Monday, December 31, 2012

My Soul Sings How Great Thou Art

Living at the Pace of Grace

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer about Living at the Pace of Grace

     Simeon took him [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32
Dear Lord Jesus, it’s just a few days after Christmas and already many of my neighbors are taking down their lights and trees. It seems like we’re always in a hurry for the next thing. Traffic never moves fast enough, waiters don’t bring our food soon enough, and the mail isn’t delivered quick enough. I’m no exception to this harried and hurried way of doing life.
I guess this is one of the reasons I’m drawn to Simeon, a man who seemed to live at a different pace than I do. We know so little about this “righteous and devout” man, but we do know he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel”—that is, longing for the arrival of the Messiah—anticipating the fulfillment of promises God alone can keep; hoping to see you, Lord Jesus, though he didn’t know your name.
Eight days after your birth, Simeon took you in his arms—you, by whose arms all things have been made and are sustained. Whether or not he expected to die soon, the peace that resulted from that embrace changed everything.
Lord Jesus, it’s only because you have embraced us in the gospel that we have the same peace Simeon experienced; for you are God’s promised salvation for Israel, for Gentiles, and for us. There is no other name under heaven by which we can and must be saved.
In you we find the consolation which can be found nowhere else. You are our forgiveness, our righteousness, our sanctification, our sanity, our hope, and a whole lot more. Hallelujah, for such an all encompassing, all consuming, every-need-meeting salvation!
Lord Jesus, as we stand on the verge of a new year, I very much want the peace of your grace to help me live at the pace of your grace. Slow me down—center me; settle me; focus me on the things that matter the most. If I’m going to be in a hurry about one thing this year, may it be to linger longer in your presence. Everything else will take care of itself. So very Amen I pray, in your glorious and loving name.

Fresh Covenant

John Piper post:  Make a Fresh Covenant with Me:  We Will Finish in Faith

Treat this year-end like the end of your life. Then be ecstatic that you get to start a new life tomorrow.
For some of us, not only is the year ending, but so is a life-ministry. When the clock tolls midnight I will hand off the senior leadership of Bethlehem to Jason Meyer (with overwhelming gratefulness for God’s goodness). I’ll be on staff until March 31, 2013, but effectively, this season of leadership is over.
So not only do I get to start a new life tomorrow (as it were), I get to start a new era of life (as it is).
Here is what I am preaching to myself, and to you too, if you want to listen in: Long, effective ministries and lives can end very badly. Don’t let it happen. Finish in faith.
I am considering only one example, Asa, the king of Judah, who reigned from 911 to 870 B.C. He started so well. He continued well. And he ended in foolish unbelief. It happens. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 14–16. Covenant with me, by grace, not to let it happen.
King Asa began well.
  • “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” (14:2)
  • “He took away the foreign altars and the high places.” (14:3)
  • “Even his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah.” (15:16)
  • “He commanded Judah to seek the Lord.” (14:4)
  • “He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace.” (14:6)
  • “So they built and prospered.” (14:7)
He continued well, and trusted the Lord.
  • “Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, and 280,000 men from Benjamin.” (14:8)
  • “But Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots.” (14:9)
  • “Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you . . . Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you . . . O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” (14:11)
  • “So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa.” (14:12)
  • “The heart of Asa was wholly true all his days. . . And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.” (15:17, 19)
The terrible turn in the heart of Asa:
  • “In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against [Asa, and besieged Judah] that no one might go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.” (16:1)
  • “Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord . . . and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, . . . saying, . . . Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” (16:2-3)
  • “And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel.” (16:4)
  • “And when Baasha heard of it, he [withdrew].” (16:5)
  • “But Hanani the seer came to Asa and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.’” (16:7)
  • “You have done foolishly.” (16:9)
  • “Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison.” (16:10)
  • “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord.” (16:12)
That was the end of a great king’s life. Tragic. It happens.
But tomorrow is a new year. A new life. Even if you are in the middle of an Asa-like infidelity, God is giving you another chance. If you will repent, he will forgive and renew. “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
Whether you are 17 or 66, you can start over. Zacchaeus started over (Luke 19:8). Peter started over (Luke 22:3262). Paul started over (Acts 9:21). Lydia started over (Acts 16:14,40). If you are alive in the morning, you can start over.
Join with me in a fresh covenant with our God: In the name of Jesus and by his blood-bought grace, I will finish in faith. Say that (with me) from your heart.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Perfect Is Coming

Jon Bloom post:  When the Perfect Comes 

“…when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:10).
Another year is passing away. Thank God. Not only for the massive amounts of unquantifiable grace we have received from him, but also because we are one year closer to the passing away of this partial age and all of its incumbent sorrow and weariness.
“When the perfect comes.” Those inspired words stir up deep longings for a time we have never known and yet desperately want.
Paul may have been talking about spiritual gifts when he used that phrase in 1 Corinthians 13, but we know because of Romans Eight that “the partial” means so much more. Right now even the best things are not what they should be. And so much goes so very wrong. In this partial age, our bodies, our loved ones, our careers, our creations, our investments, and our plans are all subject to the forces of futility (Romans 8:20). This age is marked more by suffering (8:18), longing (8:19), groaning (8:23), and hope (8:24) than by fulfillment.
So at year’s end, especially if what we feel at its passing is another disappointment, we must remind each other that the partial, this age that is all that we’ve ever known, is passing away and the perfect is coming.
To all you road-weary travelers who have found that the way that leads to life (Matthew 7:14) is harder than you ever imagined, the perfect day of rest is coming (Matthew 11:28).
To all you who find yourself at the end of this year poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), humbled, desolate, and in desperate need of what only God can provide, the perfect day of the all-abundant kingdom is coming.
To all you who are mourning the loss of a precious one (Matthew 5:4) and finding it hard to press on under the heavy cloak of sorrow, the perfect day of death’s death (1 Corinthians 15:26) is coming.
To all of you who are growing tired in the relentless struggle to hold back the flood of unrighteousness, both from within and without, and who long deeply for a time when all is made right (Matthew 5:6), the perfect day of your satisfaction is coming.
To all of you who have been injured by the maliciousness of another and have responded with a tear-filled mercy (Matthew 5:7), the perfect day of restoration is coming.
To all of you whose soft heart (Matthew 5:8) is tormented over the sin-hardened, sin-infected world around you, the perfectly pure day is coming when you will see what your soul most longs for.
To all of you peacemakers who are blessed of God (Matthew 5:9) and yet find this blessed work heartbreaking, misunderstood, and under appreciated, the perfect day of reconciliation is coming.
To all of you who find yourselves in a disorienting darkness that feels unbearable and wonder if God has abandoned you (Psalm 88:14), the perfect day is coming when the Light, in whom there is no darkness (1 John 1:5), will shine upon you (Numbers 6:25).
And to all of you who increasingly love and long for Jesus’ appearing (2 Timothy 4:8), who have an inconsolable homesickness for a country far better than any that exists here (Hebrews 11:16), your perfect home, a home prepared especially for you (John 14:2), is coming.
When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. The promised “soon” (Revelation 22:20) is getting sooner. Let us keep encouraging one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Let us hold fast to the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:18). And let us press on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3).
And may the Lord cause these words to come true: next year in Jerusalem!

Learning to Delight in God - No Matter What

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer for the Day after Christmas

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
Dear heavenly Father, for some of us, yesterday was the “greatest” Christmas, ever in terms of healthy, caring relationships; incredible “eats”; thoughtful gifts—both given and received; and above all, a day centered on you for the indescribable gift of your Son, Jesus.
For others of us, it was a day marked with tension, dashed hopes, brokenness. For still others, it was the first Christmas with an empty chair where a loved one used to sit, or a day spent all by ourselves in great loneliness.
Father, my prayer today is for all of us, no matter what yesterday was like. For even our best days are in need of the gospel, and none of our worst days are beyond the reach of the gospel.
When the shepherds left Jesus’ manger, they were still shepherds. They still couldn’t worship at the temple; they still couldn’t give testimony in a court of law; they still were stereotyped as thieves by many in their community.
And we shouldn’t romanticize what Joseph and Mary did the day after Jesus was born. A five-star inn in Bethlehem did open up the next day; some of those harking angels didn’t stay around to be round-the-clock-nurses; and Mary’s body wasn’t spared all the normal pain of birthing and challenges of afterbirth. Indeed, Jesus came to save us from our sins; not from our humanity.
Father, thank you that we’re believers, not make believers. We don’t have to pretend about anything. Christmas isn’t a season in which we’re supposed to be transported into a super-spirituality, rising above reality. The gospel isn’t about denial but is about learning to delight in you, no matter what is going on. We praise you that Jesus came into a real world where everything is broken, but he did come to make all things new, starting with us.
Please give each of us the special and the common grace you gave the shepherds. Let us hear and let us see more of Jesus—even if we remain “shepherds” the rest of our lives. Enable us to glorify and praise you in all circumstances, Father. As on the night of Jesus’ birth, everything you have told us in your Word will come to pass. This is good news for shepherds and kings alike. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ faithful and loving name.

Religious Liberty

Denny Burk post:  Does anyone care what happens to Hobby Lobby?

I am astonished that more Americans aren’t in an uproar about what is happening to Hobby Lobby right now. As many of you know, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit earlier this year to try and get relief from Obamacare’s abortion mandate. The case is still pending appeal, but the Supreme Court just rejected their request for an emergency injunction. In response, the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby have said they have no intention to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs required by Obamacare. That means that beginning on January 1, the United States government will fine Hobby Lobby $1.3 million dollars per day until Hobby Lobby complies.
This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen. The United States Government is forcing these Christian business owners to pay for abortion inducing drugs in their employees’ insurance plans. It doesn’t matter that the law violates their religious liberty to conduct business in a way that is consistent with their conscience. Obamacare mandates that these Christians comply or face fines that will put them out of business.
When the controversy over the abortion mandate erupted earlier this year, the American public by and large got the impression that this was about conservatives who wanted to ban contraception. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one wants to outlaw contraception. This controversy is about the fact that the government is forcing pro-life business owners to pay for chemical abortions. If the federal government can force citizens to purchase items that they believe to be immoral, where will this end?
If this story is a bore to you right now, try to imagine for a moment what it would be like to be in Hobby Lobby’s position. You don’t have to agree with Hobby Lobby’s opposition to abortion to do this. Would you have a problem if the federal government required you to purchase goods or services that you believe to be immoral and against your most deeply held beliefs? That is precisely what is happening to Hobby Lobby right now. If this stands, what will keep this from happening to you?
The first line of the Bill of Rights says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Obamacare prohibits the free exercise of the owners of Hobby Lobby. Who’s next?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

God Has Been Good to Us

John Piper post:  Where Was God in All the Goodness of 2012?

As this year ends, the question I am asking is: Where was God when so many good things happened this past year?
How can God be a God of justice, yet allow so much good to happen to people who dishonor him by disbelieving in him, or giving lip service to his existence, or paying no more attention to him than the carpet in their den, or rejecting the kingship of his Son, or scorning his word, or preferring a hundred pleasures before him?
How can God be righteous and do so much good to us who are so unrighteous?
Where was God in 2012?
  • Where was God when nine million planes landed safely in the United States?
  • Where was God when the world revolved around the sun so accurately that it achieved the Winter solstice perfectly at 5:12 AM December 21 and headed back toward Spring?
  • Where was God when the President was not shot at a thousand public appearances?
  • Where was God when American farms produced ten million bushels of corn, and 2.8 million bushels of soybeans — enough food to sell $100 billions worth to other nations?
  • Where was God when no terrorist plot brought down a single American building or plane or industry?
  • Where was God when the sun maintained its heat and its gravitational pull precisely enough that we were not incinerated or frozen?
  • Where was God when three hundred million Americans drank water in homes and restaurants without getting sick?
  • Where was God when no new plague swept away a third of our race?
  • Where was God when Americans drove three trillion accident free miles?
  • Where was God when over three million healthy babies were born in America?
Here are a few of the answers given by God himself in his word.
1. God was reigning from his throne to do his sovereign will.
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)
“He works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
2. God was reigning from his throne to prevent much sin and harm in the world.
“God said to [Abimelech, the king of Gerar], it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Genesis 20:6)
“You know what is restraining [the man of lawlessness] now.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)
3. God was reigning from his throne to give a witness to his goodness and his patience.
“God did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)
4. God was reigning from his throne to summon the world to repentance.
“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
So as the year ends, I bow my head as an undeserving sinner, amazed that I have not been swept away. And even more, that because of Jesus, I am forgiven, adopted into God’s family, and destined for eternal life.
God has been good to us. And his best gift is the one that will be there when all the others fail. Jesus, crucified, risen, reigning.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Scandalous and Scary

Tullian Tchividjian post:  Give Me Law Or Give Me Death!

Last night we went to see Les Miserables. As has already been discussed here and written about here, the contrast between law and grace is both pronounced and profound.
For me, the most powerful scene in the movie is Inspector Javert’s song right before he kills himself.
Javert embodies our natural addiction to law and our natural aversion to grace. Committed to the rigorous inflexibility of the law, Javert has been given grace time and time again from the very one he has mercilessly hunted for decades, Jean Valjean. The grace of Valjean haunts and radically disorients Javert.
Javert sings:
Who is this man? What sort of devil is he, to have me caught in a trap and choose to let me go free? It was his hour at last to put the seal on my fate, wipe out the past and wash me clean off the slate! All it would take was a flick of his knife. Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life! Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief! Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase! I am the Law and the Law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity right back in his face! There is nothing on Earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Javert!
How can I now allow this man to hold dominion over me? This desperate man whom I have hunted…He gave me my life. He gave me freedom. I should have perished by his hand. It was his right. It was my right to die as well. Instead I live…but live in Hell! And my thoughts fly apart. Can this man be believed? Shall his sins be forgiven? Shall his crimes be reprieved? And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years? My heart is stone, and still it trembles! The world I have known is lost in shadow. Is he from heaven or from hell? And does he know…that, granting me my life today, this man has killed me, even so? I am reaching…but I fall. And the stars are black and cold, as I stare into the void of a world that cannot hold. I’ll escape now from that world, from the world of Jean Valjean. There is nowhere I can turn, there is no way to go on!
Javert concludes that he would rather die than deal with the disorienting reality of grace…and so he jumps. He chooses death over grace, control over chaos.
For Javert (as with all of us), the logic of law makes sense. We love the “if/then” proposition: “If” you do this, “then” I will do that. We love “what-goes-around-comes-around” conditionality. It makes us feel safe. It’s easy to comprehend. It makes perfect sense to our grace-shy hearts. It’s makes life formulaic. It breeds a sense of manageability. And best of all, it keeps us in control. We get to keep our ledgers and scorecards.
The logic of grace, on the other hand, is incomprehensible to our law-locked hearts. Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It’s dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out. Law says, “Good people get good stuff; bad people get bad stuff.” Grace says, “The bad get the best; the worst inherit the wealth; the slave becomes a son.” This offends our deepest sense of justice and rightness. We are, by nature, allergic to grace.
As I was watching that scene last night, I couldn’t help but think of the many inside the church who, like Javert, have no idea what to do with the disorientating unconditionality of grace and reflexively fight it at every turn and in every way without even realizing what they are fighting or why.
We are so deeply conditioned against grace because we’ve been told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes approval. So, when we hear, “Of course you don’t deserve it, but I’m giving it to you anyway,” we wonder, “What is this really about? What’s the catch?” Internal bells and alarms start to go off, and we begin saying “wait a minute…this sounds too good to be true.” By nature we’re all wary of grace. We wonder about the ulterior motives of the excessively generous. What’s in it for him? After all, who could trust in or believe something so radically unbelievable?
Life the way we’ve always known it to work doesn’t make sense anymore if grace is true.
Robert Capon articulates brilliantly the prayer of the grace-averse heart:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.
As I was falling asleep last night and thinking about Javert’s struggle, I couldn’t help but wonder if the church has too often chosen death over grace. Fearful of what kind of chaos would ensue if we abandoned ourselves wholly to the radicality of grace, we cling to control–we stick with what we know so well, with what comes natural.
It is high time, in my opinion, for the church to embrace sola gratia (grace alone) anew. “For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in” (Dane Ortlund). No more “yes grace, but…”. No more fine print. No more conditions, qualifications, and footnotes. And especially, no more silly cries for “balance.” It is time to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.
It’s scandalous and scary, unnatural and undomesticated…but it’s the only thing that can set us free and light the church on fire.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fullness of Joy

David Mathis post:  The Day Heaven Kissed Earth

Christmas is the day heaven kissed earth.
The Eternal Word, the golden son of heaven, humbly and willingly took up our comparatively lowly humanity, without ceasing to be God, and entered into the created realm, coming to earth as one of us.
And it wasn’t some kind of circus stunt, for mere show, but for our sake. The Great Move was all of grace and for our rescue. It is history’s climactic expression of love and favor.
Heaven kissed earth.
This way of talking about the incarnation comes from Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680), Puritan preacher, theologian, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and member of the Westminster Assembly. Goodwin described the wonder of what happened at that first Christmas like this: “Heaven and earth met and kissed one another, namely, God and man” (Works, 4:439).

Jesus Is No Superman

But don’t misunderstand this Great Kiss, and mistake the matchless God-man for someone from Krypton. Superman can’t hold a candle to the hypostatic union — that utterly unique uniting of two complete natures in Jesus’s one person.
Heaven’s sweet kissing of earth in the incarnation didn’t produce a third kind of being or some mixture between the divine and human. Jesus is no superhuman, not quite God and not quite man. Rather, he is fully both — wholly God and wholly man.
There is a tendency in our minds to think of Christ as a “superman.” That is, we fail to believe adequately that he is ‘very God of very God’ (autotheos — God of himself), equal in every way with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Viewing Christ as a sort of ‘superman’ also prevents us from appreciating his true humanity. (Mark Jones, Pocket Guide to Jesus, page 5)

The Uncomfortable Truth of Christmas

Superman would be more palatable to both the theologically liberal and to conservative tastes. The liberal typically feels discomfort with his full divinity, restless that this Jesus might justly claim to have all authority in heaven and on earth and rightly demand our allegiance and spoil our perceived autonomy.
Meanwhile, the evangelical uneasiness is often with his full humanity. Something sinister in us prefers our Jesus sanitized, fully God but kept at arm’s length from our earthiness. Laid in a manger, really? We’re prone to squirm because it speaks such a clear word about the direness of our condition, about how bad things really are for us apart from Immanuel, about the extent to which he had to go to, about the moral distance he had to travel to reach the muck of our planet and give us God’s redeeming kiss.
Jesus is more than a baby in the manger, but as prickly as it is, he’s nothing less. It’s uncomfortable to sinners to face so squarely the gravity of our situation apart from heaven’s rescue. But it’s also deeply comforting for sinners who have reckoned with the decisiveness and power of his salvation and given him their full embrace.

Christmas for Our Benefit

Christmas, then, is for our benefit. It’s no birthday party for a tribal deity, but the celebration of the king of the universe who has come to save us. “You shall call his name Jesus,” the angel says to Joseph, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). From its very beginning, the incarnation is about saving. Good Friday is always in view.
Christmas is God’s D-Day against our sin and against Satan himself. What a surprise strategy it was when God established his first beachhead against the Enemy in an animal feeding trough in the little town of Bethlehem. Christmas doesn’t merely mark the birth of our religious leader, but the saving of sinners who believe. It is ever on a trajectory toward Golgotha. It’s for good reason, in a song so seemingly sweet as “What Child Is This?” that we sing at Christmas,
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
The meaning of Christmas is not just that he is born among us, but that he has come to die for us. He has come to secure for us eternal saving benefits. But there’s more.

What’s Better Than His Benefits

The “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) is more than just his birth and life. And it’s more than just his death, and what saving means he obtains for us. The best news is who his saving gets us — namely, himself and his Father. “This is eternal life,” Jesus prays on the eve of his crucifixion, “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Which is as relevant at Christmas as it is any day.
Pastor Mark Jones quotes Goodwin to this effect.
In Goodwin’s view, the benefits procured by Christ “are all far inferior to the gift of his person unto us, and much more the glory of his person itself. His person is of infinite more worth than they all can be of.” Therefore, God’s “chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ . . . and God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory, more than our salvation.” (Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ, page 3)
Deeper than the Christmas narrative of his first coming, and the world-transforming Good Friday explanation about what his death accomplished, is the mindboggling truth that it’s ultimately we who came into the world for him — for his glory — rather than his coming for us. In the decisive Christmas tally, it is not finally his coming that makes much of us, but our creation and redemption that is designed to make much of him.
Fellow Puritan Stephen Charnock sees it the same way. There is “something in Christ more excellent and comely than the office of a Savior; the greatness of his person is more excellent, than the salvation procured by his death” (Jones, Pocket Guide, page 3).
The deepest significance of Christmas isn’t just that he came to save us, but that he is who he is. The Great Treasure isn’t what the magi bring, but the one hidden in a manger. He is the Pearl of Great Price given without money and without cost. The surpassing value of Christmas isn’t finally knowing ourselves saved, but knowing the Jesus who saves us.

Made for the God-man

The God-man in Christmas’s manger — two full natures in one unique person — is then one focal point for our worship. Only in this one God-man do we find, as Jonathan Edwards preached, the truest “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” It is only this Jesus who is both Lion of Judah and Lamb who was slain. He is meekly incarnate infant in Bethlehem and triumphantly glorified Almighty God at his Father’s right hand. Only he is divinely and humanly tough and tender. Both God and man.
Because of this utterly unique union of God and man in one person, Jesus exhibits an unparalleled magnificence to the born-again human soul. No one person satisfies the complex longings of the human heart like the one God-man.
God has made the human heart in such a way that it will never be eternally content with that which is only human. Finitude can’t slake our thirst for the infinite. And yet, in our finite humanity, we were created for a point of correspondence with the divine. Yes, God was glorious long before he became man in Jesus, but we are human, and unincarnate deity doesn’t connect with us in the same way as the God who became human. The conception of a god who never became man will not satisfy the human soul like the God who did. The human soul was not just made for God, but for the God-man.
So Jesus is not just our substitute, but our eternal satisfaction. He not only satisfies just divine wrath against us, but satisfies the human soul forever. His resurrection is essential not only so that we can be joined to him for saving, but most importantly so that we can enjoy him with unsurpassed delight forever. Heaven’s kiss is the only one that will be eternally satisfying.
Jesus is not like the lifeguard at the beach who saves us for our friends and family, but whom we never see again. Jesus saves us for himself.
The deepest meaning of Christmas is not just that the God-man was born, and not just that he died, but that he ever lives to be our eternal joy. Jesus is Pleasures Forevermore at God’s right hand. We were made for him.
In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)