Christmas In Light of the Cross, Day 20 ( Jesus’ Childhood Beyond the Manger )

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.  Luke 2:40 

We talk about the birth of Jesus a lot but what about His childhood? Have you ever thought about the fact that God was a kid at one time? When Jesus came to live among men He had to grow up just like everyone else. Obeying was not necessarily any easier for Jesus than it was for any other kid. Paul shares with us that,

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;  Hebrews 5:8

In Hebrews, Paul spends a lot of time writing about the humanity of Jesus, and in this passage shows us that as Jesus constantly overcame His human flesh through the Spirit, that His humanity suffered when it did not get its own way. Jesus knows what it is like to deny the desires of the flesh and to have continual victory through the Spirit. He can help us do the same.

Below is a passage from the classic book on the life of Jesus called Desire of Ages.  It comes from pages 70-72 on Jesus’ life as a child. You will find as you read, Six keys that helped Jesus maintain a righteous character, and these six keys will help us too. Let’s take a look. They keys are highlighted in red.

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the beautiful and grand in nature, our affections go out after God. While the spirit is awed, the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His works. Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things  The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood

Satan was unwearied in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. From His earliest years Jesus was guarded by heavenly angels, yet His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. That there should be upon the earth one life free from the defilement of evil was an offense and a perplexity to the prince of darkness. He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour

The parents of Jesus were poor, and dependent upon their daily toil. He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and privation. This experience was a safeguard to Him. In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Neither gain nor pleasure, applause nor censure, could induce Him to consent to a wrong act. He was wise to discern evil, and strong to resist it.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pages 70-72

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 17 (Born of the Spirit)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20 NKJV

While Jesus was born with a human nature, many point out that Jesus had an advantage over us, in living a victorious life, because, while being human, He was also born of the Spirit. This is true. After all, Jesus did not come to demonstrate what an unconverted man may do. He came to demonstrate what a Spirit filled man can do. While Jesus had an advantage in being Spirit filled, He also offered that same advantage to Nicodemus and all of us.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8 NKJV

According to John 3 we all may have the same advantage Jesus had. We all are invited to be born of God.

to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 NKJV

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…. 1 Peter 1:22-23 NKJV

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9 NKJV 

Therefore Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are.” Hebrews 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 24.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 16 (Acceptance)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where many are accepting God's love and life changing power. Will you accept God's love into your heart today?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where many are accepting God’s love and life changing power. Will you accept God’s love into your heart today?

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:13-14 NKJV

What a wonderful message from heaven to fallen man! The angels did not come and say, “God is over in Bethlehem, and you better get over there, and see if you can get things straightened out between you!” No! God is at peace with man if man will just,

“…take hold of My strength, That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.” Isaiah 27:5 NKJV

God is not at war with mankind. Mankind is at war with God!

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. Romans 8:7 NKJV

It is not God who is at enmity with man, it is man who is at enmity with God. In the Garden of Eden it was not God who ran from Adam after they sinned, but Adam who ran away from God.  In the story of the prodigal son, it was not the father but the son who ran away. It was not Jesus who told the demon possessed that He could not stand being near them, but it was the demon possessed, who could not stand being near Jesus.

So today our Intercessor does not intercede trying to convince God to accept us. No! He is interceding for us, trying to get us to accept the God who has never run away from us! He is interceding, pleading for us to come back to God! The Father provided the Intercessor, because He wanted to make peace with us, after the carnal mind made war with Him!

But this great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father’s heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of  Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption.
Jesus said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.” John 10:17. That is, “My Father has so loved you that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In becoming your Substitute and Surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities, your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father; for by My sacrifice, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 13-14

While pagan religions make human sacrifices to get the gods to accept them, in Christianity the God makes the sacrifice to get the humans to accept Him!

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6 NKJV 

God is offering peace and good will towards man. Will you accept Christ’s forgiveness with all His life changing power today?

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 15, (As far as the Curse is Found)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Romans 5:20 NKJV

On Thanksgiving Day, this year my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church Family lost a dear patriarch, when 95 year old Woody Hill passed away. Strangers would stop Woody and his wife in public and tell them they had a special beauty and glow. His children say it was Jesus in Him. Woody was always busy helping his family, his church and his neighbors. At age 85, when he heard a prowler was near a neighbor’s home, he grabbed his pistol and went out into the night to scare the prowler away, which he did!

Last night as I was visiting the family, I was awed by the time they told me he spent in prayer. Entire nights. That sounds like only One other Person I know. The only Person who gets a capital letter when only calling Them a Person. His family told me the week that he died, he was praying in his chair until 6 in the morning, and the way he prayed you would think Jesus was sitting right next to him. They told me how Woody prayed for the church and neighbors and everyone he knew including me! How humbling!

Having labored from Connecticut to Chiclayo Peru, I have met many people, who when I see them or hear their name, I quickly remember them and associate them with church. But Woody will always remind me  of Jesus!

After Woody’s passing on Thanksgiving Day, another dear elderly friend, Julian passed away just yesterday morning. Julian was my golf buddy as well going with me on my group Bible studies with his wife, and also traveling with me when I would preach out of town.

Instead of ruining my Christmas this has made it even more meaningful to me.  A song keeps echoing in my heart and mind.“Joy to the World!” One verse especially keeps repeating itself over and over. The third verse, which proclaims the complete power of the gospel. Because of sin we have so many sorrows climaxing with death. But a little baby, lying in a manger about 2,000 years ago came to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found! Because of Him we will live again! Joy to the world!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found. –Joy to the World, Issac Watts, 1719.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 14 (Sanctification in Christmas Carols)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy-Published by William B. Sandys in 1833. Author unknown.

There is some good theology in these older Christmas carols as well as some of the new.

The writer of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” knew the power of the gospel when he (or she) wrote, “To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”  By coming to live and die for us, Jesus did way more than just save us from the penalty of sin. He saves us from the power of sin.

The author of “Away in a Manger” (Author unknown) Speaks of sanctification as well as justification.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, And fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.

That’s what sanctification is, fitting us for heaven and saving us from Satan’s power. (Some newer versions of this song say “take us to heaven” instead of “fit us for heaven.” Why the change? Conspiracy? LOL!) Today as Seventh-day Adventists study and share the sanctuary message, many scoff at us when it comes to the holy place and most holy place, where sanctification takes place. They want the sanctuary to end in the courtyard where justification takes place, and not go any farther. Yet years before the Adventists ever discovered the “cleansing of the sanctuary” message, these and many other Christmas hymns had an understanding of the complete gospel, and a comprehension of all that Jesus accomplished by His life and death on the cross, and what He can accomplish in our hearts today!

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from [From not in!] their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NKJV

This Christmas Season let’s take some time to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful Christmas hymns, celebrating everything Jesus accomplished for us from the manger to the cross!

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 7

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

When the story of the birth of Jesus is told, the innkeeper often gets a bum wrap. How could you not have room for a pregnant lady? How could you not have room for the Son of God! Wait a minute. The innkeeper did have room for a pregnant lady. He did have room for the Son of God. He had room for them in the barn. It was a long day, with many weary travelers coming up to the counter needing lodging, and he did his best to please everybody. Then at the end of the day comes Mary and Joseph, and the innkeeper replies, “Well, here is what’s left.”

Can you identify with the innkeeper? At the end of a long day do you fall on your pillow, and send up a brief weak prayer before falling asleep? It’s not that you forgot God. You didn’t. It’s not that you had no room for Him in your day. You did. Just like the innkeeper had a barn left over for Jesus, you had a brief, weak prayer left over for Jesus.

Not too terribly long before the birth of Jesus God spoke through Malachi.

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.

 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-8

Many of us, at least in North America can be materialistic. We think of wealth in terms of money or possessions. Yet Solomon says,

“a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

A lion may be the king of the jungle but a living dog is better off than a dead king because he is still alive, and still has time. Therefore time is the most valuable and precious gift you can give. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life! Also, when we give time to God or the church we are often saving the church money. A modest family in a large church may not be able to give $1,000.00 a month to the church, but when they volunteer to clean the church, so the church does not have to hire someone, they are literally donating $1,000.00 a month by saving the church that money.

Even though time is the most precious gift we can give, we need to ask ourselves if we are really giving the best of our possessions. Am I really giving, when I give clothes to the community service center that I would otherwise throw away? Remember, what you do to the least of the brethren you are doing for Jesus. Is Jesus worth more than my throw-away clothes? Then so is my brother. Am I giving the best I have or, like the innkeeper, just whatever is left?

Am I giving my best effort in both my time and money to save the lost? Jesus gave His life to save the vilest sinner. If the vilest sinner is worth the life of God’s own son, wouldn’t the vilest sinner also be worth my life as well? After Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners, would I not be considering my life of more value than His, if I do not give my life as well?

Am I giving my best for Jesus or like the innkeeper, am I just giving whatever is left? Am I giving the world my best, or just whatever is left over?

So as we evaluate the story of Jesus’ birth we see the innkeeper did indeed have room for Jesus. However since it wasn’t the room Jesus deserved, we pretty much consider it having no room at all! Maybe instead of picking on the innkeeper, we should evaluate our own lives and our own gifts.  Sure, like the innkeeper we all are giving something, but are we giving what is left over, or are we giving Him our best?

The Innkeeper Did Have Room For Jesus!

Christmas Tree Cerca Pier

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

When the story of the birth of Jesus is told, the innkeeper often gets a bum wrap. How could you not have room for a pregnant lady? How could you not have room for the Son of God! Wait a minute. The innkeeper did have room for a pregnant lady. He did have room for the Son of God. He had room for them in the barn. It was a long day, with many weary travelers coming up to the counter needing lodging, and he did his best to please everybody. Then at the end of the day comes Mary and Joseph, and the innkeeper replies, “Well, here is what’s left.”

Can you identify with the innkeeper? At the end of a long day do you fall on your pillow, and send up a brief weak prayer before falling asleep? It’s not that you forgot God. You didn’t. It’s not that you had no room for Him in your day. You did. Just like the innkeeper had a barn left over for Jesus, you had a brief, weak prayer left over for Jesus.

Not too terribly long before the birth of Jesus God spoke through Malachi.

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.

 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-8

Many of us, at least in North America can be materialistic. We think of wealth in terms of money or possessions. Yet Solomon says,

“a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

A lion may be the king of the jungle but a living dog is better off than a dead king because he is still alive, and still has time. Therefore time is the most valuable and precious gift you can give. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life! Also, when we give time to God or the church we are often saving the church money. A modest family in a large church may not be able to give $1,000.00 a month to the church, but when they volunteer to clean the church, so the church does not have to hire someone, they are literally donating $1,000.00 a month by saving the church that money.

Even though time is the most precious gift we can give, we need to ask ourselves if we are really giving the best of our possessions. Am I really giving, when I give clothes to the community service center that I would otherwise throw away? Remember, what you do to the least of the brethren you are doing for Jesus. Is Jesus worth more than my throw away clothes? Then so is my brother. Am I giving the best I have, or like the innkeeper, just whatever is left?

Am I giving my best effort in both my time and money to save the lost? Jesus gave His life to save the vilest sinner. If the vilest sinner is worth the life of God’s own son, wouldn’t the vilest sinner also be worth my life as well? After Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners, would I not be considering my life of more value than His, if I do not give my life as well?

Am I giving my best for Jesus or like the innkeeper, am I just giving whatever is left? Am I giving the world my best, or just whatever is left over?

So as we evaluate the story of Jesus’ birth we see the innkeeper did indeed have room for Jesus. However since it wasn’t the room Jesus deserved, we pretty much consider it having no room at all! Maybe instead of picking on the innkeeper, we should evaluate our own lives and our own gifts.  Sure, like the innkeeper we all are giving something, but are we giving what is left over, or are we giving Him our best?

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Oh, and let me be the first to wish you a merry Christmas this year!