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Why Christmas happened

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The Christmas Story is fitting  

Jesus Christ existed before he was conceived in Mary’s womb (John 1:1-4). You and I did not exist before conception.

So when we speak of our coming into the world, or speak of John the Baptist’s being “sent from God” (John 1:6), we don’t mean that he, or we, existed before we were sent. We mean our being sent was our coming into being. Not so with Jesus.

He said, “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28). The Son of God chose to be conceived in Mary’s womb. Neither you nor I chose to be born as a human. He did.

“Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6–7). As God, he considered what he would do. Upon consideration, he “counted” his equality with God something he would not grasp so tightly as to let it hinder his incarnation. He “took” the form of a slave.

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Why did God write the Christmas story

God could have created and run the universe differently. Why did it happen like this?

One of the deepest biblical answers is that it was fitting. I say this is one of the deepest answers because there is no reality above or outside God that he must fit into in order to do right. God himself is the measure of all that is right and good and true and beautiful. So to say his ways are fitting means they fit with himself. They are congruent, or consistent, or harmonious with all that he is.

Hebrews 2:10 says that, in founding our faith through Christ’s sufferings, God acted fittingly. “It was fitting that he . . . should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Christ became the perfect Saviour through suffering. It was fitting that he do so.

This is no small thing. For an all-wise, all-powerful God to see something as supremely fitting is to see it as a supreme obligation. For God would never do anything that is not fitting, nor forget to do anything that was.

This explains the shocking words seven verses later: “Therefore, Christ had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). Had to? Yes. We could translate: “Hence he is obliged” . Not obliged to anything outside God. He is obliged by the divine wisdom in seeing what is “fitting.” God “has to” do what is fitting. Not as man reckons, but as God himself reckons.

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How is Christmas fitting? 

Right between Hebrews 2:10 and 2:17 — between the declaration that Christ suffered because it was fitting, and Christ became like us because he was thus obliged to — is the great description of why Christ became human. Hence this is part of the picture of how the incarnation was fitting. Each line of Hebrews 2:14–15 is a different reason for the incarnation — for Christmas.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14–15).

First, he became human because we are human. God’s great aim is to have a family of human children in which his eternal Son is one of them, yet supreme over them:

  • “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
  • “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect.” (Hebrews 2:17)
  • “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11)

This is fitting — seemly, congruent, beautiful — in God’s eyes.

Second, he became human so that he might die. “He partook of flesh and blood that through death . . .” God, by his very nature, cannot die. But the God-Man, Jesus Christ, could die. Dying was fitting. Therefore, he became human — mortal.

Third, he became human “that (by dying) he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Not to put the devil out of existence, but to abrogate his ability to make death damning. The devil damns with one weapon: unforgiven sin. If he can accuse us in God’s court successfully and get a guilty verdict, we are damned.

But in the death of Christ, God “cancelled the record of debt that stood against us . . . nailing it to the cross. He thus disarmed the rulers and authorities” — that is, the devil (Colossians 2:14–15). He was disarmed in that the weapon of successful accusation was taken out of his hand. It was gloriously fitting, that he be destroyed in this way.

Hence, the fourth reason the Son of God became human was to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Now, when believers look into the dark face of death, they say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). No more fear. No more bondage. Now. Or ever. Such a life is fearless life fitting for the saints.

When God pondered how to write the story of the universe, there was nothing outside of himself to guide him. He made his choices according to how all things “fit” into a design that would best reveal his fullness. He himself, and nothing else, established what is fitting — seemly, congruent, beautiful.

Our aim should be to see the fitness of all God’s ways, and approve, and rejoice, and conform. To be sure, for now “we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “We know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). But God has not left us to mere imaginings. “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). And the Son has sent the Spirit (John 15:26). And the Spirit has given the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:132 Peter 1:21). And the church is given teachers (Ephesians 4:111 Timothy 3:2).

Christmas happened because it was fitting. Now we get to spend eternity growing in our ability to see what God sees. The more you have the mind of Christ, the more you see the beauty of it all.

Make this your aim in the new year — by every means possible, to see the seemliness of God’s way of salvation, and rejoice — and reflect.

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in Devotional, The Gospel of John, 2 comments

The Father of Faith

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“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”—Galatians 3:29

God created a perfect universe. Then things went terribly wrong as Adam and Eve rebelled against God and brought sin and death into the world. But this was not the end of the story. God had a plan. You see, with the coming of death, our marvelous and merciful God also gave the promise of life. 

In Genesis 3, God explained how it would all go down: women would experience pain and labour in order to bring new life into the world . . . but new life would come. And that new life would one day produce a Seed who would crush the head of the wicked serpent (Genesis 3:15). Regarding this reveal, John Gill wrote, “The Messiah, the eminent seed of the woman, (would) bruise the head of the old serpent the devil, that is, destroy him . . . break and confound all his schemes, and ruin all his works, crush his whole empire, strip him of his authority and sovereignty, and particularly of his power over death, and his tyranny over the bodies and souls of men; all which was done by Christ, when he became incarnate.”

Let’s explore the imperfect man of faith through whom God chose to enact His perfect plan of salvation and bring about the promised Seed and Saviour. His name was Abraham. Right about now, you may be asking yourself, “Why did God choose Abraham?” “What was so special about him?”

We’re first introduced to Abraham, a descendent of Shem, in Genesis 12. Here, God instructs him to pack up and leave his home and all his comforts behind, to uproot his family and travel to a foreign land. Interestingly, Abraham wasn’t even told which land. God told him to “go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). But along with this call came a promise: “I will make you into a great nation . . . . All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2–3). And it’s in this moment where we see the reason God chose him. 

It wasn’t because Abraham was special, talented, or righteous. He was flawed, he made mistakes, and he was far from perfect. But God chose him anyway. Why? Because He knew Abraham would obey. One Bible commentator wrote, “As soon as he understood what God was saying, he started packing. It was instant obedience. It may have taken several days, or even weeks or months, to make final preparation for the trip, but in his mind he was already on the way. From then on, everything he did revolved around obeying God’s call.” 

James 2:23 tells us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.” At 75 years old, Abraham answered God’s call and headed out with his family. The interesting thing about God’s promise of making him a great nation and blessing the whole world through Abraham’s offspring was that Abraham and his wife Sarah had no offspring. How would God make a great nation out of a childless old man and his wife? Well, Abraham wondered the same thing! So, God revealed His plan and told Abraham that he would have a child, and that eventually his descendants would outnumber the stars! And guess what? Despite the odds, despite the logic and circumstances, Abraham believed God! 

The story of Abraham teaches us our role in God’s plan of salvation. It’s not work, but faith and worship. In Genesis 12, Abraham received the promise by faith, and immediately after that he built an altar, a place of worship. Why? Because he understood very clearly that neither his right standing with God nor the promises God made to him were dependent on who he was or what he did, but on God’s faithfulness. 

As you go through your day today, remember there is power in worshiping God for all He is and the strength He gives you. As we see with Abraham, it’s not about what we can do, but what He has done. So, believe in His promises and worship Him, because “you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26–27, 29).

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in Christmas, Devotional, 0 comments

The perfect gift at Christmas

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Why Christmas Is for Everyone

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”—Romans 3:22–24

Every year we celebrate Christmas. It’s a beautiful time of joy and good tidings. We decorate a tree, string up lights, sing beautiful carols, and give wonderful gifts.
And every year we Christians like to remind everyone that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But how often do we truly sit and reflect on why He is the reason for the season. Why is there a season at all? Why did Jesus leave heaven to come to Earth? 

The short answer? Our sin. That’s right, the story of God’s perfect gift to us was set into motion by the very first act of imperfection. You see, the Lord loves us so much. He made us in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). We were the crowning jewel of God’s creation, made to glorify Him and enjoy a perfect relationship in His presence forever as His beloved children. This was our destiny, what we were made to experience. It’s what Adam and Eve experienced. They walked with God, talked with God, and enjoyed His presence. They got to live their calling and enjoy the fruits of the Garden (Genesis 2:15–16). But then it all went wrong . . . when the fall happened.  

Adam and Eve allowed their pride and selfish impulses—their desire to be “like God”—to cloud their judgment. And because they allowed themselves to be deceived by the serpent, they, and all of us, fell from grace. In that moment, the apostle Paul tells us, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 NIV). The worst part is that the very thing they were seeking, to be like God, they already had. They bore His image and likeness and His imprint was on their hearts and souls. 

“Sin, produces alienation and enmity towards God, or, in other words, a moral separation between the sinner and God, which is spiritual death; and the contrary to this is to be quickened, or given life – to be reconciled to God.” The sin of Adam and Eve infected all of their children, every single person in human history. It caused a rift, a separation between us and a holy and perfect God. Every child born since then has been born spiritually dead, separated from God—except for One. Thus, if we are born spiritually dead, once physical death has occurred, it becomes a permanent death with no chance for reconciliation. 

In Romans 6:23 (NIV), Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death.” The sin in the Garden of Eden brought immediate spiritual death upon all humanity, and the final debt for one’s sin is the complete death that occurs upon physical death. Thus, in order to cover the debt of sin (which is death), something (or someone) else needed to die in place of the sinner. For this reason, the act of sacrifice became necessary in order to pay for the debt of sin. Why? Because the cost of our sin is death “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV). 

The first instance of this is seen directly after the fall. In Genesis 3:21, it says, “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” You see, in order for God to clothe Adam and Eve and take away their shame, He had to kill an animal, to shed its blood. But here’s the thing, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). It simply wasn’t enough. Only a perfect sacrifice from a perfect, eternal God would do. And this is what makes the Christmas story so powerful!

It’s the moment God’s glorious plan became reality. How? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He paid the wages of our sins, once and for all, in order to give us the gift of God, which is “eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Because of Jesus, we can glorify and enjoy God even more intimately than Adam and Eve ever could. We not only get to walk with God, but also we have the Spirit of God within us!

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in Christmas, Devotional, The Gospel of John, 0 comments