Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas meditations

DR. JOHN MACARTHUR puts it beautifully in his book, First Love: The Joy and Simplicity of Life in Christ:
The One who is the object of our love was born contrary to the laws of nature, reared in obscurity, lived in poverty, and only once crossed the boundary of the land in which He was born—and that in His childhood. He had no wealth or influence, and had neither tranining nor education in the world's schools. His relatives were inconspicious and inconsequential.

In infancy He startled a king. In boyhood He puzzled learned doctors. In manhood He ruled the course of nature. He walked upon the billows and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed with multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services.

He never wrote a book, yet if everything He did were written in detail, the world itself couldn't contain the books that would be written. He never founded a college, yet all the schools together cannot boast of as many students as He has. He never practiced medicine, yet He has healed more broken hearts than doctors have healed broken bodies. Throughout history great men have come and gone, yet He lives on: Herod could not kill Him, Satan could not seduce Him, death could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.

He is Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas. The real meaning of our celebration is this: that God became man to save us, sinners, from our sins.

It's an offensive message because it tells us that we're all sinners. Contrary to modern psychology and other such contemporary hypotheses, we're not born good—we're basically evil, by nature and by choice. We fall short of God's holy standards, and nothing we do and can ever do—going to church every day, giving to the poor, and so on—will earn our way to God and bring us close to Him.

And yet this holy God, who abhors and detests sin, found a way to unite us to Him. He didn't have to, but He chose to. It still overwhelms me and brings me to my knees in thanksgiving whenever I think about that, because the way God chose wasn't easy. It involved Him sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins.

Why couldn't God immediately forgive us, then? Why did someone have to die?

You see, God's judgment against sin had to be satisfied. That judgment demanded death. "For the wages of sin is death," according to Romans 6:23. If He didn't satisfy His justice, He wouldn't be just.

Yet God, in His mercy, decided, "I'm sending Jesus Christ to die in behalf of sinners." That is the message of Biblical Christianity—God reaching out to man—as opposed to the rest of the world's religions, which involve man reaching out to God, through rituals, chants, pilgrimages, and other good works.

What makes the Christmas message even more staggering is the fact that Jesus is God—which means that it was God Himself who became man to bear our sins. Scripture abundantly affirms the deity of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-19; Hebrews 1:1-3; John 10:30; John 14:9; and many more).
Though He was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8).
What humility our Lord demonstrated! He left His heavenly glory to take on human flesh. Jesus chose to be born on a manger rather than on the best hospitals in Bethlehem. A difficult and painful life awaited Him. He had nothing for Himself. He had "nowhere to lay His head" as Luke 9:58 described.

Jesus, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2), suffered God's wrath for our sins—past, present, and future. It should have been us on that cross, but Jesus chose to die on our behalf willingly.

Jesus didn't die for the rest of mankind. He only died for those who put their faith in Him, those who relinquish their ideas of self-righteousness, those who say with all their hearts and minds, "I am a sinner. I have offended a holy God. I cannot do anything to save myself. Jesus, forgive me and save me."

Unless you become a Christian, you stand with every other unbeliever under God's condemning hand. The punishment is eternal death. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

This Christmas season I pray that you all come to a personal, saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.



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