Saturday, December 28, 2013
One of the greatest mysteries of our Christian faith is that Jesus Christ, Son of God yet God Himself, the Fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9), present since before time began (John 1:1), the Creator of all (John 1:3), came to earth in human flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Why did He come to us in this unique way? It will be incomprehensible until we see Him in glory, yet here are a few possibilities to consider:
He came to Seek and to Save: Jesus said that He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Sinners, certainly, lost and condemned to eternal death in hell without the salvation and eternal life only He can bring (John 3:16-18). But Jesus also sought out and restored those who had lost their health (Luke 8:43-48; Matthew 10:8), their sanity (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35), the comfort of human relationships (John 4), and hope itself (Matthew 5 :3-4).
Jesus sought His apostles, transforming them from simple, coarse fishermen and tradespeople to fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22), to the first missionaries who would spread His Good News, first to the Jews and ultimately throughout the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
Praise God that He loved and sought us before we even knew Him (1 John 4:19), and that Christ knocked on the door of our heart until we answered Him (Revelation 3:20), transforming us from enemies of God (Romans 5:10) to joint heirs with Himself (Romans 8:17), becoming His friends and His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Praise God that when Christ rose from the dead, He saved us from death, so that all who trust Him as their Savior also have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
He came to Sacrifice: Holy God cannot allow sinners into His presence unless they are made righteous in His sight and unless His just anger at our sin is appeased (Romans 3:22-26; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Salvation is therefore only possible through the perfect, sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36). In His perfection, He submitted to crucifixion and willingly laid down His life as a sacrifice to pay for all of our sins, past, present and future (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16; Colossians 2:10-14). He took the punishment we deserved and paid our debt that He did not owe and that we could not pay (Isaiah 53:5).
He came to Substitute: In a transaction we will not fully understand until we reach glory, all of Christ’s righteousness is imputed or credited to our account, and all of our sin was debited against His account. When God the Father looks at those who have placed their faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), He no longer sees our sins, but He sees only the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 4).
He came to Submit: As the Word, Who created all, became flesh (John 1:3,14), He became the embodiment of submission to the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). He was born to a humble virgin betrothed to a carpenter of modest means (Matthew 1:18-23), and He entered this world in a lowly feeding trough among barnyard animals (Luke 2:7). In His human form He became the ideal example of putting God’s will before our own desires, trusting that God will work all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
Despite His infinite power, He submitted with meekness and humility to those in authority, knowing that God was in control and that His perfect will must be done (Matthew 26:52-54),. He came to fulfil the law, not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17-18), for in His sinless state He was the only man capable of keeping it. He knew that His teachings would bring division between His followers and the religious leaders of the day, resulting in persecution, yet He preached nonviolence (Matthew 5:38-39; 10:17-23; 34-39).
He came to Serve: Christ will return as Lord of Lords and King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16), before Whom every knee will bow (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). Yet in His first coming, He came as a servant, putting others first, even stooping to wash His apostles’ feet (John 13:4-15). If He could humble Himself in this way, how much more should we serve one another, and in so doing serve Him? In service as in all things, Jesus was the ideal of humanity in Whose footsteps we should follow.
He came to Suffer: Only by tasting our sadness, hurt, fatigue, hunger, cold, betrayal, and pain could Jesus identify with us in our suffering. When we approach His throne in prayer, we can have faith that He personally has experienced our need and has compassion for us in whatever trial we are enduring. He was like us in all ways, even tempted, and yet perfectly without sin (Hebrews 4:14-16).
He came to Show the Way: No man can directly look on God, and yet those who were blessed to see Jesus in His earthly ministry, and all of us who know Him through His recorded Word, know the Father, for Jesus and His Father are One (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 8:19; 28-29). At the moment of our salvation, the Holy Spirit enters the believer’s heart (Ephesians 2:20-22), teaching us about Jesus, Who is the express image of the invisible God the Father (Hebrews 1:3). As He walked the earth, He taught us how to live, to be born again (John 3:3-8), and to have faith (John 20:29). Jesus is the only Way to the Father, to forgiveness of sins, and to everlasting life (John 14:6).
He came to Set up the Kingdom: Jesus was the promised Messiah, as foretold in Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 9:6-7), to deliver the nation of Israel (Romans 11:26). In His Second Coming He will rule in the Millennial Kingdom on the throne of David (1 Kings 2:33,45; 9:5; Luke 1:32). Yet in His first coming, when His ministry was directed primarily to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-7) His chosen Hebrew people not only rejected Him, but crucified Him (Zechariah 12:9-10; Revelation 12:5; Matthew 23:37-39).
Surely this was no surprise to God, Who in His omniscience and foreknowledge has known since the beginning of time who would accept and who would reject His Son, yet without interfering with our free will (Romans 8:29).
So why did God allow this? In His infinite grace and mercy, this delay in setting the King of Kings on the throne of Israel allowed the Gentiles to be grafted in to God’s family (Ephesians 2:11-20), so that whosoever would accept Christ would become children of God and inherit eternal life (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Praise God that Jesus came to us to allow this wondrous plan, and may we be ready when He comes again, meeting us face to face in all His glory!
© 2013 Laurie Collett
Saturday, December 21, 2013
|Photo by Viriditas 1/1/2012|
Even when the world’s focus is on commercialism and overspending, the colors of Christmas surround us in this season, reminding us of His free gift of salvation. As we saw last time, red and green symbolize His precious blood, shed so that all who place their faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6) will have eternal life!
The other colors of Christmas – snowy white, glittering gold and silver, and even humble brown all add to the rich symbolism of holiday décor. Even though this symbolism is probably far from the minds of most merchants, we can be blessed by the meaning and use it to witness to others.
White at Christmas time reminds us of angel robes (Matthew 28:3) and wings and of snowflakes falling, as pristine as Christ is pure and completely without sin (Psalm 51:7). The glorified body of Christ was clothed in shining robes “white as snow” when He appeared to Daniel as the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9), to the inner circle of apostles at His transfiguration (Mark 9:3), and to John at His revelation (Revelation 1:14).
The nativity scene would be incomplete without white sheep led by shepherds, emphasizing the importance of our following the Good Shepherd and depending on Him for all we do (Psalm 23). The purity of white reminds us that Jesus is the lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1), and that the Holy Spirit took on the appearance of a dove as Jesus was baptized (Matthew.3:16).
White combines with red in the candy cane, a familiar motif at Christmas time. Legend has it that a candy maker designed this confection to serve as a witness to his Christian faith and to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus. The stick of candy was white to symbolize the Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35)) and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the solid Rock, the Foundation of the Church (2 Samuel 22:3,47; Psalm 18:2,46;62:2,6, etc. Matthew 16:18).
The candy cane is in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus, as well as the staff of the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11,15; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4); . It has a large red stripe for the blood shed by Christ on the cross (Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:20), and three small stripes to show the stripes of the whipping Jesus received, by which we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
Silver and white both remind us of the Star of Bethlehem that showed the wise men where to find the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:9), and Jesus Himself is described as the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). Silver bells remind us to praise our King with joyful noise (Exodus 39:26), yet silver also foretells Jesus’ crucifixion and death, for Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
Silver also reminds us that God sometimes allows us to go through trials and tribulations, just as silver is purified in the refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:3). We should therefore be grateful for trials and tribulations that are like the refiner’s fire because they shape our character, drive away our sins, and make us more like Christ (Philippians 4:11-14).
Gold, the most precious metal, was one of the gifts the wise men brought Jesus (Matthew 2:11). It reminds us that we should bring our very best gifts to the King, whether in terms of our time, talents, money or possessions. In Christmas decorations, the instruments played by the angels are usually gold, reminding us that we should praise Him in all that we do (Psalm 100:4, etc.; Colossians 3:23).
When we face Jesus at the judgment seat of Christ, only those works we did for Him for the right motives will last through the fire of judgment, like silver, gold, and jewels. The rest will burn up like hay, wood and stubble and we will suffer loss. But those good works we did for Him alone will last through the fire and we will have crowns to lay at Jesus’ feet (I Corinthians:3:10-15). And in Heaven, the streets are paved with gold (Revelation 21:21), symbolizing the unimaginable splendor of this special place God has prepared for us!
Brown is not usually a color we think of as being a Christmas color, but we see it in the lowly manger where Christ was born (Luke 2:7), and in the donkey that, according to tradition, carried Mary to Bethlehem, and later carried Jesus to Jerusalem where He would die (John 12:14-15). We also see it in the stable animals that attended His birth, and in the robes of the shepherds (Luke 2:7-8).
Brown is a color of humility, reminding us that Jesus came to earth not as a mighty King, but as a meek Servant, and that we should follow His example (John 13:4-17). It reminds us of the wooden cross He carried up Calvary’s hill, where He was crucified and died for all our sins, only to rise triumphantly, conquering death and sin that all who trust Him would have eternal life (1 Corinthians1:18; Galatians. 6:14; Hebrews 12:2).
It is unusual to see the cross in Christmas décor (although I am thrilled that my husband added one to our outdoor nativity)! But Christmas floral arrangements and greenery often feature the brown pinecone, which looks dead and yet carries the seeds of new life. What a beautiful reminder to die daily to our sins so that we can live in the new life of the Spirit, and that Christ has conquered death so that His followers can live forever! (1 Corinthians 15:31; 35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
© 2013 Laurie Collett