In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) – Acts 1:15 (ESV)
It started with a Jewish carpenter from a dusty town called Nazareth. His life, death, and resurrection proved that he was exactly who he claimed to be – God in the flesh. From 120 to over 2 billion professing believers today. It’s not logical. It’s not because of marketing. It’s not because the becoming a Christian made life easy. It’s because Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Through the Spirit, the early church withstood every opposition brought against it. The church multiplied and spread throughout the world. And now, almost 2,000 years later, here we are.
Tranquility. Peace. Perfection. Lies. Blame. Chaos. Jealousy. Murder. Wickedness. Destruction. Drunkenness. Arrogance. More lies. Homosexuality. Supernatural destruction. Incest. More lies. Sibling rivalry. Deception. More deception. Rape. More sibling rivalry. False accusations. Unjust punishment. Famine. Migration.
It’s a plot line so twisted not even Hollywood could touch it. But it’s not the product of a director or screen writer. It’s the story that unfolds in the first book of the Bible. Yet even in the midst of this depravity, hope shines through. Redemption is needed. Redemption will be offered. God will intervene. And through his gracious election of one man, salvation will be available for all who believe.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
We tend to get it wrong when it comes to good deeds. We assume that our upright actions garner favor and blessing from God. We barter with God, “I’m doing this for you so I expect something in return.” We may not explicitly say that but it’s there under the surface. Then we take our good deeds and use them as an opportunity to get glory from others. We post our acts for the world to see in the hopes of getting a few digital pats on the back. Again, we may not consciously think about that but it’s there. But our approach is backwards.
Our good deeds are for the glory of God and the benefit of others. They are a tangible way in which we love our neighbor. Even when no one is watching or knows what we have done, they are how we shine light. And when we approach our good deeds from this perspective, all the glory goes straight to the only one who deserves it.
Why does the trinity matter? What does it have to do with anything? Every Christian has asked questions like that at some point. And while “everything” would be an appropriate answer, here is a more specific one.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 (ESV)
Father, Son, and Spirit each play a distinct yet inseparable role in our salvation. The Father sent the Son to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins and raised him from the dead to give us he hope of eternal life. The Son, together with the Father, sent the Spirit to seal our salvation and to enable us to walk in newness of life. Only a God who eternally exists as three in one can save in this way.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. – Proverbs 21:2 (ESV)
We naturally assume we are right. We assume our opinions are right. We assume our decisions are right. We assume our motives are right. But in the end, only one knows what is truly going on inside of us. Only one knows whether our heart is in the right place. Only one can see past the facade. And only one perfectly loves us through it all.
We forget. It’s not that we try to do it or mean to do it. We simply forget. Time passes. Memories are replaced by newer ones. And so we forget. We forget all the times God has provided. We forget all the times he came through when we least expected it. We forget how he sustained us in the dark times. We forget that every good thing comes from him.
Maybe that’s why Scripture calls us over and over to remember. Israel was quick to forget. God called them to remember his mighty works. We are quick to forget. Jesus calls us to remember his life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. We forget. And when we do, we are invited to remember. Because even though we forget, he remembers.
The lights, the decorations, the smells, the food – Christmas looks and sounds like the most wonderful time of year. It’s portrayed as a season that represents all that’s good and right in the world. It’s seen as a time when humanity is capable of unusual kindness and goodwill. Yet none of that captures the reason Christmas exists.
The eternal, second person of the Trinity did not take on flesh because of all that is right in the world. He did it because there was no other way for God to save his people from their sins. He did it because of all that’s wrong with the world. He did it because we were powerless and without hope. And so in a small town, in unsanitary conditions, a baby named Jesus was born to teenage parents. God himself had come to save his people from their sins. He had come to give us hope that one day, all the good that we long for at Christmas will fully and completely come true.