Saturday, December 26, 2020

Why He Came



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 fulfill 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
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Christmas Star

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This Christmas season, ending a year like no other, the world will experience a celestial event not seen for nearly 800 years, and first seen during the first coming of Jesus Christ more than two millennia ago.

That event is the Christmas Star, an unusual cross-shaped “star,” which is actually the conjunction of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn. As they move closer to one another and appear to cross each other’s path (while still more than a billion miles apart), our human eyes may interpret the image as a single bright orb at the intersection of two perpendicular beams, the longer of which is aligned vertically and the shorter aligned horizontally, forming a cross.

Scripture tells us that wise men seeking the prophesied King and Messiah followed this “star,” which guided their path (Matthew 2:1-2) until it came to rest over the house in Egypt where the young child Jesus lived with His parents (Matthew 2:9-11). They had fled from Israel where the jealous, cruel and insecure King Herod had ordered the death of all male infants, as he believed that one of them would grow up to steal his throne ((Matthew 2:13-16)..

How amazing that this guiding light took the form of a cross, signifying that Lord Jesus Christ came to die. The perfect, sinless Son of God (Hebrews 4:15) took on human flesh (John 1:14) and entered our world as a frail newborn, to grow to manhood not only to be a great Teacher, Prophet (Matthew 16:14) and Healer (John 3:2), but to die an agonizing death on the cross (Matthew 26:2). Other symbols foreshadowing His death were the swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7), similar to strips of gauze used to wrap a corpse for burial, and the gift of myrrh brought by one of the wise men (Matthew 2:11), also used for anointing the dead (John 19:39).

Only through this extreme punishment of crucifixion, entailing not only physical but emotional suffering from rejection by His chosen people (Mark 15:13), betrayal by His closest followers (Luke 22:33-34), and separation from His Heavenly Father (Matthew 27:46), could the Lamb of God pay our sin debt in full (John 1:29). Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 10:10), all who trust in that sacrifice as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) are guaranteed eternal life with Him there, and with all our loved ones in Him.

So why is the Christmas Star appearing now? Only God knows the answer, but it clearly seems to be a reminder of Christ’s first advent as Savior, when God showed His infinite love by sending His only begotten Son to die and rise again from the dead, so that all who trust Him would have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In today’s world of pandemic, chaos and division, such a reminder is so sorely needed as a shining glimmer of hope, of assurance that God loves us (1 John 4:8) and has a plan, even though we often fail to understand it. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and He works all things together for good for those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Even those who are unsaved are seeking understanding and peace in these troubled times. Might the Christmas Star remind us to be a light in the lost, dark world (Matthew 5:14), and to use this heavenly phenomenon to draw others closer to Jesus Christ through our witness?

How interesting that the 2020 Christmas Star will shine most brightly on December 21, which marks the winter solstice, or shortest day of the year. In the church calendar, this date traditionally honors John the Baptist, who realized that he must decrease in importance and leadership as Jesus Christ increased (John 3:30). We would do well to follow his perspective in our own lives, seeking not our own self-glorification, but Christ’s preeminence (Colossians 1:18).

The Christmas Star will be most visible shortly after sunset, perhaps as a sign that the light of Christ, the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), shines most brightly in the darkness, when the new light of dawn still seems so far away.

Yet the signs of the times (Matthew 24) clearly herald the Lord’s soon return, His second advent not as the suffering Savior, but as the righteous Judge (Revelation 19:11) and triumphant King of Kings (Revelation 17:14) and Lord of Lords! The first Christmas Star announced the first advent of Jesus Christ as a babe in the manger – might its return herald Christ’s second advent?

Jesus Christ indicated that among other signs of His soon return, there would be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, as well as great dismay among the nations (Luke 21:25). Only the Father knows the day and the hour of the first phase of the second advent (Mark 13:30-33), namely Christ’s return for His children, calling them up in the Rapture, to meet with Him in the air and to live with Him forever (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

Might this Christmas Star also be a reminder to look up (Luke 21:28), as the final stage of our redemption draws near?

© 2020 Laurie Collett