Saturday, December 24, 2016

The List

Rather than having made a list and checked it twice before heading out on an annual adventure to bless children around the world, on this day (as we celebrate the historical record) a young couple neared the end on their journey in which they were to be placed upon a list. It was the time of the census, and Joseph had to return to his ancestral home to be registered. He had brought with him his young wife with whom he still had not had relations but who herself was ready to deliver the most special baby in all of history--the One that would hold a list of not who was naughty or nice, but of who was once naughty and made nice by His own blood

Nearly two thousand years ago this young couple arrived in Bethlehem where their Son who was to be King of kings was to be born that night in a place reserved for animals. It is not because He couldn't have had better, but because our God determined that His own Son who humbled Himself to take on the form of man would be born of a virgin in the most lowly of ways with the least of things, only later to lay down His precious life to pay for our sins and then to take it back up again and rejoin the Father from whom He came to reign as Lord forever.

As we head into this last day before Christmas, and we are pressed to think of what we might have forgotten let us remember that our God did not forget us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is the real story of Christmas and its most humble beginning nearly two thousand years ago.

Monday, December 5, 2016

God’s Plan Hasn’t Changed (1 Peter 1:10-12)

“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, (11) seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. (12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10–12, NASB95)

What an amazing thing it is to know that Jesus Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit moved in the prophets to prophesy (or speak) the words given to them for times to come, and that even these prophets searched those words themselves for their own understanding. There was much that they penned in faith, not knowing what it meant for the future. God called them to trust Him for things that He has assured them would come to pass, though they didn’t have a clear picture of how it would come to pass or what it will look like when it did.

We read that what was shown to these prophets is that which was revealed to them through the Spirit. What they recorded was not for them to clearly see and know, but for those who would later come and understand. What was incumbent on them was to trust God for what they did know, and believe that He would make all the rest clear in His right time and proper way. Though they did not know about Christ, they knew that their salvation came from God and that He was faithful to save them. He indeed was going to send a Savior for not only His people Israel, but also that in Him all the nations would be blessed. They understood the sacrificial system, but they did not fully grasp the reality of a once and for all perfect sacrifice accomplished by the very Son of God. They knew that the One coming would have to suffer to accomplish this, though they did not yet know the nature or extent of that suffering.

By faith they listened and they wrote, knowing that one day we all would be blessed to hear and understand, and that the glory shown then would be incredible. This was the role of the prophets as they continually called the people back to God and were regularly rejected in the process. What an amazing thing it is to know that God used these men over hundreds of years to record His incredible plan which was revealed in person of His Son. Then, at the right time, when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and those who listened He repeatedly pointing back to the prophets as He affirmed their words and unfolded Himself in fulfilling what they were moved to write.

““Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”” (John 8:51–56, NASB95)

“Then He [Jesus] took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. “For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.” (Luke 18:31–34, NASB95)

Peter wrote of the inspiration of the entirety of the Word of God saying, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19–21, NASB95)

Peter’s audience heard these truths and responded, and now we have them recorded for us in God’s Word so the we might likewise respond. We have the incredible privilege of seeing much of God’s plan from the historical vantage point of what has already happened. Sure, there is much we look forward to which remains a mystery, as it did for the prophets, but we know the truthful track record of our God. The Savior has been sent in the Son and the message of our salvation has been revealed. Now, we are privileged to know it as true. The reason we have come to know this truth is because just as God had spoken to His prophets through the power of the Spirit, so the Spirit works today in the lives of men to bring that same good news to people such as us, so that even we by the power of that same Spirit might hear, understand, believe, and be saved. This is the progression of the great gift of salvation given to us, as it was faithfully recorded, accurately fulfilled, and continually shared. Paul wrote, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14–17, NASB95)

The foundation has been laid and us who are saved are now part of the continued building as the good news of salvation in Christ is spread to those who so desperately need to know of God’s great love for them. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22, NASB95)

It is because our God is trustworthy that we can in full confidence abide in Him and trust Him to bring our salvation to its ultimate fulfillment as we step into His presence to His glory forever.