#DailyDevotion The Best Christmas Present
Hebrews 1 At many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers long ago by the prophets, 2but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He made the heir of everything and by Whom He made the world. 3He Who shines with God’s glory and is the Expression of His Being sustains everything by His mighty Word. He made a cleansing from sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, 4and is as much superior than angels as the name He has is better than theirs. 5To which of the angels did God ever say: You are My Son, today I have begotten You? Or again: I will be His Father, and He will be My Son? 6And when He again will bring the firstborn Son into the world, He says: All of God’s angels should worship Him.
What a great Christmas text for it tells us of the gift of God’s Son to us. It tells us while God used to speak to us through the prophets, now, in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Yes, the Father sent his Son into the world, to take on our human flesh and to speak and teach to us God’s will and love towards us. But now we have the Word of God in the flesh speaking directly to us with our words so our ears can hear and believe.
It magnifies Jesus for who he truly is. Jesus is the heir of everything. That which belongs to the Father, is now Jesus’ in the flesh. Before he was made flesh it was by the Son the Father made the world, the cosmos and everything in it. Now in the flesh, Jesus takes up what the first man lost by his sin and he takes dominion over everything. This Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, the son of Mary is the “Expression of His Being.” That is to say, if you want to know what God the Father is like, you need only look to Jesus who shines forth the exact character of his Father in heaven. Not only was everything made through Jesus, but Jesus sustains everything by his almighty word.
Jesus made a cleansing from our sins. Yes, in this body of flesh which he received from his mother Mary, Jesus offered up himself on the cross to cleanse us from our sins. Indeed, your sins have been cleansed and you have been made clean by the blood of Christ, when you were baptized into his name and believed in him and his work. Having died and rose again, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven, where he lives and reigns forever.
As such, Jesus is much better than any of the angels, or patriarchs or even Moses. While Jesus is from eternity the Son of God, as the Man, the Father now also speaks to him, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” The Father has fulfilled the promise he made to his servant, King David, when he told him his descendent he would be a Father to and he would be his son. So the Son of God and the Son of Man, who are the same person, are declared to be the Father’s Son. To this son God tells all his angels to worship him. But that’s not all. Having been cleansed of our sins through baptism, that which is Christ according to the flesh is ours also. So the Father also has made us heirs of all things with Christ. He is conforming us into His image and likeness and fulfills that at the resurrection. He has declared us to be his sons (yes you women also) and exalted us to the place of his Son Jesus. Can you think of a better Christmas gift than that? I think not.
Heavenly Father, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to speak to us and to cleanse us from sins by his blood. You have made us one with him and with him have given us all good things. Preserve us in this faith until the final revelation of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion The Father & Jesus Are Our God and Savior
Titus 34But when God our Savior showed how kind He is and how He loves us, 5He saved us, not because of any good works we did but because He was merciful. He saved us by the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth and a new life. 6He poured a rich measure of this Spirit on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7to declare us righteous by His grace so that we may be heirs according to the hope of everlasting life.
When did God our Savior show us how kind he is an how he loved us? Actually, my first question is which person of the Trinity is Paul speaking of here? He says, “God our Savior.” Now it could be the Father. Salvation does have our source in him. Just in the last chapter, Paul designated Jesus as “our God and Savior.” (which is a big deal I should have talked about some more then) Yet in Paul’s writing the Father himself is also referred to as “God and Savior.” Yet in this passage, it seems Paul is working a Trinitarian angle on our salvation, which is right and good. For here we have “God and Savior,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Holy Spirit.”
The fact that Paul in the previous chapter calls Jesus “God and Savior” and now addresses the Father as “God and Savior” is a magnificent demonstration of the teaching of the Holy Trinity and that Jesus Christ is truly God. As in our baptismal formula “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” shows the oneness, the unity, the singularity of God and the interpenetration of all their attributes, so too here as Paul addresses God the Father as “God and Savior” and Jesus as “God and Savior” he demonstrates their oneness of being, glory, honor, and purpose. This is the mystery of Christmas, that the second person of the Trinity becomes one of us while also remaining truly God.
Now it is time for the Christmas present. The rest of verses tell us what it is. God’s kindness and love is shown in that he saved us, “not because of any good works we did but because He was merciful.” Can there be any other good news. God doesn’t save us, doesn’t give us grace, because we’ve been good but because he is merciful. How does he save us (now here he is speaking of the mode in which we get saved today)? He does it by baptizing us with the water and the Word (the name of God). As the water and the word is poured upon us the Holy Spirit accompanies that word. The Holy Spirit gives us birth from above and gives us the eternal life of Christ Jesus. The Father pours upon us the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, “our Savior (equating Jesus with the Father),” even as the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism. In this washing we become one with Jesus and through him, one with God the Father and one with the Holy Spirit.
In this washing, where we receive the Holy Spirit, the Father declares us righteous, justified as we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus in our oneness with him. If we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness then we are also heirs of the hope of everlasting life. For the new life we have received is Christ eternal life (testified to numerous times in John’s Gospel). All this is from the mercy of God and not from anything within you or what you did. It is his gift.
Heavenly Father, continually give us your Holy Spirit that we may glory in your mercy, kindness and love shown to us in Christ Jesus, your only Son our LORD, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
#DailyDevotion God’s Grace Trains Us As We Wait For Jesus
Titus 211God has shown His grace. It brings salvation to all people 12and trains us to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live sensible, law-abiding and godly lives in this world 13 as we look for the blessed One Who is our Hope, for our great God and Savior Christ Jesus to show Himself in glory. 14He gave Himself as a payment for us to free us from all wickedness and cleanse us to be His own people, eager to do good works.
God has shown us His grace. Now normally I would say when we see this term we should think in terms of a gift, God’s free favor toward us on account of Jesus Christ. While that is certainly in play here, the grace he has shown us here is the Gospel itself and the Holy Spirit who accompanies it. The Holy Spirit brings the Good News of Jesus Christ through those whom he has appointed. They proclaim and teach how Jesus died on the cross as the payment for our sins, namely death. Jesus rose from the dead never to die again and has overcome death for us, for you. Now he brings this Good News, this gift to the world for Jesus did not die and rise again for some and not others. No, Jesus did this for all people everywhere and for all creation.
It is the Holy Spirit through the good news who trains us to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts. While the Law of God may teach us what to do and not do, it has no power to accomplish this in us. Instead, as Paul teaches in Romans 7, the Law incites sin in us and stirs up in us the desire to do the opposite the Law teaches. Instead, we see here, that it is the grace of God, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, that trains us and transforms us into people who do what the Law requires. This same Gospel, Grace, the Holy Spirit trains us “to live sensible, law-abiding and godly lives in this world.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t train us or move us to live crazy lives. He doesn’t train us to break laws of men (unless they break God’s Law), and he doesn’t train us to live impious lives. If that is your mode of living then you are not living yet in God’s grace. That is not to say you won’t sin but these will blips on walk of faith, not the main characteristic of it. If you find you are having more than blips and are living life consistently opposed to the grace of God I point you to confession and absolution with your pastor and make a regular practice of it, until the grace of God given in absolution starts training you again in righteousness.
While we are being trained by this grace, we are waiting and looking. Who or what are we looking for? “We look for the blessed One Who is our Hope, for our great God and Savior Christ Jesus to show Himself in glory.” Yes, like faithful servants in the parables of Jesus, we are waiting and watching for our Hope, Jesus Christ, who has given us the promise our sins are forgiven us. We are looking for our great God and Savior, who is Jesus Christ. As our God and Savior, we look for him to deliver us from this veil of tears, save us from all wickedness and bring us into his kingdom. We wait for Jesus Christ to show himself in Glory. When we see Jesus in his glory we shall be changed to be like him in glory and shed this body of death for an immortal, imperishable, glorious body like his.
Almighty God and Savior, you have given us your grace, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit to train us in lives to be conformed to you will. Always give us this grace that we may live as it pleases you until you come in glory and usher us into your eternal kingdom. In your name Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Love And Confession, The Hallmarks Of A Christian
1 John 47Dear friends, let us love one another because love comes from God and everyone who loves is God’s child and knows God. 8He who doesn’t love hasn’t learned to know God, because God is Love. 9God has shown us His love by sending His only begotten Son into the world for us to live through Him. 10This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins. 11Dear friends, if that’s how God loved us, then we should love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God lives in us, and His love has accomplished in us what He wants. 13This is how we know we live in Him and He in us: He has given us His Spirit. 14We have seen and can tell the truth that the Father sent His Son to save the world. 15If you confess Jesus is God’s Son, God lives in you and you in God. 16And we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is Love, and if you live in love, you live in God, and God lives in you.
So there are a number of conditional sentences in this passage which probably give us some trouble because, well, they cause us to doubt our Christianity. Verses seven and eight right off the bat just make me cringe. Perhaps you’re a better liar to yourself than I am to me. Love one another. Sounds great. Everyone who loves is God’s child and knows God. Things start getting shaky. He who doesn’t love hasn’t learned to know God, because God is love. And well, there you go, apparently I don’t know God because, to be honest, I don’t love all the time. Even if you just narrow it down to loving my fellow Christians, which I believe John is speaking about when he says, “Love one another” I’m fairly certain I am a failure on this point. And by love here I don’t think John, or God, means the feelings of love. He is talking about the that sacrifices our good for the good of someone else.
Well at least at this point we begin to get some good news. John says, “This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins.” Now we are beginning to see the sort of love John is talking about. It is God’s love. God sends his son into the world “for us to live through him.” We see this love is sacrificial love. God the Father sends his son Jesus to be sacrificed for us, to be the payment of our sins. If Jesus paid the price for our sins, then we no longer have to face the penalty of death. If we don’t have to worry about death anymore than we can live our lives through Christ.
So Jesus is given us the example and the power of love and to love. Jesus shows us how he wants us to love one another. Then his love for us transforms us into people who love one another similarly, because it is his love we love them with. We cannot see God. How can we show God’s love to God? We show it by loving his image and likeness, our fellow Christians. By showing humility and service to our fellow believers in Christ, we show he is living in us and accomplishing what his love in us wants to accomplish. The Spirit he gives us shows us that we are children of God. His Spirit has us confess Jesus came into the world to save the world, especially us. When we confess Jesus is God’s Son, i.e. he is truly God, then he lives in us and we live in him. To live in God’s love is to believe and confess what Jesus has done for you. You then will follow that with love for your fellow Christians.
Gracious and Merciful Father, have mercy on us when we do not show your love for others as you have shown for us. Give us your Spirit that we may believe and confess your Son Jesus to be the Christ and may his love have its way with us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion The LORD Saves Us With The Impossible
Luke 129Startled by what he said, she tried to figure out what such a greeting might mean. 30“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her. “God has chosen to bless you. 31You see, you will conceive and have a son, and you will call Him JESUS. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. And the Lord will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. 33He will be King over the people of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will never end.” 34“How can this be?” Mary asked the angel. “I’ve had no relations with a husband.” 35“The Holy Spirit will come over you,” the angel answered her, “and a power of the Most High God will overshadow you. And for that reason the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Now there is also Elizabeth, your relative. She is old, but she too conceived. People call her childless, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37There is nothing that God will not be able to do.” 38“I am the Lord’s servant” Mary answered. “Let it happen to me as you said.” Then the angel left her.
Gabriel now tells Mary why she is blessed. Her blessedness and gracefulness is not innate to her being but rather it is simply God’s choice of her for his plan. Her blessedness and gracefulness is in this, that she would be the mother of God. Yahwah was going to be conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit. He would be her son. As her son he would inherit the throne of his now father David and as the God-Man fulfill his promise to David to have a descendent sit on his throne forever. He will be the Son of God and Son of David.
Now one can hardly blame Mary for her questions as an angel is bearing this news to her. Like her, we also wonder, “How can this be?” It is through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who like the Father and the Son is also truly God. Because the Holy Spirit is the one causing Mary to conceive as a virgin, he son would we called the Son of God. Jesus, Yahweh Saves, is the Holy One of God predicted by the prophets.
It seems the LORD has a penchant for making barren women pregnant. First Sarah, the Rebecca, Judah’s wives, Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin) and well, a virgin is just as barren as any other barren woman. Like Sarah, to whom the LORD said, “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD,” Gabriel tells Mary, “There is nothing that God will not be able to do.” This is an interesting thread in the salvation story because Jesus would later say concerning our salvation, “but for God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26, Mark, 10:27, Luke 18:27)
Just as impossible as a woman who is ninety or a virgin conceiving (and remaining a virgin) and bearing a child, so too, it is impossible for humans to save themselves. We cannot with our own power, reason or strength, with our mind, spirit or soul, do anything to save ourselves. It is impossible. But not with God. With God all things are possible. With God you can and have been saved by Jesus, who is not just man but is Yahweh Saves, Immanuel (God with us), The Holy One, The Son of God, and David’s Greater Son. He can save you and he has saved you. He became the atoning sacrifice for your sin. He became your righteousness and holiness before God.
Heavenly Father, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be born of the Virgin, to take on our flesh and in our flesh make atonement for our sin. Grant us faith to believe this so we may have his righteousness and holiness for our salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Hail You Blessed One! The LORD Is With You!
Luke 126In the sixth month God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man by the name of Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28Coming into her home, the angel said, “Greetings, you blessed one. The Lord is with you.”
The sixth month, that would be six months from when the angel appeared to Zachariah the father of John the Baptist. This would have been on or around March 25th when the Church celebrates the Annunciation, today’s Gospel reading. Shoot ahead nine months and you will land on December 25th coming up quickly on our heels. The angel Gabriel is sent to a small town in Galilee, which is in the north of Judea, to Nazareth to give some good news to a virgin there who is engaged to Joseph, who happens to be a descendent of David. The LORD is fulfilling his promise to his servant David to have a descendent sit on his throne forever.
When the angel came into her home, he greeted her, “Greetings, you blessed one. The Lord is with you.” Now maybe you heard this translated differently, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” We’re not changing the meaning any here, just making it clear to modern ears. Mary indeed is the blessed one. The LORD is declaring her full of grace or blessing or favor. It is the declaration that makes it so. She is receiving it from the LORD.
Why is she the blessed one? Because she is the Woman of Genesis 3:15 (15And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your descendants and her Descendant. He will crush your head, and you will bruise His heel.”) and her seed is the seed of the same. She is the Virgin of Isaiah 7:14 (Look, the virgin will conceive and have a son, and His name will be Immanuel [God-Is-With-Us]!) What greater honor among women is to be the Woman, the Virgin who will give birth to the Savior of the World, Yahweh, the God of Israel, in the flesh and joined to the seed of Abraham and David? Many mothers may think their son is the best but Mary actually will have the literal claim of giving birth to God. Not that God has his origin in her but rather he deign to join himself with her seed and be made flesh. The LORD indeed is with Mary.
And now through the preaching of her son Jesus Christ, by the preaching of his innocent suffering and death, yes death on a cross, Jesus has won for you salvation. He has delivered you from your death and the eternal Lake of Fire. By his rising on the third day Jesus has won for you the resurrection of the flesh into his eternal kingdom on the Last Day. Jesus’ messengers, those who bear this message, through this message make this known to you and manifest to you what was made known to Mary, “Grace, Hail, Greetings you blessed one, filled with grace. The LORD is with you!” Yes, that which is Mary’s is now yours in your hearing the Good News of Jesus. He is conceived and given birth in your hearts in hearing you have been saved by him and through baptism you are sealed in him. You have been favored by God with this message. Jesus has come to take reign of your heart, mind and spirit have you reign with him for all eternity.
Gracious God and Father, you fulfilled your promise to our first parents, to Abraham, to David and to kings through your servant Mary by joining to her flesh your Son Jesus Christ of Nazareth, making him the Savior of the world. Grant us repentance unto faith in Jesus that he may be born in our hearts and live his life in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
#DailyDevotion The Mystery Of Christ Brings The Obedience Of Faith
Romans 16, by unveiling the mystery veiled in silence for long ages 26but now brought to light and by the writings of the prophets, as the everlasting God ordered them, shown to all the nations to lead them to believe and obey — 27to the only wise God through Jesus Christ be glory forever. Amen.
There is a mystery from the ages past. We see it corrupted through the myths and tales of men. Probably one of my favorite corruptions is the tale of King Arthur. But none of the tales or myths of heroes or gods compares with the truth. It probably wasn’t clearly seen from the beginning until the prophet Moses put it down to pen in Genesis 3:15 and even then it seemed as if it were a shadow. The seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. While the pen of Moses wrote that Eve named her firstborn Cain (which means lord) because she thought she had given birth to the LORD, those who followed Moses said that can’t be and say he was born “with the help of” the LORD.
Abraham was promised his seed (singular) would be a blessing unto all the nations, not yet fully revealing that the LORD himself would be joined to his seed and be this promised blessing seed. The LORD promised David that his seed, his descendent (singular) would rule on his throne forever. Who else could rule forever if it were not the LORD himself, so in making the promise he here intimates he would join himself to David’s house and become David’s heir.
Then the prophet Isaiah promises a virgin will bear a son, a virgin of the House of David, and he will be Immanuel, God with us. Isaiah again prophesies and tells us 96 “A Child will be born for us, a Son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulder, and He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This again is revealed to us that the LORD himself is joining his person to our flesh, becoming one of us to save the Israelites first and then the world. Matthew and Luke’s Gospels reveal to us the LORD has fulfilled his word. The Virgin Mary of the House of David has given birth to a son, Jesus, the LORD Saves. He is the promised seed of the Woman, of Abraham, of David, of the Virgin who is the very LORD, Yahweh, himself.
This Jesus the Father has revealed to us is the savior of all people everywhere. We are called to be repentant of our sins, to be baptized into him and to believe and put our trust in him. We are to look to Jesus alone for our salvation from sin and death and nowhere and in no one else. This is the obedience of the faith. We are to put no faith in ourselves, our spirit or our flesh. Our confidence before the Almighty Father is Jesus Christ and him alone. To this we give honor and praise to the only wise God and Father through Jesus Christ be glory forever. Amen.
Almighty and All-Wise Father and God, you ordained from before creation to have your son Jesus Christ take on our human flesh to save us from our sins and to reclaim us as your children though we have rebelled against you. Reveal Jesus now to our hearts that we may be conformed to the obedience of this faith and be joined to you in your kingdom forevermore. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.