Monday, December 28, 2009

Yahweh is Salvation

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

As Christmas day dawns, it is a good time to remind ourselves of the primary reason for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ: the salvation of sinners. Did you know that the very name—Jesus—embodies salvation. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name, Joshua, meaning “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” Indeed, the whole of Scripture is God’s unfolding plan of salvation from the fall in Paradise recorded in Genesis to the promise of Paradise restored in Revelation.
My prayer for you this Christmas—and indeed throughout the new year—is that you may be ever mindful of the reality that God has condescended to use you as the means through which the free gift of the water of life is dispensed to a parched and thirsty world.
Are you thirsty? If so, the concluding words of the last book of the Bible have direct application to your life—“Whoever is thirsty, let him come and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17, emphasis added). In essence, there are three steps to this fountain. They are encapsulated in the words realize, repent, and receive.
First, you need to realize that you are a sinner. If you do not realize you are a sinner, you will not recognize your need for a savior. The Bible says we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Furthermore, you must repent of your sins. Repentance is an old English word that describes a willingness to turn from our sin toward Jesus Christ. It literally means a complete U-turn on the road of life—a change of heart and a change of mind. It means that you are willing to follow Jesus and to receive Him as your Savior and Lord. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15).
Finally, to demonstrate true belief means to be willing to receive. To truly receive is to trust in and depend on Jesus Christ alone to be the Lord of our lives here and now and our Savior for all eternity. It takes more than knowledge (the devil knows about Jesus and trembles). It takes more than agreement that the knowledge we have is accurate (the devil agrees that Jesus is Lord). What it takes is knowledge, agreement, and trust in Jesus Christ alone. The requirements for eternal life are not based on what you can do, but on what Jesus Christ has done. He stands ready to exchange His perfection for your imperfection.
According to Jesus Christ, those who realize they are sinners, repent of their sins, and receive Him as Savior and Lord are “born again” (John 3:3)—not physically, but spiritually. The reality of our salvation is not dependant on our feelings, but rather on the promise of the Savior who says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
If you have just confessed your faith in Jesus Christ, you can rejoice in the angelic proclamation of salvation given to the shepherds on that very first Christmas: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11). If on the other hand, you have already experienced salvation, you have the inestimable privilege of taking the message of salvation to the world.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:16–21)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Immanuel- God with Us

As we approach Christmas—we’re getting closer and closer every day—we are attempting to get people to prepare their hearts for Christmas, just as they so often prepare their homes.

Today, I want to spend just a few moments at the opening of the broadcast talking about the word “Immanuel”. In Christ, all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form. The reason we rejoice at Christmas is that the baby born to Mary and Joseph on that very first Advent was no ordinary child. As Matthew records, this baby was the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of Immanuel, which literally means, “God with us.” And so often that washes over us, but consider the fact that the one who spoke and the limitless universe leapt into existence, tabernacled among us in flesh. The ultimate self-revelation of God, Jesus the Christ, was and eternally is God incarnate, literally God in flesh.

Although John’s Gospel does not include a narrative of the birth and the infancy of Jesus, the doctrine of the incarnation is so aptly summed up in his introduction when he says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word became flesh and the Word made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. The clear testimony of Scripture is that in the incarnation, Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. He existed as the perfect unity in one person of a divine and human nature.

And Paul so eloquently expressed the profundity of this truth when he said to the Philippian Christians, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” As the God-man, the spotless Lamb of God lived a perfectly sinless human life. He died a sinner’s death to sufficiently atone once for all for the sins of humanity. Of course, without both natures, Christ’s payment would have been insufficient. As God, his sacrifice was sufficient to provide redemption for the sins of humankind. As man, he did what the first Adam failed to do. That’s why Paul says “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man, the many will be made righteous,” or as he explained to the Corinthians “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

This Christmas season as you think of the word “Immanuel”, remember that Christ came to be with us in human flesh. and we will regard Him that way for all eternity, because in the end, we’re going to have an experience that not even Adam and Eve had, the living resurrected Christ in our midst. As we learn and grow and develop without error and as forever, we will explore the glory and grandeur of the God who saved us by his grace.

Again, this Christmas season, don’t get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle, but prepare your heart, because I fear that so often we treat Christmas very much like we treat prayer. We get down on our hands and knees, and before those knees have ever touched the ground, we’re already thinking about rushing back into our frenzied lifestyle. In fact, we treat Jesus Christ, Immanuel, no different than we treat other cherished relationships. We want intimacy without the investment of quality time. Change that this Christmas season.