1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
Ephesians 6:18a praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
One aspect of Christian belief that does not often make its way into devotions or teaching on how to apply biblical truth to daily living is the Triune nature of God. We neglect to focus on the nature of God as three persons in one as part of our view of God in daily life. But it’s essential that we remember who God is as we seek to know Him more, as we petition Him, as we carry out His will.
As we pray, we are in fact engaging with all three distinct persons of the Trinity. We speak to the Father, asking Him for our needs to be met, giving Him praise, interceding for the needs of others, and giving Him thanks. We do this through the Son, who is our mediator. Were it not for the role of Jesus Christ standing in the gap between man and God, we would have no access to the throne and our prayers would go unanswered. Since God himself is spirit, we must act in the Holy Spirit to communicate with Him. All three persons of the Triune God are present and active as we pray.
We can’t neglect any part of God’s nature as we seek Him. If we forget that He is good, we will have an unnatural fear of Him. If we forget that He is all-powerful, we will tend to pray without expecting results. If we forget that He is all-knowing, we may fear that we won’t quite say the right thing and that God will answer our prayers incorrectly because we didn’t get our message across right. The fact is that God is all of these things and He is present in our lives as our Father, as Jesus the Son, and as the Holy Spirit.
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).
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.