Saturday, December 8, 2018

Who Is Jesus?

At Christmas time, many celebrate the birth of infant Jesus. The story has much emotional appeal even for nonbelievers, thanks to the pregnancy of a young teen out of wedlock, the rejection she must have experienced from her community, her fear of losing her betrothed and even her life, and her fiance’s acceptance and protection of her and their infant (Luke 1:30-38; Matthew 1:18-25).

Then there is the dramatic appeal that lends itself to nativity displays and holiday pageants: the long, perilous journey of the young mother and her husband to Bethlehem, only to be relegated to a humble stable filled with barnyard animals; angels singing to shepherds on the hillside, filling the sky with glory and the air with song; the shepherds running to the manger to worship the infant (Luke 2:4-20); the star of Bethlehem leading kings from exotic nations, bearing expensive treasures, to worship the future King (Matthew 2:1-11).

But who is Jesus, really? Those who identify themselves as Christians should believe that He is the Son of God (Luke 1:35; Galatians 4:4; Matthew 3:17), sent in human form by God the Father (John 1:14) to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay our sin debt by dying on the cross, to reconcile sinful man to holy God (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

Christians should believe that after an earthly ministry of teaching, healing, and being a perfect example of obedience to God (John 5:30), that Jesus not only died willingly at 33 years of age, but that He rose again on the third day (John 10:17), so that all who trust Him have eternal life (John 3:16).

Many people, even those from non-Christian religions, believe that Jesus was a good man, healer, and teacher, and they even acknowledge that he died on the cross. But fewer people accept the supernatural dimensions of the Christmas story and of Jesus’ life – that He was born to a virgin (Jeremiah 31:22; Luke 1:27-38; Matthew 1:20-23), that He performed many miracles (John 2:11; 20:30-31; 21:25), that He rose from the dead (Matthew 17:9; 28:7; John 2:22; 21:14; Acts 17:3; 1 Corinthians 15:20), and that He ascended into Heaven (John 3:13; Ephesians 4:10).

Those who place their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) have accepted Him as our Redeemer (Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 47:4), Who alone (Acts 4:12) can save us (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) from eternal punishment in hell that our sins deserve (Romans 10:13). His completed work on the cross (John 19:30) was sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world (Acts 17:31; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and His perfect righteousness enrobes all who trust Him (Romans 3:22; Isaiah 61:10).

Jesus is the Messiah (John 4:25) promised in Old Testament prophecy to deliver us from our sin (Daniel 9:25-26). He is the great High Priest Who once and for all delivered us from all our sins (Hebrews 10:10-14), and Who now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 7:56; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 10:12; 12:2) interceding for us and defending us against the accusations of Satan (Romans 8:34).

Yet He is so much more! In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). Jesus Christ, the Word, is the Creator of all things (Colossians 1:13-16), the Son of God Who was made flesh to save us (John 1:14). From the beginning He was with God and He is God (John 1:1; 10:30; Philippians 2:6), and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). Not only did He speak the worlds into existence (Genesis 1; Psalm 33:6-9), but He continues to sustain the universe, holding the planets in their orbit, the stars in their course, and our lives in the palm of His hand (Colossians 1:12-20).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is not only the beginning, present throughout eternity past, but also the ending, the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13), the King Who will reign over the Millennial Kingdom and beyond through eternity future. Truly He is the same, yesterday, today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)

As we celebrate the Nativity, let us not lose sight of the fact that the tender Infant laid in that lowly manger was actually our Creator; He is our Redeemer, Sustainer and High Priest; and He will be our King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16) to Whom every knee will bow (Romans 14:11) and every tongue confess His glory!

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Fear Not! Have Faith In God’s Great Power

The Bible shows us that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. This is especially true surrounding the birth of Christ. We can take heart from the example of those involved in Christ’s birth that if God calls us on a special mission, we need not fear. Instead, we must have faith in His infinite power, which is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians.12:9). Without Him, we can do nothing, but with Him, all things are possible (John 15:5; Mark 10:27).

Sometimes He lets us go through trials, tribulations, doubts and fears to realize how completely we depend on Him (Philippians 4:13). If we stop depending on our flesh and turn it all over to Him, resting in His grace, His power, and His will, He will use us to accomplish great things to His glory (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). But if we are fearful or doubtful, that is a sin for which He must chastise us, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

As born-again believers, having placed our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we have no reason to fear. God is always with us (Hebrews 13:5), protecting us from all our enemies, physical and spiritual (Romans 8:31). He has won the victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:57); He prepares us for the battle; and our home is with Him in Heaven (Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 10:25; Isaiah 41:10; Joel 2:21).

In Scripture, God said “Fear not” to those He had called on a special mission for which it would be natural to be afraid in the flesh. Usually these words are spoken by an angel, or sometimes by God Himself, as when God promised to make Abram the father of a very great nation (Genesis 15:1) and to spare Ishmael’s life and to make him the father of a rival nation (Genesis 21:17).

In the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, angels appeared to several of those most involved -- Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds -- and told them to “Fear not!” It is a natural reaction to fear in the presence of one whom we recognize to be an angel, for they are holy and we are not, and we may fear bad news, punishment or even imminent death.

Like Abraham and Sarah, Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth had been faithful to obey and serve God, yet they had no children. Having no child in those days was a great cause for sorrow and grief, as there was no heir; no one to carry on Zacharias’s calling as a high priest. Women were defined by their role in raising children, and every Hebrew woman in that day dreamed of being the one who would give birth to the promised Messiah (Isaiah 9: 2,6-7).

The angel appeared to Zacharias while he was alone in the Holy of Holies performing his priestly duties, and told him to “Fear not.”  At a very old age, Elisabeth would give birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1: 5-13) to show the way to Christ. How often might angels be around us, trying to tell us something or asking us to do something for God, or even ministering to us, without our being aware of it?  (Hebrews 1:14).

Even though the angel brings good news, Zacharias is afraid, which is the typical reaction of those recorded in Scripture as being visited by angels. These messengers of God reflect His holiness and command respect and fear of the Lord by sinful man.

Zacharias had not been afraid to pray for what seemed impossible in the natural, and God answered that prayer far beyond what they could imagine. Not only would they have a son, but one who was highly respected by Jesus the Messiah Himself (Matthew 11:11).and who would turn many to the Lord (Luke 1:16)

If we have faith, He always answers our prayers beyond our wildest dreams! (Luke 1:14-15; Ephesians 3:20). Zacharias and Elisabeth are a perfect example of never losing hope, never stopping to pray the prayer that is most dear to your heart even though it seems God doesn’t hear it, because He will do what is best in His perfect timing. The special blessing God gave this couple echoes His fulfilled promise to Abraham and Sarah, who were old and barren and yet parented a very special child: Isaac, who became the progenitor of the great nation of Israel.

The angel said that Zacharias and Elisabeth’ son John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth (Luke 1:15). Killing an unborn child is therefore murder, because John’s body was already the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) even before he was born.

John’s abstaining totally from alcohol and being great in the Lord’s sight are mentioned together (John 11:11,18), as a result of him being filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth. Alcohol and the Holy Spirit don’t mix, as you can’t be Spirit-filled and drinking alcohol at the same time (Ephesians 5:18).

John’s role would be that of a prophet, calling God’s people to repentance and obedience, to soften their hearts to hear Christ’s message (Luke 1:16-17). Because he was Spirit-filled, he was a great soul-winner.

Despite Zacharias’ lifetime of priestly service, and being described as “blameless,” he doubts the angel’s news of John’s birth. He lacks the faith to accept that God can accomplish this miracle in His perfect timing (v. 18).   

Because of Zacharias’ unbelief, the angel Gabriel told him that he would be mute until the birth, as if God would prevent him from voicing his unbelief (v.19-20), and also to strengthen his faith. But even without speech he was able to be a testimony of God’s goodness and power (v. 21-22).

His time as a priest was now over, and he turned his full attention to God’s new direction for his life (v. 23). We need to be responsive to God’s will and recognize when He has a new plan for our life, even if it means giving up a ministry or position of honor.

God’s promise, delivered through the angel Gabriel, came to pass and Elisabeth became pregnant (v. 24). She hid herself for 5 months (v. 25), perhaps because she wanted to be alone with God to meditate on His goodness, to thank Him, to worship Him, and to seek His direction for her new role as mother of John the Baptist.

When God says “Fear not,” we can trust Him to equip us for the mission He has given us and have faith that He will keep His promises!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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