What Are We Celebrating?

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is past us and we are already full-swing into another Christmas season. Christmas movies are on, presents are being purchased, trees and lights adorn the country. All of these things are fun, exciting, and part of the celebration of Christmas. But what exactly are we celebrating? John’s Gospel gives us the answer:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

John 1:14a (English Standard Version)

We are celebrating the fact that the God of the universe thought enough of His elect that He took on flesh to walk on this earth as one of us. He faced the same trials and temptations yet he remained sinless. He took our place on the cross and took our penalty for our sins in his death. He brought us salvation and redemption that we might have eternal life. There is no greater love.

We often hear that Jesus is the “Reason for the Season.” But do we really take this to heart? Do we really understand the magnitude of what happened on that first Christmas? Do we really think about Immanuel, God with us? Do we consider what Christ did for us on the cross? Does it make a change in our lives?

These are the things that we need to dwell on this Christmas season. And not just Christmas, we need to think about these things every day of the year. So let’s remember what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Deity of Christ

One of the most dangerous positions in theology today is to deny the Deity of Christ. This is one of the leading dangers to the Church. The Deity of Christ is undeniable according to Scripture. It is plainly evident from the pages of Scripture. This post will examine only one of those passages.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 1:1-18 English Standard Version

John opens his Gospel with a proclamation that Jesus is God. The Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. And who is that Word? Jesus Christ.

The Word (God) became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ is that person. Christ is God. There is no denying it.

We must stand against any teacher who tries to claim that Jesus is not God. Some say that the Word was just an idea of God’s. But that goes against the very fabric and context of the passage.

No, Jesus is God. Period. We need to stand firm on that truth.

Forgiveness

Often we are reminded of a passage in Matthew about what it means to forgive. Peter asks Christ how much he should forgive someone? Seven times? Christ comes back with the answer of seventy-seven times. Does this mean if number seventy-eight comes up we do not have to forgive? Obviously not! So what does this passage mean? What does it mean to forgive? First, let’s look at the text itself.


Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

This is a stunning passage, a convicting passage. Often we find ourselves as the one who has been released from a great debt refusing to forgive the one with a small debt. But again, what does it actually mean to forgive.

The word forgive in this passage is the Greek word ἀφήσω (aphiemi). And what does this mean in the original? ἀφήσω carries the idea of releasing from a legal or moral obligation (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature).

This has amazing implications for what it means to forgive. You have gone to court with that person and the judge threw the case out, said the person is innocent or no longer obligated to the debt, or otherwise it has been satisfied. From that point forward, from a legal sense, you act as if the wrong has been fulfilled or never occurred in the first place. It has been satisfied.

When we choose to forgive we are taking that legal and moral stance. You are no longer obligated to me for what happened. I am wiping the slate clean. It is over and done. And Jesus says we are to do this seventy-seven times. This means we are wiping the slate clean, never to bring it up again. It has been cleared from the record.

What a picture of grace and what God has done for us and now expects us to do the same for others. It is a tall order. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But it is what we are called to do. May we all learn how to forgive.

Christ Did Not Die For All Sins: A Look At Limited Atonement

One of the things we hear most in Christianity is the idea that Christ died for every sin that was ever committed. But is that accurate? Did Christ truly die for all sins or did he only die for the sins of those who would believe in Him?

The question comes down to what you believe about the atonement. Was the atonement limited or was it universal? Limited Atonement, of course, is one of the five points of a theological viewpoint called Calvinism. Some people refer to this doctrine as definite atonement since limited can be misleading.

The controversy comes when people misunderstand definite atonement. They tend to believe that this means Christ’s sacrifice was not good enough to save everyone. On the contrary, it was sufficient for all, but not meant for all.

You run into a major problem if Christ died for the sin of every man. Some will not be saved, we know this from many passages of Scripture. If some are not saved then Christ’s atonement was not good enough. Some of Christ’s atonement was wasted. He was powerless over them. You also run into the issue of double jeopardy which causes God to be unjust.

People try to overcome this last point by saying, but salvation is a gift that must be accepted. That is not how justice works. Imagine this, you are convicted of a crime and are ordered to pay a penalty. If the penalty is paid for you, it does not matter if you wanted to accept it or not. The price has been paid. You are free to go. You would not be punished for a crime that has already had the punishment fulfilled.

So the plain fact is that Christ did not die for every sin that has ever been committed. No, He died only for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

The Importance of Scripture Memorization

One of the things that many churches seem to have lost in today’s culture is the discipline of Scripture Memory. Growing up, Scripture memory was a huge emphasis at our church through programs like AWANA. I remember being on the Bible Quiz team for our church competing against other churches. I remember those verses and definitions that I learned decades ago and I am thankful for it.

But is there any indication from Scripture that memorizing God’s Word is important? The answer is an overwhelming yes!

We see verses like Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” (KJV) While this verse is not a command, it is a clear principle. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts gives us the tools we need to resist temptation.

Jesus was the perfect model of this in the New Testament when He went under temptation by Satan in the wilderness. This passage is found in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted three times by Satan.

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Go Ye All Into the World?

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel we see the final instructions given by Christ to His Disciples:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  – Matthew 28:19 (ESV)

This command is pretty straightforward if read at face value with its plain meaning. They were to go and preach the Gospel to all people. But there have been questions regarding this passage and whether or not it would apply to all Christians or only to the Apostles themselves.

Since the beginning of the church, this passage has been understood to apply to all believers as a call for evangelism. But how can we know that is the case? The passage itself gives us that answer.

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you – Matthew 28:20a (ESV)

The word for observe is the word tēreō and carries the sense of fulfillment. In other words, the disciples were to evangelize and charge others with fulfilling the commands of Christ, including the Great Commission.