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What I Enjoy About Christmas

I stated yesterday that I wanted to post on what I enjoy and dislike about Christmas.  When I first became a disciple of Jesus in 1992, if you would have asked me what my favorite holiday was I would have surely said Christmas.  Over the years that has changed.  I now prefer Resurrection Day above Christmas as I now see more than ever the importance of the cross of Christ for my forgiveness and I also see the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17-19).  I love the cross of Christ and I love that I am forgiven because of what Jesus has done for me at Calvary!

Christmas, sadly, has become little of what it was supposed to represent.  Santa Claus, gifts, commercialism, busy-ness, lights, Christmas trees, stockings hung by the fireplace, etc. have replaced the miracle of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  I once even went to a Christmas eve service at a church where the speaker kept referring to Jesus’ birth as the “Immaculate Conception” (which is at Catholic teaching that Mary herself was born of a virgin).  Even Jesus’ incarnation has been lost!

But I do find delight in Christmas nonetheless.  Despite the commercialism and the downplaying of Christ’s birth and incarnation, I do believe, as Scrooge’s nephew Fred states in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, that Christmas has done me good and will continue to do so so I say “God bless it.”  So let me state what I enjoy about Christmas.

1.  The Wonder of Jesus’ Incarnation.

Forgive me for allowing my love for theology to come out first but I am amazed at Jesus’ incarnation.  That the Word of God became flesh (John 1:1, 14) is amazing to me.  I can’t fathom the God who made all things and who said that heaven was His throne and the earth was His footstool (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49) became a little baby born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  The God who is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-8) now became a small egg inside of Mary’s womb through the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35-37).  How incredible!  Christmas means more than presents for first and foremost it is about the fact that God came down and made His dwelling with us (Matthew 1:23; Philippians 2:5-11).  Jesus took on flesh and blood for us so that we might destroy the works of the devil (Hebrews 2:14-15).

I love Christmas became Jesus became a Man.

2.  The Faith of Mary and Joseph.

I love Christmas because it helps me to increase my faith by reading the stories of Mary and Joseph and seeing their faith in God.  How strong was that faith!  Joseph often gets overshadowed by the story of Jesus’ birth but I admire Joseph for his willingness to obey God and love Mary despite what others might have said or even his flesh said.  Was this girl crazy?  Surely Mary was an adulterer?  Surely this baby in her was not God for how foolish that would sound.  Yet Joseph obeys God faithfully (Matthew 1:24-25).  Mary herself faithfully obeyed God (Luke 1:35-37, 45).  Mary, showing her love for Scripture by quoting something familiar to Hannah’s cry in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, blesses the Lord in Luke 1:46-55 and shows her passion is to please God.

I stand amazed at the faith of this young couple to bring the Son of God into the world.  Truly 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 is fulfilled in the lives of Mary and Joseph and God’s choosing of them to bring salvation to the world through His Son.

3.  The Gift of God’s Son For My Sins

I am a sinner.  I acknowledge this.  Apart from God’s grace given to me in Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11-12), I would not be the man I am today.  My flesh doesn’t want to worship God.  My flesh doesn’t want to lift up the name of Jesus.  My flesh doesn’t want to obey God or His Word or even to spend time reading and studying His Word.  My flesh wants one thing: to please itself.  But thankfully God has saved me from my sins and my flesh through His beloved Son (Romans 8:1-4).  I don’t deserve to be loved by Him but God has demonstrated His infinite love for me through the giving of His Son for my sins (1 John 3:1-3).

Christmas is not about gifts that are pointless or even worthless.  In comparison to eternity and to what God has given us in His Son, the gifts we give to one another are meaningless.  In fact, most of the gifts we receive for Christmas will be lost or forgotten quickly.  But the gift of God’s Son is a powerful expression of God’s love for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).  Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Christmas is about the love of God for the lost.  Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came into the world to seek and save the lost.  Luke tells us that the angels pronounced to the shepherds that the announcement of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).  It was good for all people because Jesus came to die for all people (Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 1:21; 1 John 2:1-2).  God was showing the entire world that He was coming to us to bring us to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/22/2010 at 10:20 AM

Posted in Christmas, Incarnation

Implications of the Incarnation of Christ

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Galatians 4:4-5), is none other than God Himself manifested in the flesh (John 1:14).  Indeed this is a mystery as Paul expressed it in 1 Timothy 3:16.  The mystery of the Incarnation is incredible in that Jesus Christ was both fully Man and yet fully God.

Each year many in the West celebrate Christmas.  They celebrate it, to be honest, the wrong way in my estimation.  They spend money buying gifts for people who really don’t need those gifts and sadly Christmas has become a day of gluttony and covetousness.  The Lord Jesus was born in a lowly animal shelter in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4) without any grand entrance nor were there any Christmas trees or lights or all that we associate with Christmas today.  Sadly, in many ways, Santa Claus has replaced Jesus as the real meaning of Christmas.  Schools now call it “Winter Break” instead of Christmas break.  Jesus, the true meaning of Christmas, has been lost.

But for the disciple of Jesus, we know that Christmas is vital to the plan of God.  We are aware that the early Christians didn’t even celebrate Christmas.  History shows us that the Church, until the pagan emperor Constantine, didn’t celebrate the Lord’s birth as much as they proclaimed His glorious resurrection.  Even a cursory reading of the book of Acts reveals that the early disciples proclaimed Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead as the wonderful work of God.  It was this, His resurrection, that separated Him from all others and made Him the way, the truth, and the life as He had said (John 14:6).

Yet we know that unless Jesus had been born, none of the plan of God would have been fulfilled in Him.  That is logical.  So I have no problem honoring Jesus’ birth.  The Incarnation of God is a mystery but it is biblical and it does have practical implications for us.

1.  Jesus Was God

If the Incarnation was a fact as the Bible asserts that it is then it is one of the proofs of Jesus’ divinity.  It means that Jesus was more than a prophet or more than a good teacher.  He was God in the flesh.  Matthew 1:23 shows us that the baby born of Mary was none other than God Himself.  His very name would be Immanuel which Matthew gives the translation as “God with us.”  Other New Testament passages that speak of Jesus’ full deity are Mark 1:3; John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-18; Hebrews 1:1-3.

2.  What He Said Was True

If Jesus was God then all that He said about Himself would be truthful because God doesn’t lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2).  All that Jesus said about the Law of Moses or any other topics would be vital for us to know, read, and study.  Thankfully, through the providence and Spirit of God, the Word of God has been preserved for us in the Bible.  While the Bible doesn’t reveal all that Jesus said or did, it reveals enough for us to know Him and be saved from our sins (John 20:30-31; 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

3.  He is the Only Way to God

If Jesus is God manifested in the flesh then it means that He is the only way to God since He is God.  All other religions are false.  Even Judaism is now obsolete since Jesus is the only way to God.  Jesus said He was just that in John 14:6.  The Apostles also stated that Jesus was the only way to God in Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6.  Hebrews 8:13 says that the Law of Moses is now obsolete as Jesus has established the only way to God through His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20).

4.  It Offends The World

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  If the world understood that Jesus, being fully God incarnate, came to die for our sins and rise again, they would not celebrate Christmas.  Perhaps it is correct to note that the world doesn’t actually celebrate Jesus or His birth.  They perhaps acknowledge it in passing but Christmas today, other than His name associated with it, has little to do with what the Bible says.  The world may sing, “Joy To The World”, but they don’t fully understand why Jesus came nor what He did for if they did, they would reject Him again (John 1:10-13).

5.  He Is Coming Again

If Jesus came as God Incarnate then it means that what He promised about His second coming will come to pass.  Hebrews 9:27-28 promises us that He will return but not in reference to sin but for salvation to those who are waiting for Him and to judge all others.  We Christians must not shy away from the fact that Jesus is the only way to God and that no one can be saved apart from faith in Him and if they don’t repent, they will face judgment before God.

Acts 1:11 assures that this same Jesus who ascended to the Father will come again in like manner the disciples saw Him go.  Jesus is coming again.  I rejoice in that and long for it.  I realize that God is patient with this evil world wanting people to repent (2 Peter 3:9) but I do pray often the words of Scripture, for Jesus to come quickly (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 22:20).  I long to see Him!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/13/2010 at 11:33 AM

Posted in Christmas, Incarnation

My Favorite Christmas Carol Written by an Arminian!

I love the hymns of Charles and John Wesley.  Several years ago I purchased a hymnal with nothing but the Wesley’s hymns.  They are full of the Word, the fire of God, and sound doctrine.  An example of the deep theology of the Wesley’s is the Christmas carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!  Who can sing this song and not hear the many references to the biblical account of Jesus’ birth and the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (Isaiah 9:6-7; John 1:1, 14)?

This Christmas may the disciples of Jesus marvel at His birth, that He came to die for our sins (Galatians 4:4-6) and that He is the risen Lord of all who is coming again!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/05/2010 at 12:57 PM

John 1:18

I was reading in the gospel of John from my New American Standard Bible and was struck by the words of John in John 1:18.  They read, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  What struck me was the word “explained.”  What an interesting thought from John that Jesus explains the invisible God.

Part of the incarnation of Jesus Christ as God the Son was that He emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7 NASB) or as the ESV translates it, “but made himself nothing.”  This is not to imply, as some have incorrectly taught, that Jesus ceased to be God.  Jesus was fully God in the flesh.  But He did lay aside some things when He became flesh (John 1:14).  One of these was His glory.  Isaiah saw this glory in Isaiah 6:1-7.  John notes that what Isaiah saw was Jesus Christ Himself (see John 12:41).  Because of His glory, Jesus had to lay this aside in order for human beings to be able to behold Him (Exodus 33:20).  If Jesus had come in the fullness of His glory, no person would have been able to behold Him or even approach Him.  We could discuss other aspects of what Jesus laid aside when He took upon Himself the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7) but we’ll leave that for another discussion.

For now, I want to focus in on the phrase from the NASB “explained.”  Jesus explains God.  Jesus told His disciples in John 14:9 that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.  Notice that Jesus never said He was the Father though He and the Father are one (John 10:30).  Jesus came to earth to explain God.  I know that He did much more than that in His healings and in His sacrifice for our sins upon the cross and in His resurrection but I love that John 1:18 NASB says that Jesus explains the invisible God.  Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:16, “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.  To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”  

No one has ever seen God or can see God.  This shatters so many religious myths about people who claim to have seen God through visions or dreams or even some claim that God Himself has come down and spoken with them face to face.  Yet Paul says, as does John in John 1:18, that no one has ever seen God.  Yet Jesus, being God in the flesh, has explained Him.  Philip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, writes that the incarnation of God in the person of Christ is like God laying Himself down on the table and asking humans to examine Him.  Yancey goes on to write that the incarnation is like Yancey’s dealings with his gold fish.  Yancey says that his gold fish always swim away in utter fear when he approaches the bowl to feed them.  Yancey writes, “How can they not see that I care for them and am providing for them?”  Yet the thought occurred to Yancey that the only way that they could ever understand this giant towering over their bowl would be for this man to become a fish and live with them and become one of them and to explain to them who it is that is feeding and providing for them.

Jesus came down to die for my sins.  I know this.  But He also came to explain God to us.  When you read the Gospels, you are reading about God.  When you witness the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels or read His parables and teachings or see Him interacting with people, you are witnessing God in the flesh doing these things (John 1:14; Romans 9:5).  Jesus lived upon this planet for about 33 years and during those 33 years, He never ceased to be fully God and He never ceased to be fully man.  Jesus’ three years of public ministry revealed who God is and what He wants from humanity and ultimately we find that in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God is love and wants to save us by dying for us (John 3:15-17; 1 John 4:7-10).  What a wonderful God!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/03/2010 at 12:27 PM

Jesus – God’s Greatest Revelation of Himself

In theology we tend to categorize how God has revealed Himself in three ways. First we say that God has identified Himself through creation. This is called “general revelation.” Psalm 19:1-6 speaks of this type of revelation of God as does Paul in Romans 1:18-23. General revelation is not sufficient for salvation but simply is given to humanity to cause us to seek after the one true God who created all things (Genesis 1:1).

The second type of revelation is found in the Bible itself. The Bible falls under “special revelation.” It is special in the sense that it goes beyond general revelation in that God has chosen to speak to humanity through a book. The Bible is unique in that it has 66 books with over 40 different authors yet only 1 subject and that is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 20:31). Psalm 19:7-14 speaks of this special revelation. It logically follows that if there is a God then surely that God would want to communicate with His creation. However, since no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16) then God has chosen to speak to us through His Word (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The Bible does not fully reveal everything about God but it does provide enough information about God that we may have a relationship with Him through His Son (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:1-6).

Yet the ultimate revelation of God is found in the Word made flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Jesus is fully God and fully man (Philippians 2:5-11) and He came to reveal God to us since He was God (John 14:6-11). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has come down to earth in the Person of the Lord Jesus (Romans 9:5). The God who spoke through the lips and pens of the prophets in the Old Testament left the glory of heaven and came down to dwell among men (John 1:1-13, 18). The Great I Am of Exodus 3:14 is the same I Am in John 8:58-59. Matthew 1:23 makes it clear that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians this wonderful passage about Jesus: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). This verse has nothing to do with riches of this world but is speaking of the glorious grace given to us richly in Christ Jesus who left the riches of glory to come to this poor planet in order to redeem us. He left the splendours of heaven to come to Calvary for our sins!

Many today are looking for hope and answers to this life. Those hopes and answers are not to be found in the barrenness of politics or knowledge from men but can only be found in God Incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many today wonder why God doesn’t just open the heavens and reveal His face or at least why doesn’t He speak to us as in days of old. Yet the reality is that God has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus Christ was fully God and He fully revealed the Godhead (Colossians 2:9 NKJV). Jesus is God’s ultimate and final revelation of Himself and it is the name of Jesus whom we must confess to be saved (Romans 10:9-13) and it is the name of Jesus to whom we will bow in eternity (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is Lord of all and He will be exalted for all time and all eternity as we spend eternity praising and glorifying Jesus’ holy name (Revelation 5:9-10). That truly is the wonder of Christmas.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/08/2009 at 8:33 PM

Posted in Christmas, Incarnation

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