Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hark the Herald Angels - Part 6

Today as we continue our meditation on “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” we look at the stanza that contains these lines:

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.

In this section of the song, the author brings together several passages of scripture. The reference to Prince of Peace of course comes from Isaiah 9:6 which is a prophesy about Christ. In that verse we read, “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” As we mentioned in one of the previous posts, he is referred to as Prince of Peace because he is the one who has broken down the barrier between ourselves and God and made peace. In have Colossians 1:20 tells us that he made peace through the blood of His cross.

The next phrase is not so familiar to most of us. In the book of Malachi, the prophet is foretelling an awful day of judgment that is to come and then he writes this in 4:2. “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.” All of us have sinned against God and have fallen short of his glory. In order to avoid the judgment that will one day come to us, we need the One who provides “healing.” It is only through Jesus Christ that we can safe in that day. He is the one whose righteousness was perfect and only if that righteousness is given to us will we be able to stand before a holy God. That is exactly what Jesus Christ offers to provide for any and all who would trust Him.

Finally, the author refers to life and light being brought to all. John writes in John 1:4, 9, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” Paul picks up that theme in his letter to Timothy where he writes in 2 Timothy 1:9, 10, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

If Christ had not come, we not know about the darkness in which we were immersed. But Christ’s coming brought the good news that there is light and there is life and there is hope. He grants all of it to us freely in Christ simply by trusting in and believing in Him.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hark the Herald Angels - Part 5

Consider today these lines from “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

The man Jesus Christ was also God. That is the straightforward assertion of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9). He also said, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30) After the resurrection of Christ, He appeared to a group of disciples. Thomas was missing from that group and when he was informed by the others that they had seen Jesus alive, he said that he wouldn’t believe it unless he could actually stick his fingers into the wounds in Jesus’ body. At a later time Jesus showed up again and told Thomas to feel his wounds. Thomas response was, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27)

While here on this earth, Jesus looked like any other man, but He was God “veiled in flesh.” Paul writing to the Colossian Christians says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:10ff)

Later he writes “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9) And then the author of Hebrews writes, “In these last days [God has] spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3)

These are the descriptions of the one about whom those angels sang. This is the one whom the shepherds and wise men came to see. He is the incarnate Deity.

Paul told his hearers that God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” We have one life to live and after that comes the judgment, the evaluation of our lives. As you think of the Christ of Christmas, remember that He is the one who is going to evaluate you. Have you committed yourself to this one who left heaven to become a man so that you could be rescued?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hark the Herald Angels - Part 4

Continuing now our mediation on the song, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Consider with me the lines: Christ the everlasting Lord; Late in time, behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

In John 1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Later in the same chapter, John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The Bible teaches that the second person of the trinity, which John calls “the Word”, became flesh. The communication of God somehow was made human. How was that accomplished? Centuries before Christ came, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” The name Immanuel means “God with us.” So what the prophet foretold was that a virgin would conceive a child and this child would be God living among us.

The virgin conception of Jesus Christ may be one of the most ridiculed propositions of the Christian faith. How can such an event occur? Where do the male chromosomes come from? No species of animal other than some of the most basic forms can produce offspring without a male. These are all valid questions, but they stem from the desire to find a natural explanation for something that is not natural. When Mary was told what would happen, she herself asked how this could be. Christians maintain the truth of the virgin conception of Christ because that is what the Bible teaches. The God set out for us in the Bible is capable of anything. This God created everything there is with the word of His mouth and so it is nothing for him to create a child within a virgin’s womb.

The conception and birth of Jesus, the Son of God, took place at the right time. Galatians 4:4 tells us that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law.” God has a perfect plan and even though He is outside of time, He is able to work in time to accomplish His purposes. In this case His purpose was to send His only son so that He would ultimately die to pay the sin debt of anyone who would trust Him in faith.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hark the Herald Angels - Part 3

We’re continuing our series on Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. Today we look at the line, “God and sinners reconciled.”
To reconcile means to reestablish a close relationship or to settle or resolve a conflict. What is the conflict between God and us that needs to be settled? What is the close relationship that needs to be restored? The Bible tells us that God created us in his image, but that we, rather than enjoying the fellowship and communion that we had at the beginning, rebelled against him and incurred his wrath against us. The Bible tells us that God is a just judge and that he is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11) It further tells us that his wrath abides on everyone who has not believed on the Son of God.
Why these strong terms? People today tend to believe that God is pretty benevolent and benign. He just loves everyone and hopes they try to do better so that the world will be a better place.
You see, God is a just judge. He cannot just overlook crimes against his reign. What would you think of a judge who was so kind that he let murderers or thieves go free because he was hoping they would do better and that they would eventually mend their ways? Wouldn’t we consider such a judge to be impeachable for having allowed crimes to go unpunished? In the same way God cannot just overlook sin. What we call minor infractions, God calls rebellion against his just reign.
Because of this sin and rebellion, a chasm has appeared between God and man. If he is angry with the wicked every day, then something has to be done to reconcile us to each other.
This is what Jesus Christ has done. He willingly came and bore the just wrath of God against sinners. Having satisfied the law in this way, God is able to credit us with Christ’s righteousness and thus be reconciled to him. This doesn’t happen automatically, however. A person must acknowledge his sinfulness and rebellion and accept God’s generous offer of reconciliation through Christ. All of this must be believed.
Look at what God says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hark the Herald Angels - Part 2

We’re continuing our look at Hark, the Harold Angels Sing as our hymn of the month. The line we’re looking at today is “Peace on earth and mercy mild.”
The phrase “Peace on earth” is quoted a lot at Christmas time. Sometimes it is quoted with great cynicism because we look around and see very little peace. In fact the song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Longfellow contains the stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

What the angels said to the shepherds as quoted in Luke 2:14 is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” The announcement is being made that a savior has been born. We need a savior because of the fact that we have sinned against God and there is nothing in ourselves that we can do to rectify the situation. But God suddenly sends the announcement to some poor shepherds on a hillside in a tiny country. The announcement comes by means of a multitude of angels giving mankind the good news that someone has been born who is a savior. In other words he is the one who will rescue us from our primary problem – a death penalty hanging over our heads because of sin and rebellion against God.
This announcement of peace is not a declaration that there will be peace among the people of the earth immediately. It is an announcement that there is a peace available with God.
Isaiah the prophet wrote in his book (9:6) that this child who would come would be called the Prince of Peace. The Bible tells us in Romans 5:1 that having been justified we have peace with God. This peace is available, but it is only available to those who have been justified by faith and it is available through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who was born on that first Christmas.
What does it mean to be justified? It means to be declared righteous by God. Our sin is a serious problem to God. It’s not just some light thing that God can dismiss with the wave of his hand. Our sin requires punishment and Jesus came to take that punishment himself so that we could be declared righteous. God has announced that this “swap” is available as a gift, but it must be accepted, received and believed by faith.
Paul writes in Romans 10 that his people, the Jews, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
He goes on in verse 9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul told the Philippian Christians that he wanted to be found in Christ, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
So on that first Christmas, an announcement was made that a savior was born, a child who would provide peace between God and all those on the earth who receive him as savior and trust God to give them Christ’s righteousness as a gift of his grace.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Memorization Monday - Resources - The Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Our Lord Prays for His Own

Here is an excerpt from "Our Lord Prays for His Own" by Marcus Rainsford that I thought was encouraging. He is talking about the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17.

Our Lord, as we have said before, is in this prayer committing His people to His Father's care. As the High Priest appeared before God on the day of atonement with the names of the tribes on his shoulders and on his heart, so Christ presents Himself before His Father. It is the voice of "the only begotten Son of God" that speaks. It is the voice of the Lamb of God even now on His way to the altar of sacrifice, and He thus prays, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name".

They are wonderful words; they breathe nothing but love, and grace, and truth, and tenderness. He brings no charge against them, He finds no fault with them, He hints at no deficiency; and yet we know they had many faults, many deficiencies; the disciples were not angels, but men. Hitherto they had not been great saints, but on the contrary very feeble ones, not persons of high attainments, but "slow of heart to believe," and ready to halt; not very eminent for any grace, and at times full of failure and of corruption; but the Lord takes no notice of this in all His prayer. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a great Savior, and a divine Mediator; He is full of grace and truth and love; He is exactly suited to the need of His people, whether as regards their sins, their corruptions, their miseries, or their temptations' and the whole of His dealings with them have been, are, an ever will be one grand display of abundant mercy; this prayer, expressing His thoughts, revealing His purposes, uttering His will and His anxieties concerning them, are sufficient evidence of this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hark the Herald Angels - Part 1

A few days ago I introduced Hark, the Harold Angels Sing as our hymn of the month. I chose this hymn for December because I wanted to connect what the lyrics say to what Scripture says and hopefully in the process edify my own soul as well as to encourage anyone who might read this.

So let’s begin by thinking about the line “Glory to the Newborn King”. As we know from reading Matthew 2:2, the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem inquiring as to where the king of the Jews was to be born. They knew from the signs they had seen in the heavens that such a king was to be born about this time. The officials immediately went to Scripture and found a prophecy in Micah 5:2 which reads, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the one to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” That announcement had been made roughly 700 years prior to the birth of Christ, yet these men were able to go to this prophecy to accurately tell the wise men where they should look.

During approximately the same time period as Micah, God used Isaiah the prophet to write, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice.” This prophecy can be found in Isaiah 9:6-7. It too was written about 700 years before the events actually took place.

Then just prior to Mary’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel had come to Mary and among other things he told her about her son, he said, “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”

When Jesus’ birth came, the angels announced this special event by glorifying God in the highest. After all these years God had fulfilled the promises He had made and sent His son, who among other things would be a king whose kingdom, once established, would never end. Let’s not get lost in all of the hubbub of Christmas and miss the opportunity to bring God glory for the newborn king.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Hymn of the Week - A Debtor to Mercy Alone

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Presumptuous Sins

In one of David’s prayers, recorded in Psalm 19:13, he says this, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.”

A presumptuous sin is one that is done willfully. To presume means to assume something is true in advance without any evidence to support that assumption. People presume upon God in many ways. Probably the biggest way in which we do this is to presume upon the forgiveness and grace that God promises. People sometimes knowingly and willfully sin against God counting on the fact that God has promised to forgive all sins.

According to Scripture it is true that God has promised to forgive all sins of those who come to Christ in faith and trust Him as their savior. If this is so, why is it wrong to presume upon that forgiveness?

In David’s prayer, he suggests that such sins can gain dominion over a person. The sin becomes the master. Paul, in Romans 6:15 Paul asks the question, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” His answer in the next verse is revealing. He says, “Don’t you know that whoever you yield to in obedience, you are that one’s slave.” If we yield to those presumptuous sins, we are in effect making those sins our master.

Another reason David gives for his request is so that he will be blameless and innocent of great transgression. Blameless doesn’t mean perfect. It means that there is nothing there that will stick when people try to attach blame to him. Presumptuous sins are a great transgression against God and when they become known they give people something to blame us for. In so doing the testimony of Christ is damaged and the Gospel is diminished in peoples’ eyes.

Committing presumptuous sins on a regular basis should cause one to question his own salvation. Paul, at the beginning of Romans 6 writes, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” A few verses later he says, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” Certainly we know that Christians sin. John wrote in his first letter, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

I’ve been challenged by David’s prayer in that he was bold enough to ask God to keep him from presumptuous sins. He knew he was weak and needed the strength of God in order to stand. Are we any stronger than David whom God called a man after his own heart? As Christian men who desire to be faithful, let’s acknowledge our weaknesses and seek God’s help in avoiding this kind of sin.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Hymn of the Month -- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

This song is one of my favorite Christmas songs because it contains so much teaching that is faithful to Scripture. One of the reasons for music is given in Colossians 3:16 "...teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs..."

Over the course of the next several weeks, I hope to have us take a look at the lyrics of this song, written by Charles Wesley, to see what we can learn about ourselves and our God.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”


Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Do We Really Want to Know God's Will?

I was reading in Jeremiah 42 the other day and came upon an incident with God’s people Israel that I think has application to us. The country was on the verge of an attack by the Babylonians and the people came to Jeremiah and said, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” Jeremiah told them that he would check with God to see what they should do next. The people affirmed their commitment saying that whether it is good or bad they would certainly do what the Lord commanded.

Jeremiah came back from the Lord with the message that whatever else they did, they should not flee to Egypt to seek refuge there. They were to stay put and not be afraid of the king of Babylon. If they stayed and trusted God with the results, they would be eventually built back up; but if they fled to Egypt, God would pursue them there and they would face the destruction that they feared.

When Jeremiah told them these instructions from the Lord, their response was, “You are lying to us. We will not do what you say, but we will flee to Egypt.”

In these days we don’t go to a prophet to find out what the Lord has said. We go to the Bible. The Bible has everything God wants us to know to enable us to live faithful, obedient lives. And yet aren’t we sometimes like those people? We may go to the Word of God to find out what we should do, or we may counsel with a pastor to get sound biblical advice and then when we don’t like the answer, we do our own thing.

Let’s be faithful and honest in our efforts to work our way through this life. Let’s seek God’s guidance with a sincere heart actually desiring to follow the will of God once we know it. And then, when we come to grips with what God is actually commanding us to do, let’s follow through and do it in faithful obedience.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Blog Update

It’s the first of December and it is snowing here in Michigan. We have had such a nice autumn that I thought maybe we would skip winter this year, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.

I’ve just entered a new phase of life called retirement. After having worked for the same school district for 41 years it’s quite a change. My goal is to use this time to involve myself in the lives of others to help further their growth in the Christian life. Paul told the Philippians in 1:25 that since he was staying here on earth his ministry would involve working for their progress and joy in the faith. Paul also wrote to Timothy to tell him that what we’ve learned as Christian men should be passed on to other faithful men who would be able to teach others also. I’ve made these my goals as well.

So that’s the purpose of this blog and associated ministries. My goal is to share what is on my mind as it relates to what the Bible teaches about living life for the glory of God. If you share that goal, be sure to join in the conversation. This blog has been here for a long time, but because of the busyness of life, I haven’t been able to communicate as much as I had wanted to. Now with more time available and I hope to have more active communication.