All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

Conformed to His image

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:28 has got to be one of the most quoted and memorized of all Scripture.  It’s important to know that God purposes all things to work together for good.  But when you pay close attention to the latter half of the verse, you see the need to read on.

Paul is stating that there are some who are called by God to fulfill His purpose.  In context we learn that those who are called are also to be conformed to the image of Christ (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:14) in order to bring about that purpose.  The work of the Holy Spirit within us brings about our sanctification which numbers us among the brothers/sisters of Christ.

So what’s our part in this?  What application do we make out of this truth?  Trust, for one thing.  Do you trust that in all things, in all areas of your life that God is active and present, working things towards His purpose?  Do you trust that He is conforming you to the image of His Son through the events and circumstances of your life?  We’ve got to trust that, even when things aren’t going as we planned, our Creator chose us from before creation (Ephesians 1:4) to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  His plan calls for the lives of HIs people to be transformed into the image of Christ and He brings that about one step at a time (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Good news requires a response

Luke 2:11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Did they know?  Did the people sleeping in Bethlehem that night know that the baby being born in the stable was their King?  Did the people staying in that inn where there was no room know that they were in the vicinity of the Savior?

Chances are none of them knew what was going on that night.  The angels proclaimed their message to the shepherds we’re told, but no one else seems to receive this news.  The shepherds of course immediately go to see the newborn, but it’s probably safe to assume that there were no other visitors that night.  If only they knew. He was right in their midst.

But don’t we miss Him too?  Jesus isn’t being born in a manger in our town, but He is evident around us and we sometimes still don’t seem to notice.  He’s holding all things together (Colossians 1:17), not letting a single grain of sand fall out of place, and yet we go for sometimes long periods of time without even giving Him a second thought.  Maybe the shepherds were chosen to receive the good news because they would listen and respond…

You shall call Him Jesus

Matthew 1:21  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Why Jesus?  What does it mean to name the child Jesus?  Of all the things the Savior of the world could have been named…Jesus…

The Hebrew name from which Jesus derived is Yeshua, or as we would know it, Joshua.  Yes, Jesus was a popular name and the Messiah was one of many.  This is even more puzzling as to why He would be given a name that didn’t stand out, that is until you realize what the name means in the original language.  Yeshua means “salvation”, and this should be no surprise in light of Matthew 1:21.  The child promised to Mary was to be named salvation because He would save His people from their sins.  Fitting.

But consider the other Joshua’s of the Bible.  Joshua, son of Nun was the leader who delivered the people of Israel into the promised land.  He won many military campaigns in the land of Canaan and was considered a godly man.  He was, for all intents and purposes, a savior for God’s people.  Joshua was salvation.  Maybe not as glorious in battle, but also used by God, was the high priest of the book of Ezra. Jeshua helped to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem after God’s people returned from exile to their home land.  He rebuilt the temple to reconnect the people with God.  He made a way for them to seek after God.

And Jesus of Nazareth is the name above all names.  The name bestowed upon Him is the one at which every knee will bow, on heaven and on earth, and under the earth.  It’s HIS name at which demons tremble and it’s HIS name that every tongue will confess.  He, Jesus Christ, is Lord of all.  He is salvation.

An uncommon message for common people

Luke 2:8-10  And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Why do you suppose the angels of the Lord would visit shepherds to deliver the message of the Savior’s birth?  Of all the people who could have received that special message, God singled out shepherds who were out in the fields with their sheep.  Why would He do this?

Shepherds were two things during the time of Christ’s birth:  they were lowly people who weren’t very well respected, and they were fairly common.  We read of several significant shepherds in the Bible (Moses and David among others), and Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd.  This was definitely a thematic element of the story.

The common nature of the shepherds who were out in those fields tells us that God wanted everyone, even the lowest, most ignored people, to hear the Good News.  He could have sent His angels to the King or the Governor, but He chose the common man.  The commonest of the common even.  The Savior came, not just for the respected and the religious (notice the angels didn’t visit the temple with their news), but for the any-man.

No matter who you are, the Good News of Jesus is for you.  No matter how insignificant you are, He notices you and cares for you enough to pay the price for your sins so that you can have a relationship with God.

The true light

John 1:9  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Was the world prepared for what it was going to encounter that first Christmas?  For so long the world had been in darkness.  Even the religion of those chosen by God had been corrupted into something other than what God had commissioned.  John the Baptist was working to prepare people to turn their hearts back toward God.  But did he even know what was to come?

In all that darkness, there was about to be light.  Not just any light, but the true light, which enlightens everyone.  Jesus was that light.  The problem is, not everyone likes to be enlightened.  Those who live in darkness often prefer the darkness and resent the light.  They’d rather not have light shed on their sinful behavior and their sinful hearts.  Jesus would shed that light and people hated Him for it.

The child born on that day in Bethlehem would be the One to conquer sin and darkness once and for all.  Where His light is shone, there can no longer be darkness.  He could have entered the world on a cloud, in a lightning bolt, or in a single flash of light, but He came as a baby.  A precious innocent baby was born that day, and He would soon let His light shine.  The true light.

The forerunner foretold

Luke 1:16-17  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Before there was Jesus, there was John the Baptist.  There had to be.  If Jesus had come into the world apart from the way being prepared for Him, the mission would have been compromised.  The people were not ready for the Messiah, they needed someone to prepare them.  John was that someone.

Long before John’s birth, there was a prophesy of the one who would come in the power of Elijah to prepare the hearts of the people to turn back to God (Malachi 4:6). John’s one role was to make the way for the Promised One, and then it was his time to decrease so that the Savior could increase (John 3:30).  Because of the prophesies, John’s parents would have understood what the angel’s revelation to them meant.  Their son would be the last prophet before the coming of the Christ.

In God’s sovereignty it just so happens that John and Jesus were relatives.  The man who would declare Jesus the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) was His own kin.  The baptizer who would watch as the Father and the Holy Spirit gave testimony about Jesus (Matthew 3:16,17)  had affection for Him as family.  Before Jesus could come, John had to come and get things ready for Him.

Mary is chosen

Luke 1:26-27  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

Why Mary?  This is a question that some think is important while others brush it off as not important at all.  Regardless of where you stand on that, Mary was part of a grand story and it was for a reason.

God is sovereign over all things and He provides a way for His will to be carried out.  Long before John the Baptist was preparing the way for the Messiah, God was getting things in order.  Mary was chosen specifically by God.  There is no coincidence in regards to her being the one who would carry the Christ child in her womb.  Mary was descended from the right line of Jews to fulfill the prophesies of old.  Not only her, but Joseph as well.

Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  He was to be born unto a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14).  He was to live a life that could only have happened exactly as it did if Mary was His mother.  Being engaged to Joseph meant that Mary had to make a journey to Bethlehem in Judea for a census at the time of Jesus’ birth.  This was God’s provision for the prophesies to be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.  Mary was chosen for many reasons, but it had to be her.  It had to be her that bore the Son of God into the world.

 

Expecting the Messiah

Malachi 4:5-6  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The story of Jesus does not begin with His birth in Bethlehem.  The entire Old Testament is the story of a people who were to be the heritage from which the Messiah descended.  Their customs, the events of their lives, everything was all part of the greater story of Jesus.  He didn’t just appear out of nowhere, the way was prepared for Him.

Hundreds of years before that night in Bethlehem under the star, God was already making it known through His prophet Malachi that He would send Elijah to prepare the people for their Messiah.  They were not only expecting the Promised Messiah, but also His forerunner, who it so turns out was John the Baptist.

Before we can really understand the significance of the Christmas story, the ministry of Jesus, the death, burial, and resurrection – we have to understand that Jesus came from a real history of real people with real stories.  His birth was foretold and expected, but it was also part of a larger narrative.  To understand Jesus we must understand His people.  Christmas is the climax of a promise given by God to His people, a promise to send someone to save them.  He sent Himself.

He loves

The Father

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God isn’t just another person in life who goes around saying things He doesn’t mean.  God cannot lie and He does not make promises He doesn’t keep.  When He says He loves us, He doesn’t just leave it at that.  He demonstrates it.

Do we understand what it means that God loves us?  Do we grasp the heaviness of the fact that the one who created all things has affection for us?  That He thinks about us?  That He has a plan for us?  He works in our lives, shaping us to be who He created us to be.  He disciplines us when we’ve done wrong, just as a father disciplines his children so that they’ll learn right from wrong.  God shows His love by being involved in our lives.

In an act that could never be confused for anything but love, God sent His Son to die a painful death of suffering on a cross, taking on our sin and giving us His righteousness, so that He could have a relationship with us.  This act was not because we had done anything to earn His love, but because He just loved us that much.

When we struggle in life, when things just don’t seem to make sense, when we feel like no one loves us, we can look at all that God has done for us.  Look to the forgiveness you’ve received in Christ, to the wonderful promises God has made, and to the Holy Spirit He’s placed in your life to comfort and guide you.  He loves you so much that He can’t stay away from you.  He’s crazy about you.

 

The virgin birth foretold

Isaiah 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Why is it so important that a virgin be the one to become pregnant with Jesus?  Since the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned and introduced a corrupt nature into all of mankind, we’ve been tainted.  We can’t be good no matter how hard we try because we have that sinful nature.

Some have tried to convince us that a virgin birth was necessary in order for Jesus to be without a sinful nature.  The logic is that the sinful nature must be passed down from generation to generation from the father.  This may be the case, but a mother is also a sinful human being and therefore capable of passing down her sinful nature to her offspring.

Mary was a real person with a real human body and within that body was the Christ child.  No other person ever had such a physical connection with Jesus than did His birth mother.  How she became pregnant with the Son of God is where the importance of her virginity becomes important.  Mary conceived without the help of a man.  She was impregnated supernaturally by the Holy Spirit.  Because He did this work in her to bring about the Christ’s birth into the world, there was no earthly explanation for her pregnancy.  The supernatural circumstances of her pregnancy make it the only time in the history of humankind for a baby to be born with no earthly father involved.  This was the sign promised in Isaiah, hundreds of years before.