John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We all know about keeping schedules don’t we? They depend on arriving at the right place at the right time. That’s why the word “came” defined the reality of the first 5 verses of John for me. There was a plan! There was a time! There was a schedule! There was a baptist and there was a Jesus!
* John “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
* Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet …to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—…born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen…the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”
16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
and that’s still on the schedule. Don’t miss it!
You might wonder why a chapter about baptism and the confession of sin for repentance would possibly include “Jesus the Messiah,” the perfect, sinless Son of God. I wondered too, so I read this chapter and made my notes with that in mind. I think God purposely included the baptism of his perfect, sinless Son in his plan of confession so we might better understand what the Baptist meant when he said “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Our confession is more than a one-time event.
That makes Jesus’s confessions that day important to think about because he was perfect. These are only my imagined confessions Jesus might have made based on Marks words but maybe they’re still examples to follow that can make our confession an ongoing connection to that perfect Spirit.
• The Confession of Baptism
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
• The Confession of Spirit
10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
• The Confession of Belief
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
• The Confession of Followers
17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.
• The Confession of Authority
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
• The Confession of Sacrifice
44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NIV
I read the Scripture from Romans early Sunday morning before church. It caught my eye because my last post had been about letting our history become His Story in the New Year. I thought of history as being wiped away to clear the slate for a new year. Then I went to church and heard “The promise of salvation doesn’t always look like what we expect or want.” It wasn’t a sermon about wiping away the unexpected and unwanted interruptions that happen in every life. It was a message of recognizing the promised presence of Jesus with you in the midst of the worst news or circumstances.
Later that day I read this from Henri Nouwen’s Creative Ministry: “We are…invited to look at our history as the sequence of events that brought us to where we are now and that help us to understand what it means to be here at this moment in this world.”
History has impact on our present, our future and our imperfection. The ultimate unwanted and unexpected interruption of the perfection God created happened way back in Genesis 3. Even in the consequences that followed that sin I see God’s hope for history in His unexpected provision for those first two people. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” There are many other examples of people in the Bible who endured the consequences of their own imperfection but found strength to hope in God’s Word.
We’ve just completed the celebration of God’s ultimate solution for our imperfection, the birth of Jesus Christ. He’s our evidence of “everything that was written in the past.” The details of the promise of our salvation won’t always work out as we expect or want. We’re still dealing with the consequences of imperfection but we can trust and depend on God’s perfect solution “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Faith in Jesus is evidence of God’s hope for our life and that makes it a part of His Story.
“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the mashiach [Messiah], and though he may tarry, still I await him every day.” [Click here to read Rambam’s 13 Principles of Jewish Faith then click the word(show) to view.]
We know the desire of Israel’s heart was that Messiah would come as a powerful and conquering King. Remember that? They were tired of war but who would choose a helpless baby to win a battle? Answer: God himself. I hope you’ll click on the link above and read all 13 Principles. They are powerful and beautiful. I think they will surprise you as they did me. Moses’ and the prophets are still our truth. The big change for us is the tense in that twelfth principle has changed for us from “will” to “has.” That one “small” variation is what we’re celebrating in this season of preparation.
Now we are in the “New” Testament and Paul tells us we are still at war. We fight a war against strongholds, arguments and pretensions that keep people separate from the knowledge of God. We fight hoping to capture their minds and hearts forever. This is the reason we remember and celebrate this season: God’s own gift “has” come with the power to assure our confidence in Him and ensure the certainty of His promise to us that insures our success. Today Scripture is the final word for us.
“II Corinthians 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
II Corinthians 8:1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
Paul’s words about gifts brought this “gifting” process to mind: * Choosing, * Presenting, * Receiving.
* Choosing: God chose a part of himself, Jesus Christ, to be his gift to us and for our celebration.
* Presenting: God chose to present himself to us in a surprise package for an unusual reason. A baby is a far more intimate gift than the might be expected from the supreme ruler of the universe. God chose intimacy not intimidation and possibilities not preconceived ideas as his preparation for us to receive.
* Receiving: God chose and presented his gift. Now all that’s left is opening that surprise package filled with growth, change, nurture, grace and His own will for us to give ourselves back to him. The gift has been successfully delivered. Open it and follow the example of the church at Macedonia to keep the gift going. “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”
I Corinthians 7:8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
Paul’s reference to sorrow caused by his letter has been my Advent preparation trigger. I read his words as if they were God’s words. Sorrow began in that place of creation where those first two people lost their perfect status as companions of God. Life would go on…and on…and on…and that lack of perfection would continue to be a source of sorrow, so God wrote a letter to his people on tablets of stone. That “letter” clearly showed the solution to worldly sorrow but their damaged mindset was still the problem. They “thought” the answer to their loss of perfection, and the sorrow it caused, was to be more committed to trying harder.
Fast forward from God’s letter to that “first season” we now call Advent. God was going to show his creation a new message: Jesus Christ, Son of God born as the antidote to the poison of man’s damaged mindset. Jesus Christ, Son of God born as the image of restored perfection and new life. Jesus Christ, Son of God born to overcome the futility of worldly sorrow and reveal the power of Godly sorrow. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…” Jesus Christ, Son of God, born to be our Christmas Joy.
Promises from Chapter 6: “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” …I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.” [NIV]
II Corinthians 7:1 Having such great promises as these, dear friends, let us turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves, living in the wholesome fear of God, giving ourselves to him alone. [TLB]
There was a day when we understood those promises of God, turned away from our sin and believed his words: “I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” That first “turning away” brought us the life-changing relief of grace. It was a spectacular beginning but that’s exactly what it was…the first day of the rest of our life.
The relief of grace is God’s gift of courage to look at the challenges of the rest of our life and be willing to confess we still need courage to “turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves… giving ourselves to him alone.”