Charles Stanley – Christmas – A Personal Promise

What do you consider most significant about Christmas? Many people would say visiting with relatives, attending parties, or giving and receiving gifts. For believers, however, Christmas is far more than a December holiday with time off from work. It is a personal promise from God to mankind.

The significance of this special day is embodied in two scriptural names. In the first chapter of Matthew, an angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary, his fiancée, would bear a son conceived of the Holy Spirit. He instructed Joseph to name the child “Jesus” (v. 21). He also announced that the birth would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: “‘They shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means ‘God with us’” (v. 23, referring toIsaiah 7:14).

Let’s examine the two names in this passage—Jesus and Immanuel. The name “Jesus” is a transliteration of the Old Testament Hebrew wordJoshua, meaning “the Lord is salvation.” When the angel said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (v. 21), he was pointing to the significance of that original Christmas: God provided a solution for your sin and mine, as well as for the sin of the entire world—past, present, and future.

Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, Isaiah’s prophecy was a word of hope and encouragement to Judah as it faced a great crisis. The prophet’s message was an indication of what God was about to do then as well as what would ultimately be fulfilled in the Messiah’s advent.Immanuel, a name full of promise, was God’s way of assuring the Old Testament saints that He was with them. Taken together, these two names encompass what we need for our entire life: Jesus, the pardoner of our sins, and Immanuel, the divine presence within us to help and guide every moment of every day. The names and the promises in them are the foundation for every facet of Christian life.

So how did God engineer that first Christmas to fulfill the promises of Jesus and Immanuel? His method was the incarnation. On the night Christ was born, the eternal God—motivated by love—entered the human family. He was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit and physically born of a virgin. Jesus never ceased to be God, and He remained perfectly sinless in His being.

If the incarnation hadn’t taken place exactly as it did, then we would still be living in our sin. According to Scripture, the punishment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The Bible also says that God rejects any imperfect sacrifice (Deut. 17:1). Jesus, because of His absolute sinlessness, is the only one who could save us by offering Himself as a payment for our sin debt.

Apart from the birth of God in human flesh, every one of us would have to stand before God with all of our sin resting upon us, and our sins would separate us from Him (Isa. 59:2). So the incarnation is the promise of Jesus—“the Lord is salvation”—for every person in the world.

But that was not the full extent of God’s awesome plan. He also promised us His presence, which was fulfilled in the birth of Immanuel. Jesus was “God with us,” the incarnate Deity, who physically lived and walked among men to show us what the heavenly Father is like.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus encouraged His disciples with the promise of God’s indwelling presence. Christ said that when He went away, He would ask the Father to send the Spirit of truth, who “abides with you and will be in you” to teach, remind, comfort, and guide every step of the way (John 14:17, 26).

Far better than God simply being “with me” is God within me, for me, and through me! And that is His promise to every generation of believers—the incomparable, supernatural, immeasurable God will take up residence inside us and be everything we need. Once He lives within you, there will never be a time you have to walk without Him (Heb. 13:5).

In light of the wonderful promise of God’s redemption and presence, believers should be confident and courageous. We don’t have a single need He can’t satisfy. How can we worry when the sovereign, almighty God is with us?

So this year, as you gather on Christmas morning, I encourage you and your family to kneel and give thanks to almighty God. The incarnation is the very essence of Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with the gifts or festivities, as long as they don’t crowd out what belongs in first place: Christmas is about God breaking into humanity, shattering time, and becoming life and hope and help to all mankind.

 

Related Resources

Related Audio

Jesus—His First Appearance

Why did Jesus—God Incarnate—come to earth? (Listen to Jesus—His First Appearance now.)

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Just The Right Time

 

Hebrews 9:11-22

Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come. —Hebrews 9:11

The conductor stood on the podium, his eyes scanning the choir and orchestra. The singers arranged the music in their folders, found a comfortable position for standing, and held the folder where they could see the conductor just over the top. Orchestra members positioned their music on the stand, found a comfortable position in their seats, and then sat still. The conductor waited and watched until everyone was ready. Then, with a downbeat of his baton, the sounds of Handel’s “Overture to Messiah” filled the cathedral.

With the sound swirling around me, I felt I was immersed in Christmas—when God, at just the right moment, signaled the downbeat and set in motion an overture that started with the birth of the Messiah, the “High Priest of the good things to come” (Heb. 9:11).

Every Christmas, as we celebrate Christ’s first coming with glorious music, I’m reminded that God’s people, like choir and orchestra members, are getting ready for the next downbeat of the conductor when Christ will come again. On that day, we will participate with Him in the final movement of God’s symphony of redemption—making all things new (Rev. 21:5). In anticipation, we need to keep our eyes on the conductor and make sure we are ready. —Julie Ackerman Link

Sound the soul-inspiring anthem,

Angel hosts, your harps attune;

Earth’s long night is almost over,

Christ is coming—coming soon! —Macomber

The advent of Christ celebrates His birth and anticipates His return.

Bible in a year: Micah 4-5; Revelation 12

 

Alistair Begg – Fine Clothes

 

I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.  Ezekiel 16:10

Consider the matchless generosity with which the Lord provides for His people’s apparel. They are arrayed in this way so that the divine skill is seen producing an unrivaled “embroidered cloth,” in which every attribute takes its part and every divine beauty is revealed. There is no art like the art displayed in our salvation, no skillful workmanship like that seen in the righteousness of the saints. Justification has engrossed learned pens in every age of the church and will be the theme of admiration in eternity. In all this splendor there is utility and durability, comparable to our being “shod . . . with fine leather.” This skin covered the tabernacle and formed one of the finest and strongest leathers known.

The righteousness that is of God by faith endures forever, and he who is shod with this divine preparation will walk through the desert in safety. The purity and dignity of our holy vestments are brought out in “fine linen.” When the Lord sanctifies His people, they are clothed as priests in pure white; the snow itself does not excel them. They are in the eyes of men and angels fair to look upon, and even in the Lord’s eyes they are without spot. Meanwhile the royal apparel is delicate and rich as “silk.” No expense is spared, no beauty withheld, no grandeur denied.

What, then? Can we infer nothing from this? Surely there is gratitude to be felt and joy to be expressed. Come, my heart, do not refuse your evening hallelujah! Tune your pipes! Touch your chords!

Strangely, my soul, art thou arrayed

By the Great Sacred Three!

In sweetest harmony of praise

Let all your powers agree.

The family reading plan for December 21, 2014 * Zechariah 8 * John 11

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Going home—a Christmas sermon

 

“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” Mark 5:19

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Kings 7:3-9

First, tell it truthfully. Do not tell more than you know; do not tell John Bunyan’s experience, when you ought to tell your own. Do not tell your mother you have felt what only Rutherford felt. Tell her no more than the truth. Tell your experience truthfully; for perhaps one single fly in the pot of ointment will spoil it, and one statement you may make which is not true may ruin it all. Tell the story truthfully.

In the next place, tell it very humbly. I have said that before. Do not intrude yourselves upon those who are older, and know more; but tell your story humbly; not as a preacher, not ex-cathedra, but as a friend and as a son.

Next, tell it very earnestly. Let them see you mean it. Do not talk about religion flippantly; you will do no good if you do. Do not make puns on texts; do not quote Scripture by way of joke: if you do, you may talk till you are dumb, you will do no good, if you in the least degree give them occasion to laugh by laughing at holy things yourself. Tell it very earnestly.

And then, tell it very devoutly. Do not try to tell your tale to man till you have told it first to God. When you are at home on Christmas Day, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if your friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them; and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God. Seek, if you can, to get them one by one, and tell them the story. Do not be afraid; only think of the good you may possibly do.

For meditation: Many of us will be with unconverted friends or relatives over Christmas. May Spurgeon’s four points help each of us to speak of “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Sermon no. 109

21 December (1856)

John MacArthur – The Certainty of Judgment

 

“If the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:2-3).

There is certain judgment for everyone who does not receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

Today the majority believes that God is a God of love and grace, but not of justice. One brief look at Hebrews 2:2-3 ought to convince anyone otherwise. The writer’s point is this: Since the Old Testament makes it clear that transgression and disobedience met with severe and just punishment, how much more so will equal or greater punishment be rendered under the New Testament, which was revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that angels were instrumental in bringing the law (Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:38). The law the angels spoke, primarily the Ten Commandments, was steadfast. That meant if someone broke the law, the law would break the lawbreaker. The law was inviolable; punishment for breaking it was certain.

“Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense” (v. 2). Transgression refers to stepping across a line—a willful, purposeful sin. Disobedience, however, refers to imperfect hearing—the sin of shutting one’s ears to the commands, warnings, and invitations of God. It is a sin of neglect or omission, doing nothing when something should be done.

Hebrews 2:2 also puts to rest the notion that God is not fair. The writer says every sin received a “just recompense.” God, by His very nature, is just. Every punishment He meted out to those who defied Him was a deterrent to the sin He wanted to stop.

God severely punished the nation of Israel because they knew better. That leads to the important principle that punishment is always related to how much truth one knows but rejects. The person who knows the gospel, who has intellectually understood it and believed it, yet drifts away will experience the severest punishment of all.

Suggestion for Prayer; Ask God to give you an even greater appreciation of the punishment He has saved you from to motivate you to pursue the lost more vigorously.

For Further Study; Read Matthew 11:20-24, 12:38-42, and Luke 12:47-48 to discover Christ’s attitude toward those who know the truth yet rebel against it.

Joyce Meyer – Peace in the House

 

Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention. —Philippians 2:2

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to do miracles, signs, and wonders, in essence He said to them, “Go and find a house and say, ‘Peace be unto you.’ And if your peace settles on that house, you can stay there. If it doesn’t, shake the dust off your feet and go on” (see Mark 6:7-11).

-One day God showed me what Jesus was really saying to them: “I want you to go out with the anointing, but to do what you need to have peace in the house.” You need to do whatever you can to maintain peace in your home because it dramatically affects the anointing and power of God that rests on your life. Keep the strife out of your life!

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Holy Spirit Promised

 

“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about Me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection” (Acts 1:8).

Evangelists were gathered in Amsterdam, Holland, from more than 130 countries around the world to attend the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. On the third night of this historic event I was asked to bring the address on “How to be Filled With the Holy Spirit.” Just before I was to speak, a note from Billy Graham was handed to me. It said, “I consider this one of the most important addresses of the entire conference.”

According to the hundreds of thousands of surveys which our ministry has taken all over the world, 95 percent of the professing believers do not understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This includes a majority of pastors, evangelists and missionaries. In fact, if I had only one message to give to the Christian world, it would be how to be filled with the Holy Spirit and how to walk moment by moment in the fullness of His power. Indeed if I had to choose between introducing a non-believer to Christ or helping a defeated, fruitless, impotent Christian to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit and share his faith in Christ with others, I would choose the latter because inevitably the end result would be far greater in terms of the number of people who would be introduced to Christ. The one great need of the Body of Christ today that transcends all other needs is to be awakened to the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, to be empowered and controlled by Him, to allow Him to exalt and honor our Lord Jesus Christ in and through us, for that is the purpose of His coming. “He (the Holy Spirit) shall praise Me and bring Me great honor by showing you My glory” (John 16:14).

On hundreds of occasions throughout the world I have spoken on this subject and always, when the invitation is given, a good percentage indicate their desire to be filled with the Spirit. The Scripture promises, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? If so, you are a candidate for the fullness of God’s Spirit. You can by faith appropriate His fullness right now by claiming His promise that God will release His power through you in order that you may be an effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading: Romans 15:15-21

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will claim by faith the fullness of God’s Spirit in order to live the supernatural life and to be a more fruitful witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that it is the Holy Spirit who will enable me to live that exciting, supernatural life.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Qualified by God

 

God’s timing is perfect and He does everything for a special purpose. For example, the Lord providentially placed Esther in a position of authority. Her qualifications? She was an orphan. She came from a race of people who were living in exile in a foreign land. She was poor and lacked a royal education. Yet Esther was the person God chose to become queen and save her people from genocide.

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4:14

The Lord still uses the seemingly weak and the powerless to change the world. The Creator of the Universe chose to come to Earth as a baby, born of humble parents in a nondescript village. Jesus Christ took His first breath in a stable all for the purpose of saving the world from sin.

Whenever you feel unequipped to make a difference for God, remember that His purpose for you is “for such a time as this.” His requirement? Your willing heart. Seek Him as He continually unfolds His plans for you to change the lives of those you encounter daily. Thank Him also for the privilege of making an incredible impact as you faithfully pray for this nation’s leaders.

Recommended Reading: Luke 2:13-21