What Child is This? part 3 – December 17, 2017

So much of our Christmas season focuses on the birth of Jesus, but we cannot look at the birth of Jesus without looking at the reason why Jesus came to live amongst us.

Luke’s Gospel tells the narrative of how Jesus would be conceived and named. In Luke 1:26-35 we read how Mary had an encounter with the angel Gabriel, and he told her that the baby would be called Jesus. Jesus means God Saves, this must have been another indicator to Mary of who Jesus really was.

Every child carries some of the attributes and characteristics of their mother and their father. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would have some of the attributes of Mary and some of the attributes of God himself. And we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14 verse 9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

So, this child, conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the exact representation of God the Father and he is fully God, but by being born of Mary, he also has some of the nature of Mary. This is by God’s infinite design so that by being a man, Jesus would one day be able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 2:6-8.

We know that Jesus reflected the nature and character of God the Father, but how much of the character of Mary did Jesus possess as he walked the earth?

Looking at the way in which Jesus dealt with people we can see some of what Mary must have been like. Jesus was compassionate and kind, especially with children Jesus displayed patience and tenderness.

Jesus sought out the people on the fringes of society, calling them, showing them compassion and embracing them.

When the angel encountered Mary, he told her in verse 30, that she had found favor with God. God saw in Mary something special, she found favor with God possibly because she displayed the characteristics of gentleness, compassion, patience and tenderness. Perhaps it is possible that God saw in Mary the character traits, that He placed in her in the first place, but the character traits that would be necessary for Jesus to be who he was.

This child that lay asleep on her lap would one day grow up to have the character traits of care and compassion that his mother had.

There are several times in the Bible where the nature of God is described using motherly language and imagery (See Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:11-12a, Psalm 22:9-10, Hosea 13:8a, Luke 13:34).

We see these images of God in the Bible as partial descriptions of the nature and character of God. Jesus is the exact representation of God; therefore, he must have these attributes himself. The same attributes that Mary displayed.

In addition to these characteristics, Mary and Jesus both displayed strong character in their lives. They both displayed great faith and trust in God. They were both willing and committed to the mission that God the Father had called them too. When Mary received the instructions from the Angel, her response was in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When the time came for Jesus to face the completion of his mission, just before he was arrested and crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, humbly submitting to the perfect plan and will of the Father (Luke 22:41-42).

Both Jesus and Mary lived lives of extraordinary consequence, but both suffered deep pain. We only have a glimpse from the account of the crucifixion of how much pain and suffering Jesus went through as he paid the price for our salvation, but Mary also suffered. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met Simeon who praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah before his death, and went on to prophecy over Mary foretelling of the pain that she would one day endure (Luke 2:34-35).

Even in the Christmas carol, focusing on the birth of Jesus, we read of the purpose of why Jesus came to earth and gave up his glory in heaven. Mary was present at the crucifixion, standing by the cross, and enduring the agony of seeing her son die in the most excruciating way. Mary never left the side of Jesus, she was committed to being there for her son. This is also a promise of Jesus and one of the primary characteristics of the nature of God, he is a faithful God who promises to never leave us.

No matter how dark the season is that you are going through, no matter how lonely you feel at this Christmas season God is always near and his Word promises that He will be with you.

Jesus promised his disciples when he left them his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20b).

One of the most powerful scenes of compassion took place as Jesus hung suffering on the cross. Mary was there, and she wanted to help alleviate the pain, but Jesus looked at her and cared for her as he instructed the Apostle John to care for his mother (see John 19:26-17). What an incredible picture of love and compassion, in his pain he made sure that Mary was going to be taken care of.

“What child is this?” He is the one who came to love and to be the selfless sacrifice for all those who would believe in his name. But praise God, it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead in a new resurrected body, Jesus became the first born of the new creation, and by his re-birth we can be born again.

Mary came to understand that this miraculous baby became the greater miracle, the way of salvation for millions of people who would put their faith and trust in him.

This Jesus is still the same today, full of compassion and love, ready to meet your needs.

If you are facing a huge trial and difficulty, Jesus knows what you are going through and he can meet your need.

If you are lonely and struggling with depression, Jesus knows your pain and is full of compassion.

Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to be fully man, so that he could identify with you and me (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

What Child is This? part 2 – December 10, 2017

In Matthew chapter 2 we read the account of the wise men who came from the east to meet Jesus.

We must ask ourselves, who were these men, and why did they get invited to meet the Messiah?

 The first thing we notice is that these wise men came from the east, most likely they were Gentiles from Arabia, this would have included modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, UAE and Iraq.

One of the clearest explanations for their place of origin would be the types of gifts they brought to Jesus as we read in verse 11 of Matthew 2. The Gold which these wise men brought was probably mined in the region of Ophir and Sheba, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 9 as the place where King Solomon obtained huge quantities of gold for his extravagant building projects. The gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh are also derived from trees that primarily grow in Southern Arabia. It is important to understand the origin of these wealthy travelers in order to understand that they were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1-6

So how does knowing this information about the wise men help us in answering the question, “what child is this?”

Firstly; both Jesus and the wise men came from a distant place to Bethlehem. The Wise men travelled from a distant country in the east, and Jesus as we know came from God the Father and took on human form as he became Emmanuel, God with us (see John 1:1-2, 9-12).

Secondly; one might be tempted to think that because of all the prophecies relating to the messiah being Jewish, it would mean that he only came for the Jews. However, with these wise men coming from the east, God clearly announced that Jesus came for all mankind.

Thirdly; these wise men were wealthy, but to say that Jesus came from a place of means, is probably the greatest understatement in history. If you read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, you will see a glimpse of the majesty and the incredible riches of heaven. Jesus was surrounded by wealth, power and majesty in heaven, and yet he humbled himself to come as a poor baby born to a poor couple in a humble stable.  This child born in the manger is the Lord who created everything and owns everything.

And finally, the wise men were generous as they brought extravagant gifts for Jesus. Jesus himself came to bring a gift of unimaginable worth to all who would receive it. Jesus came from a position of wealth and he came with a gift, the ultimate gift of eternal life (see Galatians 1:3-4a, 1 John 3:16, John 14:27a, Philippians 4:13, Mark 10:45).

Have you ever wondered why the wise men came to Bethlehem?

The greater question is, how did these wise men know that the King of the Jews was to be born. We know that ancient eastern scholars were students of the natural sciences and in fact they came from a culture that valued the study of the stars and the planets. Thus, when they saw this strange star in the sky, they began digging to find out why it was there. To find out how they came to know about Jesus, you must go back nearly six centuries to the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom of Israel in 587 B.C. After the exile had ended, some of the people of Judah remained in the eastern lands where they maintained their oral traditions and scriptures. They would have taken the tradition of telling the stories of the ancient scriptures to whoever would listen. These transplanted exiles would have told of the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah about the coming Messiah the King of the Jews.

These wise men would have known of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah coming in the west. And when they saw the star, they came to meet this king. However simply knowing of an important birth happening hundreds of miles away probably wasn’t the real motivation for their coming to Bethlehem. I believe is the real reason the wise men visited Bethlehem was that God the Holy Spirit invited them and compelled them to meet Jesus.

Just as God invited, and prompted the wise men to come and see Jesus, so to, today, the Holy Spirit invites and compels people to come and meet Jesus.

One of the incorrect statements we often hear is, “I found Jesus”. Well the truth is that you didn’t find Jesus, he invited you to meet him.

When the wise men finally come to the house of Mary and Joseph, imagine Mary’s surprise when these wealthy, well dressed, upper class men come into her home and when they see the baby, they bow down and worship. These gentiles probably didn’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew, but they bow down and worship the king. They had been invited to witness the most important birth in all of history and unlike the rest of the people around them, they knew who deserved to be worshipped. The rest of the people in Bethlehem at that time did not recognize Jesus for who he was, and they never did.

These wise men were the first non-Jewish people to worship the Son of God, and just like you and me today, they were invited in. Because Jesus didn’t come only for the Jews, but he came for all nations for all people groups.

So, what about you? You have been invited to meet the King of Kings, the one born in Bethlehem, who brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind

Have you met Jesus? Have you worshipped Jesus? There is only one gift that we have to offer Jesus, and that is the gift of our lives, fully committing our lives to worship him and live for him.

Christmas sermon series part 1 – December 4 2016

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Every year when Christmas comes around, we traditionally look at the Christmas story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, not just any baby, but the very son of God. The Christmas story is just another beautiful story unless we connect Christmas with the cross. This baby being born in Bethlehem was part of God’s perfect plan to provide a way of salvation for a lost and dying world.

Jumping ahead 33 years, Jesus’ final words on the cross as recorded in John 19; “it is finished”. What was finished? The mission Jesus came to accomplish? We have to look all the way back to the first book of the Bible to see what Jesus was talking about. What Jesus came to finish began in the book of Genesis chapter 3. In the beginning God created mankind in his own image, he put something of himself in man. There was perfect communion, but then Adam and Eve sinned, and the result of this sin was a separation between God and man. All of creation has suffered as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. The separation between God and man was so great that mankind could never cross over back to God, no matter how good man tried to be or how many laws man tried to obey. One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is verse 8; ”… and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…” The tragedy is that mankind has been trying to hide from God ever since.

As Adam and Eve are hiding, God begins to ask a series of questions; “Where are you?”, “Who told you that you were naked?”, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

God knows everything, so why is he asking all these questions? God is not asking because he needs information, rather God is asking questions to give Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent. God the Father is walking through the garden with a broken heart, knowing the terrible course of events that have been set in motion. What began with two people eating forbidden fruit, would lead to centuries of pain and heartache for billions of people and ultimately to the death of his own son on the cross at Calvary.

In Genesis 3:14, God begins to deliver judgment and in verse 15 we read what God says to the serpent Satan; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

God promised that a child of Eve’s would crush the head of the serpent Satan. Eve thought that this was accomplished when she had her first son Cain as we read in Genesis 4, but Cain was even more wicked and because of his pride he killed his own brother Abel. God was not looking to the immediate offspring of Eve, he was looking thousands of years and many generations down the line to Jesus. Jesus would be the one that ultimately crushed the head of Satan. Genesis 3:15 is the first declaration of the wonderful Gospel message.

Genesis 3:15 says that Satan will bruise the heel of Jesus, Jesus would suffer pain and more pain than we could ever imagine, but the wound inflicted on him would not be fatal (see Isaiah 53).

But by rising from the dead, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, ultimately which will lead to his being sent to hell (see Rev 20:10). In order for Jesus to restore the relationship between God and mankind, he had to become as a man. In part to fulfill what God promised Eve, but also to be the perfect sacrifice. God had to become a man in order to pay the price for sins and the restoration of our relationship to God the Father.

As a result of that first sin the problem of sin permeated the whole world, the solution had to come from God as mankind was helpless. The first step was for God to introduce himself to mankind, a way for God to connect with his creation. We could not connect with God, but he could connect with us and reveal himself to mankind. So God had to become a man, taking on flesh by being born of a woman. What an incredible concept and miracle. The creator of the universe left his throne, disguised himself as a man, and walked among us. The creator became like one of the creatures and revealed his nature to mankind (see John 14:9).

As we celebrate Christmas, let us not become so wrapped up in the beauty of the lights and the tinsel and the singing of Christmas Carols, that we forget the rescue mission, the real story of Christmas that is the enormous price that Jesus paid in setting aside his glory and taking on flesh.

Looking back to Genesis 3 verse 21, we read that God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skin. But in order to make those first clothes, God had to kill an animal, this was the first blood-shed in order to cover sin. It became the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus himself.

RA Crisswell wrote:  Somewhere in the ground of Eden the ground drank the blood of the first offering for sin, and from that harmless and blameless creature a coat was made to cover up the shame and nakedness of the man and his wife. It is a picture of the covering, the atonement, the washing away of our sins in the sacrificial victim on the cross of Calvary.

Why Christmas Part 4 12/27/15

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Acts 1:1-11

So we come to the final questions for our series, and the first is, why must Jesus come again? Acts 1:1-11 is about the ascension of Jesus, it seems to be out of place for us to read at this time of the year.

When we look at the prophets that I mentioned in the first part of the series, I said that there were some prophecies about Jesus that are still to be fulfilled. For example Isaiah 9:6-7 is a scripture that we read every Christmas, but verse 7 is still not fully realized, we wait for the day when justice and righteousness will be established and continue forever.

This is not unusual in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. It is much like looking at a mountain range from great distance, this is how the prophets saw what God was giving them. All the mountains look the same distance away, but as you get closer you see that there are valleys and great distances between the mountains. The Old Testament prophets saw from a distance, but the disciples who walked with Jesus saw the first “mountain” being fulfilled in the presence of Jesus. They believed Jesus when he said that he must go and that he will return again one day. From their vantage point, they looked to another distant mountain, the great Day of the Lord, when Jesus would come as a warrior king, to judge the world and establish his rule and reign.

The first coming of Jesus was a mission of humility and sacrifice, he came to deal with the problem of sin and he came to conquer death. But the next time Jesus comes, he will come on a mission of triumph and justice.

When Jesus comes again, it will be with a loud trumpet blast and fantastic Glory, far different from his humble birth in a manger (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Jesus must come in order to receive his Bride the church, and to judge the World. Both the living and the dead, both believers and unbelievers, everyone will stand before the judgment throne. At this time, Jesus will separate his faithful children from those who refused to believe in him. One to eternal reward, the other to eternal punishment. At this time Jesus will establish the New Heaven and the New Earth, all things will be made new. God’s people will live together in perfect fellowship with one another and with our creator. No more sin, no more pain, no more tears. That is why Jesus has to come again, and we eagerly await that day.

We come to our next question, why do you and I need to believe in Jesus? As we look at the Bible’s account of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, we see many facts, we see the account of Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, the wise men, and even Herod. All of these people were real people, but only people who witnessed the greatest miracle of all time. The story of Jesus that we remember this week is not simply a story of a life two thousand years ago. The story of Jesus affects all of history and all of mankind. The disciples were given the privilege of seeing Jesus in person, they believed in him because they saw his miracles, and they witnessed his resurrection from the dead. But we have something even more wonderful than that, when Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised the Holy Spirit would come and live within us. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity actually resides in all who believe in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our counsellor, and our guide in life, we are not left as orphans, we have become Children of the living God. We must believe in Jesus, he is our only hope. When Jesus comes again, it will be too late to then decide to believe in Him.

But I want to challenge you today to consider that believing in Jesus is not enough. In James 2:19 we see that belief in God is not enough unless it is accompanied by a life of faith and action. Merely giving mental agreement to the virgin birth, accepting that Jesus is the Son of God even believing that he came to be a sacrifice for our sins is not enough. Someone who is truly saved is someone who takes the truth of the Gospel, believes it and then acts accordingly, the Gospel message must change our lives. So the third question is why do you need to make Jesus Christ Lord of your life?

In Acts 1:10-11, we see the disciples standing on the Mount of Olives gazing up at the sky. They were staring in a stunned silence, paralyzed in a mixture of confusion, wonder, fear and anxiety. Jesus has just left, what will they do now?

Then almost as if to wake them up, two angels appear in human form, and give them some comfort that Jesus is coming back again. But the truth is that they had a job to do, Jesus had just given them his final instructions (Acts 1:8), and there was work to be done. The disciples needed to be reminded that they were not called by Jesus to sit on top of the Mount of Olives, stargazing and waiting for his return. They were called to go and change the World with a message that was life changing and revolutionary.

And that is our calling too. We are not saved in order to sit back and continue life as normal. How can we continue as normal, when we have received the Holy Spirit? We have the presence of the Living God within us, we have been called with a purpose to give our lives to Christ as living sacrifices. That is what it means to be a Christian, the most incredible privilege and calling any human being can have, to be the representatives of the Living God. As we wait for Jesus to come again let us be about His business, let us be found faithful, doing what God has called us to do.