Sacrificial Death and Life

LambYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said discipline helps us get back on the correct path. Fools reject that correction. When you’re being corrected, regardless of your age, look for God in that correction. The treasures of God don’t always equate to money so don’t be fooled into thinking wealth equals righteousness or poverty equals wickedness. Solomon said one of the greatest legacies we can leave is to have used the opportunities God provided to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. That’s called discipleship and should be at the forefront of your mind. This morning, Solomon talks about sacrifice.

We’ll only look at one incredible verse found in Pro. 15:8 that says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

Good intentions mean nothing. Americans are a pretty charitable group of people. We have national programs to enable us to easily give to our favorite charities. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Combined Federal Campaign. In 2014, Americans gave $358.38 billion to charity. That equates to $2974 per household. Is that what Solomon is talking about in this verse? He says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” This verse is a lot deeper than it appears at first glance. We have two people contrasted here: the wicked and the upright. Sacrifice depends on what’s going on in the heart. Mindless sacrifice is not what God wants. You’ve heard me talk about the principle of first mention in Scripture. When we look at the first usage of the word worship in Scripture, we go all the way back to Genesis. Gen. 22 tells the account of Abraham’s test from God. I encourage you to take a look at the story in Gen. 22:1-5. If you think Abraham didn’t intend to actually sacrifice his son, Heb. 11:19 says, “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead.”

Sacrifices were an extremely important part of worship for the Jewish people. There was a whole system of sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. While there were several occasions to offer sacrifices; the two general types were animal or non-animal. Hands were laid on the sacrifice for the one needing atonement, whether it was for an individual, family, or a nation. When an animal was sacrificed, the animal always died as a part of the sacrifice.  We saw Abraham offering a sacrifice of a ram following the test with Isaac. After Jacob worked out his differences with Laban, he offered a sacrifice to God. As time went on, sacrifices were to be made by priests and only in the temple. The process in which sacrifices were made were extremely specific. I want you to read Lev. 1. Did you see the detail in the procedure? God is very specific in how we are to offer sacrifices. As part of the sacrificial system, the offering became the guilty party and the sacrifice atoned for the sin. Atone means at one. In other words, because of the sacrifice, the guilty was made at one with God at the expense of the sacrifice. Sometimes sacrifices don’t turn out so well because of the attitude in which they are offered. Jer. 6:20, “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba and the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Amos 5:22, “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,  I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.” Hosea 6:6, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The people had to approach God in the manner God set forth, not in their own way.

So what’s the implication for today? After the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Jewish people were in a quandary and remain so to this day because there is no place to offer atonement for the people. But something happened prior to 70 A.D. that changed the course of history. When the Apostle John was baptizing in the Jordan, he saw Jesus walking toward him and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jo. 1:29) Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice to redeem mankind. Heb. 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Christ’s sacrifice made us at one with God for eternity. We no longer need to make sacrifices because the sacrifice of Christ is complete. Heb. 9:27-28, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without  reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” That’s why we don’t need a physical temple to conduct sacrifices. According to Matt. 27:51 following Jesus’ death on the cross, “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The place where only the High Priest could go was now removed. Paul asked this question to the believers in Corinth, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

So what is Solomon talking about? When Solomon talks about the sacrifice of the wicked, he’s talking about external sacrifice. He’s talking about going through the motions without a heart that is at one with God. In Rom. 12:1 Paul says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” The word for sacrifice is the same word used to describe animal sacrifices. That sacrifice has to be acceptable to God. That means it must be done the way God expects it to be done. We cannot approach God in sacrifice – in worship – the way we want to approach God. Ps. 51:17 says, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” In the days of ritual sacrifice, the sacrifice was totally and completely consumed by fire. Since God established the method and manner in which sacrifices were offered and Paul says we’re to be a living sacrifice, shouldn’t we, therefore, be consumed by God? Shouldn’t we be consumed by Jesus Christ?   In Paul’s thinking, that’s what’s reasonable which means well pleased. God expects us to be consumed by Him. The wicked sacrifice on the outside only. The wicked do not adhere to the prescribed method of sacrifice. “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” That’s what’s in the heart. God wants authenticity in our walk of faith.     

When Saul was king of Israel, he was told by God’s prophet to, “Go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:3) Verse 9 goes on to say, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” Remember God is very particular when it comes to following what He says. 1 Sam. 15:22, “Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” The wicked do things they want to do because they are wicked. You cannot approach a holy and perfect God the way you want to. He has laid out His expectations for us in His Word.

All we have to do is follow it. You cannot sacrifice in the manner you prescribe and ignore what God demands. Too many people in the church are simply going through the motions without the consuming power of Christ and to God that is an abomination. So a fair question is, do you approach God in the manner that is convenient for you, or do you approach God in the manner He prescribes?


The Savior’s Triumph

TriumphYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the mission of the Savior in part 3 of our Christmas series in Isaiah. The Savior’s mission can be summed by saying He came to do the will of the Father and that included saving people from sin by acting as the substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve seen the sign, character, and mission of the Savior. This morning we’ll finish up by examining the triumph of the Savior.

I encourage you to take the time and read Isaiah 11.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, America was introduced to a man many people believed would be the savior of America. He became our 44th president with promises of hope and change for America. We see athletes and Hollywood stars elevated to a position of greatness and their incredible wisdom is sought over such far reaching issues as global warming, national security, America’s place in the world, civil unrest, and world peace. These people have been elevated by us to a position of worship. Like America today, the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s time was looking for a Messiah. They were faced with desperate circumstances the likes of which no one had ever faced. Their king had rejected God’s clear instruction and firm promises by forming political and military alliances with the Assyrians, only to see them backfire in the worst possible way. Now, it was either going to be death or deportation.  It was only a matter of time. In such desperate times, people look for a way to escape; they look for deliverance, they look for a way out. Sometimes those desires cause us to cry out, is there anybody out there who cares? Will somebody deliver me, will somebody rescue us?  That was the thinking of the people in 700 B.C. Judah and that was the feeling last month in the elections as the American people grew tired of unfulfilled promises. Isaiah’s message gives us the final answer to those desperate cries. He emphatically declared that God would send a true Messiah. His name is Immanuel – God with us. Although in appearance He is a child, His true nature is as a wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of peace. His mission is to heal the wounds of the brokenhearted, to release those enslaved by sin, and to restore what has been lost in the years wasting away without Him. All this we now know was fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

In Isaiah 11, the prophet takes us back to the future. Centuries melt away as Isaiah takes us past the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. We are taken beyond his time and ours and come to a day in the future when this same Messiah who came 2000 years ago will reign over the entire earth. Isaiah tells us what it will be like when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. You have to wonder why the Holy Spirit wants us to see this vision of the future. Maybe it’s because we need to understand what kind of king was found in the manger of Bethlehem. During this Christmas week, will you come and worship with the shepherds and Magi, or will you dismiss the significance of this incredible birth? Jesus came from a very humble background.  He did not come from a family of incredible wealth, but from a family that was desperate to find some place just for Him to be born. The opening verse in Isaiah 11 tells us, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” God is always faithful and I don’t want you to miss the significance of this. When a living tree is cut down, a shoot springs forth bringing new life. The shoot Isaiah is talking about is from the stem of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, Israel’s greatest king. Isaiah mentions Jesse, but not David.  I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because God magnifies His grace in ways that we don’t. 1 Cor. 1:27-29 says, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” You see, we tend to elevate the beautiful, the strong, those that are wealthy and powerful. God tends to elevate the meek, the faithful, the willing, those that seek His will. The One that would deliver the world from sin came in a very unpretentious and unpredictable manner. The Messiah would not be born into privilege. Jesse was never king so Jesus is not being born into the royal family and won’t grow up in a palace. He will not start out as royalty; He will inherit His kingdom. But Jesus will be more than an equal to King David. This baby born in Bethlehem will rise to do what no one has ever done.

Jesus will have God’s Spirit on Him in unlimited measure. Verse 2: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” We have never experienced a leader like this. The people in Isaiah’s day hadn’t either. This shoot from Jesse’s family will have the power of God on Him. He won’t try to accomplish the goals of His Father by human power – He will be controlled by the Spirit of God. The result is perfect wisdom and understanding. He will be unlike any leader in the history of the world. He doesn’t need a Cabinet of advisors. He will appoint no czars. He doesn’t need legislators or judges to help Him. He knows what needs to be done and He has the counsel and strength of the Spirit upon Him. The reign of Christ will bring every person face to face with the King. Look again at Is. 11:3-5. Christ’s rule can be summed up in three words: righteousness, fairness, and faithfulness. Each of these words is about conforming to a standard. From this passage we see that the benchmark for this final King doesn’t come from the people that are around Him. It doesn’t come from the latest research, seminar, or book. There was no election. He reigns by the authority of God and judges by the standards of God. I think the idea of these verses is not how He is going to judge mankind, but how He is going to judge each of our lives. You will be judged by reality, not by perception. He will not be swayed by emotion.  He will see you for who you really are. He will deal with you with precise justice, evaluating your life in accordance with the holiness of God. And when He pronounces His judgment, it is final. All who are made righteous by faith in Christ will be exalted.  All others, He will wipe from the face of the earth.

Nature will be turned upside down. Look at vs. 6-8. Wolf and the lamb – together. Cows and bears grazing; lion’s eating straw. Little kids will play with what used to be deadly snakes. Life becomes as it was in the Garden of Eden. The labor pains that the earth groans and suffers that Paul mentions in Romans 8:22 is over. The rest of the story is found in vs. 9-10.  All that is evil, all that is bad, all that causes pain is gone. All that caused decay and ruin is over. On that day, all crime will cease. Everybody on earth will know God. “The nations will resort to the root of Jesse” (that’s Jesus) Who will stand as a signal for the peoples” (a rallying point). “And His resting place will be glorious.”

Do you know who is born of a virgin in Bethlehem? Do you realize who you’re dealing with this Christmas? The world is divided over this child, for at His birth, God drew a line in the sand. You cannot be neutral about this baby who is called Immanuel – God with us because there is coming a day in which He will not be neutral about you. His first coming was marked by humility because He loved us so much that, though completely innocent, He willingly took the guilt of our sin and the wrath of God on the cross for our sakes. He shed His precious blood, died and was buried. But three days later, He rose from the dead by the same power of God that is available to you.  He later ascended to heaven where He patiently waits for the Father to say, “It’s time.” And then, He will come again to this earth, only it will not be in humility because the next time God, “Bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Savior’s Mission

MissionYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at God’s character and learned that Isaiah called Jesus the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace. As we prepare for Christmas this year, we celebrate something that is as old as eternity. On one hand, we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the Son of God, and the One that is able to redeem us from the penalty of sin that was prophesied in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned.

On the other hand, even those that are farthest from God hear the sounds of the Savior through radio, TV, in our shopping malls, and family dinners. Even amid all the commercialism in our culture, the Christmas spirit is alive and well for most people you come into contact with. The influence of the Savior is so powerful because He came with a mission.

Take the time to read Isaiah 61:1-11.

So what’s the work of Christ? The prophets of the O.T. and the Apostles of the N.T. clearly state that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the One that came into this world for a reason. Even before the world was formed, God had a job for Him to do. His objectives are stated throughout the Bible.

Christ came here to do at least three things. First, He came to do the will of God and qualify Himself as our substitute.  Heb. 10:5-7 says, “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’” V. 10 goes on to say, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Second, He came to save His people from their sins. In Matt. 1:21the angel told Joseph in a dream that, [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Tit. 2:14 says Jesus, “Gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Finally, He came to gather all that have believed in Him. In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” In v. 16, He goes on to say, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”  So there will be one flock, one shepherd. Salvation through Christ is complete and 100% effective. There is no new and improved method, the biblical method is tried and true. Christ came to do these things.           Isaiah called Him the mighty God in 9:6 and He cannot fail. Do you think that anything can dissuade Christ from carrying out His mission? Is. 42:4 says, “He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth.” The night Jesus was betrayed; He confidently said to God, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”   (John 17:4) While dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, Jesus declared, “It is finished!”  (John 19:30)

Isaiah offers some encouragement. When we try and describe Jesus, we often paint him as this very serious man with long brown hair, a beard, and a flowing robe. Isaiah paints a different picture. He sees a smiling face with joy that overflows to those around Him. Isaiah 61 describes the good news of Jesus the Messiah using words you can almost feel. Look at vs. 1-3. Remember, at the time of this writing, Jesus won’t be born for another 700 years, but Isaiah speaks with such confidence as if he was watching a movie about the future.

Isaiah speaks the words of the Messiah as if these are the very words Jesus will speak. Take a look at the incredible passage in Luke 4:14-22. The words recorded in Isaiah’s prophecy are in fact, the words of Messiah. Put yourself in the synagogue. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 – what we read earlier, and sits down. There must have been stunned silence in that place. You would think that the people, the religious people in the synagogue would recognize Who was in their midst and rejoice at the arrival of the long awaited Messiah – the One that would save them from their sins. It couldn’t have been clearer than if Jesus had said, “Hey, the Messiah that Isaiah wrote about? That’s me.” Jesus knew who He was. He knew He was sent to deliver mankind from the bondage of sin. He knew He came to set captives free. You’d think the people would fall down and worship the One, but vs. 28-29 tell us that, “All the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city.”

As we look at the mission of the Savior, I want you to see something back in Isaiah 61. V. 1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted.” That is His overarching purpose.  Everything else is included in that statement. It’s also interesting to note the use of the words, Spirit, Lord, and God in this verse – a clear depiction of the Trinity. Christ has good news for those who are poor. The word means humble, lowly, the needy, the afflicted. Luke 19:10 tells us that, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” It’s very difficult for Jesus to save someone that doesn’t think they need saving. Christ comes for those who know they are sick, not for those who think they are well. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus says. There is good news for those who realize just how desperately they need a Savior. Look at how Isaiah says the Messiah would do this. He binds the brokenhearted. Remember the context of this prophecy. The people’s nation is about to come crashing down along with the temple of God. Everything that they hold near and dear is going to be destroyed. You might find yourself in the same situation, everything that you hold near and dear is crashing down around you. Jesus says, “I can help you, I understand, I can fix that.” Ps. 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Jesus came, “To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” The reality of the situation is that Assyria would capture them which meant life as slaves to a Godless, pagan power. In Rom. 6:6, Paul tells us that in Christ we are no longer slaves to sin. You may be physically chained, but it is Christ that breaks the spiritual chains of slavery. Christ has been sent to, “proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” He will restore what has been taken away. According to the Law, every 50th year was the Year of Jubilee. It was during that year that all debts would be erased, all land that had been sold would be returned to the original owner, and all slaves would be set free. For us, it would be like all our mortgages paid off, all our car notes cancelled, all our consumer debt erased. This Year of Jubilee is a picture of what Christ does for us. Our sin debt is paid in full. Our transgressions forgotten and we are set free. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Christ sets us free from the power sin has over us.

Christmas is about the mission of Christ. He came to make a way for everyone to enjoy the freedom found at the foot of the cross. In your current circumstances, you may find it difficult to believe that anything good can come your way, but I’ve got good news for you – Christ came to die just for you. For any of you that are sick and tired of this life Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

A Time to Remember

RememberYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude spoke of the self centeredness of the creepers. They were only concerned about themselves and they grumbled, blamed others, and followed after their own lusts. In vs. 5-16 Jude has described in detail the reasons why the creepers should be judged. They’re given no benefit of the doubt and no mercy. If that seems harsh, the actions of these people and people like them were predicted years earlier. This morning, Jude shifts from the criticism of the creepers to the encouragement of his readers – us.

Jude 17-18 says, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”

Jude now shifts back to the church. It’s obvious that Jude starts a new section by his use of, “But you beloved.” He’s showing his deep love for them, it’s a term of endearment. We know that Jude has been very critical of the creepers. There is just cause for that since they willingly and knowingly snuck into the church and taught things that were contrary to the fundamental tenants of the faith. He’s talked about the creepers and flips it around by using the word but. There’s the contrast. His readers, “Ought to remember the words that were spoken of beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ought to remember here means duty. Jude’s readers are supposed to remember the words spoken by the apostles of Christ.

Mal. 4:4, “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.”

Eph. 2:20, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”

2 Pet. 3:2, “That you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”

This is not just being able to recite Scripture from memory. The meaning is much deeper. When Scripture tells us to remember, it means take to heart so that it is imprinted on our lives. David said, Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. (Ps. 119:11) Do you treasure Scripture? Do you hold Scripture as dearly as you do your child or grandchild? That’s the meaning David is conveying. God’s Word is so valuable and precious , but we seem to have cheapened it because it’s so accessible. What if your Bible was taken away? Would you notice or would you grieve over the loss? We do not worship God’s Word, but through Scripture, we get to know the One and only true God which should move us to continual worship of the One who is the Word. I wonder if Jude’s readers had held up the words of the apostles, would they have immediately recognized these men? Jude is specifically referring to the warnings regarding false teachers, but the application is much broader. We ought to remember because the Holy Spirit of God inspired His apostles to write down what we needed to know and understand.

So what did the apostles say? The warning was simple and to the point. “In the last time there will be mockers.” Are we in the last time? The writer of Hebrews thought so when he said, “In these last days.” (Heb. 1:2) Not maybe or likely, but there will be people who mock. 2 Pet. 3:3: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” Mock means to make fun of in a cruel manner. The intention is to cause harm. The last days will bring all sorts of criticism and harm to people that express and live by a code of Christian faith. Sadly this mocking can come from within the walls of the church. It can be as subtle as, “You don’t really believe that do you?”  Introducing a bit of doubt can shake the foundations of faith. It can be a bit more obvious such as the issue surrounding gay marriage. I saw a report a couple of months ago where a minister had gone against his denomination’s stance on this and officiated the same sex marriage of his son. He did it in secret and when his congregation found out about it, they reported him to denominational authorities. In a TV interview I saw he said, “Society is changing so fast that the church cannot keep up with it.” How can a mainstream minister say something like that? Well, in a Nov. 19, 2013 Washington Post article, a 30 year assistant choir director at that particular church is quoted as saying, “There was a drift from the Scripture.” When you morph Scripture to the needs of society, you fall into that trap we saw last week when Paul warned Timothy that, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (1 Tim. 4:3-4) These mockers Jude refers to follow, “after their own ungodly lusts.” They are driven by passion and desire. It’s not bad to be driven by passion and desire when they are godly. That’s not the case with these guys.

In the closing verses of Hebrews, the writer reminds us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb.13:8) Our methods change, but the Gospel does not. Society should have little influence on the church, but the church should have great influence on society.

Christmas, Then and Now (Part 2)

Win GiftYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we began looking at the origins of Christmas from Genesis. We saw the beauty of God’s creation destroyed by the free will choice of the two God desired to have a relationship with. God determined that Christmas would come. We left last week with God pronouncing judgment on the snake as well as the man and woman.

When did Christmas come? At this point in Christmas, Adam and Eve are still in the garden. The consequences of their actions was monumental affecting not just them, but humanity. There would be enmity between the serpent and the offspring of the woman for generations to come. This enmity was quickly seen with the next generation as Cain killed Abel and the warning of, “Sin is crouching at the door” (Gen. 4:7) must have been echoing in the ears of Adam and his wife. But while Genesis speaks of enmity, it also speaks of victory. Look at the incredible statement God makes in Gen. 3:15 regarding Christmas, “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” This is what is going to happen; this points ahead, but it is as good as done. How would Christmas be accomplished? We know from Genesis that God is pointing to the future, but do we have any other evidence of how this will occur?  Is. 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” If you search the Scriptures, you’ll find just one virgin that was with child.

What Child is this? Luke 1:26-35 says, Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And 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 said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

You can search the rest of the Bible, you can search throughout the world and throughout eternity and Mary is the only person that conceived a child without ever having any involvement from a man. Even with in vitro fertilization, there must be involvement of a man. But not with Mary. While they were there in Bethlehem, “The days were completed for her to give birth and she gave birth to her first born Son.” (Lu. 2:6-7) In the story that is familiar to even the most casual observer, Mary and Joseph had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. It was an 80 mile journey and they find themselves without a room for the night. Their Christmas was full of poverty and anxiety, not mulled cider, turkey, ham, and peppermint sticks. I’m not sure how Mary and Joseph would describe their memories of Christmas, but it was probably not a silent night where all was calm and all was bright. Mary and Joseph were alone in a strange place and of that night we sing, “The cattle are lowing the poor Baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”

Even if it looked bleak for them, Gal. 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” It was the right time for Christ to be born. Is. 9:6-7 sing out, For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” The promise of Gen. 3:15 was fulfilled in the flesh of Jesus who is the Christ. While Genesis points to the victory we have in Jesus, the battle is yet to be won. After His circumcision on the eight day, Jesus steps out of history. He reappears at the age of 12 teaching in the temple in Jerusalem and then disappears for another 18 years before coming on the scene again to be baptized by John at the Jordan River.

What’s this have to do with Christmas? Jesus was born in a little nothing town of blue collar working parents. He never wrote a book, had no education, didn’t travel far from where he was born and lived in relative obscurity for most of His life. At the age of 30 he entered public ministry where He was loved and followed by many people. The tide of public opinion and popularity changed when the religious crowd became threatened by His teachings that were so contrary to theirs, so radical that the religious leaders plotted against Him and declared Him an enemy of the state. After a pitiful excuse for a trial, the government found Him guilty and sentenced Him to die. Roman soldiers tortured and humiliated Him before hanging Him to a tree fashioned into a cross. He died there on the cross being forsaken by all those that loved Him. He was hurriedly taken off the cross following His death as the Sabbath quickly approached and was placed in a borrowed grave where He laid for three days. Just three days for God’s plan for Christmas to come full circle. The wonderful gift of Christmas was complete as the tomb was opened to the chorus of the angels singing, “He is not here for He has risen!” (Matt. 28:6) Christmas is about the sacrificial gift of Jesus that we tend to leave in the manger during this time of year. You cannot separate the child in the manger from the message of Christ on the cross. Christmas is not just about the birth of Christ, it is about His death and His glorious resurrection.

Satan was defeated in Gen. 3:15 when God revealed Christmas would come. Satan was defeated when Christ rose in victory conquering death. Satan is defeated each day when we who are followers of Christ choose to walk in the light. Satan will be forever defeated as John writes, And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev. 20:10) Christmas redeemed us. The gift is waiting, but it’s not yours until you open it and accept it. 1 Jo. 3:8b, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” There is no room in our celebrations for anything but Jesus.

The Current Past

PastYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the grave danger of the creepers as Jude compared them to hidden reefs and doubly dead autumn trees. They were clouds without water, wild waves of the sea and wandering stars. If you follow their teaching, it is sure to lead to destruction and that is what is awaiting them. This morning, Jude introduces a new character as he continues to combat the creepers.

Jude 14-15 says, “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

We see Jude’s continuing theme in these verses. In this letter, it didn’t take Jude long to say what was going to happen to the men that snuck into the church, the people I have been calling creepers. He first mentioned judgment in v. 4 when he said, “They were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” Remember that does not mean they had no chance for redemption or were chosen to be separated from Christ. They were, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Lord and Master Jesus Christ.” That’s why they were marked out. There is no hope for being victorious over sin apart from Jesus Christ.

Now we come to a man named Enoch. Little is known about Enoch. Jude says, “In the seventh generation from Adam.” Gen. 5 confirms what Jude said about the 7th generation. We don’t have a biographical sketch of Enoch like we do for his great-grandson Noah. Gen 5:24 says, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Nothing written in Scripture is attributed to Enoch. What is curious about this is not that Enoch had a prophecy; it’s that Jude refers to it. So where did Enoch’s prophecy come from? Jude is most likely quoting the prophecy as recorded in the book of 1 Enoch. Before you start thumbing through your Bible, it’s not in there. Why would Jude quote from a non-authoritative source? The same reason Paul quoted Epimenides in Tit. 1:12 that said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Paul also attributed another phrase to a man named Aratus in Acts 17:28. The extra biblical works that the writers of Scripture refer to does not make those writings on the same plane as Scripture. The reason Jude quoted Enoch is because what he said was consistent with the truth.

What’s the prophecy? Jude quoting Enoch says, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones.”  This looks like Jude is talking about something that has already occurred. Think about Christ’s appearance in the flesh from Lu. 2. Jesus was born in the company of His mother Mary and earthly father Joseph. They were quite alone. What Jude is talking about has yet to occur. He’s talking about the second coming when Christ will return with His angels and it will be quite spectacular. Jesus is coming again, “to execute judgment upon all.” Just who is the all Jude refers to? It refers to those who opposed Him, to those that acted in ways contrary to His teachings and principles; it refers to unbelievers. In this context, he’s talking about people that have not made a decision to follow Christ.

Jude says Jesus will execute judgment for two things. First, Jesus is coming, “to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way.” Here’s the disclaimer. If you are ungodly, do ungodly deeds, or have done ungodly deeds in an ungodly manner, watch out. Any and all ungodly deeds are documented and will be judged. The reason ungodly deeds are done is because people who do them are ungodly. You see the connection with v. 4 again because the people were ungodly. Why? Because they denied, “Our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.” How can we be sure? Because they turned the grace of God into a license to sin. You cannot do that and be godly. You cannot act in a manner that is inconsistent with Scripture as a habit of life and be a Christian. Sure you can claim it to be so, but that doesn’t make it true. The mark of a Christian is a desire to be like Christ, a desire to pursue Him and the things that bring Him glory.

Jesus will also execute judgment for, all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Judgment not only for things done in an ungodly manner, but also for things said. If you can say harsh things about God, it stems from an ungodly heart, an unrepentant heart, an unregenerated heart, a heart of stone. It matters what we do and it matters what we say. Christians can and should be godly because the Holy Spirit lives within us. We should be a beacon of hope that point the ungodly to the One that can establish the connection with God. We should point people the hope that is found in Christ. It must be intentional, it must be consistent, it must be authentic. If Jesus truly turned your world upside down, then share the excitement with the next person you come in contact with and don’t stop there.

Let’s do what we can, when we can, where we can.

The Effectiveness of Christ’s Death (Part 2)

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we weren’t able to finish our message. We reviewed some behaviors that Peter expects us to demonstrate because we are children of God. No matter the circumstances of our lives, we must demonstrate godly behavior so that people will be drawn to us and ask us why we have hope. Let’s finish this passage this morning by looking at a very difficult section of Scripture.

I encourage you to read 1 Pet. 3:17-20 and see what Peter writes.

Peter has told us to stay pure and to stay focused, now he says stay humble. Remember that it was Christ who suffered and died for you, but He also died for everyone. Don’t draw the conclusion that you are somehow more special than anyone else because you made the choice for Christ. It’s interesting to note that the word translated “died” in v. 18 should have been translated suffer. That’s what Peter’s talking about. He’s tying the suffering of the people he’s writing to Christ’s suffering. 1 Pet. 2:21 told us, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” Christ absolutely did die, that is not in dispute. He suffered and died once for all men that He might bring all men to God. His sacrifice is not to be repeated like the sacrifices made by the priests because His sacrifice was final and complete.

Peter is talking to us about suffering and how we are supposed to act. Suffering does not mean God has turned His back on you. If you suffer because of your own wrong doing, don’t blame God. If you suffer for the cause of Christ, you’ll be glorified just like He was. Jesus Christ is our ultimate example. Back in 2:22, Peter told us that Christ was without sin, yet He was crucified. The reason His sacrifice was sufficient was because He was sinless. In Rom. 5:8 Paul said that, “Christ died for sinners.” He added that, “Christ died for our sins” in 1 Cor. 15:3. John said in 1 Jo. 4:10 that Jesus was the propitiation or satisfaction for sins. Is. 53 tells us that Jesus bore our sins. Christ certainly did no wrong, yet He suffered more than any of us will ever know. He did not lash out at His accusers.  He did not fight back. He died in the flesh.  His physical body died.  This fact is foundational to our faith. Jo. 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” Rom. 1:3, “Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” 1 Tim. 3:16, “He who was revealed in the flesh.” 1 Jo. 4:2, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” 2 Jo. 1:7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” Christ died just as all men die.  When His flesh died, His spirit was made  alive.  KJV renders this word quickened. This word does not mean kept alive, but recalled to life or reanimated. Jesus Christ really did die, he did not pass out; He was not rendered unconscious. He physically died.  His heart stopped beating, His brain activity ceased.  He was really dead. Christ’s flesh was dead, but His spirit was recalled to life. For the Christian, we will not experience real life until our flesh dies and our spirit is reanimated.

After Christ died His body and spirit were separated, “He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.” This verse has caused trouble for some people.      Some would argue that this is a proof text for the doctrine of purgatory. Others may try to convince you that you can be saved once you are in hell. You cannot separate verses 19 and 20 when trying to understand this. I’m not going to go through all the possible meanings of the verse, but it’s important to understand some words used here. We need to use our good biblical investigative questions, the five Ws and the H. We know from the context that the pronoun He refers to Christ. What did Jesus do? He went and made proclamation. Where? To where the spirits are imprisoned. Spirits most certainly refers to angels and specifically in this passage evil spirits. Only one place in the N.T. does this word refer to humans and the word righteous is added to spirits. That’s tied to v. 20 that tells us the spirits were disobedient. What did they do? Gen. 6:1-4 tells us that there were some things going on between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Genesis then gives the account of the flood. The word prison is never used as a place of punishment for humans after death. This same word is used to describe Satan’s 1000 year confinement in Rev. 20:7. In light of this, it is most reasonable that Jesus Christ physically went to the prison where the evil angels are imprisoned and declared His victory over death. Jesus didn’t preach through Noah as some think. It doesn’t make sense since Jesus went. If He had to “went” somewhere, why would He need to speak through Noah? Remember that Peter is trying to reassure Christians that they must endure suffering and persecution.

Suffering is a part of our walk with Christ. It doesn’t mean that you will always suffer, but don’t let it catch you by surprise. Don’t let it get you down, don’t allow circumstances of this life to control you. Stay pure, stay focused, and stay humble because we know that our refuge is in the Lord.