The Gospel Christmas Teaches

I designed this quotation of Hebrews 1:1-3 as the front of the Christmas card that John and I are giving to our Personal Care Attendants this year. I wanted something unexpected — something a little more difficult for them to gloss over. Something that pointed to the deity of Christ in a way they may have never considered before.

As I worked on the graphic, wrestling with it for about an hour to keep the darker areas of the gradient from blending into the background, I read the passage several times. Although I’d originally intended on emphasizing the first and second verses, verse 3 captivated my attention. Amid testing colors and printing out samples to check how the graphic looked on paper, I grew increasingly amazed by how the writer of Hebrews moved from the sufficiency of God’s Word to Christ’s Incarnation to the atonement and resurrection in three verses. What a wonderful way to present the Gospel in a Christmas card!

The more I thought about this little fragment of God’s Word, the more I wanted to write a blog post about the rich teaching it contains. The writer’s economy in condensing the Gospel message into just three verses encourages me to remember the simplicity, and yet the profound magnificence of our Lord and Savior. We celebrate His birth precisely because He is the glorious One described in this beautiful introduction to Hebrews. So let’s spend a few minutes enjoying the teaching in this small portion of God’s Word.

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When Christmas Isn’t All That Merry

The lights on the tree had always heralded the joyous news that Jesus, the Light of the world, had come. But on December 25, 1989, they seemed intrusive, and I stared at them resentfully. That year, I just wanted Christmas to go away.

Only a week earlier, my beloved friend Bob had lost his battle with AIDS. Oh, I understood that he had gone to heaven, having repented of his homosexuality and placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the best way possible, God actually had given him the ultimate healing by taking him. It just wasn’t the healing I had demanded in my prayers. It wasn’t the Christmas miracle I so wanted God to perform. While everyone around me was having a holly jolly Christmas, I felt empty.

Some of you reading this post may experience such feelings this Christmas. Maybe Covid took a loved one from you this past year, and your dinner table won’t seem full. Perhaps you’ve suffered a broken engagement — or worse, a broken marriage. Maybe one of your children has turned away from Christ. Many tragic things can make the Christmas season anything but merry and bright, so that the tinsel garnishing your tree becomes nothing more than shredded aluminum foil. As much as you love Christ, this year all joy is gone.

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Throwback Thursday: The Wonderful Message Of Christmas — And Why People Work So Hard To Obscure It

Originally published December 12, 2019

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I personally know many non-Christians who just love Christmas. They’ll decorate their homes to the hilt, send out beautifully illustrated year-end newsletters wishing people peace and joy, and maybe even put up a cute nativity scene as an homage to the story of the first Christmas.

For them, Christmas is primarily about brightly wrapped presents, feasting on scrumptious food, and parties. Songs mentioning benign infants lying in mangers must be supplemented with other songs about jingling bells and an obese elf from the North Pole who sees us when we’re sleeping. And then there are the infamous office parties and their accompanying innuendos about who was nice and naughty.

Most of all, they’ll declare that Christmas is about children. Not so much about a specific Child, although some might give Him an obligatory nod, but children and their sense of wonder during this seemingly magical season. Visions of sugarplums dance in secular heads that watch children light up with joy at this most wonderful time of the year.

The secular traditions seem to increase every year, conveniently distracting culture from the powerful message that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Babes in mangers, after all, had better keep their place — especially that Baby!

Sometimes it’s difficult for Christians to understand why others work so hard to obscure Christ while celebrating Christmas. Let me suggest that acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ for Who He actually is threatens those who deny His authority over them.

Please run Colossians 1:15-20 through your brain for a few minutes.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

Think about this passage and its richness in portraying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, from the vastness of outer space to the complexity of a single cell. Then remember that He became a Man in order to shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. Those of us who have experienced His love and grace rejoice that the Most High descended to earth to reconcile hopeless sinners like us to Himself.

For us, the wonder of Christmas comes as we contemplate Christ’s humble Incarnation against the backdrop of His majesty. The more we understand His deity and bow to His authority, the more we rejoice in His mercy to shed His blood for the remission of our sins. And therefore we celebrate Him as the glorious Christmas message!

That Baby in this manger was actually the Lord of all creation. Yes, even of created men and women who want to reject His claim on them. The world may try to obscure Him with magic reindeer and boughs of holly, but one day His light will obscure everything but Himself.

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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 4

Silent Night

O Come, All Ye Faithful

What Child Is This

Angels We Have Heard On High

All these beloved Christmas hymns exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, boldly proclaiming Who He is and why He came. Since my childhood, I’ve cherished each of them, growing more fond of them once I became a Christian. I love these hymns because they celebrate God’s incarnation. All Christians probably love them for the same reason.

Another beloved Christmas hymn stands out to me as perhaps the one that most magnifies Who Jesus Christ is. Its lyrics beautifully portray His glory and His humility. Maybe the other hymns I’ve mentioned do the same, but this hymn strikes a chord with me far more deeply. Over the years, it seems to grow more profound and wonderous in its depiction of the mighty God as the offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Enjoy these powerful lyrics that exalt our precious Lord Who was born to give us second birth. May your Christmas be filled with glory to the newborn King!

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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 3

At this time of year, we generally think of a helpless Infant wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Now, there’s definitely wonder in the truth that God Incarnate came to earth as a Baby, dependent on His mother and her husband for His basic physical care. If that concept hasn’t filled you with awe and amazement at least once in your life, it should!

But Jesus is much more than a Baby in a Bethlehem manger. The shepherds and wise men, while they didn’t understand that this Child was the God Who rules all nature, knew that He was Israel’s promised Messiah. “Christ the Lord,” the angels had told the shepherds.

Our sentimental images of Christ’s birth often cause us to forget His power and majesty as the sovereign Lord Who governs all creation. I therefore encourage you to step back from thoughts about a Baby for a moment, and to meditate on Who this fairest of all Babies truly is. As you think about this Son of God and Son of man, you’ll remember that glory, honor praise and adoration belong — now and evermore — to Him.

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Keys To Discernment: It Pleased The Father

Gold Key

As Christians, we often wonder how we can please the Lord. And we definitely ought to read Scripture with the expectation of learning how to bring pleasure to Him.

But Scripture also shows us that God has done things for the purpose of pleasing Himself. I don’t think about that idea nearly as much as I should, and I’m not sure many of us do. Thankfully, the two concluding verses of the magnificent passage we’ve been studying these past few weeks adjusts our attention back to to the truth that God does everything with the ultimate goal of pleasing Himself.

For the sake of context, let’s once again look at our passage as a whole before we talk about verses 19 and 20.

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Keys To Discernment: Christ As The Preeminent God

Are we supposed to have favorite verses or passages in the Bible? Probably not.

But I certainly do have a favorite passage, and I won’t apologize for having it! I love that passage because it shows us Jesus as God incarnate — a doctrine that has fascinated me since my first few months as a born-again Christian. 49 years later, the concept still fills me with wonder and adoration, as well it should!

Last week we looked at the first few verses of my favorite passage, exploring how Paul refuted the false teachings of both the Judaizers and the pre-gnostics by proclaiming that Jesus is God. Why don’t we look at the passage again and enjoy the reminder that Jesus Christ indeed is God Himself:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. ~~Colossians 1:15-20

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Keys To Discernment: A Portrait Of The Real Jesus (Reboot)

How I wrote this post on February 24 baffles me. Three days earlier, I’d been in the Emergency Room, where doctors misdiagnosed me with a pulled back muscle and told me to sit in my wheelchair and remain active. The following Sunday I returned to the ER and a CT scan revealed that I had a compression fracture in my lumbar region.

I’d been so excited about getting to the passage in Colossians 1 that my need for bed rest really disappointed me. But once I recovered from my injury, so much I time had elapsed that I decided reboot the entire Bible Study series. Today is the final reboot before we pick up where we left off. I’ll update it with some additional comments, though, so don’t ignore it.

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False teaching invariably attacks, perverts or (at the very least) distorts the nature of Jesus Christ. Beth Moore, for example, reduces Him to a romantic playmate Who speaks directly to her and is “the bossiest thing.” For proper discernment, therefore, Christians must possess an accurate understanding of Christ’s nature.

Over the past few weeks we studied Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church to be filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We also studied the way God qualifies believers to share in His inheritance.  As we closed last week’s study, we shifted our attention from the Father to His Son, and Paul now picks up the discussion with a powerful description of Christ’s deity.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (NASB)

Today we’ll work through verses 15-17, worshiping the Lord because we see His exalted nature. Before we do so, however, we should understand a little more about the philosophies that would develop into Gnosticism.

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If You’re Not Amazed, You Ought To Be

Would you say that many Christians lose their sense of wonder that God saved them? Would you say that sometimes you lose your sense of wonder that He saved you? I have, from time to time.

Yet as we study Scripture, it’s hard to miss His amazing love for sinful, writing creatures like us. How incredible that Jesus would bear the Father’s wrath for us, taking our sin and giving us His righteousness! Nothing in us could ever merit such love, grace and mercy.

To His praise, He faithfully reminds us that He indeed has bestowed this incomprehensible love, grace and mercy on those of us who believe. He fills the pages of Scripture with innumerable examples of His love despite our persistent rebellion against Him. And when we see how undeserving we are of His love, we can’t help but be completely and utterly astounded.

How can it be that God the Son should die for me? I ought to be amazed more often!

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Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Wrote To The Colossians (Reboot)

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Last Monday I explained that I’ll repost the few Bible Studies I wrote on Colossians before I injured my back in February. I’ll add a few remarks to these articles where I feel they need further comment, so you really might find it beneficial to read them again. Once we’ve reviewed those studies, we’ll continue working through the epistle.

As a young Christian, I would get impatient when Bible Study teachers would spend time talking about the background to whatever book they taught. I just wanted to grab verses here and there that I could shoehorn into my immediate circumstances. Textual context only mildly interested me; I had absolutely no use for historical or cultural background, thank you very much!

So if you’re groaning at the title of this post, anticipating a boring history lesson about First Century Colossae, I understand. It’s not what you expected from a study on discernment.

Don’t close this article yet, ladies! You need to know that I’m writing a little about the background to this epistle precisely because it will enable us to see how Paul taught discernment without once naming the false teachers that he refuted.

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