Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Christmas is a time when we remember the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever else Christmas is, it is that, and we must never forget it. I am posting this blog from the Caribbean where the weather is very different from Ontario in December and yet, even here, there are nativity scenes and evidence that the birth of Christ is not restricted to one part of the world. All of this is exactly what the scriptures predicted about the Messiah. He did not come merely for one group of people but for the world. We should rejoice in this and it should challenge us to take the good news of the gospel to all people everywhere. Long ago the prophet Isaiah captured the glory that we celebrate at Christmas, the glory of the Christ-child that we need to reflect on this day and every day. It is my prayer that the Lord Almighty will write this glory on all of our hearts so that we never forget all that has been done for us in Christ.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
5. Adoption. As wonderful as deliverance, renewal, forgiveness and transformation are in the experience of the Christian, adoption is almost too good to be true. That God should rescue is amazing, that he should renew us is wonderful, that he should forgive us is gracious, that he should transform us is powerful, but that he should adopt us into his family is mind-blowing. Although he is the Father of all his creatures, and especially human beings who are made in his likeness, we have rebelled against him and are no longer worthy to be called his children. Yet not only does he provide salvation for us, he takes us into his family forever. Christian believers are adopted as his very own children and Jesus Christ is our elder brother. This adoption takes place when we surrender ourselves to God (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:5-7). But there is another sense in which our adoption is not complete until the Lord returns and the whole creation is liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:16-25). When that happens our salvation will be complete and all that God planned to do in Christ will be fully realized. In that day we will enjoy a glorious inheritance that has been secured for us by Jesus himself. This is incredible seeing that we were once children of wrath and we do not deserve anything but God’s righteous judgment. At the appointed time we will inherit a new heavens and earth in which we will enjoy God forever. Who can fathom the depths of God’s riches in Christ? And yet, there would be no inheritance if Jesus had not come on his mission of mercy. As Paul puts it: “Though he was rich, he became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). What an example of condescending grace, that we should be called the children of God (1 John 3:1) and all because of what God the Father planned, God the Son accomplished, and God the Holy Spirit applied to us at just the right time.
Next time... I will summarize the biblical data and marvel over the inevitable conclusion.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
3. Forgiveness. In addition to deliverance and renewal we also need forgiveness. We have sinned against a holy and righteous God. Because he is not a power but a person our sins are personally offensive to him. Because he is holy he cannot pretend we have not sinned, nor can he sweep our sins under some kind of cosmic rug. Our sins must be atoned for. There is a penalty that must be paid. The holiness of God must be upheld and vindicated. But how can this be done? This is one of the most important questions that can be asked. The biblical answer is that either we must pay for our own sins, or an appropriate substitute must take our place. The liberating message of the gospel is that Jesus is an appropriate substitute and that he is willing to take our place! He is qualified to represent us because he is fully human while at the same time being fully God. In his humanity he can stand in our place and take the punishment that we deserve. And in his divinity he can bear our sins away so that we are released from the debt we owe and we are now free to love and serve God. None of this would have been possible if the eternal Son of God did not take to himself a human body and soul. The second person of the Godhead had to leave the glory of heaven and come to earth as the God-man in order to reconcile us to God. Sin was an obstacle that could not be overcome another way. This is the glory of the incarnation. God comes to our aid. He meets the demand of his own justice. He bears his own righteous wrath in the person of his Son. He makes it possible for sinners to be forgiven, and to be regarded as perfectly righteous, as a result of the transfer of Christ’s perfection to them. These realities lie at the heart of Christian exclusivism. There is no other way that we can be acceptable to God. Religious ritual is not enough. Neither are good works. Nor is faith as an unfocused entity. The only way that we can be forgiven and right with God is for Jesus to come and to die in our place. Our faith and confidence must be in him. We must believe that God is satisfied with his work on the cross and that is why he rose from the dead and was declared to be the Son of God in power (Romans 1:2-4). As stupendous as Bethlehem is, it does no good without Calvary. And yet, at the same time, Calvary would not be the place of deliverance if it were not for the unique Saviour who was born in Bethlehem that first Christmas.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
2. Renewal. Not only do we need deliverance but we need renewal. When our first parents disobeyed God they died. This means that their relationship with God was broken as well as their relationship with one another. They also began to die physically even though they did not perish right away. Because of their disobedience spiritual, moral and physical death became part of the human experience because sin and death are tied together. When God saves us he must renew our lives. More specifically, he must give us new life because by nature we are “dead in our transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). When God rescues us he regenerates us—which is the Bible’s way of saying that he makes us alive—so we can see and hear and respond to God the way he intended in the beginning. Amazingly, this life is described as a resurrection from the dead. In fact, the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is said to be at work in his people. As a result we are now alive to God, we love him and want to do his will. Furthermore, this new life is evidence that we are part of the new creation which God has promised. As part of the new creation we enjoy eternal life now and in the future. Presently, our experience of eternal life is tied to our spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ. By his grace we know him and we are growing in our relationship with him day by day. But there is much more to come. Our present experience is only a foretaste of the life we will enjoy forever in God’s presence with bodies that have been set free from the power of death and the curse of sin. If Jesus had not come to the earth and died on the cross for our sins we would not know the renewal of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection life of the Saviour that empowers us now with the promise of more to come. Christmas proclaims our natural deadness and the need for new life that only God can give.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
To be continued...
Friday, December 11, 2009
Over the next few days I am going to post an article that will be appearing in the December issue of the Gospel Witness magazine. It is about why Christmas was necessary and the biblical context which gives Christmas its meaning.
What is Christmas all about? Shopping and gift giving? Decorations? Family and friends? Hearty meals and special baking? Time off work? Seasonal music and special dramatic presentations? Today there are many questions about the meaning of Christmas, and for good reason, because it makes little sense when separated from the larger biblical story. Interestingly enough, the Bible does not begin with the Christmas but with the creation of human beings and the sorry account of their subsequent fall into a state of moral corruption and spiritual death. From the beginning it is clear that there is no escape unless God intervenes and comes to our rescue. The scriptures also tell us that although God did not have to help us, he did because he is loving and gracious and he is glorified in our salvation. This is the story behind the story that must be understood if we are to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.
To set the stage for a biblical exposition of Christmas and its application to our lives that is featured in this month’s Gospel Witness, I am going to write about why God’s Son had to come into the world. In the Bible salvation is presented by a variety of metaphors which highlight the glory of God’s work, in part because of how difficult it is to bring sinners back into a relationship with him. And so the Bible tells us that we need to be delivered, renewed, forgiven, transformed and adopted into God’s family. But these metaphors also tell us why God had to send his Son into the world and by studying them we can gain a fresh appreciation of Christmas and the glorious events associated with it.
To be continued...