A Child has been born who has always been the Everlasting One.
Remarkably good news for rascals like us. More than anything, we desperately need a Savior. He has come for us in this amazing way, totally unpredictable for those looking for a king. Leave it to Him to always jolt us when we least expect it.
All that He is, we needed. He fits the needs of mankind perfectly. Isaiah told us of what He would be like, and is a completely ideal Savior for people like us. He was ‘custom built’ for our needs. Isaiah 9:6, tells us what He will be:
a son who is a ‘gift,’
a counselor who is wonderful,
a strong God,
a steady father,
and a prince to bring us peace.
This is not a comprehensive list, for He is all this and more. (And He is so much more!)
I’ve found that the Lord Jesus is full of surprises, but He always honors simple faith. The shepherds understood; King Herod and the religious cabal did not. When you follow Him, expect the unexpected, even if He chooses to come in a manger. He seems to enjoy this approach. He chose the humblest way possible.
“There were only a few shepherds at the first Bethlehem. The ox and the donkey understood more of the first Christmas than the high priests in Jerusalem. And it is the same today. “
~ Thomas Merton
Please let God show you more.
I hope you have a happy, joyful, and thoughtful Merry Christmas!
My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, the three epistles that he wrote, and of course, Revelation.
There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:
He reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.
It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).
John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.”Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.
The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:
I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”
1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).
None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.
John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.
Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.
You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20:20-22, ESV
Here we have an eye-witness account of the most amazing event in all of human history! The risen Jesus, who definitely is not dead flesh, appears in a locked room that the stunned disciples hid out in. He is now flesh and blood, as real as you or me. The disciples are pretty much freaked out by all of this. Fearful mutterings can be heard, “What is this… who is this…who unlocked the door?”
The risen Lord walks in with 22 eyes fixed on him. He is confident, and walks with resurrection authority. He holds out his hands–they see for themselves the wounds the nails made. He lifts his robe, and they kneel down to see for themselves the holes. In spite of His brutal wounds, He shows He indeed is the Lord Jesus Christ, the living Savior of the world!
The disciples are ecstatic! They are spontaneously laughing and crying and leaping around the room. It’s like they just won the World Series, (but without the champagne!) Pure joy pulsates through them. He is very much alive! (Hey, isn’t that Andrew, doing a backflip?)
It’s in this ‘gonzo-intense’ moment, Jesus speaks–and they become very quiet. He proceeds to impart peace into their hearts and minds with a simple command, “Peace be with you” verse 21. Peace is a vital ingredient in the humble heart of every faithful disciple.
He then directs them to complete the work that the Father gave him to do. He now extends the torch of evangelistic work to them. Seeing the resurrection up close like this will drastically alter your life’s trajectory. (They’ll be further fortified by the coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost described in Acts 2:1-4.)
It’s now the time for the excited emotion of the moment to put on ‘work gloves.’
In this Jesus had does something unprecedented, He leans over each disciple and exhales on them. Now this is more than just a really weird ritual. You see, His breath is saturated with resurrection life, and they inspire into their lungs the life of a risen man! They now carry his ‘life essence,’ and in the light of Jesus’ previous statements to them are any indication, they will need it.
When God created Adam, he gave him his breath (Genesis 2:7). Life is more than existence; it is the energy to “live.” When you really experience the resurrected Jesus, you will need more than good and noble ideas. You’ll need Him, and you will need to rely on his breath to lead you to wherever you’re sent.
Jesus breathes on all His witnesses–those who have been picked to follow. His breath fills our lungs, his oxygen enters our blood stream, where it now powers us on a biochemical level. You can never, ever be the same again. Never, even if you tried.
“If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!”