Sunday, December 23, 2018

Behold the Creator enters His Own Masterpiece: God becomes a Man

Audio Message:

God our eternal designer, the architect and sustainer of the universe, of all reality, of space and time, and of the human body and soul, came into his own creation as a human.

Imagine all the great writers and painters, and all the books and paintings they’ve created. Imagine if Monet, could jump into one of his own paintings, and walk the majestic the trails through the hanging gardens. Imagine if Van Gogh could finish a painting, and then climb into the canvass, and walk around inside his own artistic creation. Imagine, if C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien could slip through the wardrobe, or fly on eagle’s wings into the land of middle earth.

Well, we worship a God, a creator, a sustainer of the universe, and our home, this planet, who not only carefully designed the mathematics, architecture, science, and laws of physics for our universe, but upon creating the masterpiece of Earth, in all its nature, animals, and people, God, seeing his people lost and in trouble, decided he would come into his own creation, as a human, and come on a rescue mission to save humanity.

All the way back to one of the oldest books of the Old Testament, the book of Job, we see reference to the future hope of when God would come into His creation to save us. Job said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and one day he will stand upon the Earth.” Job was saying and knowing that Jesus was indeed alive even during his time, thousands of years before the virgin birth, and he was also saying that he knew God would one day stand on the Earth. And that’s what we celebrate, is the fact that God came in human form to save us. 

The implications of this fact are far reaching. It could be said that the three short years of Jesus’ life and active ministry did more to transform the world than any other person in history. It only took three years of active ministry, for Jesus to bring forth a message that would take root in a few thousand disciples, and then spread into the Roman empire and far beyond, across the entire planet, across country lines, across language boundaries, and all the way to the other side of the planet, to where we are in Rochester, Minnesota, today, where we center our lives on this Jesus Christ who lived two thousand years.

The author of The Lord of the Rings books, J.R.R. Tolkien who was himself a Christian and a contemporary of C.S. Lewis, wrote these words and put them into the mouth of the character Gandalf: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

We don’t overcome the kingdoms of darkness by marching with guns and armies to defeat it. Instead we do things like serve homeless people food. We share the gospel with people we meet in the community. We share scripture on social media. We invite friends over for dinner. We pray for the salvation of our families, friends, and community.

Similarly, it was surprising to the ancient nation of Israel that Jesus Christ came not as a conqueror with millions of angels at his side, but came instead helplessly, as a little baby, born to insignificant young parents. He didn’t descend down in the clouds in a chariot of fire, he didn’t march on the gates of Rome with tens of thousands of holy troops arrayed in shining armor. Instead he came on a secret mission, the mission of the kingdom of God, that would not invade through warfare, but invade through proclamation, discipleship, and evangelism. The kingdom of God would spread through the word of God, because of what Jesus Christ would do.

Jesus did not come in power, instead he came in weakness. He did not come through the wealthy and affluent, he came through the ordinary and everyday people. The church is often a motley crew, of outcasts, socially awkward types, foreigners, weirdos, and the seemingly rejected of the world who have become, and are becoming the family of God across the world. 

But is Jesus really real? That’s often what we ask ourselves. What about the doubts we have? What if the atheists are right? What if Jesus is nothing more than another Santa Claus or Easter bunny, something fake or mythical? I often hear atheists and agnostics say “I don’t believe in Greek gods, so why should I believe in the Christian God?”

And I must admit, early in my life, around the age of 15 or 16, this is what I thought of Christianity. I thought Christianity was an old, outdated tradition, based on anti-scientific nonsense that needed to drift into the past and die. But when I researched the facts about Christianity later in life, I was absolutely dumbfounded.

Did you know the New Testament scriptures are themselves more historically attested to than any other historical source? Did you know there are 5,868 ancient Greek manuscript copies of the new testament? Did you know that when compared to one another they are 99.5% accurate? The only differences between these manuscripts are minor spelling and grammar errors that don’t impact the meaning substantially.

Did you know that Jesus Christ as a historical person is mentioned outside the Bible by all these ancient historians: Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud, and Lucian among others.

This is just historical and manuscript evidence for Christianity, we could go into scientific evidence for the existence of God, fine tuning in nature, the first cause argument, and irreducible complexity, but we don’t have time for all that today.

But honestly, when I did this research and discovered all the evidence for Christianity, unlike any other world religion, I was angry. I was angry, because I had to ask myself the question: Why had no one told me these things? Why was this information hidden from me? And I came to the realization that in our modern society, media, and academia, there is a bias against God. So if the world out there is telling you to reject belief in God, don’t be surprised. We are revolutionaries in a time of mass marketed sin.

All of this to say that yes, you can believe in Jesus Christ, who was born and lived two thousand years ago. You can know that Christ is real. We’re not here to celebrate a mythical nativity tradition, but a historical nativity that is factual and evidential.

So Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We know a lot about his birth, and the shepherds, the wise men, and so on and so forth. But today we’re talking about a week after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. Essentially Mary and Joseph were going about a tradition Jewish practice of presenting their first born son to the Lord. They arrive there with the baby Jesus, and they encounter two people who would be forever changed and encouraged by Jesus.

There were two people that saw the baby Jesus in the temple, on the day he was set apart for service to God. Their names were Simeon and Anna. It says the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and the spirit brought him to the temple that day for the purpose of encountering Jesus. You ever go somewhere and know within that it’s a divine appointment? I’ve had that a lot in the past few years. I felt the Spirit drawing me to Chicago, to the training college. But I had to wait patiently on God.

Simeon had waited his entire life. It says he lived a righteous and devout life. Is that easy? No it’s not. Now he was an old man. But the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that before he died, he would see the savior. And when Simeon saw Jesus, he took Jesus in his arms and proclaimed: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 

Glory for Israel, and a light to the whole Earth. Simeon waited for hope, waited for change, and now he finally saw it.

Next, there is a woman who is described as very old, her name is Anna. It says that she got married at the traditional time, which would’ve been between the ages of 12 and 16 in Jewish culture, and that seven years later her husband died, and she had been a widow since then, to now the age of 84. It says she constantly fasted and prayed. She was a godly woman. She wasn’t waiting in sin, she was waiting in godliness, praying and fasting regularly. It says “she never left the temple, but worshiped God night and day.” Amazing. She had lost her husband at a very young age. She had waited all her life. But she didn’t wait in bitterness or regret. She waited in daily worship.

Finally, the day came, and it says Anna came up to Joseph and Mary, and she gave thanks to God. And it says she started speaking to everyone around who was waiting for the redemption of Israel. She was a prophet after all, anyone know a lady like that? I’ve met a few. And they gotta tell everybody!

So God had come into human history. Even at only one week old, Simeon and Anna were blessed to recognize that Jesus was the promised savior. They waited faithfully, and God showed himself to them.

God hadn’t come as most might’ve expected at the time. He came humbly, quietly, as if he were a secret agent, smuggled into his own kingdom. There were attempts on his life, even as a baby. He was nearly murdered by the purge ordered by Herod. Yet God’s plan could not be thwarted by the will of men.

No massive armies of thousands marched with Jesus, but instead a Holy Spirit was upon Jesus, conquering quietly through his words and deeds. Jesus through the word of God began a conquest of human hearts and souls that would spread itself across the whole world, today proclaimed in every nation on the Earth, in thousands of different languages, and it all began with God coming into human history, born as a baby, to young parents, in the deserts of the middle east. God always tends to surprise us with how he does things.

So in conclusion, Jesus came as a baby two thousand years ago. He did his work, and completed it. Then he ascended to heaven. Today we know that Jesus Christ is coming back one day soon, to set up his kingdom on Earth. And many of us may be expecting for our savior to come again as a meek and mild servant, but the book of Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ will come in great glory, and every eye will see Him. And he will judge all the nations, and smash them to pieces like pottery, as he sets up his new kingdom. This is why we must be ready, waiting patiently, day in and day out, year by year, faithfully serving God, forgiving others, and loving our neighbors. We are in this for the long haul, all the way to death and eternal life.

Just like Simeon and Anna waited for the birth of their savior Jesus, we also wait patiently for the return of Jesus to Earth. Is that just a pipe dream? No. It’s not. It’s real. It’s true. Jesus Christ is alive, and He will return. It says in Revelation chapter 19: 11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the wine-press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.” 

Jesus came as a baby.

Jesus lived a perfect, holy life.

Jesus was crucified as a substitution, as payment for our own sins.

Jesus resurrected from the dead after three days.

Jesus showed himself to be alive to many witnesses.

Jesus ascended to heaven promising to return.

And Jesus will return in power and glory, to reign over the whole Earth, and judge the nations.

Therefore, let us be ready. Let us wait patiently, just as Simeon and Anna did, their whole lives. We will see God face to face one day, just as they did in the temple. Bet your life on it.

Let it be said of us, that we ran the race, and finished it. Let it be said to each of us one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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