Saturday, March 18, 2017

Birth of Christ

Tomorrow I am teaching on the birth of Christ.  Here is the lesson. It seems out of place in the calendar but so it goes.

This is one of those theological words that doesn’t appear in the Bible but is used to cover a large, difficult to understand concept.  “Carn” means flesh; The Eternal Son of God became man with flesh and blood in a specific time and place and was named Jesus, the Christ.  He was/is Lord (not to be confused with LORD in Old Testament).  This introduces the word trinity, another word that is almost impossible for us to grasp and we make human attempts to understand this, which is a mystery.  A mystery is a Bible word for something not revealed until a specific time, but there is more to it than that.

“The biblical idea of mystery, then, reminds Christians that God holds the course of human events in his hands and has so shaped them that they work for the salvation of his people. It also demonstrates the graciousness of God in revealing his redemptive purposes to prophets and apostles and, through them, to all who are willing to hear.”  Frank Thielman, Eaton’s Bible Dictionary

“The calling of the Gentiles into the Christian Church, so designated ( Ephesians 1:9 Ephesians 1:10 ; 3:8-11 ; Colossians 1:25-27 ); a truth undiscoverable except by revelation, long hid, now made manifest. The resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:51 ), and other doctrines which need to be explained but which cannot be fully understood by finite intelligence ( Matthew 13:11 ; Romans 11:25 ; 1 Corinthians 13:2 ); the union between Christ and his people symbolized by the marriage union ( Ephesians 5:31 Ephesians 5:32 ; comp 6:19 ); the seven stars and the seven candlesticks ( Revelation 1:20 ); and the woman clothed in scarlet ( 17:7 ), are also in this sense mysteries. The anti-Christian power working in his day is called by the apostle ( 2 Thessalonians 2:7 ) the "mystery of iniquity." Eaton’s Bible Dictionary

The incarnation, trinity, and mystery are three theological words that are important to this lesson on the birth of Jesus.

I can’t get into this much more without discussing The Shack.  First, I read it; I don’t believe in criticizing something I haven’t seen or read.  I am going to be prophetic here, which means I will say things you won’t agree with and may make you mad.
1.     Hollywood is not to be depended on for your Christian growth.  Hollywood wants to make money, and since Paul Young’s book sold two million copies, they knew they would make money off a movie.
2.     Something being popular does not make it right.  Just because two million people or more read that book did not make it right in its teaching.
3.     Paul Young has written and spoken in other places where he has clearly denied Bible doctrines like the need for salvation, hell, and authority of the Bible.  He was raised as a missionary kid but abused and he has issues, which come out in the book.  You need to see the book as him trying to work out his psychological problems including hatred for a legalistic and mean father. 
4.     If you enjoyed the movie, fine, just don’t take it for the Bible.  It’s not, very far from it.  We don’t need a shack to know God loves us supremely, is kind, gracious, good.  Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

So, where does that leave us?

God the Son came to earth as a baby. He did so to teach us the gospel and reveal the nature and will of God (the mystery part), to start his church/bride/body (not a new version of Israel), and die to be the last, final sacrifice for the sins of the world (our rebellion against God personally and corporately) so that eventually the universe would be restored to what God intended it to be. 

Matthew and Luke tell us about the facts of Jesus’ birth. 

Read the two stories.  What do you see as different in the two?
Matthew 1:18-end of 2.
Matthew tells us the story in terms of how it fulfills Old Testament prophecy.  That’s why your copy of the Bible might have italicized words where it quotes Isaiah or other prophets.  His version is mostly for the Jews.  His other name is Levi.  He writes about the dreams (5) that led to the story and deliverance.  He places it in the context of the politics, with Herod, the fake king of Israel trying to secure his place as king by committing horrible crimes. He talks about the magi and their gifts. 

Luke 2:1-24
Luke tells us the story like an historian or reporter with more emphasis on small facts and details.  He emphasizes the women, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna.  He emphasizes that the people were poor and humble:  the stable, manger, shepherds, elderly people in the temple.

We see a lot of contrasts in these accounts.  Poor vs. rich; powerless/humble vs. worldly powerful; believing vs. unbelieving; accepting vs. rejection; sincere vs. deceptive; happy vs. angry; compassionate vs. mean/cruel. 

These two accounts give us the details and history.  The rest of the New Testament explains it: 

1.     incarnation, God the Son, the Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14-16).
2.     Identification:  Mark 1:9; Luke 7:34; Hebrews 4:14-15; Matthew 27:46(cross)
3.     Imitation:  I Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.

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