Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dirty Laundry

 Zechariah 3:1-5 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

This last Sunday, our church’s Youth Pastor Kevin Kress preached his first Sunday Sermon. He explained to us that the Bible is a story about God rescuing us. Rescued from what? Romans 3:23 tells us: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all have filthy garments and dirty laundry and are sorting through sin together. Sin is a problem we cannot fix because there is no temporary fix for a permanent problem. Why is it that we turn to false gods and idols in search for fulfillment apart from God? Everyone knows that they are not perfect, nobody is perfect. We tend to think that God could never forgive us for all of the sinful things that we’ve done that will keep us from the forgiveness of God, but this is a lie of Satan stating “How could God forgive a sinner like you?”

The name Joshua translates as savior, rescuer or deliverer. Like Joshua, God will make a way for us to return. In the grand scheme of deliverer, rescuer and savior, God does not look at our sin and say: “That is disgusting”, but instead says: “Let me help you with that problem” to change from totally dirty to clean. “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” God takes away the sin and guilt of His people to return from exile and restore us unto Himself. God asks us for obedience.

Zechariah 3:6-9 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.”

Hundreds of years before the coming of God’s Messiah, Zechariah “called the shot” that Jesus Christ, the Branch and single stone would remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. God always calls His shots and puts our filthiness on the Cross. Sending a Savior who is ready and willing to take us back. We do not identify ourselves with our sin. What we do is not who we are. Sin is not us.  All our sins are placed upon Jesus and died with Him. What remains? Forgiveness. Forgiveness means that we change entirely; putting on the new self.

Ephesians 4:22-24  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Where do you stand with the Lord? Are you handing over your dirty laundry daily to the Lord or getting used to them being on, like they are comfortable? Know that your sin puts a block and distance between you and God. Take off your filthy garments called sin and throw them away, not leaving them on the side to go back to. Putting on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is better than anything that this world can offer. And do what it takes to stay walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). Join and build communities of accountability, enter small groups at your church, open your Bible in daily devotion time and prayer. When it comes to our dirty laundry of sin, take them off, let them go, return to God and allow the Lord to take them away.

Colossians 3:9-11  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Yesterday, Today & Forever

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jesus Christ is the same last year, today and next year too. Days come and go, but the Lord is eternal. Our God is immutableFind peace in this truth.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Alice Cooper; ‘My life is dedicated to follow Christ’

A old High School friend of mine sent me this article from DC Beacon on Christian Alice Cooper that I thought everyone should get a chance to see. We tend to think that some people are unreachable with the full gospel of Jesus Christ, then you get set straight that it is the Holy Spirit doing the heart transforming. Alice Cooper says he loves God. I pray that this energizes you, like it does me, and we both say: "Praise the Lord!"
The father of "shock rock", whose music and stage antics have outraged parents for more than 30 years, told how the fear of hell turned him to God. Alice Cooper, who sang about necrophilia and chopped up baby dolls during his concerts, said that although he continues to record and tour with a theatrical horror-style show, “My life is dedicated to follow Christ.”
Although he became a Christian in the 1980s, apart from brief comments in some interviews the 66-year-old singer has always been guarded about his faith – until now. But in a frank interview with a Christian music magazine, he spoke at length publicly for the first time about his love for God and reluctance to become a “Christian celebrity.”
A chart-topper with the teen anthem “School’s Out,” Cooper – who legally changed his name from Vince Furnier – has been credited with paving the way for performers such as Marilyn Manson. But he maintains that his act was never political or religious and always had “a sense of humor.” He told HM: The Hard Music Magazine that he was always insulted whenever he was accused of being satanic. Raised in a Christian home, he still believed in God, although he was not committed. That changed when alcoholism threatened his marriage. He and his wife, Sheryl, attended a church with a “hellfire pastor.” Cooper said he became a Christian “initially more out of the fear of God, rather than the love of God … I did not want to go to hell.” Interviewed for HM’s March/April issue, Cooper views his faith as “an ongoing thing.”
“Being a Christian is something you just progress in. You learn. You go to your Bible studies. You pray,” he said. He has avoided “celebrity Christianity,” because “it’s really easy to focus on Alice Cooper and not on Christ. I’m a rock singer. I’m nothing more than that. I’m not a philosopher. I consider myself low on the totem pole of knowledgeable Christians. So, don’t look for answers from me.” Yet he has been able to speak to others in the music scene about his faith. “I’ve had a couple of people that were friends of mine that I’ve talked to that have vocally said they have [accepted Christ]. I have talked to some big stars about this, some really horrific characters … and you’d be surprised. The ones that you would think are the furthest gone are the ones that are more apt to listen.”
Songs on Cooper’s more recent recordings have hinted at his change of heart. He sees his stage persona now as “the prophet of doom,” telling people: “‘Be careful! Satan is not a myth. Don’t sit around pretending like Satan is just a joke.’ I think my job is to warn about Satan.” He no longer performs some of his older repertoire. Any song promoting promiscuous sex and drinking “gets the axe,” he said. “I’m very careful about what the lyrics are. I tried to write songs that were equally as good, only with a better message.”
Cooper told HM he answers his critics: “‘I was one thing at one time, and I’m something new. I’m a new creature now. Don’t judge Alice by what he used to be. Praise God for what I am now.’”

Amazing! It goes to show you that when anyone honestly looks into the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the living and life-giving Word of God, the Creation by our Almighty Creator God, the power of prayer, examines where we are going to spend eternity after we die and the godly purpose of our life here today, then the obvious becomes clear through the distractions and the light shines in the darkness of sin and unbelief. We cannot give up on anyone ... and everyone needs to hear the full and complete gospel truth. Alice Cooper did and accepted Jesus Christ ... praise Jesus! Speak the TRUTH, the WAY, & the LIFE in love.

In Christ, Brian 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

That the World May Know

 1 Kings 8:59-60 And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people, as each day may require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.”

Starting in early January of 2015, we will be starting the excellent Focus on the Family video series “That the World May Know” with historian/teacher Ray Vander Laan on Wednesday night at our church. The introduction states that because God speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures, studying them is a rewarding experience. God’s use of human servants in revealing Himself resulted in writings that clearly bear the stamp of time and place. The message of the Scriptures is, of course, eternal and unchanging , but the circumstances and conditions of the people of the Bible are unique to their times. More than 3800 years ago, the nature of God’s covenant relationship with His people demanded a place where their faith could be exercised and displayed to all nations so that the world would know of Yahweh, the true and faithful God. God intended for the Israelites to exert influence on the nations around them through their righteous living.  

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Western Christianity tends to spiritualize the concepts of the Promised Land as it is presented in the Bible. Instead of seeing it as a crossroads from which to influence the world, modern Christians tend to view it as a distant, heavenly city towards which we are traveling as we ignore the world around us. We focus more on the destination than the journey, and in a sense, view our earthly experience as simply preparation for an eternity in the “promised land”. We have separated our walk with God from our responsibility to the world in which He has placed us, which distorts our perception of the mission God has set for us. Many Christians today have forgotten that the mission of God’s people has always been to live so that the world would know that their God was the true God. It was true for the disciples of Jesus who followed Him as their Lord and obeyed His command to go out into the world and make disciples.  

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The introduction concludes that the life of faith is not a vague, otherworldly experience. Rather, it is being faithful to God right now, in the place and time in which he has put us. Our mission as Christians today is the same one God gave to the Israelites when they possessed the Promised Land, the same one Jesus gave to his disciples. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might, and to love our neighbors as ourselves so that through us the world may know that our God is the one true God.

It’s going to be a great series and learning experience. I'll be sure to post the lessons.
Flavor and influence the world for the kingdom of God. 
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Out of Spiritual Exile & Back to the Lord

Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

Pastor Kyle told us in one of his recent Sunday Sermons that God had a  lot to say about the coming of the promised Messiah (Jesus) in the Old Testament, while at the same time calling the exiles back into being His people; the people that God wants them to be. He is still making that call today.

Hosea 14:4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

We have to be very careful when we doing something because “God told me to do this.” Almost all of the time, the proof of God’s direct in our life is seen in the rear view mirror. We going through life with all sorts of things (good and bad) happening and only see in retrospect that those pieces of the puzzle along the broken road were orchestrated by God and fit together perfectly lead us to where we are. So, we cannot jump to spontaneous decisions and attribute them to God, when they are really our desires being justified. In our sin nature, like the nation Israel in Hosea’s time, a person or a nation can run away from God and prostitute themselves to other gods. The good news is that no matter how much we run away, like Hosea after his wife, God keeps pursuing us. Even so, there are consequences for our faithfulness of thoughts, words and actions.

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Dr. Gary V. Smith states that Hosea was a living illustration of God’s love and commitment to us. The way that we picture God and Jesus will affect our life. There is the “God Concept”, which are our Creeds, our worship, our praise songs, our Theology, our Doctrine, et cetera. But there is also the “God Image”, which is how we picture, feel about and interact with God. Our choices. Egypt (in the opening verse) represents sin and sin distorts our image of God and ushers us into the bondage of spiritual exile. The answer: insert a bigger image … the true God, who is calling the saints (meaning those who are sanctified) out of spiritual slavery through Jesus the redeeming Savior. Like in our earthly relationships, we do not really fall out of love, but stop pursuing God for another. Sin is nothing more than spiritual prostitution, selling ourselves to the devil. Loving anything more than God is spiritual adultery. True love is to pursue God.

Psalm 103:11-12 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Exile means removing ourselves from the presence of God. There are four types of exile: (1) Self imposed exile – isolation from pride to guilt, (2) Addiction exile – substituting, trying to fill our needs outside of God, (3) Good old-fashioned sin – off doing our own things (what we want, when we want), and (4) Life-imposed exile – family needs, job issues, health problems, marriage struggles, et cetera. All these exiles lack a pursuit of Almighty God in common and lead to isolation and hiding.  

Ephesians 1:6-7 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

There is no set limit, no line crossed or final straw, because God extends His infinite hand of grace to all sinners. Jesus extends infinite forgiveness and grace. There are always those in desperate need of forgiveness by those in desperate need to give forgiveness. There is one human race and we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven and help as we have been helped. We are all called out of exile; not to tolerate exile. That may require taking a step back, but we must not give up because we need to show up and keep pursuing.

In Christ, Brian

Friday, December 26, 2014

One Solitary Life - The Poem

He was born in an obscure village,the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. 
He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where he was born.
He did none of the things usually associated with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty three. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. 
He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing; the only property he had on earth. 
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. 

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today Jesus is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress.
All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of mankind on earth as powerfully as that one solitary life.
Dr James Allan Francis © 1926.

Whether they know it or not, everyone gives recognition of Jesus Christ daily when they remember or write the date. Today is Friday, December 26, 2014 AD. Anno Domini (AD or A.D.) and Before Christ (BC or B.C.) are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The term Anno Domini is Medieval Latin, translated as in the Year of Our Lord. Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Happy Holy Days, Brian

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Isaiah 9:6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

One Solitary Life

A Christmas message from my Christian brother Michael. HE writes: He was born in an obscure village. The son of a peasant woman espoused to a lowly carpenter. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone. Of all the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, of all the governments that have ever ruled... Nothing has changed the course of the history of mankind as much as this one single solitary life. For he who knew no sin humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That in everything He might have dominion over the sin that separates us from the righteous judgment of almighty God. For Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, paid the price for our sin nature when he became the sinless sacrifice on our behalf, that we who were dead in trespasses and sin, may receive life and become the righteousness of God in him.

Many may have come to church burdened and heavy laden. We may have approached the throne of grace with a heavy heart. We celebrate Christmas so that Jesus the Christ, the son of the living God could come and rescue us from the darkness of our self-centered souls and the darkness of this fallen world.  When we draw close to him, the first thing we hear him say is "I love you."  Though we were unworthy, he made us worthy and now by his grace his mercy has made us his own. One solitary life, God's only begotten son, was sent by God, so that the world would be saved by the shedding of his innocent blood. Therefore we can forget what lies behind and press toward that which is ahead...  for we press toward the mark of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.  He, having delivered us from the burden of guilt and shame, allows us access into the Holy of Holies.  We can now come boldly before the throne of grace when we repent, when we turn from the darkness of the world and turn our eyes upon the bright and morning star, Jesus Christ, God's day star, the light of the world.

When we, as prodigal sons, come to ourselves, turn from the ways of the world, arise and go unto our Father because of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, our Father will run to meet us.  He will embrace us in his arms. We are blessed when we are meek and lowly of heart, humbling our hearts under the mighty hand of God. Christmas ushers into his holy of holies...  for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders.  And his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, Prince of Peace...  and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

May God richly bless you as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer, the son of the living God!

Your brother in Christ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Almost Christmas

Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ’s Mass") is an annual festival or holiday (the word ‘holiday’ comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig "holy" + dæg "day") commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Don’t let Christmas be Christ missed. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Christ Jesus I Am

Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

I just came back from a restful and relaxing vacation cruise to the Mexican Riviera, where I saw some beautiful beaches and seas, met wonderful people, made great new friends, and had some quality time to reflect on life and Christ in this Christmas season. I found this picture explaining so much of what we become in Christ and it both energizes me and humbles me at the same time to think about the gift of God to us in Christ Jesus. Love, joy and peace at not something you can buy, but experience in our relationship with our Heavenly Father God daily and forever. Merry is what Christmas is because of our Lord.   

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Merry Christmas. 
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Jesus the Savior

Matthew 1:18-21 “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

In my reading on Christ for this Christmas season, I came across a commentary from Matthew Henry on the above Bible passage. I remember reading and using my wife’s Matthew Henry Commentary ages ago for my research for a Bible Study at church on the book of John, and find his expounding of the Scriptures amazing for understanding the truth that never goes out of date and can be used in daily application; this one for Christmas.  He writes that, in its exposition of the gospel, the Heidelburg Catechism turns to the second major section of the ancient Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” The true “One Way” is Jesus Christ!

Romans 4:25 -5:2 “He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, though whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Matthew Henry points out that this gospel passage (above) focuses on Christ’s role as Savior, looking to the name of Jesus and its significance. This passage is one of the proof texts for seeing Jesus’ role as Savior revealed in the name given at His birth. The angel of the Lord told Joseph to name the child Jesus, explaining that it was the proper name for the boy because “he will save his people from their sins”. Iesous, the Greek name for “Jesus”, is actually a transliteration of the Hebrew mane Yehoshus, or “Joshus”, which means “Yahweh is salvation”.  In that child, the name “Yahweh is salvation” reached its fulfillment because it was given to the incarnation of Yahweh Himself. This is the real meaning of Christmas … Immanuel: God with us; God among us in the flesh; the day of our Lord’s visitation; the promised Messiah has arrived.

John 3:14-16 “Just as Moses  lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man (the Savior) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The angel was speaking of two aspects of salvation. First, Jesus saves his people from the penalty of their sins in their Justification, where those who by faith believe, repent and accept the blessed Redeemer’s atoning sacrifice on the cross in their place to die for our personal sins, are covered by Christ’s blood and exchange their sin (past, present and future) for His perfect righteousness forever. Bearing the wrath of God against sinners on the cross, Jesus took the condemnation we deserved so that by faith alone His righteousness might be imputed to us, granting us eternal life. Second, Jesus saves His people from the power of sin in their sanctification, the process of godly improving and growing into the likeness of Christ. Having been exalted to the Father’s right hand, Christ pours out the Holy spirit on His people (brethren) that they might receive new hearts, empowering them to stare down sin and live in holiness.

Romans 8:1-4 “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteousness requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

Finally, the angel used the phrase “his people”, which is one of the key texts on the intent and extent of atonement. Meaning, Jesus died for a particular people, not to atone for every person who ever lived. There are many who believe that everybody goes to heaven when we die because Jesus died for all sin, whether or not they repent of their sins and believe by faith that Jesus is the Son of God sent to die as their personal Savior and accept Christ as the Lord of their life. Sin is a willful violation of God loving Commandments, laws and statutes and requires judgment and punishment of the guilty. We do not like to think that we sin against God or that we must pay for our sins in eternal damnation and take it far so lightly. Yet, it’s the truth and the reason that God, out of mercy and grace sent Jesus. If Jesus had atoned for every person, believers and unbelievers, then all people would be forgiven and God could not justly send anyone to hell. Either Jesus the Savior pays of our sins or we pay for them.

Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please this sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

Matthew Henry comments that Jesus saves His people from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, from the dominion of sin by the Spirit of Grace – amazing grace! In the saving the believer from sin, He saves them from wrath of God against sin, from the curse of “Original Sin” at the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and all misery here and hereafter. Jesus truly is the Savior of the world because He saves his people from their sins, and that is something to celebrate and be merry about at Christmas. Halleluiah!

Romans 3:21-26 “No one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption hat came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He did it to demonstrated His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” 

Merry Christmas, Brian           

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christ in Christmas

Colossians 1:19-20 “In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays (a contraction of the phrase Holy Days), the focus on shopping for presence, get-togethers with friends and family, and tales of Santa and his reindeer can distract us from the true “reason for the season”.  I warmheartedly remember reciting the Apostle’s Creed in church and saw that it was a simple reminder of the gospel of Jesus Christ because it tells us about the work of God in salvation; that forgiveness of sins and salvation is given by God alone through Jesus, the perfect Savior alone. Fundamentally, the biblical gospel explains God’s plan of salvation is that only our Almighty Creator can rescue people from sin, and Jesus is the Way.

1 Timothy 2:13-15 “I was formerly a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and a violent aggressor. Yet, I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

We tend to think that we are judged by some scales of good deeds verses bad deeds, but that is not how our heavenly Father considers sin against Him and/or our fellow man, which transgresses His holy Word, Will and Way. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Only our sinless Savior Jesus Christ reconciles the scales by His atoning sacrifice on the cross in our place for our sins. Acts 4:12 “ There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved”. Jesus paid to redeem us and that was the purpose of His Christmas arrival. I read an article today that explained that we cannot make ourselves right by our good works, for our good works are always tainted by sin (Isa. 64:6; Gal. 2:15-16; 5:30). No other can save us from our predicament, for “other gods” are but demons in disguise as idols (Isa. 44:9; 1 Cor. 10:19-20). If we are to be saved from our sins and the eternal consequences of them, then the triune Creator God must do all the work of redemption. The church creed spoke only of the redemptive work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in planning, securing, and applying salvation to God’s people.

1 Timothy 2:3-5 “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”

God is the perfect Creator and the perfect Savior.

Ephesians 2: 8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a results of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

To look for salvation anywhere else but in Him, is to confess, in unbelief, by one’s deeds Jesus, in whom the fullness of deity dwells, is not a perfect Savior of the world, and not the gift of God at Christmas. If there was another way to salvation and heaven, why did Jesus come that Christmas Day and what did He die for? Where is our belief and faith? The article stated that once, we start looking for redemption outside of Jesus or add something to His redemptive work on our behalf, we detract from the glory that belongs to the Lord alone. No error could be more fatal because Creator God, who provided the only Way to salvation through belief and faith, vainly denies God’s power and His glory. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” Those who look for their salvation and security in some “other” higher power, in nature or the universe, in other people, in themselves, or elsewhere deny that Jesus is the only Savior and make God to be a liar. If there was another way to forgiveness and salvation, then Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection were meaningless, but God (who did not have to provide any way) provide one way in Jesus. Through the incarnation of Christ at Christmas, the Son of God has made God’s glory to dwell perfectly and fully in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:19-20). The glory has not been given also to our works, Believers before us, other gods, or turning to anything else but Christ alone for salvation. Christ in Christmas is our Savior in our salvation, by the grace of God, through faith in Christ Jesus unto life and life eternal. O’ Holy night when Christ was born. Rejoice!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18a, 21 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ ... He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Merry Christmas, Brian