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Importance of Incarnation–Part 2

Written By: Wesley - Dec• 22•10

You can read part one of this series here.  My goal in writing is to show the importance of Jesus becoming flesh.  The Incarnation is fundamental to the Christian faith.  In the epistles of John it is made clear that someone who denies that Jesus became flesh is not a child of God, but rather an antiChrist.  But why is this teaching so important?

Last post we looked at what Hebrews teaches us about the importance of the incarnation.  This time we are going to look at a more traditional text.  Specifically we want to deal with the Gospel of Matthew and the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14.

The verse reads:

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:23“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

In the beginning of this section we realize that the incarnation of Jesus cannot be separated from His work as the one who will take away our sins.  Just like the Hebrew writer, Matthew connects Jesus becoming flesh with His work in saving people from sin, which will happen in His death.

However, I want to deal with the prophecy.  Let me first say that the Gospels (specifically Matthew and Luke) make it clear that Jesus was born of a virgin.  Mary knew no man before having Jesus. The birth of Jesus was not by natural means but by supernatural means.  That being said I don’t think that the virgin birth is the primary point of the Isaiah passage.  Instead I think Matthew is quoting Isaiah to make it clear that God is with us.  God is now with His people in a real sense.  He is becoming like His people (i.e. human).  He is going to be in their presence.  It is hard to even imagine that God humbled Himself to become man for the purpose of being with us.

In the incarnation God came amongst His people.  He walked, taught, interacted, and lived with man.  The people had waited for God to come amongst them as their deliverer and in Jesus He did.

How profound:  God is With Us!

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Importance of the Incarnation–Part 1

Written By: Wesley - Dec• 21•10

During this season people are thinking about the birth of Jesus.  This week I’m focusing on the idea of Christmas, but more specifically I want to use this time to teach on the incarnation.  If you are a parent this could be a good way to help your kid understand why Jesus came to earth.  If you haven’t yet, check out the first post concerning some common myths of Christmas. The post should help you separate fact from fiction.  (Click here to read).

The first place I want to start in our discussion of the incarnation is not the normal place to start. Most of the talk about the birth of Jesus centers on the Gospels and rightfully so.  Later posts in this series will investigate what the Gospels teach us about the Incarnation, but I want to start in a different book.  The book of Hebrews provides us with a lot of information concerning the incarnation of Jesus.  It provides for us reasons why Jesus came in the flesh. I want to look at two key points in Hebrews to show what they teach us about Jesus becoming flesh (i.e the Incarnation).

14Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;15And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.16For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.17Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.18For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

1. Jesus became flesh to deliver us from the power of the devil.  In order for Jesus to destroy Satan’s power He had to remove the fear of death.  The fear of death could not be removed unless Jesus became like us.  The incarnation was the beginning of Jesus destroying Satan’s power and liberating from death’s fear.  This was culminated in His death and Resurrection.  Without Jesus becoming flesh we would always be slaves to the fear of death, but now we are liberated.

2. Jesus became flesh to become our high priest.  He is our high priest in that He makes reconciliation for His power.  This reconciliation is seen in the death of Christ for our sins.  Jesus died as our sin offering.  Jesus’ high priesthood is different than the OT high priest because Jesus both was the one making the offering and the offering Himself.  In chapter 4 we are told as well that Jesus is able to sympathize with us because He became flesh.  Those who have a high priest who provided for our sins (through His death) and knows our weaknesses.

Two powerful reasons why Jesus became flesh.  What hope they both provide!

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Sermon Plagiarism

Written By: Wesley - Dec• 20•10

Something that has always upset me is the way that some preachers plagiarize sermon material.  It seems that some glory in the idea of using a preaching outline from one of the “big name” preachers.  I have also sat in auditoriums where preachers have used a sermon that was printed off the internet or out of a sermon book.  This always made me feel uneasy.  I guess I’m not the only one that feels uneasy about this.  Below is a quote by D.A. Caron and a link to a full article where he deals with this subject.

“Taking over another sermon and preaching it as if it were yours is always and unequivocally wrong, and if you do it you should resign or be fired immediately. The wickedness is along at least three axes: (1) You are stealing. (2) You are deceiving the people to whom you are preaching. (3) Perhaps worst, you are not devoting yourself to the study of the Bible to the end that God’s truth captures you, molds you, makes you a man of God and equips you to speak for him.”

You can read the full link here.

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Christmas Myths

Written By: Wesley - Dec• 20•10

You can read the first post in the series here concerning my view (which I believe is what the Bible teaches) concerning how Christians should incorporate Christmas by clicking here.

This week I will be posting daily on the subject of Christmas.  I ask that you read my earlier post on the subject before you continue so that you can understand my rationale behind this series.  Today, I want to start out with Christmas myths.  Sadly, sometimes what we take for granted as being in the Bible isn’t there at all so it is helpful to separate fact from fiction.  I will list a few of the myths that I think often times are portrayed this year and then you can add more in the comments.

1. December 25th is the birth of Christ.  I think by now most people understand this is not the exact date, but for those who still cling to this truth I think you need to reevaluate.  In fact from what we can tell most likely the birth of Christ is no where near this date.

2. There were three wise men. Sadly, we do not know how many there were. We know there were three gifts, but not for sure how many people brought them. Also it is probably better to understand them not as wisemen, but rather as magi the kingmakers of the East.

4. The magi were kings. Notice the above point said the magi were kingmakers, but they were no kings themselves.  So the song We Three Kings is wrong on more than one level.

4. The magi were at the manger.  The text says by the time of their arrival they entered into a house to worship Jesus.  In fact at this point Jesus’ might no longer be an infant.  But rather close to two years old since by Herod’s decree all males two and younger were to be killed.

5. Jesus was in a barn or stable. As you have noticed much of our Christmas myths center around what is called the nativity scene.  Traditionally in this scene you have a barn with a baby in a manger, Joseph and Mary, Three Wise Men, and some animals.  Well we have shown already we have no clue about the number of wise-men (really magi).  And that they were not there when Jesus was in the manger.  Now we can tear down the barn.  He was laid in a manger (a feeding trough), but we are not told anything about there being a barn.  In fact barns seem to have been rare during that time.

6.  Christians have always celebrated Christmas. Sometimes we assume that something that has been done by Christians now has always been done by Christians. This is often times not the case. And with Christmas it is not the case. For at least 400 years the church had no special celebration of Jesus’ birth.

7.  There was a little drummer boy.  Just not in the text.

What would you add?

Also come back tomorrow for another post as we move past the myths of Christmas and look at what is so important about the incarnation.

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What About Christmas?

Written By: Wesley - Dec• 17•10

What should a Christian response to Christmas be?  For some people this seems almost like a non-question, or a waste of time.  Some would say Christians should embrace Christmas wholeheartedly, since it is a Christian holiday.  However, there is a flaw to this reasoning.  Namely, Christmas or the celebration thereof, is not something that we get from a teaching in Scripture.  Now this does not mean that we cannot do it, but it does mean that we have to think a little deeper.

To me then Christmas falls into a different category then say a subject like salvation or the Lord’s Supper, which do have clear teaching concerning them.

What then should we do with it?  For things which God did not include in His revelation to us I believe that Christians must deal with these things through the scope of Romans 14.  By this I mean these are matters of opinion that should not be bound upon the conscience of all Christians.  With this in mind here are some guidelines that I have:

1.  I do not believe that churches as a whole should embrace Christmas as a religious holiday.  What I mean by this is that I would be uncomfortable with a church celebrating the holiday through a special service on Christmas Day or through the church sanctioning this as a religious holiday.  If  a church does this then they force upon the conscience of the people something that God has not.  To me this goes beyond the authority that the church has.

2. I think if an individual family or families want to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, then they are within their rights.  Romans 14 says that on issues were God has not given us teaching that each of us are to make our own decision.  The only sin becomes if we do something that in someway violates the conscience God has given us. If we decide to celebrate as a special religious day, then we do not force this view on others (especially others whom we know would have a problem with them), nor do we judge those who do not celebrate as such (the same is true from the reverse, those who decide not to do it should not judge those who decide to do it).

3. Churches have three choices in my mind in dealing with Christmas.  One is to reject it all.  Although I do not agree that this is the best idea I can envision scenarios where it could be a prudent path.  For instance if you are at a church where it would cause division or undue problems by acknowledging the Christmas season (usually through a Sermon on the Subject on the Sunday around Christmas), then I would say do not do it.

Two is to embrace the holiday completely.  My first point shows that I do not think this is a viable option either.

Third is the best in my mind.  In my mind churches can redeem the holiday in a way that would be beneficial.  In this I think we should recognize that the world is thinking about Jesus during this time and we can use this time as a chance to teach them about the Son of God. This to me would be similar to using a major news event to teach on a certain subject.  It just seems prudent to me.

In the spirit of the third option I will be talking about the importance of the incarnation (Jesus becoming flesh) next week.

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