The Baptism of Jesus

A sermon on Jesus’s Baptism, based on Matthew 9:1-13 (Lent 1B).

Introduction

Elijah, back as John the Baptist, baptises Jesus; God and the Holy Spirit appear with Jesus; who then goes out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. John is imprisoned, Jesus begins his ministry and we hear his message: “the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”  Phew!

It’s like the overture in an opera, a summary of the 15 chapters to come, and a manifesto for an election campaign, all rolled into one. 

Jesus Baptism: why, why, why?

I was thinking about this while I was emptying the bins and putting out the stuff for recycling:

  • Why did Elijah have to come back? I’m not sure.
  • Why was Jesus baptised?  In Mark, Matthew and Luke, it is the trigger for God to endorse Jesus and the Spirit to anoint him Messiah.
  • Why did Jesus go out to be tempted? Mark does not say, but Matthew and Luke both give us three answers, but they’re not quite the same.

While I couldn’t get an answer to every question, I could think about these great spiritual things while doing something mundane. Even more amazing:

  • I could pray directly to God about it, in Jesus name (which means ‘God with us’) and
  • I can even let the Holy Spirit work in my mind and with my spirit, not to always get the answer to my questions, but to better know, love and obey our three-in-one God.

Our Time in Lent

In this short period of Lent, we are privileged to join all the players in Jesus story, most of all the get closer to God as we just spend time with him.  Many people will get to know God personally during this Lent, because they will:

  • Hear the Gospel from others who went before them and be baptised;
  • Make their public commitment to God and receive the Holy Spirit, as Jesus did; and
  • They will go into the arid world and be tempted, just as Jesus was.

Conclusion

Unlike Jesus himself, you and I and all other believers will not get all the answers we want, and we will fail to connect with God from time to time, and we will give into temptation. But God has prepared even for our sins so that we can confess and connect to Him at any time. We can spend more time with Him at special points in every week and year of our lives.

Thank God for Jesus! (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Persistence in Prayer & all Things

Persistence in Prayer and in all things, a sermon based on Luke 18:1-8 and 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (Proper 24C)

Introduction

We are often told that we live in a culture of instant gratification.  I think that is only superficially true, or even, it was true, would it necessarily be a bad thing?  Would it be so bad if poor children could have what they need as soon as they needed it, or be able to go to university without incurring long-term debt? 

Nevertheless, I do think that the things that really matter take time.  Today we have a scriptural antidote to the idea of instant gratification. Here are two passages urging us to be persistent.

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus reminds us to be persistent with prayer to God:

  • He is our Father and wants to do the right thing for us.
  • Jesus promises us justice, not what we want or think we need, because;
  • God is just, Holy and all-powerful, but nevertheless He does care about us.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Paul gives Timothy advice with some urgency:

  • This is his last letter before he is executed. 
  • He is worried about the church facing persecution under Emperor Nero. 
  • Paul is also missing Timothy his adopted ‘son’.

Some Modern Theory 

I’ve been reading a book called ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed; he was a world-class table tennis player.  One of the things he tries to do in his book is to debunk the idea of innate or instant talent or genius: 

  • To get really good at anything takes ~10,000 hours of purposeful practice. 
  • That’s 20 hours a week almost 10 years. 
  • Not just 10,000 hours of repetition: it’s being pushed to perform better all the time.

Another thing he looks at is the placebo effect.  Just believing in something can make people more successful, whether the thing they believe in is true or not

  • Such ideas might make us feel threatened, it sounds like an attack on faith itself? 
  • But actually, Jesus’s parable of the persistent widow says the same thing. 
  • Her persistence wins justice though there is none in the human judge – her faith that he will do the right thing makes it happen. 

Jesus doesn’t see this as a reason to doubt faith; rather that he says if faithful persistence makes the unjust do right then surely God even more so.

Nevertheless

There will be bad times when it seems that our faith is achieving nothing. 

  • Paul was faithful for a lifetime: 10,000 hours of purposeful practice becoming a Rabbi; three years in the desert after his conversion; and many years’ hardship on the road.
  • This got him chained up like a criminal in a cold dungeon far from home and loved ones waiting for death. 
  • Despite this Paul encourages Timothy (if you are feeling down then read all of 2Timothy, it’s quite short).  Be patient with yourself, with others and with God. 

So let’s stick with it friends!      

The Apostles’ First Day

Jesus briefs his apostles on their first day at work, based on Luke 6:17-26 (Epiphany 6C)

Introduction

In verses 12-16 Jesus takes his disciples up a mountain, spends all night praying and then selects 12 of them to be apostles (“sent with a special commission”).  In verse 17 they come down the mountain and run into a large crowd, seeking his teaching and healing.  He heals all who need it and then he speaks to his followers. 

Luke 6:17-26

Jesus tells his followers that following him may cost them.  They may be:

  • Poor; Hungry; Weeping;
  • Hated, excluded, insulted and rejected as evil!

But God will reward them because this is how the prophets were always treated. Conversely, the rich, well fed, laughing and admired had better watch out! These things come from humans, not God.

This was not obvious teaching at the time.  Surely people had good things because God blessed them?

Meaning for Today

People still believe this.  On social media I see Christians saying that God is going to bless his people, more and more.  Now Jesus doesn’t say that we will always suffer, or must suffer, but he does encourage us. 

  • If we suffer on Earth for our faith, we should know that this is consistent with being true disciples; 
  • Conversely, being rich and famous is not a sign that God loves us.

Conclusion

The reward for faith is salvation, a restored relationship with God, and all that flows from it: 

  • Love for enemies (vv27-36);
  • Not judging others (vv37-42);
  • Bearing good fruit; and
  • Building wisely (vv46-49).

We will be different, and our differences will equip us for heaven.  Let’s start as we mean to go on!

Investing Wisely

‘Investing Wisely’ is a sermon that aims to ask: where is our treasure and what is our perspective? It’s based on Jeremiah 32:1-15 and Luke 16:19-31 (Pentecost 18)

It’s 587BC and Jeremiah is in a tight spot

  • He’s been falsely arrested for Treason because he prophesied against the King.
  • He’s imprisoned in the Guardhouse of the Royal Palace.
  • Jerusalem is under siege, surrounded by Babylonian troops.
  • Then Hanamel his Nephew appears and asks him to buy a field – three miles behind enemy lines!  
  • Jeremiah could have pointed out the absurdity of what Hanamel was asking, but:
    • The Word of God has told Jeremiah that this would happen.
    • It is the law that he should buy the field and keep it in the family

Luke 16:19-31.  Now we have a very different picture

  • Jesus tells a parable, perhaps reusing a familiar folk story.  Note that:
    • It isn’t orthodox in the Christian sense – it doesn’t say salvation is by faith!
    • Jesus uses current belief – the focus is on right living rather than right belief.
    • Lazarus is the only named character in a parable of Jesus.
  • The rich man shows no interest in Lazarus, although he lives under his nose.
    • He has food to spare and Lazarus would gladly eat it – but no luck.
    • He doesn’t even think of others until he is in Hell (and then it’s his brothers).
  • In v31 Jesus ironically refers to Lazarus, raised from the dead, and perhaps himself.

Message for Today

  • The obvious message from the parable in Luke is a warning to us in the rich West.
    • Here we are indulging ourselves to death, while others die for lack of clean water.
    • The faithless might use such (tabloid) stories to say “there ain’t no justice” (or God).
    • I am fearful of what God will allow to happen to our society. (How angry is God?)
    • That’s perhaps what you would expect me to say – and it’s true!
  • However, when put next to the Jeremiah passage another view emerges.
    • Jeremiah could have needed that silver to keep him alive (bribes for the guard).
    • His far-sighted actions would enable his heirs to claim their land after the exile.
  • The message for today is what are we investing in?  Where is our treasure and our hearts?

Conclusion: investing

  • Jeremiah was in prison in a city under siege; he knew the enemy would win.
  • We are imprisoned in physical bodies, in a materialistic society in a physical universe.
  • We are not going to win this fight (a thought typical of Jeremiah)!
    • We will not live forever.
    • The church will not win over society and save society from itself.
    • Occasional miracles aside, God will not intervene to save our planet from us.
  • People without faith expect God to act in a timescale to suit them – they’re dead wrong!
    • God will act when and where and how He deems best for His purposes.
    • We are called to invest our hearts and treasure in God’s purposes and his timescale.
  • Our privileged relationship with God allows us to see things from His perspective.
  • “Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven, Amen.”

Why Reach Out to the Lost Sheep?

A sermon on ‘the lost sheep’, based on Luke 15:1-10 (Year C, Proper 19).

Aim: To explain why the sheep is really lost, why we need to reach out and how.

If you’ve spent your whole life in the church then the story about the lost sheep is really well known isn’t it?  Perhaps we think we know it so well that there is nothing more to learn.  But let’s imagine that we are not religious insiders and that we are listening carefully, expectantly, to the story.

Luke 1:1-10

In verse 2 the Pharisees complain that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  These sinners were Jews who collaborated with the Roman occupying forces – a foreign, Pagan invader.  (Although the Romans were relatively liberal occupiers, the Jews had recent memories of those who were not. The previous invaders had tried to destroy Jewish culture and worship.)  So these people were beyond the pale, yet Jesus ate with them!  This was too much – for the Jews eating with someone was to accept them totally, to recognize them and know them as one of  God’s people. To this day, when we take communion we cement our relationship with God and with our fellow Christians.

Meaning at the Time  

It’s easy for us to criticize the Pharisees, but we should remember that their zealous devotion to God was much greater than ours is today.  They were popular with the people just as the Taliban were in Afghanistan because the alternative was corrupt and collaborated with foreigners.  But the Pharisees were a political party and, perhaps, were focussed on the Jews as a Nation, and the power that gave them, rather then the fate of individuals.  Perhaps the Pharisees have pride – they have confidence in themselves and their earthly power, rather than in God; this is how evil men are described in Psalm 14 and Jeremiah 4.  They were rightly critical of sin, but so much so that they could not recognize repentance or rejoice about it.    So Jesus told them a story.

In Jesus’ time, those hearing the story would have known that a lost sheep would be in real danger.  Not only would the stupid animal have wandered away from the flock, it’s natural protection, the Shepherd and the best grazing, but it would be easy prey for wild animals and bandits. 

Meaning for Today

Today, those who don’t know Jesus don’t see themselves as lost, because whatever doubts they might have about their lives are masked by material wealth.  They don’t need God, because they have confidence in their wealth and strength – until they run out.  I’ve heard those who don’t know God say two things: “I’ve got nothing to say sorry to God for” and “why is this happening to me?”

Perhaps they also don’t know about God, because nobody has told them.  I wonder if we still have an appetite to go out and save the lost?  Or do we just stay within our church, our comfort zone, our little club?  In our network of activities – no doubt good in themselves – have we so thoroughly occupied ourselves with business that we have forgotten our Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt 29:19 NIV)    

In Conclusion

Do we even think of ourselves as a church that does that kind of thing?  What would we have to do reach outside to the lost?  What would we have to give up in order to have the time, money and people to do that?  our regular activities?  Our habitual style of worship?  Imagine if we did go out and draw in dozens of new believers, people who don’t know how to behave in church – what changes, what sacrifices would we have to make to accommodate them and disciple them?  Are we willing to do that?  The key, as always, is Jesus.  If we recognize and accept him as the Son of God then we will accept his authority and power to forgive sin, as the outcasts did, and that would drive  everything else.

Good News for the POOR

This sermon, focussed on Jesus’s mission to the poor, is based on Luke 4:14-21. I delivered it on 27th January 2019 (Year C, Epiphany 3).

Introduction

In First-Century civilization, three classes made up society:

  • The aristocracy – the ruling class, an international elite who worked together to stay on top, no matter what their apparent differences;
  • The middle class – traders, artisans, priests, tax collectors, officials and so on; and 
  • The poor – who had to work as hard as they could just to stay alive.

This was brilliantly illustrated in a sketch on the Frost Report.

Views then and Now

If you took a conventional view of religion back then, you would assume that God blesses the rich, and everyone would agree with you. 

  • The aristocracy would agree that their rightful position was on top, (self) satisfied that their success showed them to be blessed by God and confirmed in looking down on the social-climbing middle classes. 
  • Those middle classes would be happy to agree that wanted to climb the greasy pole and join the aristocracy. They wanted to be ‘top people’ and – more than anything else – to avoid becoming poor. 
  • And those poor people would agree that being poor sucked, so they must be cursed by God; they wanted to join the middle class and get away from the daily struggle for survival, which left no time for anything else. 

In our Twenty-First-Century civilization it’s just the same.  Oxfam says that the world’s richest 26 people have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population. 

Absolutely nothing has changed.

Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 4

Yet, when Jesus starts his public ministry, he begins in Galilee, an isolated backwater, cut off from the rest of Israel, which itself is on the very edge of the Roman Empire.  He goes home, to an insignificant village.  He accepts a scroll written by a prophet who was, it was said, murdered by a king some 700 years before (N.B. this is not Biblical).  Of all the thousands of verses in the 66 chapters of Isaiah, he picks out these verses.  God has chosen Him:

  • To deliver good news to the poor;
  • To preach a message that:
    • means freedom for the locked-away;
    • will open the eyes of those who can’t see; and
  • To set free the used and abused.

To deliver this message, Jesus is supported by the middle class: disciples who are boat-owning fishermen, even a tax collector; a doctor – Luke, who wrote this Gospel; and his ministry is funded by women who have some money to spare.

Jesus Loves the Poor: but does he Hate the Rich?

Not necessarily, but…Jesus was opposed by the monarchy, the aristocracy, the two political parties, the religious authorities, those senior officials who collaborated with the Roman Empire.  They tried to kill him many times.  Eventually, they get him, find him guilty in an illegal trial (held at night, only no witnesses) and trick the Roman authorities into murdering Him. 

It seems that our reaction to Jesus is largely determined by our wealth. 

Now, there are exceptions to any rule: those poor who accepted payment to become a mob and shout “crucify him!”; the tax-collector who repents and becomes a disciple; even Nicodemus, former Jewish ambassador to Rome, who listens to Jesus and changes allegiance from the aristocracy, his class, to the Messiah.

What should we Conclude from all this?

  • First, if you’re poor – locked out of society, deceived, duped, used and abused by the rich – then Jesus has good news for you. You will be set free and able to see what’s really going on; 
  • Second, the middle classes had better think about what their priorities are: climbing that greasy pole; or using their good fortune for good, telling people about Jesus? 
  • Third, the rich must repent, and radically change direction, or they will be shut out of heaven for eternity.  Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25) [NIV].

But those richest 26 people in the world?  I wouldn’t bet on their chances of going to heaven; that’s not “gambling responsibly”, is it?  But you, brothers and sisters in Christ?  You’ll be just fine.  See you in heaven.  

Back to Preaching Resources.

The Cost of Discipleship

Message: when we have a real picture of God, we can understand why discipleship costs. Based on Luke 14:25-33.

Introduction

Today the church often seems to offer a nice, fluffy, cuddly God to people.  A sympathetic, empathetic God of unconditional love.  A God who saves us and loves us and looks after us.  Now there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but it’s only a partial – and hence a biased and unrealistic – picture of God. It’s also an irrational picture of God. 

A Tough, Rational Picture of God

If God is so unconditionally loving then it wouldn’t matter that we were sinners, because God wouldn’t punish us anyway.  Indeed, in this portrait, God is too nice even to mention our shortcomings and selfishness.  We can just carry on doing what we’ve always done and ignore God, who will love and accept us no matter what.  So, rationally, logically, there is no need for forgiveness, no need for the cross and no need for Jesus.  If we offer people an irrational faith, parts of which contradict each other, is it any wonder that sensible people reject it?  Is it any wonder that about 70% of people in the UK believe in God but only 10% regularly come to church?

Fortunately, if anyone reads what Jesus actually said and did, He destroys that silly, childish and sentimental picture of God pretty quickly.  Jesus says tough things to people.  He talks about being disciples.  Hey, that implies discipline – following, obeying, serving – that costs!  Where’s my fluffy God gone?  Actually, Jesus does this quite a lot in all sorts of ways, but in this reading, he speaks explicitly about the cost of following Him. 

Discipleship: Responding to the Real God

So how do we put together these pictures of a loving God with the disciplinarian who demands obedience, sacrifice, service, even the surrender of our lives?  Can we resolve them into one?  Should we even try? 

First of all, I think we should.  Those people who don’t believe in God aren’t foolish (well some are, but we probably won’t reach the truly selfish ones who are only interested in what they can get[1]). Most people recognise that when they are offered something for nothing there’s a catch.  Hence our offer of a fluffy, free, gutless God turns them off: maybe that’s why Jesus never offered that picture of God?

Discipleship: An Application  

So how do we picture the true God, the real deal, a seemingly contradictory God of love and judgement?  I’ve been reading ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren recently, and he offers a picture or model (there may be many more) that seems to work.

Warren’s focus is on discipleship, and underpinning the many ideas in this very rich book, is just one idea, the idea of ‘character’.  He suggests that the character, or person, we are when we die is the one we will keep throughout eternity.  So if we are full of hatred, jealousy, rage and selfish ambition[2] then we will remain so forever.  Even if we are saved and living with God, we will still be us: in essence, the same character we were on earth[3].

Therefore Warren’s conclusion (and his book is soundly Biblical) is that this life may be our only opportunity to hone and develop our character into something that we could and should be: forever.  Now, IMHO, all models of God (theology) are wrong, but some are useful, but perhaps this idea helps us makes sense of a loving God, who allows us to suffer, even after we become Christians and are saved.

Conclusion 

There is a reason that God wants us not only to be saved, but to be disciples and to change and grow in character – however painful and costly that might be – because the alternative is awful.  God requires us to live a good life of worship, service, fellowship, sacrifice, mission – discipleship – not because he is a distant, disinterested God, but because He is our Father, He is Jesus (‘God with us’), he is the Holy Spirit within us and because He loves us..


[1] Are you shocked?  Jesus said the majority of people will enter the broad gate to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

[2] Some of the fruit of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19).

[3] Can we still change in heaven?  Warren suggests not; CS Lewis says yes, we can change, that there is still pain in heaven.

The Holy Spirit, Jesus’s Legacy

A sermon on Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church. (Scripture for the day: Genesis 11:1-9; John 14:8-17, (25-27); and Romans 8:14-17).

Jesus’ Legacy: the Holy Spirit.

  • Not just a Birthday, but Our anniversary – a time for reflection and thinking ahead.
  • When we reflect we often think of our legacy – what have we achieved, what have we left behind us?
  • The Holy Spirit is Jesus ‘legacy’ (legacy = bequest, inheritance, gift, donation).

The Holy Spirit is… 

Who is this person we’ve inherited?  What are they like?  What do they do?

  • Holy – set aside for God’s purpose or work.
  • Of Truth – leads people to the truth about God and who Jesus is.
  • Reminder – of Jesus (person), actions, teaching and message.
  • Peaceful – allows us to rest in intimacy with God, rather than fear.
  • Counsellor – helps and advises us, especially to obey God because we love Jesus.
  • Advocate – our defender when accused (Satan = ‘accuser’).
  • Comforter – someone we can turn to for reassurance in trouble.
  • Adopter – lets us know that we are adopted, and receive God’s inheritance (legacy).
  • Has personality – not a characterless, distant force, but a person we can know.
  • Dynamic – changing and responsive to our situation; active in God’s plans.
  • Guide – leads us to do new things, meet new people and see new places.

Our Legacy 

In around 25 years’ time I will be retiring (I hope) and looking back upon a life of…What will I have achieved?  Where will I have fallen short?  [“because …”]

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  Teddy Roosevelt, 23rd Apr 1910.

In 25 years’, what will our Church look like?  Many congregations will have died our entirely; their buildings will no longer be holy.  Yate and Staple Hill are larger and have families with children, so they should still be here.  We will endure; but, given what we know about the Holy Spirit, is that enough? 

Transfiguration: Glimpses of Substance

A sermon on the Transfiguration, based on Luke 9:28-36.

Introduction

We are in that part of the story (Luke, Mark or Matthew), where Jesus asks his disciples who he is and only Peter has the nerve to see it and say: “you are God’s Messiah”.  Then Jesus tells the disciples that he must suffer and die to fulfil his mission; Peter argues with Jesus and is rebuked.  A week later Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a hill to pray, then …

Meaning at the Time

Jesus allowed his disciples to see him transfigured so that they would know what he was really like – his Glory, or substance.  They needed to know what the Messiah was really like because they had no idea, or worse they had a wrong idea (Jewish Superman), which got in the way of the truth.  Even when one disciple realises that Jesus is the Messiah, he still gets it wrong.  So Jesus had no choice but to take some of the disciples[1] and show them the truth.

This truth was that Jesus was on earth as part of God’s age-old plan for his people, the continuation of the work done by Moses and Elijah[2]. In the bright light it’s hard to see who they are, and we might see a symbol of the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit.  This mountaintop experience, where God is often found in the Bible, reveals God’s glory – the reality, the hyper-reality, of his great substance or solidity.  

Meaning for Now

Our faith is not some self-improvement program.  We are not going to get more powerful, or younger, sexier, fitter, thinner, healthier, or wiser or richer by following him.  We are going to get more like Jesus – Jesusier? – juicier: if you squeeze us then love will leak out!

And because Jesus is close to God we get closer to God as we get closer to Jesus.  And because Jesus is God we get more like God too, not that we will have power and honour and praise – but we have glory.  We have substance, something about us, it’s not of this world and it will outlast this world. It is more than this world can understand or grasp.  Hallelujah!

Conclusion

It is my duty and my joy to bring this message to you, for you are special people, loved by God and filled with His glory.  Thank you.


[1] Why not all of them? And why choose the most stroppy ones – the ‘sons of thunder’ and Peter? That’s another sermon!?

[2] But Jesus will go further and wider than Moses or Elijah, who’s mission was just to the Jews.  Jesus will allow all peoples of the earth, not just the Jews but the whole human race, to be with God.  This revelation will so shock and anger the conservative religious authorities that they will kill Jesus.

We Chose to Celebrate

A sermon about chosing, based on Jeremiah 31:7-14 and several New Testament passages.

Introduction

People who don’t know God sometimes say that they can’t believe in Him because of all the bad things in the world (e.g. David Attenborough and the eyeball-burrowing worm; he choses not to consider the logical opposite, which is that good things in the world suggest that there is a God.)

Jeremiah 31 – Meaning at the Time

But God never promised us a perfect world, a world free from suffering and the effects of sin.  Notice what Jeremiah says:

“For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.”  (Jer 31:11)

God promises to ransom/redeem Jacob, His people in exile, from a stronger people, either the Assyrians or Babylonians; note that this is a concrete promise referring to real events, not some vague nicety.  However, God does not promise to make ‘us’ stronger than ‘them’, but merely to rescue us.  The stronger peoples, who do not know God, will remain.  We should not, therefore, expect a perfect world.  John points out that many Jews failed to recognise Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus himself tells us that poverty[1] and war[2] will always be with us.   Not everyone will know God.  Life is not fair. 

Meaning for Today

This unfairness also raises questions amongst people.  Some ask what have Christians done to deserve this favour?  Why, in this age, which worships individual choice and equality[3], is this salvation not equally available to all?  John’s Gospel tells us that it does not depend on inherited rights, but on recognising Jesus: “… his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him … he gave the right to become children of God …” (John 1:11b-12).  Anyone can be saved if they receive Jesus. 

Some Christians want to make the world perfect in their own strength, in their own understanding.  Perhaps the evangelical want to see everyone accept Jesus as Lord.  Perhaps the legalists want to see all Christians obey God’s will perfectly.  Perhaps the liberals want to see all social ills and injustices wiped out.  Perhaps the ‘Universalists’ would like all to be saved regardless of their belief in Jesus.  All of these groups will be disappointed – none of them will be able to celebrate victory.  As nice as these ideas sound, they are not real, and they are not part of God’s plan.

The response that is required of us at Christmas is to celebrate being part of God’s chosen people.  We recognised God in Jesus and believe in who He is.  For that reason alone we are saved, we have bought in to God’s plan to save humanity, which he formulated before he formed the universe itself.  With a free ticket we have won the lottery, a prize of undeserved holiness and blamelessness, adoption and inheritance, lavish grace, redemption and forgiveness.  We have even been briefed on God’s secret plan to eliminate poverty, war, sin and unbelief by bringing all things under Christ at the end of time[4]

Conclusion

Today, therefore, the people of God are not to waste time waiting for a perfect world that we can’t make, or questioning God’s wisdom in granting salvation as He chooses.  Today, we are to celebrate what we already have, the salvation and hope of Jesus, the promised Messiah.  We really are different from other people, only because we recognise Jesus for what He really is – God and man.  We chose to accept Jesus as Lord and so to become the Chosen people of God.  Happy Christmas!


[1] Matthew 26:11 “The poor you will always have … ”

[2] Matthew 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars … [in the end times]”

[3] To the point where it damages society!

[4] Ephesians 1:3-14.