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December 5, 2020 3:00 am
The old Christmas is supposed to be the most full time of year but sometimes we find ourselves bogged down in all of the hurry of the season and we end up thinking it's just the opposite. So today on Truth for Life weekend. Alastair beg unpacks three words to help center our thinking on Jesus so we can remember at the crux of Christmas. First Timothy chapter 2 and verse five for there is one God and that is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time, but I don't know if you have checked but as I have been thinking in terms of Advent.
I was going back to my book of common prayer into the Anglican liturgy and I noticed what I thought I had no one but it came home to me quite startlingly, namely, that in the epistles, and in the Gospels that are assigned to each of the four Sundays and Advent is quite striking is the fact that they are absent any particular reference to the actual birth narratives themselves.
So, for example, for the first Sunday in Advent. The reading from the epistles from the letters is Romans 13 and the expectation to love your neighbor and the containment. There are a number of the 10 Commandments and when you have in your gospel reading you they are reading from the Gospel of Matthew, but not from chapter 1 or chapter 2, but from chapter 21 and the reading there is the record of what we refer to as Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
So here we are and what in Romans 13 and we are in Matthew chapter 21 and I said to myself noticed what a strange choice of readings is a great idea. I think I shall of a strange meeting as well and so that is why I've turned to first Timothy and to chapter 2 we can learn from the best of them. You see, and the reason that I've done so is because although you may immediately be thinking that this is a strange verse four our verses for this morning.
I want to show you.
I hope that what the Bible tells us is that this is a decisive.
It is a pivotal point is if you like the very crux of Christmas in as much as it brings us directly to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christmas story is one of the places where we often said to one another. It is helpful for us to read the story from the back to the front. In other words, to read the Gospels in light of facts and in light of the epistles because we've I think rehearse this enough that it's embedded in us that in the Gospels, Jesus is revealed read the gospel records and there we have him in the manger sweet sound of it. We see him as a boy in the temple that we see him in his manhood in the garden of Gethsemane and more besides. When returning to the acts of the apostles, then we discover that those would be the followers of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit are now proclaiming this Jesus, and of course when return to the letters we read here, just briefly from first Timothy chapter 2 we have the explanation of what has been unfolding there before so this year I want to begin this morning. I don't want us to get off on the wrong foot is aware in our Advent celebrations. I wanted to make sure that we are balling underneath the explanation of God himself in Scripture concerning his plans and his purposes. There is a sense in which to a certain degree I'm seeking.
Perhaps to rescue Christmas not from kind of antagonistic secularism, but to rescue Christmas from our own potentially diminished and trivialized perspectives, a kind of sugary Christmas if you like that sees God simply as a as a cheerleader or someone who simply wants our success or who once to solve all our problems. Who wants to make us feel good about ourselves. There's plenty of that around. It is a sugary kind of think there is a great sugar danger. Christmas is the despite all the things that you been reading and leading up to it and am going to be much more healthy.
I love those little sticks of vegetables. There really are terrific and and and they mean so much to me in comparison to all that wonderful sugary stuff that you just deposited at the office. This is a great danger, isn't but a fight in the matter. The sugary stuff leaves you feeling bloated and a little disappointed with yourself, I suggest to you the same is true in an approach to Christmas. That is a one time amazingly appealing and at the same time absolutely unsatisfying because it is unable to address the deep-seated dilemma of man is unable to address the questions of our own quest for meaning in the world is unable to tackle the issue of suffering at its most lender's largest and most significant level and at its own personal level it is unable to deal with the inevitability of death.
It is unable to handle our seller search for satisfaction. So I suggest to you that if we're going to make sure we make progress in this regard, we must allow the Bible to correct any of our faulty thinking again of faulty thinking that again seeks to presented in in a way that as Tim Chester puts it in the wonderful little book of Advent readings: one true gift. He says most people have a Christmas card person of Jesus. It's all rather sanitized and safe.
The Christmas card. Jesus wears a permanent smile and only ever says nice things that make us feel wonderful about ourselves and this is one of the reasons and then me that you will find in the next. In the ensuing 23 days a phrase or recurring phrase in conversation, you will hear. I guarantee you a time and again people say, well of course Christmas. It's really about the kids it's really about the kids in many ways it really is about the kids because of the way. We've handled but in fact what the Bible is saying no, it is not about the kids and we we run the risk of seeking to fashion if you like a God of our own contriving a God who conforms to ours, rather than our conforming to him. Note it is in light of that that I have just three words for is the first word is history.
The second word is mystery and the third is victory right history. History here. Paul tells us that what God has done in Jesus is provided for as a ransom, which is the testimony given at the proper time given at the proper time. One of the great questions is why is it that all of history went as long as it did before. We have the breaking into time by the eternal God will answer that quite honestly is a God knows what he's doing and he knows when to do what he's purposed to do and what he's pointing out here said Paul in this little Ferris is that what happened ones stands with its impact for all of time so that when we come to the issue of the birth of the life and death and ministry of Jesus when we are dealing here with a unique and unrepeatable event where we are dealing with something that happened once and all you need is a Bible and to read it to make this point clearly for yourself and in talking with others. I think it's important that we have in mind.
For example, Luke, who is very careful in this regard tells us at the beginning of his gospel that it seemed good to him, having followed all things closely for some time to write an orderly accountant so that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. This is what I'm doing.
He says I and many others have have been doing this and working on this and I as a beneficiary of the eyewitness reporting have decided that I'm going to do the same thing. Now it is in light of that, that we must warn them and start reading the gospel. And so, for example, in verse 27 of chapter 1 he tells of how an angel came to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David sitters of really yes. Remember I told you writing an orderly account so that you may have certainty concerning the things that have happened you, says the angel will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and you will give him the name Jesus. Orderly account certainty history.
How will this be the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Almighty will overshadow you and the child will be born a few, the son of God, history, note these mind-boggling elements these things that stretch our imagination that cause us to wonder and are supposed to cause us to wonder how good you have a wonderful Christmas without wondering is presupposed that there will be that which causes us to say my Meyer note you and I get this. I must think this again I must kneel in relationship to this. This is what we're being told in these mind-boggling aspects can actually cause us to forget that these things are actually part of human history. When Paul writes to the Galatians he summarizes it wonderfully when he says, but when the fullness of time and come, God sent forth his son what he saying that is just the same thing. There had been a series of events that it happened in time in the unfolding drama of history and when it was the fullness of time, according to God's purpose from all of eternity.
Then he sent forth his son Peter when he writes in his second letter categorically states the same thing we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his Majesty or somebody just told me I need to read the current edition of National Geographic try. Although I once subscribed to National Geographic and I finally just piled up 12 of them.
They look very nice, but I did. I didn't pay much attention to them that I like the pictures I must confess so maybe it maybe this is a piece in the current edition on the Bible and on the historicity of the Gospels, so maybe just photocopy it for me that would be that would be good. Say that as this is a Scott wanted to save money save my money. That is, but whenever it says in that article has to be read through the lens of Scripture. No mythology. No invention, no creativity on the part of members of the church 250 years later, no Peter says no we were on that mountain and we hear that voice we hear the voice to clear this is my beloved son, listen to him we were eyewitnesses of his Majesty. That's why he says I write to you in this way, and if you're here this morning and you're wondering you're skeptical about this thing these things.
One other thing to at one point to ponder is this what in the world was in it for Peter to get himself killed if what he was dealing with was a mythology was a concoction that would be a page of the New Testament written what it not for the historicity of the events as they unfolded. John does the same thing when he writes listen to John in his first letter that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we've seen what our eyes, which we have looked upon, and have touched with our hands concerning the word of life.
This he says is what I'm telling you this is it. Once in Royal David's city stood a lowly cattle shed once the story line of the Bible the story line of the Bible is not of a plan that God instituted but which went wrong and then had to be if you like reconfigured and and reinvent. No, not for a moment if you read your Bible from the back to the front or from the front of the back as well. You will discover that Goldsworthy the Old Testament scholar is absolutely right when he points out that God's purpose from all of eternity was, not Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But was Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was Christ on the cross that from the very beginning of the work of God in this kingdom it was to establish that people that are his very own.
And that's why when we read Ephesians of the beginning of the fusion. We realize this is the great mystery and it all the history involves us in ministry.
Let's turn to ministry ministry.
I love mysteries. A large part of my reading is mystery is always ministry I like. I love having to keep reading and reading and finally it all the lines as it is essentially eventually come together. It's a great moment very moment one of this mystery while the mystery is not is mystery its its unfathomable ministry.
You have the mystery of God's eternal being that the reality of the eternal being of God father son and Holy Spirit one in three and three in one coequal and coeternal entry into a covenant and eternity for the accomplishing office plan to save a people that are his very own, and along with that the added mystery of the incarnation itself, and when you wrestle with these things.
What you realize is that you don't go as some would like us to be able to go to a page in the Bible you're like page 75 and then on the top it says Trinity and then underneath Trinity others great explanation of the Trinity, or incarnation, and then you have it there, you don't, why not because the way in which the people of God came to an understanding of these things was the same way in which we are supposed to come to an understanding of these things and how is that by reading your Bible by reading your Bible, and realizing that the very commencement of the Bible is plural led us make man in our image, or there is the force that the spirit of God breathed over the waters over the chaos and over the darkness by benefactor that when I come into the beginning of the gospel of John, where John decides not to start with the birth narratives, nor even with John the Baptist. But back in eternity and what is he say's mysterious in the beginning was the word the loggers the way by which God spoke the world into being in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, while that's that's so how could you be with God and the word was God ministry seek the best for you have the work of all the councils in the early centuries of the church was a work of godly men who were thinking these things through and will ruling out all false options so they realized that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself that in the baptism of Jesus, you have the son of God in the water you have the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on the son of God, and you have the father in heaven declaring this is my beloved son, you see, it is these things these amazing things. These mysterious things that are the heart of it all. This is how the Westminster confession puts it, concerning Jesus, here, here, he says, the son of God, the second person of the Trinity being truly and eternally. God of one substance and equal with the father did. When the fullness of time had come. Galatians 4 take upon himself.
Man's nature, with all its essential properties and common frailties yet without sin.
Now, says Paul to Timothy, there is one mediator between God and man. That is only one channel that is only one gate. There is only one way he might've said as Peter preached post-Pentecost in acts chapter 4 there is only one mediator between God and man.
Mohammed doesn't fit Putin doesn't fit the devalued nonsense as of Jehovah's Witnesses does not fit there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, that the that the Lord of eternity is the Christ of history. That's what's being said and loved ones.
This is not some kind of arm's-length theological construct can I say to this matters immensely. This matters is it's all about the children what to this degree. It is about the children because we want to bow down to our children and send and teach them the wonder of the love of God in Jesus that Jesus is the one who makes it possible for us even though were naughty even though were bad even though were selfish even though were scared even though were maxed that it is in Jesus that we may come directly to God the father through Jesus and know that there is no condemnation to us, not because we are sinners, but because of Jesus the one mediator has borne our sin that loved ones is at the heart of it all, the Word was with God, was what was God.
He was not only the only mediator between God and man, but he was at the same time both God and man. When my friend says how hard it is to grasp even the edges of this astonishing fact that the confession goes on in this way to whole natures, the divine and the human perfect and distinct were inseparably joined together in one person without being changed, mixed or confused process mysterious is but don't you live in the realm of mystery all the time, not depending on any veterinary or mental faculties for me my own world is mystery tape recorders are still a mystery to me. I still don't get so why, why would I imagine that in in in in embracing Christianity. I would be removed from the realm of ministry.
Non-taken into the realm of ministry wonders history of the Savior, who is both God and man is a foundational truth from part one of today's message titled the crux of Christmas listing to Truth for Life weekend with Alistair Begg.
If you're interested in exploring the foundational truths of Christianity you want to find out more about two documentary films, titled American gospel that are available exclusively from Truth for Life to double feature that candidly explores how our culture has tried to manipulate the gospel message to focus on the American dream also examines the tangible consequences of the society that embraces poor theology and a self defined God American gospel features dozens of interviews, including one with Alistair Begg. You learn how the prosperity gospel, faith healing and religion without judgment has taken root in our culture today.
This collection includes to complete documentary films that come on DVD also includes screaming instructions. Find out more about American gospel when you visit Truth for Life.org if you're a regular listener to Truth for Life's daily program you know some of Alistair's most recent teaching focused on navigating through life's storms. So let me suggest a tremendously encouraging collection of Scripture verses that affirm God's promises as a source of peace. The collection is titled check book of the bank of faith.
This is a book of daily reflections from Charles Spurgeon. He likens God's promises to a bank check. After all, a check is a promise to pay when the check is cashed but the funds belong to us. The moment the check is written. This pocketbook size devotional comes in a leather cover makes a great gift. Find out more about the checkbook of the bank of faith today when you go to Truth for Life.org. Lastly, as you look ahead to Christmas. I'm excited to tell you about a Christmas series USB from Alastair that helps us fix our eyes on Jesus in the season. It's titled, the miracle of Christmas and it features a collection of eight brief series that explored the story of Christmas matter how long we've been following Jesus. There's always something new we can learn about the remarkable events of his birth from Luke's account in the historical record of the mystery of divinity. Meeting humanity.
How can we begin to unpack all there is to discover about the miracle of this special holiday. You can find out more about the miracle of Christmas when you visit Truth for Life.org about Lapine. Thanks for joining us truly listen again next weekend for part two of the crux of Christmas will look at all the Jesus victoriously accomplished and he came to earth. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life with Learning is for Living