I believe I have contributed to Atheism. I am pious at times, maybe even now. In my early days as a Christian, I learned a lot of things that would win prizes in bible trivia contests. However, I didn't learn how to live it. I'm not talking about the rules and regulations, I learned that part well. I am talking about the love part. The wisdom part. The Passion!
Then there is the frequency of judgements I have made on others. I'm not just talking about atheists, but rather other Christians. I would think to myself, "They didn't pray like me so their prayers surely weren't as pleasing to God as mine." It was rather sad. Or, if you didn't go to my church building to hear a sermon... you were doomed. Is this an appology?... kinda. More than that, it is truth. I was rigid and self-righteous to my wife and my children. I lived like... well... like there was no God. Not that atheists are bad. It is just that I have given them no reason to believe in anything greater than creation by chance.
Jesus spoke directly against such behavour when he spoke to a group of people called the Pharasees. I fit the bill for being one of them. I tried anyway. I would place heavy burdons of rules to follow on other people yet I had trouble following them myself. There's a word for people like me. I don't want to be that anymore. I wish to change. I want to be like the Jesus that loves all. The crooked tax collectors, the thieves, the corrupt officers, the prostitutes, and the ones generalized as "sinners". In other words, I want to love people like me, because that's what Jesus does. I want to love you and for you to love me, or at least enjoy the love I give. Whether you are an atheist or not, I want you to feel the love of Jesus coming from me.
The text that follows is some of the reasons I believe Jesus was God in the flesh while here on earth. I hope you find it useful.
Jesus is Divine
Who is God? Is Jesus God? I don't believe this is meant to be understood but it should be explored. The first clue can be found in the book of Genesis. Verse 1:1 says:"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The Hebrew word for God is Elohi'm (אלהים). The "ים" denotes a plural word. But in Hebrew the verbs go with their nouns. I say this because the word for created (ברא) is singular, hmmm... Then when you go on to verse 1:26 of Genesis you see that God said "Let Us make man in Our image...". I used to think that "Us" meant God and the angles but verse 1:27 says "So God created man in His image..." The point here is that God created not God and the angles. Yet He says "Us".
In the book of Exodus in verse 3:14 God speaks to Moses from the burning bush:
Exodus 3:14 (HCSB) God replied to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."
The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament - a.k.a. LXX) translates "I AM" as Εγω ειμι.
In the book of John in verse 8:58 Jesus says "Before Abraham was born, I am." The "I am" is Εγω ειμι in the Greek. It's the same! Did Jesus refer to himself as God? That's what I believe. This point is driven home by John verse 8:59 where the Jews he was speaking to picked up stones to throw at him. In Leviticus 24:16 (HCSB) it is written: Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death; the whole community must stone him. If he blasphemes the Name, he is to be put to death, whether the foreign resident or the native. The Jews who where attempting to stone Him obviously understood what Jesus was saying, they just didn't believe it.
In Matthew 4:10 Jesus speaks His final response to Satan while being tempted in the wilderness. He quotes Deuteronomy saying "Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him." The word used for worship here is προσκυνησεις. The εις at the end is the singular "you" as in "you worship". I point this out because we see worship again but it looks a little different even though it is the same worship. In Matthew 14:33 we have προσεκυνησαν. The ησαν at the end is like "they were". So it can be read as "they were worship" or "they worshipped".
So what's my point? Both Jesus and God are tied to the act of worship. Why did I go through the trouble of going into the Greek? In the New World Translation the first instance of worship is translated to, well... worship. But the second instance is translated to obeisance or homage. In Revelation 19:10 we see προσκυνησαι where John began to worship an angel, yet the angel told him to stop in the same verse. If Jesus wasn't meant to be worshipped why didn't He stop the apostals?
In Colossians 1:15 it says: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;. Does this mean that Jesus was born (or created) before all other things we know of besides God? I say no. Firstborn is a reference to Kingship, His authority over everything. You can see this in Psalm 89:27: Also, I myself shall place him as firstborn, The most high of the kings of the earth. If you read from Psalm 89:20 you see that this passage is referring to David's kingship. David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse, as you can see in 1st Samuel 16:10-11 when Samuel came to anoint David. He was definitely not the firstborn by birth, it was rather a reference to David's position.
In Revelation 14:3-5 (NWT JW.org) it says:
3 And they are singing what seems to be a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, and no one was able to master that song except the 144,000, who have been bought from the earth. 4 These are the ones who did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones who keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, 5 and no deceit was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.
As you can see here the 144,000 were not defiled by women, implying that they are men and they are virgins. This excludes liars, fornicator, fathers and all women, virgin or not. That doesn't seem to make much sense if that is truly a reference to those alone who get to heaven.
It is understandable why some refuse to accept the Trinity. It is written:
Philippians 2:5-11 NIV (5) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (9) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Some folks' interpretation or explaination of this passage is; that Jesus Himself realized that He could not be like God. Let me propose another explaination, the one I believe to be correct...: Jesus, knowing that we could not grasp the thoughts and understanding of God, made Himself a mere servant taking on the likeness of men, so that we could understand.
I once heard it in the form of a parable. There were little birds that spent their days on a man's doorstep. One day the man learned of a terrible storm coming so he opened the door to let the birds in but they would fly away. They would later return but would not enter the man's house, even with the door left open. So the man made himself into the form of a bird, joined the birds and convinced some of them to enter the safety of the man's house.
Now, there are "holes" in this parable. It is from man, after all. But the point is not to win an arguement but to explain who I believe Jesus is.