This past week my wife and I attended the Aleph Tav 2017 (AT17) Conference in Shreveport, LA. Aleph and Tav are the first and last letters of the Hebrew language and it is the theme of the preaching ministry of James McMenis, pastor at Word of God Ministries.
The theme for every Aleph Tav conference is, and always will be, It is all about Jesus. Each night of AT17 was based on Paul’s writings found in Philippians 2:5-11. McMenis opened up God’s Word and gave those in attendance an image of Jesus that is far different from the one that many Christians have formed in their minds of who Christ is. The image of Jesus I saw at AT17 was not based on a church’s or a denomination’s or even a pastor’s image of Jesus. I saw the Jesus of the Bible in a fresh and revelatory way that changed my life forever.
Night #1: The Incarnation of Jesus.
At AT17 I saw afresh how the One who thought it not robbery to be equal with God took on human flesh and came to earth as a man. I realized that the God of creation decided that because man would not walk with God after the Fall, God would come to earth and walk with man. The incarnation of Christ did not happen by Jesus coming in the glory of the King of kings and being born in a palace. Instead he was born in the smallest of towns and took His first breath in a trough where animals ate and drank from.
When God announced the birth of His Son, He did not send the announcement to the rulers of the land or to the religious leaders of the time. Instead, God announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds. These were men who were looked down upon and despised by the average citizen. Smelly, dirty shepherds were the only ones who came to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The incarnation of Jesus caused me to see that Jesus is one who can relate to anyone – rich or poor, black or white, educated or uneducated, free or imprisoned. His incarnation was in the manner that would mark His entire life here on earth.
Night #2: The Humiliation of Jesus
I don’t remember ever hearing a message that broke my heart more than the one on the second night of AT17. I always knew how Jesus suffered on the cross to pay my sin debt. But I never saw how the Bible portrayed the entire life of Jesus here on earth as one of humiliation. From the day of His birth until He took His last breath and said, It is finished, the Son of God suffered rejection, persecution and betrayal.
The Bible does not present Jesus as a man who goes through life doing good and having everyone like Him. I saw through the Scriptures Jesus as one that:
- The religious leaders despised and criticized
- His own family discredited and rejected
- His own home town tried to throw Him off of a cliff
- John the Baptist, the very person who baptized Jesus and heard God declare that Jesus was His Son, questioned Him about being the Messiah and asked Him should he look for someone else
- When a woman tried to honor Him by anointing His feet with expensive perfume, His own disciples said that this was a waste of something that could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor
- Didn’t have a home that He could go to and find safety, acceptance and rest
- Was betrayed by a kiss
- Denied by a friend
- Abandoned by His closest companions
- Beaten and mocked by political, legal and religious leaders
- Was stripped of the only thing He owned, His robe, and stretched out on a cross, naked before the whole world
- When He became my sin, His own Father turned His back and darkness engulfed Him and caused Him to cry out, My Father, Why Have You Forsaken Me?
The next morning I saw a tweet by Paul David Tripp. It summed up what I had heard the night before.
We complain about so many little things, but no complaint came out of the Jesus’ mouth, even though He suffered every day from birth to death. (emphasis mine)
A couple of days later Tim Keller tweeted the following.
There’s no other religion that says God has suffered, that God had to be courageous that he knows what it is like to be abandoned by friends, to be crushed by injustice, to be tortured and die. Christmas shows he knows what you’re going through. When you talk to him, he understands. (emphasis mine)
Even though it was painful to see the humiliation of Christ, it is absolutely necessary that we understand His suffering. His humiliation means that Christ can relate to every person who has ever lived. No one has ever or will ever suffer more than Christ. Therefore, Jesus is the only One who can relate to one’s hurts and is the only One who can bring healing to a wounded heart.
Night #3: The exaltation of Christ
When I saw the schedule for AT17 and after being broken by seeing the humiliation of Jesus, I thought that night three would be a night of simply praising the name of Jesus. However, I saw that the exaltation of Christ was much more than Him having a name that is higher than any other name.
The message focused on the reality that God has exalted His Son above everyone and everything. Jesus has been given a name that will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that Jesus is Lord. Of course, I already knew this. I had been taught that there is coming a day when every being in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth will bow the knee and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord.
However, the exaltation of Jesus is not just for some day in the distant future. It is for today! It is because of the humiliation of Jesus that the name of Jesus has power like no other name TODAY! God has exalted Jesus so that at the name of Jesus – in any country around the world, in any community, palace, government office, business, or home – has the power to save.
I saw the Jesus of the Bible as the One who was beaten with my sin, was mocked with my sin, was nailed to a cross with my sin, was suspended between heaven and earth as judgment for my sin. McMenis pointed out that just like Moses had to beat some brass (symbol of judgment) into the form of a serpent and lifted up for the people to look at so the Son of Man had to be beaten into the form of man’s sin and be lifted up for all men to look at.
The Israelites were dying from the bites of serpents so the serpent had to be judged to bring life and healing to the people. We are dying in our sin so Jesus had to be beaten into the form of our sin and lifted up in judgment for our sin. That is why there is salvation in only one name – the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is the only name with power to heal, it is the only name that has power to save, it is the only name that can change our lives and our destiny.
I have to get to the point that I am sick of my sin, my bondage, my addictions, my hurts and pain, that my only hope is to look at Jesus lifted up and call on the name of Jesus. Whenever I hear the name of Jesus, I will never see Him the same!
Night #4: The Adoration of Jesus
The final night moved from the CenturyLink Arena to Independence Stadium. Thousands of people streamed into the stadium, gathering together under an open heaven with temperatures hovering in the low 40s. The entire night focused on the adoration of Jesus. After being led in worship by Bethel Music, McMenis preached a simple message. Because of the incarnation, the humiliation, and the exaltation there is only logical response from us. All of our lives are to worship the Savior at all times.
My first Aleph Tav Conference won’t be my last. I gained a fresh, biblical image of Jesus Christ through the teaching I received these four nights. As I said at the beginning of this article, I will never look at Jesus the same!