In what ways does Jesus provide us with a whole new way of life?

Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s gift to us. He gave us His Son who is the Lord and Savior of this world. As our Lord and Savior, He provides us with a whole new way of life.

In what way does Jesus provide us with a whole new way of life?

(1) Jesus provides hope.

In Luke 2, we learned that Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah, the King of this world. If we are honest, a Savior is what we are all looking for and want someone or something to save us because we know the world in which we live is broken. You only have to open the newspaper or turn on the nightly news to know that’s true.

At the core of that brokenness is our sin. Sin is more than just breaking the rules, sin is an all-out rebellion against God. Because we have sinned against God, we deserve for God to punish us for rebelling against Him. There is nothing we can do to escape God’s punishment, which means that apart from Jesus we don’t have any hope for the future.

Jesus, however, gives us hope because He takes our punishment for us. In doing so, He repairs our relationship with the Father so that we no longer live under the threat of God’s wrath being poured out on us.

Along with saving us from the Father’s wrath, Jesus also saves us from sin and promises us life eternal in a completely different world. A world that isn’t broken, but is perfect.

So, in Jesus, we experience hope. In Him, we have something to look forward to. And that hope is life changing.

(2) Jesus provides us with the ability to pursue forgiveness

Say I went over to your house with my kids. Right now, they are really into playing superheroes. When they play superhero’s, they run all over the house like crazy, chasing one another and sometimes knocking into furniture. Say one of them knocked your lamp over and it broke. Instead of making me pay for the lamp, you said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” Not only would that be extremely nice of you, but you would be absorbing the cost of that lamp because you would be replacing that lam with your own money.

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us except on an infinitely greater scale. He absorbed the cost, not of a broken lamp, but of the eternal punishment we deserve.

The remarkable thing is that He purposely came to provide us with forgiveness. You see, Jesus didn’t just happen to forgive because it was convenient for Him, or He was in the right place at the right time. Instead, He actually pursued us in an effort to repair our relationship.

For those of us who have experienced Jesus’ forgiveness, we should be willing and motivated to forgive others. We should even pursue others as Jesus pursued us, desiring a restored relationship as He did.

While forgiveness is costly and requires some vulnerability on our part. It’s something we should be willing to extend to others because it has been extended to us. Being willing to forgive is necessary if we expect to have any sort of deep and lasting relationship with others because inevitable a situation is going to arise where someone is going to sin against us and we are going to have to extend forgiveness. And that’s inevitable because we are all sinners.

But as you probably know sinners, forgiveness doesn’t come easy, which is why we need Jesus. We need Him to change our lives so that we are not only forgiven but can pursue forgiveness.

(3) Jesus provides us with the ability to deal with suffering. 

Reading some of the recent headlines, I’m sure at some point you’ve wondered why God continues to allow suffering in this world. Especially seeing all the suffering that has come about as the result of hurricanes, forest fires, and earthquakes. Along with natural disasters, we’ve also seen others suffer at the hands of ungodly people who have used and abused them. Reading about and seeing all this suffering, it’s natural for us to ask why. Why does God allow it to continue? It’s a common question. I wish I could tell you exactly why God allows everything to happen that happens, but I can’t.

While I can’t give you a definitive answer to why God allows suffering, what I can tell you is that God is not ambivalent about human suffering. He has and is doing something about it. Christmas is proof. As one author says,

“The gift of Christmas gives you a resource — a comfort and consolation — for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering to suffer with us and for us.” [1]

Knowing that God Himself has suffered on our behalf should help us to face suffering.

(4) Jesus pushes us to care for others physical needs

When Jesus was born, the eternal spiritual God became a man. Not in an illusory way, but in a real physical way. He didn’t just appear as a man; He was actually a man. That’s unique because most other world religions either believe the physical is bad and something to cast off, that God would never stoop to the level of a man, or that He would never willingly experience physical need. But Jesus did. As such, He knows what it means to be poor, to be a refugee, to face persecution, to hunger and thirst, to be beaten, to be falsely accused and ultimately be condemned to an unjust death. He knows what it’s like to face all those things. Since Jesus faced those things we know that God not only cares about our spiritual need, but He also cares about our physical.

We not only see evidence of that in His but throughout His ministry.He healed the broken, fed the hungry, spoke up for the oppressed and misled. He did all those things and more. He did them because He cares about our physical needs.

As His people, we should care about these things as well. Christmas, then, should be a reminder that we are to work for social justice, to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, to continue to minister to the broken, the poor, and the hungry.

(5) Jesus allows us to reconnect with those we despise

Let me just say that no one is off the hook on this one. Sure, you might not be prejudice toward another race, but that doesn’t mean you don’t despise someone. For all of us, at least to some degree, there is someone we look down on, are snobbish towards. Someone we look at and say, “They are the problem with this world.”

But Christmas is the end of us thinking that we are better than someone else. That’s because Christmas tells us that we aren’t good enough. Jesus came to us instead of vice versa. His coming tells us that there is nothing we can do to get ourselves into heaven. We might be able to get into the best school, secure the best job, live in the best neighborhood, and rub elbows with the most connected people in town, but we still aren’t good enough to get ourselves into heaven. Jesus’ coming proves that.

So rather than thinking that we are better than someone else, rather than despising others, we need to recognize that they are just like us — sinners who are desperately in need of a Savior.

Conclusion

Thankfully that Savior has come. In coming, He provides us with a whole new way of life. One that:(1) Provides hope, (2) That gives us the ability to pursue forgiveness and (3) face suffering. (4) One that pushes us to care for others physical needs and (5) to reconnect with those we despise.

In all those ways and more, Jesus provides us with a whole new way of life. A way of life that wouldn’t be possible without the gift of Jesus. And that’s because He changes us from the inside out. He changes us through and through. He is a revolutionary gift that makes a revolutionary impact on our lives.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize the revolutionary impact Jesus can have on a life?

Resources

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[1]  Tim Keller, The Gifts of Christmas, in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, pg 39.

What’s God’s Christmas Gift to Us?

For all the presents you opened this Christmas there are only a few that are truly life-changing, truly revolutionary. The smartphone is one of those revolutionary products. Now, I’m partial to Apple, even if they do slow their older phones down.

When you look at an iPhone or any smartphone for that matter, you are looking at a revolutionary product. Essentially it’s a powerful computer, GPS, camera, music player, and more right in your pocket. Having those things readily available has changed the way we live, interact with the world, and each other. Some for the better and some for the worse.

Take the camera for instance. Gone are the days where you have to remember to bring your camera or camcorder along to capture your families memories. If you have your phone, you have your camera.

Or how about directions. You no longer have to remember and rely on paper maps or printed directions from Google or Mapquest. Now, you open an app on your phone, type in where you want to go, and you are on your way. Most of the time you don’t have to worry about traffic because a lot of the mapping apps will route you around it.

So some of the presents under your tree are life-changing. But what these presents, these gadgets are able to change about your life is usually limited. They can’t and don’t change your life completely, and that’s because they can’t change you from the inside out. The Christmas gift God gives, however, does. It isn’t limited to external change. Instead, it has the ability to change us from the inside out. It has the ability to change everything about us through and through.

What is God’s Christmas Gift?

More than a what, it is a who. God’s gift to us is a person. In Luke chapter 2, we learn that Mary and Joseph had to return to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus called for all to be registered. A census was to be taken for tax purposes. All the Roman world was to be counted.

Ceasar couldn’t have picked a worse time for Mary. She was 9 months pregnant, and in no condition to be traveling. But they had no other choice, so they started out for Bethlehem. Once they reached that city, we are told starting in verse 6 that:

“the time came for her [Mary] to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:6b-7)

Now, from chapter 1, we know that the son who was born to Mary was Jesus, God’s Son. While that was known by Mary and her family, it wasn’t widely known by others. That, however, was about to change. Beginning in verse 8 of Luke chapter 2 we read,

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” (Lk 2:8–14)

You see, soon after Jesus was born a group of angels appeared to some dirty, stinky ole shepherds out in a field watching over their sheep. Typical shepherds wouldn’t be the ones to receive important news. God, however, doesn’t operate in a typical fashion. What we think should occur is not always what God has planned. He often works in ways that confound and challenge us.

But nevertheless, these shepherds were the ones who received the news that a Savior, who is Christ the Lord had been born. They were the first outside of Mary and Joseph’s family to know that God’s gift of Jesus had been given to us.

With the angel’s announcement, we learn that several things about this newly born baby.

We learn that Jesus isn’t just another man. 

Jesus is the Savior, the Christ. In other words, He is the One anointed, chosen, and promised by God to be the One who would save us from our sins. The One who would repair our relationship with the Father and deal a death blow to Satan. He is the One through whom God would make this world right again.

We also learn that Jesus is our Lord. 

He is the One who has been designated by God to reign and rule over this broken world. He is God’s chosen King.

After the shepherds heard the news, they went to Bethlehem, saw the Savior for themselves, and then we are told in verse 20 that:

“…the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Lk 2:20)

Just as the Shepherds rejoiced that night seeing the Father’s Christmas gift, we too should be driven to praise and glorify God for sending Jesus. That’s because Jesus is our Lord and Savior who provides a new way of life.

In what ways does Jesus provide us with a whole new way of life? We’ll pick up here next time.

Question for Reflection

  1. Did you praise God for His gift this Christmas?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon What’s God’s Christmas Gift to Us?

 

Remember what we are celebrating this Christmas

Recently, I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis. He says,

“In the Christian story, God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the height of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He does down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.” — C.S. Lewis

I believe Lewis is right. Jesus does descend to reascend. He descends as a humble babe born in a manger, but He reascends into heaven as our Savior and King. As we enter the Christmas season, we need to remember that’s what we are celebrating.

We are celebrating Christ

Jesus is the Savior, the One who by His death humble provides eternal life. May we remember that this Christmas season. When we remember Jesus, may we be reoriented away from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season back to Christ, so that we keep Christ in Christmas.

Shine as lights to the world

The reasons we want to keep Christ in Christmas is so that we will be driven to shine as lights in the world. Christmas is an opportunity for us to be a witness for Christ, so let’s take that opportunity. Let’s make it a point to shine as bright as the lights on our tree and houses to the world for Christ during this season.

Along with keeping Christ in Christmas and shining as lights in the world, may we also remember the hope we have in Jesus.

The hope we have in Jesus

You see, Advent is also a season of longing and hope. A season of longing for our Savior’s return, and a season of hope knowing He will return.

So this Christmas remember Christ, shine as lights, and long for His return. As a church, let’s help one another do that this Christmas season.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you keep Christ in front of yourself, your church, or your family this Christmas season?

Resource

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How Should We Respond to the Good News of Jesus at Christmas?

Christmas is always a great time of year. The weather is cool. Greetings of Merry Christmas are exchanged with strangers, friends, and family alike. Your mailbox and then your refrigerator fills up with Christmas cards from family and friends. Your social media feeds are filled with sayings like “Jesus is the reason for the season” or reminders to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

While it is right and good for us to do these things and celebrate Jesus in these ways, what I’m afraid of is that we allow these things to replace how we are to biblically respond to the good new of Jesus at Christmas.

How should we biblically respond to the good news of Jesus Christ at Christmas?

The shepherds’ response in Luke chapter two acts as a model, which means their response should be our response.

I. We must respond to the good news of Jesus at Christmas by searching for the truth (vs. 1-16)

After Jesus’ birth, an angel sent from God appeared to the shepherds in the field and revealed that Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, had been born. He told them that Jesus was close, just a few minutes away lying in a manger sleeping. Hearing the angel’s message, the shepherds said to one another,

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:15–16)

So confronted with the reality of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds decided to search out the truth, which is what we must do as well. We must search out the truth of Jesus to see if His life, ministry, and sacrifice is a reality.

II. We must respond to the good news of Jesus at Christmas by believing the truth (vs. 17-18)

After setting out on their journey to find Jesus, the shepherds found Him, just as the angel said. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Seeing everything just as the angel had said, they believed. We know they believed based on their actions. The first thing they did was reveal the angel’s message. In verses 17 and 18 Luke writes,

“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” (Lk 2:17-18)

As well as in the next verse, which we will get to in more detail in a moment, the shepherds went away glorifying and praising God. Their actions, then, tell us they believed.

Likewise, when we find the message of the gospel to be true, we should respond in the same way. We should respond by believing the good news about Jesus — that He is the God-sent Savior who has come to take the sins of the world away.

But often times, when confronted with the truth of the gospel, people refuse to believe. When people refuse to believe in Jesus they show that:

(1) They haven’t grasped the magnitude of the message of the gospel.

They haven’t grasped the reality that Jesus came and died on the cross in order to save us from the wrath of God and to deliver us from the bondage of sin, satan, and death. It hasn’t sunk in that God Himself has come on a rescue mission for His people. That the Father sent His only Son to die so that we could experience everlasting life.

(2) They don’t see their need for a Savior. 

Most often when people don’t see their need for a Savior it’s because they don’t recognize how sinful they really are. That is partly the fault of the society in which we live with all that it teaches about self-esteem and that we really are good, we just need to mine that goodness out of ourselves.

However, our refusal to recognize and admit our sinfulness is also, and primarily, the result of our sinful nature. We believe the mumbo jumbo our culture feeds us because we want it to be true. We desperately want to be much better than we really know ourselves to be because we don’t want to have to admit that we need a Savior.

But here is the thing, we do need a Savior because in and of ourselves, we can’t repair our relationship with God. We are sinners through and through, so much so that even our best works, the ones we think are surely earning us favor with God, are like filthy rags. They are worthless, only good to be thrown away.

(3) They don’t understand this world can’t offer them the peace they seek.

This world is full of false promises. It tells us if we just drive this, live here, vacation there, work for so and so, take this drug or drink, we will experience peace and relief. But that’s not true. Sure we can numb ourselves to the effects of the sinful world with drugs and things, but we all know they don’t ultimately provide the peace for which we long. We know this because we keep going back for more. One hit, bottle, or shopping spree is never enough. That’s why Americans are as addicted and in debt as they are. They are searching for peace in all the wrong places.

There is, however, one person who can offer us the peace for which we long, Jesus. He does that by freeing us from the bondage of the sinful world, as well as by making peace between us and the Father through His sacrifice on the cross. We can experience the peace of Jesus by repenting of our sins and believing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.

III. We must respond to the good news of Jesus at Christmas by glorifying and praising God (vs. 20)

After the shepherds returned to their sheep, the text tells us that they were

“…glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Lk 2:20)

We too should respond as the shepherds do. We should glorify and praise God for the salvation that He provides.

We can glorify and praise God in a number of ways.

  1. We can glorify and praise God by singing songs of praise to Him.
  2. We can glorify and praise God by talking about Him to others.
  3. We can glorify and praise God by trusting Him
  4. We can glorify and praise God by obeying Him

In all these ways we can glorify and praise God, which is what we should be driven to do when we truly recognize the magnitude of the salvation He provides.

Question for Reflection

  1. Have you responded biblically to the good news of Jesus this Christmas?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon How Should We Respond to the Good News of Jesus at Christmas?

 

Can Stuff Ultimately Satisfy Us this Christmas?

Presents

Christmas is tomorrow and as a kid I would be one day away from opening the last door on my countdown to Christmas calendar.

Every year along with our Christmas decorations my mom would pull that calendar out of the box and hang it on our refrigerator. Every morning the first thing my sister and I did was go to the refrigerator and open the next door on the calendar, which marked one less day until Christmas.

I think my sister and I thought opening the door on that calendar made Christmas come faster, but thinking about it now, I actually think it made Christmas come slower. As we opened each door on the calendar, we were reminded Christmas wasn’t here yet.

You see, my sister and I, we couldn’t wait for Christmas to get here. We couldn’t wait to see what presents we were going to get from my mom and dad. For weeks that’s all we would talk about. What we thought we would get. Our speculation and excitement grew when presents started showing up under the tree. Was that big box a Nintendo — hey, it was the 80’s — or was it a new baseball glove, maybe a football? All the while we were hoping it wasn’t clothes — What kid wants clothes for Christmas? I know I didn’t. I wanted something cool. A toy or game. Something I could play with. My sister and I would go on for days like that — wondering, hoping, waiting to see what we would get.

While all the days leading up to Christmas were tough, nothing compared to Christmas Eve. You know what I am talking about. With Christmas just hours away, we could hardly contain our excitement. You see, for kids, and maybe some adults, the time leading up to Christmas is almost an unbearable wait.

Here is the question:

Can Stuff Ultimately Satisfy Us this Christmas?

The book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, answers that for us.

Solomon was the wisest and probably richest king to ever live. Just to put it into perspective, if he was alive today, a new Aston Martin One-77 — a million dollar car — would be pocket change. A Gulf Stream Jet — he probably would have 3. A Ferrari — he’s got a different color for every day of the week. His house would no doubt make it into a magazine or maybe even MTV Crib’s.

Solomon was the wisest and riches king ever and he could have whatever he wanted. The book of Ecclesiastes he tells us that is exactly what he did. He allowed himself to indulge in whatever he thought would bring him pleasure and fulfillment in life. He held nothing back from himself.

In chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes, we are told he indulged in the best wine money could buy (2:3). He had the grandest buildings, gardens, and parks. He owned vineyards and farms. He made himself pools of water to water the forests he owned. He had 100’s of servants and concubines. He had it all (2:4-8). In verse 10 of chapter 2 he confirms this when he says,

Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…” (Eccl. 2:10a).

So Solomon had every possession he could ever want. But in verse 11, he comes to this conclusion:

…and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:11b).

So Solomon, the richest and most powerful king in history who had everything he wanted comes to the conclusion that:

Stuff can’t ultimately satisfy us. It can’t provide us with ultimate fulfillment in life.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you hoping the presents you get at Christmas will fulfill you?

Resources

Adapted from the sermon: Is There Anything Worth Waiting For?

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Jesus, the Warrior King

Warrior King

For the last several weeks Jesus’ birth has been the topic of conversation. Rightly so, since contrary to popular culture that’s what Christmas is about. That’s why the church studies it, sings about it, and puts on musicals and plays depicting it. That’s why you read about Jesus’ birth with your family and place mangers around your house and in your yard. Christmas is about Jesus. His birth is the reason for the season.

Jesus’ birth is important because it marks the in-breaking of God into history. His birth begins God’s rescue mission to save His people from sin, Satan, and death. So its only right we would remember and reflect on it every year.

There is a Still A Longing in Our Hearts

But as one author says,

“Christmas is … a promise. Yes, the Savior has come and with Him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world. Every Christmas is a “turning of the page” until Jesus returns. Every December 25th marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to … home.”

The author is right. We have peace in our hearts because the long awaited Savior has come and has died on the cross. That’s not, however, where the story ends.

The Final Chapter

The story doesn’t end with Jesus lying in a manger or hanging on a cross. Nor does the story end with the resurrected Savior ascending into heaven. There is still one more chapter to come. A chapter where Jesus isn’t painted as a humble babe in a manger or a bloodied corpse hanging on a cross. No, the final chapter paints Jesus as  a warrior King poised to conquer His enemies.

The Rider on the White Horse

Read the Words of Revelation 19

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called isThe Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21, ESV)

The Warrior King

John’s picture of Jesus in Revelation is a far different picture than most have of Him. Even so, this is the Jesus we all long to meet. The Jesus who will defeat our enemies once and for all. The Jesus who will fulfill the longing in our hearts. The One we should all turn and follow.

While it was necessary for Jesus to come as a man and die as a man, the story doesn’t end there. The story ends with Jesus conquering our enemies and reigning over His people as a Warrior King. Since that is true, our call should be: Come, Lord Jesus come!

Questions for Reflection

  1. When you picture Jesus, who do you picture Him as?
  2. Do you realize Jesus will come as a Warrior King one day to destroy His enemies?

Resources

Quote: Joni Eareckson Tada, A Christmas Longing, 137 in Come Thou Long Expected Savior edited by Nancy Guthrie.

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