24 May 2007

"I AM"

We just finished looking at 1st Thessalonians. And in the last section of his book, Paul told us to “Always rejoice”. I'd like to share with you a story that illustrates that. It's about the widow of the man who wrote an old hymn entitled “GOD Leads His Dear Children Along.” The man who wrote the hymn passed away, and years later a book publisher looked for his widow. He was devestated to find that she was living in the poor house. This troubled the man. But not the widow. Listen to this:
One day, GOD took my dear husband home. Oh, how I missed him, for we had always served the Lord together. In my heart I wondered, "Where will GOD lead me now?" Dr. Lillenas, GOD led me here! I'm so glad He did, for you know, about every month someones comes into this place to spend the rest of their days, and Dr. Lillenas, so many of them don't know my Jesus. I'm having the time of my life introducing them to Jesus! Dr. Lillenas, isn't it wonderful how GOD leads?"(1)
I'm so glad I got fired. I'm so glad I got cancer. I'm so glad I wound up in the poor house. In a way, this leads into what I'm going to be talking about today. At our church, there is a poster at the top of a set of stairs. 53 words and phrases that describe our Lord Jesus Christ. At the top of the poster it says, “And He shall be called…” A partial list: Redeemer…Advocate…Lamb of GOD…Faithful and True Witness…Rose of Sharon…Image of the Invisible GOD…Author and Finisher of our Faith…Redeemer…Anchor… Bright Morning Star...

Out of all these one stands out. Not because it's some eloquent, flowery, poetic description. But because it is so simple. "...And He shall be called...I AM" Let that sink in. “I AM.” I mentioned before that GOD can say a lot with a little. In fact, "I AM" is the shortest sentence in English language. Now, Jesus did NOT say, “I have been”, or “I'm going to be”. He said, “I AM.” In the book of John, Jesus uses this phrase about Himself nine times. Why is it important that Jesus used this name when talking about Himself? Because many people don’t know who Jesus is. At the time He walked the earth, there were many Jewish holy people who didn’t believe that He was who He was. Every time He used this name to talk about Himself, people knew what He was saying.

Starting today we will be looking at the “I AM” statements made by Christ. First, let me give you a little background. Think back to the story of Moses and the burning bush. GOD called out to Moses from that bush and told him to go speak to Pharaoh and tell him to set the Israelites free. In Exodus 3:13 it says, Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" GOD answers back in the next verse, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'” I'm not gonna get real deep into the Hebrew language. But we do need to know this: that the name “JEHOVAH”--some say it “YHWH”--means “The Existing One.” “The One Who Is.” This word is used more than 6500 times in the Old Testament. It comes from the word that means “to be”. End of lesson.

Another reason Jesus used this name is because there were—and are—some people who do not believe that Jesus has existed since before the world began. And in John chapter 8, Jesus and the Pharisees are having a back and forth banter, not exactly a warm exchange. John 8:51-59:

"...Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
There’s a wake-up call. “Keep YOUR word? Who are you?” See, they thought—like many people do even today—that Jesus was just a “good man.” A little misguided…but now, He’s really got their dander up. Then look at verse 52—Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” This was not the only time someone questioned who He was. Even one of His apostles, Nathanael, asked in John 1:46, “Can…any good…come out of Nazareth?” In John 7:52, the Pharisees ask Him, “Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” That wasn't necessarily true. The prophets Nahum and Jonah were both from Galilee.

Then in verses 54-56, you can almost feel the intensity of the conversation pick up a bit. Verses 54-56—Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him.” Let me stop here for a minute. These guys knew the law. They knew what’s called the Torah. They knew the 10 commandments. They knew the 600 some-odd rules and regulations they thought they were supposed to keep. And they also knew all the other rituals and traditions that got added along the way. But they didn’t know GOD. They knew the law of GOD, but they didn’t know GOD.

You can walk into a lot of churches these days and find the same thing. You can find a lot of people who know the Bible, people who know what saith the Scriptures. But they don’t know GOD. “You have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” This is where we humans mess up so bad. We are controlled by time. We can only see what is happening right this very second. We can't see what has already happened. We can't see what’s going to happen until it happens. We can't see what happened 5 seconds ago anymore. And we can't see what's going to happen 5 seconds from now until it happens. And then we can never see it again. But GOD is not bound by the laws of physics. He is not at the mercy of time. And we’re gonna see that in a minute.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Can you just hear what these Pharisees were thinking? “Ha!! What a hoot!!” That’s about what they tell Him. Listen to verse 57—Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Yes!! He did!! No matter what anybody tries to tell you, Jesus Christ has existed since long before the world was created. How many times do we hear what GOD says, and only understand it from our own, very limited point of view? Matthew 16:6-7—Then Jesus said unto them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’ That’s exactly what the Pharisees were doing here. Jesus told them of spiritual things, and they could only grasp it in an earthly, physical sense. And by the way, Jesus was NOT created. No matter what Jehovah's Witnesses may try to tell you, Jesus Christ is the ETERNAL Son of GOD, and He is one with His Father. And He says as much in verse 58.

Verse 58— …the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’
Not, “I have been.” Not, “I was.” Not, “I’m going to be.” I AM. Show this verse to 100 English teachers and see what response you get. “Oh, now, that’s just not good grammar. Before Abraham ‘was’, I ‘am’? It’s just not…right.” HOGWASH!!! Jesus is. He is what? HE IS!!! If somebody doesn’t believe you, try these verses on them:
Colossians 1:15--[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation.
I was telling a lady one time about this verse. She said, “He’s the IMAGE of GOD. Look at my son, he’s made in my image.” Here’s the thing: our children are made in our image. But Christ IS the image of GOD. And again, it’s not that He WAS the image of GOD while He was on the Earth. He was, is and always will be the image of GOD.
Colossians 1:16--…by Him [Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
And the person who denies Christ’s eternality will say, “Well, yeah OK, so what?” and here’s where they run into trouble.
  • Isaiah 44:24—So says Jehovah, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb, I am Jehovah who makes all things; who stretches out the heavens alone; who spreads out the earth; who was with Me?
  • Isaiah 45:18—For so says Jehovah the Creator of the heavens, He is God, forming the earth and making it…I am Jehovah, and there is no other.
  • Nehemiah 9:6—You, even You, are Jehovah alone. You have made the heavens, heaven of the heavens, with their entire host, the earth, and all things on it, the seas, and all in them, and You preserve them all. And the host of the heavens worships You.
  • Hebrews 1:6—When He [GOD] brings in the First-born [Christ] into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him [Christ]."
So, to get back to John chapter 8, when those who deny the deity of Christ read this verse, they try to say, “Well, OK, He’s been around forever. That doesn’t mean He’s GOD.” But look at the next verse. Verse 59—“Then they took up stones to throw at Him…” You see, when Jesus said, “I AM,” the Pharisees knew exactly what He was saying. They had heard that word—that name—so many times. They knew that He was referring to Himself as GOD.

Not only did the Jews realize that He was calling Himself “I AM”, but the Roman soldiers who came to arrest Him knew also. Look at chapter 18. We’ll start in verse 3. Jesus has been praying in the garden. He arises, and tells His disciples that it is time for Him to be arrested.
Verse 3-4—Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” I'm pretty sure Jesus knew the answer to this question. But you know, Jesus never wasted words. We do. But He never did. And when He asked these guys who they were looking for, He knew. But He had His reason for asking. So in verse 5—They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Now you can just see these guys. Here they are, a bunch of well-trained, fully-armored soldiers, with lanterns, and torches, and weapons. What weapons did Jesus have? Well, if you don’t count the 72,000 angels He could have called down with a word, He was unarmed. Not exactly a fair fight, huh? Well, actually, it wasn’t a fair fight. They didn’t bring enough soldiers.

They said “We’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.” Then at the end of verse 5, Jesus said to them, “I AM.”Now when He said to them, “I AM,” they drew back and fell to the ground. They didn’t fall down out of shock, or surprise. One of them didn’t trip and fall and knock the rest of them down. Jesus uttered His name, and they fell like a bunch of…well, toy soldiers.
Proverbs 18:10—The name of the LORD [is] a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
Job 1:21—Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
Psalm 20:7—Some [trust] in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Acts 4:12—“…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Philippians 2:9-11—Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
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These soldiers found out the power of the name of the Lord. That name is, “I AM”. And if people still don’t understand that name, “I AM”, listen to the words of this song:

I am the maker of the Heavens
I am the bright and morning star
I am the breath of all Creation
Who always was
And is to come

I am the One who walked on water
I am the One who calmed the seas
I am the miracles and wonders
So come and see
And follow me
You will know

I am the spirit deep inside you
I am the word upon your heart
I am the One who even knew you
Before your birth
Before you were

I am the fount of living water
The risen Son of man
The healer of the broken
And when you cry
I am your savior and redeemer
Who bore the sins of man
The author and perfecter
Beginning and the end
I am

--Mark Schultz, "I AM"


(1) From "Searching For Heaven on Earth" by Dr. David Jeremiah (2004, Brentwood (TN), Integrity Publishers), p. 151. Quote taken from "Then Sings My Soul 2" by Robert J. Morgan (2004, Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishing), p. 245.

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