Daily Archives: December 22, 2016

The Grief of Christmas

The grief of Christmas is real. For some, Christmas is a reminder of hurt, deeply-felt pain, and personal sufferings, even as it’s a joyful time of year to celebrate the coming of Jesus as the light of the world with the church, family, and friends.

Maybe this is the way you feel about Christmas. Maybe Christmas invokes a sort of grief that is reminiscent of the weeping of Rachel (Jeremiah 31). Such feelings diminish Christmas celebrations and church services and can cause you to feel distant from the Lord.


At Christmastime, grief becomes a teacher that God uses to direct our hearts back to him.
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The holidays remind us of the past, the death of a loved one, an argument or conflict that goes unresolved. For others, Christmas reminds them of a childhood riddled in poverty, and for others, a gift that was never received. Still there are those who relish in Christmas as a joyous season filled with cookies, parties, movies, and celebrations—so what do we do with grief?

We start with the Christmas story.

Grief in Bethlehem

The story unfolds with Jesus being born. Herod grows upset that the Christ child would take his place on the throne. He didn’t want Jesus to reign. He didn’t believe in Christ. Nor did he recognize his internal darkness.

Overcome by rage, Herod announces an edict that male children, 2-years-old and under, be put to death. Fury comes to the region of Ramah. Christmastime in Bethlehem begins with children dying, mothers and fathers crying, homes shattered with loss.

There is little time to prepare for the grief to come; it comes quickly! There’s utter chaos in Bethlehem. Homes broken into, doors torn down, children ripped from their mothers, little toddlers on the laps of their fathers snatched away to be put to death. Soldiers grimace as they kill innocent children. No one is immune to the horrific scene.

Rachel’s Grief Fulfilled

Matthew’s testimony of Jesus’ birth is a direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15. He reminds the reader that grief struck Israel several times in its history through slavery and exile, and here, grief is personified through Rachel’s weeping. Rachel’s children are led into exile, and the weeping she feels is connected with the incarnation:

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”

So how does Ramah connect with Bethlehem, where Jesus is born? Ramah and Bethlehem are not far from each other. Ramah is north of Jerusalem and Bethlehem is south, with about 11 miles between both places. Rachel’s weeping at Ramah connects the reader to the grief of Bethlehem.

Rachel grieves because she will no longer see her children. Rachel also grieves for the children in Jesus’ day who will never be seen again in this life. Rachel weeps because grief is real, and so do we.

How to Respond to Grief

At Christmastime, grief becomes a teacher that God uses to direct our hearts back to him. We look at Rachel’s grief, and how it points to Bethlehem’s grief, and we wonder: How should we respond at Christmas when grief is melded together with such a time of joy?

1. We comfort the depressed of heart with words of counsel (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Counsel the depressed with the scriptures. Offer biblical passages that grant hope, sustain life, and refresh the weary and burdened heart. Couch your words with grace and mercy, never accusing, but blessing and listening to the broken. Comforting words are needed in times of grief. Our weeping with grieving people might be the very tool that God uses to help those burdened with sin, doubt, and pain.

2. We preach to ourselves that true hope is found in the Lord (Psalm 42:11).

Maybe you’re the one grieving. Preach the gospel to your grief to reaffirm the sufficiency of God’s Word, which brings life to the soul. What do we preach? We preach that our sins have been removed (Psalm 103:12). We search out those areas where our hearts are prone to wander from the Lord (Isaiah 53:6). Then we read, meditate on, and quote aloud the promises of God that sin has been covered by Christ (Romans 4:7-8).

3. We remember that earthly griefs are temporary moments to prepare us for eternal joy (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The birth of Christ on that evening in Bethlehem ushered in a profound grief during the first Christmas in Bethlehem. God delivers Joseph, Mary, and Jesus from Herod’s hand. But those left in Bethlehem experience grief unimaginable that shows how this present life is preparing us for an eternal joy. For we hope in Christ. God’s promise is sure. We will arrive out of grief, and our faith will become more genuine than precious gold, causing us to rejoice with inexpressible joy.

May you see Rachel’s grief and the real hardship surrounding Jesus’ birth at Christmas as windows into other peoples’ grief, and may the hope of Christ encourage you both to grieve and help the grieving during the holiday season.

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10 Things You Should Know about the Incarnation

This is a guest post by Stephen J. Wellum, author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ.


1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son.

John 1:14 is clear: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was the Son from eternity who became incarnate, not the divine nature. The Son, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume a human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6-8).

2. As the eternal Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, he is the full image and expression of the Father and is thus fully God.

Along with the Father and Spirit, the Son fully and equally shares the divine nature. As the image and exact correspondence of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), the Son is fully God. All of God’s perfections and attributes are his since Christ is God the Son (Col. 2:9). As the Son, he participates in the divine rule, receives divine worship, and does all divine works as the Son (Ps. 110:1; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2-3; Rev. 5:11-12).

3. As God the Son, he has always existed in an eternally-ordered relation to the Father and Spirit, which now is gloriously displayed in the incarnation.

It was fitting that the Son alone, who is from the Father by the Spirit, became incarnate and not the other divine persons (John 1:1-2, 14, 18). In the incarnation, the Son displayed his divine-filial dependence on the Father and always acted in relation to the Father by the Spirit (John 5:19-30; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1-21). From eternity and in the incarnation, the Son never acted on his own or independently but always in relation to and inseparably from his Father and the Spirit.

4. The incarnation is an act of addition, not subtraction.

In the incarnation, the eternal Son who has always possessed the divine nature has not changed or set aside his deity. Instead, he has added to himself a second nature, namely a human nature consisting of a human body and soul (Phil. 2:6-8). As a result, the individual Jesus is one person—the Son—who now subsists in two natures, and thus is fully God and fully man.

5. The human nature assumed by the divine Son is fully human and completely sinless.

Christ’s human nature was unfallen and untainted by the effects of sin. Our inborn inclination to anti-God rebellion was not part of Jesus’s human makeup. Jesus fully experienced the effects of living in a fallen world, but he did not share the guilt or disposition of Adam’s sin passed on to the human race. In fact, Jesus never committed a sin, nor could he (Matt. 3:15; John. 8:46; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 1:19). Although he was tempted like us, he perfectly obeyed his Father, even unto death, as our covenant mediator, thus accomplishing our salvation as the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 5:5-10).

6. The virgin conception was the glorious means by which the incarnation took place.

The incarnation was thoroughly supernatural and a demonstration of our triune God’s sovereign and gracious initiative to redeem his people (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38). The virgin conception was the time and means by which the divine Son added to himself a human nature. By the virgin conception, the triune God created a new human nature for the Son, and as a result of this action, in Jesus, we truly meet God face-to-face, not indwelling or overshadowing human flesh but in full undiminished glory. Although we behold Jesus as a man, he is much more; he is the Lord, the divine Son who humbles himself and veils his glory by becoming one with us.

7. From conception, the Son limited his divine life in such a way that he did not override the limitations of his human nature.

As a result of the incarnation, the divine Son lives as a true man with the normal physical, mental, volitional, and psychological attributes and capacities of original humanity. As the incarnate Son, he experienced the wonder and weaknesses of a completely human life. He grew in wisdom and physical stature (Luke 2:52), experienced tears and joy, and suffered death and a glorious resurrection for his people and their salvation (John 11:33, 35; 19:30; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

8. But the Son was not limited to his human nature alone since he continued to act in and through his divine nature.

This truth is best demonstrated in the incarnate Son’s continuing to sustain the universe (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:3), alongside Christ’s other divine actions during his life and ministry. In Christ, there are two natures which remain distinct and retain their own attributes and integrity, yet the Son is able to act through both natures. For this reason, the Son is not completely circumscribed by his human nature; he is also able to act outside of it in his divine nature.

When and how the Son acts through both natures is best explained in terms of Trinitarian relations worked out in redemptive history for the sake of our salvation. The Son, who has always inseparably acted from the Father and by the Spirit, continues to do so but now as the obedient Son acting as our covenant representative and substitute. In the incarnation, neither the Son’s deity nor his humanity is diminished.

9. By taking on our human nature, the Son became the first man of the new creation, our great mediator and new covenant head.

As the Son incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection, reverses the work of the first Adam and forges ahead as the last Adam, our great trailblazer and champion (Heb. 2:10). As a result of the incarnation, God the Son becomes perfectly qualified to meet our every need, especially our need for the forgiveness of our sin (Heb. 2:5-18; 7:22-28; 9:15-10:18).

10. God the Son incarnate is utterly unique and alone Lord and Savior.

Jesus is in a category all by himself. Given who God is in all of his glory and moral perfection, and what sin is before God, apart from the Son’s incarnation and his entire work for us, there is no salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:11). As the divine Son, he alone satisfies God’s own judgment against us and the demand for perfect obedience (Rom. 5:12-21). As the incarnate Son, he alone can identify with us as our representative and substitute (Heb. 5:1). Our salvation hope for the payment of our sin and our full restoration as God’s image-bearers is only accomplished in Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 2:5-18).


Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Stephen lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Karen, and their five children.

Source: 10 Things You Should Know about the Incarnation

What We Celebrate at Christmas

In this excerpt from What Did Jesus Do?, R.C. Sproul reminds us that what we really celebrate at Christmas is the incarnation of God Himself.

Transcript

What we celebrate at Christmas is not so much the birth of a baby, as important as that is, but what’s so significant about the birth of that particular baby is that in this birth we have the incarnation of God Himself. An incarnation means a coming in the flesh. We know how John begins His gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So in that very complicated introductory statement, he distinguishes between the Word and God, and then in the next breath identifies the two, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And then at the end of the prologue, he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Now in this “infleshment,” if you will, of Christ appearing on this planet, it’s not that God suddenly changes through a metamorphosis into a man, so that the divine nature sort of passes out of existence or comes into a new form of fleshiness. No, the incarnation is not so much a subtraction as it is an addition, where the eternal second person of the Trinity takes upon Himself a human nature and joins His divine nature to that human nature for the purpose of redemption.

In the 19th century, liberal scholars propounded a doctrine called the kenotic theory of the incarnation, and you may have heard it, the idea being that when Jesus came to this earth, He laid aside His divine attributes so that the God-man at least touching His deity no longer had the divine attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and all the rest. But of course, that would totally deny the very nature of God, who is immutable. Even in the incarnation, the divine nature does not lose His divine attributes. He doesn’t communicate them to the human side. He doesn’t deify the human nature, but in the mystery of the union between the divine and the human natures of Jesus, the human nature is truly human. It’s not omniscient. It’s not omnipotent. It’s none of those things. But at the same time, the divine nature remains fully and completely divine. B. B. Warfield, the great scholar at Princeton, in remarking on the kenotic theory of his day said, “The only kenosis that that theory proves is the kenosis of the brains of the theologians who are propagating it.”—that they’ve emptied themselves of their common sense.

But in any case, what is emptied is glory, privilege, exaltation. Jesus in the incarnation makes Himself of no reputation. He allows His own divine exalted standing to be subjected to human hostility and human criticism and denial. “He took the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men.” This is an amazing thing that He doesn’t just come as a man, He comes as a slave. He comes in a station that carries with it no exaltation, no dignity, only indignity. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient even to the point of death,” the shameful death of the cross.

Source: What We Celebrate at Christmas

John MacArthur: Transgenderism is a Form of Suicide and an Assault on God

In response to the question of how to address transgendered people, John MacArthur has some pretty absolute things to say. “Simply stated, there is no such thing as transgender. You’re either XX or XY. That’s it.”

God made men and women, MacArthur explains. “That is science. That is reality.”

First things first, one must make sure to understand that transgenderism is an assault on God. MacArthur explains the idea that “you are something other than your biology is a cultural construct intended as an assault on God.”

Additionally, transgenderism “is a kind of personal suicide.” It is cutting oneself off from “the way God designed you.” And it’s not just suicide of identity, but also physical suicide. MacArthur explains a transgender person is 19 times more likely to kill him or herself. He offers a theory as to why the suicide rate is so much higher among transgender people: “You have cut yourself off from reality and normal relationships.” The transgender lifestyle is an “extreme isolation that can be no more extreme.”

MacArthur goes on to condemn a surgery in Australia to change the sex of a 5-year-old. “These kinds of parents ought to be imprisoned,” he states.

Despite his absolute statements, though, MacArthur emphasizes the need to show love as one is addressing a transgendered person. The most important thing to communicate is that “God made you. And God made you exactly the way he wanted you to be.” One should also express that the person is “fighting God in his sovereignty” by choosing to define yourself.

Toward the end of his five-minute answer, MacArthur shows some compassion for transgender people. He explains there are “holes in the heart of someone going in that direction” and that they have likely experienced a lack of feeling loved and accepted. This is precisely why it’s important to show love for the person and not to exaggerate the isolation they feel when you address the issue with them.

The post John MacArthur: Transgenderism is a Form of Suicide and an Assault on God appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.

10 Things You Should Know about Christmas

Herod tried to kill Jesus (Matt. 2:16). There was no place for Jesus in the inn (Luke 2:7). Even though the world was made through Jesus, the world didn’t recognize him (John 1:11). Many didn’t welcome the birth of the Christ child. The reason for this was primarily that Jesus threatened people’s self-interest. Sinful people love sin more than God and refuse to come to the light lest their sin be exposed (John 3:19–21).

  1. Jesus is the reason for the season.

The primary purpose for observing Christmas is remembering Jesus’s birth. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’s birthday, not the little drummer boy or Santa Claus!

  1. Jesus preexisted with God in the beginning before the world began.

Jesus’s birth as a baby in a Bethlehem manger doesn’t mark the beginning of his existence. Rather, as John’s Gospel teaches explicitly (John 1:1, 14) and the other Gospels imply, Jesus took on human flesh in addition to existing eternally as part of the Godhead.

  1. Jesus’s birth was the culmination of centuries of messianic expectations.

Jesus’s coming occurred in fulfillment of messianic expectations including his birthplace, virgin birth, and other details surrounding his advent. Later, during his earthly ministry and particularly in his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled many more messianic patterns and predictions.

  1. We should distinguish between cultural and biblical Christmas.

We must separate fact from fiction, and historic, biblical truths from mere Christmas traditions. This includes Santa Claus, presents, reindeer, Christmas trees, and other paraphernalia. Not that these customs are necessarily harmful or unhelpful but they are unhistorical. Jesus’s birth, however, isn’t a legend; it’s historical fact.

  1. Jesus’s birth is part of a larger cluster of events that culminates in Jesus’s death for our sins as God’s suffering servant.

Jesus wasn’t only born as a baby, he grew up as a young man who knew the Scriptures. Then, when he was about thirty years old, he began his public ministry, healing many, exorcising demons, raising the dead, and commanding the forces of nature. In keeping with his own predictions, he died, was buried, and after three days rose from the dead. While at Christmas we celebrate Jesus’s birth, we should remember that it is part of a life unlike any other that brought us salvation and forgiveness from sins.

  1. Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in his mother Mary’s womb.
  2. There is no incarnation without the virgin birth.
  3. Jesus’s birth was accompanied by rejection.
  4. Jesus came to make a second, spiritual birth possible for those who believe in him.
  5. Jesus’s coming marks the ultimate sacrifice.

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The Forever-Exalted Christ

The Forever-Exalted Christ

Hebrews 1:3

Code: B161222
by John MacArthur

We shouldn’t be deceived by the size and seeming vulnerability of the baby in the manger. Jesus Christ is the creator and ruler of the entire universe—and His incarnation didn’t alter that. Even in His infancy, He was supreme to everything else, in every possible way.

That’s the central thesis of the book of Hebrews. In the opening verses of that epistle, the writer outlines seven facets of Christ’s preeminence in his opening statement:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1–3, emphasis added)

We examined the first four of those aspects—Christ’s role as God’s heir, Creator, radiance, and image—in the previous post. Today we’ll take a look at the last three.

Christ Has Ultimate Authority

Jesus Christ has always been upholding “all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). Last time we considered His role as the Creator of the entire universe, material and nonmaterial. But Christ’s authority goes far beyond that: He upholds and sustains all that He has created.

No scientist, mathematician, astronomer, or nuclear physicist could do anything or discover anything apart from the sustaining power and authority of Christ. The whole universe hangs on His powerful arm, His infinite wisdom, and His ability to control every element and orchestrate the movements of every molecule, atom, and subatomic particle.

For example, if the size of the earth’s orbit around the sun increased or decreased even the slightest amount, we would soon fatally freeze or fry. If the earth’s angle of tilt went beyond its present range even slightly, that would drastically disrupt the familiar four-season cycle and threaten to end life on the planet. Similarly, if the moon’s orbit around the earth diminished, the ocean tides would greatly increase and cause unimaginable havoc. And if our atmosphere thinned just a little, many of the thousands of meteors that now enter it and harmlessly incinerate before striking the ground would crash to the surface with potentially catastrophic results.

Jesus Christ prevents such disasters by perfectly maintaining the universe’s intricate balance. The most astronomical distances and largest objects are not beyond His control. The most delicate and microscopic processes do not escape His attention. He is the preeminent power and authority who nevertheless came to earth in human form, assuming a servant’s role.

Christ Removes Our Sins

The sixth aspect of Christ’s preeminence deals directly with our salvation. Hebrews 1:3 expresses it this way, “He had made purification of sins.” Jesus, by His atoning death, brought about the purification or cleansing of our sins.

The Old Testament priests offered animal sacrifices over and over, but none of those could ultimately remove the people’s sins. Those repeated sacrifices instead merely pointed to the desperate need for a once-for-all sacrifice that could finally take away sins. And God provided such a sacrifice in the person of Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews later wrote, “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28); “for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

In keeping with the Old Testament Law that the sacrificial lamb had to be spotless, the final New Covenant sacrifice had to be a perfect, sinless substitute. To pay the price of sin for others, He had to be perfect or He would have had to pay the price for His own sin. And since no one in the world is without sin, the substitute had to be someone from outside the world. Yet He still needed to be a man to die in the place of men and women.

Of course, the only person who could meet those requirements was Jesus Christ. He was the sinless man who could be the perfect substitute for sinners. By offering Himself to die on the cross, He took the full wrath of God for sinners like you and me. That wrath, which was originally directed toward us, was then satisfied. Thus God can forgive you because Christ paid the penalty for your sin.

So one of the preeminent glories of Christ is that, as the God-Man, He came to die for sinners. And He died on the cross to accomplish redemption. Immediately prior to His death, Jesus uttered these profound words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30); once and for all He paid the price for sins for everyone who would ever believe in Him.

Christ Is Exalted in Heaven

The author concludes his marvelous outline of the preeminence of Christ by affirming His exaltation: “[He] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

Christ’s ministry on earth ended forty days after His resurrection when He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). And when He returned there, God seated Him at His right hand (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), which always symbolized Christ’s power, authority, prominence, and preeminence (Romans 8:34; 1 Peter 3:22). Paul says that at that point God gave Him a name above all names—“Lord,” which is the New Testament synonym for Old Testament descriptions of God as sovereign ruler (Philippians 2:9–11).

When Jesus went into heaven, He did what no Old Testament priest ever did—He sat down. They never sat down while ministering because their work was never done. But Christ’s work was done; He had accomplished the work of redemption on the cross, and therefore it was appropriate for Him to sit down. He remains on the right hand of the throne of God as the believer’s great High Priest and Intercessor (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24).

When you read and study Hebrews 1, the wonderful truth of Jesus Christ’s preeminence and superiority shines forth from every verse. You can’t miss it, whether it’s in His inheritance of all things, His agency in creation, His essential nature as God, His atoning death for sinners, or the various ways in which He is superior to the angels. The entire chapter effectively proclaims the Messiah’s true identity and rightful position.

It ensures that when you consider the baby in the Bethlehem shelter, you don’t merely see an adorable child who grew up to be a good teacher and compassionate healer. The passage points you beyond that and to an accurate understanding of the person and work of Christ. The writer, through careful, Spirit-inspired argumentation, declares irrefutably that the Child born to Mary was indeed God in the manger. He truly was the Son of God, miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit yet born naturally to a woman in Israel. And without doubt He was the Lord and Savior who lived a perfect life and died as a perfect sacrifice so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.

(Adapted from God in the Manger.)


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B161222
COPYRIGHT ©2016 Grace to You

December 22, 2016: Verse of the day

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Our Sympathizer

For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (2:16–18)

Christ did not come to redeem angels but men. So He took on Himself the form of Abraham’s descendants and became a Jew. “How odd of God to choose the Jews,” someone has quipped. We wonder why He chose them and not some other race or nation on whom to show His special favor. But if He had chosen some other group, we would ask the same question about them. He simply chose them in His sovereign will out of love. “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers” (Deut. 7:7–8).

Again the writer answers the question, “If Jesus is God, why did He become a man?” He came to substitute for men, to reconcile men to God, to fit them for God’s presence and to destroy death. But beyond that He also came to help the reconciled when they are tempted. He wanted to feel everything we feel so that He could be a merciful and understanding, as well as a faithful, high priest. He came not only to save us but to sympathize with us.

In his letters to Timothy, Paul gave words of counsel and encouragement to his young friend about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual welfare. But all of his counsel could perhaps be summed up in these words in the second letter: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim. 2:8). Paul was saying, in effect, “Remember Jesus Christ in His humanity, Timothy. Remember that, wherever you may go, He has been there before you. You can get down on your knees when the going gets tough and you can pray, ‘Lord, You know what You went through when You were here. I’m going through it now.’ And He will say, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

When you have a problem, it is wonderful to be able to talk with the divine One who has already experienced it and come through successfully. Other people may be understanding, but they cannot fully understand. Jesus came to identify with us, to experience what we experience. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He became our Sympathizer, a merciful and faithful high priest. He was hungry, He was thirsty, He was overcome with fatigue, He slept, He was taught, He grew, He loved, He was astonished, He was glad, He was angry, He was indignant, He was sarcastic, He was grieved, He was troubled, He was overcome by future events, He exercised faith, He read the Scriptures, He prayed, He sighed in His heart when He saw another man in illness, and He cried when His heart ached.

Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. For example, He felt temptation to a degree that we could not possibly experience. Most of us never know the full. degree of resistible temptation, simply because we usually succumb long before that degree is reached. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation that came to Him. And He was victorious in every trial.

Why did He go through that? He did it so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest who could sympathize with our weaknesses and who could come to the aid of those who are tempted. Ours is not a cosmic God, powerful and holy, but indifferent. He knows where we hurt, where we are weak, and where we are tempted. He is the God we can go to not only for salvation but for sympathy.

This is our Savior. The perfect Savior. Our Substitute, our salvation Author, our Sanctifier, our Satan-Conqueror, and our Sympathizer. What a Savior He is. There is no other.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

December 22, 2016: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

December 22 Submitting to Christ as Lord

“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name … that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Philippians 2:9, 11

✧✧✧

To receive Christ as Savior is to submit to His authority as Lord.

Is Jesus Lord? According to the declaration of the Father, He is. We cannot know Him any other way than as Lord. That’s why the first creed in the history of the church, given in Philippians 2:11, says, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Every Christian must acknowledge that. It is the foundation of the Christian faith, the very substance of what we believe. We don’t make Him Lord after salvation. Every time I hear someone say, “You need to make Jesus Lord,” it is as repellent to me as hearing fingernails scraped down a blackboard. We never make Jesus Lord—God has already done that.

Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and those who would receive Him must take Him for who He really is. Puritan John Flavel put it this way: “The gospel offer of Christ includes all his offices, and gospel faith just so receives him; to submit to him, as well as to be redeemed by him; to imitate him in the holiness of his life, as well as to reap the purchases and fruits of his death. It must be an entire receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a similar vein, A.W. Tozer said, “To urge men and women to believe in a divided Christ is bad teaching, for no one can receive half of Christ, or a third of Christ, or a quarter of the Person of Christ! We are not saved by believing in an office nor in a work.” Jesus is Lord, and if you refuse Him as Lord, you cannot call Him Savior. If you have truly received Him, your life will be characterized by submission to His authority.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Take time to acknowledge the lordship of Christ in your own life.

For Further Study: Read Romans 10:9–13. What is a sinner to confess if he is to be saved? ✧ According to 2 Corinthians 4:5, what message did Paul preach?[1]


December 22

No Other Name

There is no other name under heaven.

Acts 4:12

The angel that appeared to Joseph emphasized the meaning of Jesus’ name: “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus, from the Hebrew Joshua, or Jehoshua, means “Jehovah will save.” The name itself was a testimony to God’s salvation. But, the angel told Joseph, Mary’s Son would be the very embodiment of Jehovah’s salvation. He Himself would save His people from their sins.

After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter, speaking before the Sanhedrin, also emphasized the importance of Jesus’ name: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).[2]


DECEMBER 22

SILENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.

—Psalm 4:4

The Bible and Christian biography make a great deal of silence, but we of today make of it exactly nothing….

At the risk of being written off as an extremist or a borderline fanatic we offer it as our mature opinion that more spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome presence of God than in years of mere study. While our mental powers are in command there is always the veil of nature between us and the face of God. It is only when our vaunted wisdom has been met and defeated in a breathless encounter with Omniscience that we are permitted really to know, when prostrate and wordless the soul receives divine knowledge like a flash of light on a sensitized plate. The exposure may be brief, but the results are permanent. ROR168-169

Today, Lord, I long for that moment of silence in Your majestic presence. Speak, Lord, in this stillness. Amen. [3]


December 22

God’s Kingdom Is Priceless

… finding one pearl of great value.—Matt. 13:46a

Job’s ancient description of humanity’s relentless quest for wealth sounds amazingly up-to-date:

Man puts an end to darkness, and to the farthest limit he searches out the rock in gloom and deep shadow. He sinks a shaft far from habitation, forgotten by the foot; they hang and swing to and fro far from men … Its rocks are the source of sapphires, and its dust contains gold.… He hews out channels through the rocks, and his eye sees anything precious. (Job 28:3–4, 6, 10)

For all the efforts to mine and process precious metals and gems, none of those riches offers anything of lasting value (cf. Job 28:12–15, 21, 23, 28).

The blessing of being a kingdom citizen—a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ—is truly priceless and more valuable than all the world’s greatest riches combined. That citizenship is so incomparable because it is “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:4). This heavenly inheritance includes the unsurpassed, divine spiritual blessings of forgiveness, love, peace, purity, righteousness, eternal life, and more.

Even with its priceless nature and ultimate value, God offers His kingdom to any person who surrenders all, repents, and trusts in Christ as Lord and Savior. Whatever values a man or woman has clung to in the past, God will happily exchange for the priceless kingdom treasure.

ASK YOURSELF
Are you in one of those phases of life in which Christianity feels like all cost and little return? Reflect today on the treasures of faith. Ask God to bring them to mind whenever you get discouraged or weary of the battle. They are worth much, much more than the price of admission.[4]


December 22 Confirmation from God

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3–4).

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God confirmed the truth of the gospel preached through Christ with many miracles.

When Jesus preached the gospel, He performed miracles that made what He said believable. He said, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works” (John 10:38). Jesus claimed to be from God, then made it obvious He really was from God.

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Jesus confirmed His ministry by His own miracles. Peter reiterated that fact on the day of Pentecost: “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22).

God also gave these same confirming signs to His second generation of preachers—the apostles, so no one could dispute the validity of their message. What the apostles said was not their own opinion; it was divine truth substantiated by signs, wonders, and miracles.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are synonyms referring to all the supernatural things the apostles did. But the apostles also confirmed the Word with “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” That’s a reference to the temporary sign gifts described in Scripture, such as tongues and healings, not to the permanent edifying gifts given to the church for all time.

Today God attests to the gospel with the miracle of His written Word. Let it not be said that you neglected Jesus Christ. History confirms that hours of neglect cost Napoleon Waterloo. Neglecting Christ’s salvation will cost you eternal blessing and joy and will bring you damnation. Don’t allow yourself to drift past God’s grace.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for His Word and that through it you have all the truth you need to communicate the gospel.

For Further Study: Read Acts 5–19, and list all the miracles performed by the apostles to confirm the gospel.[5]


DECEMBER 22

THE WORD MADE FLESH

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:17

I have given much thought and contemplation to the sweetest and tenderest of all of the mysteries in God’s revelation to man—the Incarnation! Jesus, the Christ, is the Eternal One, for in the fullness of time He humbles Himself. John’s description is plain: The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

I confess that I would have liked to have seen the baby Jesus. But the glorified Jesus yonder at the right hand of the Majesty on high was the baby Jesus once cradled in the manger straw. Taking a body of humiliation, He was still the Creator who made the wood of that manger, made the straw, and was Creator of all the beasts that were there.

In truth, He made the little town of Bethlehem and all that it was. He also made the star that lingered over the scene that night. He had come into His own world, His Father’s world. Everything we touch and handle belongs to Him. So we have come to love Him and adore Him and honor Him!

Lord, You became so vulnerable for us by becoming a helpless baby. Thank You for Your intentional humility. Even in Your birth You showed us how to sacrifice what is rightly ours for the benefit of others. Help me to apply this lesson in my own life so that I will become more like You.[6]


DECEMBER 22

GROWING LOVE FOR OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

JOHN 13:35

Sometimes an earnest Christian will, after some remarkable spiritual encounter, withdraw himself from his fellow believers and develop a spirit of fault-finding.

This is a dangerous state of mind, and the more dangerous because it can justify itself by the facts—it may easily be true that the professed Christians with whom he is acquainted are worldly and dull and without spiritual enthusiasm. It is not that he is mistaken in his facts that proves him to be in error, but that his reaction to the facts is of the flesh! His new spirituality has made him less charitable, and we must be cautioned that any religious experience that fails to deepen our love for our fellow Christians may be safely written off as spurious. The Apostle John makes love for our fellow Christians to be a test of true faith, insisting that as we grow in grace we grow in love toward all of God’s people: “Every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (1 John 5:1). This means simply that if we love God we will love His children. All true Christian experience will deepen our love for other Christians!

Therefore we conclude that whatever tends to separate us in person or in heart from our fellow Christians is not of God, but is of the flesh or of the devil. Conversely, whatever causes us to love the children of God is likely to be of God![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 383). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 365). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 369). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[6] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.