Saturday, November 26, 2016

161127 The Promise of Christ

Isaiah 9:6-7, 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. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Peter tells us that “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you,…” (1 Peter 1:10-12). I believe this passage of Scripture pretty much explains the feelings Isaiah must’ve had when God gave him the promises of the Messiah. He must’ve thought to himself, “Who is this child?”
Repeatedly, throughout the Old Testament, there are passages that clearly refer to Jesus as the Messiah. It must’ve been hard to conceive God coming to earth in a human body through birth. That is the way God chose and it was not one of many choices. It was the only choice from the very beginning. Salvation must ultimately come from God and cannot be earned by mankind. It was necessary that Jesus be born just as we have been in order to combine full deity and full humanity in one person. That clearly describes Jesus. He is very God of very God and always will be. When the Spirit of God moved in Isaiah to reveal God’s will a part of it was this strange idea that…
A child is born. Let’s go to John’s gospel to better understand all this. Let’s read John 3:16-18.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
That child was born because of the love of God. He loved his creation so much that he would become like us so that we could become like him. When the angel appeared over the shepherds that night they were filled with great fear. I’m sure any of us would have been equally fearful. The angel’s announcement stated that he was bringing good news of great joy for everyone on earth past, present, and future.
We are all born condemned because of the infection of sin passed down from our ancestors. In order to heal the hurt, solve the problem, and bring his people into his kingdom there had to be a child born and…
A Son is given. Let’s look at Romans 8:32. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
In the context of this passage we are told that God works for good with those who love him. He has better gifts and greater gifts than any human father could consider. Our heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11). It is appropriate that we consider these passages of Scripture during the Thanksgiving season. When we realize that God is the definition and source of all good we will realize that God himself is the ultimate good. Then we will be stimulated toward good works as his children. God loved the world so much that he sent a child to be born who would grow into a son given for us.
As wonderful as this is it is not enough! He came to die on the cross for our salvation and was raised again with power to ultimately rule the earth and all its inhabitants. As he grows beyond his childhood it becomes very obvious that he is the one spoken of in Isaiah. There are many other passages of the Bible that assure us that…
He shall govern. Let’s look at the prophecy of Daniel 7:14. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
The vision that Daniel saw must been awe-inspiring! The Messiah, called the Son of Man, came with the clouds of heaven. When Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven angels spoke to his disciples assuring them that he would come again just as they saw him going. A cloud took him out of their sight! Daniel saw that very same cloud carrying him to the Ancient of Days! And when he stood before the throne he was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that involved all people everywhere. During the 2000 years since Christ ascended into heaven the gospel is being preached all over the earth. Jesus promised that when the gospel of the kingdom would be proclaimed throughout the whole world then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). If you’re looking forward to the coming of Christ go out and preach the gospel because he will not come until it has gone everywhere.
The son who was given and who will govern the nations will be able to meet all of our needs. First of all we are told that…
He is the Wonderful Counselor. Let’s read Jeremiah 32:18-19. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.
Jeremiah also saw things that he did not understand. And among them is this promise that his steadfast love goes to thousands. When Jesus did come into this world he amazed the people around him. When officers were sent to arrest him they were unable to lay hands on him. When their rulers wanted to know why they did not bring him, they answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46).
This one came into the world as a child and grew to become a ruler who was also a Wonderful Counselor actually he was more than that! What am I saying? When we look to Jesus we should not be so concerned with who he was we need to reinforce the idea of who he is. And one of those titles tell us that…
He is the Mighty God. Let’s read John 10:27-30. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Not only was it difficult for the prophets to understand what they had seen and reported it was difficult for the disciples to understand what they were seeing and hearing. The one born in Bethlehem that night was not just a baby. He was (and is) the Mighty God! Repeatedly Jesus told them, one way or another, that he and the Father are the same! This is a concept that is very hard to grasp but is clearly presented by Jesus. Not only is he Mary’s baby boy…
He is the Everlasting Father. Let’s read John 14:8-10. Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
This is a very hard concept for a human to grasp. That the one who came as a child — a son – who would govern the nations of the world was himself the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father! Earlier, in John’s Gospel, John had written for us, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18)
Jesus himself was seen by Isaiah under the influence of the Holy Spirit and was understood to be the one given for us. Jesus was — and is — the Wonderful Counselor! Jesus was — and is — the Mighty God! Jesus was — and is — the Everlasting Father! And also…
He is the Prince of Peace. Listen while I read Colossians 1:19-20. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke of the time when the tender mercy of our God would be the light for those who sit in darkness and would be the one to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79). On the night of Jesus’ birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) We are assured that the Lord is at hand, and therefore, we have nothing to be anxious about. The absence of anxiety is given to us when we take everything to God in prayer and thanksgiving and then the peace of God, beyond all understanding, will be our guard eternally (Philippians 4:5b-7). When we focus on the things that God has given us then the God of peace will be with us.
The “child” that Isaiah saw became the Son who would reign over all things and all time. This “child” is often seen by us as a baby in a manger! However, we must remember that he is the Wonderful Counselor; he is the Mighty God; he is the Everlasting Father; he is the Prince of Peace! And from the throne of David…
His rule will never end. Let’s read Revelation 1:5b-6. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
John, in his old age, saw The Revelation of Jesus Christ. He spoke of Jesus as the one who is and who was and who is to come surrounded by the seven spirits before his throne. Jesus Christ the faithful witness the firstborn from the dead and ruler of the kings on earth has freed us from our sins by his blood.
Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). Peter saw what God had done with his people. 700 years before Christ, Isaiah had seen the same thing! Isaiah saw the one who would begin to rule in peace and would continue forever fulfilling all the promises of all the ages. That, my friends, is what Christmas is all about!
As we enter into the Advent season we must recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ remains forever the same. The prophecies of his coming began in the Garden of Eden when the offspring of the woman is mentioned. Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament there is the promise of someone coming who was symbolized in the sacrificial system. Without him there is no hope in this age or the age to come. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to the prophets. They did not understand but they did believe. It is essential that we believe. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

Saturday, November 19, 2016

161120 Learning from Christ

Ephesians 4:17-24 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul is looking at his beloved Ephesians and desires very much that they grow in grace and turn away from the world. It’s so easy for a Christian to fall back into the old ways and old habits. To grow as a Christian requires a disciplined mind. The world around us is dark in their understanding of spiritual things. The world around us is populated with people who are ignorant of God. So far as God is concerned, the people of the world are hardhearted. One of God’s promises is that he will take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Not the flesh that turns away from God but a soft heart that turns towards God keeping his rules (Ezekiel 11:19).
Too often the world around exercises influence on the individual Christian. Much of what we see in the world today on television, and other social media, is hostile to God. It is absolutely essential that we respond appropriately…
We need to guard our life. Let’s read 1 Peter 4:1-2. Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Jesus Christ willingly suffered in order to provide us with salvation. His mind was set on the things that lay before him and he willingly obeyed the Father and suffered in the flesh for us. We should take on the same pattern of thinking that Jesus had. We should seek to be like him all of our days even to the point of death. We should be willing to die in complete obedience to God. We must trust him and show love and forgiveness to others. Jesus became a man, like us, in order to live as our example and pattern in life. Consequently…
We must avoid being like the world around us. Let’s read the next two verses 1 Peter 4:3-4. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
We need to follow the example of the Apostle Paul. When he said to the Philippians, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). It is so easy for us to be wrapped up in the way the world thinks. Too often we find ourselves living like the rest of the world. The Apostle John hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith” (1 John 5:4). We need to forget the past and focus on the future. We should be living each day in such a way that the people around us cannot understand. Since we are people of faith we should be so much at peace in this world that those who do not know Christ would wonder! All of us, including the unbelievers in the world, face future judgment. We need to live our lives in obedience to Christ so that we can show that we have been born of God and have turned away from the way the world lives. We will always be tempted to fall into the pattern of the world! The pressure is on every day.
We must remember how we learned Christ. Let’s read the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
When we think of being able to overcome the world by faith we need to remember that is not something we generate on our own. It is something that we learned from Christ! I realize that we no longer live in an agricultural world so it’s hard to understand what a yoke is. I’m not talking about the middle of an egg. I’m talking about a curved piece of strong wood that would hold two animals together. The seasoned, well trained, animal let’s say an ox for instance, would need to be stronger than the young ox being trained. They would be brought to a place where they would be lined up side-by-side and a double yoke would bind them together. No matter how much the untrained ox would rebel the older well-trained ox would pull him along the way until he gave in to his master.
In the same way Christ will drag us along until we are well trained. He will never leave his side of the yoke instead he will pull along with us to make us able to learn from him directly. Being yoked to Christ, once we learn to obey him, becomes easier and easier as time goes on. His promise to us is that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Knowing Christ and learning from him is essential to spiritual health.
In order to know Christ we put off the old man. Let’s read Colossians 3:5-9. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices…
As we look at these warnings we see that the world 2000 years ago was dealing with the same kind of issues as we are today. We need to learn from Christ how to grow in him. We need to learn how to put aside the earthly passions because they represent idolatry. We are able to put off the old man when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus. It is as if the Holy Spirit reproduces Jesus’ death and resurrection in our lives when we believe in Christ. As we grow in grace and the knowledge the Lord, putting aside the old life with its practices, we can choose to be dead to those influences. At the same time, we find ourselves desiring to serve God much more. We should set our minds on things above where Christ is. When we think about being “in Christ” we realize that we are claiming Christ’s work of redemption and his resurrection power releasing all the spiritual resources we require in order to live the Christian life. As we learn from Christ all of his resources are available to us.
In order to grow in Christ we put on the new man. Look with me at the next verse Colossians 3:10. And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Our redemption in Christ means that we can, even in this life, progressively grow more and more like him. We have a new nature that is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. As we grow in our understanding of God, and our knowledge of his word and the world that he has created for us we become more like God in the way we think. We are constantly being changed into his likeness! Throughout the Christian life…
We’re in the process of being renewed. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We are not discouraged even though we are often disappointed in this life. As we grow closer to Christ we will increasingly reject sin and claim the power to live a godly life. Even our physical bodies will be made more useful to God because our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We have been bought with a price and that price is the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are many motives for obedience to God in the Bible. Jesus said “if you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We will grow in our desire to keep a clear conscience for God. The Bible speaks of our desiring to be “a vessel for noble use” (2 Timothy 2:20). We will be changed in our actions as we desire to see more and more unbelievers come to faith in Christ. We will be driven by desire to stand before the throne of our Lord in heaven with many of our family and friends standing with us. We will desire the present blessings of God in our lives and willingly turn away from God’s displeasure and discipline. We are laying up treasures in heaven where they cannot be taken away from us.
As we learn from Christ we will desire a deeper walk with God, the peace of God that passes all understanding, and the joy of God in our life.
We are being shaped into the image of Jesus. Let’s look at Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Here we are urged not to be conformed to this world while almost everything around us works in the opposite direction. As we learn from Christ the new self that he has implanted in us will be constantly transforming us -- if we will cooperate. The Bible often shows us that we are involved in our spiritual growth. We are told to let love be genuine (Romans 12:9). We are to let all that we do be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit (Galatians 5:25). We are to let the manner of our life be worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). We are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). We are to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We are repeatedly called on to actively participate in our spiritual growth.
When we do these things we are able to understand the will of God. Then we will understand what is good in the world even today. The Bible tells us that God is good and he does good (Psalm 119:68). God is the source of all good in this world. As James tells us, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). In the Psalms we are told, “No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). In the same context Paul assures us that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Jesus assured us that our Father would give good things to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11). Even his discipline is evidence of his love and is designed for our good (Hebrews 12:10). We should be encouraged by all these things to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
As we learn from Christ we should also do good and imitate the goodness of our heavenly Father. God is the source and definition of all good. God himself is the source of the good that we seek in life.
The Christian life is not just a process of following the rules. There are many things that we do because we are Christian but these things do not cause us to be Christian. The Christian life is one of following Christ. Taking his yoke upon us and learning from him. When we come to faith in Christ the Holy Spirit of God comes to live in us and guides us along the way. I hope that each of us today have come to the place where we are committed to Jesus Christ. Is he your Lord? If not, today can be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society