For This Reason…

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work – 1 John 3:8, NIV

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When it comes to the meaning of Christmas, we always think of the nativity scene with Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the manger with the cattle lowing.  We think of the  angels who  appeared to the shepherds keeping their flocks to announce the good news of the Savior’s birth in the City of David.  We think of the shepherds rushing to Bethlehem to see the Child and then spreading the word concerning what had been told them about Him.  We think of the wise men who traveled far to see the King of Israel to bring Him gifts and to fall down in worship.

Yes, Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins but there was another very important reason for His coming and it too is good news.  The apostle John tells us that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work.  How does He do that?  Jesus Himself tells us as He quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19).  When Jesus was finished reading, He told those gathered in the synagogue that He had fulfilled that scripture that very day in their hearing.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught the people the Word of God which was the Good News of God’s love and His salvation.  He healed diseases and sicknesses, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and drove out unclean spirits.  He freed a woman who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years.  Eyes that were blinded were opened and sinners were drawn to the love of God which was manifested in Christ.  The Light had come into the world and many were brought out of the darkness.  Jesus came to reveal the true nature of the devil whom He said was a murderer and the father of lies.

Jesus accomplished not only salvation for us when He came but something else that is very important.  What was that?  Hebrews 2:14 tells us, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14, ESV).   The Good News is that Jesus has given us victory over death which will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Death will no longer have any power over us.  Those of us who die in Jesus will be resurrected.  Death will lose its sting.  

Jesus came to take away our sins.  Sin is of the devil.  He uses deception to cause us to sin.  1 John 3:7 says that, “whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning”.  Jesus came to help us to stop making it a practice of sinning.  He Himself was as we were but He didn’t sin.  He makes it possible for us to follow His example through the help of the Holy Spirit who not only convicts us of sin but enables us to practice that which is good and right in the sight of God.  Being born of the Spirit means that we no longer practice sinning.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t ever sin again but we have the assurance that when we do, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2, ESV).  

Thank You, Lord Jesus for coming into the world to destroy the power of sin in our lives through the Holy Spirit and for destroying the works of the devil.  As we celebrate this Christmas season, help us to enjoy the freedom we can enjoy only by living in obedience to You.

The Set Time

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship – Galatians 4:4, 5, NIV

Young pregnant Mary praying leaning on manger on Christmas Eve

God’s timing is always perfect.  At the set or appointed time, He sent His Son, Jesus, born of Mary of Nazareth, to redeem us.

Jesus was under the law because of His mother, Mary, who like the rest of us, was conceived in sin.  Just as Jesus had to be in the flesh in order to deal with the sin  in the flesh, He had to be under the law in order to redeem us who are under the law because of Adam and Eve.

The good news is that “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).  The law cannot save us.  It can only condemn us.  It identifies the sin in our lives but cannot save us from it.  The law points to the One who can.

Jesus made it possible for us to satisfy the requirements of the law which had condemned us of sin by giving us the Holy Spirit.  When walk after the Holy Spirit, we become children of God, living in obedience to His law.  This means we are no longer under it’s penalty which is death.  At the set time, God sent Jesus to redeem us from the penalty of the law.

And the good news is that not only did Jesus redeem us from the penalty of the law but He made it possible for those who walk by the Spirit to become children of God and adopted into the Family, making us heirs and co-heirs with Him.    

Thank You, Father, for sending Your beloved Son, Jesus into the world at just the right time to redeem us.

We Are All Slaves

“We are all slaves,” Todd declared and Marsha stared at him.

black girl in white blouse“What do you mean by that?”  she wondered.

“It’s what my pastor said last week.”

“Where did he get that information from?”

“The Bible, of course.  It’s in chapter six of Romans, verses twenty to twenty-two.  We are either slaves of sin or slaves of God.  We serve one or other other.  We serve sin when we allow it to control our bodies, making us commit immoral acts.”

What sort of immoral acts?”

“Adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and fornication.”

“What’s fornication?”

“It’s sex outside of marriage.  It can be between two people who aren’t married to each other or between two unmarried people.”

“Oh.”  She turned away so that he wouldn’t see the expression on her face.

“But, sin isn’t just about sexual immorality.  There’s spiritual immorality as well.”

“What happens to a person who is a slave to sin?”

“Romans 6:16 says that obeying sin leads to death.  Doesn’t your church teach you these things?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t you leave that church and come to mine?”

She turned to face him.  “Leave the Catholic Church?” she exclaimed.  “How could I?  I was born and raised a Catholic.  Why should I leave the church just because Father Montgomery hasn’t taught us what’s in Romans 6?  He might one of these days, you know.”

“I used to be a Catholic but I left because I realized that they were teaching what wasn’t in the Bible and the sex scandals–”

Marsha glared at him.  “I’m sick and tired of people attacking the church.”

“Why are you getting so upset?” Todd asked.  “I’m not attacking the church.  All I’m saying is that it needs to address the and rid itself of the sex scandals.  I’m sure that if you or someone you knew were a victim, you would feel differently.  You would want justice.  The church is supposed to be a place where people should feel safe.”

“I have to go,” she muttered.  “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”  She turned and walked away before he could say anything.

As he headed home, he felt impressed to pray for her.

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Father Montgomery finished saying his prayer in the chapel, blessed himself and rose to his feet.  Next he went to the confessional to listen to three people make confessions.  By the time he left the parish, it was almost six o’clock.  He let himself into the abandoned mansion.   When he first visited it, he ventured down into the secret room, called a “priest hole” where Catholic clergy hid from their Protestant hunters.  Anti-Catholicism was rampant when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558.  He tried to imagine what it would have been like to spend any amount of time there.  It made him think of the Jews who were hidden by well meaning citizens so that they could escape the concentration camps and ultimately, death.

It was in the Master’s bedroom where Marsha waited for him.  It was still furnished.  The furniture was old but still in good condition, natural light streamed through the large windows and the bed was still functional.  She was sitting at the edge of the bed, hands on lap when he walked in.  He knew right away that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” he asked as he sat down beside her.

“I ran into Todd on my way home from church this morning.”

He frowned.  “Who’s Todd?”

“He’s a boy from school.”

“Tell me what happened when you ran into him this morning.”

“He told me that we are all slaves.  Slaves to sin or slaves to God.  His pastor read this in chapter six of Romans.  I don’t want to be a slave to sin because it leads to death.”

“Marsha, you aren’t a slave of sin.  Such talk is foolishness.”

“But what about us?  Aren’t we sinning against God?”

He put his arm around her shoulders.  “It isn’t sin when two people love each other.  I love you and you love me, don’t you?”

“Yes, but–”

“Then, we aren’t sinning.  We are in a monogamous relationship.  We aren’t unequally yoked.  We share the same faith and believe in the same God.”

“Todd said that the church teaches things that aren’t in the Bible.”

“Do you trust me, Marsha?”

“Yes.”

“I would never mislead you or the rest of the flock.  What I teach is sound doctrine approved by God Himself.  Now, let’s not worry any more about what Todd or anyone else who has misguided views about our Church and its teachings.”  He gently pushed her back on to the bed and began to kiss her passionately.

Even as she surrendered to him, at the back of her mind, a small still voice was telling her that this was wrong but, as usual, she let her heart rule her head.

It was love for Eve which made Adam sin against God.  Don’t let love blind you to God’s truth.  It is by the constant obeying of His Word that we are delivered from sin.  Don’t be a slave to sin which leads to death but a slave to God which leads to eternal life.

Sources:  Atlas Obscura; Flickr

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14, NIV

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God, the Son and the Word who was with the Father in the beginning became flesh.  He came into the world as a newborn Babe to live among men.  He was raised in a Jewish home to Jewish parents in the town of Nazareth.  He became a carpenter like Joseph before going into ministry.  As Man, Jesus experienced the things we experience such as hunger and thirst, tiredness and grief.  He was tempted like us but He didn’t sin.  He prayed daily to the Father.  He had friends and He socialized with different sorts of people, some of whom were treated as outcasts.

The glory John saw was the transfiguration of Jesus when He took Peter, James and him up to the high mountain where He communed with Moses and Elijah.  They were not to mention anything to anyone until He was raised from the dead (Matthew 17:1-3, 9).   Peter later wrote, “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17, 18).

Jesus came from the Father to bring grace and truth into the world which was steeped in sin and darkness.  His grace was shown in his healing of diseases, the casting out of unclean spirits and in his interaction with tax collectors, sinners, the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman.  He shared moral and religious truth through parables and the Sermon on the Mount.  He taught people how to live in relation to God and to people.  Jesus placed God’s truth which was found in His Word above the traditions of men and the lies of Satan.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, reflect on the amazing reality that Jesus, by Whom all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, set aside His majesty and glory and came in the form of man to tabernacle among the people (Colossians 1:16; Philippians 2:7).

Thank You, Lord Jesus for becoming like us, so that in the flesh You could save us.

Strayed/Open #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

I walked into the house.  It was quiet.  It meant he hadn’t come as yet.  The corridor stretched endlessly before me.  I wondered what to do while I waited for him.  Ahead was the door leading to the large and cozy living-room.  That’s where he and I sat, curled up on the sofa, listening to Smooth Jazz while sipping wine.  I could wait in there.  I could go into the kitchen and prepare something for us to eat.  Or I could go upstairs and slip into something more comfortable.

I slipped off my sandals and walked through the first open door which led to the winding staircase.  I went upstairs to the master bedroom with the enormous canopy bed where he and I enjoy many trysts. I opened my overnight bag and took out my new black negligee.  I changed into it and put my clothes in the chair beside the door.  I ran my fingers through my hair as I crossed the carpet to look out of the window.

The view was splendid.  Thick foliage dotted the sprawling well maintained garden.  I loved this house.  It held so many wonderful memories for me albeit stolen ones.  This was our love nest.  I sat down on the window seat, drew my knees up and wrapped my arms around them.  Any moment now, I should hear the approach of his car.  As soon as I do, I will run down to greet him with a hug and a kiss.

I tried not to think about what I was doing.  I had tried not to do that for five years now.  Growing up in a Christian home, I was always taught that marriage was sacred and that adultery was a sin.  I used to look down on friends and family whom I knew were having extramarital affairs.  Not once did I imagine that one day I would do the very thing I condemned others for.  When I met Julian, I didn’t know that he was married.  He was handsome and charming.  I fell quickly and hard.

We started seeing each other.  I suspected that something was up when we always go together at my place and I was never invited to his.  And we went to certain restaurants and I didn’t have his home number.  I didn’t know where he worked or anything about his family.  Whenever I wanted to introduce him to mine, he would find some excuse why he couldn’t.  One night, I asked him pointblank if he was in a relationship.  He reluctantly admitted that he was married.  That floored me.  A girlfriend or even a fiancee I could deal with but a wife?

When he saw my reaction, he apologized for not being open and honest with me.  He said that he was afraid that if I knew that he was married, I wouldn’t get involved with him.  He knew I was a Christian and what I believed.  I went home that night and cried.  I was so torn up inside about the whole thing.  I was madly in love with him.  I loved being with him.  I was happiest when I was with him.  He was my world.

For weeks, I wrestled with my heart and my conscience.  My heart won and I continued seeing him.  I stopped going to church because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.  I still read my Bible but I avoided the scriptures which spoke of adultery and fornication and such things.   I loved Julian and I wanted to be with him.

I know that Julian loves me and I make him happy.  I don’t think he loves his wife or that he’s happy with her.  I hope that one day, he will end his marriage.  Until then, I will continue to see him on the quiet like this.  I hear his car now.  Eagerly, I rise from the window seat and race out of the room.  Taking two steps at a time, I reach the bottom of the staircase just as he opens the door and steps into the foyer.  He smiles when he sees me and as soon as he closes the door, I rush over to him and throw my arms around him.  He laughs, picks me up, swings me around before he kisses me.

At this moment, I’m not thinking about his wife or how far I have strayed from my moral principles.  All that matters right now is that we are together.

The few hours I spend with you are worth the thousand hours I spend without you.purelovequotes.com

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This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Open at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

The Empty Tomb

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb – John 20:1

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On the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb she found the stone rolled away.  She went straightaway to let Peter and John know.  They ran to the tomb.  John got there first but didn’t go inside.  Instead, he stooped down and looked in.  He saw that the tomb was empty.  Only the linen cloths were lying there. When Peter reached the tomb, he went inside.

He saw the linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  John entered the tomb saw and believed.  Then, the two disciples left and went back to their homes while Mary remained outside the tomb, weeping.  She had no idea what had happened to her Lord.  She believed that, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”  By “They” she might have been referring to the guards posted outside the tomb although I’m not sure why they would have moved the body.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have had no reason to move it either.

This morning when I read this, it dawned on me that the folded linen handkerchief which had been wrapped around Jesus’ head disproved the idea that His disciples had stolen the body at night while the guards slept.  If that were true, they would not have had time to unwrap the body, neatly fold the cloths and then carry the body away.  And the fact that the disciples were assembled in a room, fearful of the Jews, also disproves the notion that they would risk being caught stealing Jesus’ body.

The empty tomb and folded cloths speak volumes of the resurrection of Christ.  Today, let us rejoice that our Lord lives and that one day He will appear a second time to those who look for Him, not to deal with sin, but to bring them to full salvation (Hebrews 9:28).

Redeemed

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

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When Jesus was on the cross, He was mocked.  Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  The religious leaders joined in the ridicule as well, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  It must have been painful for Jesus to hear them say those things.  These were the same people of whom Jesus asked of God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They had no idea of what was really at stake.  They were mocking Jesus about not saving Himself not realizing that wasn’t His purpose at all.  As He pointed out at the time of His arrest, if He wanted to spare Himself the agony of the Cross, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Had Jesus come down from the cross to save Himself, we would all be lost and eternally separated from God.  Love for the Father and us kept Jesus on that cross.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was the Savior of the world.  God sent Him to die in our stead so that we could have everlasting life.  John 3:16 puts it so beautifully, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” When God sent Jesus into the world, it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it through Him (Verse 17, NKJV).  The cross is our salvation and evidence of God’s incredible love for us. 

As much as it pains me to see Jesus hanging from the cross whenever I watch a biblical movie about His life, it reminds me of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verses 14 & 15). 

Sin separates us from God.  When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sins, He was separated from the Father.  That was why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus became the Sin-bearer and it was that sin that the Father condemned.  Jesus was forsaken for our sake so that we would be forgiven for our sins once we accept His atoning work on the cross.

How terrible it is to be separated from our heavenly Father.  This sobering thought should motivate us not to live any longer like other people in the world do but to live as Jesus did–in loving obedience to the Father.  He was obedient even on to death.

Jesus laid down His life for us to show His love.  How can we return this love?  We do so by obeying Him and having faith in Him.  Today and everyday, let us live our lives for the One who willingly went to and stayed on that cross so that He could redeem us to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Our redemption came a great cost (1 peter 1:18-19).

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed thro’ His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am – Hymn #338