – will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are eagerly waiting for Him. (Heb 9:26-28)

There was so much to unpack in this passage. This teaching dealt the final blow to my ideas on reincarnation. If I was to follow the teachings of the biblical Jesus I must accept that people will die only once, and then face judgment. I was not a continually reborn person, I was uniquely me and the choices I make in this life will influence my eternal destiny.

This meant the Hindu understanding of karma was also out. We will not work our way to enlightenment by improving our behaviour over successive rebirths. We will indeed reap what we sow, but this law of consequences is something that tends to bear fruit in this present life. Although the life to come is also dependent on our deeds, the judgment that we must each face (Mat 12:36) is more dependent on whether we are prepared to accept our Creator’s Way.

As I read The Imitation of Christ, I realised that there is not a single person in the world who could stand up to the standards God has set for the holiness people need to possess to be part of His eternal family. Indeed Paul told the Romans that everyone has sinned (Rom 3:23). I had been deceived into thinking I could make the grade. I had believed that if I was prepared to give up the worldly things (thoughts, deeds and possessions) that held me back from enlightenment, I could ascend to the next plane of existence.

Instead, I came to understand that Jesus is the only person who has ever lived a sinless life. God intends to dwell in the midst of sinless, eternal people, but to achieve this end He has allowed His perfect creation to be corrupted for a short time before He destroys it and remakes the heavens and Earth to be a home for people who have accepted the righteousness of the Jesus of The Bible (Rev 21:1-5). It will be His righteousness that makes us able to eternally coexist with the Holy Eternal Father.

The issue of sin began to make its way into my thoughts. The word sacrifice was something I had not really contemplated. I finally saw my own selfishness for what it was. I wanted enlightenment simply for my own peace and fulfillment. Despite this, the Father was offering me a place in His eternal kingdom through His Son. The wondrous truth is that Jesus is going to abolish sin. My sins, and the sins of every person who has ever lived, will be dealt with, and then abolished (John 1:29). This will be done with complete and perfect justice. Selfishness, greed, jealousy, envy, hate, malice, lust, hypocrisy, deceptiveness and all the other negative human traits that plague us will be gone.

I finally realised that I needed Jesus as my Saviour and Redeemer and the gracious provision the Father has made is that every person who repents of their sin and accepts Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf, can be freed from the penalty of that sin. This is because God has declared that the death of His one and only Son is the sacrifice He demanded from the very foundations of the world (Mat 13:35; 25:34; Eph 1:4; Heb 4:3; Rev 13:8). As Peter put it:

God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because He raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. (1 Peter 1:20-22)

After coming to an understanding of the world’s problem with sin, I also came to realise that Jesus is not the person we want Him to be, He is not an aesthetic, mystic, philosopher, sage, ascended master or great teacher, He is the man revealed in the pages of The Bible, the Saviour of the world. Any other man is not the Lord Jesus Christ of The Bible, and therefore is not God’s only begotten Son, who came into the world to deal with sin. I had followed the Cosmic Christ, the Mystic Christ and the Aquarian Christ, but the Christ revealed in The Bible is God’s only Son, He does not need repackaging for the modern world.

I was now a member of the Body of Christ, the church, the universal body of believers, and I had learned that we can look to God’s inerrant Word and know that the words in The Bible can be taken at face value. If this were not the case there would be no way to know who Jesus is and what He believed and taught. There would be no way to be a Christian. Jesus came to Earth from heaven and was born into history. He had painstakingly prepared a nation into which He would be born and He then thoroughly prepared His apostles to write the New Testament books of The Bible.

Jesus wisely and meticulously provided The Bible so that all Christians throughout history can come to the same set of core beliefs. One need only examine the writing of Christian authors from the beginning of the Church Age to find their work reflects the same core beliefs followers of Jesus hold today. OtsyThis is because they also recognised The Bible as the final authority for their doctrine. The real Jesus is the Jesus of The Bible and it is He who offers each and every person the gift of eternal life. This Jesus is not bound by denominations or traditions, He is the living embodiment of the invisible God. As Paul told the Colossians:

…The Father has given us a part in the heritage of the saints in light; He has made us free from the power of evil and given us a place in the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have our salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the image of the unseen God, He existed before anything was created and through Him all things were made, in heaven and on Earth – things seen and things unseen, authorities, lords, rulers, and powers – all things were made by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things have their being. And He is the head of the body, the church: the starting point of all things, the first to rise from the dead; so that in all things He might have the chief place. For God was pleased to be in Him in full measure. (Col 1:12-19)

An important piece of the picture that just wouldn’t fit was finally highlighted for me when I read passages like:

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

This led me to re-examine the concept of an immortal soul, which I had accepted as truth and simply carried over into my Christian walk from eastern mysticism. After reading The Bible for more than thirty years I finally decided to go against a teaching that had been introduced into Christian tradition in the 2nd century. It gradually became clear to me that The Bible does not teach that we have immortal souls or spirits. God warned Adam and Eve they would die if they chose to reject His clear guidance. He calls this rebellion against His rightful authority sin, and He told Adam and Eve that the penalty for this sin would be death (Gen 2:16-17). snakeSatan lied to Adam and Eve and assured them death would not be the outcome of their disobedience (Gen 3:4). It was! Death entered God’s perfect creation and people, plants and animals began to die.

From the very beginning of its pages The Bible teaches that immortality is no longer part of the human condition; we must each make a choice to give our lives into the hands of the immortal Father, through His Son, to be given the gift of eternal life. If we choose to reject this gift, then Jesus has warned us, we will perish (John 3:16).

Jesus, God’s only Son, accepted the role He must play in the Father’s rescue plan for humanity. From before He created the universe God had determined He would redeem those who were prepared to accept His Truth: He would give them the gift of eternal life. Jesus was, “In the beginning”, and as John explains, He is with God, and He is God. (John 1:1) It is only through Jesus that God is able to transform mortal humans into eternal beings and make us able to join Him in His eternal kingdom.

NLA photo collection

NLA photo collection

Surprisingly, Jesus made a bit of an impact on the youth culture when He became a Superstar, and Webber and Rice’s musical came to Australia in 1972. This didn’t have a noticeable impact on my hippie friends at the time, as the Jesus Movement was only just beginning in Australia and the distorted theology in the show was far from biblical. But eventually a number of people from the hippie scene started to look into Jesus and by the late 70s there were hundreds of Jesus Freaks in Australia who had discovered who Jesus is.

The musical has recently made a comeback but the real Jesus has always been here, reaching out to us through His Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and if He is not already, He can be your Lord, Saviour and Redeemer. But we must each listen to the teachings He has provided through His Word so that we can hear what it is He wants to say to our hearts. Why not find out for yourself the answer to the question, Who is Jesus?