What we Celebrate At Christmas
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11
It is good for us to be very mindful of the central Christmas message. In doing so, we can strip through all the clutter that hinders the full understanding of Christmas:
1. We celebrate for the only time in the history of the world that God has become man in the person of Jesus Christ.
2. We celebrate the fact that God has not left us hopeless or powerless to do something about our sin and its punishment.
3. We celebrate that God has come to the earth to live as we do and experience everything we do except for sin.
4. We celebrate that Jesus is Saviour. He also has paid the price by His death and our place for sin so we can be saved from sin's curse that leads to condemnation.
5. We can celebrate that wherever the gospel has gone and been received, lives have been changed, and society has transformed.
6. We can celebrate that God has remembered us when others may have forgotten us. The angels announced Christ to shepherds who were easily forgotten.
7. We can celebrate that God has given us a straightforward account of Christ's birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.
8. We can celebrate the community of faith we are a part of that celebrates Christ's birth and encourages us to live for Him through opportunities of spiritual growth.
9. We can celebrate that all the good deeds in ministry done at Christmas are because of our relationship with Him and not an attempt to earn salvation by good works.
10. We can celebrate that the joy and excitement we feel at Christmastime does not disappear as soon as the calendar day is over but abides with us forever. No one can take away our joy, but it will remain until it is made complete when we are with Christ visibly.
What we learn from the Pilgrims: Thanksgiving
One of the great tragedies of our holiday season at the end of the year is that we gloss over thanksgiving and look toward Christmas. Thanksgiving has such a glorious history and is so vital to our understanding of who we are as a people. Some may say that was the first English settlement but we have had others come since then. Yet, the Plymouth Bay Colony was the first organized settlement that has survived and spawned other colonies. The historical development though of the Pilgrims is not as important as the legacy of what they left behind. Our society likes to dismiss their accomplishments today as not being important. What they accomplished and the faith they had are of monumental impact to who we are today. I would dare say if we don’t get back to what they were 380 years removed from now and facing the new millennium we will have no lasting legacy as a nation and could be destroyed from the inside.
We can’t go back and live with the hardships they endured. We can however learn from their example and the timeless principles they based their lives on. These principles transcend centuries and are helpful to us as believers concerning what we should be doing in our generation.
There are three principles that they lived by and we should adopt or rededicate ourselves to them in our lives.
I. RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: The Pilgrims came seeking religious liberty. They were not a group of troublemakers who got in trouble with the king and had to flee to the new world. They wanted a place where they could worship God and freely proclaim His word. They thought they had found it in Holland but they wanted an English culture and needed a new start in a place free from all government suppression of religion. They came over without a Pastor but under the leadership of William Brewster, John Carver and William Bradford (their most famous governor they settled in Mass. John Robinson their Pastor later led another group of their number to the new world). They were not content just to be left alone and to leave others alone. The first governmental contract of any kind in America was made on the Mayflower before they went ashore. The primary feature of this famous document known as the ‘Mayflower Compact” as they put it, “the advancement of the Christian religion in the new world”. There is a strong move on today to try and keep Christians corralled in the church. The American Civil Liberties Union doesn’t want the name of God mentioned or prayed outside the church walls. They will defend anyone’s right to use God’s name in profanity. This is so much against the spirit of the Pilgrims who came to this world for the right of sharing their faith. We have a right to talk about Jesus anytime, anyplace and in any situation. Anyone who tries to restrict that is restricting our first amendment right which guarantees “the free exercise of religion”. This certainly does not restrict us to a specific place to only practice our faith. If we are to only practice our faith in the church building government can soon regulate what type of service we can have and what we can say. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State has already said churches can lose their tax exempt status by printing candidates stands on moral issues. If they can control free information like this they can regulate what we can say. We then become like The Church of England in the Pilgrims days who wanted to control how they could practice their faith. We should be obedient to the Great Commission that Jesus gave we will go into all the world and preach the gospel. We must champion the cause of religious liberty just as valiantly as the Pilgrims did.
II. Religious Instruction: Our first schools and colleges were formed for religious instruction. They were influenced by the Pilgrims and Puritans desire to make the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom. The sphere of Christian influence is shrinking today. They would have never dreamed of a land in which prayer was not allowed in schools. Religious instruction was a daily way of life. The Sunday School and AWANA are very important as we view this challenge today. Children need to be religiously educated today whether they go to Christian school or not. It will not happen automatically. We must make the effort to have family altars and treat going to church as very important. Part of the reason that the Pilgrims came to America was to have the freedom to religiously educate their children. They did not want their children to be forced into a way of worship and instruction they did not believe in. The Pilgrims came out of the Separatist movement of which Baptist were a part of. This makes them our first cousins. They wanted to separate from the Church of England and not be a part of its ritualistic ways that they viewed as too close to Catholicism. We also need to lead our children to be different from the world. People at school or in public should see they come from a home that loves God uses the Bible as the basis for their actions. This should be our aim in religious instruction of our children and grandchildren.
III. Religious Lifestyle: The Pilgrims viewed every day as a day of worship. They rigidly adhered to Sunday (which is one thing we need today in our society). Church was a way of life to them. Each day they worshipped in the church the middle of the day. They would stop their work and go to church. They had a bedrock faith in the Lord when over half their number died that first cold winter at Plymouth. You don’t see any bitterness in their writings in the departure of their loved ones under such cruel conditions. They instead had an abiding faith in the Lord’s provision to sustain them which is what made the first Thanksgiving so special. They had a bedrock determination to tame the land and trust in the Lord whatever may happen to them. This came from their lives being God-centered and their devotion being pre-eminently directed toward Him. The lesson for us is simple. Our relationship with God should be the most important relationship on earth. Our lives should be an expression of worship to Him daily as we maintain private devotions and are faithful to His body in the church. We should let nothing get in the way of our relationship with Him.
These are some thoughts at Thanksgiving that I hope will remind you why thanksgiving is a great holiday. May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as you gather with family and friends. Remember to celebrate it in the spirit of the Pilgrims. They are a tremendous example to us. DN
The Highest Position in the Land
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
God's work and presence in our lives exceeds those who live without him and are entrapped by this world. The time factor means one day is better than a thousand without God. One day with the Lord is like a thousand years also. The service factor means that the lowliest position I have in God's kingdom (at least to the world) is better than living in the places of wickedness that are fleeting and end in destruction.
We should be careful not to play the comparison game. But the point is: Knowing God and Serving Him does not compare to anything that the world can muster up as happiness. I would be stepping down to abandon my calling and settle for what I want to do instead of God wants me to do. Now, what God wants me to do is always best and proven to be the way of success despite how we see it for the moment.
Be glad for what God has called you to do and your relationship with Him. Serve Him with vigor and vitality. We are children and servants of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Our Faith in Christ is the Great Unifier of People
So God who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us and made no distinction between us and them purifying their hearts by faith. Acts 15:8‐9
The great equalizer of people today is our faith and trust in Christ as Saviour. When I bow with everyone else at the foot of the cross, I come like everyone else as a sinner. There are no steps there for the elite and the
common people. We come to Christ equally or we don't come at all. Christianity is the great unifier of mankind; for Jesus died for everyone's sins and we all need a Saviour of which there is only one.
Christianity is the antithesis of Islam which goes to divide and conquer, destroying everyone in their path who
will not believe in their violent religion. The devil knows this and deceives people who need a Saviour, making
them think that our faith divides over our exclusive claims that the only way to be saved through Christ's
sacrifice for our sins.
Kudos to Peter who uttered this great statement. He had learned that Christianity was not just a Jewish sect but as is the dominant theme of Acts; for the whole world. The council at Jerusalem solves this issue through Peter's encouragement. It is solved on this one enlightening truth: Everyone can be purified from their sin, in their hearts through faith in Christ's sacrifice for our salvation.
Ah, but this is also a double‐edged sword: As great and wonderful as it is for God to open the door up to
everyone to come to Christ, we must also know that there is no other way to be purified from sin in our hearts
than thru faith in Christ's sacrifice for our sins. God sees the heart and knows if we are cleansed or just
pretending. Every heart needs Christ for He is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12).
This truth opens the door up to everyone and narrows the pathway to heaven only through Christ. May we
share both eternal truths, for people's eternal destinies depend on it. Peter knew these truths, which he was
gung‐ho for, going to the Gentiles with the gospel. May we be the same so that all may come to Christ equally.
Who is Really Free?
...and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
II Corinthians 3:17
Facing the 4th of July, we ask where do our freedoms come from? The founders of our country believed "we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights". They were not self-induced but believed in a God-given freedom. The nation that acknowledges freedom and the liberty that goes with it as a gift of God will be blessed by God.
The nation that believes our freedom is a self-induced right totally devoid of God, will lose the blessing of God. As we turn to a more secular idea of where freedoms come from, it seems we have more problems morally and economically.
We only need to look at history to show us the course of nations that do or do not make the acknowledgment. The French Revolution was an overthrow of the monarchy through violent bloodshed. People were killed by mob violence, the guillotine was introduced, secret trials were held, churches burned, religion was declared irrelevant and attacked. The result was widespread panic and terror in the streets. Their revolution did not last but was consumed under the dictatorship of Napoleon after their weariness with the terror that ensued because of man-asserted rights instead of God-given rights.
The same principle is true with individuals. Those who think they are through with moral restraints, that they don't need God and His Word as a moral compass, are really in bondage. Jesus said in John 8:36, "If the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed."
True freedom comes from the Spirit of God, as it says in this scripture. When God's Spirit comes into our lives through the new birth, sin's power goes out. God releases us from the bondage of sin and its consequences.
A recent biography on the band Queen saddened me. It is one of those things you want to turn off. But what fascinated me was the lifestyle of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer. He unashamedly flung himself into the homosexual lifestyle. After many multiple sex partners, he contracted Aids and died of the disease in 1991. When asked to curb his behavior with what he did, he said he was going to live the way he wanted, unrestrained, and he paid for it bitterly. Sin eventually reached out and destroyed his life.
Paul knew the Spirit of the Lord brings true freedom and so did our founders. May we boldly proclaim that on this 4th of July.
Special Book Signing of My Book – Baptist Revival
Sunday, June 12 (after the Morning Worship Service)
I have written Baptist Revival: Reaffirming Baptist Principles in Today's Changing Church Scene to help people understand Baptist Belief. I tackle the key beliefs that are prominent among Baptists because I have met many people who want to make everyone a Baptist because they believe a few things Baptist do. We are, of course, part of the great family of those who truly know Jesus personally and are in what the Bible calls The Kingdom of God.
However, Baptists have held key beliefs throughout Christian History that have set us apart or that we have emphasized more than other groups. These beliefs are contrasted against what is normally accepted as the church or baptism along with other positions in order to see what the Bible teaches on the subject. It is a good book to read and give to a friend who might want to know what makes our church different from other evangelical groups. Because I want you to learn more about our beliefs, I will have a special sermon Sunday, June 12, highlighting the main thoughts of the seven chapters with plenty of scriptural support.
Afterwards, the book will be available for $12 and I will be signing copies for anyone who wishes to get a copy. I appreciate your support of my writing ministry, which has developed over the last five years. This book will help you have a greater understanding about the core values in what our church believes and I hope some will share this book with friends.
The Type of Preaching Jesus Did and Would Do Today
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures
the things concerning themselves.
The remarkable testimony of Christ fulfilling prophecy in the Old Testament is one of the strongest testimonies to who Jesus was and claimed to be, as being absolutely true. All portions of the Old Testament ring clear in detailing the work Christ would accomplish on the cross: how He would be raised from the dead, what message He would give to the hopeless and lost, and even how He would come back again the second time.
Jesus was exact in His quotation of scripture and applying it to almost everything He said. If He were to man the pulpit today, we would be captivated by His knowledge of scripture and His explanation of biblical truth. We would leave the service drenched with God’s Word because of encountering Him within it. He used scripture to interpret, remind, exhort, apply parables, and express confidence in God’s plan for our lives.
How do I know Jesus would preach that way if He came back today? It is because that is the way He preached when He spoke to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus is the model for expository preaching. He exposed the content of scripture to people and so should we if we are to be like Jesus.
To preach the Word of God, you must love and know the Word of God. It is not easy but it is rewarding to see the effect it has on people I Thessalonians 2:13. If we want to be closest to Jesus’ teaching and preaching, get under the preaching of a preacher who expounds God Word the way Jesus did. This ought to give hope to any preacher who is serious about preaching the Word of God to others. Let us go and do likewise.
And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha you are worried about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Choosing the Best in our Lives
Good things are not the best thing. On any other visit by any other visitor, Martha would have been justified in her needing Mary to help her in serving. Yet, this was not any visit and visitor. This was the greatest person who ever walked the face of the earth: This was the Lord.
The teachable moment came when Jesus corrected Martha for not grasping the importance of the moment. Mary had chosen the best part of their time with Christ. She sat at His feet learning from Him because she would never have a time like this. The many good things Martha was doing did not measure up to the good thing Christ offered her.
We can get troubled about many things and be distracted from the best thing. People tell me they are too busy for church. We get on with our lives making a living doing whatever we have to do to survive and exist in this world while we let time with the Lord slip away. It is the best thing to sit at Jesus feet and learn from Him through His word, through a Bible-believing church through Godly influences and it will be what really matters throughout all eternity.
Let us find the best things in our relationship with God and risk being called crazy or fanatical if it means choosing that over the many distractions that come our way. For who we are in Christ must be magnified and what we leave behind minimized. It is the best things for the Lord that will give us eternal satisfaction. All else will cause discontentment and frustration. Chose the best not just that which is good.
Glorying in the Finished Work of Christ on the Cross at Easter
The Sixth Word of Christ on the Cross
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished:
and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Two simultaneous statements illustrate and magnify the purpose of Christ on the cross. He did not say on the cross: “I’m finished.” He did not say: “It’s over.” It was only the beginning. He said: “It is finished” in the we find the plan and purpose of God for the world.
One little ‘it’ illustrated what Jesus fulfilled when He, like the serpent in the wilderness, was lifted up in the camp as Christ was on the cross and symbolically represented Him to heal those bitten by the curse of sin. All who see and believe will be saved. Jesus was God’s eternal plan to bruise the serpent’s head, prophesied to Eve, destroying the works of the devil (Gen. 3:15; I John 3:7).
Jesus’ saving work on the cross was what we need for our salvation to be accomplished. We needed someone who would take what we deserve. That is someone to destroy the curse of sin, to take it upon Himself, in His perfect body.
Jesus’ finished work was what was absolutely necessary to stand before God, not in our own sin which brings condemnation. We have His righteousness earned not by our own merit but by His sacrifice which is transferred to us so that we stand in His righteousness, in His perfection. It is what was finished that launched the movement of Christianity as a beginning. This was not a sign of defeat but rather one of victory.
Now we can come to God through Christ by virtue of what Christ did on the cross. The resurrection confirms what Jesus did. That is the great message and assurance we have at Easter. Only those who know Christ personally have a right to celebrate this great event.