January 4, 2014

God Is With Us (Christmas 2 Readings)

 The Readings (Jer. 31.7-14; Eph. 1.3 and John1.10-18) give us a deeper understanding of God’s love and plan for humanity. While almost everyone believes in God, there are very different ideas of what God is like or what God expects. The Hebrew people of Jesus Day claimed a special relationship based on their history. From their history they knew that God was the creator and that God wanted a relationship of love and obedience with His people. God was with the Hebrews in the sense that their ancestors included kings and prophets who had spoken to and seen God in various forms. With the birth of Jesus it was possible to see and know exactly what God would be like in human form. The Gospel of John begins with an overview of the life of Jesus that is very basic, very simple and very profound.

1. God was in the world
Jesus presence on earth in bodily form is a historical fact. There is written evidence from non-Christian sources. There is also a great body of historical evidence from the Gospel and Epistle writers and from the stories of the early martyrs. The stories of the martyrs is circumstantial evidence that something very special was going on after Jesus death. The evidence points to the conclusion that God the creator was present with the created.

  • Christianity is not just someone’s idea of God. Christianity is not a philosophy.
  • Christianity is a revealed religion that was revealed historically and is still being revealed to the faithful. It is about real people, real healings and lives that were changed. The stories are either true or not true.
  • Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in a special way, was condemned for blasphemy and went to His death believing he truly was God with us. It was either true or a fraud.
  • Cannot rationally argue that Jesus was just a great teacher or good man. He was either God with us, a fraud or or mentally ill.
2. God was not recognized or received
The Gospels tell us that most people, including most of the religious leaders did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This lead directly to his execution for blasphemy – for presumably claiming to be god when you are not god.

  • The religious leaders of His time were so caught up in their own agendas and in their own interpretations of the Law of Moses that they missed the most important event in history.
  • Like many in our own time they had blinded themselves spiritually and could not see who Jesus was.

  • That something was “grace” - a loving way of restoring individuals who fail to come back into a right relationship with God.
3. God gave individuals the right to become children by adoption
Jeremiah reminds us that God is the Father of Israel (31.9). But fathers can only protect and save their children from disaster if they are loved and obeyed. This had been lost in Jewish formal religion.

  • People had rebelled against God and His Commandments
  • They had fallen into sin, become spiritually polluted and separated themselves from God who is holy
  • How could God who is holy be around humans who are unholy?
  • Good news of Christmas is that the life and death of Jesus provided a new way for humans to be forgiven and counted as holy
  • God revealed the extent of His grace and mercy when He offered forgiveness to those who put their trust in Jesus sacrificial death.
  • This is the great mystery of Christianity, that God would love us enough to come and die in our place, so that we could live with Him forever. Jesus, by being with us showed us a more loving and compassionate God than we could possibly imagine..
Christmas challenges us to get to know Jesus as God with us

Christianity is a revealed religion. As Paul says, people have to;

·         Hear the Gospel

·         Believe the Gospel

·         Become “included in Christ”.(Ephesians 1.13)

Everyone is not included automatically. Each person has to really listen and really hear to the point where they can make a decision to believe.

·         First they need to read the Bible themselves and belong to a Bible Study group where they can get sound teaching. There are many false teachers who lead people down false paths.

·         Second there needs to be a serious personal decision to believe the Good News of Jesus Christ as Saviour. You cannot believe without first getting to know Jesus through Bible Study and prayer.

·         Thirdly Paul teaches that when we believe in Jesus we are included in Him and receive the Holy Spirit as a seal or sign  (Eph. 1.13)

This is how great the love of God is. We are given complete freedom to choose.. It is exactly like falling in love. If you don’t know or aren’t sure then you are not in love. If you do know and are sure then you are a believer. Everyone else will know because your life will change and you will hunger to get to know Jesus better. This hunger will drive you to get rid of the spiritual garbage in your soul through Confession, Absolution and a changed lifestyle. This cleansing creates a place for the Holy Spirit to live. The Holy Spirit will bless you with gifts. These gifts are like a deposit or sign of the love that Jesus and God the Father have for you.

This is the beginning of an eternal celebration of the joy of being with God.

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