31.12.14

The Promise of Sufficient Grace in the New Year -


“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
-Hebrews 10:23

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

- John Newton, Amazing Grace, verse 4

Q. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

- Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question and Answer 36

“We shall bring our Lord much glory if we get from Him much grace. If we have much faith, so that I can take God at His Word…I shall greatly honor my Lord and King.”
- Charles Spurgeon, quoted in John Piper’s Future Grace, p. 9

“In other words, on the basis of the work of Christ, the power of the redeemed future has been released to act in the present in the person of the Holy Spirit.”
- N. Q. Hamilton, The Holy Spirit and Eschatology in Paul, quoted in Anthony Hoekema’s, The Bible and the Future, p.58


Dear Friends,

To say that 2014 was a tumultuous year is a colossal understatement. What can we expect from 2015? Will this next year be more of the same? Will it be better? Or will it be worse? While we don't know the future, one thing we can be assured of is the faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God no matter what this next year holds. For some of us this new year will bring extraordinary trial and for others extraordinary blessing, and yet for all of us there will be an opportunity to prove God’s faithfulness again and again. The Cross stands as the declaration of God’s intention and commitment to show us His favor. In the brutal death of His Son and the Son’s subsequent resurrection everything that could be used for our harm will only redound to our good. This is not some perverse prosperity theology. This is the truth.  Because of the sin-bearing satisfaction of Jesus Christ and God's own love for His Son...God has promised good to us. No matter what comes in 2015 we mustn’t waver, because He who promised is, and will always be, faithful. Consider the God-exalting, Son-crucifying, Spirit-indwelling, grace-magnifying, covenant-keeping love the Father has for those He calls His own,

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:32-37)

Come what may, I'm expecting an abundance of sufficient, God-exalting grace in 2015,

-DJM

(adapted from a 2008 blog post)

23.12.14

The Good News of Christmas -

The good news of Christmas is that because of the Incarnation (God becoming man) and the subsequent Crucifixion and Resurrection there is no longer a vast chasm that separates us from God.  In the humility and condescension of God becoming man He invites us to join His household.  For those who trust in Jesus Christ they become participants in God’s own family.  He makes them His own.  He gives them His name.  He declares them ‘mine.'  Because of Christmas God transforms slaves into sons.  He takes the rebellious and the law-breaker and makes of them sons and daughters by writing His name upon them and adopting them into His household.  And then He changes them by giving them His Spirit to transform them from once stubborn enemies to glad and obedient children.  It doesn’t happen all at once, but it does happen.  And in this they cry out to God not as judge, but as Father. He wraps them in robes of righteousness and clothes them with the pleasing obedience of His dear Son.  They become an heir of God Himself.  This is the incredible…even indescribable good news of Christmas!

-DJM

Advent 2014

What's the Big Deal with Christmas?


What’s the big deal with Christmas? I mean, you all probably know that Jesus was likely not born on December 25th, right? We don’t really know for sure when He was born. It’s likely close to that date, but no one knows for sure. But what about all of the other stuff going on? There are Christmas specials on TV. There are people in town with Christmas lights up. And there are decorations on display at the local stores. But what’s the big deal? Why is there something instead of nothing? Why don’t we celebrate “Merry Snow Day”? Or “Happy Leaves Falling Off the Trees Season”? Why Christmas, and what’s the big deal?

My suspicion is that if you asked most people on the street what Christmas is all about, they would respond with “family time” or “presents”, or “days off of school.” What is the big deal with Christmas? What about your own answer? If I were to ask you about Christmas, what could you tell me about it? Some might say, “It’s when we celebrate Jesus’ birth”, and that would be true. But is there more than that to it?

What’s the big deal with a baby being born? Babies are born all the time aren’t they? What was different about this baby? What was so special about him? Do you have any idea? What about being born of a virgin? That would be a big deal, but that isn’t it. He was born in a manger, and wasn’t that significant? He was born where all the cows and sheep slept. He was born in a barn. Is that the big deal? Okay, what about the shepherds that saw a number of angels, and then the angels told them certain things about the baby. That’s a pretty big deal right? It’s not everyday your minding your own business as a shepherd and a bunch of angels appear and tell you about a special baby being born. But, is that it? Could it be that Christmas is a big deal because of the Magi? Those were the guys that were the wise men. They were the ones that brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn baby. That’s a big deal, right? He must have been a pretty special baby for men of learning and wisdom to bring him gifts. Is that it?

I’m going to give you a big word to confound your friends and amaze your parents. When they ask you what you learned in school today, you can tell them this new word. Here’s how it’s spelled, i-n-c-a-r-n-a-t-i-o-n. Christmas is a big deal because of The Incarnation. Do you know what it means? Incarnation means the "act of being made flesh" or “enfleshment”. Hold your left hand up and shake it. Now pinch it. Did it hurt? It hurt because you are made out of flesh. You aren’t a ghost or a disembodied spirit. You are made out of flesh and blood and bones. But you’ve always been made out of flesh and blood and bones. You were never a disembodied spirit. Christmas is a big deal because a long time ago in a faraway place God took on flesh and blood and bones. God became a man. Christmas is a big deal because it’s about the Incarnation. God, who had never known what it was like to actually be made of flesh and blood and bones, became like us in Jesus Christ. He could have shaken his hand and pinched it and it would have hurt him. He became like you and me. Christmas is a big deal because God came in the flesh as a helpless child. In the mystery of the Trinity the eternal Son took on flesh and became a tiny infant.

Now, if you are smart kids, and I am assuming you are, you should be asking yourselves, why? Not, why you are smart kids, but why the Incarnation? Why did Jesus have a body like ours and what difference would it make? Some religions say that Jesus was just a spirit. They say he was just a spirit and not a body, because it would be bad if God had a body. But that isn’t what the Bible says. The Bible says in John 1:14, “...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” In Jesus Christ God lived here on earth in a real body made of flesh and blood and bones and nerves and emotions. You could touch him, he could speak to you in an audible voice, and he slept and ate and did everything like you and me. But why? Why did he do this? Why did he become a man?

In Jesus Christ God became a man, but there’s something he did not do. He did not sin. The fact of the matter is that all of us have a terrible problem. It’s not just me, it’s all of us. We do the one thing that Jesus did not do. We sin. In fact we sin every day, and not just once a day, but a number of times in a day. We think bad thoughts, we say bad things, we do bad things every day, and day after day. Christmas is a big deal because of the Incarnation. God became a man and not just any man; he became a man without sin. He never had a bad thought, he never said a bad thing, and he never did anything bad. He was always doing everything at all times in perfection to his Father’s will. Have you ever watched the movie Narnia or read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Do you remember the part where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus and Mr. Tumnus is plotting how to kidnap Lucy? He finally comes to his senses and begins to confess the plot to Lucy and he begins to tell her about the White Witch that has cast a spell on Narnia. Mr. Tumnus says of the White Witch,

“Why, it is she that has got all of Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter, and never Christmas; think of that!”


Without the Incarnation, without God coming in the flesh, it would always be winter and never be Christmas. Something had to be done with our sin. A price had to be paid to satisfy the wrath of God for our sin. Seven hundred years before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah told about the coming of Jesus. In Isaiah 7:14-15 he said,

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (And)… he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.”

The name Immanuel means “God with us”. And then before Jesus’ birth an angel appeared to Joseph and told him not to be afraid. And then the angel then began telling him what would happen to Mary and said,

“ “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:21-23)

What’s the big deal with Christmas? The big deal with Christmas is that God became a man in the Incarnation, and he lived a perfect life of obedience, and died on a Cross to satisfy the Father’s wrath for our sins, and then he rose again from the dead. The big deal about Christmas is the Incarnation, and the big deal about the Incarnation is the Cross and the Resurrection. You see, without Christmas there is no Easter, and without Easter there is no hope for sinners. It’s all part of the same story, the story of redemption, where God shows mercy to those that are His enemies...those like you and me. What’s the big deal with Christmas? The big deal is that hope for us has come in the Incarnate Son of God. As Christians we ought to celebrate the Incarnation like nobody else. Let the celebration begin….


-DJM 

(This was a message given at Firm Foundation Christian School in December of 2007)