“When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13 (CSB)
Spending time with a man who was dead and then resurrected has a way of changing you. It gives you confidence in a way that transcends your training or qualifications. We may not have walked face-to-face with Jesus but we have the same opportunity to spend time with the living Savior. We have been united with him in his death, burial, and resurrection. The question is, would the people around us know that we have been with Jesus?
“For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” – Hebrews 12:3-4 (CSB)
It’s tempting to think that Jesus’ struggle against sin was somehow different than ours. That misses the fact that he was fully God and fully man. He was equally and 100 percent both at the same time without any confusion or superseding of one nature over the other. From the time of the incarnation, Jesus became the ultimate picture of what it means to be fully and truly human. So when we think we can’t resist sin’s pull any longer, we are just getting started. We have not shed blood unwillingly yet alone willingly. Our struggle has not come close to his – a struggle that he won because of the Spirit’s power at work within him. That same power is in us who believe. The Spirit guides us, enables us, and empowers us. How can we not keep fighting?
But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him by letting Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” – Exodus 5:2 (CSB)
Pharaoh’s inquiry is not sincere. He is not genuinely asking, “who is this Yahweh and why should I listen to him?” He could care less. He considers himself to be God. He will do whatever he pleases. It’s a frightening attitude to have toward the all-powerful God of the universe. Yet Pharoah is not alone. We too take this approach.
Every time we ignore God’s commands, every time we take matters into our own hands, every time we think we know better, we effectively say, “Who is the Lord?” We act as if we are God and that we are the ones who know best. Thankfully God deals differently with us than he did with Pharaoh. He gives inexhaustible grace because of what Jesus did on our behalf.
“Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us…” Luke 1:1 (CSB)
No one, even a hardened atheist, denies that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago. His influence on the course of history is undeniable. The question is not “was Jesus important?” but rather “in what way was Jesus important?” Was he crazy? Was he just a man? Or was he something more?
Luke was a doctor. He was no intellectual slouch. And after doing a thorough investigation, he concluded that what happened in the life of Jesus was not just a series of remarkable events. It was the fulfillment of events prophetically foretold long ago. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one whom God had sent to rescue his people. His coming was no coincidence. It was part of God’s eternal plan.
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.
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.
I am convinced that few things are as damaging to our spiritual growth as applying cause and effect thinking to our relationship with God. Especially as it relates to the reason behind his love for us. Because of our experience with cause and effect in the world around us, we are temped to think and act as if we must do something in order to bring about God’s love. Nothing could be further from the truth.
God loves us because he loves us. Not because we are inherently lovable. Not because we do good deeds. Not because we go to church, read the bible, pray, fast, give to the poor, evangelize, or gather regularly with other believers. He loves us because when he sees us, he sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness.