Immanuel“God with us” … the name given to the Savior of Mankind

When Jesus was conceived and destined to be born through Mary, He was given this name

 

(Matthew 1:23)

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 

This is the hope the whole nation of Israel was looking forward to, but …

 

God have a bigger plan.

 

This hope of salvation is extended to people all over the world.

 

Jesus is God’s salvation plan to the nations, races and tribes

 

The Gospel would never have been written without Jesus.

The Gospel of Jesus is about God’s salvation plan for Man.

 

In our times and generation, there are many who think “what does God have to do with people?” And there are many who don’t bother if there is a God.

 

Man was a deliberate creation of God.

We were created to worship God and to fellowship with God.

We should never forget our roots and our history because it reminds us of two important life issues –

 

1) How we had fallen away from our Creator, and our human need for salvation.

2) How God provided for our redemption through Jesus.

 

The first important issue is factual about our past and the second important issue reveals how God can change our future

 

God created us but He will not leave us alone to perish in our sins without hope.

 

We have sinned against God, we deserved to die, we deserved judgement and hell, but God have provided a way of escape.

However, there is a clear different between

 

“God will save us”

 and

“God’s salvation plan”

 

“God will save us” – God is sovereign and almighty, He have the power to save.

“God’s salvation plan” – means we need to response according to His plan as we are able to, because God cannot save those who refused to obey and act in faith.

 

I know there has been a lot of argument about infants and people who died without the abilities to response, and all these I will refer to the sovereignty of God.

Means to say, I believe and acknowledge God is almighty and sovereign and He alone knows who is able to response and who is not able to response. I believe and am fully convinced God will act for those who are not able to.

But for the rest of us who have the ability to response, and we know ourselves we have the abilities to response, we definitely need to response, because God will hold us accountable.

So how will God save us through Jesus? And how should we response through God’s salvation plan?

 

(Psalm 23)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

The message in Psalm 23 is well-known across the world.

It is comforting, encouraging, and it has a good ending.

Even non-believers across the world who don’t attend Christian fellowship know about it.

 

Well, Psalm 23 is not just talking about sheep. Although it refers to “sheep”, it is talking about relationship between God and man.

The “Lord” here refers to God.

The “shepherd” here refers to Jesus.

 

Oh yes!

Jesus is God and Lord and Shepherd of our souls.

And so how will God save us through Jesus?

 

Step ONE ….

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

Have we acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Savior?

This is the most fundamental foundational truth of Christianity; no one can start his Christian life without this!

Every person need to take responsibility and take that step of faith and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior!

Many have heard the Gospel of Jesus but have yet to make a personal response to confess and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior.

 

Non-believers can argue “why do we need a savior”.

Therefore earlier I mentioned we must not forget our own human history and roots.

Human was a deliberate creation of God.

We were created to worship God and to fellowship with God.

But we have sinned against God through disobedience and went astray.

We can be here alive in body and moving, but we are spiritually dead without fellowship and communion with God, and we are all awaiting our physical death.

To receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is to let God renew and restore our soul.

To receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is to repent and turn away from our sins and disobedience –

 

(Ephesians 2:1-7)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

So this is it.

We were dead, destined to die physically death, and we were spiritually dead as we had no fellowship with God due to sins and disobedience.

We need to response by turning away from sins and disobedience against God.

And when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God make us alive through Jesus.

Only through Jesus we are able to engage in lively meaningful fellowship with God.

 

What do we do next after we received our new life in Jesus?

Step TWO.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 

Walk with God and continue in this fellowship with God and worship God through Jesus.

 

Our Christian life is a journey of faith and obedience.

 

We need to do our due diligence to protect and guard this relationship we have with Jesus, till we meet Him in person.

It does not make sense to turn away from our sins and disobedience to receive new life from Jesus and still continue in our old ways which does not work for good!

 

(2 Corinthians 5:7) – for we walk by faith, not by sight.

 

The Apostle Paul’s instruction for the church does not means we walk blindly not knowing where we are going! No!

To live by faith is to live in obedience as according to Jesus teachings and commandments.

To live by faith is to trust in the promises of God.

Jesus was crucified on the crossed and died, but on the third day raised from the dead as according to the promises and word of God!

 

(Acts 2:23-28)

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

 

This same Jesus who was crucified and died and being resurrected from the dead, is God’s chosen Messiah.

This same Jesus will return again to Earth in person to judge the world.

Yes we will all be judged as according to the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. Therefore we are called to live in obedience to Jesus Christ.

Remember the two important life issues I shared earlier –

 

1) How we had fallen away from our Creator, and our human need for salvation.

2) How God provided for our redemption through Jesus.

 

The first important issue deals with our past and the second important issue deals with our future.

It is very easy for us to read history and blame it on Adam and Eve.

But if we ourselves don’t continue to live in obedience, we risk falling away from God and going astray.

Now I want to bring your attention to the last ending verse of Psalm 23

 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

That is the ultimate destination of Psalm 23, and this is where Jesus our Lord and Savior wants to bring us to.

 

Eternal fellowship with Jesus, to be in the kingdom of God forever

 

Our whole life here on Earth is our journey of faith with Jesus.

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need to stand firm with Jesus.

When we are faced with all sorts of distractions and diversion that promised fake salvation and fake promises of hope, we must stand firm with Jesus.

 

(John 14: 6)Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified on the cross by order of Pontius Pilate is God’s appointed Messiah. I repeat and emphasis that!

This same Jesus who was born through the virgin-birth of Mary, of the seed of Abraham and of the house of David, who went through water-baptism under John the Baptist and preached repentance for the kingdom of God, is our Lord and Savior.

This same Jesus who was betrayed and crucified on the cross but on the third day rose from the dead by the power and authority of God to resurrect the dead and never to die again, is God’s salvation plan for man.

This same Jesus is the source of eternal life, none other.

 

I would like to end this message with

 

(Mark 10:51)

And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

 

Jesus asked What do you want me to do for you?because God needed a response from us as we are able to.

In the days of the Gospel, people who knew Jesus in person they know Jesus have the power to work wonders and to save. In fact the Pharisees were so convinced Jesus can save people’s life that they threaten Jesus not to heal on the Sabbath and those who agree with Jesus were excommunicated from the synagogue.

So why would God bother to ask when He have the sovereign power to do so?

 

so that we know for sure what we want in life, both now and the future.

 

Imagine today Jesus asking you What do you want me to do for you?

What would you ask for?

 

Immanuel“God with us”

 

The best thing in life, both now and the future is eternal fellowship with God through Jesus.

 

In-His-Service

David Z

 

 

 

Why so few born-again Christians in Japan …part four

 

Ritualistic manners and politeness and the Great Depression (Mental Stress) weighing down the whole nation …

 

Foreign visitors to Japan are impressed with the exceptional high level of politeness and excellent services showered upon them at shopping malls and almost everywhere else …

But in an inconvenient way “manners and politeness” in Japan have become a form of rituals and a lot of people are pressured to do it!

There are excessive demands and expectations for Japanese to be polite and to show proper manners.

 

I shall call this “The Religion of Modern Day Japanese Living inside Japan

 

Very often people who don’t show the Japanese way of “manners and politeness” stick out like a sore thumb and get ridiculed or condemn or even put to shame!

Why so serious about this subject?

People’s social life been affected to the extent of being “un-healthy

Japan as a nation has a long history of high suicide rate, we already know that, and what “outsiders” are not aware are actual reasons and causes of suicide.

A more disturbing social problem is the increasing cases of Karōshi (過労死) – death from overwork.

The more horrifying truth behind such causes of death is that it has a lot more to do with “mental stress” from their workplace and work environment, rather than the overall productivities and efficiencies.

 

Means to say, there are workers who died from work not because they are not productive but stressed up and depressed.

 

Furthermore there are increasing cases where it has become difficult to draw a clear conclusion between Karōshi (過労死) and Karōjisatsu (過労自殺) – suicide due to work stress and overload.

This is very serious because people who are well-educated, well-trained professionals are killing themselves due to mental stress.

 

Shocking facts and figures …

 

Most of Japanese have tertiary education and Japan have the lowest un-employment rate in the world.

Furthermore Japan has high basic salary for Japanese citizen and Japanese workers are much better paid compared to their counter-parts across Asia.

Not forgetting to mention the long list of health care and social benefits for their own Japanese citizen.

Means to say, the average Japanese who is working have access to much better living conditions and benefits compared to others in Asia.

So what is it that is causing all these stress and depression?

 

Excessiveness

 

Excessiveness of what?

Excessiveness of demands and expectations which need not be part of work technically but “culture” and “social norm

For example, the whole nation is trying to address a widespread problem with very bad work-life balance where workers staying on in their office and work place for many hours way beyond their assigned work time.

The actual reason may appear shocking, and most Japanese employee may not want to directly talk about it but it has a lot to do with excessive expectation for manners and politeness to show commitment and dedication to their company and work.

Means to say, if you work in an office together with a group of Japanese employees, inside a Japanese company, own by Japanese, and if you are the first to leave your desk, this appear “not polite” and “bad impression”, especially if your superior is still around.

That is the simplified explanation.

And there are employers who took advantage of such “culture” and “social norm” to pressure workers to work extra hours to demonstrate their dedication and commitment to the company.

Such pressures and expectations can be either self-imposed or from social environment and third-parties, and it has driven people “crazy”.

 

There is a work culture of “manners oriented” rather than resulted oriented.

Means to say, a Japanese looking for job may not get work if the employer think this person is “not polite” and “not good mannered”.

Employees work in fear of losing their job if they received complaints and criticism of “not polite” and “not good mannered”, even in case where such complaints are not well-founded and base-less.

 

Now what has all these go to do with church and the Gospel?

 

Gospel outreach and evangelism have been hindered by such cultural expectations and demands.

Those who want to come to church have been hindered.

And those who need to receive invitation to come have been hindered as well.

 

First about those who want to come to church, and this refers to believers, those who are already baptized, born-again Christians.

I personally know of Japanese Christians who have been hindered to attend Sunday Service on a regular basis due to bad work-life balance and extra workload on week-end.

Interestingly more and more companies are trying to arrange “English Class” for their workers on weekend!

Guest what … a lot of these “English Teachers” are U.S citizens and Christians who want to go church themselves!

 

It is an understatement to say that this whole nation sinned against God

 

(Exodus 20:8-11)

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

(出エジプト記 20:8-11)

主の定めた安息日を特別の日として守りなさい。 すべての仕事は六日のうちにすませなさい。 七日目は神の休息の日だから、その日は一日、人も家畜も仕事をしてはならない。外国人も、ここでいっしょに住んでいる限り、この戒めを守る義務がある。  わたしが六日の間に天と地と海と、その中のいっさいのものを造り、七日目に休んだからだ。わたしは安息日を祝福し、特別な日と定めた。

 

Even machines and robot need to rest for maintenance but in Japan people work to death.

 

This whole nation needs to repent of excessiveness!

 

Next, those who need to receive invitation to church are hindered.

 

(Romans 10:9-15)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

(ローマ人への手紙 10:9-15)

なぜなら、もし自分の口で、「イエスキリストは私の主です」と告白し、自分の心で、「神はイエスキリストを死者の中から復活させてくださった」と信じるなら、あなたは救われるのです。 人は、心で信じることによって、神の前に正しい者とされ、その信仰を口で告白することによって救われるのです。  聖書は私たちに、「主キリストを信じる者は、決して失望させられることがない」と教えています。 ユダヤ人と外国人との区別はありません。同じ主がユダヤ人にとっても外国人にとっても主であり、求める者にはだれにでも、恵みを惜しみなく与えてくださるからです。 主の御名を呼び求める者は、だれでも救われるのです。

しかし、主を信じていなければ、どうして主に、「救ってください」と求めることができるでしょうか。また、主イエスのことを一度も聞いたことがなければ、どうしてそのお方を信じることができるでしょうか。だれかが教えてくれなければ、どうしてそのお方のことを聞けるでしょうか。 また、神に遣わされなければ、どうして人々のところへ出かけて教えることができるでしょうか。聖書に、「神との平和を宣べ伝え、良い知らせをもたらす人の足は、なんとうるわしいことか」(イザヤ52・7)とあるのは、まさにこのことです。

 

Evangelism simply means to preach the words of Jesus, to speak forth the Gospel.

But due to excessive concern for manners and politeness, it has become a “cultural social norm” to be “not direct” and “not assertive” in people to people communication and conversation.

Among the most difficult for Japanese to handle are direct and assertive facts and truths that we have sinned against God and we need to repent!

The next shocking direct and assertive fact and truth for Japanese to accept is

 

(John 14:6)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

 

(ヨハネの福音書 14:6)

イエスはトマスに言われました。「いいですか。わたしが道です。そして真理でもあり、いのちでもあります。わたしを通らなければ、だれ一人、父のところへは行けません。

 

What Jesus actually said means there is no other options to salvation and eternal life.

That is factual, direct and assertive.

 

Even if people don’t agree, we should never change the message because those words were spoken by Jesus Himself!

 

Of course we don’t force people to accept Jesus, but people need to be told of the truth!

People need to make well-informed choices that Jesus is THE way to salvation and eternal life!

There is salvation in none other except Jesus!

There are real life problem in Japan only Jesus can save us from.

 

In-His-Service

David Z