Christmas is Forever

incarnation 1“Mommy, wouldn’t it be great if Christmas was every day of the year?” asked one of my twins.

I couldn’t just go with the flow in the moment, now could I?  Nope.  I just had to be Miss Reasonable and explain to my wide-eyed, cherub-faced child that what makes Christmas so special is that we celebrate it only once a year and then pack it away into deep storage.  Would’t we get tired of the Christmas tree if we left it up all year? Wouldn’t we get sick of candy canes if we ate them every day?  Wouldn’t Christmas carols lose their appeal if we listened to it all them time?  Way to go, spoiling the wonder, Mom.

Later, as I thought about it, I realized that what we celebrate at Christmas is every day of the year—and forever.  Christmas is the celebration of the  Incarnation of the Savior, and that reality never ends.  What makes Christmas so special is that the Incarnation is forever.  It is never-ending.

The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was born of a woman, taking to himself a human nature, body, mind, soul, and experience.   He is “one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is” (B.B. Warfield).  And He is so forever.  Wayne Grudem writes, “Jesus did not temporarily become man . . . His divine nature was permanently united to his human nature, and he lives forever not just as the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but also as Jesus, the man who was born of Mary, and as Christ, the Messiah and Savior of his people.  Jesus will remain fully God and fully man, yet one person, forever.”

Have you ever taken a few minutes to ponder that?  Jesus not only was born, lived, and died as a human, He also resurrected and ascended to heaven as a human!  When Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection, He did so in a glorified human body, declaring the mind-blowing reality that humanity is forever welcomed and received into the very presence of God!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Forgiven

Paid stampThe incarnation had a purpose.  The angel said to Joseph, ” . . . you shall call his name Jesus for He wills save His people from their sins.”  Jesus came to save us.  From what?  Sin.  You and I have broken God’s perfect, holy law in heart, thought, word, and deed.  The punishment for sin is physical, spiritual, and eternal death away from the presence of God.  We needed a Savior who could die in our place to pay the penalty of death that our sin deserves.  So, Jesus was made like us; He became human to be our substitute.  “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same . . . He had to be made like his brethren in all things, to that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (payment) for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14, 17). Now, the Father looks upon Jesus’ sacrifice for us and is completely satisfied.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus bodily rose from the dead proving his victory over sin and death.  If you are in Christ by faith, that victory also belongs to you!  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks to to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Cor. 15:57).  Jesus’ payment for sin, his risen life, and his victory over sin is yours!  Because of the incarnation, you have a Savior who died for you.  And because of the ongoing incarnation of your risen Savior, you are assured that the debt for your sin is fully paid and forgiveness is complete—forever!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Righteous

gavelGod gives grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing, gift upon gift!  Not only does He forgive our sins, He actually does something more!  He gives us righteousness, perfect righteousness.  Righteousness is the condition of perfectly conforming to God’s law and holy character.  We lack righteousness of our own; in Adam, our righteousness was lost, but in Jesus our righteousness is found!  “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).  Adam, the first man, was our representative in the Garden (whether you like it or not!), and when he sinned he passed sin and its consequences down to us.  From Adam, we inherited both the condemnation of sin and a sin nature.  Yet, in Jesus, we find the righteousness that God requires.  As our new representative, Jesus accomplished righteousness for us through his perfect obedience to the Father throughout His incarnation.  Throughout His time on earth, Jesus obeyed for you—His every thought, action, and attitude was in complete conformity to the law and character of God.  In the Romans 5 passage just mentioned, we see that Jesus’ complete righteousness leads to our acquittal of wrongdoing, and His obedience leads to our righteousness.  On the cross, Jesus exchanged his righteousness for our sinfulness.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).  How do we receive this righteousness?  By faith!  The apostle Paul explains, ” . . . that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).  By faith in Christ as your only Savior and not by your own works, God declares Jesus’ righteousness to your credit, to your account.  This is justification: by the work of Christ, God declares you forever righteous.  For all time, He sees and receives you just as if you had never sinned, and just as if you had always obeyed, for that is how He sees his Son. “For by a single offering He, has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 2:11).  And if that weren’t enough, you will then reign with Him in righteousness forever!  “There will no longer be any curse . . . and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face . . . and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5). Oh, what grace upon grace upon grace!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Loved

forever lovedWhat is the love of God?  God’s love means that He eternally gives of himself to bring about blessing and good for others.  Have you ever considered that the essence of God’s love is that He gives of Himself for your good and blessing?  Sometimes we struggle believing that God truly loves us, but I want you to see that God’s love for you is complete and everlasting because of your relationship with His Incarnate Son.

God Loves You by Giving to You:  “If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).  God has lavishly loved you by giving you His Son who accomplished forgiveness and righteousness for you.  Since God has provided for your greatest need, salvation from the power and penalty of sin, then He will certainly give to meet all your lesser needs!  God is not stingy; He is infinitely generous.  He loves you enough to give you His Son, and He will not withhold anything else He knows you need. “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  If you truly need, He promises to give.

God Loves You by Accepting You:  “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?  God is the one who justifies, who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33-34).  If you are in Christ, who can condemn you to judgement for your sin?  No one . . . not even yourself.  Through faith in Jesus, you are completely received and accepted by the Father.  He does not hold you at a distance, but rather welcomes you into relationship with Him.  How can this be?  Only by the work of One—Jesus.  Jesus died the sinner’s death, Jesus resurrected to life in victory over sin, Jesus ascended to heaven, and Jesus intercedes for you today.  There is only one mediator between God and man, the God-Man Jesus Christ, and because of all this He has done on your behalf, you are fully welcomed by the Father.

God Loves You by Binding Himself to You:  “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor thins to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).  The cords of God’s love for you will never be broken.  There is no person, power, or place that can sever the infinite bond of love between you and the Father.  That bond is Jesus Christ Himself.  He has forever secured the Father’s love for you through his life and death . . . and life again!  Will you rest in that?  Will you truly believe?

We celebrate a never-ending Incarnation.  This is our Savior . . . eternal, born, obeying, suffering, dying, rising, ascending, living!  Because of Him, you are forever forgiven, forever righteous, and forever loved.

Merry, Merry Christmas.

The Person of Peace

peace (1)I have been surprised by the large number of hits on my latest post, “The Gift of Peace.”  It must have struck a chord with many people, maybe because we have been conditioned to expect—often in vain—an abundance of happy memories, hopes, and dreams to accompany the season.  But, peace is not found in memories of the past nor hopes for the future, but in a Person.  In the Prince of Peace.  In Christ alone.  In Immanuel.  In God with us.  In light of this, I want to share with you the following paragraph I read yesterday in my favorite book about the incarnation—God’s Gift of Christmas—in which John MacArthur reflects upon the Prince of Peace of Isaiah 9:6-7:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders, and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

“In Messiah’s kingdom there are no conflicts because He is the Prince of Peace.  He offers peace from God (Romans 1:7) to all who receive His grace.  He makes peace with God (Romans 5:1) for those who surrender to Him in faith.  And He brings the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) to those who walk with Him.  As we hear so often at Christmas, the beginning of His earthly life was heralded by angels who pronounced peace on earth (Luke 2:14).  There never really has been peace on earth in the sense we think of it.  Wars and rumors of wars have characterized the entire two millennia since that first Christmas, as well as all the time before it.  The announcement of peace on earth was a two-pronged proclamation.  First, it declared the arrival of the only One who ultimately can bring lasting peace on earth (which He will do when He returns to bring about the final establishment of His earthly kingdom).  But more importantly, it was a proclamation that God’s peace is available to men and women.  Read the words of Luke 2:14 carefully and note this emphasis: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with WHOM HE IS PLEASED.”  God is pleased with the people who yield their lives to Him.  “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:11 NKJV).  When the angels proclaimed peace on earth, they were speaking primarily of a very personal, individual application of God’s peace that grows out of a firsthand knowledge of the Prince of Peace. . . . The prophetic message of Christmas is the good news of God’s answer to all the confusion, chaos, complexities, and conflicts of life.  It is the gift of the newborn infant who is also the Father of all eternity.  He is an innocent child, yet He is a wise Counselor and mighty King.  He is God with us.  Immanuel.”  (MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, pp. 29-31)

Have you found peace in this Person?

The Gift of Peace

christmas-presents1_thumbFifteen years ago this week we lost our first child.  Twelve weeks of morning sickness and multiple tests and ultrasounds told us that someone was there.  Struggling, but there.  Finally, in the doctor’s office on Christmas Eve,  there was a steady heartbeat.  In the same office the morning after New Year’s Day, there was none.

I haven’t thought of our unborn child for some time, but I was reminded today—twice.

This morning in church, along with Christmas carols, we sang a song about restoration—how God turns our mourning into dancing.  As I sang, I thought of how God made those lyrics a reality in my own life this very week a decade and a half ago.  In January 1997 I was struck with unexpected sadness, but I was also strengthened with unexpected grace.  In the midst of our loss, God gave a gift of indescribable peace—a sober joy—to walk that sorrowful road.

This evening I was visiting with a neighbor on her front porch.  The porch light must have caused the gold band I wear on my right fifth finger to sparkle for just a moment.  In the middle of our conversation, it caught her attention, and she complimented the ring.  Nobody ever does that.  The ring is small, simple, and insignificant in design.  I walked through the open door the Lord presented . . .

“Thanks,” I said.  “Would you like me to tell you about this ring?”

“A year before our oldest was born, we lost a baby.  Actually, it happened during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. . . . This ring represents that baby.  It is a reminder to me, my husband, and my children that someone else was here.  It was so hard, but through it all, I had a very special sense of God’s grace.  I knew God loved me, and I knew God loved that child.  And, I also knew that God had a good plan and purpose in all that happened.  The Lord gave me great peace.

Near the end of my explanation, I realized that I was smiling as I spoke.   An authentic, unpretentious smile of healing—of peace.

Such peace is not a result of memories faded by time or positive thinking.  Such peace is only possible through a personal relationship with Jesus—the Savior and the God of all comfort.  The genuine spiritual peace I experienced in the midst of this loss was only possible because of the peace I first had with God through Christ:

“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

1.  “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The perfect, sinless Jesus made payment for my sin by bearing the wrath of God on the cross in my place.  He arose from the dead proving His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father and displaying His victory over sin and death.

2.  “The grace in which we stand.”  Because of Christ, I am secure as a beloved child of God who continually receives His grace and bountiful gifts in my life.

3.  “We exult in hope of the glory of God.”  Because of Christ, it is an assured expectation that I will experience and enjoy the glory of God forever.

And so, today I am reminded of the Prince of Peace who came to bring His Peace to earth—and to me.  Through faith in Him I am at peace with my Heavenly Father, I experience His grace and help on a daily basis, and I have an eternal hope and perspective amid the sorrows of life.   Apart from Christ, there is no salvation, strength, joy, or ultimate purpose for this life nor the life to come.  But in Him, I receive these gifts—these gifts of peace.  (To learn more about finding peace this Christmas, click HERE.)