Contemporary Christianity can easily lose sight of the basic Gospel. We get distracted by all sorts of side issues, many of which deviate from sound doctrine, so that we forget the centrality of the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. That’s why I appreciate today’s hymn.
Over this past week’s celebration, I saw a Christian from a solid, Bible-believing church (the church I attend, actually) give someone a set of Jesus Calling books for Christmas. Admittedly, this lady hasn’t been attending the church very long, but all the same, her lack of discernment troubles me.
Later in the day, I commented that God speaks to us exclusively through the Bible. She agreed enthusiastically, although fifteen minutes earlier she had been talking about a sign God had given her in response to a prayer. I shook my head, both grieved and frustrated by the obvious disconnect in her thinking. She needs good discipleship.
Sadly, she can’t understand my speech and she gives me reason to think that she believes I have intellectual disabilities (she’s not online, so she doesn’t read my blog). Additionally, she’s older than I, and therefore I wonder if she’d have the humility to accept instruction from me if I wrote her weekly letters? Maybe. Doing so would mean not blogging as often, but it might help her develop discernment.
As I see it, the Number One need Christian women have is Biblical discernment. (Men also need it, but I know Scripture limits me to teaching women.) Although I don’t believe women are stupid, I do think that we tend to let emotions affect our reasoning. As a result, we gravitate to mystical experiences as supplements to the Bible.
We forget that God’s Word needs no supplement. Consider the apostle Peter’s claim:
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~~2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)
And lest we suppose that we can arrive at”the knowledge of God” through personal experiences, Peter insisted that even his very real experience of witnessing Christ’s Transfiguration found validation only in the “sure word” of Scripture.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)
According to verse 3, then, God has already finished speaking with the completion of the Bible. Therefore, we must approach things like Sarah Young’s book by asking ourselves why we need a new word from the Lord.
Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling claims that Young wrote down words as she “listened” to Jesus. In an October 25, 2013 article in The New York Times entitled “A First-Person Defense of Writing in Jesus’ Voice,” Mark Oppenheimer demonstrates Young’s double-speak in trying to uphold Scripture as a closed canon while representing her words as His.
“I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying,” Ms. Young writes in the book’s introduction. She qualifies her project by writing, later, “The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard.”
But then she tacks back the other way: “I have written from Jesus’ point of view; that is, the first person singular (‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine’) always refers to Christ. ‘You’ refers to you, the reader, so the perspective is that of Jesus speaking to you.”
Either way, the average reader will most likely accept the Jesus Calling books as the actual words that Young heard from Jesus. In future posts, I hope to compare a few passages from Jesus Calling to Scripture, but for now it’s enough to ask whether or not we should read a book that suggests that it contains new revelation from the Lord.
I submit, dear sisters in Christ, that the possibility of Jesus speaking personally to us (whether through Sarah Young’s books or in our own prayer time) appeals to our flesh. But if Peter’s correct, the Lord has already given us everything we need to live godly lives. I pray for the lady from my church to understand this truth.
As I prepare to take two days off from blogging, I will share my favorite Christmas hymn today. I love this hymn for its bold affirmation of of the Incarnation.
How amazing that the very God who created the heavens and the earth (John 1:3) and sustains His creation (Colossians 1:17) left His Father’s throne in order to become a helpless Infant! He did so for the express purpose of dying on a Roman cross to atone for our sin.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)
Christ’s Incarnation fills me with wonder! My finite mind can’t begin to figure out how He lived as a Fetus, an Infant, a Boy and a Man without ceasing to be God. But then, I shouldn’t try to figure it out. Instead, I should follow the example of the angels in today’s hymn who heralded His birth.
I love it when Christmas hymns direct my attention to Christ’s atoning work on the cross! Josh Turner’s worshipful rendition of The First Noel does this beautifully.
I’ve decided to post Christmas songs all week to give myself a mini-break. Today’s song may or may not classify as a hymn (I would argue that it does), but it depicts the Incarnation powerfully!
Christmas calls us, first and foremost, to worship Christ. Not surprisingly, our increasingly secular culture, with its growing animosity to the Lord and all He stands for, tries desperately to have a December holiday that marginalizes Christ.
The angels who heralded His birth to the shepherds in Bethlehem knew, however, that the Child born that night deserved universal worship. He came as God Incarnate–the King of kings Who will someday return to reign over His creation.Though His birth was undeniably obscure, all of heaven understood its significance: the Lord of heaven and earth had come to liberate His people from their own sin!
Thus, Biblical Christians persevere through the secular distractions of the season, convinced that presents and family and decorations (while nice) must never eclipse Christ. This season should renew our desire to give Him the praise, honor and adoration that only He deserves, as today’s Christmas hymn reminds us.
The Gospel of John starts boldly! “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” John, the disciple who enjoyed the closest friendship with Jesus, gave us the most direct (and therefore the most startling) statement of Jesus’ deity. Where some consider the Son of God as being lesser than God the Father, John’s Gospel confronts us with God the Son.
This Incarnation, like the Trinity Itself, bypasses human intellect, leaving us uncomfortable with our inability to comprehend the Creator of all things “reducing” Himself to inhabit His virgin mother’s womb. Offended by this apparent assault on our reasoning capabilities (as if we have some sort of right to equality with God), many of us invent false theologies that deny Jesus’ deity…or badly distort it. Ever prideful, we demand a God that yields to our understanding–not one Who confronts us with our cognitive limitations.
Yet, John knew Jesus. He knew Him enough to be convinced that He was the very God of all creation. John had watched Jesus die on the cross, and only days later had eaten a fish breakfast with Him after His resurrection. The resurrection, more than any of the other miracles, verified Jesus’ claim to be God. Intellect must always bow to fact, especially when fact defies intellect.
So we can best respond to the Incarnation, not by analyzing it or by trying to explain it, but by coming to the Lord in worship and adoration. With our intellects, we discern the overwhelming evidence for His resurrection, and from that point we reason that His claim to be God in the flesh is irrefutable. But then, trying to figure out how He could at once be fully God and fully Man must be set aside, letting us kneel at the manger.