One of Paul’s greatest statements is, “We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were save” (Rom 8:23b-24a). He writes of creation that is one day released from its bondage of corruption that spoils, mars, and ruins the world the children of God now live in.
Until that day of release we groan within ourselves waiting. Waiting for our adoption to be completed, the redemption of our body, and the ultimate change into what we are to be. Paul to the Philippians put it this way, “[Christ] will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (3:21).
Our hope is set on Christ, but not so for the atheist. The atheist looks at the world’s problem and asks, “Who is God? What is God doing? Does God care? And when they do not receive the answer they seek state, “God does not exist.” Suppose there is no God. What then? If there is no God, then who created these problems we face? The problems are turned back on the atheist, for if there is no God, it is man’s problem, and if it is man’s problem then there is no answer, and there is no hope.
We are all aware of the world’s sorrows, the dangers threatening our lives, the perils of wealth, the persistence of pain, the failure and despair many face. But we have hope, and our hope is in the one God has sent, and by this hope we are saved.
I fear there is a milk toast Christianity present in our churches today. Absent is the rugged reality of the N.T. that we see Paul writing about. I fear in many churches there is no need for the death of Jesus. All that is required is an occasional showing up, some pious talk, and a collection plate. There is no experience of the supernatural or the miraculous. There seems to be a lack of genuine presence of the H.S. that causes people to say, “That is the work of God Almighty.”
The N.T. example of the Christian experience is that of a personal, passionate devotion to Jesus. Any other kind of so-called Christian experience is detached from the person of Jesus, and there is no regeneration, no sanctification, no being born again into the kingdom in which Christ lives and reigns supreme. There is only the idea that Jesus is our pattern, a figurehead, or an example to follow, and nothing more.
Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come. … He will glorify me” (John 16:13-14). When we commit ourselves to the revealed truth of the N.T., we receive from God the gift of the H.S., who then begins interpreting to us what Jesus did, and making us like him through sanctification and regeneration. The Spirit of God does in us internally all the J.C. did for us externally. Jesus is all-sufficient in saving us, for he cleanses us on the outside and on the inside.
Romans 5:14 says of Adam, “The figure of Him that was to come.” The verse implies Adam was a type of Jesus. Knowing the stories of these two men we are inclined to say, “What, how can Adam be a type of Jesus?” After all Adam was a reprobate, and Jesus is sinless. Despite the dissimilarities Paul, through a series of contrast in Romans 5, shows that Adam was indeed a picture of Jesus.
After God created Adam He gave Adam the earth to reign over, in contrast Jesus is the Lord from heaven who now reigns over creation. Adam was tested in a Garden surrounded by beauty and love; Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, and He died on a cross surrounded by hatred and ugliness. Adam was a thief who was banished from Paradise; Jesus turned to a thief and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43.). Finally, the Old Testament is, “The book of the generation of Adam” (Gen 5:21), and it ends with “A curse” (Mal. 4:6). The New Testament is, “The book of the generations of Jesus Christ” (Matt 1:1) and it ends with, “No more curse,” (Rev 22:3).
You cannot help being in Adam, for that came by your first birth, and there is nothing you can do about that. But you do not have to stay in Adam, for you can experience a second birth – a birth from above that will put you in Christ. This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
In Matt 7:2 we read an eternal law of God, “With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” God’s eternal law is that of retribution. By that I mean how you measure others, is how others will measure you. For instance, if you have been shrewd with others, others will be shrewd with you. If you refuse to forgive others, they will refuse to forgive you. The way you pay others, is the way others will pay you.
Romans 2:1 applies this law in a more definitive way. It says that if you criticize another of something, you will be found guilty of the very same thing. What is the reason that we are so quick to see the faults in others, and not ourselves? It is found in the quote from last week’s sermon, “The chief complaint we have about another person’s sin is actually a chief compliment to ourselves.” I think the mature Christian is always humble. The mature Christian says, “Yes, that sin can be found in me, as well as many others, if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, what right do I have to judge.”
Jesus told us, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1). Who of us would stand before God and say, “Judge me as I have judge others?” Instead we ask God to judge us on the atonement of Jesus’ Cross.
A missionary friend of mine went to Africa. It was his first trip to the continent, and he was not sure what a church service was going to be like. On the first Sunday he had the opportunity to preach he went to the pulpit and gave a typical twenty-five minute American sermon, and then sat down. His host approached him and asked, “Sir, have you prepared anything else?” My friend was surprised and said, “No.” The host replied to him, “Sir, you do not understand, some of these people have walked many hours through the night to be here to hear God’s Word, and they are expecting to hear more.” My friend return to the pulpit and preached everything he had. He did not leave the pulpit until many hours had passed, and still the people were hungry for more.
Imagine that, the people in the church were expecting more. What a juxtaposition the image of the African Church is with the American Church. The church in Africa is hungry for more, and expects more. In contrast the American Church has become filled with Santa Claus, and Easter Bunny Christians. The church has boiled their worship down to a bi-yearly nod to God. Somehow we have lost are desire to expect more, and to hunger for God’s Word. The modern American Christian feels that in worshipping God twice a year they have given their utmost for His highest. Many in the church today are better described as Cri-Easters then Christians.
Hunger for More,
The landscape of the Christmas Season is one of miss-directions, for the Christmas season takes us down many paths. One path we may be pulled down is the remembering of Jesus and His birth, and that is a good thing. There are other paths that are not so good. For instance the season may cause us to dwell on our current troubles, losses, or past experiences that we would just as soon take a breather from rather than reminisce about, but the season causes those memories to keep popping up in all their rawness. The season may also pull us toward certain temptations, or habits that we are weak in, and therefore, Christmas becomes a time of extra diligence on our part to avoid temptations.
In a season that can cause miss-direction let us open our Bibles and see the true reason for the season:
1. 1John 3:5, “He appeared so that he might take away our sins.”
2. 1John 3:8, “The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
3. John 14:9 [Jesus said] “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” From this verse we might say, “Jesus came to reveal God to us.”
4. Heb 9:28, “He [Jesus] will appear a second time not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” From this verse we can say, “Jesus came so that he can come back again.”
Remember the reason,
Today we live in a world that no longer believes in truth, but believes truth is pragmatic, or what one chooses to believe. In such a world stands Pastor Saeed Abedini. He is imprisoned in Iran for no crime, but for being a Christian. All he has to do to win his freedom is recant his belief in Jesus. If he recants he can go home to his wife Maghmeh and their two sons. Yet for two years he has stood for truth; Jesus is the Christ.
The world says, “It does not matter, just say the words and go home.” Pastor Saeed knows that it does matter, for there is too much at stake for him to lie. What is at stake you ask? The faith of his wife and children, the faith of the thirty men in the prison he has led to Christ, the faith of those praying for him, and the future Iran; a nation that lives in darkness.
Pastor Saeed does not have to recant to win his freedom for Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini,