Wonderful, Living God, thank you for accompanying me this day. You have been my strength, even when I did not know you were near. Continue to be my refuge this evening. Deliver me from harm and keep me safe as I rest for the day ahead. God, forgive us for what we have not done, for what we should have done, and for what we have done that we should not have done. Let us rest in your grace this night. In the blessed name of Jesus the Christ I pray. Amen.
Daily Archives: December 30, 2021
Psalm 128 (ESV)
Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the Lord
128 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways!
2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.
5 The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
6 May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!
2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 (ESV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ – we are celebrating and remembering something far more than merely an historical event. True, the birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh, happened at a specific time and in a specific place in human history. But this event had far reaching implications that if we simply view it as a “special time” in which a baby was born, we will miss the depth and breadth of what truly happened. When the Incarnate One came to this earth, he came not for more of the same. Rather, this God made flesh came to this earth to radically turn all of the preconceived notions of God, power, and understanding, upside down. In fact, it is quite fair to say that when God entered into the human fray, he radically changed the paradigm on what it means to be human and what it means to be blessed by God.
Paul understands this radical paradigm all too well and in these two verses, he captures some of he most beautiful and powerful implications of what Jesus’ birth ushered in and continues to do within the human story.
What is implied in these verses is that following Christ is a choice. One of the things that Jesus did NOT do was to negate the entire concept of human free-will. I maintain that human free-will has been and continues to be one of the greatest gifts, borne from love, that God endowed humanity with. Why is that? God did not want humanity to follow him without choice. That is not love. Love means giving the power to the other to freely choose to love or not to love. That is one of the greatest gifts! God offers us a chance to enter into a relationship that is compelled by love, in order that we will not only truly know love, but that we will become one with pure Love.
Hence, what Paul expresses in these verses in 2 Corinthians 5 speak of that love dynamic.
When Jesus broke into human history, he did so with the intention to make all things new. Jesus did not come to simply throw a fresh coat of paint on the human condition. Rather, he came to radically redefine the human condition. That is why Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is not some trivial comment either. As we unpack this statement, there are some deep lessons for us. First, what does it mean to be in Christ? There are many theologians who have expounded volumes on this. I would like to bring it down to its most basic understanding. To be in Christ means to accept, on faith, that Jesus is who he says he is and that he has done exactly all he says he has done. What do I mean? To be in Christ means that, by faith, we truly believe that Jesus is the living, breathing, Son of the living God. We believe that Jesus is the Incarnate God, God who took on flesh and bone in order to come to us. We believe, by faith, that Jesus was born for the distinct purpose of redeeming his creation back to him, to include his death on a cross. It means that we believe that Jesus became the spotless sacrificial lamb, who bore on himself the sinfulness of all humanity, past, present, and future, and atoned for our sin once and for all as he shed his blood on the cross. We believe that Jesus, when he entered the bowels of the grave, arose victorious in order to break the power of death that had been wrought by the sin of Adam. That is truly something new!
It doesn’t end there. When we accept Jesus’ identity, by faith, and repent of our sins, we, as Christians, are baptized in the name of this same Jesus. When we go into the baptismal waters, all of the “old” – original sin, the old, carnal nature, the passions and desires of the flesh that are at enmity with God – they are buried in those waters because of who Jesus is. Then, when we rise from those waters, we are clothed in a new identity: An identity that is pure, holy, and righteous. It is not our own identity, but our new identity that is the identity of Christ, the One in whose name we are saved. This is not just a symbolic act. When we accept Christ’s offer of redemption, believe in faith, are baptized in His name – the Holy Spirit begins a process: a radical transformation of the heart. God knows that the heart of man is bent on evil, so, with his Spirit within us, he radical makes us over, changing our heart, changing our mind, changing our soul – that we may be like him. This is so contrary to the fallen, carnal nature that is only bent on satisfying the primal pleasures of the flesh. What God does is he takes our heart and he makes it his heart, with his blood pumping through it, that we are indistinguishable from his Son. God is serious about gutting out the house and completely rebuilding it from scratch…and that is precisely what he does.
When Paul says that the old is gone and the new has come, he is not kidding. The new paradigm, the new way of doing things, the new, God centric life – it is here, now – because it was born in a manger in Bethlehem and then poured out for us.
That is why Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” How does God make everything new? He bears it upon himself. I think it is vitally important to see this: all of the ugly in us that is against God, Jesus took every bit of that…he reached into the very core of our being and pulled it out and placed it in himself. Grasp this truth: when God looked at that cross, he saw all of our ugly in the One who had absolutely no sin…but Jesus, because of his love for us, was willing to become that ugly and bear the penalty of that ugly that we may be redeemed. That is what Paul means when he says, “…so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Literally, what that word righteousness is defined as is: “…what is approved in His eyes.” When God looks upon us, even though we are a sinful lot, he sees what Jesus placed upon us – His own righteousness, his own perfection, his own holiness, his own love, his own beauty. This is what God sees. That is how new God makes all things. When we put on Christ, when we are made new by Christ, we stand approved by God.
That is why we need to see that this baby born in a manger is far more than just a cute story – it is the absolute story of our redemption. God’s new is summed up in that manger that eventually leads to a cross. Are we living as faithfully to God as God has been to us? That is the question Christmas leaves us with and that is the question we would do well to answer as we begin a new year.