Advent Readings

Happy Monday! Yesterday was the beginning of the church season known as “Advent.”  The word “Advent” comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming.”  So during this time leading up to Christmas as we remember the incredible truth of the incarnation, God becoming a man, we also, as Christians living on the other side of Christ resurrection, look forward to our Lord’s second advent. Below are a few available readings you can use during this season of Advent.  A couple from Desiring God (both by John Piper), Good News of Great Joy and The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.  Focus on the Family has an Advent reading particularly for those with young children.  While it doesn’t include all the coloring sheets and stand alone calendar the version here has the message and activity.

“C” is for Christology

“C” is for Christology.  Now if you were to look at my doctrinal statement you would see “Theology Proper” come before Christology.  “Theology Proper” is the study of God with a particular focus on God the Father.  “Pneumatology” is the study of the Holy Spirit.  “Pneuma” is the Greek word for Spirit, wind, and breath.  While “theos” is the Greek word for God.  “Christos,” not surprisingly, is the Greek word for Christ.  The only reason I mention this is since the letter “C” comes before “T” we will look at Christology first.

With that we move forward into our study of Christology.  What is included in this?  Simply stated Christology focuses on the person and work of Christ.  That includes everything from the eternality of the Son of God to the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It includes His incarnation, teachings and ministry, atoning death (see “A”), glorious resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father.  It includes Christ’s fulfillment as true prophet, priest, and king as well as His various names.  As you can see we cannot possibly cover all of these topics in one blogpost so we will focus in on one area.  Given we just celebrated Christmas a time when we focus on the incarnation, the birth of the God-man, we will take a brief look at the one person of Christ and how He has two distinct natures, and why we as Christians must affirm this.

One Person and Two Natures

When you read church history you may pick up on a pattern.  Things will be going well for a time but someone will come along with teachings that differ from what has been understood as orthodox (or right) belief.  That was the case in regards to the one person and two natures of Jesus Christ.  The understanding that Jesus had two natures, divine (Phil. 2:6-11; Tit. 2:11-14; Heb. 1:1-4; 1 John 5:20) and human (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:31-35; 2:7; Phil. 2:6-8), but was one person was under attack in the 5th century.

Some denied the dual nature saying it was only one, a mixture of divine and human.  The divine nature essentially absorbed the human nature so you were left only with one nature. This heresy is known as “Monophysitism” introduced by Eutyches.  “Mono” means one and “physis” means nature.  Then there were those who concluded that since Jesus had two natures He must have been two persons.  This heresy is known as “Nestorianism” after Nestorius.

Against Nestorianism

Nowhere in Scripture do we see a human nature of Jesus deciding to do something that the divine nature does not want to do.  At no point does the Bible say “Jesus’ human nature did this” or “His divine nature did that” as though they were separate.  Jesus says “I” not “we” throughout His teachings and ministry.  What is interesting is when Jesus does say “we” in reference to the Father and Himself (see John 14:23).  After all the Father and the Son are each a person of the one Godhead.  We can certainly see His two natures at work when we read the gospel accounts but they are always united never divided.

Against Monophysitism

At the incarnation Eutyches held that the human nature was absorbed into the divine nature or mixed together resulting in a new nature.  Jesus was neither truly human nor truly divine by Eutyches’ understanding.  Why is this a problem?  Because if He was not truly God He would be unable to earn our salvation, and since the one who saves us is worthy of our worship He must be God because we are to worship God alone (see Ex. 20:3-6; Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:23-25; 9:11-14; 2 John 9).  If Jesus is not truly human He could not be our representative and thus not save us from our helpless state (see Rom. 5:18-19; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:16-17).  Thus His two distinct natures are essential.

The Four “Negatives” of Chalcedonian Creed

“…in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of nature’s being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons…” (portion of the Chalcedonian Creed).

Inconfusedly and unchangeably attacks the Monophysite heresy affirming there is no blending or mixture or absorption of the two natures of Christ.  Indivisibly and inseparably then attacked the Nestorian heresy affirming that while Jesus had two natures these existed in one person, without division and without separation.

Why We (Christians) Must Affirm This

One of the most profound mysteries of all is the eternal Son of God taking on flesh (a human nature) and remaining one person.  Why must we as Christians affirm this?  Because that is exactly what we read in Scripture and celebrate (or should be celebrating) each Christmas.  Therefore, we must affirm Christ is one person with two distinct natures to remain faithful to the text of Scripture, God’s word.  Otherwise we risk becoming a heretic and falling into either heresy briefly discussed above.  Jesus the Christ is the God-man, 100% God and 100% man.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).

How Will You Respond This Christmas?

Keep Christ in Christmas“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” ~Matt. 2:1-12

The story of the three wise men (magi) is commonly heard during the Christmas season.  There is a Christmas carol, “We Three Kings,” which focuses on their journey to see Jesus and you often see their presence in the nativity scene for the birth of Jesus.  The wise men indeed did visit Jesus but the Bible gives some details as to how old Jesus actually was when they visited Him (see Matt. 2:16, He was not a baby but close to two years old).  From their visit we see three responses to the news that they have come to worship the “King of the Jews.”

First we read that Herod and “all Jerusalem” were troubled at the news (v. 3).  Yet it is quite interesting that Herod the king helps these men find out where the child was (vv. 4-8).  If he was troubled at this news, why help the wise men?  After all these wise men came from the east not to worship Herod, but this child.  This question is answered for us later in the text.  Matt. 2:13 says Joseph is warned to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt.  Why?  “For Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (2:13b).  We see a few verses later Herod’s response to being tricked by the wise men, he “became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matt. 2:16).  Herod gladly helped the wise men out because misdirecting them or killing them would only mean this child would continue to live.  When Herod ascertained (to determine something with certainty) the wise men he claimed he wanted to worship the child as well, but all along his desire was to destroy a threat, a child (only two years old).  Herod thus provides one possible response we see to Jesus, the King of the Jews, and that is hostility.

Another possible response we see to Jesus, the Messiah, is indifference (or apathy).  When the three wise men share the news Herod and “all Jerusalem” were troubled.  The question before us is this, why would the chief priest and scribes be troubled at this news?  Even if they were unsure if these wise men were right or not about this King of the Jews, it is shocking they do nothing more than respond to Herod’s question.  These men knew the Scriptures inside and out.  They were waiting for the Messiah to come and, from their understanding, save the Jews from Roman rule and establish an everlasting kingdom.  Where is the excitement or at least curiosity from these leaders?  Maybe they feared man (Herod) more than they feared God.  Maybe they were more enamored by their study and knowledge of the Scriptures than the God of the Scriptures.  Whatever it may have been, their indifference to this news is shocking and incredibly inappropriate.

We see the final response from the magi who traveled a great distance to see the King of the Jews.  After seeking some direction from King Herod the star they had been following continued to guide them.  They “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” at its sight.  Why were they so excited to see a star?  I may get a little excited when I can see the Big Dipper in the sky on a clear night but I never have “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” over any star.  For these wise men it was where the star was guiding them that their response was so great.  Mary was with Jesus and these grown men upon seeing the boy “fell down and worshiped Him.”  They then offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  These wise men were among the first to recognize the proper response to Jesus, the King of the Jews.  Why is such a response warranted to Jesus?  His parents gave Him the name Jesus at the direction of an angel, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).  The third, and rightful, response to Jesus is worship.

How will you respond this Christmas?  Christmas is only nine days away, and the hustle and bustle of the season as you scramble to get that last gift, or make some cookies for a Christmas party can cause you to be indifferent to the news of Jesus’ coming.  Sure you may not intend for it too but Christmas will come and go and you may not think much about this glorious news.  Maybe this is the time of year you become a scrooge or a grinch and try crushing others joy about the Savior’s coming.  Or maybe as you focus this year on the beauty of the Messiah’s (i.e. Anointed One) coming you see Jesus for who He is, both Lord and Savior, and this leads you to worship Him.

Brief Explanation of “Come Follow Me”

Note – If you have not yet read “Come Follow Me” (post on 12/27/11) please read that first before going on to read the explanation below.

A few of the patterns found throughout the poem include the rhyming in each line (notice the disruption in the final line) as well as the structure which is based on the number of words per line (3.4/4.3/4.5/5.4/5.6/6.3.5).  The idea of having the insertion of “first this question” was to break the nice pattern we had in order to draw the reader’s attention to this line and to try and emphasize the question.

The aim of the poem was to try to include some elements of the Christmas story.  If we jump to the third line we see the emphasis of the miraculous birth of Jesus.  He was born of a virgin.  The virgin birth is a miracle and was foretold in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel (which means God with us).”  The many prophecies Jesus Christ fulfilled are staggering and the likelihood that any one person could fulfill even some of them, let alone all of them, is a number to high to count to.  Yet Jesus Christ was the one who fulfilled all these prophecies!  The “One Lord” was chosen to focus on the unity of the Trinity.  Both magi (rich & who traveled far) and shepherds (poor & who were nearby) came to Jesus.  Jesus calls both the rich and poor to come and follow Him.  The same is true for all people around the world no matter where they are from or how far off or close by they might be.

The question which is asked at the end is one which all of us should ask ourselves, “have I answered the call to follow Jesus?”  We can only be cleansed from the sins we committed against the holy and just God by the blood of Jesus Christ!  Jesus says, “I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Happy New Years Eve to all of you and praying for a great 2012!

“Come Follow Me” – A true Christmas story

At my parents church the pastor challenged the 6th graders to write the Christmas story in 25 words or less.  After hearing about this challenge I thought about doing this but once I decided to do a poem the 25 word count was set aside.  The following is the first poem I have written in quite some time but I hope you enjoy it.

Forgiveness we pleaded,

God’s Son was needed.

An act of humility,

born into humanity.

The virgin gave birth,

and our Savior came forth.

One LORD since ancient past,

prophecies fulfilled at last.

Magi came to worship Him,

shepherds nearby praised God for Him.

Jesus Christ is Savior for all,

first this question…

have you answered His call?

Explanation: To try to help you better understand the thoughts and patterns I have an explanation  which will be provided in my next post (in a few days) but I want to see what you, the reader, pick up on or like/see.

Trusting you had a very Merry Christmas!

One Word

It is that time of year when many are frantically searching for that perfect gift or trying to maneuver their way from store to store in the mall to make sure they have found everything on their list.  During the season of Christmas it is very difficult for many to not be doing something every minute of every day.  Whether it is shopping, cooking, cleaning, planning, or a number of other things we are busy.

However, when we remain busy we quickly forget the true meaning of CHRISTmas and the reason for celebrating this day.  Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  There is much to be said about the miraculous birth of Jesus and one can read about it in the first couple chapters of Matthew or Luke’s gospel.  For now, let’s focus on one verse found in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  A group of shepherds were saying marvelous things about Jesus and Mary responded by treasuring these things and pondering them in her heart (cf. Luke 2:8-18).

Christmas is only a few days away so make it a point to step away from the busyness and ponder this question in your heart.

What one word best describes my relationship with God?

Remind yourself that Christmas is about the amazing gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and ponder if your relationship with Him is thriving, stagnant, or nonexistent.  If it is thriving than let me encourage you to share the greatest gift of all this Christmas.  If however, your relationship is either stagnant or nonexistent, than allow me to encourage you to keep an open heart and mind this Christmas and ponder if a relationship with Jesus Christ is the best gift you can receive……because He is!!!

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  ~Isaiah 9:6~

Thank you Father for the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!