Christmas Treasures Worth Pondering

 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

There is much in “Grasping the Truths of Christmas” that is worthy of pondering

On the twenty-fifth of this month much of the United States will close their stores, business offices will be closed and very few people will be traveling in comparison to the normal day of the week.  Christmas has even provided a day off for those who reject the worship due to Christ, the Savior of the world.

The response of most today, even church attendees, is no where near like those who heard the proclamation of the birth of Christ on that first Christmas.  However, to Holy Spirit-illuminated Christians there are treasures worth pondering in their hearts.  They become like Mary, who in the midst of all the excitement, took time to ponder.  The Bible says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) This passage of Scripture is the beautiful picture of a humble trusting heart that is after God.  Mary had been told that her child was truly of God. The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35) Both Joseph and Mary were told that they were to name the baby, conceived through the Holy Spirit, Jesus. (Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 1:31,35) Mary and Joseph no doubt talked about their visits from the angel with each other over the several months of her pregnancy, therefore, she knew more than anybody that baby Jesus was the Messiah, (Messias) the Christ, (Chriastos) meaning “the anointed One” or the “anointed.” (The New International Dictionary of the Bible)

We live in a time which names mean very little or nothing.  However, Joseph and Mary lived in a time when names meant something and almost everyone knew what they meant.  I am convinced they knew why they were to name the Son of God, Jesus, (Iesous) meaning “Savior.” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary)    As a matter of fact the angel, in a dream, told Joseph that he was to give the son born to them the name “Jesus” “because he [would] save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Mary “pondered” (sumballo) meaning to consider, putting one thing with another in her mind while considering the circumstances and all that has been said and then holding them in her heart. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary; Vines Amplified Expository Dictionary of the New Testament Words; Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon)

I would propose to you there is much in “Grasping the Truths of Christmas” that is worthy of pondering, worth meditating on, and holding within the child of God’s heart.  If you are a child of God, then the Holy Spirit has come into your life and has given you revelation and illumination about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Holy Anointed One, the Savior of your soul.  There is much for you to ponder on this Christmas. What is so special about Christmas?  Is there relevance in Christmas? What is the reason for and the result of Christmas?

Many do not know the “Relevance of Christmas” 

There are three truths that the Holy Spirit of God wants you to ponder on today.  Many do not know the “Relevance of Christmas.”  “Relevant,” means having to do with the case at hand. The Apostle Paul writes about the case at hand, Jesus Christ, “…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.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)

On June 6, 1944, a date known ever since as D-Day, a mighty armada crossed a narrow strip of sea from England to Normandy, France.  Simultaneously U.S., British, and Canadian forces landed on five separate beachheads.  By the end of August 1944, just three months later all of northern France was liberated, and the invading forces reorganized for the drive into Germany, where they eventually meet with Soviet forces advancing from the east to bring an end to the Nazi grip on western Europe.  That was big news regarding the results of World War II.

Just a little over 2,000 years ago, bigger news came through the angel announcing the birth of Christ, when God in the flesh came, walked on this war-torn earth during it’s battle with man’s sinful flesh, the world’s view and Satan.  Sin always holds a multitude in its grip.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit invaded and broke that grip by Jesus coming on the first Christmas.  Jesus, being God and man, made the way to take on the sins of the world upon Himself, pay the ultimate price on the Cross of Calvary, be raised from the dead thus, getting victory over sin and death and liberating all who accept Him as personal Savior and Lord. One truth worth pondering in Christ’s coming is that He “emptied Himself” or rather “made Himself nothing” and became man.  This was not “the humility of Christ,” but rather what theologians refer to as the “humiliation of Christ.” (The Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible; Thru the Bible) Let the Holy Spirit place this deep within your heart, the Lord of the universe – He who existed in eternity and perfection, in glory and majesty, in dominion and power stepped down and came to walk this guilty sod, which is so full of sin, so He could take on the humiliation of sin.

Ponder these Biblical truths about Christ being man:

1.) The Lord, whom we are to serve for eternity came to serve us.  As a matter fact one of His purposes in coming was to show all what God is like.  He taught that Christians are to become His disciples and He said, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)

2.) The Lord, whom we are to love, came and showed the ultimate love for us.  Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)  There is a truth proclaimed often this time of the year, “Christ was born to die” and He commands us to have the same measure of love for our brothers in Christ as He showed for us.  The beloved John caught the truths of Jesus’ teaching.  We read in 1 John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

3.) The Lord, whom we are to seek with all our hearts so that He may be found, came to seek that which was lost.  While in the home of the tax collector, Zacchaeus, the Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)  This passage of Scripture expresses the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Those who are bound by the flesh, the world and Satan’s lies are always looking for something and are not listening for the call of the Lord upon their souls.  However, He left the abode of God, heaven, to seek that which is lost and offer fellowship to those who will let Him into their hearts and lives.

Jesus came for a specific reason

Christ coming to earth is worth pondering in the hearts of Christians.  Jesus also came for a specific reason. Many people and church attendees today form their views of the true God much as the pagan mythologist did.  Their view of God is the product of their own experiences or the experiences they have heard recounted by others and is not formed by seeing God’s inerrant revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. (Dr. Jim Berg, Created for His Glory)

The Bible says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning…  The Word became flesh and 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.” (John 1:1-2,14) This is the basic statement of the Incarnation, for Jesus entered into this earth through the gateway of childbirth and took up residence among men.  His incarnation was the full manifestation of grace and truth because it was the greatest possible expression of God’s compassion for people and the most perfect way of conveying truth to their understanding.” God’s personal revelation of Himself in Christ has no parallel elsewhere, nor has it ever been repeated. (The expositors Bible Commentary; Barnes Notes)   The incarnation is often very hard to fully explain in just a phrase or sentence.

Paul Harvey took time to tell the story of a man whom the Lord gave a glimpse of one of the purposes of the incarnation.

On a raw winter night a man heard an irregular thumping sound against the kitchen storm door.  He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth and light that was inside, beat in vain against the glass. Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through the fresh snow to open the barn door for the struggling birds.  He turned on the lights, tossed some hay in a corner, and sprinkled a trail of saltine crackers to direct them into the barn.  But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, hid in the darkness. He tried various tactics; circling behind the birds to drive them toward the barn, tossing cracker crumbs in the air toward them, retreating to his house to see if they would flutter into the barn on their own.  Nothing worked and the birds could not understand that he actually desired to help. He withdrew to his house and watched the doomed sparrows through a window.  As he stared, a thought hit: “If only I could become a bird – one of them – just for a moment in time…  I could lead them to warmth and safety.”  Meditating on this thought he grasped a principle of the incarnation.  Notice, I said a principle to the incarnation, not the whole truths of it.

Christ coming in the flesh was for man to see what God is like and to show Christians how to live the abundant life in the midst of a sin-torn world.  William Barclay wrote in regards to the incarnation, “In Jesus we see the creating Word of God, the controlling reason of God, taking manhood upon Himself.  In Jesus we see God living life as He would live it, thus, showing us how we should live on earth.” Because of the incarnation, through Jesus Christ we see what real love is and how to show it to others.  We see how to communicate to God through prayer and how to live a life of obedience to God’s commands and decrees, how to defeat the attacks of Satan, overcome the flesh and the world. Through knowing the life Christ lived down here on earth, we see what it is like to live a life that truly trusts in God.

Jesus is the embodiment of all that God is.  Jesus said, “… Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)   Jesus came to make understanding God simplistic.  Very few people can grasp abstract ideas; most people think in pictures.  We could think and argue forever and we would very likely not be able to give a clear definition of beauty.  It seems ever since modern man began to think about God he has have been trying to define just who and what He is – and the best description of Him cannot be clearer than getting Holy Spirit revelation through the written Word of God about Christ.  (William Barclay) A lifetime of study and thought could not exhaust the truths of the incarnation.

One more treasure worth pondering is, “…We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only…” (John 1:14) “Glory,” (doxes) as it is used here, means God’s self-manifestation was exhibited in the character and life of Jesus Christ.  God’s glory was recognized in Jesus’ divine character. (Vines Amplified Expository Dictionary; The Complete Word Study)  Jesus was the glorious power and the full perfect guiding light of God, the magnificence of God.  This word, glory, refers to that which is the visible presence of God among men. (William Barclay) The practical application of what Jesus was and is can be explained by meditating upon Exodus 40:34-38.  The cloud in Exodus symbolized God’s presence.  What John is saying is, “We beheld,” actually saw, the Shekinah glory, God’s very presence actually living among us. (Practical Word Studies in the New Testament)   Because of everything Jesus did upon this earth and His going to the Father and the sending the Holy Spirit to us, we can behold the presence of Christ living in us through the Spirit of Christ. (Romans 8:9-11)    There is no greater Christmas present than having, experiencing and enjoying the life changing presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.  And that is a treasure worth pondering.

Christians today can really know the Lord

Just as the people in the time of Jesus walking upon this earth beheld the glory of God, Christians today can really know the Lord.

The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus mean that God acted decisively to save people from sin and eternal death.  The God who saves people in Christ is the God of His redeemed, those who are under the blood of Jesus Christ.  And when sinners find Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord they are allowed to come to God because of the cost paid at Calvary.  These Christians are under the new covenant of whom the writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote about.

In Hebrews 8:10-12 the writer quotes Jeremiah as he foresaw this dispensation that we live in today, which is Jesus Christ being Mediator. (Hebrews 8:10-12; The Expositors Bible Commentary; Barnes Notes; Matthew Henry Commentary; The Pulpit Commentary) Hebrews 8:10-12 says “…I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)

All those who enter into the new covenant and are interested in all that the Lord is doing in this time in which we live today, will become acquainted with the Lord; learn His character and determine His will for them in this life and service unto Him. Each child of God will have his own intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus. God Himself will put His Holy Spirit within each of them and He will write His Word upon their hearts and move them to follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws.  The Lord says through Ezekiel, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”   (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

The ministry that Jesus had on this earth surpassed that of the Levitical priesthood and His ministry is far more exciting. (Hebrews 8:6; The Expositors Bible Commentary)   He will have worshipers who from the heart are obedient to Him, worship, which come from an expression of love rather than from works trying to obtain merit before the Lord.  He will move them by His Holy Spirit to seek His truths found in God’s Word, thus, birthing a relationship built on trust and faithfulness.

I remember before I got saved nearly twenty years ago, I had no draw to the things of God. I had no desire to be in the house of God, have fellowship with Christians, and there was no way I was going to read the Bible.  I got saved in August 1987 and in September the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about getting a Bible and by October the Lord gave me a hunger to be in His Word. To this day He moves me to want to know more and constantly reminds me to strive for obedience to it. The Holy Spirit moved me to study God’s Word in January of 1991 and He enabled me to stay up late at night, He moved on this church, CrossRoads Church to pay for my schooling and by May of 1998 after many trials He made the way for me to obtain 82 credit hours with the Assembly of God, maintaining a 3.5 GPA.

In the last 6 months, the Holy Spirit has put a new fire in my heart for prayerfully reading God’s Word and just recently a desire for deeper study.  I have always read and studied the Word; however, this is a fresh touch.  I want to know more of God’s Word, more of Him, more of Christ and have a deeper walk with the Holy Spirit.  For weeks now I’ve sat in my chair, pondering on how I can get to know more of God, Christ and enjoy a deeper fellowship in the Holy Spirit.  In my office for weeks now I have been silently praying asking the Lord for Bible software so I can have what I need to prayerfully work on critical ministry needs when I am away from my office. Just recently my wife came and told me what she wants to get me for Christmas.  She had heard on American Family Radio about a new high quality Bible software used by people who I know are greatly used of God, Christians like Kay Arthur, Joshua McDowell, John MacArthur and John Piper and many more. Is this taking us off the point of the knowing God?  No, for God’s Word says in the very same Book of Hebrews in chapter 13:7-8, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8)

There are Christians that the Lord is going to bring into your path that live the life, that excel in what God is called them to do and have some kind of spiritual authority over you. “Leaders,” (hegeomai) here is a general term, therefore, this means anyone who has authority over you and has the Biblical integrity to teach you the Word of God in regards to all that you are doing. Most generally these leaders will be elders or spiritual leaders in a church.  It is the outcome of their ministry that determines your loyalty and your undivided attention.  Once Christian character is established, take heed to their teachings and imitate their faith in God, their obedience to Christ and their willingness to walk by the leading of the Holy Spirit of God, in good times, trials and victory over temptations. (Thayers Greek-English Lexicon; The Complete Word Study Dictionary; Thru the Bible; Matthew Henry Commentary; The Expositors Bible Commentary) The Lord is going to use His Word and set before you Christians, who live a life reflecting a relationship with Him, to show you how you should live the Christian life before your family, friends and co-workers.  Knowing God and how to know Him more is worth pondering in the heart of Christians.

Have you opened the gift God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit has for you

What is so special about Christmas?  The Christ and the walk He had on this earth is “Relevant.”  God sent His Son to invade the dominion of sin upon this earth and the Holy Spirit to liberate Christians from the grip of the flesh, the world and the devil. Christ coming in the flesh was for man to see what God is like and to show Christians how to live the abundant life in the midst of a sin-torn world.  Because of the incarnation, through Jesus Christ we see what real love is and how to show it to others.  We see how to communicate to God through prayer and how to live a life of obedience to God’s commands and decrees.  Knowing about the life of Christ gives us the knowledge of how to truly trust in God. Because of Christmas, Christians can know God, be intimate with Christ, learn His character and determine His will for them in this life and service unto Him.

Rick Warren told about a very embarrassing time in His life when he found an unopened Christmas gift in one of his drawers of his desk.  The gift was given to him a year before at Christmas time.  He opened it and it said, “A gift for Rick Warren.”  It was a wonderful gift and he was concern that the certificate had expired.  The point is an unopened gift is a worthless gift. Have you opened the gift God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit has for you?  You can choose this day to enjoy the gift of getting victory in your life through having Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord.  Thus, the flesh, the world, and the Devil will no longer have a death grip on your heart and life.

Have you grasped the glory of the incarnation of Christ?  Do you live a life that expresses Christ-like character, a hunger for God’s will in this life and service unto Him?

Eternal Gifts of Christmas

What Will You Find at Christmas

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men, on whom His favor rests.”  (Luke 2:14)

There are eternal gifts for those who grasp the truths of Christmas with their hearts.  Understanding those gifts and walking in the free grace by which these gifts come will completely change a person’s attitude toward the season which we now celebrate. I would propose to you that there are wonderful benefits for those on whom God’s favor rests.  Most people including church attendees quote only part of the angel’s message from the Lord in Luke 2:14,Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men…”  However, the Holy Spirit leads the Children of God to understand the rest of the verse, “…on whom His favor rests.”  It is Christians with a heart after God that are the ones that express a life that walks in the grace and mercy of God.

Pastor Rick Warren was 100% correct when he said, “You are going to find what you are looking for this Christmas.”  For those who have the heart of Pharaoh, He is going to give them that hard heart they so want. (Exodus 8:15; 9:15; 10:1,20,27; 11:1; 14:8; Joshua 11:20; 2 Chronicles 36:13)  For those who want to believe the lies of those brought forth by the devil, the Lord will cause them to believe those lies. (2 Thessalonians 2:11; 2 Timothy 3:3-4)

However, there is something different for those who have the heart of David after his sin was exposed by the prophet Nathan, who wrote, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12) To these types of spiritual hearts God will cast His favor in great amounts.  Those who have the favor of God upon their lives will live a life that expresses God’s forgiveness, peace of mind, and eternal life found in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit has this question for all today, “What will you find this Christmas? What will be the expression of your life for all to see?” 

Forgiveness of sins through His name

There are many benefits for those who grasp the truths of Christmas, one being forgiveness.

Acts 10:43 says, “All the prophets testify about [Jesus] that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”  (Acts 10:43)

A little boy wrote Santa Claus saying, “Dear Santa, there are three boys who live in our home.  Jeffery is two and he is good some of the time.  David is four and he is good some of the time.  Norman is seven and he is good all the time, I am Norman.” (Rick Warren, Christmas Message) The Bible tells one truth that must be grasped there are no Normans in this world.  If we could tap into the brains of Christians and recall all they thought and did this last year and project it upon our big screen there would be some extremely embarrassed Christians.  There are no Normans in this world.   Thus, even today we are in great need of God’s forgiveness and mercy both available in Jesus’ Name.

A Christmas card sent to Pastor Rick Warren said, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.  If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.  If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist.  If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer.  But our greatest need was forgiveness so He sent a Savior.”    The greatest need for all of mankind is forgiveness and the greatest need for Christians is the continued forgiveness that can be found in Jesus’ Name.

“Forgiveness” (apheseoes) in Acts 10:43 means to release one’s sins from the sinner.  This required Jesus’ coming as man so the sins of the world may be cast upon Him.  Thus He can take on the punishment of sin upon Himself.  He did this because His Father sent Him, and He came voluntarily.  The reason this forgiveness needs to be a continual forgiveness is because the children of God are not delivered from the presence of sin when they get saved.  Thus, Christians will slip into sin.  However, sin will not have dominion over them because the Holy Spirit will convict them of sin and draw them to repentance.  In Jesus’ Name they will be forgiven.  (The Complete Word Study Dictionary; 1 John 1:8; Hebrews 8:24 ) 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) Christians who think that they no longer sin deceive themselves.

Dr J. Vernon McGee was in Bible College.  When he met his first room mate he had quite a surprise.  His roommate informed him that he had not committed a sin over the last three years.  Dr. McGee was shocked to meet someone who was so sanctified in this life that he no longer slipped into sin. As time went on, Vernon McGee’s roommate blamed him for everything that went wrong, no matter what.  After the first semester, freshman were able to change roommates. McGee went to his roommate and informed him that he was moving into another room with someone who was like him.  That is, a sinner saved by grace who God was still doing a work in.  Vernon and his new roommate got along just great.  Two Christians standing in need of much prayer, just two sinners resting in the continued forgiveness of God given to them in Jesus’ name.

The great news of the angel was, “…in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 11)  “Savior” (soter) is Jesus Christ who delivers and perseveres at saving sinners from the danger and destruction of sin, and puts sinners in a state of prosperity and happiness.  Jesus as Messiah, the Savior of men, saves the repentant sinner from the guilt and the power of sin, from eternal death, from punishment, and misery as the consequence of sin.  (The Complete Word Study Dictionary)

Walter B. Knight wrote about an African pagan, Masagr.  He was a man known for lying, stealing, polygamy, slavery, and drunkenness.  After hearing the message of God’s forgiving and saving grace found in Jesus Christ, he surrendered His heart and life to Jesus.  He was very old and so wanted others to hear the good news that was proclaimed by the angels, “A Savior has been born to you.”  He saved every penny he could and even sold his cow to buy a bicycle. He found a missionary, gave the bicycle to him and encouraged him to find a young person who was full of zeal for the Lord, that he may go and tell his fellow tribesmen about Jesus Christ. This pagan African became a child of God, forgiven and saved from the sins that once held him in bondage.  He had the Holy Spirit living in him, giving him the same burning desire as the shepherds had on that first Christmas.  He wanted others to hear what has been told them about Jesus.

Great peace

Christians who find the Christ of Christmas are sinners who are saved by grace.  They depend upon the forgiveness that is given in Jesus’ name.  And this brings them a great peace. Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)  “Law” (torah) is used twenty-five times in Psalm 119 in parallel with various other words with the same meaning.  The word in itself is an active verb meaning to love the instructions in a general way from the Lord.  It means loving the ways, customs and directions from God as David so longed to know and love the Lord’s ways. (The Complete Word Study)

There are those who develop such close relationships in Christian marriages, with Christian parents, with friends, co-workers and spiritual overseers, that they long to be around these Christians for instruction and guidance in the Word of God.  These Christians will deny themselves certain pleasures in life to prayerfully read and study the Word of God.  They pray not only revelation of God’s Word, but illumination of the Word so they can have the Lord’s strength to live it out.  These Christians find themselves getting victory over the flesh, overcoming the world, and exposing the lies of the devil. They find peace in the way they use the Lord’s provision, talents, and abilities the Lord has given them.  The guidance of the Holy Spirit as He illuminates the Word of God in their lives enables them to walk victoriously rather than stumbling over the temptations and in the trials of life.

Pastor Rick Warren very rightfully observed that there are three things that rob people from enjoying Christmas. They are guilt, grief, and grudges. Satan has a way of bringing up past regrets around Christmas time.  He uses family members, co-workers and even those in the church to point out pass sins of people.  The great news is that if the child of God has confessed his sin to the Lord and is producing the fruit of repentance, then those sins are not held against him anymore.  The Holy Spirit wrote through Ezekiel, “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die.  None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. (Ezekiel 18:21-22)  The prophet Micah gives this promise of God regarding the sins of the repentant, God will “…hurl all [their] iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  (Micah 7:19) (The Expositors Bible Commentary; Matthew Henry) It is like the Lord takes those sins that have been confessed and turned from, calls them up on the computer screen, highlights them, and pushes the delete button.  The list of sins goes blank. Sins unknown or repented for will not be recalled by the Lord.

Christmas time is that time of the year when grief haunts many.  Loved ones that have passed on, and broken relationships lurk around each corner.  Unmet expectations hit hard at this time of the year. Every Christian has a cross to bear and they must bear it daily. (Luke 9:23) However, because of Christ they do not have to bear it alone.  Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Roy Fowler saw an illustration that shows so clearly how Christians try to live.   While in the Philippines he saw the driver of a caribou wagon stop for a very old man who was carrying a heavy load.  The driver offered the old man a ride for free.  Carefully the old gentleman accepted.  He got into the wagon and held on to the rails but never set his load he down in the wagon. So many Christians are carrying a big load and they refuse to lay it into Jesus’ hands.  They live miserable lives and carry unnecessary burdens, hoping to hold on until they get to heaven. There are plenty of rewards here on this earth for Christians who will just lay their burdens into Jesus hands.   Christians are called to take Christ’s yoke upon them.  Christians cannot find rest if they are looking only for personal comfort and escape from Christian duty, for this will make them restless and miserable.  They will only find ease as they give themselves and what has been given to them to the service of Jesus Christ. (The Pulpit Commentary)

As afflictions in Christ abound and are prolonged, consolations abound and perseverance is given by Jesus as long as Christians go to Him as teacher for He invites them to be His students. (Matthew Henry Commentary) As Christians throw off the yoke of the flesh, the world and the lies of the devil, they find that Jesus’ yoke is easy and fashioned just for them to make them Christ-like.  Jesus said “My yoke is easy.” (Matthew 11:30)  “Easy” (chrestos) means well fitting.  It is not harsh or galling nor will it put a callous on the spiritual heart. (The Complete Bible Dictionary; William Barclay; The Preachers Outline & Sermon Bible)

As Christians carry their cross they must bear and lay their burdens into the hands of Jesus Christ and allow what He is taking them through to mold them into His image.  They will find that the yoke He puts on them is easy. The yoke refers to oxens yoke.  The yoke was a wooden collar-like instrument placed on the neck and shoulders of the oxen. It was extremely important that the yoke be fitted for the shoulders of the oxen to prevent rubbing the flesh raw and causing sores.  Measurements were taken, the yoke was roughed out and then oxen were brought back to have the yoke tailor-made. According to some traditions, some carpenter’s shop may very well have carried signs like “My yoke fits well.” (William Barclay; The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible) The yoke refers to a man’s life and task as he lives on this earth.  Jesus is saying to take on His yoke, not the yoke of the flesh, the world, or the devil’s lies.  His yoke will fit Christians perfectly, making them useful to the life and task that He has planned for them down here. (The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible) Whatever God has you facing right now is made to fit you perfectly.  You have the Spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities to handle everything He allows you to go through.  Therefore, lay your grief into His loving hands and surrender to His will for you.

Grudges and resentful are keeping many from enjoying Christmas.   People, who have been hurt, hurt others by what the say, what they do, and even with their presence.   This is done intentionally and unintentionally, and how Christians respond to that hurt will determine their level of happiness in this life, especially around Christmas time.  Very few people walk continuously and victoriously over the sin of resentment.  It so easily entangles, and can grip you at a moment’s notice. Jesus gives us a powerful truth that must be grasped in forgiving.  He says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)   This passage of Scripture is found in the teaching of Jesus Christ’s teaching about prayer, just before His teachings on fasting.

One of the most cheerful men of God I have ever known of in ministry was Dr. Bill Bright, a man whom I am convinced allowed the Lord to teach Him much about prayer and fasting.  Dr. Bill Bright is the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.  I remember being around him a little in Louisville, Kentucky.  I watched the ministry he had overseen for some time.  I once heard him say that it was through fasting and prayer that the Holy Spirit of God enabled Him to release all resentment toward everyone who had ever hurt him in any way. He was most certainly the most joyful man in ministry that I have ever known about. He testified once, “The Holy Spirit has given me the ability to not hold grudges, there is absolutely not one person or circumstance in my life that I am resentful over.”

The Holy Spirit wants Christians to know the joy of Christmas by becoming like Jesus, letting Him clear their hearts of any guilt, take their grief upon himself, and free them freed from all grudges so that they can have a joyous Christmas spirit.

Gift of God is eternal life

The Christ of Christmas most certainly wants Christians to know His peace.  He wants all to have the gift of eternal life.

Everyone is going to die someday. The Bible says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,”       (Hebrews 9:27) Everyone who has ever been conceived in his  mother’s womb has eternal existence.  It is up to each individual to decide just where they are going to spend it. The choice is heaven or hell. The fact is everyone is going to spend more time on the other side of this life than is spent here.  Some will live fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety and maybe even a 100 years on this side.  The other side is forever. Romans 6:23 says, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

The Devil is a paymaster and he will make sure you suffer the consequences of sin.  Those wages are death, and eternal separation from God.  Through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit Christians enjoy the gift of eternal life in heaven. Christianity is not the stage that someone has reached but always the direction of life that a saved man is heading.  Instead of living a life that is bondage to sin, it is a life reaching out to and obtaining righteousness.  It is a life fed by the Word of God, Illuminated by the Holy Spirit. A man’s talents, abilities, possessions and Holy Spirit gifts are spent for the glory of God, and not on self and the accumulation of worldly wealth. Receiving the Gift of God, Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, offers three wonderful gifts.  He clears the Christian’s past, takes care of him in his present state in life, and secures his future here and in eternity.

The Baptist Standard ran the true story of a man whom, I believe, came to understand that Jesus was the only person who could give him the forgiveness he sought, comfort in his most difficult circumstance and determination of where his eternal existence will be. There was a poor drunkard who awakened one morning in a strange kind of bed. He felt something near him that was warm and soft, which was much different from his usual sleeping place in an alley somewhere. Finally it dawned on him that he was in a stable lying right beside a cow which was also lying in the straw beside him. He was hungry, but realized that those in the street would be too offended by his low sinful condition to give him any breakfast.  Then he heard those familiar Christmas bells that rang every year on Christmas morning.  He realized that he had spent Christmas Eve night in a stable. His thoughts turned to that story of Christ being born in a stable.  He thought maybe the Christ who was born in a lowly place could help a poor fellow like himself, for he had heard the story of the birth of Christ and the gospel message before.  So right then and there he chose to get down on his knees and invite Jesus into his life and heart.  He chose to receive the gift of free forgiveness, a Savior who could understand and minister to him right were he was in life and determine where his eternal existence would be.  He found Christ at Christmas.

What will you find this Christmas?  Jesus offers forgiveness, empowerment for all of life situations and circumstances. He offers a life of true satisfaction and life spent forever with God the Father, Jesus the Son and a fellowship in the Holy Spirit.  What will you find this Christmas?

Let us pray!

God’s Internal Gifts

Benefits of Receiving God’s Gift, Christ

“But the angel said to them, “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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14)

Have you ever received a gift inside a gift? 

Have you ever received a gift inside a gift?  I once read of a lady who received a pair of gloves for Christmas.  The fingers of the gloves were stuffed with $20.00 bills.  One man received a Russian doll that is Yeltsin on the outside, open that and on the inside is Bersniv, open that and on the inside is Stalin, open that and on the inside is a little tiny Lenin.  (Rick Warren, Christmas Message)

I would propose to that when Christians receive the Gift of God, Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, there are gifts that are put on the inside of them that manifest themselves in a way that is beneficial to spiritual health and to the building of the kingdom of God.

Listen as I read Luke 2:10-11, 14, “But the angel said to them, “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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14) Just what are gifts that are the results of having the Gift, Jesus Christ indwelling Christians and what benefit is that to the Body of Christ?

There is an abundant life

Receiving Jesus is the greatest Gift anyone can receive, for the receiver of God’s Gift there is an abundant life promised“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1:12-13)

The description of a Christian is a person who believes in Jesus and has received Christ into his life and heart.  This repentant sinner has received Christ as being a gift from God.  He must receive the Word of God as final authority, receive God’s offer of kindness and begin to take on the Lord’s image and His impressions of love as the governing principle of his affections and actions. (Matthew Henry)  This repentant sinner believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ and is open to allowing the Holy Spirit to enable him to live out the Word of God. (The Pulpit Commentary)

To the born again Christian, Jesus says, …I have come that [you] might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)   The New American Standard Bible says, “…I came that [you] might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NAS) This passage of Scripture holds a key truth that the Holy Spirit wants you to grasp today.  You can have life in Christ that is beyond existing.  Jesus gives meaning to life to those whom He indwells because He gives full satisfaction and perfect guidance.  I have always appreciated what Elder Don Malcolm has said often, “Because of Jesus, I have found a reason for living.”

“Life,” (zoe) meaning a blessed life, life that satisfies, being indwelt by God but not necessarily favored by circumstances. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary)   Jesus had on many occasions faced difficult circumstances and so have many of His most faithful servants, the apostle Paul, just to name one. This word for “life” is an active verb affecting every part of the child of God’s eternal existence.  Jesus’ life offered freely is:

One: His life is energy, the force and the power of being.  Your Christian life has a powerful influence on someone.  Jesus has worked so powerfully through certain Christians that many ministries receive prayer and financial support from people they never see face to face on a regular basis, because someone in that ministry has helped, encouraged and fed the soul of someone.

When I was serving on the board of TFC, many times a special love offering would come in from someone who had once been touched by a Teens for Christ staff member some years ago back.  They would often write expressing thanks and the love offering sent would often be just the right amount for a specific need.  Because Christians receive God’s gift, Jesus Christ, they experience the blessing of sharing the life- giving force of Christ to others in need. Christians who grasp the truths of Christmas know the truth of their very existence and they say like the apostle Paul, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

Two:  His life is opposite of perishing.  This gift of deliverance from condemnation and death is the guarantee of being part of the resurrection of the children of God.  This new resurrected body will not see deterioration and decay, nor be touched by corruption. (John 3:16; 5:24,29; 10:28)  Jesus said, “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.  I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.  Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:24-29

Three:  His life brings satisfaction and security.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)    Jesus is the support of spiritual life and His teachings give guidance in every part of life for those who have the courage and heart to seek the truths that He teaches.  The blessing of having accepted God’s free gift leads to enjoying that ever-flowing never-exhausted communication with the Lord, which can only be interrupted by self-will.  It is a life that overflows in trust, obedience and in love with Christ.

Jesus is the divine bounty in all that God has for His children and Jesus using the word “comes” shows that those wanting eternal blessings must be willing to allow God to work in their lives.  (Barns Notes; Matthew Henry; The Pulpit Commentary) There is one thing that can stop the work of God and that is the stubborn heart that does not want to release control.  The defiance of the human heart is the most dangerous enemy out there to the human soul.  The life promised in Christ is right there for the taking or the refusing. When a person takes on the life of Christ, the human heart finds what it was created for and this person moves from just existing into a life of spiritual excitement, adventure and peace.  However, it must be sought with a repentant heart surrendered to the will of God.

In his best selling book called, “Into Thin Air,” the author (Jon Krakauer) relates the hazards that plagued some climbers as they attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest.  Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders stayed at the peak too long and on his descent, he became in dire need of oxygen. Harris radioed the base and told them about his predicament.  He mentioned that he had come across a supply of oxygen canisters left by other climbers but they were empty.  Climbers ahead of him on the same decent over heard the radio transmission and told Mr. Harris that they had just passed those canisters on their way down and he was not seeing properly because of his lack of oxygen, the canisters were not empty but full.  They pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them but it was to no avail, Harris was starved for oxygen and he continued to argue that the canisters were empty.  His lack of oxygen had ravaged his capacity to recognize what was right in front of him and his lack of faith in what he was told led to his death. (Brian Bill in Bread of Life,

What oxygen is to the body, the Bread of life, Jesus Christ, is to the soul.  When a baby is born he must grasp for continued life through breathing air which unseen, everyone knows is there.  Through what is created everybody knows there is God who is unseen and His plan has been made known to mankind through creation. Romans 1:19-20 says, “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

Everything about God and Christ and revelation of the Holy Spirit has and is being made known by all that the Lord does. It is only man’s love for self-pleasure, the world and his longing to listen to the lies of the devil that prevents him from having eternal life.  Sinful man must first be resolved to seek God for forgiveness, invite Christ in and surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit and eternal life is assured to the repentant.

Andy Harris needed life giving oxygen, sinners need to receive Christ.  Unbelief kept Mr. Harris from believing what he was told.  The flesh, the world, and the Devil keep sinners from understanding the life giving truths of God’s Word. Is the sin of self, the world and the deception of Satan choking the breath of God, the Holy Spirit of Christ from entering into you?  Thus, causing you to refuse truth that lies right before you.  Are you allowing Christ’s life to live through you?  Does your life proclaim the “Gift” of God saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)  The child of God who understands and submits to this truth walks secure in the promise of Jesus. He said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Jesus makes it clear that His disciples are to replace the pursuit of earthly things for the pursuit of greater significance.  To seek His kingdom is to have a heart desire to enter into, submit to, and participate in spreading the news of the saving grace of God.  It must be remembered that the Lord’s kingdom is established through Christ, submission to His Father, His victory over sin and death and through the on-going work of the Holy Spirit to cause man to think of eternal things.  (The Expositors Bible Commentary) Seeking His righteousness is to become interested in His favor resting upon you through prayerful reading and studying of the Word of God, through surrendering to the Holy Spirit as He cleanses you through the washing of the Word of God. (Ephesians 5:26)  This involves becoming illuminated by the Holy Spirit so one can apply the truths of God’s Word.  (Barnes Notes; Thru the Bible; Psalm 119:9,11) A life satisfied with the righteousness of God will have all necessary things provided for him. (Barnes Notes; The Pulpit Commentary)  The child of God who has God’s Gift, Jesus Christ, has the One who clothes the lilies of the field.  He feeds the birds of the air and Christians are far more important to Him than flowers and birds.  He will provide clothes, drink, and food for those who are living according to His will and have a desire for His purposes to be achieved in and through their lives. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Recently I read a message (by Pastor Melvin Maughmer) that shared some valuable information about army maneuvers.  When they were out in battle or patrolling in enemy areas there was a key position that was essential to a company of soldiers.  It is called the “Point Position” and it was highly esteemed and respected because the person who held it had the responsibility of all the other soldiers upon his shoulders. What the point man did was to lead the company through hostile territory.  He would go first ensuring that the way was clear, that there were no land mines or any danger before the solders were allowed to move onward. What would happen sometimes by him being first was if the enemy was out there somewhere, the enemy would notice him first and they more than likely would shoot him. What this did was give the rest of the company the knowledge that the enemy was out there and they could take the appropriate action to save the lives of the other soldiers. When a sinner accepts God’s gift, Jesus Christ becomes his point man.  The Lord leads the Christian through hostile territory of the devil.  He points out all that would destroy physical and spiritual life, the snares that lead to bondage and entanglement.  He provides safe shelter, the food and water sufficient for the up-coming battles.  This soldier of Christ goes into life’s battles saying, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Christians also have the gift of “hope” 

The man or women who accepts God’s free gift and receives Christ lives a full, abundant life that is satisfying and exciting.  Christians also have the gift of “hope.”                                               

In Ephesians 1:18 the apostle Paul prays a prayer that is birthed forth by the Holy Spirit and is the heart of Christ and from God.  Every Christian parent and grand parent needs to be regularly praying this prayer, petitioning the God of mercy to give this revelation to all who has ever proclaimed to be a Christian.  “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the Hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”  (Ephesians 1:17-18) This “hope” (elpis) is placed deep within the heart of those who have experienced salvation through Christ.  This brings an awareness of eternal life and all the blessedness that comes in knowing Jesus Christ.

Dr. Jim Berg does an outstanding job in giving us insight on what this hope is in comparison to how the word hope is often used today.  It must be noted that “hope” in the Bible is used much differently as it used today.  It must be pointed out that the way hope is often used today is not wrong. Hope as it is used today is usually an expression of a strong desire that seems in all likelihood of being fulfilled.  For example:  Hundreds of people have a hope that they will be able get a loan on their house and in about 40 years through hard work and faithfulness get the home paid off.  For those who stay faithful and stay on the plan, that is usually what happens.  However, you never know what may come up, illness, tragedy in the family, a great depression in our economy or as many have found out this year, a natural disaster could completely destroy your home and cause you to refinance. However, “hope” as it is used in the Bible is not the expression of a strong desire with a measure mixed with uncertainty of what could happen.  This hope finds its foundation upon the written Word of God and this is an expectation that what is promised will be completed.  For example:  When the apostle Paul speaks of “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:13) he is speaking about an event that is going to take place.

One truth that shores up the hope found in born-again Christians is the sealing of the Holy Spirit.  Notice what the apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians 1:13-14 regarding the Holy Spirit just before his prayer for illumination in Ephesians 1:17-18.  “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…” (Ephesians 1:13-14) The seal of the Holy Spirit is His presence within the believer.  His presence is the authorized signature of God that He will complete the work He has started in you. He will provide, protect and equip those who are faithful. The child of God who receives God’s gift has an unshakeable hope when the Holy Spirit has opened his spiritual eyes to the fact that Jesus Christ Himself takes up residence in such a sinful dwelling as his heart through the Spirit of Christ. (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16)

My son Caleb cleans stalls for one of the finest horse barns in Norton County.  He cleans stalls 6 days a week and he does a great job at it.  His brothers, Caleb and I can tell you, no matter how much you clean a stall, there is always that stench of filth.  Sometimes it make your eyes water.  If you just walk in the barn that smell gets in your hair and clothes, thus you have a bad odor.  Sin jumps on us just as easy. We are sinners saved by grace and we sin daily through thought or deed.  Yet, our Lord, in humility is content to indwell the children of God by the Holy Spirit to sanctify them and mold them into His image, to empower them for service unto Him, the brethren, and to mankind in general.  Just as He was willing to be born in a stinky stable and walk on this sin-trodden earth nearly 2000 years ago so man may have hope in God, He is willing to live within Christians.

Peter writes this about God’s elect, those who have received God’s gift, “Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21) Once a child of God has received the Gift, Jesus Christ, who is the Word made flesh, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Christ, Biblical hope is birthed from God’s Word.

When Satan, the father of lies, speaks to the mind of a Christian, bringing up his past sins, the Holy Spirit brings to mind what the Bible says about forgiveness. The Holy Spirit moved the beloved John to write this sure hope, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)    Ezekiel writes about the sinner who turns to God and gives this sure hope, None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him.” (Ezekiel 18:22)

The man who accepts God’s free gift, Jesus Christ, is a man who has a fresh clean start with God and His love endures forever. When the flesh, the world view and the devil tells a child of God that he is worthless and has no value in this life, The Son of God, through the Holy Spirit brings to mind Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;” (Psalm 139:13-14)  He reminds them that they have Holy Spirit gifts for ministering to others. (1 Corinthians 12:7) For those who obey the call of making disciples He gives these promises, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  Those who possess God’s Gift will be moved like the shepherds were on that first Christmas of whom the Bible says, they spread word concerning all what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17)  To those who proclaim the birth of Christ and the gospel message there is the sure hope that,…[their] labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) And if they do “not become weary…   at the proper time [they] will reap a harvest if [they] do not give up.”  (Galatians 6:9)

These are hopes that come with a “yes and Amen.” There are many more hopes found in the Word of God for those who have received Christ and the Holy Spirit will enlighten all who will take the time to prayerfully read and study the Word of God. Benefits in receiving God’s free Gift, Jesus Christ, are for the taking or the rejecting.   When Christ is received in the heart as Savior and Lord, Christians find out that there are many gifts that are placed inside them and their lives become satisfied, exciting and useful to the building of the kingdom of God.Christians receive life with the Gift of Christ, in this world and in eternity.  They have a sure hope placed within them that the Christ they have received will never leave them nor forsake them. His faithfulness to us is as sure as His faithfulness to His Father’s will for Him.  You can trust a Lord who was obedient even unto death, for the sake of purchasing a bride, His church.

Have you “Grasped the Truths of Christmas?  Have you received God’s Gift and are you expressing His life and a sure hope in God and Christ?