18 January 2017

Authentic Christianity


James 1:26-27

The word “Religion” doesn’t have a positive association in many circles. Why is that? A well-known Danish philosopher and theologian once said “The human race in the course of time has taken the liberty of softening and softening Christianity until at last we have contrived to make it exactly the opposite of what it in the New Testament.” Soren Kierkegaard. What does he mean by that statement? The Christian church tries at every turn or opportunity to define Christianity on our terms, instead of on the terms that God has clearly outlined in the New Testament for His church. Many Churches want church on their terms, according to our preferences that align with our lifestyles.

What does that look like for example? We are a people happy to go to church just so long nothing in our lives has to change. We are a people glad to be Christians, just so long as we can define Christianity according to what accommodates us. The only problem with that sort of thinking is that in order for Authentic Christianity (religion) to work it has to be founded and grounded on God’s terms, not ours. God’s definition of true Christianity is radically different from ours…..and that’s a good thing. Biblical “religion” is defined this way……. a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man's obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.

The word “religion” occurs five times in English Standard Version of the Bible. It is, by itself, an entirely neutral word. Religion can refer to Judaism (Acts 26:5) or the Jewish-Christian faith (Acts 25:19). Religion can be bad when it is self-made (Col 2:23) or fails to tame the tongue (James 1:26). But religion can also be good when it cares for widows and orphans and practices moral purity (James 1:27). In this section of James letter we see faith and authentic Christianity put into action. A couple of question you need to ask yourself as we dive in this morning is this. Are we going to define religion on our terms and settle for a Christianity that appeals to our lifestyle? Or Are we going to submit to God’s terms for what faith, religion, and Christianity looks like in our lives, in our families, and in our church? Be careful how you answer that this morning! Martin Luther said “A religion that gives nothing, cost nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” In this section of James letter we are going to see Authentic Christianity characterized by a lifestyle of obedience to God. A lifestyle marked and shaped on God’s terms, not ours; and it begins here!
  
AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY IS REVEALED BY YOUR SPEECH. (v26)

Which is a proper and controlled speech, which is evidence to the sanctifying work that God is doing in your life. A controlled speech is one of the ways the fruit of the Spirit [self-control] works together in the believer. The opposite is a false understanding or misleading characteristic of false religious person [unconverted] is found in (v26). Unable to tame his tongue….his religion is? Worthless
 “Worthless” means…. useless and unprofitable to himself and others; all his preaching, praying, hearing, and attendance on the ordinances will be of no avail to him. Why? Because he or she cannot bridle their tongue….that muscles that gets us into trouble all the time. What James is telling us in this passage is that a corrupt and unholy heart will be exposed by corrupt and unholy speech. The inward heart will come to through your external behaviour. As John MacArthur said “the tongue is not the only indicator of true spirituality, but one of the most reliable.”
  
Remember what Jesus said in the Gospel? In Matt 12:34 Jesus said this to the religious elites. “Brood of vipers! [or as the King James says “O generation of vipers….which implies “you group of poisonous snakes] How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” There are many people who follow after religious traditions and rituals all in the name of Jesus to appease their conscience. This is man centered religion and the sad reality is that it’s a man made and man centered religion according to James is “worthless.” Remember our speech is a reflection of our heart and what is truly inside of us. This is a clear warning for all of us! Don’t deceive yourself when you speak, you tell the truth about your heart.

For example:
The way men speak to and about their wives tell the truth about their hearts. 
The way women speak to about their husbands tell the truth about their hearts. 
The way you speak to your friends, the way you speak to your family, the way you speak to others, all of these things are indicators of whether or not your faith is real or genuine. 
See!
If your engaging in gossip, if your words are biting, if they are cursing, if they are angry, then you need to be careful…..you are showing that your religion is “worthless”
As Paul Washer said “What is your profession in Jesus Christ worth? Nothing is the answer! 
Nothing! Apart from the sustaining and continuing work of the Holy Spirit.”

As the Scriptures say….. 
You will know them by their fruits. (Matt 7:20; John 15:8)
You will know them by how the face trials and temptation. (James 1:1-13)
You will know them by how they respond to God and His Word. (Job 23:12)
You will know them by their love for the Saviour. ( 1 John 4:7)
You will know them by their desire to study the God breathed scripture. (2 Tim 2:15)
You will know them by their speech and actions on a daily basis, not just Sundays. (James 1:26)

Ask yourself as you examine your heart in the mirror of Scripture….. 
Am I changing? Is my speech better, been changing for His glory or for my shame? 
Is my speech displaying the first- fruits to His creation about the glories of His goodness? 
Because as Jesus said…..Out the heart will display the truth of your life….is it Christ-like or is it like an open tomb [rotting corpse] full of venom as Paul explains it in Romans chapter three? 
The tongue is the litmus- test of true religion and we need to be extremely careful. 
Because this Media Age we live in says “if you have a thought, then you should immediately share it with the rest of the world.” This is where we need to be extremely careful to keep a tight rein on our tongues and speak in a way that shows your genuine faith is real and the core of your heart belongs to God.

AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY IS DEMONSTRATED BY YOUR SERVICE. (v27b)

When we have been given a new life we have a different and greater outlook on life and the people that live in it. This present world! I’m grieved all the time with the ramp sin in our world, the disregard for human life and self-centeredness each and every day to name a few. See true Christianity is marked by both personal life and public life. The true religion that James is talking about is that…..God implants this new passion in our hearts….which is the gospel and the love of Christ to all people groups. James picks two particular groups of people as examples………Widows and orphans“Visit” means much more than to drop by for a chat. We are to look after sacrificially which literally means to “seek out someone or visit them.” This implies that we are to go them to spiritually strengthen them, encourage them. It carries the idea of caring for others; exercising oversight on their behalf helping them in whatever way is needed. We need to understand in those times there were no life insurance policies or welfare system to help a widow or a child. Women didn’t have employment as we know it today or group homes for children. Women and children were defenceless and helpless without assistance and parental care. There are thousands of Canadian children that lack a parent to wake them up, to play with them, to make memories that will last a life time, parents to read and teach them or even to tuck them in at night. This is an important issue in our country and around the world. Paul instructing Timothy about the importance of widows and orphans [1 Tim 5:3; 1 Tim 5:16]. Orphans and widows were generally the neediest people in the early church. If you went back into the Old Testament you would find the writers mentioning these two groups often to God’s chosen people.

For example:
We hear about Moses instructing the people about caring for the widows and orphans [Deut 10:18; Deut 14:9]
In Job’s letter we see the mentioning of widows and orphans [Job 29:12-13; Job 31:15-20]
Isaiah speaks of protecting them [Isa 1:16-17; Isa 58:6-7]
Jeremiah gives instruction about widows and orphans [Jer 49:11] 
David said in Psalm 68:5 “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

David had such a love for God he couldn’t do anything else other that have a heart for God’s people. Remember what happened after his closet friend died [Jonathan] what did David do?
He demonstrated that truth and his true love for God by taking in Jonathan’s son. He saw this young man through the eyes of his greatest love, the LORD! 2 Sam 9:6-9 we read “And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, "Mephibosheth!" And he answered, "Behold, I am your servant." And David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always." And he paid homage and said, "What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?" Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson.”

This same truth has been sown throughout the scriptures into the New Testament were we hear Jesus speak on the parable of the “Talents”. (Matt 25:14-30). A man was given 5 talents, another 2 talents and another man one talent. Now this isn’t referring to your talent to sing, juggle or dance. It’s referring to your whole being as a child of God. Your natural ability as you functions in society. The first man went into the Market and made business and doubled his talents and did the second man. But the last man buried it in the ground. The Landowner comes back after a long time away and speaks to the three man. The first two the Landowner says “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” This is great news and wonderful blessing serving with what God gave to them accordingly……practical Christianity. But when the Landowner gets to the third man, his tone and mannerism changes. We read in (v24-v30) “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.  But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This man’s religion was “worthless” unfruitful and destroyed as a hypocrite. We are to use every opportunity for the glory of the gospel and the God we serve. And never squander it out of fear or laziness. What this parable tells us is that that those who are faithful, will be fruitful to some degree. James says the transforming work [true religion] as found in the Word, is an outward adoration to seek the interest of others for the glory of His name. It’s a selfless love for souls and for the gospel to penetrate the heart of the broken and the lost. It’s a genuine heart that doesn’t seek praise, money or fame! They do this for the sake of our Lord…..the one who gets the glory.
  
AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY IS SEPARATION FROM THIS WORLD [SYSTEM] (v27c)
  
This is a great test for all of us! What do I love more, the things of this world or Christ and His precious truth? Those that belong to God are to be characterized by moral and spiritual purity. How do we do that? By “keeping oneself unstained” (v27) is the means of its being “pure” James isn’t talking about sinless perfection. James is talking about a habitual lifestyle that doesn’t conform itself according to the world’s fallen standards of morals and carnality. Paul laid the foundation clearly when he said ……“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:1-2

Our lives are to be examples of the glories already been given through the gospel. That’s what true religion looks like. Jerry Bridges makes a similar claim in his book “The Pursuit of Holiness.” “Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness.”  They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them.  As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy.  But God has not called us to be like those around us.  He has called us to be like Himself.  Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God.” A desire for holiness and separation, not conformity and compromise to fit. But I also think James is referring to something else besides personal holiness and moral purity…..we see this pattern especially in James 2:5….and we also see a friendship with the world alters our vision in 3:6 and 4:4. Each time James is refereeing to a fallen world system that runs contrary to God’s plans and purpose for our lives. And as we will see next week… Favouritism is a dangerous place to be in especially in the church.

Our culture loves to honor the rich and forget the poor. Why do I say that! Look what happens when someone form Hollywood or the Music Industries passes away. The world mourns for days……..some people probably grieve more for Hollywood, than they did for a close friend or loved one. James says “a true religion is unstained by this world system for how we treat one another.” Every life is precious to God and we need to treat everyone the same….whether your rich, poor, skin colour, education status or how attractive or unattractive some is. I want my life to be nothing but Christ in me! And James is saying lets be careful this isn’t happening to us that we don’t elevate ones financial status over another especially those less fortunate than some. My desires are to be His desires …which requires me to give up something….which is this world and all it has to offer. The Christian who desires to be great and first in the kingdom is the one who is willing to serve in the hard place, the uncomfortable place, the lonely place, and the demanding places. Knowing that time is short and eternity is long, we must be willing to spend and be spent for His glory.

As John MacArthur says “We must be willing to work for excellence without becoming proud, to withstand criticism without becoming bitter, to be misjudged without becoming defensive, and to withstand suffering without succumbing to self-pity.” A true religion is to put off and then to do with y0ur life according to the scriptures to glorify His precious name. Because in all reality the Christian religion is an active display of mercy and grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.

03 January 2017

A PASTOR'S PRAYER FOR HIS CHURCH


Phil 3:12-16

The one desire that Paul had for the church is the same desire I have for each and every one of you as we depart ways this morning. What is that desire? To press on for the glory of His name by exemplifying His grace through our lives. What does an exemplified Christian Life look like? It’s a Christian life that is not an imitator or actor playing a role but the mind and heart of Christ. It’s a Christian life that is sensitive to the family of God and to those lost people outside the church. It’s a Christian life that displays Christ as their greatest treasure. It’s a Christian life that will never compromise for the sake of fitting into this generations mold.

As Eric Liddell a Scottish Athlete did during the summer of 1924. The Olympics were hosted by the city of Paris. Liddell was a committed Christian and refused to race on Sunday, with the consequence that he was forced to withdraw from the 100 metres race, his best event. The schedule had been published several months earlier, and his decision was made well before the Games began. Liddell spent the intervening months training for the 400 meter, an event in which he had previously excelled. Even so, his success in the 400m was largely unexpected. The day of 400 meters race came, and as Liddell went to the starting blocks, an American masseur slipped a piece of paper in his hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, "Those who honor me I will honor." Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand. He not only won the race but broke the existing world record with a time of 47.6 seconds.

This is a prime example of what a Christian looks like when they are faced with a choice. This is a prime example of someone who wasn’t going to compromise for the sake of a Gold Medal because his goal in life was to make Christ first in his life.
Just as Eric Liddell wanted to exalt Christ. Paul wanted more of the Lord and less of Paul and this should be our desire and pursuit of life as well as we press on as a church family. Look what Paul says in (v12) “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect”

What does he mean? Paul is saying he hasn’t reached that point in life where he knows everything.... or he is like his Lord yet! This is a very humbling statement....especially coming from a godly man like Paul. Paul is saying “I’m still learning as I progress in my sanctification” Are you still learning or do you think you know enough; and are you satisfied with that? As Kent Hughes wrote in his commentary “There is nothing in Scripture quite like this explosion of spiritual longing. And Paul’s passion longing is meant to serve as an example for all Christians. We are called to make his passion for Christ our own. Dare we ask of this? Will we pray for it? That remains the great question for every Christian.”

I guess it comes to this question! What are you striving for? .................................What is your ultimate goal in this life as you press on each and every day? If it’s to make yourself feel fulfilled and satisfied and important, then you’re on the wrong road! And you truly don’t understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ! The Christian life is to walk worthy.....count the cost.......self-sacrifice as a drink offering.....a life that honors our Lord and to seek the interest of others first.

The goal of my life and your life should be like Christ! 
All our service
All our dedication
All our actions
All our relationships

All our praise is to be directed towards Christ and displaying His character in our lives. Everything we do should spin off of being like Christ Jesus and to exemplify His name. This is my prayer for you! WHY?

IF I’M TO BE LIKE CHRIST, I WILL SERVE GOD IN THE WAY HE SERVED GOD.

“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15
  
IF I’M TO BE LIKE CHRIST, I WILL RELATE TO PEOPLE IN THE LOVE IN WHICH HE RELATED TO PEOPLE.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Matt 9:36
  
IF I’M TO BE LIKE CHRIST, I WILL PRAISE HIM AS HE PRAISES.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” Psalm 150:6

All living things in the air, the earth, the waters. Let there be one universal burst of praise. The simple focus of my life is to be like Christ!! THAT IS WHY “I must let the word of Christ dwell in me richly in all wisdom...”  Col 3:16. THAT IS WHY “If I say I abide in Him I must walk the way He walked,”1 John 2. I'm to be like Christ. This is the goal of my life and yours. This is a life that exemplifies the Lord Jesus Christ to a broken and fallen generation. Kay Arthur says “The will of God for your life is simply that you submit yourself to Him each day and say, "Father, Your will for today is mine. Your pleasure for today is mine. Your work for today is mine. I trust You to be God. You lead me today and I will follow." Again look back to (v12) we’re to “press on” which means to run...follow after, this speaks of an aggressive passion for something! As Paul said to the church at Corinth “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Cor 9:24

We have been taken, possessed by a God who loves us through Jesus Christ. We have been brought into a relationship with the Father through His precious Son. We have been given eternal life and forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ. We are secure in the hands of a Holy God by the finishing work of Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul said what he said in (v7-9) It is our obligation [OUR PASSION] as Christian’s to follow, to press forward, and to be like Christ...NOT to be Christ but to be like our MasterOur pursuit in life should involve laying hold of Christ in every aspect of our lives (v12b)

As the Hymn song goes… I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee..”

 See to “Lay hold” means to make one’s own possession. I need Christ for every hour so that I can lay hold, to press on for that upward call in Christ Jesus. Christ chose Paul for the ultimate purpose of conforming Paul to His glorious image and that was the very goal Paul pursed to attain, to lay hold of Christ. Is this your ultimate goal in life this morning? Is it your passion and desire to grow more into the image of the Son? Or is this too overwhelming for you because it makes you feel defeated like doubting Thomas or pessimist Phillip? Is this you? “if we’re going to die let’s go get it over with?”…..or “There is no way I will ever be like my LORD” Your right I will never be like my Lord! But we must take hold of it and pursue to our dying breath.....Paul knew this as well. Paul says I haven’t reached Christ-likeness yet nor will I ever on this earth but while I’m here on this earth I will pursue it none the less! (v13-v14)
  
What is Paul saying here!! Do we live in the past? No! We are not to look at our past virtuous or deeds or achievements or dwell on our sins and failures.... Paul looked at his assets and accomplishment and saw them as manure remember. Paul says we (Christians) are to run towards what lies ahead........which is Christ likeness. We are to run towards the prize........which is Christ likeness in Heaven. All our pursuits should be to glorify our father who is Heaven and to make much of Christ on this earth as lights to fallen generation.

HOW DO I DO THAT? 

BY SATURATING MY LIFE IN HIS WRITTEN WORD 

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation” 1 Peter 2:2

BY SATURATING YOU LIFE IN A DEVOTION TO PRAYER (PERSONALLY AND CORPORATELY).

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Eph 6:18


BY FOLLOWING AFTER THE GODLY EXAMPLE OF GENUINE PEOPLE WHO ARE RUNNING THE RACE, NOT THE ONES WHO SLOW DOWN OR GIVE UP HALFWAY THROUGH.

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” 1 Cor 4:15-16

And this same truth can be found here (v15-16) Find those who are spiritually mature.....not by age but by the intimate relationship they have with Christ. Remember what I said before! “it’s not how long you have been a Christian, it’s how in love you’re in with Christ that really demonstrates your true heart.” Find people who are in that same pursuit as you are and strive together to grow closer into the image of the Son. Encourage lift up one another as you make this journey home. That’s what Paul is referring too here!! Those who have a passion and a fire for the Gospel and Jesus Christ. Not passive, on the fence, complacent…but on fire for the glory of God and the truth of His word.

HOW DO I RECOGNISE A PERSON LIKE THIS?

They will always have a passion about the saving grace in their own lives and they will always treat their salvation as the greatest gift they could ever have. They never waste their time on personal pursuits; or make excuses! They’re always seeking the interest of those around them. They are honest in their dealings with others because it’s their passion to please Christ above all things. They walk as a light in a fallen world with the Gospel that saves to the uttermost and they display that by making much of Jesus Christ.
  
Remember what the Hebrew writer wrote…..“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:1-2

Believers are to have the attitude of pursing the prize of Christ likeness. Paul says if you think that’s not possible.......he writes “God will reveal (uncover or unveil) even this to you” (v15b). If you’re a person who dwells on the past and looks back at his life then you are a person who is not pursuing the prize of Christ likeness and God is still is working on you in this area of your life. Whether He does this through conviction or He will soften your heart to understanding. I don’t know! But according to what Paul writes here in (v15) God will show you that it’s possible to walk.....run....press on.....look ahead to a life that exemplifies Christ likeness. Listen to what John MacArthur said “at the foot of one the Swiss Alps is a marker honouring a man who fell to his death attempting the ascent. The marker gives his name and this brief note: “he died climbing.” The note of every Christian should be that they died climbing the upward path toward the prize of Christ likeness.”

What does the marker say about your life........today? What does the mark say about your life in a year, ten years from now? I hope it will say “they died climbing the upward path toward the prize of Christ likeness.”

24 December 2016

CHRISTMAS BECAME FLESH


Christmas is a story of grace coming down to earth. It’s a wonderful expression of God’s amazing grace as He walked among us. Grace is one of the precious words of our faith. The word originally meant “charm and beauty.” On one side of the coin its unmerited favor that God shows you and me. On the other side it’s beautiful and life givingThink about that tonight! Grace is not only sufficient for salvation; it brings beauty to life. And when grace enters our lives, death flees. As D L Moody said “You may read in the paper one day that D L Moody is dead, but don’t you believe it.” What D L Moody was saying was “The body dies, but the soul lives on.” When grace enters our lives, we are again able to breathe as we were created to breathe. That’s the grace that we receive from a holy God who came in the flesh to dwell among us. This is what makes Christmas so special for you and me! It’s about the Creator who spoke life into existence came in the form of a man to display what grace is all about. God became a man! Shouldn’t we pause for a moment and sit in awe of God. The perfect sinless, holy, just, self-sustaining, needed no one or anything. Yet He came, to His creation to show what grace looks like in the face of a broken, fallen and sinful world.
In the Gospel of John we see what Christmas is about! God, who is fully God becomes man; fully man who dwells among us to reveal who He is……. God (Incarnate Deity). God cannot get any more personal than that! It’s interesting to note that all 4 of the gospels speak about different characteristics of our Lord and Savior

The theme of Matthew’s gospel is.............Jesus the King 
Mark’s theme...............Jesus the Servant 
Luke’s account............Jesus the Perfect Man 
John expresses the most profound truth in the universe, that Jesus Christ is God in flesh!

The opening narrative of John’s letter is the clearest and most precise representation of God. Jesus is the “Word” who became flesh. George Whitefield spoke of this truth when he said "Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again." John penned this wonderful truth “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v14)

For many this statement isn’t true. And for many at Christmas, most of the world sees Jesus as a baby in a manger and nothing more. I want to share with you some Christmas truths about this statement “Word became flesh” as we leave here tonight as we celebrate with our families tomorrow.

Jesus made Himself of no reputation. (v10-v11)

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.

We know this to be true, even today! Otherwise our churches would be full thought-out the year every week. What does that rejection that Jesus received looked like? Maybe it looks like this! “A poor family was farming some land during the depression. There was one son in the family and the parents wanted the best for him. They scrimped and saved so they could send him to college. After he has gone for a year or so, his parents, who loved him very much longed to see him again. They sold some things, saved their meager income and went to visit their boy. When they arrived on campus, poorly dressed in their simple and plain farm clothes they spotted their son with some other boys. The father ran to him and called out, “Son, son it’s your father.” The boy looked at his dad with no sign of recognition. The father repeated his words. “Son, it’s your father and mother. We’ve come to see you.” The boy no doubt embarrassed by his parents’ poverty turned to the other students and said, “I don’t know who this is. He must be crazy.” You and I may hear that story and think there could be nothing more horrible, but we just read the ultimate rejection. In (v11) we read these painful words, “He came to his own people, and even they rejected Him.” Jesus Christ is rejected on a daily basis then and still today! I read this passage and I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Mark’s gospel! Mark 12:1-11 “And he began to speak to them in parables.

" A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: " The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"


Sadly this is continuing to happen even after what Jesus did accomplished [His death and resurrection]. Don’t you find it amazing that the angels went to common men to proclaim the good news and not the high priests, the religious leaders or the ruling government? Grace, God in flesh came down from Heaven and we continue to reject Him.
  
Jesus humbled Himself on behalf of you and me to redeem us. (v12-v13)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

It’s the power of God unto salvation
It’s God who raises the dead to give new life
It’s God who calls you to this grace
It’s God who restores and makes new
It’s God who came to this earth to rescue sinners form the wrath of the Father.

 See there is nothing that we can do to in order to find or attain salvation! This is where we go “pew” or that sigh of relief. This is where grace came down from Heaven and glory filled my soul.

As the hymn song goes….. 
“Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross my Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul”

See!
It’s not about working our way to Heaven.
It’s not about growing up in a Christian home.
It’s not about your ability to attain salvation.
It’s only by the overflowing grace of God unto sinners that anyone of us is saved.

Redemption is a gift! 
You can’t make yourself better.
You can’t raise yourself up from the dead.
You can’t save yourself from the wrath of God.
You can’t restore what you’ve broken eternally.

No matter how hard we try to be good enough, each of us has sinned and fallen short, when measured by God’s standard of perfection. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23. But be of good cheer! This is why He came in the first place to redeem us from ourselves.

Which leads me to my final point!
  
Jesus came to reveal the grace of God to man. (v14-v18)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

We also read in John 1:1,8,9. In Jesus we see God….in Jesus we see the glory of God and the plan He has providential put in place to save sinners like me. The Word became flesh to take on a human form to bear our sin on the cross. Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus is the only way for our sins to be forgiven. Heb 10:4-10 tells us this truth!For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'" When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” A body to suffer for the weight of our sin. His hands, His feet, His side and the weight of sin and the wrath of God were placed upon His human body. Why? So that we could receive the gift of eternal life, find restoration and forgiveness in the shedding of His blood. He took on flesh so that we could see what grace looks and tastes like. “Full of grace” is the only way for us to receive grace. We are able to see and taste that grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came in flesh so that righteousness could only come through Him, the perfect sinless Lamb of God. When you go home tonight and wake up tomorrow remember this truth as you reflect on the Christmas narrative found in Luke!

Christmas is preparation for Good Friday.

Just as God provided a sacrifice for Abraham when he took his son up Mount Moriah. God has provided a sacrifice for you and me! “His only begotten Son of the Father.” As the angel said to Joseph "….Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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 1:20-23. The Word, the Second person of the Trinity, became flesh and dwelt, lived among us. What a Christmas gift to give to people like us. God gave His Son……..the Son came willingly to this earth to save sinners from eternal judgement that burns for all eternity for those who deny this free gift of grace. God bless CBC Family & Guests…..Have Merry Christmas under His grace!