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What was the Purpose of the Birth of Christ?

Just finished watching a program titled “In Search of Christmas”.  It was certainly an interesting look at the history of the birth of Christ.  It contained the usual attempt to provide a balanced look at the events as interpreted by skeptics and supporters and in reality did a pretty good job.

One thing I found intriguing was the viewpoint of several of the learned scholars and experts regarding the purpose or result of the coming of Christ, even those who profess to be Christians.  Most interpreted the purpose and the desired result of the coming of Christ in light of the impact it has on how we live with each other.  One after another they spoke of how the life and message of Christ was about teaching us to treat one another better and defining what humanity really should be; teaching us how to live in peace with one another.

I certainly cannot, nor do I desire to, deny that Christ’s message spoke of and showed us a better way to live with our fellow man.  But was this the sum of His message?  Was it the ultimate purpose of His coming?  To believe so dilutes who He is and what He accomplished.

Christ is the Son of God.  He is God.  We are the creation of God and through sin had become separated from God.  We had become his enemies (Romans 5:10 says “For if, when we were God’s enemies…”).   God desired to reconcile us to Him; to no longer be separated, but to be at peace with him.  To again be the children of God.  This is what was ultimately accomplished through the coming of Christ; not a “can’t we all get along” message to be nice to your fellow man.   Being made children of God, being forgiven and renewed, will certainly carry with it expectations of conduct in regard to how we live with each other, but it is the product of what Jesus came for (to save us from our sin and give us eternal life) not the purpose.

How did we get to the point where our learned scholars, along with so many of us, believe the ultimate purpose of Christ’s coming was to teach us how to live together as humans?  Do we resist the idea that we are enemies of God, sinners in need of grace?  Do we so not want to face the fact that without the sacrifice of Christ at the crucifixion we will remain as enemies, as sinners separated from God?  Are we so resistant to the message that we cannot save ourselves from this plight?  That we cannot merely listen to and try our best to conform to and live by some code of conduct taught by Jesus and thus find ourselves ‘okay’?

Nay, without faith in the grace of God as provided by the sacrifice of Christ and our belief in His resurrection, and our need for this provision, we cannot see God.   It is not, nor will it ever be, enough for us to conform to a standard of living.  We must acknowledge the state of our soul and seek the forgiveness of Christ and accept His gift of life for us.  Then we shall be the children of God, and not a moment sooner.  Then we can live this standard of living in sincerity and truly we will impact how we live with our fellow man.

The Virgin Birth

Its not just a great part of the Christmas story.  Its not just a miracle.  It is essential to the core of the Christian belief.

In the first chapter of the book of Luke we read the account of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary of the upcoming birth of Christ.  Starting in verse 26 and going through verse 34 we read a part of this conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel.   It starts out by pointing out that Mary was a virgin in verse 27.  In verse 34 Mary questions how this can take place as she is a virgin and has never been with a man.

As the story goes the angel Gabriel explains to her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High (God) will overshadow her.  He then tells her the one to be born of her will be the Son of God.

This is truly a great miracle and such a beautiful part of the Christmas story.  But is it more than that?  Is there an eternal importance to the fact that a virgin would give birth to the Messiah, as foretold by Isaiah hundreds of years earlier (Isaiah chapter 7)?

The virgin birth is critical to the core of the Christian belief.  The Messiah, Christ, was the Lamb of God.  He was the sacrifice for our sins.  He stood in as the sacrifice for our sins.  He took the punishment and the stain of our sins.  To be the sacrifice that could take away our sins and provide us redemption he must be the spotless Lamb, the Lamb without blemish.  He had to be sinless.  This sinlessness was more than just a matter of not “committing” sins as we tend to look at sin.  Sin is much more than a deed or an act.  Long before sin becomes an act it is an attitude.  The attitude and ultimately the acts of sin come forth from the nature of sin.  Sin is not just wrongdoing or even wrong thinking, it is the nature that is within all humanity.

this nature was passed down from generation to generation from Adam.  We, each and everyone, inherit the nature of sin.  See Romans chapter 7 (especially the last half) for a good picture.  The Messiah, the Christ, had to deliver us not only from our acts of sin, but our nature of sin.  Likewise, to be without sin, as He was described, he had to be without the nature of sin.  How could He be without the nature of sin?  this was accomplished by the miracle we call the virgin birth.  The nature of sin was not passed on to Christ as He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

The virgin birth is not just a great part of the Christmas story and is more than just a miracle.  It is an integral part of God’s plan of salvation.

Kings at the Manger?

So just how many Kings were at the manger when Christ was born?  Was it three? How about zero?

The only King at the manger was Christ.  It is myth that kings came to visit Jesus at the manger.  First, they weren’t kings, they were Magi.  Now this is not semantics.  It is an important point.  The Magi were not kings, they were actually ‘king makers’.  Like Samuel of the Old Testament, they were people who anointed the new king.

These Magi have sometimes been called ‘wise men’.  This doesn’t mean they were merely really smart guys, or as many women would state, an oxymoron, since the terms wise and men don’t seem to go together.  They were students of philosophy, science, astrology, etc.  Just how did they know to follow the star to find the messiah?  Lets take an intriguing look back at the Old Testament to see if we can learn something about these Magi from the east.  Daniel chapter 2 verse 48 says, “Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”

Daniel was a prophet of the Lord.  He was also in charge of the ‘wise men’ of Babylon.  He taught them.  He shared his prophecies with them.  As the generations went on his teachings and prophecies were handed down with each generation of wise men.

These men were not kings paying a friendly state visit to one of their peers.  These men had come with a purpose.  The purpose was to annoint the new King.

The second point regarding the fact that there were no kings at the manger (other than Jesus), is that the wise men didn’t arrive until probably about two years later.  In Matthew chapter 2, verse 11 we read, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”  They came to a house to see a child, not an infant.  Earlier in that chapter, King Herod had inquired of the exact time the star had appeared for them.  Later in the chapter, Herod gives the order to execute all males two years old and younger, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  Granted, this order of execution does not prove the idea of the Magi arriving two years later, because God could have placed the star in the sky prior to the birth of Christ to give the Magi time to journey.  When you add the statement that the Magi visited a child in a house to the execution of two year olds and younger it leads to an understanding that the Magi did not come to the manger.

Regardless, it is a great testament to the divine identity of Jesus that king makers from the east would journey to visit and annoint Him as King.

Impacting the Thoughts that Come Into Our Head

In the previous article we discussed the fact that you can’t control the thoughts that come into your head but you can control what you do with them.  Can you, however, impact what thoughts come into your head?  Are we destined to be slaves to an onslaught of temptations and negative thoughts coming into our head or can we have some level of impact on the frequency and content?

We most definitely can.  Your mind never completely shuts down.  It is active, active, active.  It will find things to occupy it and to fill it up.  Others will certainly try to provide material to fill your mind as well.  Advertisers, movie and TV show makers, writers, sales-people, and even family and friends will provide much to fill your mind.  The Holy Spirit wants to help fill your mind.  Unfortunately, so does Satan and his minions.  There are constantly attempts at inputs into our minds. 

While we cannot control what thoughts come into our minds we can effect them.  We do so by filling our minds with good.  Phillipians 4:8 says, ”Finally brothers, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”   This is a proactive approach.  It is a matter of discipline first but then becomes a way of life. 

Deuteronomy 6:6-8 states, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”  This passage of scripture is telling us to saturate our minds, our lives with the things God has said, even to the point of having reminders around us. 

One more verse for us to review is, Romans 12:2.  In this verse Paul says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Notice the word ‘renewing’.  Don’t miss the three little letters ‘ing’ at the end, telling us it is an on-going effort. 

The more we fill our minds with good, even to the point of saturation, the more it will be occupied with such.  The negative, tempting thoughts will have less opportunity.  We cannot eliminate the negative or tempting thoughts but we can reduce them and lessen their impact.  In addition, as our minds are filled with the good it becomes easier to respond to the negative because we are better armed.

Thoughts – Thinking and Taking Root

To borrow a computer term, you are the administrator of your mind.  The administrator determines who, or in this case, what has access.   God has empowered you to control what goes on in your mind.

Lets examine that idea.  What level of control do we have and how do we implement this control? 

We cannot control what thoughts come into our heads, but we can control what we do with them.  Even Jesus, while on earth did not control what thoughts came into his mind, but He certainly controlled what happened to them once there.  In Matthew, chapter 4 we have the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.  In this story Jesus was tempted in three different ways; self-fulfillment of physical needs, pride, and power.  Temptation comes in the form of thoughts.  The thoughts, or temptations, come into our head uninvited.  This is what Jesus was experiencing.  This was not the only time Jesus experienced temptation.  Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He did not sin.  How was He able to accomplish that?

For the sake of discussion, consider temptations, or tempting thoughts, as ‘negative’ thoughts.  Lets look back at the fourth chapter of Matthew.   Each time a temptation, a tempting thought came to Jesus, He actively responded with a ‘positive’ thought.   Jesus’ source of positive thoughts was the scripture, the Word of God.  He responded to the thoughts of temptation with thoughts of the scripture. 

The other option for Jesus, and the option we too often choose, would have been to dwell on the tempting thoughts.  When Satan said to Jesus, via a tempting thought, saying “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”, he knew Jesus was hungry.  Afterall, He had been fasting for 40 days and nights.  Jesus could have responded to that thought by thinking, “Wow, I am hungry.  And you know, I am the Son of God and i’m sure my Father wouldn’t want me to go hungry.”  I need to keep my strength up to do ministry.  I have the power to turn these stones into bread for myself.  Why not do it?”  The longer He dwelled on the thought, entertained the thought, the more opportunity He would have given it to take root in His mind, or his soul.  Jesus didn’t give it that opportunity.  He fought back in His mind, in His soul. 

This is the model, the process that Jesus used to be able to be tempted in every way and yet not sin.  This is how He overcame.  Can we do this?  Absolutely!  The same tools are available to us.  Plus we have the example and the indwelling presence of Jesus to help us accomplish this.

We cannot control what thoughts come in to our head.  We will have negative thoughts.  We will have tempting thoughts.  We can, however, control what we do with these thoughts when they come.  Will we respond to them with positive thoughts, with thoughts from the scripture?  Or will we dwell on them, allowing them to take root in our mind and creating a quagmire that we wallow in?  God, and His Word, can and will deliver us and provide us victory.

Stay tuned for the sequel to this article which will discuss how we can impact the thoughts that come into our head.

Diligent but Rational

God expects us to use our minds to the very best of their abilities. Christians should be diligently on guard against the efforts of our enemy. The scripture teaches that Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. It also tells us that he will pose as an angel of light to decieve. We need to remain awake and be diligent.

At the same time we need to use our ability to apply rational thought and all of the tools that go along with it. Tools like research, contemplation, and analysis. Along with prayer and study of the Bible these are most powerful tools for discernment between right and wrong, truth and lies, sense and nonsense. When we do not use these tools we risk harm to our credibility and reputation – not to mention other potentially more dangerous risks.

Don’t believe everything that comes along in an email. Don’t believe everything you hear. We’ve probably all heard that atheist Madeline Murray Ohare is working to take God off the airwaves. She is supposed to have a petition and even a bill waiting to be passed in congress that would effectively take God off of all the airwaves in America. That would be quite a feat considering she has been dead for several years. That popular rumor circulated around the internet and email circuits for years. It has been debunked several times over.

Another conspiracy theory I recently was sent claimed the government was taking “In God We Trust” off our coins. Fact is, the government did leave the words off of a set of coins. People then took this and turned it into a conspiracy by our government to remove God in America.

This was not a nefarious, anti-God action on the part of the government. There were 300 million of these coins printed before the inspectors caught the error. The error was the omission of the edge inscriptions which include “In God We Trust,” “E Pluribus Unum” and the year and mint mark. They do not just have the words “In God We Trust” missing.

Only about 50,000 of the coins got into circulation before the inspectors caught the area and they are worth about $50 each right now. This coin was a part of a new design and new machines and the error was simply a quality control issue, not a conspiracy to remove God from our currency or coinage.
We have enough things to concern ourselves with, re the direction of our nation, so let’s make sure we focus on the ones that are really issues. Truth is 9 times out of 10 if it comes through the email and talks about a conspiracy item it is probably not accurate. It took me less than 5 minutes to research this and find out the facts behind it and type this email.

Let’s continue to be diligent and on watch for issues, for there are plenty (abortion, socialistic policies, anti-family policies, etc). At the same time let’s make sure we are up to speed on those that are just some folks looking for a government conspiracy around every corner.

What Does Nature Say About the Creator?

Romans Chapter 1, verses 18 through 20

What does nature tell us about the Creator?  Lets consider the following list (you might be able to come up with others to add to the list):

·         Order

·         Beauty and creativity

·         Power

·         Life-giving and reproducing

It is truly amazing how nature works together to strike balance.  Take for example, humans and animals breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.  Plants use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.  Wow, that works out pretty conveniently, doesn’t it?  There is a balance created by the existence of herbivores and carnivores in the animal kingdom.  Too many herbivores would deplete the land of foliage.  Too many carnivores would lead to overgrowth.  In the movie, “Lion King”, the young cub is taught about the ‘circle of life’.  Some animals eat other animals.  Other animals eat the grasses of the field.  When the animals die they then provide nutrient for the grasses of the field to grow.  A striking illustration of the balance and order we see in creation.  

Take a drive through the central and northeastern U.S. during the fall and tell me if you don’t see beauty and creativity in the world around you.  Look into the Grand Canyon.  Sail up to the Cliffs of Dover along the British Coastline.  Ski the Swiss Alps.  Visit the rain forest of Peru or Brazil.  What do you see?  You see the immense beauty and creativity of God in His creation.  The diversity of the corners of earth alone, speak to us regarding how creative God is.  Some summer night look up into a star filled sky and tell me if you don’t see the creative genius and beauty that is in the mind of God.

I remember sitting in my dorm room my freshman year of college as a spring storm rolled in.  I sat and watched out the window as the dark clouds filled the sky and the wind grew in intensity.  Yes, I probably should have been studying instead.  But I was simply mesmerized and in awe at the exhibition of power I was witnessing. 

When you sit on the beach of the ocean and see the waves crashing in and notice this whole gigantic body of water is moving you cannot help but be impressed by the power it represents.  Take note of what an earthquake, a hurricane, or a tsunami can do to the greatest structures built by man and you get a glimpse of the level of power in the Creator’s hand. 

An acorn falls from an Oak tree.  If it doesn’t get picked up and added to a fall decoration in someone’s house like mine, or get collected and eaten by a squirrel or pig (bet you didn’t know pigs liked acorns did you?), it stands a good chance of becoming another Oak tree.  All over the world in all manner of plants this cycle repeats.  In animals, the adults give birth to young that resemble them.  In other words, these plants and animals reproduce.  Life produces life. 

This cycle of reproduction gives us a view of God’s desire and design for the importance of life.  We see that the created are to continue on.  That life is a continuous stream pointing back to its original Creator.