His Birth and Our New Birth

Jesus in Manger
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” —Matthew 1:23

His Birth in History. “…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh.
This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

by Oswald Chambers

Keeping Christmas

Three Ways Christmas Can Shape the Rest of the Year

Confronted by a bleak future wrought by his greed and cold-heartedness, Ebenezer Scrooge repents and promises the Spirit of Christmases Yet to Come, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

In these days after Christmas, as the year draws to a close and we sing those last few Christmas songs at church, we, like Scrooge, should ask ourselves, How can we keep Christmas all the year? Though there are many ways to keep the Christmas spirit alive and well after the decorations are back in storage, three things stand out to me concerning the meaning of this special time of year.

1. Generosity. As Scrooge learned in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, not only is Christmas a time for generosity, that generosity should characterize us all year long. Gift giving has long been a central Christmas tradition, and it is a fitting one, even if it is often twisted in the consumerist frenzy of the modern holiday season. To celebrate the giving of the greatest gift, the coming of the Messiah, we can be a people marked by charity towards those in need around us or around the world—in June or August, as much as in the December.

2. Faith. Mary was asked to demonstrate an incredible amount of faith when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. Not only was she to believe that somehow God would get her through the difficult months to come when her pregnancy would surely be discovered and the rumors would begin to fly, even more incredibly she was asked to believe this child she would bear was to be the long awaited Messiah and the very Son of God. The Incarnation was wholly unexpected, but somehow utterly in character for a God who again and again works through the unexpected, the humble, and the surprising to bring salvation to the world. As followers of such a God, we need faith like Mary’s, trusting that God is at work in the little things even if we can’t recognize it at the time.

3. Hope. When Jesus appears on the scene, Israel had been waiting for the Messiah for generations. The Advent season celebrates both that coming, and the long story that Jesus brought to a climax some 30 years later on a cross outside the city walls. The tale that began with Adam, which carried on through Abraham and Moses and the kings and the prophets, found its fulfillment in the Messiah. Though Jesus defeated sin and death on that cross, we too wait for the coming of the Messiah—a second advent where all things will be made right, and every tear will be wiped from our eyes.

I’ve always loved Christmas, the music, the trees, the feasts, and the parties. Every snowfall this time of year still feels enchanted (which is not how I will think about them come February). And it’s easy to feel disappointed when it all ends, but it doesn’t have to. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can honor Christmas in our hearts all year long, by showing generosity, by having faith in a God who works in unexpected ways, and by awaiting the return of the Messiah who will make all things new.

by Mason Slater

Nailed to the Cross

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” (Psalm 103:2-3)

When Christ was nailed to the cross as our atoning sacrifice, our sins—all of them—were nailed there, as well. His death paid the entire penalty, “having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). This is the theme of the thrilling third verse of “It Is Well with My Soul.”

My sin—O the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more:
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). On what basis? “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (v. 7). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

The fact that our sins are gone, “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12), and we bear them no more, gives us the courage, strength, and stamina to bear up, with His help, under the trials of this age—the theme of the song’s first two verses.

If ever the circumstances of this present life threaten to overwhelm us, we can “consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3). The certainty of our future overrides any uncertainty in this life.

“It is well, it is well with my soul.” JDM

7 Resolutions for 2015

reading the bible
Many years ago, my wife and I wrote a book on the subject of the 7 deadly sins.

It was called “A Way of Escape.” It was not a bestseller, but we did get many requests from prisoners for the book. Perhaps that had something to do with the title.

I remember one time when Bill Maher held the book up when I was a guest on his ABC-TV show. He read the title of the book and its subtitle, which is “Experiencing God’s Victory Over Temptation.” He then said, “Yuck,” as in who would want to experience victory, divine or otherwise, over temptation?

C. S. Lewis once noted, “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is….We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”

Here are seven resolutions for the new year. They are simple: Keep the 7 deadly sins in check and cultivate their opposites.

What are the 7 deadly sins? Pride—as in arrogance, haughtiness—greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth.

These are root sins that were cataloged by Medieval saints centuries ago. I call them “root sins” because they lay at the root of many other sins. People who don’t understand history have been condemned to repeat it. Why reinvent the wheel?

Although the concept of the seven deadly sins goes back many centuries ago, I daresay if you read today’s news, you will find all sorts of news stories related to people committing one or more of the seven deadly sins. Try it. Pick up your paper today, watch the evening news, or scan the news on the wire services on the Internet and see for yourself.

Even Henry David Thoreau, who lacked a Christian worldview, had a great quote on this point: “There are a hundred men hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root.”

As a list per se, the 7 deadly sins are not found in the Bible. But certainly the principles are there:

– Pride – “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (a repeated theme in Scripture).

– Greed – “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

– Envy – “Let us walk properly…not in strife and envy.”

– Anger – “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Paul adds, Don’t let the sun go down on your anger—i.e., don’t go to bed with a fight unresolved. I have often given that as advice at weddings.

– Lust – “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” Sinful desires is often translated as lust.

– Gluttony – “Do not mix with winebibbers and gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man in rags.”

– Sloth – “One who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.”

Theses sins come natural to us. Some are stronger urges for some than others. As to gluttony, I’m not much tempted by donuts. But there are certain sweets that truly knock my socks off. It’s important to note our own strengths and weaknesses. As to pride, i.e., arrogance, this thought from Paul helps keep me straight: “What do you have that you did not receive?”

There is a great poem whose author is unknown to me: “Two natures beat within my breast. The one is foul, the other blest. The one I love, the other I hate. The one I feed will dominate.” Therefore, feed your soul good and positive things. And starve the negative things.

There it is. Feed the soul with positive things. Of course, the first step is coming to know Jesus Christ—repenting of your sins and accepting Him. He gives us a new nature when we do. But that new nature is at odds with the old nature. Paul describes in Romans 7 a situation where he wants to do the right thing, but sin is right there, often getting the better of him.

But sin need not get the better of us. It is important to distinguish between being tempted and giving into temptation. Luther said temptation is like a bird flying overhead. Giving into it is like letting that bird build a nest in your hair. Jesus was tempted, but He never sinned.

There is also another way of grouping these sins, and that is in relation to love or charity. Pride, envy, and anger reflect a lack of love All these sins are hateful, and when we commit them, we harm others. The person committing them wishes to gain something, often by stepping on someone else. Greed, gluttony, and lust, which are sins of excess, reflect love of self.

– We have to have money, but the love of money is wrong.

– We have to eat, but excessively gorging ourselves is unhealthy.

– Sex in the context of marriage is beautiful, but lust perverts that which is life-giving and can make it life-destroying. Many think they are in love, but are only in lust. Lust takes. Love gives.

All of these sins generally show a lack of love and respect for our fellow man. Although with today’s material abundance, it is not true that gluttony on the part of one will necessarily cause another person to go hungry. If Laurel looks like he survived a famine, it isn’t Hardy’s fault.

So here are my 7 resolutions for the new year. Strive to keep these 7 deadly sins in check and instead cultivate their opposites.

A Christian should seek to develop humility instead of pride; contentment instead of greed; love instead of envy; self-control instead of anger; purity instead of lust; moderation instead of gluttony; and hard work instead of sloth. Choose wisely this year, and you will not regret it.

by Jerry Newcombe


The Spirit of Man Makes Him a Human Being

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11

Deep inside every man there is a private sanctum where dwells the mysterious essence of his being. It is the man’s “I am,” a gift from the I AM who created him.

The I AM which is God is underived and self-existent; the “I am” which is man is derived from God and dependent every moment upon His creative fiat for its continued existence. One is the Creator, high over all, ancient of days, dwelling in light unapproachable. The other is a creature and, though privileged beyond all others, is still but a creature, a pensioner on God’s bounty and a suppliant before His throne!

The deep-in human entity of which we speak is called in the Scriptures “the spirit of man.” Paul told the Corinthian church: “For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

As God’s self-knowledge lies in the eternal Spirit, so man’s self-knowledge is by his own spirit, and his knowledge of God is by the direct impression of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man. This reveals the essential spirituality of mankind.

It also denies that man is a creature having a spirit and boldly declares that he is a spirit having a body!

That which makes man a human being is not his body but his spirit, in which the image of God originally lay.

For by grace are ye saved through faith… it is the gift of God

For by grace are ye saved through faith… it is the gift of God. EPHESIANS 2:8
God chose His only begotten Son as the channel for His grace and truth, for John witnesses that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

The Law was given by Moses—but that was all that Moses could do. He could only “command” righteousness. In contrast, only Jesus Christ produces righteousness.

All that Moses could do was to forbid us to sin. In contrast, Jesus Christ came to save us from sin.

Moses could not save anyone—but Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord.

Grace came through Jesus Christ before Mary wept in the manger stall in Bethlehem. It was the grace of God in Christ that saved the human race from extinction when our first parents sinned in the Garden.

It is plain in history that God forgave Israel time and time again. It was the grace of God in Christ prior to the Incarnation that made God say: “I have risen early in the morning and stretched out my hands to you!”

Dear Lord, I want to be a reflection of Your grace and truth in the lives of my family and coworkers today.