This blog post is Part 12 of a series entitled, "Orthodoxy" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN.
Message Date: April 2, 2023
Should we worship with the lights off or with the lights on? Do I like having the offering plate passed in front of me, or do I appreciate incorporating the offering into our time of worship and bringing it to the front? Should one be baptized through sprinkling or through emersion? Are we to have communion every time we meet for worship, once a month, or once a quarter? And... are we to call it communion or The Lord’s Supper?
If I were to open the floor for discussion today on these and other questions about “how we are to do church,” I am sure we would have quite a lively conversation.
I presume each of us has many a thought as to likes and dislikes for what church should be, and how we should worship, what colors should be on a wall, and how a pastor should dress, and on and on and on.
Opinions are always welcome. Opinions are not Orthodoxy.
I must be careful not to distinguish my desires, traditions, expectations, and comforts as Orthodoxy.
There are many important issues over which Christians can and do disagree that do not affect Orthodoxy. Personal preferences and disagreements over secondary matters are not matters of Orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy truths are faith foundational.
Since the beginning of 2023, we have been in the study of Orthodoxy:
Orthodoxy = the foundational truths that define the Christian faith
Thus far, we have studied the first 5 Foundational Principles of Orthodoxy.
The foundational truths of the Christian faith:
1. The Bible is the Word of God and is the ultimate authority for everything.
2. God is the one Holy God.
3. God is the Creator of all things.
4. All of humanity is created in the image of God for the purpose of bringing God glory.
5. The family is defined and ordained by God as the foundational institution of humanity.
Today, we continue our study of Orthodoxy, and... what perfect timing! Let me make this clear - - what an unplanned timing and, what I can only characterize as a “God-moment timing” that on Palm Sunday, at the beginning of Holy week, as we look with anticipation towards next Sunday when we celebrate the empty tomb, that today we move forward in this series discussing the true heart of Orthodoxy - - Jesus Christ!
What are some things you cannot have without the other? Well, think about this as you answer the following questions with either “Yes” or “No!”
Yes, or no? Can I have: Peanut butter without jelly? Iced tea without sugar? Mornings without coffee? Pizza without cheese? The lake without a boat? Arkansas Razorback football without disappointment? It’s A Wonderful Life without Clarence the Angel? Sunday without Cinco? Here is one thing you cannot have without the other: Orthodoxy without Jesus.
You cannot have Orthodoxy... without Jesus. Because... Jesus is Orthodoxy.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Jesus always has been and always will be the center of Orthodoxy. He isn’t just the central player in the story. He is the story!
Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Without Jesus, nothing else matters.
To not believe that the truth of all Orthodoxy centers on the person of Jesus Christ, is to not believe in any Orthodoxy.
Jesus is the reason for everything. Jesus is the hope for everything. Jesus is the answer to everything.
Without Jesus... My life has no meaning. My choices, big or small, really do not matter. Eternity is horrific... and hell awaits us all.
We are going to discuss three foundational principles of Orthodoxy. Three critically important Orthodoxy truths that are so closely entwined, it is almost impossible for me to separate the three.
Orthodoxy Foundational Principle #6: Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
As we do most every week, let us allow the original text to lead us. In the book of John, we know the original text to be the Greek. And looking at several keywords in Greek, helps us to fully grasp the meaning of what God’s Word is saying.
I highlight 4 words from this text: John 1:1
Word /Greek/ logos = Jesus
He /Greek/ houtos = Jesus
Through /Greek/ dia = because of; by means of
Nothing /Greek/ oude heis = not even partially
Let’s put all this together:
Scripture makes it clear that in the beginning:
Jesus was there with God. Jesus was God. All things were made by means of Jesus. Nothing could have been made without Jesus. We too see a remarkable parallel through John’s words with the usage of words that echo the story of Creation... which by the way, John confirms Jesus’ presence at the beginning of time.
Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1: In the beginning, was the Word.
We read the words “life,” “light,” and darkness. We find these same words in the Genesis account of creation.
In Genesis 1:3, we read the words “light” and “darkness.” In Genesis 2:7, when we read the account of Adam’s creation, we read the word “life.”
It is clear that John, the one whom Scripture states was loved by Jesus, wants to make it abundantly understood to us as readers that this man Jesus, who was there from the beginning, is in fact the Son of God.
In verse 14, we read: John 1:14
His dwelling /Greek/ skenoo en = to pitch a tent
We know in the Old Testament that the nation of Israel once led out of Egyptian captivity, spread their tents as they journeyed to the Promised Land. We too know that the first tabernacle where God’s people met with God was a tabernacle of tents.
Now that Jesus has arrived in the New Testament, He actually comes to “pitch His tent” among us people. Rather than us going to meet with Him in the tabernacle, or the temple, of the church, Jesus now lives among us as our neighbor pitching His tent smack dab in the middle of our lives!
In John 1:14 we also read the words:
One and only Son /Greek/ monogenes = one and only child
We read the use of this same wording in Hebrew in Genesis 22:2, when Scripture says:
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac - and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2
God called Abraham to show his true allegiance to him with a willingness to place God ahead of everything else, including Abraham’s one and only son.
And with the birth of Jesus, we are called to do the same – to place trust through God’s one and only Son – in Jesus.
It’s amazing y’all, when you begin to dig into Scripture, how clearly and how intimately detailed are the truths that point us to the Orthodoxy of Jesus being the one and only Son of God!
Foundational Principle #7: Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
This Foundation Principle is, at the core, essential to our faith as followers of Jesus Christ. Without the Orthodoxy of the virgin birth of the Christ-child, the entirety of the life of this man is a lie. Matthew 1:18
After years and years and years of hoping and praying and crying and eventually accepting the reality that we would most likely not be able to have children, I remember as it was yesterday the night Amy told me, “I think I’m pregnant!”
For every father and mom-to-be listening today, no matter how long ago the news came, you can probably still remember that moment you realized, “We are having a baby!” Remember that thrill and excitement and rush, “We are having a baby?” Remember that gut punch and reality-sets-in-responsibility realization that, “Oh no, we are having a baby!”
Imagine the emotions that enveloped you at this moment coupled with the news the angel Gabriel gives Mary, “Yes, you are a virgin. But you are pregnant. And, it is God’s Son, Jesus, whom you are carrying!”
I see three take-homes for us in just these few passages from both the Old and New Testaments that help us to better comprehend the beauty of: Foundational Principle #7: Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
1. In Jesus, salvation comes.
Look at this story told through the words of Luke: Luke 1:26-35
What a fascinating read! The thought that a child could be conceived in the womb of his mother miraculously without the seed of a human father! The announcement of the soon-to-be birth of a baby is accompanied by news that is inconceivable to humanity. Yet, it is true, this is what makes this astounding news Orthodoxy upon which the very Christian faith is founded. And we too see in Genesis, that after man’s very first sin, God makes a promise that it would be through the seed of a woman, not a man, that salvation for humanity will come and Satan will be destroyed.
Scripture is confirming to us that it will be through God’s power, not man’s seed nor anything that man can do, that Jesus will miraculously come to save humanity.
2. In Jesus, deity + humanity collide.
For this reason, he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17
Could Jesus have been born and come to the earth in any other way? Could He have? Of course, He could have come in another way. He is God! He can do as He pleases.
However, the virgin birth made possible the union of Jesus coming as fully God while also being fully man.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5
Sure, God could have created Jesus in heaven as a complete human being and then sent His Son to earth without any connection to an earthly human being. However, it would be difficult for us to reason with the idea that Jesus is fully man when He has no connection to an earthly human parent.
The opposite hypothesis would also be true: Jesus could have come to earth as only a human, leaving behind his divine nature as God. However, it too would be mostly impossible for us to conclude that Jesus is, or was, God at some point prior to His time on earth. You see: Jesus came to earth ordained as both God and man, fully human born to earthly parents, and fully God, born to earthly parents conceived through the supernatural of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus, salvation comes. In Jesus, deity + humanity collide.
3. In Jesus, holiness consumes.
The virgin birth ordained by the Holy Spirit eliminates the possibility of Jesus inheriting sin.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Every single human born into this world is born through the family tree of Adam – every single one of us. Adam sinned; therefore, every single descendant of Adam is born inheriting this original sin.
Every single person... except Jesus!
Jesus did not have a human father from which sin would be inherited. Therefore, the legal guilt and moral depravity under which we all are born was not an immorality of sin under which Jesus Christ was born.
Jesus was born holy and, since He never sinned, holiness consumed His life and His time on planet earth from the time of His birth through His ascension back to heaven at the end of His ministry on earth.
Answer this question: What are my greatest regrets in life?
I have many regrets. Do you?
I regret kissing Patty Funk on the cheek on the playground in 2nd grade. I wish I’d never dropped out of Spanish class. I wish I had never sold my boat! I wish I could have gone hunting with Jack Barron. I wish I had gone fishing more with my father. I wish I had traveled back to Little Rock to see Memaw & Pepaw more often. I regret not having more bedtime conversations with the girls at night in their bedrooms before the college years began.
You know... of all the regrets in my life...
None should be greater than... my sin.
The following sentences are for me today. I do not know if your life is in need of the same. I implore you to read, consider, and pray to ask what God would have you do with these statements!
The greatest conviction the Orthodoxy series has revealed to me is the need for a greater pursuit of holiness.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
Jesus, both fully God and fully man, was tempted, bullied, ridiculed, hated, hunted, and killed. Yet He never once committed a sin. Holiness consumed His life.
My pursuit in life should be as was the Savior of the world... A life consumed by holiness.
Will you pray this today: “God, reveal to me any area of unholiness in my life such as: Worry. Doubt. Fear. Lust. Deceit. Unfaithfulness.”
Let’s look at one final Foundational Principle: Foundational Principle #8: The penalty for humanity’s sins is eternal death.
We’ve already established that Jesus was fully human just as are we. Have you ever wondered:
What was Jesus’ favorite color? Did he cook His fish or was He more of a sushi guy? And what about His downtime? Did He exercise? Did He hang out with friends other than His disciples? And what about growing up – what were His favorite childhood games? Did they play hide and go seek back then? (If so... I am most confident Jesus always won!)
Being that Jesus, while remaining fully God, was also fully man. Jesus was much like us in so very many ways. He laughed. He cried. He got tired. He rested... ... like us in so many ways. But the one thing above all things He did not do that we do... Sin!
The one supernatural difference that separates this man from all of mankind is this: Jesus never sinned. Not once. And it is this reality for which He came to earth.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
In Church, we speak a lot of sin. But what exactly is sin? How do we define it?
Sin = My failure to do what God says is right.
In its simplest characterization, this is what sin is. Notice two important words in this definition: The word “My” and the word “God.”
My: The failure is mine. I own it. It is a personal choice. I make it. It’s on me. And I know I am making the choice.
I make the decision to sin. No one forces me to sin. Not even Satan. Satan can entice and encourage and tempt me to go against what God says is right. But I ultimately make my own choice to do so.
But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. James 1:14
And when I do this, I step outside of God’s will for my life.
The second word that is of equal importance in the “sin” definition:
God: Only God gets to decide what is right (and wrong.) The times change. Cultures change. People change. But what is right, wrong, truth, and lies never change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Malachi 3:6
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8
This is so important to note because there are many issues and topics of the day that are considered to be right or okay or justifiable that were not so just a few years ago. This will continue to be the case among humanity.
Today’s “wrongs” will eventually become tomorrow’s “rights.” But make no mistake:
No matter what society states as right or wrong today or tomorrow, only God defines what is true and right and just and holy and Orthodoxy. Humanity cannot and must not become the moral police.
This is why Orthodoxy is so important.
Not only does Orthodoxy provide a moral compass for the right I do, but it also clearly defines the penalty for my wrongs.
The penalty for wrong (sin) in my life = death.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
Paul is telling us that, because of the sin of one man, Adam, God views the entirety of humanity as guilty to sin. He goes on to write in Romans 5:18-19:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also did one righteous act result in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19
Now for those who might think, “Well, this is unfair that the whole world will be punished because of the sin of one man... and this is grossly unfair.” I have 2 final thoughts:
1. If I protest the unfairness of Adam’s sin as the verdict that holds me guilty. Then, okay, remove Adam as the one on trial... and insert myself. Am I then without sin and able to stand in trial blameless?
I think not.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
2. If I protest the unfairness of Adam’s sin as the verdict that holds me guilty, Then, okay, look at the second part of Romans 5:18-19:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19
Do you see what Paul writes here? Yes!...
I am found guilty because of Adam. I too am found innocent because of Jesus.
If it is unfair to be represented by Adam and found guilty, it is too unfair to be represented by Jesus and found innocent.
Aren’t you so glad that Jesus made a way for you to step from “guilty” to “innocent?”
I sure am!
A prayer for us all: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Psalm 51:1-4
Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.