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.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
We face all sorts of opposition in this life, both before and after our conversion and rebirth in Christ. As we journey down the road of discipleship we’ll meet lots of challenges along the way, but they can be used to build us up instead of destroying us. With God on our side, we will be victorious.
As followers of Jesus, we don’t operate in our own strength, we have the Creator by our side. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) His power shows through when we have none. When we embrace our weakness and rest in Him, His power shows in us. When we’re weak, then we’re strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
It’s for the sake of Christ that we endure all this life has to throw at us. It’s so His power can be made known, so His strength can be evident in our lives. We’re given over to death in this body so that His life can be made real in us for all to see. It’s for His glory that we face trials, and just as we die like Christ we’ll be resurrected and glorified. He was victorious over death, so now we can be too.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
How does God reveal Himself to us? Many have asked this question and many will continue long after we’re gone from this earth, but the answer has been given. God revealed Himself in the form of Jesus, who walked the earth among men, facing our temptations and yet never giving in to them, living a perfect life in perfect harmony with the Father. In Christ, the character of God was revealed and lived out. And in God’s Word, Jesus is revealed to us who never got to walk in His presence on earth.
But to some the gospel is nonsense, they can’t make anything of it. They’ve been blinded to the power of the gospel as though they’re in darkness. But to those of us whom God has called, to those of us who have responded, He has shone a light. He has illuminated Jesus in the gospel to show us the glory of God, and He’s done it in our own hearts.
Apart from God working in us, we can’t understand His revelation, we can’t see Jesus for who He is. But when God gives the light, we can see everything for what it is. His truth is made real, His character is made clear. Then and only then can we begin to know Him.
John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Intercessory prayer can be one of the most important acts in the life of a Christ follower. Praying for others is a selfless act of service and one of the greatest things one can do for another person. Even Jesus Himself prayed for others while living here on this earth. Destined to die for the sins of mankind, the Son of God paused in His last few hours on earth and prayed for us.
In John chapter 17, Jesus first prays for His disciples. He asks His Father that the disciples would be sanctified and protected. After this, He prays for all believers who are yet to come. He prayed for our unity, that we would be one. And then, just a short time later, He willingly gave His life on the cross so that we could live. Jesus did not pray that prayer in vain any more than He died in vain. It’s His heart’s desire that we would be united.
Part of that unity includes praying for each other and strengthening each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). When we take on each others’ burdens, we act in a Christ-like manner, loving our neighbors even as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). When we put aside praying for our own desires and needs and pray for those of our family, friends, and even enemies (Matthew 5:44), we truly live out our faith in practice. Take time each day to pray for others.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
The fact is that prayer is so powerful that it has been exploited and misused by those who have no intentions of serving God. Those who seek after their own selfish desires on this earth have used the very gift God gave us to connect with Him and perverted it, made it into some genie-in-a-bottle formula for getting things. God did not intend prayer to be a vending machine.
Yes, Jesus clearly said that whatever we ask for in His name shall be ours, but we must remember that He said this to His disciples. Jesus made this statement with the understanding that those who heard it had left everything behind to follow Him. They had given up more comfortable lives to serve the Son of God. That doesn’t mean the promise isn’t ours to claim as well, it simply means that there are stipulations attached.
Those who follow Christ and call themselves disciples seek to bring Him honor and glory and in doing so pray for His will. If we are seeking Christ, the desires of our heart will not be selfish and our prayers will reflect the character of God. If we’re walking with the Lord, our desires will be in line with His desires.
I Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Many and varied are the ways that man tries to get closer to God. New religions spring up all the time, each seeking to find the right way to become whole. Hundreds of self-help books are shelved at each book store, none quite adequately fulfilling our quest. None quite bringing us into that place where we stand in right relationship with our Creator.
It’s sad that we spend so much time searching when the answer our souls seek has already been given. We don’t attain enlightenment by searching within ourselves. We don’t achieve entrance into heaven through doing enough good deeds. There is one way to God and He is Christ Jesus. He is our Savior, our King, our friend. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36) and not one thing was created that was not created by Him (John 1:3). He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and only He qualifies to mediate between God and man (John 14:6).We can try to fix ourselves, try to gain knowledge, or try to work our way to righteousness, but in the end it’s all in vain. Only Christ can save us. Only He can set us free (John 8:32).
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.
Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.
There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.
We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. – Jonathan Edwards
Are you like me? Do you ever realize that you’re going to God when things are tough but not spending much time with Him when things are going well? I’m not proud of those times, but I also know I’m not alone in doing that.
If I’m completely honest, a lot of times in my life have been that way. Hard times have a way of bringing us to our knees like nothing else. When there’s nothing else and no one else to turn to, we always know we have Jesus as a backup. But He’s so much more than that.
Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The love God has shown me and you through Jesus should make us bow down on our knees often, praising Him and giving Him thanks for everything He’s done. If He dwells in our hearts, we should all the more approach Him in love, not just when we need something. Will you resolve with me to spend more time in worship and stop waiting until things are bad to reach out to the Lord?
Luke 2:47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Even at a very young age, Jesus had a way about Him that amazed those with whom He had interactions. There was just something about Him. One can only guess what it would have been like to live around Him when He was only a child, but the Word tells us that even back then He was something else.
As Jesus visited the temple as a child, He asked questions of the experts and discussed heavy theological matters with them. The people in that temple probably would have been impressed with an adult that had the knowledge and wisdom that Jesus displayed, but for it to be coming from a child… They’d never seen such a thing! There they were discussing God with God face-to-face, and they didn’t even know it.
To experience Jesus is to be amazed by Him. It’s impossible to encounter Him and keep going along without any change, without even blinking. It’s impossible. To be with Jesus elicits awe and amazement. It makes one want to worship Him, not just carry on as usual. He’s the manifestation of God, the Lord’s revelation of Himself to man. How can we not be amazed when we see Him?
Luke 2:30-31 for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples
What must it have been like to wait for years and years with the promise of a Messiah to come, never knowing quite when He would arrive? Oh the faith of Simeon, to keep believing even into old age that God would keep His promise. Simeon is a good example of faith rewarded. He waited and he waited for the Promised One and then a day came when God allowed him to see Him with his own eyes. What a day that must have been for Simeon.
We know that he rejoiced and gave praise to God over the joyous occasion, but he also revealed that at this moment his life was complete. He had been promised that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had been born and there He was in front of Simeon, being presented at the temple. Simeon could die in peace. Are you so content with encountering Christ that you’d say you can die in peace right now because you’ve seen Him?
It’s a great occasion any time we get a taste of the Lord’s goodness. His salvation is a free gift that we can never earn and it comes only from Jesus Christ, and to experience this is something to sing about, to make a fuss over. But do we look at this as enough? Is your life complete now that you’ve seen the Lord’s salvation? For Simeon it was enough. There was nothing more that the world had to offer him that could even come close to meeting Jesus face to face. Somehow for us there is still a lot competing for our affections in this world, but the reality is that Jesus is enough and we should be content with Him. He’s all that we need.