Friday, January 7, 2011

Progressivism, Individualism and Covenant Church Membership

The progressivism of a modern culture produces people, thinking or unthinking, who stand not upon weighty words expressed in covenant but ever progressing ideas and morals that aim at change. This progressivism is married to an individualism in the church today that erodes the foundations of meaning she is built and lives upon. Individualism puts man and his needs at the center of existence, and all reality orbits around the individual to bring him happiness and fulfillment. If individual happiness and fulfillment is not being found then the progressive reality must be altered at whatever the cost for the glory of the individual. As a church looks back at God’s faithfulness to a particular church for five years and ahead to his promises to that church made in his Word, what will keep that church from giving way to this same progressivism and individualism?

The answer is tied to a foundation of and commitment to covenant church membership. Membership carries with it the idea of binding. The church is God’s gathering of his redeemed into a particular people. Those people become the “body” or “living stones” or “a holy nation”. Yet in all these metaphors for his church there must be something that binds them. That which binds his church together is the common confession of the one true God in his triune nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore all who have been born again by the Spirit of God for faith in Jesus Christ for salvation have the right to be called the children of God. And a people who gather together in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit calling upon the Father in Brunswick with a same people from another county, state or nation can say they are the church and members of one another. However, there is a bond in that situation that is missing. There is the bond of particular membership or covenant vows.

The bond that is necessary in the church for her to continue in faithfulness toward the future is the bond of covenant membership vows. While our nation continues not fully overthrown by progressivism two people shacking up together cannot call them selves “married”. They have not been joined together through the exchange of vows, they have only said, “I like you”. Therefore they are not bound. And the same is true in the church. A person who confesses faith in Jesus Christ as Lord through the Spirit claiming to be a child of God cannot shack up with his church. He must submit himself to the Lordship and government of his Savior by binding himself together with a particular body of other believers through the taking of vows. This idea is out of vogue and has been and the insistence on this seems antiquated. C.S.Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “The very word membership is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of all meaning. … I am afraid that when we describe a man as ‘a member of the Church’ we usually mean nothing Pauline; we mean only that he is a unit—that he is one more specimen of some kind of things as X and Y and Z.” Therefore because “membership” has lost its meaning we have no place for it in our progressive minds and lives. But membership is the declaration to the world that we belong to Christ and to a particular church that we are members of one another (Rom.12:5). A groom gathered at the alter to be married would be foolish to stand by making vows to his wife while making googly eyes with someone in the congregation, or at the reception to spend the whole time dancing with another woman. He has just declared to others and to his wife in the vows and the exchanging of rings that he belongs to her and no one else.
When the church considers covenant membership vows she must consider her covenant God. God has revealed himself as the Creating and Redeeming God. And in his creating and redeeming he carries this out in covenant. In relationship to himself he decrees, speaks and acts in perfect accord with the relationship he has to himself in his unchanging eternal nature. When he creates and redeems man he does so by way of a covenant relationship. He binds himself to the creature making promises and keeping them in love. We enter into relationship with him through his covenant of grace where he binds himself to us and us to himself. Therefore our covenant membership vows are a reflection of and are carried out in obedience to his glory. As he keeps covenant with his church so his church keeps covenant with him in living in his church in an accountable manner through member vows. To deny covenant membership vows is to deny the very nature of God and his work in creation and redemption.

Taking and living by vows in his church is necessary for all those professing faith in Jesus Christ. Progressivism tells us to abandon this antiquated way of living by words and “traditions” that are not relevant and necessary today. It says change is needed in the church and we see where these ideas have landed us today. Those words cannot be trusted. They must be changed to fit our changing culture. Individualism tells us that if a person or a group of people are not meeting your needs then leave them and go where you can offer something of yourself and get something from others for the bettering of self. Taking, renewing through repentance and faith, and continuing to live by covenant membership vows is neither progressive nor individualistic. It is faithful covenant keeping proclaiming to the world that you belong to God in Christ because of the work he has done toward you and in you. And it is professing to one another in the church that you belong to one another in love and truth.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Looking in Hope for Rest

28When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29and called his name Noah, saying, "Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands." - Genesis 5:28-29

Lamech looked in hope upon his son as the promised seed through whom the people belonging to God would find rest. Noah was the sons name meaning rest. The whole of creation had been subjected to the futility of the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve. The sin of the first man Adam brought sin and death to all men and the creation in which man lived was subjected to the futility of sin and death (Rom.8:20). Yet Lamech was and the creation is groaning for the seed of the woman to come and bring the earth and her people into a rest from sin and death, misery and destruction. In the garden there were the words of judgment and hope that given down to Lamech enabled him to believe this way. While Satan was being cursed in the garden it was promised to Adam and Eve and threatened to Satan that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Gen.3:15). This meant rest. Rest was promised in the life that the seed of the woman would bring as he put the prince of death under his feet. It is this rest that Lamech sought through his son Noah.

Noah was a type of Christ to bring rest to his family for through his line would come the one to give final rest. God saved Noah and his family in the midst of the great flood while all those on the face of the earth were destroyed. But through this sovereign judgment and grace he was working toward the rest for his people that Lamech longed for. Noah was not the final rest but he was one through whom God brought the rest closer and through whom the rest was promised. He and his family rested in the mercies of God upon the ark and when the waters were dried up they rested in his covenant love to them in reestablishing them in the earth with promise. Noah and his family died living in the creation that was exercised to the futility of the fall. Yet Noah lived and died by faith and “became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith.” (Heb.11:7). Noah was given rest by the grace and favor of God and the grace and favor of God that lead to his rest was realized through the fear of God and striving in faith through the grace of God.

Christ has come and he is the rest that Lamech looked for in his own son. His work is not finished. Though his earthly work is done, he continues to labor night and day for his peoples rest as he speaks to us, intercedes for us and rules over us from his session at the right hand of God the Father. There is coming a day when the rest will be complete in Christ. But while he is the rest for his church and we can come to him to find rest (Mt.11:28-30) we must strive to enter his rest through fear, repentance and faithful obedience through his means of grace each day and each week (Heb.4:11-16). The rest the world offers is shadowy, temporal and deceiving. The rest the Son of Man offers in his presence is real, abiding and guaranteed.

Lamech named his son in hope of rest for himself and others. But that son had to be fed, nurtured, taught and labored over and with. Christ is the Son of God who is named for ours and others rest. And when we are named in him as the children of God (Jn.1:12) we have a rest from sin and death. Yet there remains a rest for us to enter in him (Heb.4:9). We have to be fed, nurtured, taught, labored over and with by him that we may enter his rest. His grace is given that we may enter his rest by faith and that faith works through love that others for who he has and does labor may enter his rest. It is time to rest in Christ and it is time to strive to enter the rest promised us in Christ. Lamech received grace to look in hope for rest through his son and in that grace he named and nurtured. Noah received grace for his rest in the salvation of God and in that grace he preached, built and obeyed that others might come with him into the rest he received by grace. Let us strive that we and others may enter his rest.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Reading for Hope, Joy and Obedience in Christ

What will make the year 2011 a year of hope lived out in obedience to the will of God in the life of the church? A forward looking faith in the stretched out grace of God promised to his children in Christ is the way of obedience. If a people cut off the conduit of God’s grace in hope and promise that builds faith then she will shrink back in her flesh to a love of self and the world.

On the last day of the year, reading through Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s daily Bible reading plan, we come to 2 Chronicles 36. This chapter of Scripture is one of judgment and hope. We see God’s judgment on his people as Jerusalem is besieged by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and her king and some of the vessels of the house of the LORD are carried off to the Babylonian kingdom. Zedekiah is set in place by Babylon to serve as king in Jerusalem and he and all the people continue to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord obeying the abominations of the nations. Yet in the midst of this judgment God sends hope by his Word. The king is given the prophet Jeremiah to speak from the mouth of the LORD but Zedekiah would not humble himself (v.12). And the people of God still living in Jerusalem are cared for by God through the hope of his word yet they rejected his grace. We read, And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. (v.15-16). In the midst of bringing their enemies upon them in judgment and the grace of hope through his Word, the people of God continued to rebel. Therefore God brought their enemies to destroy the city, burn the house of God and tear down the walls of Jerusalem. Many of the men were killed by the sword and many others carried off from the place of promise into exile in Babylon (v.17-20).

However in the midst of this judgment upon God’s people the writer brings us to the close of this book with hope. He allows us to see God’s purposes fulfilled in the people living until the 70 years were finished as prophesied (v.21). And brings us into the history of Persia where God used King Cyrus to bring his people back into the land as he promised for the rebuilding of the temple (v.22-23). Therefore in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances in judgment we are given to see hope as the promises of God are being fulfilled. And this is where M’Cheyen’s reading plan is brilliant. We begin on the first day of the year reading again of creation showing us the glory of God as our Creator who fulfills all his decrees and promising salvation in the midst of judgment. We read in Ezra an account of God fulfilling his promises to bring his people back into the land and into his presence in the rebuilding of the temple. We read in Matthew of God sending into the world the re-Creator and Redeemer who is the long awaited Messiah and hope of Israel. And we read in Acts of the account of that redemption and re-creation reaching the peoples of Jerusalem. They had lived long waiting on the promise of life and saw it fulfilled among them in the coming of the Holy Spirit and his kingdom in the New Covenant.

In the reading of God’s Word we are able to see all that God has been for us in goodness, wisdom and power and we have the ability to see his goodness, wisdom and power set before us in promise. This is the open conduit of his grace to his people still living in the midst of a struggling life between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal.5; Rom.7&8), between the kingdom of sin and death and the kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit, and between being pilgrims and sojourners on the earth while our final rest lies in the new heavens and new earth. Therefore to live in the coming year for the glory of God in love to him and our neighbors loving his pleasure by his grace, the church cannot cut off the valve of God’s fountain of grace. She must say with the apostle Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (Jn.6:68). The church will struggle in the land as she awaits the promise. Therefore God sends her his prophets and apostles where Christ Jesus is the cornerstone (Eph.2:20) in the Word of God. She must turn to the Word of God, take it up and read, study, meditate and memorize. Then she will hold fast in the storms of life that are sure to blow against her according to God’s will, and live for his pleasure and glory as his children holy and dearly loved.

Take up and read in private and with your family or others in the family of God his Word. M’Cheyen’s reading plan is available in the church foyer or this and other plans are available online at Tolle Lege!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolved, To Keep the Lord's Day Holy

As you approach the coming of the year 2011 it is the time many Americans participate in making resolutions. One American who participated in the making of resolves was Jonathan Edwards. He began to make these resolves early in his life but not upon the New Year. He participated in this practice as a discipline toward a reformation of life. Therefore he made it his practice to go over his resolves once a week prayerfully to walk by faith for a reformation of life. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ it is our aim through his grace to work out our salvation with fear and trembling making our calling and election sure toward a reformation of life that shows forth the glory of Christ. Therefore God has provided for us the Lord’s Day. In the coming year, Lord willing, there will be 52 days God provides for his children to live toward him in his grace in worship unhindered by the affairs of the world. If we lived toward him in love calling the Lord’s Day a delight and not going on in the way of our flesh or in a love of the world what might take place in the reformation of our lives and our churches? Let us be resolved to live as a church calling the Lord’s Day a delight that we may grow each week in his grace through worship, works of necessity and the showing of mercy. Let us live toward the day and out of the day not being hindered in the keeping of the day by worldly employments or anxieties. Let us plan and purpose to gather together in the morning and evening for worship as the body of Christ. Let us be resolved to live as this day is the benefit of the grace of God we have in his salvation through Christ and not as though the keeping of the day merits God’s favor. Let us encourage and exhort one another in the coming year in keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

The following are five helpful directions for observing the Lord’s Day taken from Archibald Alexander’s, A Brief Compend of Bible Truth (1846). I encourage you to read these and seek to put them in practice as we resolve together as the body of Christ in keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

1. Let the whole day be consecrated to the service of God, especially in acts of worship, public and private. This weekly recess from worldly cares and avocations, affords a precious opportunity for the study of God's word, and for the examination of our own hearts. Rise early, and let your first thoughts and aspirations be directed to heaven. Meditate much and profoundly on divine things, and endeavour to acquire a degree of spirituality on this day which will abide with you through the whole week.

2. Consider the Lord's Day an honour and delight. Let your heart be elevated in holy joy, and your lips be employed in the high praises of God. This day more resembles heaven, than any other portion of our time; and we should endeavour to imitate the worship of heaven, according to that petition of the Lord's prayer -- "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Never permit the idea to enter your mind, that the Sabbath is a burden. It is a sad case, when professing Christians are weary of this sacred rest, and say, like some of old, "When will the Sabbath be gone, that we may sell corn, and set forth wheat?" As you improve this day, so probably will you be prospered all the week.

3. Avoid undue rigour, and Pharisaic scrupulosity, for nothing renders the Lord's Day more odious. Still keep in view the great end of its institution; and remember that the Sabbath was instituted for the benefit of man, and not to be a galling yoke. The cessation from worldly business and labour is not for its own sake, as if there was any thing morally good in inaction, but we are called off from secular pursuits on this day, that we may have a portion of our time to devote uninterruptedly to the worship of God. Let every thing then be so arranged in your household, beforehand, that there may be no interruption to religious duties, and to attendance on the means of grace.
As divine knowledge is the richest acquisition within our reach, and as this knowledge is to be found in the word of God, let us value this day, as affording all persons an opportunity of hearing and reading the word. And as the fourth commandment requires the heads of families to cause the Sabbath to be observed by all under their control, or within their gates, it is very important that domestic and culinary arrangements should be so ordered, that no one be deprived of the opportunity of attending on the word and worship of God which this day affords. If we possess any measure of the true spirit of devotion, this sacred day will be most welcome to our hearts; and we will rejoice when they say, "Let us go unto the house of the Lord." To such a soul, the opportunity of enjoying spiritual communion with God will be valued above all price, and be esteemed as the richest privilege which creatures can enjoy on earth.

4. Whilst you conscientiously follow your own sense of duty in the observance of the rest of the Sabbath, be not ready to censure all who may differ from you in regard to minute particulars, which are not prescribed or commended in the word of God. Beware of indulging yourself in any practice which may have the effect of leading others to disregard the rest and sanctity of the Sabbath. Let not your liberty in regard to what you think may be done, be a stumbling block to cause weaker brethren to offend, or unnecessarily to give them pain, or to lead them to entertain an unfavourable opinion of your piety.

5. As, undoubtedly, the celebration of public worship and gaining divine instruction from the divine oracles, is the main object of the institution of the Christian Sabbath, let all be careful to attend on the services of the sanctuary on this day. And let the heart be prepared by previous prayer and meditation for a participation in public worship, and while in the more immediate presence of the Divine Majesty, let all the people fear before him, and with reverence adore and praise his holy name. Let all vanity, and curious gazing, and slothfulness, be banished from the house of God. Let every heart be lifted up on entering the sanctuary, and let the thoughts be carefully restrained from wandering on foolish or worldly objects, and resolutely recalled when they have begun to go astray. Let brotherly love be cherished, when joining with others in the worship of God. The hearts of all the church should be united in worship, as the heart of one man. Thus, will the worship of the sanctuary below, be a preparation for the purer, sublimer worship in the temple above.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Meditation, Celebrating Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in the church and the culture takes many different forms. In the coming week we will gather with church members, family and friends to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ in various ways. Some of these ways will be more a reflection of the church conforming to the world and it’s rebellious culture than it will be a conforming to Scripture. The ancient church is the inventor of celebrating Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ. God has revealed to us in his Word the incarnation of the Son of God in his birth, but he has not ordained a day to celebrate that truth or regulated what we are to do on that day. Does this mean then that the church should not celebrate Christmas because it is not given to us in the Scriptures? I don’t think so because the incarnation of Jesus Christ is worthy of celebration. But how do we do it without being idolatrous?

The governor of the Plymouth settlement in 1620, William Bradford, struggled with this matter. In his record of the Plymouth settlement he records a Christmas day in 1621. He went to work on that day because it was not a Lord’s Day. Other men who had come from England that year believed it to be against conscience to work on that day. However when William Bradford found them later in that day playing “sport” he denied them that right saying it was against his conscience that they could play on that day while others worked. He commanded them to obey their consciences because “if they made the keeping of that day a matter of devotion, let them remain in their houses; but there should be no gamming and reveling in the streets.” William Bradford and these men were seeking to act as their consciences were ruled by some authority. And this is an important way for the church to act, but the question is what authority governs how we celebrate the birth of Immanuel?

Samuel Davies, an 18th century southern Presbyterian minister stated, “I do not set apart this day (Christmas day) for public worship, as though it had any particular sanctity, or we were under any obligations to keep it religiously. I know no human authority, that has power to make one day more holy than another, or that can bind the conscience in such cases. And as for divine authority, to which alone the sanctifying of the days and things belongs, it has thought it sufficient to consecrate one day in seven to a religious use, for the commemoration both of the birth of this world, and the resurrection of its great Author, or of the works of creation and redemption. This I would religiously observe; and inculcate the religious observance upon all. But as to other days, consecrated by the mistaken piety or superstition of men, and conveyed down to us as holy, through the corrupt medium of human tradition, I think myself free to observe them or not, according to convenience, and the prospect of usefulness; like other common days, on which I may lawfully carry on public worship or not, as circumstances require.” The church must be careful based upon God’s authority to think rightly about our celebration of the Christ of Christmas. The church must consider her Christmas celebrations as “useful” to the end that they allow us to glory in our King and Savior, and not in ourselves, a day, or a feeling produced by nostalgia. With this in mind let me offer the following four considerations from Luke 2:17-20 on how we may celebrate Christmas.

In Luke 2:17-20 we read, 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

First, the church can celebrate Christmas by telling others what has been revealed to her about the Christ. We see the shepherds seeing the Christ born in Bethlehem as it had been told them by the angels. And upon their seeing they made known to others what they had been told about him. Celebrating Christmas is an expression of the joy one has in the Christ of Christmas told publically to any who would hear. What the church would tell is not what the church has invented or believed to be true for them. The church tells others what has been revealed by God about the person and work of her Savior and Lord. Let us celebrate Christmas by telling others of the Christ of Christmas as revealed in Scripture.

Second, the church is to celebrate Christmas by being amazed with the truth that has been revealed about the Christ of Christmas. As the shepherds told what had been revealed to them to others those who heard this good news were in wonder, awe or amazement. This is the proper way to respond to the glorious truth of the good news of great joy for all peoples. We should take time not only to listen to the truth about the Christ of Christmas but to be amazed by what has been revealed to us concerning him. Reading this week in Zechariah 3 I stood amazed at the revelation of the Branch (v.8) and his taking away the iniquity of his people in a day (v.9). The Branch came to serve and not be served and give his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:28). He existed in eternity, came into time and space, lived, died and was raised to be the joy of all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike. Amazing love how can it be, that the Son of God should live, die and be raised for me as I glory in him.

Third, the church can celebrate Christmas by treasuring in their hearts all that is revealed to them about the Christ of Christmas. It is treasuring truth that allows us to be amazed by truth. Mary treasured up the things that were told to her meaning that she stored them away. She kept them in mind as a continual action of her heart. Treasuring the truth means she loved this truth about the Son. This is an important way for American Christians to celebrate Christmas where we are so apt to treasure the gifts of the Son rather than the truth about the Son of God. Treasuring Christ means that we must meditate study, think on and read about the Christ of Christmas in order to be thinking rightly about Christmas.

The fourth way the church can celebrate Christmas is by completing her joy in God by praising and thanking him for all that he is for her in Christ Jesus. These people returned praising God whom they knew as he revealed himself to them and whom they enjoyed in their knowing. Therefore they glorified him at the coming of the promised Messiah. They praised him for his glorious grace (Eph.1:14) and it was for this that they were made and this is why he revealed his truth to them.

Come let us worship the LORD this Christmas telling others of his wondrous works, standing amazed at his grace, singing and making melody to him in our hearts as we treasure what is true of him, and overflowing with joy in him who has glorified himself to us in the Christ of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Works and Promise

Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts,…6For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:4, 6-7)

When circumstances are dark and it seems hope is lost it is hard to work. God’s people were in the darkness of exile under the rule of a foreign king and the hope of the glory of Israel seemed lost. However, God called on his people to be strong and work hard and founded that calling in promise. He promised he was with them and that he would glorify again the place of his presence among them in the Temple. Their strength was zapped by sadness and brokenness over having experienced judgment at the hands of their enemies. They were defeated and like an athlete with his head in his hands sitting on the bench knowing they were on the low end of the scoreboard they had no strength. Their hope lay in the presence of God among them. But they had denied his presence in their false worship and God had brought destruction on the place, the Temple, where he had promised to dwell among them in power, wisdom and goodness for his glory and their good. Their hope and strength were swallowed up by their own sin, judgment and the power of another nation.

It is in this void of self sufficiency that God calls his people to work in the sight of his promise. The strength is the Lord’s and the promise that secures their hope is from him. It is in this time that God is glorified for his sufficient grace toward his people when she lives in his strength with her eyes upon his promise. As the church is the place of his dwelling, the place of his presence and glory, so he promises to build his household (Mt.16:18). His church is the dwelling place of his presence by the Spirit (Ezek.36:27) and so he promises to finish the work that he has begun in her (Phil.1:6). He will shake all the nations with the power of the gospel to save his children who are perishing (Jn.10: Jn.10:16; Rom.1:16) that his glory will fill all the earth (Hab.2:5, 14).

Therefore his church can be strong in the strength he provides (Eph.6:10) and go to work in his sufficient grace (2Cor.12:9) in the way he builds his church. She can go to work around his word bringing every thought and action captive to his will revealed in his Word (2Cor.10:5; Mt.28:20). She can go to work feeding and being nurtured on his wisdom, power and goodness revealed in his Word. She can feed on her on Head Christ Jesus and commune together around his sacraments (Acts 2:42). She can work together in love singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together in her heart (Col.3:16). She can fall upon her face in prayer depending upon God for all things. She can swing wide the doors of hospitality to one another to encourage, exhort and bear one another’s burdens (Gal.6:1-2). She can tell others of the reason for the hope that is within her spreading the good news of the gospel (1Pe.3:15). She can teach, preach and counsel to build up the body of Christ to maturity (Eph.4:11-13). She can love kindness and mercy and compassion toward the oppressed, the hungry, the poor, the sick, the sorrowing, and the afflicted (Micah 6:8). She can be strong and go to work for the glory of the Lord rests upon her and lives in her in the Spirit and her union with Christ, and the promise of more and more grace lies before her in all that God promises.

May the church get her head out of her hands and walk in the way of strength and promise that is in Christ Jesus doing the work he has called her to by the grace he provides for every work along the way. 20Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb.13:20-21)

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Meditation, Christ's Eternal Goodness

What is Christmas for? Christmas is a good time to meditate and think upon what God reveals to us in the glory of Christ. Christmas is for the continual remembrance that God has loved his own children from everlasting to everlasting. How deep is the Father’s love for us? How vast and unmeasured is his love for us in the Christ of Christmas? God reveals the vastness of his goodness to us in Christ in these words, He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (1Peter 1:20). When we consider the Christ of Christmas we so often think of his birth or his becoming flesh. As Peter says here, “was made manifest in the last times…”. And when we do we consider his becoming flesh so that he might become sin for us on the cross to purchase our redemption (2Corinthians 5:21). This is important for us to meditate and think upon both in reflection upon our own condition as to why we need a Savior and upon the glory of that Savior who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). However, it is also important to look at the depth of love that is revealed to us at Christmas in the eternal goodness of God toward us.

How far back must we go to see the Christ of Christmas? Is he only visible in a manger several thousand years ago or must we search further? Peter tells us “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world…” The word “forknown” comes from a Greek word proginosko. It contains a stem pro meaning before and another word ginosko meaning to know. Therefore God planned and purposed in his eternal counsel the Son who would be the lamb to take away sin and be manifest to his people (1Peter 1:19-20). God is proclaiming his grace in an amplified manner by telling us of his everlasting love toward us in his Son. Psalm 103:17 proclaims, The steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting. And when we consider that love from everlasting we see the Son of God who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3) is in the heavens before the foundations of the earth ready to redeem a people yet unborn. The Christ of Christmas is the Word made flesh who, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3). The eternal nature of the Son of God is for the eternal purpose of God to redeem a people who will glorify him for his infinite and eternal goodness.

Christmas is not a new idea on the part of God. Christmas should resound in our ears as not even ancient but eternal. The churches faith at Christmas must not rest on something novel like a God who sees a people in trouble and sends them a nice little baby under a starry sky who would become a great symbol of his love. God did not at last in his workshop come up with a great idea to help man out after several thousand years of existence in misery. The Christ of Christmas is to be trusted in as our eternal salvation, the one who has always been our salvation even before the world began.

But someone may ask, “Why would God employ a Mediator or Redeemer ever before he needed one?” To answer from God’s vantage point, because he foresaw that Adam would not stand long in righteousness. Therefore in his foreknowledge he ordained that Jesus Christ would be the Redeemer of his children whom he loved from everlasting to everlasting. As John Calvin says, “In this there shines forth more clearly the unspeakable goodness of God, in that he anticipated our disease by the remedy of his grace, and provided a restoration to life before the first man had fallen into death.” God shows forth his goodness to his creatures by shinning out of the light of eternity his foreknown Son to be the Redeemer of his own people living as those in the filth and stench of their own wicked sinfulness. He reveals to us this truth not to show us that there was something in us that would merit his coming to us, but to show us that he loved us ever before we thought about or loved him. He loved his own from eternity in the eternal Son of God who is the only Redeemer and Mediator between God and man.

A merry Christmas will be had by those who take up their joy in the God who has loved them from all eternity in the Christ of Christmas. Take time this Christmas to think and meditate upon the everlasting goodness of God in Christ manifest to us and our children. And tell others what Christmas is for, to live in the enjoyment of all that God is for us in the Christ of Christmas.