So thankful this is true…
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is one of the most beloved Christmas hymns of all time. The lyrics were written by Charles Wesley in 1739 while the music was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840. Let’s look at a few stanzas of this beautiful carol:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
”Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
“God and sinners reconciled” through Christ. This is the true meaning of Christmas and the true meaning of Christianity. Jesus Christ was sent “through the tender mercy of our God to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:78-79) We’re forgiven for our sins because Christ has “made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:20)
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
“Where was the Christ was to be born?” Herod asked the chief priests and scribes. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they answered.
Bethlehem, the little, insignificant town would be the last place we would have chosen for God to enter the world. But, just as the Lord chose a place unworthy to host Him He chooses to save us, who are unworthy of such an honor. (Luke 1:52; 1 Corinthians 1:27)
Christ, by highest Heaven adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
The miracle of Christmas isn’t that a little baby was born in a manager, or that a star appeared, or that angels filled the sky.
The miracle of Christmas is the incarnation of Christ Jesus, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Christ, in some mysterious way, laid aside His divine rights, clothed Himself in humanity, dwelt among us, and served His creation by going to the cross — this is the miracle of Christmas.
Such sacrifice and love is beyond human comprehension and it causes us join the angels in praise of the King of kings.
”Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – Hebrews 11:1
The great chapter on faith in the Bible is Hebrews, chapter 11. It begins, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
What is often overlooked in this chapter, though, is the final eight verses where we get the balanced picture of faith as that which lays hold on God for rescue from suffering and as that which lays hold on God for peace and hope in suffering.
Verse 33 says “By faith they conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection…”
Now if we stopped reading here our conception of how the quality of faith manifests itself would be very distorted, because here it sounds as if faith always wins in this life.
But here a shift occurs and we find that faith is also the power to lose our life: “By faith … others were tortured, not accepting release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; others experienced mocking and scourging, yes, also chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheep skins, in goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy) wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground . . . And all these gained approval through their faith. . . ”
The glory of God is manifested when He heals, and when he gives a sweet spirit of hope and peace to the person that He does not heal, for that, too, is a miracle of grace! O, that we might be a people among whom God is often healing our sicknesses, but is always causing us to be full of joy and peace while our sickness remains.
If we are a humble and childlike people who cry out to God in our need and trust in His promises, the Holy Spirit will help us and God will bless us with every possible blessing. He will, as the text says, work everything together for our good.
– John Piper
Joy Comes From Being In Christ
It’s natural for people to be happy when things go well. But the Christian’s joy doesn’t come from earthly circumstances, it comes from being “in Christ” (Rom 15:17).
Christians think more of their Lord than their difficulties; more of their spiritual riches in Christ than their poverty on earth; more of the glorious future when their Lord should come again than of their unhappy past. (Rom 8:38-39)
God’s Purpose Is Being Worked Out
Christianity turns a person’s thoughts away from themselves and onto the great God who has saved them in Christ our Savior.
When a person comes to see that God in Christ has saved him, everything changes. He now realizes that God’s purpose is being worked out. He sees evidence of this in his own life and in the lives of those around him.
This leads the Christian to understand that a loving purpose is being worked out even during hard times (Rom 8:28). When he comes to see God’s hand in all things he learns to give thanks for all things and have joy in all circumstances.
– Leon Morris
With the Christmas season upon us, Christians all over the world reflect on Christ’s coming. Here are Bible verses that center around four different themes related to Christ’s coming, one for each week before Christmas:
Week 1: Christ’s Coming Brings Hope
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. (Isaiah 9:2,6-7)
The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in Him the Gentiles will hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:12-13)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:26-27)
I pray 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 His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.
That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:18-20)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. (Psalm 71:14)
Week 2: Christ’s Coming Brings Peace
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:36)
He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Week 3: Christ’s Coming Brings Joy
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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 heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
We fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
Give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14)
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. (Psalm 5:11)
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:10-12)
Week 4: Christ’s Coming Brings Love
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Jesus spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of forgiving others. He made it clear that forgiveness is to be a characteristic of his followers. So let’s explore what it means to forgive others, the benefits of forgiving and how to forgive.
What It Means To Forgive
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
To forgive means to not seek revenge on the one who has hurt you. It means letting go of the anger we harbor inside us and allowing God to deal with him or her as he, in His perfect wisdom, sees fit.
It doesn’t mean excusing a wrong or denying that it ever happened. It means we don’t allow ourselves to be consumed with anger towards the one who has done something to us. Instead of cursing the people who has wrong us, we pray for them. Here are three verses that reflect the attitude of the forgiving heart:
“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (1 Peter 3:9)
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, ‘I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,’ says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you’. Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:17-21)
“And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior” (Ephesians 4:26-27,31)
As the verses above tell us, anger gives Satan a foothold in our lives. Anger has a devastating effect on our relationship with God as well as with others. Over time we’ll take our anger out on those around us. It consumes us unless we deal with it.
Jesus passionately taught us to forgive others, to let go, to let him handle it. He wants us to be at peace and for that to happen anger must be replaced with forgiveness.
A few years ago Christianity Today featured a cover story entitled, “The Forgiveness Factor: Social Scientist discover the power of a Christian virtue” (January 10,2000). In it, they discussed how researchers have discovered the importance of forgiveness. What was most interesting was that they had come to the conclusion that the one who does the forgiving is the one who benefited the most.
How To Forgive
“Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
After Jesus taught the apostles about forgiveness (Luke 17:3-5) they said to him, “Give us more faith!” Forgiving is not easy. It takes the strength of God to truly be able to let go. It takes faith and much prayer to say to someone, “I will repay this evil with good. I will not hate you.”
“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Jesus, who spoke these gentle words, has the power to heal the hurting soul. He can take your shattered life and piece it back together again.
Tips to help you forgive:
– Do not deny that you have been hurt. As we learned, forgiving is not denying.
– Make a decision to forgive others (Luke 17:3-5)
– Do not seek revenge or repay evil for evil. Let God handle it in his perfect way (1 Peter 3:9)
– Ask Jesus to help you release the anger inside you (Ephesians 4:26-27,31)
– Pray for a forgiving heart and read what the Bible says about the subject.
– Pray for those who have hurt you (Matthew 5:44)
There are three things a person needs to know in order to become a Christian and then live a fulfilling life in Christ.
1) You need to know you are a sinner
The Gospel begins with the bad news that we’re all sinners:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
There is none righteous, no, not one. (Rom 3:10)
And our sin places us under God’s judgment:
The wages of sin is death… (Rom 6:23)
We often make the mistake of comparing ourselves to other people. When we do that we convince ourselves that we aren’t so bad. But it’s “the glory of God” that we fall short of. God compares our behavior to His own — not other people — and all of us fall short when held to this standard.
Why this is important to know: 1) We must recognize that we need be saved from our sins in order to be at peace with God and 2) That salvation must come from a source outside of us because we can’t live up to God’s standard.
2) You need to know how you can be forgiven for your sins
After laying out the problem, the Gospel then give us the solution to the problem of sin:
The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)
Christ Himself fulfilled all that God has required in His Law, and paid for our sins:
What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. (Rom 8:3)
We are saved through Christ’s work, not our own:
It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
As we learned above, we can’t save ourselves from our sin because our good works can’t live up to God’s standard, but where our works are stained with sin and rejected, Christ’s work is perfect and is accepted.
When we say we recognize our need to be saved, and call on Christ to be our Savior, we mean we’re relying on His sacrifice to be a payment for our sins and to make peace with God on our behalf. When we do this God credits Christ’s perfection to us, we’re justified, and we’re forgiven for our sins.
Why this is important to know: Because only Jesus can save us from the penalty of our sin, any other way we try to make peace with God will fall short (Acts 4:12).
3) You need to know how you should respond to God’s forgiveness
Once we are at peace with God, through Christ, we are a new creation:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor 5:17)
We no longer live for sin, we live for God:
Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom 6:13)
You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)
And our lives should bear good fruit:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
Why this is important to know: In order to grow in Christ we need to know how to respond to God’s grace. What Christ has done for us effects how we live. We do good works, not to be saved, but because Christ has saved us (Eph 2:10). We forgive because Christ has forgiven us (Matt 6:12). We bless because Christ has blessed us (Eph 1:3). We served because Christ has served us (Mrk 10:45). We love because Christ has loved us (1 Jhn 4:19).
There are four things we can do to be blessed, and be a blessing to others, today:
1) Meditate On God’s Word
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” (Psalm 119:14-16)
God’s Word is a “light for our path.” (Ps 119:105) It brings us joy by “teaching, rebuking correcting and training us in righteousness,” (2 Tim 3:16) showing us what things are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, (Phil 4:8) and by reminding us of all God’s promises. (Ps 119:76, Gal 3:14) Take time everyday to read the Bible.
2) Live Faithfully
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)
Christians represent the living God to a dying world. Whatever happens throughout the day our goal should be to “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil 1:27)
We should be faithful children, parents, spouses, employers, employees and friends, treating people the way the Bible tells us to, and remembering when we fall short “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jhn 1:9)
Another aspect of living faithfully is truly putting our faith in Christ, who we trust to not only pay for our sins, but also provide, guide, strengthen and comfort us. (Rom 3:22-26, Phil 4:13, 2 Cor 12:9-10)
3) Live For Others
“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10)
We’re created in Christ to do good works, and He has blessed each of us with gifts which allow us to accomplish these works. Some are good at encouraging, some are able to teach, some love to pray, others have the gift of compassion… there are many different types of gifts but what they all have in common is the gifts God gives us are designed to serve others.
We’re encouraged to have the same attitude as Christ by “serving one another in love.” (Phil, 2:5-7, Gal 5:13) A day spent living for others will fill your heart with joy because “it’s more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
4) Rejoice In the Lord Despite Any Earthly Circumstances
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Every day we should rejoice with “joy inexpressible” because we have a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 1:3-4,8) Even when we go through hardships we still rejoice because we’re focused on this hope.
We rejoice in spite of the fact that the bank is about to foreclose, or the doctor has bad news, or whatever else comes our way. We rejoice because the source of our joy doesn’t come from our earthly circumstances, it comes from our heavenly standing. We rejoice always because we belong to Christ.