Christ in You, the Hope of Glory

Whether or not you make new year’s resolutions, your goal ought to be becoming complete in Christ, as Colossians 1:24–29 tells you. Union with your Savior, Jesus Christ, is crucially important in your life as a believer.

Rejoice in Christ’s presence with you. Rejoice in suffering. Suffering characterizes the life of the Christian, Romans 8:17. But joy, rather than despair, ought to be your attitude. It was Paul’s, verse 24. Paul’s suffering for the church fills up what is lacking of Christ’s afflictions! It is not that Christ’s atoning work is incomplete and needs supplementing, but the union between Christ and his body is so close that the suffering of the church is properly described as Christ’s suffering. The closeness of that union gives joy, even in suffering.

That union is further described as a mystery. Understand the mystery, verse 26. “Mystery” for Paul is not a secret rite or teaching, but something which would have remained hidden but for God’s revealing it. See Romans 16:25.

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Before the Dawn of Time

How do you think about, how do you describe, something that exists before time begins? A chapter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is titled, “Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time.” The book is powerful, though not a reliable guide on the nature of the atonement. However, “before the dawn of time,” effectively describes eternity. John 1:15 takes you into eternity as he describes the coming of Jesus into this world.

Believe John’s testimony. John testifies. John the disciple, the author of the Gospel, introduces another John, John the Baptizer, back in verse 6. He was sent by God, he came for witness. His purpose was to give testimony. That is what he does, see verses 15, 19, 32. Significantly he testifies, — present tense — as some translations reflect. John the Baptizer had been executed during the public ministry of Jesus, long before John the disciple wrote his Gospel. The testimony of John continues. It is relevant. The text repeatedly identifies John’s speaking as testimony. It is objectively true. Our post-modern world tells you it’s all about you. If you find peace in Jesus, fine, just don’t try to insist that anything is objectively true or universally valid. You have your way, I have mine. Yet even today, our court system refuses to bend to that kind of subjectivity.

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The Impossible Is Possible with God

Isaiah prophesies that in the midst of turmoil a Son would be born. The first term in the first pair of titles is “Wonderful.” That term had been used by the Angel of the Lord as he a self-identifier as he promised Sampson’s birth. It refers to something bigger than we are, beyond our understanding. In Luke 1:26–38, Gabriel now comes with the news that this mysterious event is about to happen.

God has done what seems impossible. God greets you with his grace. Gabriel brings good news again. The heavenly messenger is the same, but the setting is much more humble. Instead of the temple at Jerusalem, this is a home in the town of Nazareth, far to the north, far from the center of religious life and political power. Mary is highly favored. She is the recipient of God’s grace, in that sense full of grace. She is not full of grace in the sense of being a source of grace to others. Bengal describes her “not as the mother of grace but as the daughter of grace.” By faith she looked God, and specifically to her Son as her Savior, verse 47. Worship of Mary does her no glory. She would doubtless be grieved to be the object of adoration which belongs to God alone. However, do give her the respect and honor which is appropriate. God selected her for a very special task. God’s greetings come to you as well. Gabriel’s greeting of Mary would lead to the message to the shepherds. Luke records the good news which is too great to confine to one person, or even to one nation.

“Now the entire preparation of the incarnation in the preceding centuries is concentrated, as it were, and completed in the election and favoring of Mary as mother of Jesus. Mary is the blessed one among women. She received an honor bestowed on no other creature. In the undeserved favor granted her, she far exceeds all other people and all angels.”

“Mary is held in high esteem. She was chosen and prepared by God to be the mother of his Son. She was the favored one among women. Christ himself desired her to be his mother, who conceived him by the Holy Spirit, who carried him beneath her heart, who nursed him at her breast, who instructed him in the Scriptures, in whom, in a word, the preparation of the incarnation was completed.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pages 281, 282
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Christmas Is for Children

Christmas Is for Children

Imagine how much poorer any celebration of Christmas would be without any children. It’s not just children opening gifts, but sometimes children are more awestruck at what God has done in sending his Son into the world than adults are. When God brings about the reality promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden, he uses children. And, as you read Romans 8:12–17, in a real sense, he expects all who trust in Jesus to be children.

You are God’s sons and daughters. You have received the Spirit of adoption. You belong to God’ family. You have the right to come to God, verse 15. You have the right to come to him, even when you have grieved him with your sin. The Father is specifically the one who adopts you. He does this by Spirit (of adoption), who gives you hope. And you are adopted in Christ and on the basis of his redemptive work. Though you were an alien, dead in sin, you have been adopted into God’s family. In the Old Testament the focus is not on formal adoption, but on your status as God’s children. When Eve give birth to her fist son, she names him Cain, saying, “With the Lord’s help I have brought forth a man.” Adam is son of God (Genesis 5, Luke 3) as is Israel Exodus 4:22, Moses is to command Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’” After the plagues, God led his firstborn son through the desert by the pillar of cloud and fire (and that forms the background for Paul’s emphasis that you, as God’s adopted son or daughter, are led by his Spirit. Isaiah 7 and 9 focus on the coming of a promised child. The theme of God’s children being restored surfaces in Hosea 1 and again in Hosea 11, looking forward to the Messiah. Notice the emphasis on leading in Hosea 11. The focus on children carries into the New Testament. Luke’s Gospel opens with the news of the birth of a promised baby, John the Baptist, followed by the birth of the Child, the one who is Christ the Lord. He is born of the virgin Mary.

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What Does the Name “Christ” Mean—and Mean to You?

The angel announces to the shepherds that in the city of David a baby has been born who is “Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) A few verses later (Luke 2:26) as Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple as they bring the required offering for purification, we are told that elderly Simeon had been told that he would not die before he had seen “the Lord’s Christ.”What does the title “Christ” mean? What does it mean to you, and how do you respond? Look at Luke 4:16–21.

Listen to what Jesus says about himself. Jesus proclaimed the presence of the kingdom. Jesus spoke at the synagogue service in Nazareth. This incident is not the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, see verses 14,15,23; Matthew 13:53–58. Luke does record this significant reaction to Christ, one that was tied with the familiarity that the people of Nazareth had with Jesus, who had grown up in their town. It was not unusual for a visiting rabbi to be asked to address the congregation. The service included: the thanksgiving and Shema, prayer and Amen, reading of a passage from the Pentateuch, reading from the prophets, a sermonic exhortation, benediction by a priest or closing prayer. Jesus stood to read, and sat to speak. Picture the stillness in the congregation as the local boy spoke, verse 20. Jesus used the Scripture to announce the presence of the kingdom. The reading was Isaiah 61:1, 2 (also see Isaiah 58:6). A crucial element in the prophecy is that the speaker is anointed by the Spirit. Luke places this sermon shortly after the baptism of Jesus, in which the Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends to equip him for his messianic work. The passage is full of the promise of the kingdom in its majesty and glory. Jesus announces this kingdom as a present reality, verse 21, see also 4:43.

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