‘What’s in it for Me?’: A Christmas Message

This article about Jesus’ activity (He became flesh and dwelt among us) is the second of three excellent articles about the incarnation of Jesus Christ from the December 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

‘What’s in it for Me?’:
A Christmas Message

By R.T. Kendall

Our generation is often referred to as the “me generation.” A question many people ask is, “What’s in it for me?” This kind of thinking is one of the end results of existential philosophy that offers no hope but only despair. This line has crept into many universities, theological seminaries and churches all over the world. Much of theology today is anthropology—meaning it is mostly man-centered. The question, “What’s in it for God?” does not seem to cross people’s minds.

But that is the question I would put to you as we enter the Christmas season. So, what’s in it for God? The answer is, what’s in it for Him is what’s in it for you. The reason for Christmas is about God: His Son, His love, His plan and His purpose, and ultimately His glory.

Jesus Was Sent

A key word that makes this clear is sent. It comes largely from the Gospel of John. God sent Jesus from Heaven to earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). The Word became flesh because Jesus was sent by the Father. The term sent and its derivatives are found almost 60 times in the Gospel of John. Jesus came to earth because of the Father’s purpose. Jesus did not come to do His own will but the will of Him who “sent” Him (John 6:38). The Son can do “nothing of Himself” but only what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19). He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). In other words, it was a God-centered mission.

Read the rest here.

The Incarnation: Word Became Flesh

This article about Jesus Christ’s identity (John calls Him “the Word”)  is the first of three excellent articles about the incarnation of Jesus from the December 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Incarnation: Word Became Flesh

By Skip Heitzig

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

—John 1:14, ESV

The statement in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” is really the Christmas story pressed into a nutshell. This is the Main Event—Jesus, the eternal Word, became a human being and lived among us in obedience to the Father’s eternal, redemptive plan.

We as Christians know this. We tell this to our children every year. But we need to remember that it’s still a profound mystery—and one worth diving into. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body” (NLT). Let’s crack open that mystery a bit and look at three things revealed in John 1:14: Jesus’ identity, activity and humanity.

First is Jesus’ identity: John here calls Him “the Word.” That’s a rather impersonal way to describe somebody, isn’t it? So why did John do it? Where did the term the Word come from, and why is it important?

Read the rest here.

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy

Shared from the Grace Thru Faith site.

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

There is perhaps no prophecy in the Old Testament more controversial than this one. Many liberal theologians reject the notion of the virgin birth of Jesus as being simply legend, Jews flatly deny its validity and non-believers scoff at it as the best example of the mindless belief necessary for Christianity to flourish.

Yet a careful study of the history of Israel, the laws of inheritance, and the promises by God to King David lead even the most skeptical student to conclude that Jesus had to be supernaturally conceived to be both God and human, and therefore qualified to redeem mankind, and have a legitimate claim to the Throne of Israel.

The God Man

Jesus had to be God to forgive our sins. No mere human can do that. One of the charges levied against Him was that He committed blasphemy by claiming the authority to forgive us, a power reserved for God alone (Mark 2:1-7). To prove He had that authority, Jesus healed a paralytic (Mark 2:8-12) right before His accusers’ eyes.  The immediate healing was incontrovertible evidence of His authority, derived as a direct descendant of God.

But He had to be human to redeem us. The laws of redemption required that a next of kin redeem that which was lost. (Lev. 25:24-25) This so-called kinsman redeemer had to be qualified, able and willing to perform the act of redemption. When Adam lost dominion over planet Earth and plunged all his progeny into sin, only his next of kin could redeem the Earth and its inhabitants. Since Adam was a human whose Father was God (Luke 3:23-38), only another direct Son of God could qualify. This is why Paul referred to Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Since the Laws of sacrifice required the shedding of innocent blood as the coin of redemption, only a sinless man was able (John 1:29-34). Since the kinsman redeemer’s life was required, only someone who loves us the way God does would be willing (John 3:16). This is the real test of the kinsman redeemer. Seeing Jesus as qualified and able to redeem us isn’t a great problem. After all He’s the Son of God. But recognizing that He was also willing to step down from His Heavenly Throne to trade His perfect life for ours should really humble us. What kind of love did it take to voluntarily suffer the pain and humiliation required to redeem us?

Read the rest here.

Son of God #Immanuel

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son,
and she will call His name Immanuel.
—Isaiah 7:14

 

If you couldn’t view the video for whatever reason, go here to read the lyrics.

Heart Treasures

Heart Treasures

By Patricia Knight

Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Mary was an ordinary person who accomplished the extraordinary. As a young teenager, a mere twelve to fourteen years of age, Mary possessed a quiet faith, one that conveyed submission, humility, and inner strength of character. The angel assured her, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with GodYou will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1: 30-32).

Mary was initially overwhelmed and perplexed by the announcement, but she asked only one question of the angel, Gabriel: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Once Gabriel responded that the Holy Spirit had overcome her to create her pregnancy, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

Her next response was to sing a song of praise and glory to God, rejoicing in His mercy lavished upon her. Mary’s song ends with conviction that God is faithful to His promises. She felt honored that she had been chosen to participate in a miracle that would fulfill God’s sacred word made centuries ago to bring the prophesied Savior to the world.

Mary didn’t attempt to live in the future, avoiding futile “what if” questions. She relied upon her Lord to meet all of her needs on a daily basis. Whenever she was reminded of a new aspect of Jesus’ future predicted by a prophet or an angel, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). God recognized Mary’s superlative heart value. He chose her as the mother of Jesus by examining her heart and found it overflowing with goodness.  To hold the Son of God in her arms, to cuddle Him, to nurture and instruct Him, must have been a tremendous privilege and responsibility, not so different from the devotion and love all mothers feel toward their children. However, a sense of wonder must have constantly permeated Mary’s emotions.

As Jesus matured, He gradually developed an awareness of His unique relationship to God. He was also perfectly obedient to His earthly parents. Mary and Joseph must have yearned for their firstborn to experience every aspect of life, but Jesus was unable to fall in love, have a family, or experience any permanent status on earth. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.  He was focused on the work with eternal consequences that He must perform during his brief time on earth.

Jesus’ parents had no forewarning that their adult son would walk on water, cure the blind, or heal the lame. But they believed unreservedly in His mission. At a wedding feast where the wine supply was exhausted much too early in the celebration, Mary asked Jesus to help in some way to prevent embarrassment to the bridegroom. Then she instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Though Jesus had never performed a miracle before, Mary trusted His abilities and judgment explicitly. She was likely as surprised as the servants that Jesus converted gallons of plain water into elegant wine.

Jesus was born on earth not to constantly perform fantastic miracles, as needed as they were, but to bring redemption of sin to the multitudes. 

Soon the prediction the prophet Simeon uttered when Jesus was an infant, was proving true: Mary as well as Jesus would suffer deep anguish in the future. When Jesus claimed to be the son of God, storm clouds of opposition and rejection gathered over His life. Mary must have felt personally attacked when she viewed mob hatred escalating toward her son. Jesus was the subject of intolerance and shame; scorn and disbelief.  Mary paid a tremendous price to bring the Savior into the world; she paid an exorbitant price to stand beneath the cross, witnessing the physical and emotional torment of Jesus’ during his heinous crucifixion. Mary’s heart must have completely shattered, spilling forth all the treasures she’d pondered over the past thirty-three years of her son’s life.

As He hung from the cross, Jesus assigned His beloved disciple, John, to care for His mother for the rest of her earthly life. Then Mary retreated into seclusion with Jesus’ committed followers, where they hid from the Roman authorities, praying for protection and guidance. Three days later, news arrived that Jesus had risen from the dead. How Mary rejoiced!  Her son, the Son of God, was alive!  Thanksgiving filled the air.

Are we willing to cling to our beliefs, as Mary did, even when the rising tide of public opposition threatens to chip away at our spiritual commitment, like granite eroding from the constant battering of surging tides? Just as plans for the incarnation of our Savior were flawlessly choreographed in heaven, God loves us so much that His purposes for each of our lives are also perfect. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season, let us follow Mary’s example, learning to treasure all the Words of God and ponder them in our hearts.

The Babe Who Opened the Door

This is a wonderful post from Answers in Genesis.

The Babe Who Opened the Door

by Ken Ham

Over 6,000 years ago, a “door” was shut to a garden. Because Adam sinned, God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden:

Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–24).

Because of Genesis 3:15, we understand that God told Adam and Eve that someone would come to open the “door,” leading back to the Tree of Life: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

In the Old Testament, prophets predicted that this someone would come: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

We also understand that when God told Noah to place one door in the side of the Ark, so that those who went through that door would be saved from the judgment of the Flood, this door was a picture of the one who would come to open the “door,” for he “set the door of the ark in its side” (Genesis 6:16).

Read the rest here.

Waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
—Micah 7:7

What a wonderful example the prophet Micah is to us! As one of the minor prophets, the first few chapters of his short Old Testament book are messages of God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem. But toward the end of this book, we see clear evidence of Micah’s faith and confidence that God would send a Savior.

We humans think we’ve got all the answers. And even when we don’t, we have the technology to find those answers in an instant by searching the internet for whatever may be baffling or confusing to us.

Because of the huge advancements in technology over the past few years, many people today believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant in this modern world. However, the Old Testament is filled with verses which talk about a Savior or foretell His coming. Here are only a few:

  • You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
    —Psalm 65:5
  • It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. —Isaiah 19:20
  • Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. —Hosea 13:4

 Read the longing in these and many other verses. These men yearned for the Savior of the world to come soon, and exhibited great faith that it would happen. They obviously loved God without restraint and absolutely believed that God would send a Savior, someone who would rescue them from themselves and their sins and provide a way for them to live with and worship God forever.

So many people say they believe in God but when it comes to eternal issues, they are floundering in a huge sea of doubt and frustration. It is understandably difficult to believe in a being we cannot see. On top of that uncertainty, we are asked to trust that believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior is the only way to heaven.

I love what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this:

You may think you have your way of salvation, but God is the only Savior, and He is the only one who can offer you a plan of salvation.

God’s plan for our salvation was always in the works but was truly fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus was born a human and lived an earthly life so that He could experience and relate to every single thing we go through.

The birth of Jesus Christ paved the way for His death on the cross, where He took our sins upon Himself and died on our behalf. That death paved the way for Him to be resurrected from the dead on the third day, proving that death and sin have no more eternal hold on us. All this to show how much God loves us and longs for us to live in heaven with Him forever.

This is where faith and trust come into the picture. We must believe that our only chance for eternal redemption comes from Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with ourselves or what we do or don’t do:

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way
and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

—John 14:6

Sadly, though, too many of us seem unable to take that giant leap of faith and trust:

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.
—John 1:10-13

Beloved, Christmas is definitely a time of celebration. If you take away all the glitter, packages, decorations, baked goodies and music, we still have the greatest thing for which to be thankful. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent to free us from the bondage of sin.

So if all you have to celebrate Christmas with is that certain knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then you have it all and more!

Let’s try to remember that Christmas is more about the Reason and less about the Season.

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John testified about Him and cried out, saying,
“This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.”
—John 1:14-16

 … for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
—Luke 2:11