Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in 50 Words

We showed this video in our Christmas Eve service.
 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Promise of the Righteous Branch

Listen to the sermon here.



The Promise Fulfilled 

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer.23:5).

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

What was the significance of the promise of the righteous Branch? (1) The promise was given during days of injustice and righteousness. (2) The promise foretold that the Messiah would be a descendent of David. “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). (3) The promise was given to provide hope. 


Jesus Is the King 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be one his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever (Isa. 9:6-7).

Behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:1-2).

[Pilate] asked [Jesus], “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matt. 27:11).

And twisting together a crown of thorns, [the soldiers] put it on [Jesus’] head…. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:29-30).

And over [Jesus’] head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews(Matt. 27:37).

He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:14).

One of mankind’s greatest desires is to experience peace on earth. President John F. Kennedy declared, “...peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.” Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. He died without seeing the goal of world peace accomplished.

Guitarist Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will finally know peace.” Hendrix overdosed on sleeping pills and died on Sept. 18, 1970. He died without the world finding peace through love.

Musician John Lennon stated, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” One of Lennon’s most famous songs says, “Imagine all the people living in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” Lennon was murdered in New York City on Dec. 8, 1980. He died without experiencing the peace he had imagined would come to earth.

And in despair I bowed my head: 
“There is no peace on earth,” I said, 
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.” 

Why do we need King Jesus? (1) Without King Jesus, our world is a mess. (2) Without King Jesus, our lives are a mess.


Has the Kingdom Come? 

“Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10 KJV).

The kingdom of God has come and is coming

 (1) Jesus is reigning over his church. (2) Jesus will reign over all the earth. 

Is Jesus your King?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Promise of the Birth in Bethlehem

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The Promise Fulfilled 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matt. 2:4-6).

A few years ago, I was intrigued by a Christmas gift from my sister. It was shaped like a box of chocolates, but when I shook it, it didn’t sound like a box of chocolates. What was it? On Christmas morning I discovered that it was, in fact, a box of chocolates. But why didn’t it sound like a box of chocolates? Apparently, before she gave it to me, it had been set on something warm, and the contents had melted together into one big blob of chocolate. Christmas morning is often full of surprises—sometimes good and sometimes bad. The biblical Christmas story is also full of surprises. One big surprise is that Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem.

What do we know about the ancient town of Bethlehem? (1) It was located in the hill country of Judah. (2) It was about 8 km south of Jerusalem. (3) It was the setting for the story of Ruth. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David (Matt. 1:5-6; cf. Ruth 4:21-22). And Jesus was a descendent of David. In the NT, He is called the “Son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The angel told Mary that God would give her Son “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). As a woman from Moab, Ruth was a surprising choice to be an ancestor of Jesus. (4) It was the birthplace of David. David was a surprising choice to be king (1 Sam. 16). The prophet Samuel assumed that one of David’s older brothers would be chosen by God to be the next king, but God told him, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v. 7). Bethlehem was known as the “city of David” (Luke 2:4, 11). And Joseph went to Bethlehem to be registered “because he was of the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4; cf. 1:27; Matt. 1:20). (5) It was the birthplace of Jesus.


Born in Obscurity 

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:4-7).

Jesus was born in obscurity:

1. The baby Jesus was born in a little town. 

2. The baby Jesus slept in a feeding trough. 

3. The baby Jesus was visited by lowly shepherds. 

This was the promised Hero! This was the “woman’s seed” who would crush the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). This is Immanuel, “God with us” (Isa. 7:14). This is the one who was to be “ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2). This is the coming king (Zech. 9:9). This is the one who would be called “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). And yet He was born in obscurity. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).


Born for You 

And the angel said to [the shepherds], “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Throughout Scripture, we read that God shows His grace to unlikely people—people like Ruth, David, and the shepherds.

Though you might be insignificant to many, Jesus was born to be your Savior. 

Jesus was born for all people ("for all the people"), and he was born for you ("unto you").

This is “good news”!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

God's Image Bearers



Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).


Recently, I taught a 5-week Bible study series called "God's Image Bearers." Below are links to the notes from all five studies.

1. Created in God's Image

2. Created to Reflect God's Image

3. Created as Male and Female

4. Created as Worshipers

5. Re-Created to Be Like Jesus

Re-Created to Be Like Jesus

Part 5 of the Bible study series God's Image Bearers



Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).


Introduction 

Jesus alone has imaged God perfectly. “Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). “Whoever sees me [Jesus] sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). “Whoever has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Therefore, when we follow the example of Jesus, we are reflecting God. 


Discussion

In Jesus, we see human likeness to God as it was intended to be. In His life, how did Jesus image God? 


Explanation 

Read Rom. 8:29. God saves people so that they may be “conformed to the image of his Son.” How does this truth help you better understand v. 28? 

In Scripture, there are four stages in the doctrine of the image of God: (1) We were originally created in God’s image. (2) Because of sin, there was a distortion of God’s image. (3) Presently, redemption in Christ provides a progressive recovery of God’s image. (4) Finally, at Christ’s return there will be a complete restoration of God’s image. “We must constantly choose to believe the truth—that this reflecting God alone is a great life. It is not an easy life, or a simple life, or a perfect life. But it is a wonderful life in that it is filled with evidences of God’s grace, healing from our past, and hope for our future. Furthermore, because mirroring God is the essence of our true humanity, as we reflect his glory we discover the source of our deepest joy, even when life hurts most” (Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, Doctrine, p. 139).

Read 1 Cor. 15:49. “The amazing promise of the NT is that just as we have been like Adam (subject to death and sin), we shall also be like Christ (morally pure, never subject to death again)” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 445). How does the restoration of God’s image give us hope for the future? 


Application

Read Phil. 2:3-8. The apostle Paul urged the Philippians to follow the model of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves” (v. 5). How can you better image Christ in your relationships? 

Christmas is supposed to be a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. How would Christmas be different if we all imaged Christ as we observed it?

Created as Worshipers

Part 4 of the Bible study series God's Image Bearers



Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).


Introduction

Harold Best, in his book Unceasing Worship, describes the Trinity as the Continuous Outpourer who continually pours Himself out between the persons of the Godhead in unceasing communication, love, friendship, and joy. It follows that human beings created in God’s image would also be unceasing worshipers as continuous outpourers.


Discussion

We were not created to worship; rather we were created worshiping. All of life is ceaseless worship. We are continually giving ourselves away or pouring ourselves out for a person, cause, experience, achievement, or status. While the object of worship varies, the act of worship does not. What do people in our culture worship? 


Explanation

Read Heb. 13:15-17. What does worship include?

Read Exod 20:1-3; Deut. 4:23-24. The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (v. 3). The opposite of worship is idolatry. Idolatry is by far the most frequently discussed problem in the Bible. How does God view our idolatry? 

Read Exod. 32:1-9 (see also 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut. 9:6, 13; 10:16; 31:27). “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship, p. 16). We are either reflecting God or a god. How did the Israelites reflect the god they worshiped? How do we see this today?


Application

“The primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p. 162). How do we turn good things into ultimate things? How can we avoid this? 

“For most people, their proverbial ‘tell’ happens when they introduce themselves: they first say their name and then say something to the effect of ‘I am a [blank].’ How they fill in the blank (e.g., education, vocation, number of children, neighborhood they live in) often reveals what they have deified and are building their life on” (Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, Doctrine, pp. 347-348). Honestly, how would you introduce yourself? Do you need to rid your life of an idol?

Created as Male and Female

Part 3 of the Bible study series God's Image Bearers



Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).


Introduction 

Read Gen. 2:18-25. The creation of humanity as male and female reflects the image of the triune God in three ways: (1) harmonious interpersonal relationships, (2) equality in personhood, and (3) difference in role and authority (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 454).


Discussion 

God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). How would life on earth be different if God had not made the woman (other than the inability to reproduce)? 


Explanation

The woman was made to be a “helper” for the man (Gen. 2:18, 20). Does the term “helper” denigrate the woman? 

Read Gen. 3:8-20. Before the fall, the man was made the leader in the marriage relationship: (1) Adam was created first, then Eve (Gen. 2:7, cf. 1 Tim. 2:13-14); (2) Adam named Eve (Gen. 2:23; 3:20); (3) God named the human race “man,” not “woman” (Gen. 5:2); (4) the serpent went to Eve first (Gen. 3:1; cf. 1 Tim. 2:14); (5) God spoke to Adam first after the fall (Gen. 2:15-17); and (6) Adam, not Eve, represented the human race (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:1). After the fall, there was a distortion of the original marriage roles. God said to the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (v. 16). It’s possible that “desire” means “desire to conquer,” and “rule” means “rule harshly.” How do we see this struggle for control in marriages today? 

Redemption in Christ reaffirms the original marriage roles. “The first woman was taken from the side of the man, which beautifully illustrates that she belongs alongside him in partnership, not behind him in denigration (as chauvinism teaches) or in front of him in domination (as feminism teaches)” (Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, Doctrine, p. 122). According to Eph. 5:22-23, what are the God-ordained roles for the man and woman in marriage? 


Application 

Read Mark 10:2-9. God created the covenant of marriage; thus, He alone defines what it is. What does our culture accept or tolerate that goes against God’s design for marriage? 

How can men and women in a church reflect the triune God?

Created to Reflect God's Image

Part 2 of the Bible study series God's Image Bearers



Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).


Introduction 

To be created in God’s image means to be made to be like God and to represent Him. We are like broken mirrors that need to be put back together by God. We were created to reflect God.


Discussion

“Why are we here?” “What is life all about?” “Is there a reason to live?” What are some common answers to these questions? 


Explanation 

Read Eph. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 10:31; Rev. 4:11. According to Scripture, what is the purpose of our lives?

Read Acts 12:21-23. Why is it wrong for us to seek glory for ourselves but right for God to seek glory for Himself? 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Is there a connection between glorifying God and enjoying Him? 

Read Exod. 34:34-35; 2 Cor. 3:12-18; Col. 3:8-10. Because of sin, the image of God has been distorted, but not completely lost. How does the restoration of God’s image take place in our lives? 


Application 

The gospel is the story of God’s plan to put us back together. To accomplish this plan, Jesus needed to be “broken.” How does this make you feel? Who does this make you want to act? 

Read Matt. 5:14-16. What can you do reflect God and bring glory to Him?

Created in God's Image

Part 1 of the Bible study series God's Image Bearers



Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26-27).


Introduction 

Our purpose in life is rooted in the fact that we were created in the image of God. The Hebrew words for “image” and “likeness” refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents. Being created in God’s image means we were made to be like God and represent God.


Discussion

Read Gen. 1:26-31. What does it mean to be human?


Explanation

We are not empty cups that need to be filled by God. Rather, we are broken mirrors that need to be put together by God. Read Gen. 5:1-3; 9:6; James 3:9. How has God’s image in us been affected by the fall?

Nearly every error in anthropology puts us up to be like God or pushes us down to be like animals. How does Gen. 1:26-31 present both the humility and the dignity of humanity? 

God has two kinds of attributes: unshared (omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence) and shared (holiness, love, truth). How are we like God morally?

“God is spirit” (John 4:24), and He has given us immortal spirits. How are we like God spiritually?

We have an ability to reason and think logically that sets us apart from the animal world. How are we like God mentally? 

We were created by the Trinity. God did not need to create us because He was lonely. In eternity past, there was perfect fellowship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How are we like God relationally? 


Application 

What are the dominant views about humanity in our culture?

How are these views in opposition to Scripture?

How does the truth of being created in the image of God affect the way you view your life?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Promise of Immanuel

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The Promise Fulfilled

One of the best Christmas traditions is going home for Christmas. Naturally, one of our favorite Christmas songs is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

I’ll be home for Christmas 
You can plan on me 
Please have snow and mistletoe 
And presents on the tree 

But in reality the biblical Christmas story is about leaving home. Luke 2 tells how Mary and Joseph left their home town of Nazareth to travel to Bethlehem where, of course, Jesus was born. And, more significantly, Christmas is the story of how Jesus, God the Son, left his heavenly home to be born as a human baby and become Immanuel—God with us.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us) (Matt. 1:21-23).

The promise of Immanuel was given through the prophet Isaiah in around 700 B.C. and was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. 

It's also possible that the prophecy may have been doubly fulfilled. There may have been a near fulfillment (the birth of a son named Immanuel in Isaiah’s day) and a far fulfillment (the birth of Jesus, who was literally God with us.).

The promise of Immanuel was given during a time of fear. 

This prophecy was given “in the days of Ahaz” (Isa. 7:1). King Ahaz and the people of Judah were afraid because of a threat from Syria and Ephraim (v. 2). The “sign” the Lord gave the people was meant to give them hope and to encourage them to trust him. The prophecy went on to say that when the child was old enough to choose between right and wrong, the threat from Syria and Ephraim would be gone (v. 16). Instead, Ahaz put his trust in Assyria, which eventually led to Judah’s loss of sovereignty.


Born of a Virgin 

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35).

In Isaiah 7:14, the Hebrew word for “virgin” is ‘alma. In Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27, the Greek word for “virgin” is parthenos.

“Although some claim that the word translated ‘virgin’ (Hb. ‘almah) refers generally to a ‘young woman,’ it actually refers specifically to a ‘maiden’—that is, to a young woman who is unmarried and sexually chaste, and thus has virginity as one of her characteristics (see Gen. 24:16, 43; Ex. 2:8, ‘girl’). Thus when the Septuagint translators, 200 years before the birth of Christ, rendered ‘almah here with Greek parthenos (a specific term for ‘virgin’) they rightly perceived the meaning of the Hebrew term; and when Matthew applied this prophecy to the virgin birth of Christ (see Matt. 1:23), it was in accord with this well-established understanding of parthenos (‘virgin’) as used in the Septuagint and in other Greek writers” (ESV Study Bible, p. 1254).

What does Scripture tell us about the virgin birth?

First, Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary. 

Some theologians prefer the term virgin conception, rather than virgin birth. But we probably don’t need a new term because Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born. Matthew 1:21 states that Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth to a son.”

In Scripture, Jesus is called the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). Adam was made from dust (Gen. 2:7). He was not made ex nihilo (“out of nothing”), and neither was the baby Jesus. It could be said that Christ’s humanness was made ex Maria (“out of Mary”). Jesus was “the fruit of [Mary’s] womb” (Luke 1:42). And he developed within his mother’s womb like every other human child.

Second, Jesus was conceived by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. 

While the birth of Jesus was natural, His conception was not. The angel told Joseph, “That which is conceived in [Mary] is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). 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 NT, 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).

Third, Jesus was conceived without a human father. 

Luke writes, “[Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph” (Luke 3:23 NIV). Galatians 4:4 declares, “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman” (KJV).

Why is the virgin birth so important?

The virgin birth made possible the unity of full deity and fully humanity in one person. 


God Is With Us 

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

When Jesus came to earth, God was physically with us. 

“The Word [Jesus, who is declared to be “God” in v. 1] became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). 

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; 
Hail th'incarnate Deity, 
Pleased as man with men to dwell, 
Jesus, our Emmanuel. 

Now that Jesus has left earth, God is spiritually with us. 


Do Not Fear 

Throughout Scripture, God promises to be with his people.

Moses told the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of men, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

God promised Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous” (Josh. 1:5-6).

“Then David said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. For the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you’” (1 Chron. 28:20).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Ps. 46:1-2, 11).

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).

Notice that these promises of God’s presence were given to people who were afraid. (And remember that the promise of Isaiah 7:14 was also given to people who were afraid.) These people were told, “Do not be fear. Be strong. Be courageous. Be not dismayed.” Why? Because God is with you. The same promise is given to every child of God in this world today.

In every circumstance of life, God is with you. 

God will not always remove our difficult circumstances, but He will always supply us with what we need to go through adversity: strength, courage, comfort, peace, and hope.

To the one who is afraid, God is with you. To the one who is lonely, God is with you. To the one who is grieving, God is with you. To the one who is discouraged, God is with you. Jesus is our Immanuel.