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Entries in Wrath (6)

Tuesday
Jul102018

Seeking the Things that are Above

Colossians 3:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 8, 2018.

Last week we talked about not turning to legalism as a legitimate expression of Christianity.  Yes, there are certain things that Christians should not do and others that they should do.  But lists of things we shouldn’t eat or drink, and special days we should observe in order to be holy has nothing to do with Christ. 

In our passage today we will see that we need to turn to Jesus rather than a list of regulations.  He needs to become our life, to become everything.  When it comes to the Christian life, we must never forget that Christ is everything to us.  He is the foundation on which we stand, the image towards which we are being transformed, the power by which it is all done, and the hope that lies before us.

So as we look at this passage, let us hear the words of life that teach us how to truly live.

We have died with Christ and been made alive with Christ

Back in chapter 2 Paul had reminded us that the fact that we have died to the world with Christ should refute the regulations of legalism.  Here in verses 1-4 of chapter 3 he continues to the other side of this truth.  We have been made alive with Christ.  Thus our life and how it is lived must be connected to Christ and not this world.  This means our focus or concern should be towards heaven where Christ is.  Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.  His perspective and commands will be quite different from a person who is here on earth.  Ultimately it is the things of heaven, the things of Christ, that should concern Christians.

Now this could give rise to the phrase that a person is “So heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.”  However, this is not what Paul is getting at.  He is not talking about ignoring the earth, but rather about looking to Christ for our directions on how to operate in this world.  God is deeply concerned with this earth and the people on it.  That is why Jesus came and died on the cross.  When we look at life with His concerns and walk in His purposes and direction, then it does much good for this earth.  Thus to be heavenly minded as Paul means it, is to live in this life directed by the leadership of Christ.

In verse 3 he mentions that the things that make for our life are hidden from the world.  Christ cannot be seen by the world and His instructions to us cannot be seen either.  His connection to us through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is not something that can be touched or seen.  Sure they should see how we live and the effects of these things in our lives, but they cannot actually see the influence.  Thus the world will not understand the reasons and motivations, which come from heaven.

In verse 4 we are told that when Christ is revealed from heaven in glory, it will suddenly become clear what we were living for.  In fact the glory of Christ will be our glory too!  It takes faith and trust in God’s Word.  We must believe that He will do what He has said He will do.  Christians are those who walk in the faith that though our life may not make sense to the world around us, it is directed by God Himself and will be rewarded in due time.

We put off the old man

Starting in verse 5 Paul uses several metaphors for the Christian life.  One of these is that of the old man.  It is a metaphor for our old life of listening to our flesh (body, mind, and heart) and following its desires.  We are told to put it off like we would do with the clothes that we sleep in at night, in order to then put on the right clothes to go about our day.

In fact, in verse 5 he opens with an even harsher metaphor- “put to death.”  The terminology can be a bit foreign to us.  The term “members” refers to the parts of us that are centered upon the things of the world.  These are expressed in certain sinful activities and conditions of our heart.  They need to be sacrificed on the altar to God by dying to their pull on us.  Paul lists several things.  Fornication is any sex outside of a committed marriage between one man and one woman.  Uncleanness is any impure desire or motive.  Passion is those afflictions of our mind and heart that push us towards sin.  Yes, passion can be a positive thing, but it is clearly about sinful things in this list.  Evil desire speaks for itself.  Covetousness is called idolatry because we allow ourselves to become a slave to the thing we covet rather than a slave of God.  It becomes god in our lives.  All of these things need to be put to death in our life.  This is something that has to be done daily, as they surface in our hearts and minds.  Like weeds we will not be able to completely remove all traces of them in this life.  But we can keep them from growing and bearing evil fruit in our life.  If we follow these things they will not bring us true life, no matter how alive one may feel when they first give in to them.  In the end these things will leave you empty and hopeless regardless of what Ashley Madison has to say.

In fact in verse 6 Paul reminds us that these are the things that are bringing the wrath of God.  Just in case we thought these were nice suggestions on how to have a better life, we are reminded that those who practice such things are in jeopardy.  This world may be progressing in technology, which gives it the allusion that we are somehow becoming better.  But, morally we are not progressing.  We are wallowing in the same muck and mire that mankind has always wallowed in.  The message of the Gospel is this, “Save yourself from this wicked and perverse generation by fleeing to Jesus before it is too late!”  We will all face the wrath of God one way or another.  We will either be alive when it is poured out at the end of the age or we will face it when we die and come before God.  Believers can face both situations with confidence because Jesus has taken the wrath of God that should fall on us, upon Himself.  We can stand in His presence with confidence because of Jesus and Him alone.

In verse 7 he reminds us that these things should be a part of our past.  It is how we used to live, before Christ.  This is the old life, but now Christ is our Master and Savior.  His Spirit has taken up residence within us.  Let us not fool ourselves.  We cannot continue to follow the ways of the world and the ways of our flesh and find life.  They can only lead us to destruction.  Like Joshua of old we must choose today whom we are going to serve, and may it be Jesus that we chose to serve.

In verses 8 to 9 Paul continues with a list of deeds that many would think of as “little sins.”  We are tempted to coddle them and allow them to remain in our life.  We can justify them in our heart more easily.  But Paul warns against such deeds of the old man.  Anger- I used to get angry about things, but Christ is calling me to leave anger behind.  I am to be directed by heaven, not my anger.  Wrath- My flesh is focused on justice and getting people back, but heaven reminds us that this is not our job and that we must let it go lest we fall under the wrath of God ourselves.  Malice- This is typically a deeper-seated, festering ill-will towards others.  Christians are to root this out and reject its seductive logic.  Blasphemy- It is not just untrue things we say of God.  It basically means to slander or say untrue things about any other.  Filthy language- Our old life learned all manner of crude and vulgar ways to express ourselves.  Such talk should be left in the dust.  We must let the Lord purify our speech.  Lying- How easy it is to lie to one another in order to get what we want or to protect ourselves.  Whether it is active lying where we state untruths or passive lying where we mislead people so that they make the wrong conclusions, lying is a form of manipulation that brings destruction into our life and the lives of those around us.

Jesus was none of these things.  If we have truly rejected the world with Him and are living only for Him, then these things should change.  There is no way around this truth.  Yes, it doesn’t just happen in an instant.  But it does happen nonetheless.

We put on the new man

We will talk more about this next week.  But let’s end on the positive.  If we are to take off the old man then clearly we must put on the new man.  Paul points out in verses 10-11 that the new man is renewed in knowledge.  Knowledge is key to our transformation.  We know that these things hold nothing but God’s wrath for us.  So why would we then hold on to them?  We also know that Jesus is not like these things.  So why would we continue in them?  We also know that Christ died to set us free from these things.  So let’s be renewed in body, mind, and heart.

He also mentions that we are renewed according to the image of Christ.  The renewal is not just a “new me.”  It really is a taking on the image of Jesus.  We are taking Him on and being transformed.  In that sense, Jesus is the new man.  We are all taking on the One New Man, Jesus.  WE are the students becoming like the master, as His Holy Spirit works within us to enable the transformation.

He ends this section by pointing out that the old distinctions are irrelevant when Christ is our everything.  It doesn’t matter what race or station of life a person is or comes from.  A believer in Jesus sees one thing.  Is Christ living within that person as well as me?  Christ is everything and all those distinctions are nothing.  How we interact with people, both believers and the lost, should have nothing to do with race, economic station, gender or what else.  It has only to do with Christ.  What does He think and what does He want.  The power of Christ has come to break all of these distinctions down so that Christ indwells every kind of person on the earth, and we can receive another believer as a brother or a sister in Christ, not because of earthly things, but because of the heavenly reality that Jesus dwells within us both.  Does Jesus dwell within you today?  Pray and ask Him to forgive you of your sins and become your Lord and Savior.  Let us put off the old man and put on the New Man!

Seek the Things Above audio

Tuesday
Aug162016

The Lord’s Song Request

Isaiah 27:2-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 14, 2016.

Today we are continuing the celebration that will occur in Israel at the return of Jesus.  At this point Isaiah picks up the image of a vineyard that belongs to the Lord, which he had used earlier in chapter 5.  In chapter 5 he tells Israel that they were the vineyard that belongs to the Lord.  But they kept producing wild grapes.  No amount of work by the Lord’s workers could make them produce good grapes.  Thus God would remove their defensive wall, withhold the rains, and allow the briars and thorns take over the vineyard.  This was a picture of the situation leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon, as well as the second exile into the nations of the world in the first century.  At that point it would look like everything that God was doing (or perhaps not doing) was destroying Israel.  This passage reminds us that no matter how bad things get, God is always working for our good.  In the end, God will have a good vineyard that produces good grapes.  It is easy to get discouraged in the middle of God’s work in your life.  Sometimes it feels like He isn’t protecting you and bringing good to you.  However, in the end He will always prove true and faithful to those who cling to Him in faith.

A New Day for God’s People

Just as the people were singing a song of rejoicing in chapter 26, here the Lord calls for a song to be sung to or over his people.  The emphasis is on the fact of the celebratory song and not on who will be singing.  Is it the survivors who make it through the tribulation?  Is it the angels of God?  Or, is it Jesus himself?  I bring up that last option because Zephaniah 3:17 pictures the same context of Israel singing and the Lord himself rejoicing over them with singing.  Regardless the song reflects the new disposition that the Lord will have for His people.  No longer is he giving them up to the briars and thorns.  Instead, it is a new day as the Lord comes to His vineyard and makes it a fruitful one.  Instead of bringing forth sour grapes they will now bring forth good grapes.  Jesus used this theme of fruitfulness in John 15 when he said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (vs. 5-6).  Jesus is not just challenging those who would turn him away, he is also encouraging those who would connect to him.  He essentially says to us that we will be fruitful and pleasing to the Father when we draw our life from Him.

In verse 3 we see that the Lord will care for the vineyard personally.  He will be their keeper and their watchman.  He will water it.  In the Old Testament rain and dew were metaphors for the revelation and teaching of God.  Thus, God will no longer be silent, but instead He will water them “every moment.”  That is not to say He will over water them.  Rather, it is the idea that at every moment he will ensure they have exactly what they need.  This picture is strong in the sense of defense, but it is also gentle in the care that God gives to His people.  He will speak to them and teach them and they will grow and be fruitful.

In verse 4 He mentions that He has no wrath in Him.  This makes perfect sense in light of chapter 24.  There God has poured out His full wrath upon the earth.  Thus this vineyard is on the other side of God’s wrath.  He is done bringing judgment.  His justice has been satisfied.  The Second Coming of Jesus will complete the wrath of God upon the earth.  Thus we will enter into a new day in which wrath is behind us, and we can now move forward into the good that God has planned for us.

The rest of verse 4 and 5 recognize the fact that there is really no one who would or could come against God in battle.  Initially it has the feeling of recognizing that there is no one left to do so.  But, as a prophecy, it is also a warning back to those who would join the rebellion of the wicked.  There is no way they can win.  Thus those who are not on God’s side have a choice to make.  They can try to attack God in rebellion, in which case they will certainly lose.  Or, they can take hold of his strength and make peace with Him, which they most certainly can do.  Taking hold of God’s strength is reminiscent of Jacob when he came back from Laban to Canaan.  As He approached the Jordan we are told that the Angels of God met him.  At that point Jacob sends his family on ahead and stays over night by himself in the place that he called “double camp” (double in the sense that there was his camp and a heavenly camp of angels).  All night he wrestles with the Angel of the Lord. He refuses to let go until he is blessed.  Thus, we will either take hold of God for war (and no doubt lose), or we can take hold of God for a blessing of peace with Him.  The first person is holding on to their own strength.  They refuse to accept help from God.  But the second person recognizes their need and grabs hold of God’s strength.  Those who will trust in God’s strength will find peace with Him.  The Christian life can be seen as a person who refuses to quit trusting in God.  They wrestle with Him in prayer through good and bad times.  Though we may find injuries in this wrestling, it will bring us to blessing.  Ultimately Jesus is the strength of the Lord.  When we put our faith in Him we are taking hold of God’s strength.  God is holding out the hope of grace to those who are His enemies.  Even in the midst of judgment, God is looking for those who would submit and take hold of His strength.

In verse 6 it refers to “those who come.”  These are those who respond to God’s appeal for repentance.  They will have a place in the vineyard of God.  Thus this fruitful vineyard is not just an Israelis thing.  It will be an amalgamation of all the people who respond to the Messiah.   Most often Christians speak of national Israel and the Church as if they will be two separate entities in the future.  Yet, how are we to reconcile that with passages like Romans 11 and Ephesians 2:13-16?  Let’s look at that second passage.  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”  In the day of Christ’s Second Coming, we shall truly be one.  This union will cause a fruitfulness that will fill the earth with the blessing of Jesus.

God’s Judgment will Cleanse His People, Not Destroy Them

Starting at verse 7, Isaiah looks at the judgments that will fall upon national Israel.  When they happen it will seem like God is destroying them.  But in the end, it will serve to cleanse and prune them.  The rhetorical questions hammer home the idea that though God would strike Israel, it was not to the same degree that He struck the nations around them.  God’s intention is always to turn us back to Him.  If it is possible at all then His judgments are tempered to help it happen.  That is why verse 8 uses the term “measured.”  He has carefully measured the judgment to accomplish the good purpose.

This scattering of Israel would serve to contend with Israel rather than destroying it.  This contending is definitely physical in the sense of the destruction and removal from the land.  But it is also verbal and internal.  During the day of the east wind (a scorching hot judgment of God’s Spirit), they would hear His rebukes.  But afterwards, they would have opportunity to hear His teachings, and return in repentance.  God is always working to reason with the wicked.  “Why will you die?  Choose life!”  This does not guarantee a person will repent.  But without His gracious deference, repentance would not be possible.

This last verse speaks of the day when Israel’s iniquity is covered.  God’s fury will be satisfied towards Israel by scattering them.  He will cover their iniquity and take away their sin.  We know that this can only be done by Jesus and putting faith in Him.  Thus, in that day, the nation of Israel will en masse become believers in Jesus.  Yes, many are being saved today.  But the nation as a whole is still in rebellion to the Lord.  Zechariah prophesied of a time when God will pour out a spirit of repentance upon the nation and they will see the One whom they pierced and mourn a godly sorrow over their past actions.  Thus, in the millennium, Israel will be believers in Jesus and all believers will be united in one body. 

So what will be the effect of this work of covering Israel’s iniquity?  First God will remove their altars and images.  They will be broken and beaten so fine that they are like dust.  It is sad to see Jews who are rebuilding the altars and preparing to rebuild the temple.  They are still trying to go backwards instead of following the Lord forward.  Through the time of tribulation that will come upon the whole earth, God will bring them to a place of national repentance and salvation.  What a day that will be!

Lord's Song Audio

Tuesday
Aug092016

A Song of Salvation II

Isaiah 26:16-21; 27:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 7, 2016.

As this song of chapter 26 comes to a close, it focuses on a problem that is universal for people who put their trust in God.  People who trust God live with great promises that are future within a context that often seems like those promises will never come true.  Countless millions have died waiting for the complete promises of God.  Yet, God has incorporated this into His plan.  His people must simply wait for His deliverance and the time of jubilation that will follow, even in death.  This sets up the key idea that this life is not all there is.  There will come a day when all the Righteous of all times will be resurrected and see the completion of God’s promises together.  Thus, we will all experience this jubilation as a family of the Redeemed at the same time.

At the same time, this life is still incredibly important.  It is the testing ground of where we will stand in the day to come.  Will I be swept away by judgment, or will I be singing with the Righteous after the judgment has gone by?  The Resurrection is God’s plan to set everything on its head and then set all things in order.

The Dependency of the Righteous

Verse 16 continues the theme of how the righteous are dependent upon God.  In verse 13 Isaiah had mentioned that other masters had ruled over Israel.  We pointed out then that this was God’s discipline for their disobedience.  Here in verse 16 the theme of discipline is picked up again.  In the midst of “trouble” (their discipline) they turned towards the Lord in prayer.  The word “visited” here is interesting because normally the Scriptures talk about God visiting us.  Sometimes He visits in the sense He is showing up to help us (like Israel being delivered from Egypt).  Other times, He visits in the sense of bringing discipline.  You could say that though God had visited them in discipline, they were visiting God with prayers of mercy.  It is easy to get angry and retreat from God in the times of our discipline.  But that will not lead to healing and deliverance.  We need delivered from our sins and God’s discipline is intended to point us in His direction.  Thus the righteous humble themselves and seek God even in times of discipline.  They know that they are completely dependent upon Him.

Verse 17 compares their times of “chastening” to labor pains.  Israel felt like all their labor pains had been for nothing and had accomplished nothing.  In a way this is true.  If it was only up to Israel (or us for that matter) nothing would be accomplished.  But God always intervenes and does through us what we cannot do on our own, if we will trust Him.  Israel had been through many times of not trusting God, being disciplined, repenting, and turning back to God.  This cycle seemed to never end.  Imagine a woman going through 9 months of pregnancy, a day or more of labor, and then the doctor says, “I’m sorry ma’am but there isn’t a baby.  You’ve just given birth to wind.”  That is the feeling Isaiah is describing into verse 18.  In our attempts at God’s things we are unable to produce any deliverance in the earth without God.  Also, the “earth dwellers” are still ruling over the earth.  Remember they are those who live without thought for God. 

The thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this is that we are not alone.  God is with us and He is also for us.  Even when it looks like the enemy has completely won, God has promised to stand up on our behalf.  The New Testament connects this idea of labor pains to how the earth will be in the Last Days leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  Things will become increasingly painful and the pains will come faster and faster.  This may make us feel like serving God is for nothing.  But that is not true.  God has not abandoned us.  How can we know this?

Verse 19 is the answer.  All of this emotion and fear will be overturned by the Resurrection.  Those who have perished without seeing God’s ultimate deliverance will be resurrected.  Also, that resurrection is not just a spiritual thing; it is a physical thing (“with my dead body”).  You can read “my dead body” as referring to Isaiah, which would be true.  Isaiah could be saying that they should take comfort because they will all be resurrected.  However, all prophets speak what God tells them to speak.  Thus the “my dead body” could be a reference to God Himself.  This would be pointing forward to a time when God Himself would take on human flesh and die, only to be resurrected.  So this could be a reference to what Jesus would later do.  He told us that He was the resurrection and the life.  Ultimately the resurrection of Jesus gives us the proof of this coming reality and strengthens our faith so that we will never give up even in the face of death.

The phrase “you who dwell in the dust” refers to those who are in the grave.  Just as a physical grave is made in the dry ground, the Hebrews pictured the spiritual side of the grave as a dry and dusty place.  So we have a poetic picture of the resurrection.  The dead will awaken out of a dry and dusty place to sing in the midst of the dew of a new morning.  He is basically saying you were dead and your bones were dry.  But you will rise with green bones and sing to the Lord.  Thus the earth will cast out the dead.  Daniel 12 also points to this by saying, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  All has been recorded in the earth, none will be lost.

The Promise of the Lord to the Righteous

Verse 20 picks up the idea of the resurrection and gives an instruction and a promise to God’s people.  First there is the call to enter your chambers.  In the context this must be referring to the death that they fear will rob them of victory.  God is in a sense saying, “Don’t see death as a failure.  Rather, see it as a time of rest and peace from the struggle.  Let Me rise up and struggle for you.”  Of course this is not an excuse for suicide.  At the proper time, we will all come to the end of our life.  We need to be faithful to God in how we live this life.  But when the day of death comes, we can enter into it with peace instead of fear.  Is it true that death can actually be a “grace” to the believer?  Yes.  First, death keeps us from living forever in bodies that have been damaged by sin (both ours and others).  Second, death gives us rest from the oppression of a world bent on rebellion (imagine how Adam would feel if he were still alive).  Third, death was designed to be overcome by God.  It is only a temporary condition of a person.  Of course the resurrection is connected to the Rapture in the New Testament because when the dead are raised there will still be some believers alive.  They too will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into glorified bodies and caught up to be at the Lord’s side.  So death is the refuge of the righteous until the day of deliverance.

Notice the phrase “the indignation.”  This is another way of referring to the Wrath of God.  Verse 21 makes it clear that there will be a final day of judgment for the whole earth.  God Himself will come out of the heavens and judge the earth.  In the New Testament it is revealed that this is Jesus.  Yes, Jesus loves us and died for us.  But He will also come back to judge those who have rejected His offer of grace and mercy.  The wrath of God will be poured out on all the earth.  Thus the righteous are protected not just from the wicked, but also from the wrath of God.  It says that God will “punish the earth dwellers for their iniquity.”  The word “punish” is the idea of settling accounts.  It reminds me of King Belshazzar in Daniel 5.  He is in the middle of throwing a party and using the holy cups and bowls from the Jerusalem Temple.  God tells Him, “You have been weighed in the balances and found lacking.  Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”  Thus God will remove the kings and the armies of the earth.  They are lacking in any ability to support godliness and righteousness on the earth.  Their kingdoms will be taken away and given to the Righteous.

The last phrase is that the Earth will disclose her blood and will no more cover her slain.  We are told in the book of Revelation that the raising of the righteous will happen before Christ comes back (or at the same time.  It isn’t quite clear).  After 1,000 years of reigning with Jesus on this earth, the wicked dead will be raised up for a final judgment.  At this point God will create a new heavens and a new earth where no wickedness will ever be.  This is God’s promise to those who put their trust in Him.

I believe that the first verse of chapter 27 should really go with this chapter.  Regardless, let’s finish with looking at that verse.  We are told that the ancient serpent, Satan, will be slain.  He is called Leviathan because this is a sea creature the ancients were familiar with.  In fact many of the religions had mythologies about a sea creature that ruled the seas.  Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 tell us that the ancient serpent that the Bible references is in fact the Devil or Satan.  He is pictured as being in the sea because the sea was a metaphor for all the peoples of the earth (thrashing and tossing to and fro).  Satan has ruled the seas of mankind like a great sea serpent throughout history.  But God will come down and slay Him.  Though he is an immortal being, he will be slain as if he were mortal.  But the righteous that are mortal, will be raised up with immortal bodies.  This is the ultimate victory that God has planned for us all.  So let’s trust in God.  He will slay our enemy and redeem us from our own frailty because He loves us.

Song Salvation Audio

Tuesday
Dec152015

Lessons of Christmas- The Miracle of it All

John 1:1-3, 14.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 13, 2015.

The modern, scientific world basically rejects the idea of miracles.  Unless one is a strong Christian and a scientist, miracles sound like the antithesis of sound reasoning.  However, much of this is a matter of semantics.  The common argument against miracles will go something like this. Miracles are against the laws of science and cannot be duplicated upon demand.  Therefore they are mythical, whether through insincerity or not.

So what do Christians mean by the word miracle?  Well, we do not mean the “miracles” of nature, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  As amazing as many of the processes of nature are, they are not technical miracles.  Scientists can observe and test to determine the underlying fundamental principles that enable metamorphosis.  In fact all over the world metamorphosis is happening all the time.  There are two main concepts behind the words that are often translated as miracle.  The first has to do with the observation of something amazing.  It is a memorable thing that sticks out among the stuff that naturally occurs.  Another word has the concept of being a sign.  This memorable thing points to something about God and the world. 

This leads us to three main parts to defining a miracle.  First, it is something for which God is immediately responsible.  Everything of nature follows certain laws and operations (physics) that God hardwired into the creation.  Thus he is technically responsible for all actions of nature, but this is a secondary responsibility.  In a miracle, something happens that would not have happened if God had let nature run its normal course.  The red sea parting or Jesus walking on water were not things that would have happened naturally.  There is a supernatural source to the happening of this event.  Second, though the event has a supernatural cause, this does not mean that it breaks scientific laws.  Miracles are not magic.  Rather, God Himself introduces power and laws that are generally above our understanding of physics.  Even if we could completely understand the physics of our world, we can’t completely understand God and how He interacts with it.  Thus miracles would always be beyond mankind’s ability to comprehend.  Plus God does not intend to give miracles in order to extend our knowledge of physics.  He doesn’t owe us an explanation.  Third, miracles always occur in a religious context.  They are given to God’s people, or to substantiate God’s Word.  Thus the struggle between Moses and Pharaoh is accompanied with miraculous signs in order to help Pharaoh see the truth about God and His people.

Now at Christmas we have several miracles among which some are: the virgin birth and the angelic visitations.  However the greatest miracle of all time is the incarnation.  Just when it looked like mankind was doomed to failure and destruction under the wrath of God, God becomes a man.  This was a cosmic game-changer.

The Word Became Flesh

In chapter one of the gospel of John Old Testament wording and imagery is used throughout in order to connect it with Jesus.  He starts out by referencing something called “The Word.”  This is an allusion back to Genesis 1, where God is seen speaking things into existence.  “And God said, let there be…”  The Word is the purpose, logic and reasoning of God coming from within Him and going out from Him.  John begins to define this Word in a way that makes clear it is not just words and it is not just a force.  As we walk through the first two verses, John establishes the preexistence of Jesus in a sequential manner.

First, he establishes that The Word existed at the beginning of creation.  “In the beginning” is the title of the Book of Genesis in Hebrew.  In Genesis 1:1, The Word existed already.  Second, The Word was in relationship with God the Father, “with God.”  It didn’t just exist.  It existed in relationship with God.  Third, we are told that The Word was divine.  It may appear that he is just equating them.  But he is clearly distinguishing two that are both God (and divine).  In verse two this is restated.  Lastly, John states that The Word was the agent or means of creation.  The Father speaks and the Word goes forth to accomplish it (in verse 14 & 18 it is clear the word is a personality).  What is not made clear in Genesis 1 is being revealed here in John 1.  Thus John describes two distinct persons existing together and yet God.  Later in verse 14 and 18 he defines this further as God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son.  All created things were made through Jesus in his divine capacity.  The Son is not a created person, but a reality that had been kept secret until the incarnation.

Thus the birth of Jesus is more than a man that God chooses to use.  Rather, it is the eternal Word and divine Son stepping into the world and taking on the additional nature of humanity.  This all happens when Satan had all but captivated all the nations of the world, Israel included.  The knowledge of God was all but extinguished either by outright rejection, or by perversion.  Thus in verse 14, John says that The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  The word “dwelled” is the same word used for the tabernacle in the wilderness with Moses.  God has always tried to teach us that He longs to dwell with us.  It is as if God waits until the last seconds to bring out His secret weapon.  He is going to suit up on our side.  It is a miracle because mankind couldn’t have done it.  No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to produce God, much less make ourselves Gods.  The more we try the less like God we will become.  It is a miracle because it can’t be explained by mere natural means.  Yes, Jesus could have been just a baby, but then what about the miracles he did as a man?  If you reject those, what do you do with his prophecies about Jerusalem and the rest of the world?  If you reject that what do you do with the resurrection?  And, if you refuse to believe that then you are open to what God is trying to show you.  This is all history and yet it can’t be explained with the natural.  Also, it is a miracle because it fulfilled all that God prophesied and underscored all He had been trying to teach.  What if God was one of us?  Well in Jesus He has become one of us.  He has become our champion.  He has stepped in between us and our enemy the devil.

He Humbled Himself

In some ways it goes without saying.  But the point is too important to skip over. The humility of this miracle is mind-boggling.  The divine becomes human and the immortal becomes mortal.  This miracle of God taking on the nature of a man is unexplainable.  These are things that only the designer of creation and mankind could fully comprehend.  However, that is not what is important.  The “how” is incredible, but it is the “why” that truly blows your mind.  While we are busy trying to become gods, God a long time ago became one of us.  This humility is explained in Philippians 2:5-8.  Jesus was not just moving to a lower station.  He is choosing to embrace those who had lost and deserved to die.  He is identifying with that which was crushed and captivated by the devil.  He would rather hang out with the losers than with the winners.  Why?

In Philippians 2 we are told that Jesus did not consider his prior state, being God, as something to be gripped tightly.  His nature is such that He is not clambering to be on top, but is the one to choose lowly things.  He voluntarily cooperates with the limitations of being a man, who is also under the law of Moses.  The phrase sometimes translated as “made himself of no reputation,” would be better translated “he emptied himself.”  It is not clear what exactly he emptied himself of.  He doesn’t cease to be God, but he does cease to operate as only God.  He takes on limitations and chooses to suffer pain, hunger, rejection, and death.  He submits not just to death, but to death on a cross, which was a social shame and excruciating.  He obeyed the will of the Father to the point of death on a cross.  Part of the miracle of the incarnation is the depths to which God is willing to lower himself in order to lift us up.  Jesus reveals to us that it is those who lose according to this world who are desired by God.  We are always looking at what is possible and how to get ahead and move up.  But Jesus is God’s word to mankind, “Let me defeat your enemy for you.”

He Came Full Of Grace And Truth

In verse 14, John describes what they saw when the incarnation came into the world to dwell among men.  “We beheld his glory.”  Of course John had seen the transfiguration of Jesus when he had been transformed into a glowing being.  But he is speaking of more than that.  Here he is referencing the whole experience of dwelling with Jesus.  His glory was constantly being revealed for those who had eyes to see it.

It was especially displayed in that he was full of grace and truth.  God shows compassion to those who are captivated by sin and whose lives have been devoured by the devil.  He comes like a gift from heaven to heal, set people free from demons, and speak words of truth that cut through all the confused and deceived wisdom of mankind.  Even more amazing, He does so regardless of the fact that we do not deserve it.

Rather, we deserved him to come into the world full of wrath and judgment.  The miracle of Christmas is that instead of flaming judgment raining down from heaven, we are given aid against our enemy and victory over him.  This is not the story of underdogs overcoming at the end and winning.  This is the story of mankind losing the battle to the devil and his angels.  And, yet, God chooses to have a celebration with the losers and despises the “winners.”

Have you lost in life?  God is calling you to stop trying to win the game of this life and come into relationship with Him.  Are you winning in this life?  Beware that you are not caught up in the judgment that God is going to pour out on the devil, his angels, and all those who have joined his rebellion against God’s Son.  Choose this day, whom you will serve.

Christmas: Miracle audio