The Bible teaches that Jesus really is God. Dr. Jeromey Martini explores the ways in which this shaped early Christians and what difference it should make for us, today. (Original message delivered at Lloydminster Gospel Fellowship Church)

Listen to the full message

What difference does it make if Jesus is God?

I’m working with the assumption that you’re at least aware that, by and large, Christians hold that “Jesus is God.” That’s probably not going to be new to you, although you may not know exactly how that all fits together. Many people don’t.

Read “Is Jesus Really God?”

But what really strikes me as the more important question – what does it MATTER?

We can say that this is a belief we have as followers of Jesus but, to be crass about it, WHO CARES? What difference does that make? If it doesn’t make a difference in our lives, then I’m going to challenge you on that.

Let’s play a little game.

First thing in the morning, when you get out of bed, does coffee or tea make a difference?

Does Coke or Pepsi make a difference?

Saskatchewan Roughriders or Edmonton Eskimosdoes it make a difference?

 Okay – let’s think a little bit deeper now.

It’s the end of the month and it’s payday. What difference does real money vs. Monopoly money make?

It’s winter on the prairies and you have to replace the battery in your car – does it make a difference whether you use a Duracell AA or a car battery?

You’re in an airplane planning to skydive with your buddies – does it make a difference whether you have a Dora the Explorer backpack or a parachute?

So with the first three questions, we were really talking about a preference. But if you’re going to jump out of an airplane, it REALLY matters whether you are wearing a parachute or Dora the Explorer on the way down.

You see, I think sometimes we mistake preferences for meaningful differences.

When it comes to Jesus, I think we might do the same thing. We might treat our understanding of Jesus on the level of a preference rather than on the level of a meaningful difference.

Sky divers before they pull the chute

The Early Believers and Us

The earliest believers worshipped Jesus as God. But so what?

While we’re looking at the difference it made to those first followers of Jesus, I want you to be thinking about us. If it made this kind of a difference to them, we need to be asking ourselves, “What kind of a difference is that making for me? And for us, as a community?”

Let’s look at three differences (you always do things in 3’s, right?).

Exclusive and Universal Truth

The first difference is that worshipping Jesus as God introduces exclusive and universal truth.

In John 14:6, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples after Jesus ascended and they started to preach in the book of Acts, they would say, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we might be saved.”

If Jesus is God, it introduces something exclusive, but also something universal. And what I mean by exclusive is that it is actually truth, real truth – not that you have “your truth” and I have “my truth.”

I’ve told my kids, “Don’t ever try to use the “this is my truth” thing on me because that’s not going anywhere. Your truth… my truth… this is the Jesus truth. The Jesus who is over and above all things. It’s exclusive, and that’s really uncomfortable in our society today, just as it was really uncomfortable in the society of the first followers of Jesus.

Rome was pluralistic. Rome would accommodate any number of gods, could have easily treated Jesus as an add-on. But when you treat Jesus as exclusive, as in, “I’m not going to worship your gods, I’m only going to worship this One, through Jesus”, that becomes exclusive.

It’s also universal, which means that because it’s exclusive, it’s not okay to say, “Hey, your truth is good for you, and my truth is good for me.” It doesn’t allow that. If Jesus is God, then His truth is universal.

It’s not just my own local truth. It’s actually true for everybody, whether they know it or not. And that’s what inspires the first disciples to go out and tell people the Good News about Jesus, because if it wasn’t universal, if it didn’t really matter, then they shouldn’t have had to bother. But it’s exclusive and universal.

Two Masters

Secondly, worshipping Jesus as God requires relinquishing our personal rights and a complete change of behaviour.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is talking to the Corinthian church and they are talking about their rights. “It’s my right to…” But Paul says, “You know, lots of things are permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” Even if it’s legal, that doesn’t mean it’s okay. And he finishes the argument with, “Don’t you know that your bodies…”– and when Paul uses the word body here, he’s not talking about something different from your soul and spirit, he’s just talking about you – “Don’t you know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you are bought at a price.”

When we look at Paul in other places, this becomes something that, in some ways, is a disturbing thought in our world. Look at how Paul frames it when we look at Romans 5, 6, and 7. He talks about how we’ve been liberated from sin. We’ve been freed from sin. So that may seem something to cheer about – it’s all about me being free! Except that’s not what Paul is saying. He says you’re no longer a slave to sin, a slave to death – now, rather than being free to do as you please, you are a slave to God, a slave to righteousness. The status of slave for us doesn’t change. What changes is the Master. We are still slaves – either blindly and willingly a slave to death, or we are consciously and obediently a slave to God. We aren’t free to do whatever we want. You may even think you are doing whatever you want, but in reality you’re either operating as a slave to sin or a slave to God and righteousness. There’s no “just you.” You’ve been bought with a price.

The second passage is a long one in Colossians. Paul is talking to his Roman and pagan converts and he gives a whole list of the things they used to do. These were totally legit in Roman society, if not expected. You were expected to go out and have debaucherous orgies and revelry because that was part of worshipping the gods! Bachas commanded it as part of being a good citizen. But Paul says, “you used to do those things, but you can’t walk in them any longer.”

If Jesus is God, then it radically changes how we behave and how we exercise what we think are our own rights. We really don’t have rights – there are two masters, and we’re going to do the will of one or the other.

There is a Cost

Finally, worshipping Jesus as God exacts personal and social costs.

The first followers of Jesus were Jewish, and all Jews (whether following Jesus or not) believed in one God. But there they were, in Roman society where everyone had lots of gods. All Jewish people could agree that we needed to get on with not following any other god.

But when the Jewish followers of Jesus started showing up at synagogue (the church service) saying “Hey, we’re worshipping the one God – we’re in there with you – and we’re doing it through Jesus”, you can guess how that went over.

It did not go over well. And so Jesus says this to his disciples:

“They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” John 16:2

We see this in Acts. We hear about Paul getting chased out of synagogue, and this seems to have happened because worshipping God through Jesus didn’t make sense to the religious leaders. So the Jewish followers of Jesus lost their family, lost their community, and were ostracized. And as we know from Acts, guys like Paul (before his encounter with Jesus) were persecuting the church.

There is a picture that is, historically, the earliest picture of Jesus that has been found. It was actually graffiti, and it says (translated from Greek): “Alexamenos worshipping his God.” And the picture of the god that this person, Alexamenos, is worshipping is a man on a cross with a donkey head. The donkey head being a means of diminishing and ridiculing Jesus.

Roman graffiti of Jesus

So what happened to these Romans?

The Jews got kicked out of synagogue, and the Romans who no longer participated in the orgies or in sacrificing to idols were ridiculed, shunned, and eventually put to death because they also wouldn’t worship the emperor. There’s a social consequence to following Jesus; if Jesus is God, there is a consequence to it.

Conclusion

As Christians, we may say, “Yeah, yeah, Jesus is God,” but if it is really meaningful to us in any way similar to the way it was meaningful to the first followers of Jesus, then it’s not enough for Jesus to be an add-on.

It’s not enough for Jesus simply to be part of our life when really we are living as though we’re in charge. We can show up on the weekend, put in our time for the service, and Jesus doesn’t have any part of our lives outside of that? If Jesus is God, then it probably is going to result in some sort of consequence for us.

If Jesus is God, what meaningful difference does that make to your life?

Listen to the full message

Jeromey MartiniTaken from Jeromey Martini’s message presented at Lloydminister Gospel Fellowship, 2021
Transcribed by Cheryl Ashton, Edited by Jayna Snider

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