Going Deeper with the Message:
Knowing God Through His Word
by: Ben Biles
On Sunday, Andrew talked about the response, or lack thereof, of the Jewish religious leaders to the birth of Christ. These were men trained extensively in the Scriptures, having memorized the whole of the Old Testament writings. Therefore, they definitely knew of God’s promise to send a Messiah who would turn the nation back to God and restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory. Yet, when God came in the flesh, they failed to react to news of His birth. As Andrew said, even though they knew the word of God, they didn’t know the God of the Word.
It’s easy to point fingers at the religious leaders whom we often see as the villains of the Gospels, but the real reason they went wrong is because their view of God was built on their own understanding. They expected God to move and act in accordance with their view, and when God turned out to be quite different from their expectation, they rejected Him. What might have started from a desire to know God slowly and gradually turned into selfish ambition as they realized they could gain power through their spiritual knowledge. When Jesus calls them out in the Gospels for being fake, they plot ways to kill Him, and eventually crucify Him.
We should take this error to heart, for we could easily fall into the same trap. People have often tried to fit God into predefined boxes of what God should be like. But human ideals and imaginations for God do not equal God. Instead, we find the truth of God revealed through his written Word and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ. He is mysterious and mighty, holy and loving. Yet, we can only begin to understand who God is and what He does when we align our beliefs about God with what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture.
We must base our understanding of God on what is written in Scripture, not solely on the words of spiritual people. One of the most common and terrifying commands in the New Testament is to watch out for false teachers, and the only defense against false teaching is a strong knowledge of the Bible. So, we must be diligent to search out the truth of Scripture and, in the process, develop a deeper relationship with the God who has graciously and lovingly revealed Himself to us, walking confidently in His truth.
Living out the Message:
Preparing for Christmas: Joy
By Ben Biles
Last Thursday, we stated that our goal for the Christmas season is to prepare our hearts for the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. We started by talking about our hope in His return. Just as the nation of Israel longed for their redemption before the first coming of Christ, we too await our Savior’s return. At Christmas, we simultaneously remember His miraculous birth 2000 years ago and look forward to His coming again. We celebrate that God came to earth as an infant and that His arrival is reason for rejoicing. But also, Christmas is a season where we experience longing as we long for His return. For when Jesus does return, he will make all things new and this produces in us hope.
In this, we approach the “Already/Not Yet” paradox in our faith. Here’s what I mean. Jesus has already come once, but he has not yet come back to reign as King over the world. Sin and death have already been defeated, but they have not yet been destroyed completely. Believers are already saved from sin, but not yet perfected from sin. Some promises of God already have been fulfilled, but some have not yet. We live in the in-between of ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’
The same is true with Christmas. Christ has already come once and through Him we experience salvation. Our remembrance fills us with joy and is complemented by the hope we have in Jesus’ future coming. But today, I wanted to emphasize the believer’s Joy in God and what He has already done. Why joy? Because joy is the expression of the heart that truly understands its position in Jesus Christ. When we fully believe that God loves us and that we are eternally secured in His salvation, we naturally respond with joy. We were once lost and now we are found. In response to God’s grace, we live joy-filled lives as a testimony to His salvation.
This is why Paul encourages believers to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). Our joy is produced from an everlasting thanksgiving to God for the eternal life we have found through Him. It gives us the motivation to pursue more of God and to share God with others—so that they also can experience the same joy. Christmas is characterized by joy because we celebrate what God has done in the past and what He will do in the future. This week, reflect on your joy in God.