On Christmas

On this side of eternity, Christmas is still 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 still 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.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you long for peace in the world this Christmas?
  2. Do you long for home?

Resources

Joni Eareckson Tada, A Christmas Longing, 137 via Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie

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Longing For Peace?

Peace

We are in the midst of the Christmas season. It’s a time to be merry. A time to celebrate with family. A time to give. Most importantly, it is a time to celebrate and learn more about Jesus’ birth. The church calendar commonly refers to this time of year as Advent. With Advent in full swing, I have been studying a lot about Jesus’ birth.

Jesus’ Birth Announcement

As we all know Jesus was born in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. After his birth, an angel appeared to shepherds in a nearby field revealing to them the good news. As the angel wrapped up his report, a multitude of angels appeared singing praises to God.

Here is what they sang,

Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

What is in a Song?

Among other things, their song reveals Jesus brings peace to the world. His subsequent death on a cross will, and now has, purchased peace for man.

Peace, the Longing of Man

If we are honest with ourselves, we all want peace. We look for it in all sorts of ways. Some seek peace through drugs or alcohol. Others through the neighborhood in which they live. Still others through meditating, self-help books, or vacations. 

But you know what? The peace we seek cannot be found in earthly things. No matter what we do, we will never experience true peace until our relationship with God is restored. The only way to restore our relationship with God is through Jesus.

It’s Christmas, and I am an evangelical, so I have to ask: Do you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? Have you experienced the peace only He can offer? If you haven’t turned to Jesus, turn to Him. Repent of your sins. Submit your life to Him. The peace you are seeking is found only in Him.

Question for Reflection

  1. Have you experienced the peace only Jesus can provide?

Resource

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How Should We Respond to the Good News of Jesus During Advent?

Sycamore Baptist Church Snow

Advent is the season leading up to Jesus’ birth. During this time of year we will exchange greetings of Merry Christmas, send Christmas cards to friends and family, and post many sayings on Facebook and Twitter such as: ”Jesus is the reason for the season” or “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas.”

These things are good. They not only cause us to think about Jesus, but they cause others who may never consider Jesus to do so.

While it is good and right for us to do these things, what I’m afraid of is that even though we speak about Jesus, write about Him, and celebrate His birth this time of year, we may not really know how the Bible calls us to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

How should we respond to the good news of Jesus Christ? In other words, what should we do after hearing the message of the gospel? The shepherds’ response in Luke chapter two acts as a model.

The Shepherds’ Response

The First Way They Respond is Immediately

In verses 15-16, Luke writes,

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, 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.”

Our response should be identical. When we hear the good news of Jesus – that He has come to save us, to restore our relationship with God, and make peace for us – we should respond immediately by seeking to confirm the truth of the message.

If we are apathetic and lackadaisical, it means we have not yet grasped the magnitude of the message, or our need for a Savior. As well as it means we don’t understand that this world cannot offer us the peace that only Christ can offer.

The Second and Third Way They Respond is by Believing and Telling Others the Good News.

In verses 17-18, 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.”

We should not only believe the gospel message, but we should also respond as the shepherds did by telling others. That is the proper response, and it should be our response.

The Last Way They Respond is by Glorifying and Praising God. 

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

We too should respond by glorifying and praising God. In other words, God’s beauty, splendor, and majesty should capture our imaginations and thought, as well as we should obey His commandments, submitting to His rule over our life, and telling others about Him.

Why should we respond in this way?

Because God Himself has come to this earth to rescue us from death and destruction.

He planned out His rescue mission before the foundations of the world. Directed history to fulfill His plan. A plan He Himself fulfilled by leaving His throne in heaven, being born as a man in a manger, and going to the cross to die the death we should die, so that we might have life.

Isn’t that amazing? The King, the Creator of this world has come to rescue us from death and destruction while we were His enemies.

That is why we should glorify and praise God. That is why the message the Angel brought to the shepherds was good news. That is why we should respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Have you responded to the good news by searching out the truth?
  2. Have you responded to the good news by believing in Jesus?
  3. Have you responded to the good news by telling others the gospel?
  4. Have you responded to the good news by glorifying and praising God?

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

Jesus in the Manger

Here we find ourselves on the eve before Christmas. During this time of year we will exchange greetings of Merry Christmas. Send Christmas cards to friends and family, and even post on Facebook sayings such as: “Jesus is the reason for the season” or “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas.”

These things are good. They not only force us to think about Christ, but they also force others who may never consider Jesus to consider Him. So it is important we keep Christ at the center of Christmas, in our conversations, and even in our social media posts.

While it is good and right for us to do these things, what I’m afraid of is that even though we speak about Jesus, write about Him, and celebrate His birth this time of year, we may not really know how the Bible calls us to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

How should we respond to the good news of Jesus Christ? In other words, what should we do after hearing the message of the gospel? The shepherds response in Luke chapter two acts as a model.

Before we look at their response, let me provide you with some background information, so we know to what news they were responding.

Background

Chapter two starts with a decree by Caesar Augustus that everyone must return to their hometown for a census. Not a big deal for most, except for the fact that the decree would increase their taxes. For Mary and Joseph on the other hand, it was a big deal. Mary was nine months pregnant and Joseph’s hometown was ninety miles away. Nevertheless, they made the trip.

After successfully navigating their way to Bethlehem, when they arrived, Mary went into labor. To top it off, there was no place in town for them to lodge except for a stable. Mary had no other choice but to deliver Jesus in a stable and lay Him in a manger.

Shepherds were close by in the fields that night tending their sheep when an angel appeared to them. He told them the good news of Jesus’ birth. A Savior had been born, the prophesied Davidic King was here, and He was close by in Bethlehem.

Before they could go check things out, a host of angels appeared singing. Their song further clues us into the magnitude of the historical event; Jesus would shine forth God’s attributes in the world because He is God and He would bring peace to men through His death on the cross.

That night, when the shepherds responded to the good news of Jesus, they did more than go to a hospital room with a few cigars and a blue balloon in hand with “It’s a boy!” printed on it. They went to see for themselves if the good news the angel relayed to them was true.

The Shepherds Response

The First Way They Respond is Immediately

In verses 15-16, Luke writes,

When the angels went away from them into heaven, 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.

After the angels left them, they went in haste to find the One the angels told them about. They did not delay, they went to search out the truth immediately.

Our response should be identical. When we hear the good news of Jesus – that He has come to save us, to restore our relationship with God, and make peace for us – we should respond immediately by seeking to confirm the truth of the message. The Shepherds responded in that way, and so should we.

If we are apathetic and lackadaisical, it means we have not yet grasped the magnitude of the message, or our need for a Savior. As well as it means we don’t understand that this world cannot offer us the peace that only Christ can offer.

The Second and Third Way They Respond is by Believing and Telling Others the Good News.

In verses 17-18, 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.

After the Shepherds found Jesus just as the Angel told them, they believed and then told others the good news. Jesus, the Savior of the world, the King we are all awaiting, the Chosen Messiah, is here!

So those who believe the gospel message, tell others about the gospel message; that is the proper response, and it should be our response.

The Last Way They Respond is by Glorifying and Praising God. 

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

After leaving, they responded by glorifying and praising God, which should be our response as well.

We use, read, and write these words frequently, but what do they mean? 

Glorifying God, which praise is wrapped up in, has two ideas attached to it. Those ideas are (1) Beauty and (2) Duty [1].

First, the idea of beauty. 

When someone or something is beautiful, we adore them; our imagination is captured by them; we praise, dote over, and admire them. As well as we talk about them, and long to look on them just to see more of their beauty. We do all this just for who they are not because we stand to have them do something for us.

Second, the idea of duty.

Duty entails service. Often, it means we do something to get something. When it comes to glorifying God, however, service is done not to get something, but just because of who God is. In other words, our service is selfless.

A few ways we can serve God selflessly and subsequently glorify Him by doing so is by:

  • Keeping His commandments.
  • Submitting to His rule over our life.
  • Telling others about Him.

When we do these things selflessly, expecting nothing in return, we glorify and praise God.

What does all this mean? How does this apply to us?

It all means that if we don’t adore, praise, talk about, if our imagination is not captured by, or we don’t long to look on Christ for just who He is, we are not glorifying Him.

It also means that if we don’t selflessly serve God by keeping His commandments, submitting to His rule over our life, or tell others about Him, we are not glorifying or praising Him either.

As well as it means we are not responding properly to the good news of Jesus.

Summary

How should we respond to the message of Jesus? How should we respond to the good news?

  1. Immediately by searching out the truth of the gospel message.
  2. Believe in the good news.
  3. After believing, we should tell others about the gospel.
  4. Lastly we should glorify and praise God.

That is how the shepherded responded to the message of the good news, and that is how we should respond to the message of Jesus this Christmas.

Why should we respond in this way?

Because God Himself has come to this earth to rescue us from death and destruction.

He has planned out His rescue mission before the foundations of the world. He has directed history, so that His plan would come about. He Himself has left His throne in heaven, was born as a man in a manger because there was no place for Him in the inn, He lived a perfect life, but went to the cross to die the death we should die, so that we might have life.

Isn’t that amazing? The King, the Creator of this world has come to rescue us from death and destruction because we rejected Him.

That is why we should glorify and praise God. That is why the message the Angel brought to the shepherds was good news. That is why we should respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Have you responded to the good news by searching out the truth?
  2. Have you responded to the good news by believing in Jesus?
  3. Have you responded to the good news by telling others the gospel?
  4. Have you responded to the good news by glorifying and praising God?

Resource

[1] Tim Keller, Father Son and Holy Spirit, Sermon on Mark 1:9-13, January 15, 2006.

Free eBook for Advent 2012

Advent is here! For four weeks leading up to Christmas in December, we remember the thousand’s of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the Messiah.

1 Peter 1:10-12 provides a description of what we look back to during Advent.

Concerning this salvation, 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, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

To assist you this Advent season in reflecting back on God’s promise of a coming Messiah, I recommend John Piper’s book Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent. You can download a free ebook here.

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