When we think of Christmas, it is important that we focus in on God’s purpose in sending Christ Jesus into this world, otherwise we will miss the true meaning of this event that we are supposed to be celebrating. With that in mind, I want to share a bit of information for us to consider. What was God doing when He sent Christ, the second person of the Godhead, into this world?
Well, initially, many of us would immediately answer that Jesus Christ is the One God sent to “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And, of course, He did that. We can never take away from that. It is because of Him and the sacrifice that He made on Calvary that you and I are saved today. He gave His life to satisfy the righteous requirement of God’s law, which says, “the soul that sins shall surely die.” He was the substitute for you and me on the cross of Calvary; paying the price required by the law of God for our sins. He was the sacrificial lamb; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God was at work in Christ Jesus reconciling the world unto Himself.
His priestly role is displayed in that sacrificial offering. He is our Great High Priest. That was a great part of God’s purpose for sending Jesus into this world. And that still matters. We must never forget that. When I think of Christmas, I not only think of a baby born, I think of the Savior born to live and die; to sacrifice His life for my sins and, not for mine alone but for the sins of the entire world. Thinking of that calls us to accept the sacrifice given, the blood shed and the price paid for our sins.
His role as Savior of mankind is made clear in the New Testament. And we can’t even talk about the birth of our Savior without reflecting on what He did to become our Savior.
However, there is another often overlooked but very important role that Christ fulfills that still matters; one that is repeatedly emphasized in the Gospels—that of Christ being a ruling King. He is our Savior but He is also our King. And, He is not just our King but will become the King of the Kingdoms of this world.
When the angel Gabriel came to visit Mary with the message from God. He told her that she would conceive a child. Of that child he said, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32).
You see, the Jews had long been anticipating the Messiah. This Messiah would be a descendant of David. He would reestablish the Davidic throne and usher in the prophesied period of restored greatness in a new kingdom. This is what God did in Christ Jesus. The wise men asked (Matthew 2:2), “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? We have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him.”
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace…”
Isaiah 11:1-2 1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Daniel 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Yes, the Jews were anticipating the Messiah/King to come. In the birth of Christ, the Messiah/King came. Now we have a Savior and a King. God’s gift demands a response from everyone in this world. What is your response to what God was doing in Christ Jesus?
And lest we forget, this King is coming again in the fullness of time to judge satan and his demonic spirits that are roaming this earth seeking to undermine and destroy the work of God and enslave as many people as he can. Our response to Christ today, will determine the outcome of this cosmic conflict for us, as to whether we will live eternally in heaven with Christ or be cast in the lake of fire and brimstone to suffer eternally with satan and his demons.
Our response to Christ today, will determine the outcome of this cosmic conflict for us, as to whether we will live eternally in heaven with Christ or be cast in the lake of fire and brimstone to suffer eternally with satan and his demons.
"Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he/she has done....Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they many have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city...." (Rev. 22:12 & 14a).
Bishop Alfred Jackson
Pastor, Tabernacle of Praise Church International
Genesis 26:1-15 (12)
This is quite an interesting passage of scripture that speaks to us today. There was a famine in Canaan. Isaac considered leaving there, his inheritance, and going to Egypt. God said, in essence,
“Don’t leave your inheritance. Stay here. I will bless you and your descendants.” Isaac obeyed. He also sowed in that land during the famine. Verse 12 records the results of his faith and obedience: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous;”
Genesis 26:12-13 NKJV
During this season that we are in, it is important that we do not forsake our land - our own spiritual inheritance. God will bless us where we are if we remain faithful and obedient. How do we sow into our spiritual inheritance during this season?
Bishop Alfred Jackson
The event recorded in Matthew 21:12-17 speaks volumes to us today. Jesus cleanses the Temple, the place consecrated to worship God. The religious leaders had made the temple into a common market. Jesus said that they had made it into "a den of thieves." Theses activities were taking place in the Outer Court of the Temple, or the Court of the Gentiles, the place set aside for the Gentiles to approach and worship the Most High God. They were not allowed into the Inner Court where the Jews were allowed to worship because they were not Jews. The Levites had allow the Court of the Gentiles to become the place where people were able to buy the animals for the sacrifices when they came to Jerusalem to worship. Because many of them were coming from foreign lands and other cities and they did not have the required currency for the temple worship, the High Priests and his family had set up money changing stations to concert the currency. And, to make matters worse, they were charging exorbitant rates to convert the currency. All of this defiled God's Temple. This angered Jesus and was the reason He turned over the money changing tables and drove out those who bought and sold. Again, they had defiled the Temple of God.
There are several things I am led to point out here for our reflection and introspection:
1. Studying the commentary on these verses, we learn that the Levites had allowed the selling of the animals and the doves for the sacrifices. The ones responsible for the worship and the place of worship were the one who allowed the defilement. They probably reasoned that they were doing it for convenience sake; yet God did not call us to convenience nor to make things convenient for people. Christ, being in very nature, God, took the inconvenient step of taking on human flesh, living in this world and dying on the cross to fulfill the will of God in providing salvation for you, me and countless others. He is our example. Stop looking for convenience or the convenient way. Look for God's way!
2. The High Priest saw a way to make money. They also defiled the Temple of God! Again, we must not look for ways to make things convenient for ourselves or others when it comes to spiritual things, if they way displeases God and undergirds defilement. God has not called us to agree with people in their sins. He has called us to preach righteousness and truth. God has not called us to become rich in material things at the expense of people through extortion or false prophecy or any other means that brings defilement to God's temple.
3. Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit dwells in each believer. Our bodies are His temple under the New Covenant.
"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
God rightly calls you, His blood-bought saint, "My house." Are you conscious of that, day by day and moment by moment? Is your spirit, soul and body a fit dwelling place for God? Are you, by His grace, keeping it clean? Is it a "house of prayer" - or is it a "den of thieves" in which you rob God of the preeminence He justly claims? Are you listening attentively to the Spirit's instruction through the Word, filling your heart with His truth and clinging to it, so that there is no room for the lies and contradictions of Satan? Or are you filling your heart with the things of this world?
You must seek God's cleansing continually. Never deny that you need it. In 1 John 1:8-9 we read this: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." But - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Strive to keep God's temple (your body) clean every day.
Reflection and Introspection: What Does Christ Expects of Us Today?
A Season of Preparation
Luke 13:22-25 "Strive to enter through the narrow door...."
The season of the church year that we are in is known as Advent. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and His first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. From that change, we have come to the point where this season has little to do with preparation and more to do with enjoyment and celebration.
Yet, in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and parties, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, much like Lent. As such, there are a variety of ways that this time of mourning can work itself out in the season. Reflection on the violence and evil in the world should cause us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. For the church and what we are experiencing in this present world, the animosity and slander leveled at us in the present should make us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness, spiritual poverty and need for grace should lead us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew His work in conforming us into the image of Christ so as to prepare us for the day of His return to this world in the final judgment so that we can go back with Him as He promised.
In this passage of scripture, Jesus is asked a question that gives way to an important teaching on preparation for His return and the final judgment. In answer to a question that had been asked by Jews since the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, “would many or few be saved in the final judgment,” Jesus basically says that the important thing to be focused on is being prepared. He makes a very stunning statement in His answer that is in direct contrast to what many people believe today. He says, “There is a narrow door that one must strive to enter through, for many will try but will not be able.”
We must ask ourselves, what is this narrow door? And, what will it take to enter through it?
Looking at the context, we see that Jesus has been teaching on repentance and faith in God. In order to prepare for His return and be ready to enter through that narrow door, we must repent of our sins and exercise faith in God by receiving and submitting our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this a narrow door? It is because this is not just about being baptized and being a part of a local church. It is not about being a good person from a good family.
You see, people have their own estimation of themselves and their goodness. People also believe that they own themselves. As such, the contemporary mindset is that a person can live as he or she wants to live without any regard to God or His standard and still expect to go to heaven when they die. Even in the church, there is not this serious concern for God’s standard of righteousness. We have watered down righteousness. We, like the early Christians who shifted this season from penance, prayer and fasting in preparation for the Lord’s return to shopping, gift giving and celebration without any regard to the Lord’s second coming. We have shifted our focus from God’s standard and our standard; from God’s ways to our ways.
Yet, God’s word still speaks loudly, “I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Mal. 3:6). Just because we change our perspective based on the tenor of the times and the influence of society does not at all mean that God changes. There is still this narrow door that we must strive to enter through if we will be saved. We must strive because it is difficult to resist the pull of society and the mindsets of people we associate ourselves with; yet, if we are to see the Lord and enter His eternal Kingdom, He is calling us to His standard.
For us today, it calls for recognition of the fact that we have fallen away and that we need to repent and return to Him in faith and commitment to do His will. In this season of preparation, it is my prayer that many people will receive this teaching, turn our backs on the worldly ways and mindsets, repent of our sins, and in humble submission to His will, commit ourselves to living according to His will and His way. Also, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God, I pray that we will commit ourselves to spreading the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world of people so that others will come to faith in Him, live and prepare to go back with Him when He returns.
"Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers." (Proverbs 11:14 NLT)