Christmas Fashions

SAMSUNG

Luke 1:39-45

What is Christmas? It would seem that to some it is the opportunity to give and receive the latest and greatest gifts. Who wants to give something out of style that will never be used? Who wants to receive Nehru jackets, bell bottom slacks, Jade East cologne, G.I. Joe action figures, a “Chatty Cathy” doll, a Hi-Fi Stereo record player, an Atari 2600 game system or an Apple IIe computer? (Some of those items date from fifty or more years ago!)

What is Christmas? It is a holiday whose true message is out of fashion with the world. God, however, determines what is eternally in fashion. Let’s consider somethings that are out of fashion with the world, but in fashion with God.

Some are blessed above others (1:42). We read evidence of God’s choice in action. Mary was chosen from among all women to be the mother of the Messiah. To be a father begetting children or a mother bearing children is to receive a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). How much greater honor to be selected by the Most High to bear his dearly loved Son! Elizabeth heard the message of the Savior’s coming when millions lived in full ignorance of the joyful news. Mary told the humble wife of a Jewish priest while the wives of kings and emperors remained in pagan darkness.

Christmas is a time to remember the teaching of the free and sovereign grace of God. Many do not know what grace means. But these women knew. Was Mary somehow better than all other women? No, the angel Gabriel first greeted her with words of grace (1:28). Mary herself confessed her need for a Savior and her humble nature (1:46-48). Elizabeth humbly rejoiced that she was favored even with a visit from the mother of her Lord.

There is not a person reading this, nor the writer, who even deserves to hear the message that a Savior has been born. Yet God has favored us above many who live and die without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ! It ought to bring us to our knees in humble thankfulness. Perhaps God has even done more for you, sending you not only the message, but also the regenerating Spirit of God that you may believe and be saved. Are you forever grateful?

The child of Mary is the Lord of all (1:43). People naturally resist acknowledging the greatness of Mary’s Son. Mankind in rebellion against the Lord and his Christ wants no part of calling him “Lord” (John 1:11; cf. Psalm 2:2. However, the Holy Spirit emphasizes in this account that Jesus is Lord — both God himself and eternal King (1:17, 32-33, 35, 43, 76; 2:11, 26). Others err in a different way. They rejoice in a Queen instead of a King. Observe carefully that Elizabeth did not say (nor does any other Scripture) that her Lady came to visit her, but that the mother of her Lord came to visit her. Christmas reminds us that the Lord of Glory, the Most High God, came to live among us in human flesh. “the mother of my Lord.” God should be honored for his willingness to give (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 8:9). The main point for sinners is that One has come who is mighty to save from the guilt and pollution of sin. The Son of Mary is the Lord our righteousness.

The Lord can fulfill a believer’s expectations (1:45). The worldly wise person does not believe that there is any reason for the believer’s joy. At best, they think that we are self-deceived. In the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis described the Narnia Lucy first entered as a land in which it was always winter, but never Christmas. That is what the ungodly think of the Christian’s hope — it’s winter, but Christmas never comes. But when the Lion, Aslan, arrived in Narnia, Christmas came and then spring. To the unbeliever, faith in God is a waste of time. All is measured by what oneself thinks is possible. As their philosophers say, “Man is the measure of all things.” They also feel that we are foolish for believing in, what they think of as, sand castles. “Have your dreams,” they say, “but they will all be washed away.”

The follower of Christ has a different perspective. We would agree with the unbeliever’s “sand castles” view, if our hope was in humanity. We understand, even better than they, that to trust in mankind, in what people can do, or even in faith in faith is a foundation for lasting despair. However, our hope is not in mankind, but in the living God! “For nothing is impossible with God” (1:37).

When Elizabeth finished her song, both Mary and herself had months of waiting for their sons to be born. But God fulfilled his word. How are we showing confidence in God? Now is an excellent time to turn to the living God in humble faith and to trust in the Savior. He welcomes all who call out to him (Romans 10:13).

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Seventeen)

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 NIV).

God is gracious.

Like other words, the word “grace” is used in various ways. All words depend on the context in which they are used to establish their exact meaning. As we study the Scriptures, we find that “grace” is used in three general ways.

  • Grace is the favor God shows or extends to people (Jonah 4:2). In regard to sinners, this favor is always unmerited or undeserved or without cause in the sinner. In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace (Romans 11:5-6 CSB).
  • Grace is the power of God acting to change a situation or person. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a CSB).
  • Grace is the response of thankfulness that induces worship and service to God. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God (Colossians 3:16 ASV).

The Bible teaches us that God is gracious in his nature—that he has the attitude of showing favor and the power that flows out of that attitude to change situations and people (Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17,31; 111:4; 116:5).

We should know these four important characteristics of God’s grace:

  • God’s grace is eternal. Since it is an essential part of his eternal plan, we must not think that is some sort of “Plan B”. Some teachings give the wrong impression that God first planned to deal with mankind on the basis of works, but when Adam disobeyed, God had to shift to other plan to have fellowship with the now fallen humanity. However, God teaches us that his plan of grace included us in Christ before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9).
  • God’s grace is free, which means that it is without cause in the recipients of grace (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:6). From this comes salvation by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:5,8-9). No person will ever be able to claim that he or she deserved to be saved or somehow earned salvation. In fact, even repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18) and faith (Acts 18:27; Philippians 1:29) are gifts from God. In this way God receives all the praise for salvation.
  • God’s grace is sovereign; that is, he extends grace to sinners who deserve his wrath as he decides (2 Thessalonians 2:16; Titus 2:11). Since we all deserved wrath because we have rejected God as our God, no one has anything to complain. What ought to surprise us is that the Lord chooses to show grace to anyone!
  • God’s grace is given in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 5:15, 17, 21). No one can expect to find grace apart from Christ. Throughout all eternity, God’s chosen people will enjoy God’s kindness in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

How should we respond to God’s grace?

First, our hearts should overflow with gratitude toward God and worship him for his grace (Psalm 86:15). Thankfulness for grace received should form an essential part of the way that we relate to God (2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 1:3). We ought to thank God for his grace to others (Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Colossians 1:3-4), the blessings we enjoy through those who have also received grace (1 Thessalonians 3:9), and his action in our lives (2 Corinthians 2:14). Second, we should pray that God’s grace would be extended to others (Romans 1:7; Galatians 1:3; etc.). Third, graciousness should be part of our conduct (Colossians 4:6). Fourth, we should live in the expectation of grace from God (Hebrews 4:16) and keep ourselves in the way of grace (Hebrews 13:9).

Grace and peace, David

The Source of Love (Part One)

1 John 4:19-21

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (NIV).

True Christianity is not involvement in religious activity or keeping a list of rules and rituals. Instead, it is a relationship with the living God. The apostle John likes to use two terms to set forth this relationship. The first is fellowship, which speaks of sharing life with God (1:3, 6-7). The other is know, meaning more than the knowledge of facts or the knowledge of skill, but the knowledge of a person (2:3-4). We know God personally.

In his first letter John is intent on declaring the transformation that occurs when a person has a real relationship with the living God. He says that three changes occur when a person knows God and has fellowship with God.

  • He or she confesses the truth about God (2:22-23; 4:6)
  • He or she obeys God’s commands (2:3-6)
  • He or she loves God and the people in God’s family (3:14; 4:7-8)

In a couple articles this week, we will consider the transforming character that comes from a real relationship with the living God.

God’s love is the source of our love. Humans do not naturally love. Rebellion against God, who is love, has twisted our nature. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another (Titus 3:3 NIV; cf. Romans 3:12-17). Since this is true, there is no starting point in any human from which he or she can develop a relationship with God. We do not “stretch out our finger” to receive God’s life giving touch. By nature, we are opposed to the God of love.

“We must once and forever get rid of the idea that God loved us by way of response either to something that is in us or to something we have done” (Lloyd-Jones, The Love of God, p. 194. God encounters us as enemies, who are spiritually unresponsive (dead in sin). “The love of God is self-generated, self-moved, self-created; and it is the very first postulate of the Christian gospel to realize that” (Ibid).

Therefore, God must take the initiative with any person for there to be a relationship between him and any person. Here are some actions that God took that we might know his love and then love others.

  • This initiative began before the beginning of time. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV). God knew what sin would do, so he planned a solution before the problem occurred.
  • The Father sent the Son to rescue us from our sins. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10 NIV).
  • The Son came to carry out the mission of salvation. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10 NIV).
  • The Spirit of God testifies to the truth about the Son of God, so that we can know God’s love for us in Christ. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth (1 John 2:20 NIV; cf. 5:6-10).

On this Valentine’s Day, think on the great story of God reaching out to you in his amazing love? Has the Triune God established a relationship with you? Respond in love to him.

Grace and peace, David