Articles from December 2019

Examining Why Jesus Came: The True Meaning of Christmas

It is truly the most wonderful time of year as we celebrate our Savior’s first advent. While family getting together, good food and presents are wonderful, remembering the real reason for Christmas is crucial for us as believers. My prayer for us all this year is that we will take the time to remember why Christ came. The following is a list that comes directly from scripture that tells us reasons why Jesus came to earth. Every one of the following passages uses some form of the phrase “He came” to describe the great mission of Christmas. Meditate on His great purpose for coming into the world.

  1. He came to fulfill the Law of God and thus become righteousness for all who believe. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus came not to overthrow or destroy God’s Law, or to render it useless. Rather He came to fulfill it so that He could not only model righteousness for His followers, but become a righteousness that could be imputed to His followers by faith (2 Cor 5:21).
  2. He came as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 says clearly that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to give His life as a payment for those who were enslaved to sin, death and the devil. God pays a ransom to Himself and redeems us out of slavery and puts us into the Father’s house as sons. All of this was made possible through the Son’s coming into the world.
  3. He came to call sinners to repentance. In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matt 9:13, Mark 2:17). Based on the ransom that Jesus would pay, He came to “call” sinners to believe in Him. He came to redeem those that the “Father had given him.”
  4. He came to serve, NOT to be served. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus came to serve His people. It is His service toward us that makes us His children. He died on the cross to make us His children. This is why good works do nothing to contribute to our salvation. Our salvation is solely dependent on Christ alone. If we do not allow Him to serve us, he will have no part with us. (Jn 13:8).
  5. He came to give sight to the morally blind. In John 9:39, Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see.” Jesus came to open people’s eyes so that they can see the light and walk in it. Because sinners are lost, their eyes are blind spiritually. Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind. (2 Cor 4:4)
  6. Christ came to divide households. In Matthew 10:34-39 Jesus surprisingly said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” The point of this word is not that God loves division and strife. The point is that strife and division caused by true allegiance to Jesus is inevitable when true followers trust in Jesus. The coming of Jesus is certainly going to bring about a great division even among family. (Luke 2:34)
  7. He came to save from divine condemnation. John 3:17-18 says, “For God sent not the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already.” (Matt 18:11, Lk 9:56, Jn 12:47). God sent His Son to save us from just condemnation and the wrath of God. Christmas is God sending His Son into the world to save us from Himself and the just wrath that we deserved.
  8. He came to give us eternal life. Titus 2:11 says that “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (Jn 3:16, Jn 10:10). Eternal life is the promise that is guaranteed by Christ’s coming. This is not a verse that promotes universalism. The coming of Jesus did not guarantee the salvation of every man without distinction. But rather Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Jesus came that He might give His people, those who believe in him, eternal life.
  9. He came to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came and was clothed with humanity and born of a virgin so that he could be a destroyer. The works of the devil are certainly sin. Jesus appeared in order to “take away sins” (1 John 3:5). Jesus came in order to provide forgiveness to sinners and to empower them to live holy lives.
  10. Jesus came to glorify His Father in heaven. In John 12:27, in the last hours of His life, Jesus said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.” Jesus came to this earth in order to bring glory to God. His life, and death were the plan all along in order to accomplish this great purpose.

It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the “holiday.” Don’t make it simply a holiday, meditate on these things so that this time of year will truly be a “Merry Christmas” where Christ is at the center of it all.

From my family to yours, “Merry Christmas!”
~ Pastor Tim Gibson

 

The Amazing Child of Christmas

Rightfully so, every parent believes their own children are unique and amazing! In those first few moments after birth, parents dream with high expectations and hopes that their children will have success and make a positive impact in the world. Can you imagine how Mary felt when the great angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her about the greatness of her child? This is what the angel told Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary was confused because she was a virgin, and the angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:26-35)

The angel said to Mary that her son was going to be “great.” The angel was telling Mary that her son was going to be extraordinary, wonderful, splendid, magnificent, noble, distinguishable, eminent, and powerful. Jesus was going to be someone who was set apart from all the rest. The word “great” was used of John the Baptist but was qualified as “being in God’s sight” (Luke 1:15). Jesus’ greatness would be unqualified; He would be great in and of himself. His greatness was intrinsic to His very nature. This baby was going to be unlike any other baby every born!

Gabriel tells Mary exactly who and what the child was going to be like. The description is extraordinary. The angel gives six amazing characteristics of this Christmas child.

Fully God: The first and most important quality of this amazing Christmas Child is that He was going to be the “son of the Most High.” Gabriel was telling Mary that Jesus was going to be God in human flesh. This perplexed Mary because she was still a virgin. But the Angel told her not to worry, but that she would conceive when the Holy Spirit would come upon her, so that her child would not just be a man child, but actually a God-child. While Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus, he was not the biological father of Jesus. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The “Most High” is a title given to God who in His sovereignty and majesty rules over nations, and is sovereign over the whole earth (Deut 32:8, Ps 18:3, 47:2). This amazing child born of a woman would be none other than the very Son of God, equal in essence to God Most High!

Fully Man: While Jesus was fully God, the angel said that Mary would “bear a son.” This child who was going to be born was also fully human. The virgin birth of Jesus allowed Jesus not only to be God, but also to be fully human. This incarnation of God in human flesh is truly a mystery in which Jesus was fully man and at the same time fully God. The theological term for the union of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus is called the hypostatic union of Christ’s natures, which the early church recognized in the Athanasian Creed.

Sinless: The third amazing characteristic of Jesus is that he would be sinless. Even though Jesus was born of a human woman, the angel said He would be a “holy offspring.” The angel was telling Mary that her Son was going to be perfect, without sin. Jesus would be the only child ever born of a woman who was without a sinful nature. Because of the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden, every human being is born with a sinful nature (Romans 5:12, 19). But this child, being born of a virgin, was born without a sinful nature. He was born not of a human seed, but the divine seed, so that the sin nature was not passed on to Jesus (Heb 4:15). Can you imagine Mary’s thoughts as the angel told her these amazing things?

Sovereign King: Fourth, this child was going to be given the “throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.” This child was going to be a King, just as God had prophesied a thousand years earlier (2 Sam 7:11-16). Even the wise men, God-fearing Magi from the east who grew up under the tutelage of Daniel’s teaching (Daniel 9:24-26) came to Herod and said they had come to “worship the King” (Matt 2:1-6). This child was going to have a kingdom that would last forever. This Kingdom of Jesus began as the throne of Israel, but will one day become a universal throne in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 21:1-8).

Savior of His People: Fifth, the angel said that the baby was to be named Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, the angel said he was to be named Jesus because “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew name Yeshua which means “to deliver; or to rescue.” Jesus was born in order to save not from worldly disaster, but from sin (Eph 2:8-9, Acts 4:12).

Determiner of Destinies: The last shocking quality of this amazing Christmas Child is that he was “appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel” (Luke 2:33-34). Simply stated, every person’s destiny will be determined on how they respond to this amazing child. God appointed Him to be the determiner (Acts 17:31, John 5:27). Those who believe and trust in Jesus will be granted eternal life (John 3:16). Those who disbelieve and reject Him will not be given eternal life (1 John 5:12). This child who was born over 2000 years ago continues to be the one who determines every person’s eternal fate.

This Christmas Child is truly amazing! There has never been a child born like Him. Since all of these qualities are indeed true of Jesus Christ, then we must bow before Him and worship Him. When the wise men and the shepherds found Jesus, they bowed before Him. They recognized Him to be the Son of God. They recognized their own sinful condition and worshiped Jesus as King. While there are many today who will not bow before Christ, there is a day coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11). But for those who willingly bow before Jesus today, Jesus becomes a Savior for them. This is truly the greatest Christmas gift ever given. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If you will trust in Jesus to save you from your sins, He will save you and grant you eternal life.

 

Knowing All That Would Happen

After three years of ministry, Jesus purposefully began moving toward Jerusalem in order that the plan of God could be fulfilled, namely to go to the cross. To put it another way, Jesus knew that His “hour had come” (John 13:1). The hour that was planned before the foundation of the world had finally arrived for Jesus. He knew that He was about to drink the “cup” of God’s wrath poured out on Him for sinners on the cross. As Jesus moves into the Garden of Gethsemane the morning of His arrest, the Apostle John makes a marvelous statement. In John 18:4, John writes, “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward.” John recognized that Jesus had a divine knowledge. The events that were about to happen to Jesus were not unknown to Him. Being God, Jesus knew the future. All the events that were about to happen to Him were predetermined in eternity past. Being in the eternal counsel with God, all the events that were about to happen to Him were established.

This foreknowledge of Jesus is revealed clearly in the Gospels. Matthew records for us that Jesus predicted the details of His trial, flogging, crucifixion and even resurrection. In fact, Jesus tells His disciples four times that He was going to Jerusalem and that the Son of Man would be “delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they [would] condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he [would] be raised on the third day” (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19, 26:1-2).

Open Theism
The classic theological position of God’s knowledge is that He is omniscient, that God is perfect in knowledge. The Apostle John says that God “knows all things” (1 John 3:20). Elihu said that God is the one “who is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16). So, this means that God knows Himself (1 Cor 2:10-11). It means that God knows everything that happens, and everything that is in existence (Heb 4:13). It also means that God knows the future, so that God can say, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient time things not yet done” (Is 46:9-10). Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt 6:8) and even knows the number of “hairs on your head” (Matt 10:30).

One of the most dangerous heresies of our day that has been developed in the late 20th and 21st century is a doctrine known as “Open Theism” (also known as Openness Theology” or even “Free Will Theology.”). Clark Pinnock was perhaps the movement’s leading advocate in the 1990’s. In short, Open Theism argues that “God’s foreknowledge of future events is limited and that God sometimes changes his mind in the face of unforeseen circumstances brought about by his creatures. They posit that God has left the future open; even he does not know the future exhaustively, because the future has not yet happened. Therefore, there is nothing about it that can be known” (“Is Open Theism Still a Factor 10 years after ETS vote”, Jeff Robinson, TGC. This is a great article.).

Open Theism can easily be refuted by simply examining what the Bible says about the true nature of God. To reject the classical position that God knows all things including all future events is a dangerous slippery slope that the evangelical Church must fight against. Open Theism undermines the sovereignty and majesty of God. The God of Open Theism is NOT the God of the Bible but a god of people’s own imagination. The theology of this false doctrine is an attempt to make God be more like man!

It should be noted that the doctrine of Open Theism makes several points that are attractive to the natural man. For example, advocates make it clear that a god who is participating in history appears to be more loving than a god who dictates history. It is easier to swallow an idea of a god who is interactive rather than determinative in this world. By being open or receptive to allowing human decisions and actions to contribute to how history unfolds, God is depicted as being more loving rather than providentially dictating history. Second, advocates of Open Theism believe that by limiting God’s knowledge, God is alleviated from being the one to blame for tragic events or even evil in the world. Again, in Open Theism, God appears more loving to humanity, because in His limited knowledge, God only reacts to evil with love and support, rather than being the one who actually causes tragic events.

Classical Orthodoxy
It is a dangerous thing to stray away from the orthodox position of the Church concerning the nature of God unless there is ample evidence in Scripture to warrant such a radical shift. As evangelicals who are committed to the Word of God, we must never formulate a view of God that is simply from our imagination or what makes us feel good.  Instead we must allow the Word of God to show us who and what God is like. The Open Theism position doesn’t stand the test of Scripture. Scripture is clear that God is sovereign and providentially in control of all things. Unlike the Deist position that believes God put the earth in motion and then set it aside to be governed by fate and chance, the orthodox position believes that “God sits in the heavens and does what He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Divine providence assumes that God is governing with wisdom, love and care for all things in the universe. The Scripture is clear that God is sovereignly in control of the universe as a whole (Ps 103:19), the physical world (Matt 5:45), the affairs of nations (Ps 66:7), human destiny (Acts 17:24-31, Gal 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Ps 4:8). The Heidelberg Catechism (Question 27) clearly defines the providence of God:

“The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were, by his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”

There are many stories in Scripture that point to the providence of God being worked out in history. Joseph clearly understood that all of the bad things that happened to him were being orchestrated by God (Genesis 50:15-21). Judas Iscariot is another example of the fulfillment of God’s plan (Luke 22:22, John 17:12). It is clear that God is working “all things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Response: Guard & Glorify
What shall be our response to the fact that Jesus “knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward?” First, we must guard against allowing our hearts to gravitate to an aberrant theology that relegates God to manlike character. Be on guard and exercise extreme caution and discernment when you read books that may be popular even among so called Christians. Evil and suffering in the world are difficult questions to address, but changing our view of God is not the answer. Avoid books written by Open Theism advocates (Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice) who challenge the orthodox view of God.

Second, we must bask in the glory of our God, and the fact that He is in total control. We may not understand all of the details surrounding the providence of God and how God still allows us to make decisions in life. But we must surrender to God and allow Him to be God in the world. This is His world. And seeing what Scripture says about God should cause us to worship Him, just as Paul did at the end of Romans 11 when He wrote:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)