Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Social Network Christmas

In our Christmas Eve service, we are going to show Igniter Media's new video "A Social Network Christmas." It appears that this video has gone viral. (Conan O'Brien may have mentioned it in one of his recent shows.) Hopefully most people attending our service will see it for the first time on Christmas Eve.

A Social Network Christmas from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Exaltation of Jesus

Part 4 of Born to Die


The suffering of the Servant proves that God loves us. How? First, the cross was planned by the Father. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief (v. 10a). If you are a parent, imagine sacrificing your child for the benefit of others. Could you do it? Honestly, I don't know how I could do it.

Immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve, God began to reveal His plan of salvation. He said to Satan (after He had tempted Eve to sin), "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). This prophecy is sometimes called the protoevangelium, which means "first gospel." Many Christians believe the reference to "her Seed" looks beyond Adam and Eve to Mary and Jesus. The seed of the woman (Jesus) would crush the head of Satan. It's as if God was saying to Satan, "You’ll do something bad to Him, but He’ll do something worse to you!" Satan, through the wicked actions of man, would bruise the Savior's heel, but through the cross, Satan's head would be crushed (his doom would be sealed).

After His resurrection, Jesus said to two of His followers, "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). Peter spoke of the necessity of the suffering of Christ when he declared to the people of Jerusalem, "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (Acts 2:23).

Second, the cross brought satisfaction to Christ. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied (v. 11a). The sacrifice of Christ was for God’s glory and our good. This is the reason for Jesus' satisfaction.

In verses 10-12, we find six reasons why Jesus died for us. (1) He died to act as our substitute. He bore the sin of many (v. 12). (2) He died to act as our mediator. [He] makes intercession for the transgressors (v. 12). (3) He died to make us innocent before God. By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous (v. 11). (4) He died to make us children of God. He shall see his offspring (v. 10). (5) He died to conquer death for us. He shall prolong his days (v. 10). The apostle Paul may have been thinking of Isaiah 53 when he wrote, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). (6) He died to share His victory with us. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong (v. 12). The imagery is that of a conqueror sharing his victory with his allies. "Therefore" reminds us of the "therefore" in Philippians 2:9: "Therefore God has highly exalted him." In Isaiah 53, Jesus is "a lamb that is led to the slaughter" (v. 7). But in the book of Revelation, He is the Lamb on the throne of heaven (5:6).

Jesus’ enemies accused Him of being a "friend of sinners" (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). But if He wasn’t a friend of sinners, there would be no hope for us. Jesus was identified with sinners ("numbered with the transgressors"), died for sinners ("bore the sin of many"), and intercedes for sinners ("makes intercession for the transgressors"). From the cross, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

To the people of His day, Jesus was was seen as a failure. His life ended in crucifixion. They assumed that He had lived a futile life. But in reality, His life was the most fruitful life ever lived. Verse 10 says He will have many descendants ("he shall see his offspring"); He will live a long life ("he shall prolong his days"); and He will accomplish God’s plan for His life ("the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand").


Christmas gifts usually only provide temporary joy. A few years ago, my wife and I bought a digital camera for around $300. A couple of days later, it was dropped and broken.

No Christmas gift can compare to the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. What should we do with this perfect gift? (1) Accept it. (2) Share it. (3) Cherish it. Be devoted to Giver of salvation.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Humiliation of Jesus

Part 3 of Born to Die


He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth (v. 7).

How was Jesus like a lamb? First, a lamb is an animal of submission. A lamb is quietly "led to the slaughter" because it doesn't know what is going to happen. Jesus, on the other hand, was not an unwilling victim. Luke 9:51 says, "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). Jesus knew that He would be crucified in Jerusalem, but He went there anyway.

When Jesus stood before the high priest, Pilate, and Herod, He did not try to defend Himself. "And the high priest stood up and said, 'Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But Jesus remained silent'"” (Matthew 26:62-63a). "And Pilate again asked him, 'Have you an answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.' But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed" (Mark 15:4-5). "When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer" (Luke 23:8-9).

Second, a lamb was an animal of sacrifice. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

In Genesis 22, God told Abraham, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering" (v. 2). As Abraham and his son Isaac were traveling, Isaac asked, "Where is the lamb?" (Genesis 22:7). He was unaware that God had told Abraham to sacrifice his son. Once they arrived at the place for the offering, Abraham revealed to Isaac the sad news. Isaac was placed on the altar, but just as Abraham was about to kill his son, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me" (v. 12). Then "Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son" (v. 13).

Abraham's son was spared, but God's Son was not. "For God so loved, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus is the provided lamb who took our place on the cross. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he declared, "Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).


Verses 7-9 foretell the unjust suffering of the Servant:
  • His trial. By oppression and judgment he was taken away (v. 8a; also v. 7).
  • His execution. And as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (v. 8b). "And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his life" (Mark 15:27).
  • His burial. And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death (v. 9a). "When it was the evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away" (Matthew 27:57-60).
  • His innocence. Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit found in his mouth (v. 9b). He was innocent both in deed and in word. "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:22-23).


What is the true spirit of Christmas? The word "spirit" can mean "a special attitude or frame of mind." The apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 NIV). What is the "attitude" of Christ Jesus? "Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (vv. 6-8). Jesus allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter so that He could die for our sins.

At the core of sinfulness is self-centeredness. We want to be praised and pleased. But Jesus was humiliated and crucified...willingly.

The true spirit of Christmas is humble self-sacrifice.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Substitution of Jesus

Part 2 of Born to Die


Christians and Jews disagree on the identity of the Servant in Isaiah 53. Christians believe that the Servant is Jesus. Jews believe that the Servant is Israel. Here are three of their arguments against Jesus being the Servant: (1) The Servant is "despised and rejected" (v. 3), but Jesus was popular. Jesus was popular with the common people but never with the Jewish authorities. Eventually, His popularity faded and the people of Jerusalem cried, "Crucify him!" (2) The Servant "shall see his offspring" (v. 10), but Jesus died childless. Of course, Jesus didn't have any physical children, but through faith in Him we become the spiritual children of God. "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:11-12). (3) The Servant "shall prolong his days" (v. 10), but Jesus died young. Christians see the prolonging of the Servant's days as a hint of the resurrection.


The Servant was misunderstood in two ways. First, His identity was misunderstood. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (v. 3). The Jews were expecting someone like David. David was "handsome" (1 Samuel 16:12). He was famous for killing Goliath. Jesus did not meet their expectations for the Messiah. Second, His suffering was misunderstood. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (v. 4). (Note the repetition of "sorrows," "griefs," and "esteemed" in verses 3 and 4.) To the Jews, Jesus' death on the cross was clear-cut proof that He was not the Messiah. How could God allow His chosen one to die in this way? Paul wrote,
"Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). While Jesus hung on the cross, His enemies mocked Him, saying, "Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe" (Mark 15:32). Was Jesus punished by God (see v. 10a)? Yes, but not for His sin—Jesus was sinless (see v. 9b). He was punished for our sin.


Isaiah 53 is often called the "gospel in the Old Testament." Verses 4-6 give us the two core truths of the gospel (the bad news and the good news). First, every single one of us is a sinner. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way (v. 6a). It's often said, "People are basically good." But God says we are all sinners. Second, Christ died in our place. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (v. 4a). But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (v. 5). And the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (v. 6b). Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45; cf. Matthew 20:28). In the original Greek, the word "for" (anti) means "instead of" or "in place of." Jesus is the "good shepherd" who "lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). He is the shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). "When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). Our sin was "laid on him," like the sin of Israel was laid on the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:20-22).

Paul might have been thinking of this passage in Isaiah 53 when he wrote, "For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Peter wrote, "He himself bore our ins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:24-25).

How should we respond to the substitutionary death of Jesus? "Die to sin and live to righteousness."

What Did Jesus Say About Himself?

Everyone seems to have an opinion about Jesus, but what did Jesus say about Himself? Here are a few claims Jesus made about Himself.
  1. Jesus said He is eternal. Jesus once said to His enemies, "Before Abraham was, I am!" Their reaction? "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds" (John 8:58-59). By calling Himself "I am," Jesus was claiming to be the same God who revealed Himself by the name "I am" some fourteen hundred years earlier when He spoke to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
  2. Jesus said He is sinless. The old saying goes, "Nobody is perfect." But Jesus claimed to be perfect. He once asked, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (John 8:46a). "In him is no sin" (1 John 3:5).
  3. Jesus said He can forgive sin. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'" (Mark 2:5-7).
  4. Jesus said He has power over death. "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple [body], and I will raise it again in three days'" (John 2:19, cf. vv. 21-22).
  5. Jesus said He is the Son of Man. In the Gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as "the Son of Man" over eighty times. This title was taken from the book of Daniel. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14). "The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. 'But I say unto you. In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.' Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has spoken blasphemy!'" (Matthew 26:63b-65a).
  6. Jesus said He is equal with God the Father. "'I and the Father are one.' Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God'" (John 10:30-33). So why did Jesus say, "The Father is greater than I" (John 14:28)? He is equal to the Father, but when He came to earth, He came as a servant to do the Father’s will (Philippians 2:6-7).
  7. Jesus said He is the only way to heaven. Jesus declared, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

God with Us

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:22-23; cf. Isaiah 7:14).

The Bible presents Jesus as being fully God and fully man in one person. Theologians call this doctrine the hypostatic union. Two complete natures are united in one person.
  • Jesus is God the Son.
  • Jesus was always God.
  • Jesus became human.
In the opening chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus is called "the Word." In verses 1 and 14, John writes, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."

When John wrote his first epistle (probably between A.D. 85 and 95), a false teaching was circulating in the church, which claimed that Jesus only seemed to have a physical body. This heresy became known as docetism. (The word "docetism" comes from the Greek word dokeo, shich means "to seem" or "to appear to be.") This false teaching about Jesus was what led John to write, "Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist" (1 John 4:2-3; cf. 2 John 7). John understood that to deny that Jesus had come in the flesh was to deny something at the very heart of Christianity (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 540).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Quiz

Here's a little quiz to see how well you know the biblical account of Jesus' birth.


  1. On what kind of animal did Mary ride from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
  2. What did the innkeeper say to Mary and Joseph?
  3. How long was Mary in Bethlehem before she gave birth?
  4. Where in Bethlehem was Jesus born?
  5. How much did baby Jesus cry?
  6. How many angels were present at Jesus' birth?
  7. How many kings came to pay tribute to baby Jesus?
  8. What time was it when the wise men showed up on the night of Jesus' birth?
  1. A donkey? The Bible doesn't say. Luke 2:4 simply says they "went" from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
  2. Luke 2:7 says, "There was no room for them in the inn," but no innkeeper is mentioned. Actually, the Greek word for "inn" can be translated "guest room" (Luke 22:11). So the "inn" was probably very different from our present day motels.
  3. People usually assume that Jesus was born on the first night Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. But Luke 2:6 states, "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born." We are not told how long they had been there.
  4. Most people think Jesus was born in a stable. However, there is no mention of a stable. We do read that Jesus was "placed in a manger" (Luke 2:7). A manger was a feeding trough for animals, so wherever Jesus was born, animals were present.
  5. The song "Away in a Manger" says, "The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes." But if Jesus cried as an adult (John 11:35), surely He cried as a baby.
  6. Angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem, but we don't read that any angels were visible at the place of Jesus' birth.
  7. First, they were not "kings"; they were "magi" or "wise men." Second, though tradition says that there were three wise men, the Bible doesn't give us a number. We only know that they gave Jesus three gifts.
  8. Most nativity scenes have the wise men present on the night of Jesus' birth. Actually, they probably arrived in Bethlehem some time later. Matthew 2:11 says they found the "child" (not baby) Jesus in a "house" (not outside).

Retooning the Nativity from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Movies

OK, two of my favorites might not be actual "movies," but I didn't want to call this post "My Favorite Christmas Movies/TV Specials."
  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. It's a Wonderful Life
  3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
  4. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  5. Home Alone
Check out a couple of memorable moments below.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Virgin Birth

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town of Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her
(Luke 1:26-38).

Here is what the Bible tell us about the virgin birth of Jesus:
  • Jesus was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary. Mary contributed to Jesus exactly what any human mother contributes to her child. He was “the fruit of [Mary’s] womb” (Luke 1:42 ESV). David Mathis writes, “Some theologians have stressed that the main significance is virginity in conception, not birth, and so offer the more precise term virgin conception. This may be helpful in capturing the key emphasis, but we likely are in no need of a new term because Matthew 1:25 states that Joseph ‘had no union with [Mary] until she gave birth to a son.’ Mary was a virgin at Jesus’ conception, and she was still a virgin at his birth.” (For more on the virgin birth, read Mathis's blog post “The Virgin Birth”.).
  • Jesus was conceived by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s humanness was not created ex nihilo (“out of nothing”), but ex Maria (“out of Mary”). As Adam was made from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7), Jesus was made from the substance of Mary. Jesus is called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). His humanity was a new creation in the womb of Mary.
  • Jesus was conceived without a human father. Luke writes, “[Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph” (Luke 3:23). Galatians 4:4 states, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” After Adam and Eve's sin, God said to Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This prophecy is sometimes called the protoevangelium, which means “first gospel.” Many Christians believe the reference to “her Seed” looks beyond Adam and Eve to Mary and Jesus. The seed of the woman (Jesus) would crush the head of Satan.
Donald MacLeod writes, “The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further” (The Person of Christ, p. 37)