Wednesday, December 30, 2015


“And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?’”

                                                                  (Luke 2:49 ESV)

          When Jesus was twelve years old, his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Passover.  And, as they traveled home with a company, they failed to notice that he was not with them.  He’d remained behind.

            When they discovered that he was missing, they went back to Jerusalem where they searched for him.  And, when they found him on the third day, he was in the temple.  He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

             Mary then asked him: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Most of us, I believe, can relate to Mary’s feelings.  We’ve experienced the feelings of distress when one of our children couldn’t be found.

            However, Jesus’ answer to her is what I always find striking.  The ESV translates it as you read it above.  However, the NKJV translates it in this way: "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"

            I’m not a Greek expert, but it seems that the most literal way to translate Jesus final question is a little more general.  I believe it could be said in this way: “Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be in the things of my Father?”

            Jesus understood that God was his Father.  And, for this reason, he was compelled to be about the things of his Father.  He was compelled to be in the house of God.  He was compelled to be present for the teaching of God’s Word.  And, as we see throughout his life, he found it necessary to engage in the ministry for which he’d been sent.  The things of God could not be avoided or neglected.

            Although Jesus is the only Son of God, although he is the Son of God in a sense that can never be true of us, it seems that we should possess the same heart and mindset.  After all, we are the children of God.  By faith, we have received his adoption as sons.

            The question I’m led to ask myself is this: Do I find it necessary to be about the things of God?  And this is a question that deserves to be contemplated by each of us.

            Do we find it necessary to be in God’s house, to worship and to hear the Word as it’s taught and preached?  Do we find it necessary to spend time in the Word and prayer on a regular basis?  Do we find it necessary to be about the Father’s business, to be about the calling he’s entrusted to us?  Do we find it necessary to take part in the fellowship of believers?   

            Even though it’s clear how this question ought to be answered, I think you see where I’m going.  It’s easy for us to make the things of God a lesser priority.  It’s easy for us to become overwhelmed by the distractions of society around us.  It’s easy for us to neglect the things of God in favor of things that are mere vanity.

            As we reflect upon the gift of God, as we reflect upon the fact that we’ve been made to be the children of God, let us sincerely search our heart.  Let’s confess to the Lord that he hasn’t been the priority in our life that he should be.  And let’s ask him to create within us a need to be about the things of God.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Necessity of the Virgin Birth

“…but he knew her not until she had given birth to a son.  And he called his name Jesus.”

Matthew 1:25

            One of the key truths that we find in the Christmas story is the virgin birth of Jesus.  We see this emphasized, first of all, when the angel came to Mary announcing God’s plan for her.  In Luke 1:27 we’re specifically told that the angel was sent to a virgin.  And, when Mary asks the angel how she would become pregnant, the issue in her mind was that she was a virgin.

            We see this emphasized again in Matthew’s account.  We find that, when he discovered Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to divorce her.  But an angel spoke to him in a dream, telling him that the child conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the angel assured him that Mary had been faithful to him.  She was still a virgin.  And, for this reason, he was not to fear taking her as his wife. 

            Finally, we’re told in the above verse that Joseph didn’t know Mary (he didn’t have sexual relations with her) until she had given birth to a son.  So, even though Joseph took Mary as his wife, she remained a virgin until the child was born.  Again, the emphasis is on the fact that Jesus had no human father.  Although Joseph was his father in the sense that he raised Jesus and cared for him, it was the Holy Spirit who fathered Jesus.

            Even though we’re very familiar with this truth, it’s one that’s denied by many in our society today.  There are many claims made when it comes to Jesus’ birth.  For example, some claim that Joseph was Jesus’ actual father, while others say that Jesus was fathered by a Roman soldier. 

            It might be easy for us to think that it doesn’t really matter.  We might be tempted think that, regardless of the identity of Jesus’ father, he did everything that was written of him in Scripture.  Regardless of his father, he worked miracles.  Regardless of his father, he revealed to us the Father.  Regardless of his father, he taught us to love.  And regardless of his father, he died on the cross.

            However, when it comes to the message of salvation, the virgin birth of Jesus is essential.  In fact, we can’t separate the two.  If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would be powerless to save.

            It’s because of his supernatural conception that Jesus was free of sin.  If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would’ve been born in sin like the rest of us.  And if Jesus was a sinner, he would be subject to the consequences of sin and powerless to save.  But, because his father was God, he was not born in sin.  And, throughout his life, he remained without sin.

            It was this, it was his sinlessness, that enabled him to become the sacrifice for our sin.  As we read in Hebrews 7:26-27: For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

            It’s also because of the virgin birth that Jesus is the Son of God.  We see this in verse 35 of Luke 1, which says: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-- the Son of God.”

            If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would be a mere man.  Even if he had certain giftings, which you and I do not possess, he would be no greater than us.  It’s because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is holy.  It’s because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Son of God.

            So as you hear this Christmas story once again this week, and as you reflect upon it, may you realize the importance of the virgin birth.  If Jesus had not been conceived of the Holy Spirit, had he not been born of a virgin, he would be powerless to save.  But, because he was conceived by the Spirit, he is the Son of God, he is without sin, and he was able to offer himself up for the sin of the people. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Essence of Christianity

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 ESV)     

Many people, today, define Christianity in a purely moralistic sense. The Christian Faith, to them, is defined by loving our neighbor.  It's defined, to them, by the golden rule.  So they tend to think that Christianity is very much like the other major religions in the world today.  And for this reason, they tend to have a universalist view of salvation.   
     Even though Jesus did command us to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), even though he told us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28), and even though he told us to to do to others as we'd have them do to us (Matthew 7:12), this doesn't define the Christian faith. Even though God has given us the Law and shared with us how he desires for us to live, this doesn't define what it means to be a Christian. It's much more than a system of rules.
Those who define Christianity in this way often fail to understand Jesus’ purpose in being born into the world. Although he is a good teacher, and even though he is a wonderful example for us to follow, this is not the primary reason he came.  God had already given his Law through Moses.  And God had continually reached out to his people through the prophets.  Even though they were sinners, the example of godliness was displayed by many of the great men of faith.  
Jesus came into the world for a much greater purpose.  As the angel told Joseph in announcing Jesus’ birth, he came to save his people from their sins.  And this was a task that could be accomplished by no one else.
The way he did this was by giving his life on our behalf.  Jesus himself stated this in Mark 10:45 where he says: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” By dying on the cross, he paid the necessary ransom to secure our salvation.  
This blessing is then received by us through faith in Christ.  It’s not something we earn by our goodness or by our love.  As Jesus stated to Nicodemus in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Those who define Christianity as love, those who define it by a system of morals, tend to deny what Jesus clearly tells us in verses such as the one above. They deny that Jesus is the only way of salvation. They deny that he is the only way to the Father.
If this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would be no purpose in having a separate religion.  If this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would’ve been no purpose in Jesus’ birth.  And if this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would’ve been no purpose in his suffering and death.   The principle of love, a message of morals, is found in every other faith on the face of the earth.  
So, as we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember the true message of Jesus’ birth.  Although God wants us to love, and although he wants us to live a moral life, Jesus didn’t come to instill these values.  He came that he might save us from our sin.  He was born into the world that we might come to the Father.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Salvation from What?

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

(Matthew 1:21 ESV)

            As we remember the account of the first Christmas, the truth contained in the above verse is familiar.  However, even though we know it well, it’s one that many of us fail to comprehend rightly.  What I mean is that we believe Jesus to be the Savior.  But we’re looking for him to save us from something other than sin.

            We fall into the same trap as the Jews in Jesus’ day.  They expected the Savior to be a political ruler.  They expected him to save them from their bondage to Rome.  So, when Jesus appeared on the scene, he was not what they expected.  And, as a result, they failed to receive the blessing he came to provide.

            I remember taking a course in college, which focused on Christianity in modern times.  The expectation was not that Jesus would save us from sin.  The expectation was that Jesus would overturn all of the evils of this present world.

            We often think the same way.  We look to Jesus, but not for salvation from sin.  We look to him to help us in times of financial struggle.  We look to him to help us with health issues.  We look to him to help our loved ones as they approach the time of their death. 

            Please don’t misunderstand me.  There’s nothing wrong with taking our present needs to Jesus.  In fact, he invites us to do so.  The problem comes when we look to him only for salvation from our present struggles, and not for the salvation he came to bring.

            This is what so many of us do.  We look to Jesus to help only with our worldly needs.  And, when he fails to do so, or when he fails to answer our prayers in the way we expect, we get angry with him.  We deny his love.  We deny his power.  In some cases, we turn completely away from him.

            We must understand that Jesus came into this world to save us from our sin.  This, you see, is our greatest need.  Because of our sin, we’re destined only for death and hell.  But, because of his coming into the world, because of his sacrifice, the forgiveness of sin and eternal life have been made available to all who trust in him.

            At the end of this age, all of the evils of this life will come to an end.  They will be no more because they are the consequence of sin.  Suffering and death are a part of the world in which we live because of the fall of man in the beginning, and because of our ongoing sin.

            However, when sin is no more, the consequences of sin will be a thing of the past.  When we are made to be like Christ, no longer will we endure the suffering of this age.  We will live forever in a place where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

            So as we remember Jesus’ birth, and as we remember his salvation, let us remember from what he came to save us.  His coming doesn’t mean that our life will be perfect in the here and now.  Our current problems don’t reflect his failure to save us.  Jesus came into this world to save his people from their sins.