“But Who Do you Say I Am?”

Whether we learn from experience or from researching every possible detail before purchasing, or acceptance of “proven theories or methods,” we still rely on the expertise of other individuals. No person is “self-made.” Seeking knowledge coupled with wisdom is the foundation for living a fulfilling life. It is a personal decision to evolve in a world that consists of dynamic processes, norms, and values determined by the people for the people. Even if, we agree or disagree with the global culture, we are compelled to make the decision to fit in or exclude ourselves. Our convictions always involve some level of risk. Yes, we have the freedom to stand against the status quo, but that decision takes courage and self-confidence. Most often, exclusion from one’s peers can lead to a lonely existence.

Humanity has several common threads. We thrive off knowing the most credible, the elite, the record-breakers, the billionaires, etc., on a global level.  When you need to source accurate information on the past history, achievements, and current activities of leading world figures, from heads of state to sporting greats, The International Who’s Who 2020 published by Routledge is available for the discounted price of $960.

But an issue has arisen that plagues modern civilization. The Who’s Who are being challenged by the up-and-coming who desire that their opinions are heard. And that is the dilemma that many of us face in changing times, “Who do I listen to?” Why are people who possess similar credentials and considered experts in their profession or discipline on the opposite ends of the spectrum? There are many factors, but one that readily projects itself, we have the freedom to express our opinions–whether factual or not. Our focus is on people. Many have lost or never possessed the motivation to research credible sources to know the truth of the matter.

At the age of 17, I entered the healthcare profession as a licensed vocational nurse [LVN, LPN]. Years later, when I became a registered nurse, my knowledge, along with my clinical responsibilities, increased substantially. However, there was one subject that remained the same, Human Anatomy and Physiology, throughout the pursuit of my advanced nursing degree. The structure and function of the human body are valid and unequivocally non-refutable. The disagreement among physicians is limited to the varied treatment modalities for their patients. Still, there is not much leeway in the delivery of patient care. All healthcare professionals are governed by regulatory agencies.

Sadly, humanity has a more significant problem than the anarchy against world leaders, disagreements between medical experts, and the chaos between federal agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians. We are involved in a spiritual war between Christian religious leaders and their followers of the various Protestant denominations. Within the body of believers, there is disagreement over the Holy scriptures, disbelief of the Trinity, and whether or not, God really cares about human beings. Satan has gained additional followers–former believers because his deceptions include the promise of wealth. One of his tactics is that human beings have the power of manifestation to produce money and other material objects. The catch: They must proclaim their allegiance to him. The war of believers has escalated to the point that many have forgotten why they committed to serve God.

When did God become a religion or denomination? 

Is there one and only true God? Why didn’t God forgive Satan? The study of the Bible, is it important? Why is the life of believer so hard? I know what I did was wrong, but doesn’t God promise forgiveness? These are just a few of the questions that many believers are asking. Many of the religious leaders are avoiding the answers to these questions by preaching motivational messages.

Does anyone remember that the most critical aspect of our lives is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Historically, dissension among religious experts has existed since biblical times. “One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.” Matthew 16:1

  1. After 6AD, Jewish religious leaders were appointed by the Romans.
  2. The High Priests were both secular and religious leaders of the Jewish community. 
  3. Rabbis were Jewish religious teachers who taught and discussed interpretations of the Jewish law…Jesus was regarded as a Jewish rabbi (‘teacher’) by most of his followers (see Mark 10:1, 17, 35 & 51). The teaching of most rabbis reflected one of the three main religious schools of thought – Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.
  4. The Jewish Council (the ‘Sanhedrin’) was also both a religious and political assembly. It enforced the religious laws regulating Jewish worship and legislated on day-to-day affairs in Jerusalem and throughout Judaea. Prominent members of the council in Jesus’s day included Nicodemus (see John 3:1), Joseph of Arimathea (see Mark 15:43 & John 19:38-39), and Gamaliel (who was Paul’s religious tutor) (see Acts 5:34 & 22:3). https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/21-the-romanojewish-world-of-the-new-testament/jewish-religious-leaders/

There is a growing phenomenon in 2021 when people hear or read conflicting opinions. They readily accept the false and the inaccurate information but disregard the truth. “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24. Either they lack knowledge from not studying the Bible or possess the will to serve God according to their mindset.

The book of John is an account of Jesus’ disciple who was an eye witness to the events that He documented. Whenever Jesus taught, He was always challenged by the religious leaders [Matthew 16:1-4]. But their attempts were futile. They were very knowledgeable in the scriptures and doctrines, still they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God. Regardless of the supernatural miracles Jesus performed, the religious leaders refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah–prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. Jesus’ parables [a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.] exposed their diabolical mindsets, making them appear as leaders uneducated in the Scriptures.

Jesus did not have an easy life. He dealt with rejection, anger, and was always avoiding the people’s desire to stone Him to death. Even Jesus’ disciples had their own agenda. The disciples argued amongst themselves quite frequently over “Who was the greatest?” Severe rivalry existed between the twelve men. They were so competitive, when Jesus attempted to warn them of the deception of the religious leaders, they misunderstood His words. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” At this, they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.” Matthew 16:6-7

It would be interesting to know how they would have answered the religious leader’s confrontational questions. Sadly, even though the disciples were in the physical presence of Jesus as God Incarnatethe Son of God who is God in human form, manifesting divinity, holiness, and righteousness, their minds were filled with foolishness.

After making the Pharisee’s and Sadducees stand down [Matthew 16:1-4] Jesus and the disciples traveled to Caesarea Philippi; Jesus asked His disciples two questions:

  1. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:13
  2. “But who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15

We can easily search the Internet to answer the first question. Countless religious articles describing various doctrinal beliefs of who Jesus really was [yes, other religions view Jesus in past tense] are available. They say that Jesus was a prophet, a great man, etc., but never the Son of God. Nor do religions apart from Christianity believe in the Second Coming of Jesus [Revelation 22]. 

Question #2 is up-close and personal. “Who do you say I am?” confronts your intimate, personal beliefs of who Jesus is to you. Salvation is a 1:1 relationship with God who is only available through His Son, Jesus Christ. The saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” is only applicable to humanity. We can never fool God at any time!

The Holy Spirit motivates us to self-evaluate, which is only possible when using the scriptures as our standard. We must come clean and face the most crucial relationship in the life of a believer. During worship this morning, I questioned the strength of my relationship with Jesus while reading Matthew 16. I could easily use many adjectives to describe the Alpha and Omega, but that would not answer the question, “Sonya, who do you say I am?”

Prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson 

Wait for Your Victory!

Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. 2 Kings 6:17

Why are we worried? Who told us that God has left us alone to fight that BIG problem or that situation that’s been going on for years?

Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalms 27:14 NKJV

God, please open our eyes that we may see you as the GREATEST, the Alpha and the Omega, our Provider, our Warrior, our Father, and our Problem-Solver. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Triumph [Victory] from Trials, Tribulations, and Temptations

Since the age of five, I have believed in Jesus. My mother was a woman of God who lived by the Word of God. She gave a simplistic explanation that Jesus loved and died for me, was resurrected, went to heaven, and was preparing a home in heaven where we would live forever. Attending church reinforced my belief that God is love, prompting me to love Jesus throughout my childhood.

But reality surfaced as I matured and left home. I noticed that my life was no longer manageable. One problem after the other bombarded my life, and eventually, I decided that serving God had no benefits. Truthfully, I did not study the Bible, nor did I have a consistent prayer life. It is “Human effort plus Divine Intervention that equals Victory.” I held God responsible for the failure of a thriving spiritual relationship with Him. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [they do not know me]. Hosea 4:6

Many years later, in 2006, I met an elderly woman while shopping who witnessed to me about returning to my first love, Jesus Christ. I started attending revival services, made the commitment to follow Jesus, and was baptized [Human Effort]. Even so, God had plans to produce a different outcome [Divine Intervention]; the church had a New Believers program. I was assigned a spiritual mentor that helped me through the roughest times: The transition of renouncing–giving up worldly pleasures to serve Jesus.

And it is during those turbulent times, many believers fail to understand the purpose of hardships and how they are related to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    1. Your life becomes tougher: Serving God means giving up all of the ungodly people, places, and things you love and are familiar with. Yes, you may be living a clean and sober life and free from your past habits [Praise God!], but now that you are a member of the “body of believers,” which requires you to give up everything that prevents spiritual growth and inhibits your relationship with God. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13. The Holy Spirit helps us to develop a new lifestyle that reflects our commitment to God. Everything changes when we become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. 2 Corinthians 6:17
    2. Learning to study the Bible and praying: Building the spiritual foundation with God requires diligently studying the Bible and praying every day. Here’s some unspoken guidance about prayer, if you can count the times you have prayed today, then you are not praying enough. Staying connected to the Vine-Jesus requires faith, trust, obedience, courage, strength, discipline, and self-control. [Read John 15:5]
    3. Forming new relationships: I must admit that this is one of the most challenging parts of serving God. Jesus must become your best friend. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6. You made the commitment to follow Jesus, so you must build your relationship with Christ first. God will reveal the friends that we need in our Spiritual-Social Circle. The Holy Spirit amazingly gives us the gift of discernment to know when the person or activity does not glorify God. 
    4. Forming new relationships, part 2: It is not easy making new friends at any stage in life. Even so, pray and ask God for guidance. Ask the Pastor to assign you a spiritual mentor if the church has not provided one. If you accepted Jesus without church intervention, then you may have to accept isolation for a little while. Do not despair! Remain obedient to God. He will reveal the path [the plans] that He desires for you to follow, including a Bible-based church. Pray and wait on the Lord. Do not follow an emotional response to cope with being alone. Put God first! Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:22
    5. Our life becomes full of peace, joy, and happiness: No, this is not a contradiction. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33. Pray and ask for help! “God, I’m having a tough time. I need your help. Amen.” Enter the spiritual team of God, the Father, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit, our Teacher, and Comforter, along with messenger/guardian heavenly angels who we have on our side. What worries should we have? “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 
    6. Know, understand, and embrace the trials, tribulations, and temptations: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and difficulties, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 

Our characters must align with God’s requirements. Every trial, tribulation, and temptation is to produce the Fruit of the Spirit within us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Trust in God: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Need Encouragement? Jesus says, “I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:18. Saints of the Most-High God, never forget: Victory belongs to Jesus! Amen and Amen!

Our Goal: Eternal life 

Bible Reading: Romans 5: 1-11

Prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

The Refreshing Relationship

Is there anything you feel is standing between you and God?

Many have created a spiritual comfort zone that includes certain behaviors and habits that compromise their relationship with Jesus Christ. Holding on to stuff, emotional scars, unforgiveness, relationships with unbelievers, wayward habits, and secret sins prevent us from having a serious relationship with God. Although our secret sins are unknown to others, God is fully aware of the self-seeking desires that keep us distanced from Him. Can you imagine being in a committed relationship with a significant other involved with you and someone else?

The above question contains two words, “you feel” which immediately places us in the realm of compromise. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9. God leaves no stone unturned when He says that we cannot evaluate ourselves according to our standards. No one is exempt. It is easy to say, “Oh no, I would never do that” or ask “How could they have done something so terrible?” Yet, we neglect God by placing more importance on the demands of people, places of entertainment, and things that make us feel good.

How do we know if we are obedient and following God’s commandments? The Bible is our guidebook to living faith-based righteous lives. The Bible is not a self-help book. Yes, we study the Bible for knowledge. Even so, God never expected us to travel this journey without His help. Our connection with God is vital because He is the source of our strength. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned.… ” John 15:5-6

It is our faith that causes us to have a totally dependent relationship with God. When we finally decide to serve God wholeheartedly, we can have trials of fire, seasons of darkness, and continually thirsty souls. Still, we also will have the confidence and courage to wait on the Lord our God who promises to deliver us.

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11

Prayer: God, we are standing in the need of prayer. We confess that we are wavering between you and our self-seeking desires, and for this we ask for forgiveness. We desire to have a relationship with you built on faith, trust, and obedience. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson