God With Us (an Advent reflection)

All this took place to fulfill what the LORD had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:22-23

Jesus is the centerpiece of all human existence. His advent, His arrival  is the highest point of human history. The significance of His birth can be glimpsed by a quick thought upon our conception of time.

Chronologically, we divide existence into two eras. They are now being officially called the Common Era (C.E.) and Before Common Era (B.C.E.); however, they are still commonly called Anno Dominae (A.D.) and Before Christ (B.C.). Regardless of their name, the event, which serves to divide them, remains the same: the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Matthew seeks to capture the weight of this moment by revealing how every promise became fulfilled through Christ. Through a virgin birth, Jesus became the only one who can claim to be the offspring of woman. As a Jew, Jesus was the offspring of Abraham. Being of the tribe of Judah, Jesus could also trace His lineage back to king David.

Matthew concludes that because of these fulfilled promises that Jesus is the only one worthy to be called Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is the completion of the Old Testament, the hope underlining its entirety.

As the Promised One, Jesus alone is able to be called Mighty God[1].

He alone is the King whose kingdom will last forever and who will be worshipped by everyone from everywhere in every language[2].

Jesus alone is the meeting of heaven and earth.

He is God come down to deliver His people.

He is the innocent sacrifice that died to pay for the sins of His creation.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ cannot be overstated. It cannot be given too much importance. It is the very moment of God making Himself nothing for the sake of the merest of vanities such as us. Though our lives are like passing vapors in the winter air, God chose to dwell among us, to take on the form of humanity[3].

What is our central thought during this Christmas time, during this season of Advent? Like the rest of our lives, may it be consumed by the wonder that God would choose to save us by being with us.

[1] Isaiah 9:6

[2] Daniel 7:14

[3] Philippians 2:7

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Free Advent Ebook

The season of Advent begins November 27 this year, leading up to Christmas. 1

I love Advent because it helps us remember how long humanity waited for a Savior.

It emphasizes the glorious miracle of Jesus’ coming into the world that He created.

This ebook collects together the devotional thoughts that I posted during Advent last year, revised and edited.

I’ve hoped to provide a brief sweep through the entire Bible’s storyline, showing how the crucial the Advent of Christ is. Thus, the first devotion begins in Genesis 3, and the final one ends in Revelation 22.

Click here or on the book cover to download the ebook.

Come, Lord Jesus | Day 35

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.  (Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

We now close our season of Advent with the final words of the Bible. Though being created good, the world was devastated by the sin of humanity, but even from the beginning, God promised to fix everything. He promised to send the Messiah, the serpent-crushing descendant of Abraham and David.

We have seen that Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, decisively defeating sin by His death and resurrection. Then before ascending to heaven, Jesus promised to return, ushering in our eternal lives with Him.

This may be an obvious statement, but it’s worth saying: things are not perfect. The world is broken, fallen, and still in sin. We only need to watch the news to be reminded that things are not as they should be.

It is, therefore, important for us to understand that while Jesus’ saving work was entirely accomplished by His death and resurrection, His renewing and remaking work will not be fully seen until His return.

In many ways, we hopefully wait for Jesus’ second coming to make our faith sight. Though the decisive battle was won, we are still longing for the final battle against sin and death to be fought.

Yet our waiting is not to be spent staring up at the sky (Acts 1:11); instead, we are to faithfully live out the Jesus’ Great Commission to us.

Thus, we expectantly pray along with John: “Come, Lord Jesus!”


Since Christ will return without warning, do you live in such an obedient and faithful way that you can expectantly pray alongside John: “Come, Lord Jesus!”?


 

Death Shall Be No More | Day 34

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4 ESV)

The final three chapters of the Bible are absolutely beautiful. They provide for us a description of our eternal life with God. Following Christ’ return and the day of judgment, God establishes a new heaven and new earth where we will dwell with Him in our new and resurrected bodies.

Too often, we think of heaven as being an ethereal and spiritual place where we live like angels; however, such thoughts are not founded upon Scripture. Instead, we are told that our eternity will be spent upon the new earth that God formed.

We will also have renewed bodies that are without sin. God created us to have physical bodies, and He will give to us sinless, resurrected bodies for all eternity.

All of this is a return to Eden, a testament that our sin did not have the final word.

Revelation 20-22 is the reverse ordering of Genesis 1-3. Death enters the world in Genesis 3, and it is utterly removed in Revelation 20. And just as the Bible began with two chapters of sinless and deathless life with God, so the Bible also ends with two chapters of sinless and deathless life with God. This is the substance of our hope in Christ’s return: that He will finally, visibly, and completely remake the world and us, forever undoing the effects of sin, evil, and death.


Reading Revelation 21:3-4, what will make our eternal life full of joy and peace? What makes heaven heavenly?


 

Our Blessed Hope | Day 33

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13 ESV)

Paul, writing to Titus, gives here a wondrous summation of Jesus’ first and second advent. He first states that in Christ the grace of God has come into the world, “bringing salvation for all people.” By His death and resurrection, Jesus redeemed “us from all lawlessness” and purified us for Himself as “a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (v. 14).” Indeed, Jesus saved us, redeemed us, purified us, and equips us to live godly lives.

But Paul also claims that in the midst of all of this, we are waiting for our blessed hope. He describes this hope as “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is the second coming of Christ. In His first advent, Jesus came as a servant, operating in a behind-enemy-lines manner that left most of the Jews doubting that He was really the Messiah.

Not so with the second advent. Revelation 19:11-21 gives us a clearer picture of Jesus’ appearing in glory. Splitting the sky in two, Christ will come back to earth upon a white horse with the armies of heaven behind Him. The Suffering Servant will establish His throne as Eternal King in the clear view of everyone. With His second coming Jesus will consummate the kingdom that He inaugurated with His first coming.


Considering also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, in what ways is the second coming of Christ your blessed hope?


 

Jesus’ Continued Ministry | Day 32

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2 ESV)

Prior to His ascension, Jesus gave to His disciples clear commands for what they were supposed to do until He returned. They were to be His witnesses to all the earth (Acts 1:8), to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ to all nations (Luke 24:47), and to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). Though these texts are well-known (for good reason), these first verses of Acts are often overlooked.

Acts is written by Luke as the sequel to his Gospel, and he begins it by explicitly saying that the Gospel of Luke was about “all that Jesus began to do and teach”. The word ‘began’ is interesting because Luke’s Gospel covers Jesus’ birth to His ascension, so it would appear to be the most complete account of Jesus’ ministry, not the beginning of it. However, Luke is expressing a deeply important thought for us to understand: as the body of Christ, His church, we are the continuation of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

We saw last week that Jesus’ ministry was about expanding the kingdom of heaven on earth. By making disciples and proclaiming repentance and forgiveness in Christ, we are growing the kingdom of God. Just as Jesus kept His focus upon proclaiming the good news of the kingdom (Luke 4:42-44), so must we understand that our purpose is to preach the gospel and make disciples.


Knowing that Jesus has called each of us to make disciples until He returns, does your life reflect this command? If not, what are some specific reasons that keep you from obeying Jesus?


 

The Ascension | Day 31

While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up to heaven. (Luke 24:51 ESV)

Especially for the disciples, Jesus’ life on earth must have been quite a bumpy ride. At Jesus’ call to follow Him, each left his previous way of living to follow Jesus around the country side, hoping that He was the promised Messiah. Christ’ crucifixion seemed like a total defeat since even the Messianic King could not reign from the dead. The resurrection then was a miracle of the highest order and led to a renewed belief that Jesus is the Serpent-Crusher. But after being with them awhile longer, Jesus ascended into heaven, promising them that He would one day return.

When compared to the cross and resurrection, Jesus’ ascension is often overlooked; however, great theological significance lies therein. In John 14, Jesus tells us much about life after His ascension. Having told His disciples that He would be leaving, He proceeds to tell them that He is going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). Jesus’ imagery would have recalled in the disciples’ minds a fiancé leaving to prepare his home for his bride-to-be and promising to return for her when he finished.

Obviously the imagery only goes so far. For example, it would be ridiculous for us to conclude that Jesus has yet to return because He isn’t finished preparing heaven yet. Instead, Jesus is assuring us, as His bride, that He will return to us and that by His ascension to heaven He prepared the way for us also to be with the Father for eternity.


Read Luke 12:13-21, and consider whether you live in light of Christ’s eternal provision or for the hope of earthly treasure.