Archive for the ‘Christmas/Advent’ Category
Posted on December 24th, 2013 by David Burnette
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart, Embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou has given me so much
that heaven can give no more.
— The Valley of Vision, pp. 28-29
Posted on December 23rd, 2013 by Jonathan
For Christians all over the world, today is a day to celebrate the coming of our Savior. And most of us are free to do that openly. Right now, many are gathering together with loved-ones, singing songs about the coming of the Messiah, feasting, celebrating. In fact, for many of us Christians, taking advantage of this religious freedom doesn’t stop at personal worship in our homes or churches; Christmas is an opportunity for gospel proclamation. We “tell it on the mountain” as we strike up gospel conversations using our seasonal surroundings, from our front yard nativity scenes featuring baby Jesus to our “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers. However, there are many believers who pay a high price for associating with Jesus during Christmas.
Last Christmas in Nigeria, 36 Christians were killed between December 24 and December 30, 6 of those deaths occurring at the hands of gunmen during a Christmas Eve service. Christmas 2011 saw the death of 44 Christian Nigerians.
These tragic killings happened in a place where people are often murdered for following Jesus, but Nigeria is just one of many places where such atrocities occur. And most instances of persecution don’t end up in believers’ deaths. Sometimes worse, their persecutors often make their lives miserable. So they limp on, repeatedly counting the cost and, with joy, daily taking up their cross.
Today, let us pray for these dear brothers and sisters. Whether they find themselves homeless and outcast in the Middle East or face-to-face with violent opposition in places like Nigeria or the Central African Republic, they need our prayers for God’s strength in their lives.
Over 2,000 years ago, when thousands of baby boys were murdered at the hands of King Herod, it was made clear that suffering and death were not to be strangers to Christmas. After all, Christ was born in the manger to die on the cross. And as encouraging confirmation to our brothers and sisters suffering this Christmas, let us remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 15:20: “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” God fulfilled His glorious purposes through Christ’s suffering, and in Jesus, we can be sure that God will do the same for Christ’s followers.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:16-18, 28-29
This post can be found at the Secret Church blog. Be sure to check it out for updates and information on Secret Church and the persecuted believers around the world.
Posted on December 23rd, 2013 by David Burnette
You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a greater and more glorious mystery than the incarnation. That God took on human flesh is a truth worthy of our deepest gratitude, wonder, and adoration. However, as we reflect on this mystery, my guess is that most of us haven’t spent much time thinking about why God took on flesh. Sure, He was demonstrating his infinite love, but why did he do it this way?
The Bible answers this ‘why’ question from different angles, but I want to point you to four reasons for the incarnation from a book we don’t normally associate with Christmas – Hebrews. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus shared in our “flesh and blood” (2:14), and it gives us four purposes for this glorious reality in Hebrews 2:14-18:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
According to this passage, the Son of God came in the flesh…
1. To Destroy the Devil (v. 14)
Ever since the Fall, the devil has tempted men to sin and led them down a road of destruction. But Christ broke the devil’s stranglehold on death by dying. This sinless man took the punishment for sin that only a man could take (14). He destroyed the devil, and the cross was his weapon. One day that destruction will be evident to all (Rev 20:10).
2 To Deliver Lifelong Slaves (v. 15)
We are enslaved by the fear of death and the coming judgment. Whether we admit it or not, we know our sin will find us out. But Jesus removed that enslaving fear by tasting death for us (Heb 2:9). Because he has absorbed God’s wrath, the devil can no longer hold this harrowing fate over our heads. For those who belong to Christ, the tables have turned: death is gain (Phil 1:21). We are free.
3. To Be a Merciful and Faithful High Priest (v. 17)
By being made like us, Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15). He knows what it is like to be tempted and to suffer as a man. He was also able to demonstrate his faithfulness by his unswerving and glad obedience to the Father while on earth (Heb 3:2). As his people, we have every reason to trust such a high priest.
4. To Make Propitiation for the Sins of His People (v. 17)
A propitiation is an atoning sacrifice, and that’s exactly what Jesus offered when he died on the cross. He removed our sin and the wrath we had incurred. Making sacrifices is what all priests do, but this high priest gave his own life for the sins of his people. Christ’s death provides for us the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.
Much more could be said from Hebrews and from other places in God’s Word about why Jesus came in the flesh. But for now, these four reasons from Hebrews 2:14-18 should give us enough to be thankful for to last a good while. Understanding not only that Jesus came in the flesh but also why he did gives us all the more reason to love and worship him.
Posted on December 19th, 2013 by Eric Parker
Note: The following excerpt was adapted from a sermon delivered by Pastor David Platt on 12/27/09 titled “To Give God Glory.” Visit the media page in order to access the sermon in it’s entirety.
We’re going to close out a month of looking at specific verses in the New Testament that outline why Jesus came, and what we ultimately celebrate at Christmas. We have seen that Jesus came to destroy the devil, to serve the helpless, and what we’re going to look at here is the ultimate reason Jesus came. This is the reason that really sums up all the other reasons. Jesus came to do all these things for us, but the question is, “Why did Jesus do all of that for us?” What I want to show you is that he did all of that for us to glorify God. The ultimate reason behind his coming is the glory of God.
We have a dangerous tendency to begin to view Christianity and the gospel through a man-centered lens. Always thinking about what this means for ourselves. What can Jesus do for me and my wants, desires, and needs. This is good to a certain extent, because Jesus came to serve us, and to seek us, and to save us. But if we stop there, then we start to think that we are the end for which Jesus did all of these things. We begin to think that everything in God’s universe centers on us. And that is simply not true!
Everything in God’s universe centers on God. Even his most wonderful acts of mercy and grace toward us are ultimately not intended for us to be the end, but are ultimately intended for God to be the end.
So, what I want to show you is a God-centered perspective of Christmas. The intent of Christmas is to leave us walking out of this month thinking about how great God is, because that’s, more than anything, what Jesus is pointing us to in his coming.
A God-Centered Christmas…
In Romans 15:7-12, verse 8 is the key verse I want to look at. Verse 8, “I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews (ultimately) so that,” the nations—“the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8-9). I want to show you how Christ’s coming brings glory to God in five different ways based mainly on Romans 15:8 and the beginning of verse 9.
Jesus Came to Certify God’s Integrity
First, Jesus came to certify God’s integrity. Paul says, “Christ has become a servant of the Jews” (Rom. 15:8). That’s the same picture we saw in Mark 10 last week when it says, “Christ came not to be served, but to serve.” Then I love this phrase, “on behalf of God’s truth” (Rom. 15:8). Literally, Christ came “to show the truthfulness of God.” So the picture of Christ coming is Christ pointing to the integrity and the truthfulness of God.
Christ points to the truthfulness of God in his character and attributes. See Christ on the cross and the justice of God. Sin is severe, and it deserves punishment. See the wrath of God being poured out, and at the same moment, see the mercy of God, and the love of God towards sinners. In the picture of Christ, we see a demonstration of the truthfulness of God. He came on behalf of God’s truth to show us God’s truthfulness. The fact that God is true to his character, Christ comes to show us this.
Jesus Came to Vindicate God’s Word
Second, he came to vindicate God’s Word. He came “on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs” (Rom. 15:8). So Jesus came to show us that God is true to his character, and also that God is faithful to his Word. Paul says Christ came to confirm these promises that God had made, and the whole picture in Christ’s coming shows us that when God makes a promise, he keeps his promises. Those promises are sure. In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul says, “All the promises of God find their yes in [Christ].” Christ is a picture of the fact that God is faithful to his Word. Jesus came to certify God’s integrity, and to vindicate God’s Word.
Jesus Came to Demonstrate God’s Mercy
Third, Jesus came to demonstrate God’s mercy. Here’s where it gets even more wonderful because the promise is not just for the Jewish people. Through the Jewish people, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. So Paul says Christ came “to confirm the promise made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles” – the nations – “may glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8-9). And the beauty of it is that from the very beginning God had promised to bless the people of Israel so that all nations of the earth would be blessed.
Jesus Came to Unify God’s People
Which leads to the next part, Jesus came to demonstrate God’s mercy, and in so doing Jesus came to unify God’s people. As a result of what God was doing among the Gentiles, now Jews and Gentiles were united together in a way they never had been before. There had been glimpses of this throughout the Old Testament, but now in the Church we see a picture of the unity of peoples, and tribes, and nations – Jews and Gentiles – together as one.
God gets great glory, not just when he is worshipped by one type of people, but God gets great glory when a multiplicity of peoples come together, accepting one another, united in the gospel. This resounds to the praise of his name. That’s the picture: Christ came to unify God’s people.
Jesus Came to Fulfill God’s Purpose
All of this leading to this reason why he came: Jesus came to fulfill God’s purpose. This has been God’s design from the very beginning. God’s design was to call a people out, to send his son to purchase a people from every tribe, and language, and nation – Jew and Gentile alike – who would unite together in praise and glory to him. And Jesus came to fulfill that purpose. Jesus came to make that purpose a reality. Revelation 7 reminds us that there is coming a day when every tribe, every people, every language, and every nation will gather around the throne singing praise to God for the salvation that has come through Christ.
It’s what we sing in that carol—“He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and the wonders of his love.” The whole purpose of God was to send Christ so that all the nations would glorify him for his righteousness and love.
This is why Christ came. A God-centered meaning behind Christmas. Jesus came to show us that God is true. He came to show us God is faithful to his Word. He came to demonstrate the mercy of God. He came to unify the people of God. And ultimately he came to fulfill the purpose of God.
Posted on December 15th, 2013 by David Burnette
Was Jesus fully human? Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) offers the following Scriptural evidence:
Promised under the Old Testament as the Messiah who is to come as a descendant of a woman of Abraham, Judah, and David, he is conceived in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit in Mary (Matt 1:20) and born of her, of a woman (Gal 4:4). He is her son (Luke 2:7), the fruit of her womb (Luke 1:42), a descendant of David and Israel according to the flesh (Acts 2:30; Rom 1:3; 9:5), sharing in our flesh and blood, like us in all things, sin excepted (Heb 2:14, 17-18; 4:15; 5:1); a true human, the Son of Man (Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 15:21; 1 Tim 2:5), growing up as an infant (Luke 2:40, 52), experiencing hunger (Matt 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), weeping (Luke 19:41; John 11:35), being moved (John 12:27), feeling grief (Matt 26:38), being furious (John 2:17), suffering, dying. For Scripture it is so much an established fact that Christ came in the flesh that it calls the denial of it anti-Christian (1 John 2:22).
…Scripture clearly states that Jesus was completely human and ascribes to him all the constituents of human nature, not only a body (Matt 26:26; John 20:12; Phil 3:21; 1 Pet 2:24), flesh and blood (Heb 2:14), bones and a side (John 19:33-34), head, hands, and feet (Matt 8:20; Luke 24:39) but also a soul (Matt 26:38), spirit (Matt 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 13:21), consciousness (Mark 13:32), and a will (Matt 26:39; John 5:30; 6:38; etc.).
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, 296-297
Posted on December 12th, 2013 by Eric Parker
Note: The following excerpt was adapted from a sermon delivered by Pastor David Platt on 12/13/09 titled “To Serve the Helpless.” Visit the media page in order to access the sermon in it’s entirety.
Why He Came
I want to show you that Christ came to serve the helpless. Mark 10:45 is the most theologically rich, thematically rich, verse in all of the book of Mark. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). I want to show you five reasons why Jesus came based on this simple verse right here.
Jesus Came to Suffer
First, why did Jesus come? Jesus came to suffer, and to give his life. In Mark 8, there’s a transition, and Jesus sets His face to go to Jerusalem. And what he does on the road to Jerusalem, not once, not twice, but three different times he draws attention to his disciples regarding why he is going to Jerusalem. And it all goes back to why he came. Mark 8:31 says, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things” (Mark 8:31). Not might, not possibly will, but “he must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). He must be killed. Not he might be killed. He must be killed.
Look at verse 30 in chapter 9. Jesus says this again in verse 30, “They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed” (Mark 9:30-31). Not might be – “going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.
Then you get over to chapter 10, In verse 32, “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise’” (Mark 10:32-34). There’s no maybe in this. There’s no possibility in this. This is something that must happen.
When Jesus goes to Jerusalem and he begins to be mocked and beaten and scourged and spit upon, this is not happening by surprise. This is the very reason he came. Here in Mark 10, Jesus is walking willingly and directly into the jaws of suffering and death.
Jesus Came to Save
Second, Jesus came to save. He came to give his life as a what? As a ransom. It’s the price, the payment for release from slavery. It’s a word that we would use in association with hostages. When someone is held captive and needs to be freed, and a payment needs to be offered. The picture that Christ gives of his own death is, “I am paying the price for your release.” You are in slavery to sin, and slavery to yourself, and slavery to death. And Christ has come to free you from slavery to sin, and yourself, and death. To pay the price for you to be free, to be ransomed. He came to give his life.
Jesus Came to be Our Substitute
Third, Jesus came to be our substitute. We get to this three-letter word here in Mark 10:45 that is huge. He came to give his life as a ransom for many. This is not just our typical English word “for” here. It’s not just on behalf of many or for the sake of many. This word, this preposition literally means “instead of” or “in place of” many in the original language. That is really, really, really good news. That’s gospel.
Jesus Came to Show us How to Live
Fourth, he came to show us how to live. Jesus just totally redefines greatness in the gospel with a basin, a towel, and ultimately, a cross. Jesus is calling us to a radically different way to live in the way we love others. He’s calling us to a sacrificial, selfless, slave-like love for people around us. For people in our homes, people in our neighborhoods, people in the city, people in the nations.
Jesus Came to Serve Us
Fifth, Jesus came to serve us. The whole point of Mark 10:45 is not to encourage you to serve Jesus. The whole point of Mark 10:45 is to encourage you to be served by Jesus. To let Jesus serve you.
This is not a powerful religious teacher coming on the scene and saying to his lowly servants, “Here’s what you need to do.” Instead, he is coming and He is saying, “I am here to be your slave. I am here to work for you.” That’s weird. It’s not how we normally think of Jesus. We think of ourselves as serving Jesus, but not him waiting on and working for us. But this is the reality.
Now we have to be careful here to realize what this does not mean. This does not mean that we tell Jesus what to do. He’s not our servant in that sense. That’s what James and John were trying to get him to do—to order what he needed to do for them. That’s not the picture here. We don’t order Jesus around as if we have authority over Jesus. That’s not what it means for Jesus to be our servant. That would be a perversion of that truth.
But the truth is really not far from there, because the reality is that Jesus does say things in the Gospels like John 14, “Ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). That’s the words of a servant. John 15, “You remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). That’s Jesus giving a blank check, that anything that is asked according to his will, according to his Word, in his name—anything—is yours.
And so when the Bible says that Jesus is our servant, what it does mean is that Jesus gives us what we need. What Jesus is calling them to do when it comes to radical discipleship is totally impossible without him giving them what they need. They can’t do it. There’s no way they can live contrary to the ways of this world. There’s no way you and I can spurn an American dream and live with totally different ideals and values and passions in this world. We need Jesus to serve us to give us what we need to enable us, to empower us, to live out the life that he has put before us. Jesus’ call to radical obedience is a call to be served by Him.
Posted on December 11th, 2013 by David Burnette
In a recent article over at the ERLC , Russell Moore writes about what is lacking in our Christmas music. Here’s an excerpt:
The first Christmas carol, after all, was a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk. 1:52). There are some villains in mind there.
Simeon’s song, likewise, speaks of the “fall and rising of many in Israel” and of a sword that would pierce the heart of Mary herself. Even the “light of the Gentiles” he speaks about is in the context of warfare. After all, the light, the Bible tells us, overcomes the darkness (Jn. 1:5), and frees us from the grip of the devil (2 Cor. 4). In a time of obvious tragedy, the unbearable lightness of Christmas seems absurd to the watching world.
But, even in the best of times, we all know that we live in a groaning universe, a world of divorce courts and cancer cells and concentration camps. Just as we sing with joy about the coming of the Promised One, we ought also to sing with groaning that he is not back yet (Rom. 8:23), sometimes with groanings too deep for lyrics.
You can read the entire article here.
Posted on December 10th, 2013 by David Burnette
As you reflect on the significance of Christ’s coming this Christmas, allow me to make one suggestion that may actually add to your holiday cheer: Don’t begin in Bethlehem. That may sound scrooge-like, but hear me out.
Bethlehem looms large in our minds during Christmas, and rightfully so. The prophet Micah had predicted centuries earlier that a ruler would hail from this obscure town (Mic 5:2). As King David’s birthplace, Bethlehem would also be the scene of the Messiah’s birth. In that sense, it’s difficult not to think of Bethlehem this time of year. That’s fine, but don’t forget that the Christmas story was set in motion long before the nativity scene.
Bethlehem wasn’t the beginning.
Jesus spoke of the glory he had with the Father “before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). As the Second Person of the Trinity, He was in communion with the Father and the Spirit from all eternity. We’re even told that the world was created through Him (Jn 1:1; Col 1:16). To be sure, He took on flesh at a point in time, but His role in God’s plan of redemption did not begin in a manger in Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago. Christ was not thrust on the scene unexpectedly. Out of His own free grace He set His sights on rebellious sinners like you and me before the foundation of the world. The eternal Word became flesh for us and for our salvation (Jn 1:14). This is the infinite grace of the Incarnation. And the nativity scene was our first glimpse.
As you reflect on Christ’s birth this Christmas and as you talk about it with others, be sure to include the little town of Bethlehem. But don’t start there: go back, much further back, and marvel at the One who planned the nativity scene from the beginning in order to rescue us from the judgment we deserve. Marvel at the grace of the Son of God who, as Paul says, “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
Give thanks that in those dark streets of Bethlehem shone the Everlasting Light.
Posted on December 5th, 2013 by Eric Parker
Note: The following excerpt was adapted from a sermon delivered by Pastor David Platt on 12/6/09 entitled “To Destroy the Devil.” Visit the media page in order to access the sermon in it’s entirety.
First John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s works.” “Christmas destruction.” Kind of has a nice, warm holiday ring to it. What’s Christmas about boys and girls? Annihilation and obliteration; demolition and destruction! That’s what Christmas is about!
What I want to pose to you is that until we realize that there is something in us, something in the world that needs to be destroyed, then we will miss the meaning of Christmas. Why Christmas? This is what 1 John 3:8, what Christmas, is all about. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Let me show you this in 1 John as a whole.
What John does in 1 John 3:4-8 is develop one argument, and he actually does it twice. He does it in verses 4-7, and then he starts all over again in verse 8 using different words. And I want to show you the argument he develops around the reality of sin, the reason Christ came, and the result for Christians.
The Reality of Sin…
So we’ll start with the reality of sin. John is showing us that sin’s scope is universal. He says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4). Sin’s nature, he says, is lawlessness. Now this is not a term that we necessarily use very commonly today, so what does this mean? What John is basically saying in this definition of sin is that sin is a direct violation of the law of God.
Not only is sin a direct violation of the law of God, but sin has its origin in the devil himself. Verse 8, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). This is what Jesus talked about in John’s Gospel. In John 8:44, Jesus is talking to some teachers of the law, who were talking about how their father is Abraham. And Jesus looks at them and says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The point that John is making here is that whenever we sin, we choose to rebel against the law of God, which is the core of what originated with the devil.
The Reason Christ Came…
Why did Jesus come? Why Christmas? “To destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). What’s the devil’s work? Sin. Jesus came to destroy the lawlessness that originated with the devil, and now characterizes every single one of us. How did Jesus destroy the devil’s work? Look at the beginning of 1 John 2:1-2, where he says, “Jesus Christ, the righteous one.” Christ, in his essence, is without sin. He says in 1 John 2:29 that Jesus is the righteous one – “he is righteous.” In 3:3 he says “he is pure,” and then in 3:5 he says, “…in him is no sin.” That’s not John just saying, “Well, he never sinned,” or “he never committed a sin.” This is John saying that in his very essence, in his very nature, there is absolutely no sin.
Now catch this – the righteous one; the one who had no sin in him; the one whose very essence has nothing to do with sin–the righteous one “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2). The righteous, infinitely holy Son of God took the guilt of your sin and my sin upon himself. Not only ours, “but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).This is really, really, really good news. It’s the gospel that John’s showing us here, that he came to destroy sin by taking the payment of our sin, and the guilt of our sin, and the shame of our sin upon himself, so that we would not have to bear the wrath of God due our sin.
The Result for Christians…
This is the good news of Christmas, but what does it mean for us as Christians? In 1 John 3:6, John says, “No one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6). And you get down to verse 9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).
The first thing John is saying is that our belief in Christ makes persistent sin inconceivable. Now I want to clear up a potential misconception here from the start. When you read this passage, it talks about, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning… No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (1 John 3:6, 9), you might walk away thinking, “Well, does this mean that a Christian can never sin at all?”
It is important to understand that these words are translated that way because there’s a present tense verb here that conveys an active, continual, persistent walking in sin. What John is saying is that when you believe in Christ the righteous one, it would make absolutely no sense for you to live your life continuing in sin. He’s not saying that a Christian will not fall into sin here or there. But John is saying that when a Christian falls into sin, he does not stay there and live there. He is convicted, and he confesses his sin, and he fights his sin, and he runs from that sin.
The second thing John is saying is that our new birth in Christ makes persistent sin impossible. He said in verse 9, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Did you notice that he said, “…he cannot”? So he’s saying it’s impossible—“he cannot keep on sinning” (1 John 3:9). Why? “because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). And the picture is that once you are born of God, and God puts his seed, his life, his Word, his Spirit inside of you, then it is impossible for you to continue in sin. Being born again is about so much more than getting a ticket out of the line going to hell, and into the line going to heaven.
This is what John has developed here. Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. So why would those who believe in him, who have been born of him, continue in the works of the devil? It’s unthinkable and impossible.
Now matter how many times you refer to Jesus as the “reason for the season,” you’ve probably noticed how difficult it is to actually reflect on his coming during Christmas. Unless you’re intentional, it usually doesn’t happen. That’s one reason we’re recommending an Advent guide for you and your family by Scott James titled The Expected One.
In this devotional guide Scott leads us through Old Testament prophecies and expectations leading up to Christ’s first coming. Discussion questions as well as foundational biblical themes are woven throughout these lessons to make this resource perfectly suited for families with children, though it will apply to everyone. LifeWay is making this resource available in the following formats: Android App ($0.99), iPhone App (Free until Thanksgiving; then $0.99), Ebook with LifeWay Reader ($1.99), Apple iBooks ($1.99).
Scott James is an elder at The Church at Brook Hills, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about this timely resource:
A lot of Christians have heard of Advent, but what exactly is it?
Scott: Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming,” and it refers to the weeks leading up to Christmas when we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Various traditions (e.g. wreaths, candles, Jesse Trees, etc…) have been established to help us focus on Christ during this season and, depending on how you use them, these can be very beneficial. The Expected One devotional is not tied to any particular Advent tradition, but it simply uses the weeks leading up to December 25th as a time to call families and friends together to glory in our great Savior.
How do you hope that people will use this resource?
Scott: My hope is that this devotional will be a user-friendly resource for a broad range of people. As a family worship resource, I think that parents who already have an established worship time in their home will find that it fits seamlessly into their routine. Parents not familiar with the practice of family worship (or those just struggling to actually pull it off) can use it as an easily accessible starting point. As a father leading worship in my own home, my biggest struggle is biting off more than I can chew—or more precisely, more than my kids can chew. With that in mind, I purposefully wrote these devotionals in a simple and straightforward fashion. Concise but impactful.
Although the primary audience is intended to be families with young children, the themes and discussion questions in this devotional are edifying for older audiences as well. Each day has a final, open-ended question that is specifically included to engage the adult mind as much as the kids’. I believe that teenagers and adults will benefit from it just as much as young families.
How might these Advent readings help us better understand not only the Christmas narrative, but the entire Bible?
Scott: That really is the goal of the whole devotional—to celebrate the nativity story within the larger context of the story of redemption. Even for those of us seeking to “keep Christ in Christmas,” it is far too easy to focus on the manger scene to the exclusion of all else. By compartmentalizing the amazing truth of the Incarnation, we actually diminish its brilliance. The nativity is best celebrated when it is found in the shadow of the Cross. These devotions use Old Testament Scriptures to highlight the multi-faceted promises that God gave His people concerning the person and work of His Son Jesus. By tracing out the bigger redemptive picture, my hope is that our hearts will be all the more prepared to find deep satisfaction in Jesus during Advent.
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