Thoughts for Christmas 2015
This season I’ve been looking at and thinking about passages in Scripture that describe Jesus’s mission in coming to dwell with men.
This is the passage from Isaiah that Jesus himself quotes as his own mission statement:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the **captives** and release from darkness for the **prisoners**, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
This Christmas season I want to explore the tension between the Age we’re IN at present, versus the HOPE of the Age that is promised to come. Here is my premise: We live in the Age of captivity, of prisoners, of darkness… In that sense there is grief, and sorrow… But Jesus came for healing and for freedom- He offers that TO US, and calls us to work *with him* for healing and freedom in the lives of others… The context of Jesus coming is a declaration of WAR on EVIL; the very nature of releasing prisoners and captives suggests that there would be resistance from an Enemy. And we are called to enter warfare with Jesus against Evil.
This is the time we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”… and as we walk “we fear no Evil”… but we do live in Satan’s realm and reign (Revelation 12, 1 John 5:19: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.) THIS life is the battle ground. We still live in the period of sin and death… there IS weeping… and there IS a true, deep and grievous wound… We need healing… we need freedom from captivity. And we need to Fight… for our own heart and for others… to be wholly bound to God alone.
Jesus himself said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”(Matthew 10:34)
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~ Eph. 6:17
This passage doesn’t even make sense if you’re not at war. Who carries a sword unless they’re at war, and without intent to *kill*?
I believe that God’s people have bought into a lie- that we’re already in the Age of full Joy and victory (part of the lie is that if you don’t *feel* this, then *your* faith is deficient)… we’ve been tricked into exchanging our swords for plowshares before the time.
THIS is the time we are in: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” ~ Joel 3:10 (note: in contrast Isaiah 2:4 is the age to come)
So you might be wondering: okay, where does the Joy and Peace of Christmas fit in to all this?
There IS joy and peace… but it is not based on this world, it is based on the hope and the promise of Christ’s second coming, when the defeat over Evil will be final and when God’s Kingdom will have full reign. We do see smaller (but not insignificant) victories of God in our own hearts and others, that foreshadow that ultimate victory. The joy and the peace is in the beginning of the Battle… that we DO have One who has come to fight on our behalf- to set us free and empower us… Our confidence is in Him, therefore we hold true joy even with the sorrow of this broken world.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ~ Isaiah 35:10 and 51:11
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow **will turn into joy**. ~ John 16:20
We are called to hold complexity- joy and sorrow; to be childlike in faith, yet a warrior ready to kill.
Jesus isn’t afraid of this complexity. He creates tension, conflict, and complexity and *invites you to wrestle with Him in it all.*
THIS wrestling is true faith.
Be faithful and take up your sword this Christmas.
Oh yeah, and just make sure you’re on the right side of the battle:
Psalm 7:12- If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.
This is the beautiful thing, that even as this is the age of Battle against Evil, it is also the Age of Salvation, when the call of God is “Come!!” and He has his arms of mercy open to ALL who come to him repentance and faith (faith that Jesus took the punishment you deserve when He died on the cross, and offers the free gift of canceling the debt YOU owe of your own blood and death, that instead Jesus paid it FOR you) :
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare…
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” ~ Isaiah 55
Merry Christmas :oD
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. ~ Romans 16:20.
May *you* have your foot on the neck of Evil in the year to come.
Ps. If you’re interested in digging more into the topic of warfare, I’d suggest “Waking the Dead” by John Eldridge, and the podcasts from his website: ransomed heart ministries. Also, Dan Allender’s book “Bold Love”; If you’re interested in reading about the basics of faith in Jesus, I’d recommend Timothy Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” and Charles Spurgeon’s “All of Grace.”