Thursday, October 30, 2014

Considerations: Life-giving Savior; Light-shining People

While I find it amazing that Jesus was presented as such a gentle Shepherd to his people, and continues to fulfill that prophecy in people’s lives to this day, it touches my heart that God’s invitation to know Jesus in that way of gentleness is intended to do something in his people as well. After telling us about Jesus’ gentleness to the “bruised reed,” and the “faintly burning wick,” he tells us this about his people:

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
   to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness."
(Isaiah 42:6-7)

Because of what Jesus would be in fulfillment of God’s prophetic word, his people will be characterized by synonymous qualities of life and experience. God will give his people “as a covenant for the people” of the nations. He will make his people “a light for the nations.” He will send his people out so that we “open the eyes that are blind,” and we “bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,” and we “bring out… from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

This is why Jesus told his followers that we are “the salt of the earth,” even though he is the source of our saltiness; and we are the “light of the world,” even though he is the life that gives us light (Matthew 5:13-16). It is because he is the true vine, and his followers are his branches (John 15:1-8), through which his life is the light of men (John 1:4), causing the church to bear much fruit in the lives of others, all for the glory of the Father who is the source of all this life-giving, light-bearing work.

The work that Jesus has done, the work he finished on the cross, has now brought about a good work in his followers that gives them good works to do, just as he planned beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). Some of those planned ahead good works would look like giving light to the nations, opening the eyes that are blind, bringing prisoners out of their dungeons, bringing out of the prisons those who sit in darkness. Jesus came to do that, and prophesied that he would do it through his church, so, let’s watch for where he is working and join him in his work.

Or, as Paul stated it in the breathed-out by God, carried along by the Spirit, kind of way, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Considerations: To Be Gentle Like Jesus

In light of the violence that is growing around our world, along with the arrogant publication of unimaginable violent deeds against humanity, I found this prophetic description of Jesus extremely comforting.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
          (Isaiah 42:1-3)

Hundreds of years before Jesus arrived as that little baby, born in a stable, and laid in a manger, it was prophesied that he would come with such gentleness that those hearts that were like bruised reeds would not be broken, but healed. Those souls that were like a faintly burning wick, would not be quenched, but brought to life.

This is what God's word prophesied Jesus would do, it is what Jesus did as he drew all kinds of sinners to himself in repentance and faith, and it is what Jesus continues to do today. If you want to know Jesus like that, ask God to do whatever it takes for you to experience Jesus giving you rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30).

It is no wonder that, with Jesus as the head of the true church, his body, he would direct his people like this: "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

Since Jesus did not break the bruised reed, or quench the faintly burning wick, his people should not “put out of joint… that which is lame.” Rather, those who are in such condition of soul that would be described as lame, ought to “rather be healed.”

If you are the “lame,” ask Jesus to show you a church that is becoming like him in the gentleness you know is in him. If you are a strong and growing member of the body of Christ, ask Jesus to make you and your church a place of healing and rest in whatever ways he would like you to be.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Songs for the Journey: The Women of our City

In an earlier post I had expressed some thoughts about how men can open our hearts to the experiences of women who are dealing with violence and abuse from their childhoods, and/or from present life-experiences. Some of the trauma felt by women hits too close to home, and some is taking place half a world away. Both can make men feel helpless. 

Here is a song we can sing to God as a prayer that will help men in the praying, women in our caring, and the work of God in answer to prayer. There is healing for the brokenhearted, and binding up for our wounds (Psalm 147:3), so let's unite to pray for more of what God is already willing, able, and eager to do.

The Women of our City

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~ 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Men Whose Hearts Can Sing; Women Whose Hearts Need to Hear the Song

          One of the most life-affecting characteristics of my fifty-plus years has been the impact of childhood sexual abuse on women. It has affected me more than I would ever have asked. It has broken my heart. It has crushed my soul. It has shocked me, angered me, and made me feel pain in a way I could not remember feeling it before.
          And now, the religious sexual abusers (the worst kind it seems) who capture women and force them into sexual slavery, bring to mind, and soul, the thoughts and feelings of a man’s heart on the edge of a woman’s world.
          I began as a true Ignorant. I was ignorant of the reality of such abuse, the extent of such abuse, the effect of the trauma of such abuse, and the application of God’s love, hope, and healing to such abuse. I discovered that my understanding of how the good news of Jesus Christ could apply to such things was like a preschool coloring paper. I could make a pretty decent picture, for my age, but it was just that, a picture; colored wax on flattened wood fibers. I was young.
          And then I met someone who began to mentor me into a man’s heart. He became to me one of the most manly men I have ever met. I weep as I think of him. And now I cannot write because my thoughts of him has returned me to the sorrow and grief we have shared together on many occasions.


          At day’s end, I see if I can pick up where I left off. More stories of the religious sexual abusers move me to plumb the depths of my own soul to know what men can do when the grief, and pain, and trauma of women threatens to get the best of us.
          I turn back to my mentor, and recall the thing he said that settled for me that I had no right to hide from what women around me are going through. Even though the suffering may be half a world away, it is far closer, and more painful, than anyone wants to think. And yet the women are thinking it, and feeling it, and killing themselves to get away from it.
          My mentor is a man named Jeremiah. He went through a season of history during which time he witnessed his countrymen being slaughtered, women raped and brutalized, children left to die, much like is happening in our world today. He was powerless to stop it, and yet lived through it in a way that continues to help people find God in the midst of any such circumstances of life.
          There is a book that Jeremiah has written called, “Lamentations”. It is in the Bible. It is a song of lament, of sorrow, of grief. It is a man’s song. It is a man’s sorrows, and a man’s grief. And yet, much of his sorrows and grief were because of the children and the women who were suffering at the hand of their wicked enemy.
          I recall how Jeremiah taught me to see abused women as women and children at the same time. Their stories take us back to childhoods where things should not have happened. Their best efforts to put the trauma behind them have failed, and it leaks out of their souls as if no time has passed. They are little girls again. The bad things are happening again. And this time someone must help them.
          So I heard my mentor call loudly into my soul with this appeal to men of every age: 
“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches!
Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children,
who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”[1]
          I had never heard a man appeal so emotionally, and earnestly, as though his eyes could see through every year of passing time, and find me where I was hiding, where I was wishing that women didn’t hurt as terribly as I was finding out. And his words shook me to the core.
          At night, when it is most difficult to silence the cries, and the screams, and the recurring horrors, men are to get up, and present their hearts to the Lord. Men are to willingly let their hearts become like water before the Lord, pouring out with no foolish limitations of pride and culture. Whatever pain their hearts receive from the women-children who cry in the night, they are to allow nothing to harden their hearts, or slow the flow of grief that pleads for God to hear these little ones who have never yet felt him touch them in their trauma.
          While I was learning to pray for the little girls who bore the abuse of wicked-hearted men, Jeremiah told me his own story of standing before God on behalf of the traumatized women of his world. His heart-piercing testimony was this:
“My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite,
until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees;
my eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the daughters of my city.[2]
          Yes, Jeremiah prayed for the children around him as they suffered the fallout of their city’s destruction. And yes, Jeremiah taught me to pray for children in the same way, and to pray for the abused little girls who lived inside women’s bodies. And he set the example by telling me what he was doing.
          Jeremiah would let his eyes flow with tears, without ceasing, without taking a break, until he could see that God himself was looking down from heaven, seeing the plight of these women, and hearing and answering his prayer. He saw the fate of the daughters of his city, the effect of the life-destroying experience of his people. And what he saw in the women, what his eyes forced him to see, caused him inner grief that would not be quieted by turning away, or distracting himself, or putting himself first, or denying what was taking place. He would only find quiet when his prayers for the traumatized women were answered, and God came to their rescue.
          Jeremiah’s example helped me through seasons of unimaginable sorrow. Never did I doubt how good God was, for the evil was not his. Never did I doubt that he could heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds, just as he said.[3] But there was some sense in which I had to become the brokenhearted. I had to feel the brokenness so that I would care about it, and find God caring about it.
          I had to open my heart to the timeless pain of childhood trauma. I had to find a strength in God that would enable me to cry without restriction. And so I wrote songs, and I sang songs, and I cried, and I prayed. I turned to my mentor’s songs to help me grieve, and to give me comfort in my grief. And, like him, I wrote down words that would help me pour out my heart like water before the Lord, and to help my tears of prayer flow unceasingly into God’s presence until the broken hearts of these women were healed.
          While looking back on those early lessons of relating to the childhood sexual abuse of women, I once again find myself overwhelmed with the wide scale, religion-sanctioned, traumatization of countries, communities, families, parents, children, and the women sold for pennies to gratify the evil demands of their sexual abusers. Once again, Jeremiah mentors me in the realities of a man’s heart.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

The Women of Our City

O Lord, we come to pray to you
For the women of our city
We come to lift their needs to you in earnest prayer
We open up our hearts, O Lord
Humbly waiting for your mercy
We pray for women everywhere

We pray for women lost in sin
Broken by the pain they’re in
Hopeless in the things they’re going through
We pray that you will touch them, Lord
Save them from this evil world
May their searching hearts
come back to you

We see the tears the women cry
and we fear our hearts’ responses
We want to know the love
that fills your Father’s heart
We want to love as godly men
Walking in your righteous purpose
O may their day of healing start

We pray the thoughts we can’t conceal
Unashamed of what we feel
For the women we now intercede
Bring comfort to each wounded soul
Heal their minds and make them whole
For the broken women we now plead

We come to you with softened hearts
For the pain our wives have suffered
We ask you now to come and heal their brokenness
We pray this for our daughters, Lord
For our sisters and our mothers
O come and give our women rest

O Lord, they’ve suffered far too long
In their weakness, make them strong
May they know the comfort of your love
You see the tears the women cry
Pain so bad they want to die
Help them lift their eyes to look above

(tempo and tune change)
Our tears will flow like a river
For wounds as deep as the sea
We will not rest ‘til we see you
Setting our women free
Let them know your love in the morning
May compassion rise like the dawn
Make your faithfulness shine like the noonday sun
‘Til the pain of the night is gone

Lord, renew the hope of our women
May they quietly wait for you
May they call upon you as their Father
From the anguish they’re going through
May the night of distress turn to morning
Shine the light of your loving grace
From the heavens look down on our women, Lord
Give them sight of your loving face

© 2003 Monte Vigh

[1] Lamentations 2:19
[2] Lamentations 3:49-51
[3] Psalm 147:3

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The All-inclusive Fellowship that Completes our Joy

          This morning I once again found myself meditating on the wonderful fellowship described by John in this beautiful preface to his first letter.[1] John was very clear about his experience with Jesus. In the past, while Jesus was present on earth in his physical body, John had “heard” Jesus, “seen” him, “looked upon” him, and “touched” him with his hands. With that in mind, what did John expect that we could experience, since none of us would have the same opportunity to fellowship with Jesus in an earthly way?
          After describing his experience of Jesus in his earthly life, John identifies his purpose and aim in writing this letter. There is no doubt that “the life was made manifest,” for that was an objectively verified reality. John is very clear that he, along with the other apostles, “have seen it.”[2] What John now adds to his experience of personal, earthly, fellowship with the life that was manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ, is what he is doing to share this with others.
          To begin with, he writes this letter to “testify to it,” and to “proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” John testifies to both the reality of Jesus’ coming, and his experience of Jesus’ coming, and he proclaims the gospel, the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.[3]
          What John was aiming for, the wonderful “so that” of Scripture, is that his testimony and proclamation of the eternal life that is in Jesus Christ would result in, “that you too may have fellowship with us”. To clarify, John means that his readers could have the same fellowship with “the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” as John and the other apostles had already experienced and enjoyed.
          John expects that, if he testifies and proclaims what he heard, saw, and touched, the church would enter into fellowship with the apostles, and our fellowship would also be with the Father and the Son. Further along in this letter he makes clear that this fellowship necessarily includes the Holy Spirit.[4]
          Since John spoke of fellowship that included the apostles, it is no surprise that other apostles wrote of the same things. Paul wrote about the church as “one new man” made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ.[5] He writes, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”[6]
          When we look at this carefully, we discover that there is the exact fellowship that John wrote about in his letter. The “him” is Jesus, the “we both” is the Jewish and Gentile believers as the one new man, the “one Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, and “the Father” is the God and Father of us all. Here we have “fellowship with us” and fellowship with “the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” just as John identified in his letter.
          However, not only does Paul describe the persons involved in the fellowship he speaks of, but he gives indications of the relationship between us. The “we both” of the whole church has “access” to the Father. That access to the Father is “through” Jesus. This access to the Father through Jesus is “in one Spirit”. The “to”, “through”, and “in”, of the “we both” weaves together the fellowship we have within the church, with the Triune.
          Paul continues,
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.[7]
          The Gentile believers are “no longer strangers and aliens” from the Jews. However, this is not because the non-Jewish people joined the Jewish religion. Rather, both Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus have left behind their earthly identity, and entered into the identity of this one new man, the church.
          Instead of being strangers and aliens to Israel, the non-Jewish believers in Jesus Christ were “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Instead of thinking of the church as two classes of Christians, Jew and Gentile, all Jesus’ disciples are “fellow” citizens, giving them “fellow-ship”. They are fellow citizens “with the saints,” meaning all those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been set apart unto him as holy in his sight through their faith in Jesus. They are equally “members of the household of God,” since all who are in this household are adopted as sons by faith in Christ.[8]
          Now, look at how Paul describes the fellowship that exists between the church, the apostles, and the Triune God. First, he says that this one new man, this household of God, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”[9] This is why John could say that the readers of his letter could have fellowship with the “us” who were the apostles and eye-witnesses of Jesus’ ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. The church is built upon the apostles and prophets as our foundation. They are the “rock” upon which Jesus said he would build his church,[10] and we are the church that is built upon that rock.
          However, that is not the whole picture. To make sure we do not think that the apostles and prophets alone are the foundation of the church, Paul adds, “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”[11] So, now we have a foundation made up of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the cornerstone who gives to this foundation life, substance, order, direction, leadership, structure, and whatever other synonyms of existence we can think of. And, we have the “household of God” that is “built on” this Christ-centered, apostolic-prophetic foundation.
          Now, while being built “on” this foundation of Christ, apostles, and prophets, is one way of looking at things, Paul continues with another facet of fellowship when he says, “In whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”[12]
          So, the “household of God,” is “built on” the foundation of Christ, apostles, and prophets, as a “whole structure” identified as “a holy temple in the Lord.” We who are this one new man, this church, this household of God, are actually a temple. All believers are “joined together” as this structure, this household-of-God-temple, so that the household of God “grows” into this holy temple.
          Adding this together, or perhaps it would be better to say, weaving it all together, we have all believers who have access to God the Father, through God the Son, in God the Holy Spirit. Every generation of the church is added to this household of God that is built on the solid foundation of Christ, apostles, and prophets, and is constantly growing into a singular holy temple in the Lord Jesus Christ. That sounds like a lot of fellowship!
          Paul concludes with another crescendo of beautiful thoughts woven together into this divine tapestry of kingdom-of-heaven fellowship. He says, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”[13] Again, look at the persons involved. We are “in him,” which means Jesus. The “you also” is this one new man made out of both Jews and Gentiles, meaning all believers. We are being “built together” as the household of God, this holy temple, this church, this one new man. Together as this holy temple, made up of all believers no matter what ethnic background, we are “a dwelling place for God” the Father. And, it is “by the Spirit,” that we are able to be such a dwelling place for Almighty God.
          When the apostle John writes that he wants his readers to “have fellowship with us,” he speaks of a unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace[14] that already existed among the apostles, and the initial Jewish believers of the early church.[15] He wants us to share in this fellowship that is “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” We can know that we have this fellowship with the church, and with the Triune, “by the Spirit whom he has given us,”[16]and, “because he has given us of his Spirit.”[17]
          All this to say that our views of fellowship in the church must not be limited to select believers (although fellowship is only with true believers),[18] but must think of the whole church as this “one new man,” this “holy temple” that is being built together as the dwelling place for God. And we must think of the unified Triune God all fellowshipping with us because of the work they have done for us in creation, and in redemption.
          Now, I don’t have time to elaborate on what the apostle Peter adds to this glorious picture, but I will leave you with his words of encouragement and exhortation:
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”[19]
          That is the fellowship God has created us for, and redeemed us to experience. Ask God to lead you to experience it in the fullest possible way. Or, as John concluded, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”[20]May that aim be fulfilled in each of our lives today!

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I John 1:1-4
[2] John’s gospel account shows this very clearly as well. John 1:1-18 is worth comparing to the first four verses of I John.
[3] John 3:16 and John 17:3 are two well-known references to our eternal life in Jesus Christ.
[5] Ephesians 2:15 with Ephesians 2:11-22 as the immediate context, and the whole book of Ephesians as the larger context.
[6] Ephesians 2:18
[7] Ephesians 2:19-22
[8] Galatians 3:26
[9] Ephesians 2:20
[10] Matthew 16:18
[11] Ephesians 2:20
[12] Ephesians 2:21
[13] Ephesians 2:22
[14] Ephesians 4:3
[15] The book of Acts shows how the church began with the 120 Jewish believers, with thousands more added on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and both Samaritan and Gentile believers welcomed into the church as it grew and expanded into other places.
[16] I John 3:24
[17] I John 4:13
[18] There is much that is called Christianity that is not Christianity, and many who are called Christians who are not Christians. All the apostles are very clear in their letters what it means to be a Christian, and so to be part of that true church that is the body of Christ, the household of God, the one new man, the holy temple in which God lives by his Spirit.
[19] I Peter 2:4-5
[20] I John 1:4

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Joy That Comes Because Jesus Came

          I ended my recent blogpost, “Testimony: A Thanksgiving Christmas,”[1] with the expression, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”[2] As I have continued in my consideration of how to share the good news of Jesus all year round, making the most of the grand crescendo of the Christmas season, my thoughts have settled on the early aspects of the gospel, the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.
          Whatever people believe about the truthfulness or reality of what is often called “the Christmas Story,” people understand that it is about this baby who was born in Bethlehem, who is Christ the Lord.[3] All it takes is watching the Charlie Brown Christmas classic to get the gist of what took place.
          The thing we are faced with is twofold: first, is this for real? Second, who is this one who came?
          There are many good websites and ministries that show the historical evidence for the biblical claims about Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection. My aim in this post is to show that the Bible claims that the coming of Jesus Christ is a factual, historical event. I want to show that, a glorious facet of this diamond of good news is the wonderful picture of Jesus coming.
          First of all, we needed Jesus to come. While our present world condition shows increasing threats from so many dangers, the worst threat of all is that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”[4] resulting in the inevitable indictment that, “the wages of sin is death.”[5] If all of us have sinned, and the consequence of sin is death, there is no hope for life in the human race. Someone has to come from outside the human race, someone who would not sin, and with the willingness to do something for us.
          Secondly, God told us well in advance that Jesus would come. Hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ birth, God spoke through his prophet and declared, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”[6] He added, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”[7] There are many other prophecies surrounding the good news that show the hand of God in everything from beginning to end.
          Thirdly, Jesus came. Jesus’ coming was foretold to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph, who then experienced all that God had revealed.[8] Shepherds were the first to receive the birth announcement that Jesus had been born that very night, just as the prophets had spoken.[9] The Magi from the east began following the star that would later bring them to Bethlehem where they worshipped the Christ who had come.[10] Simeon and Anna were specially invited to meet the Messiah they had been waiting for.[11]
          This coming of Jesus into the world is an amazing event, even if only for the glory of God in prophesying and preparing such a thing, and carrying it out according to his will. However, the good news aspect of the event requires something more than the fact that Jesus came. Since all of us have sinned, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God, and all of us are under the just sentence of death for our sins, it is not enough that Jesus came so up-close and personal as to live in our dead world watching us die. Thankfully, there is more.
          Fourth, Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Jesus did not come as a spectator to our sin and death, but as a Savior from sin and death. From Jesus’ own mouth, he declared, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”[12]Jesus came to call sinners, because he had a gift to give sinners.
          On another occasion, Jesus answered his critics by declaring, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”[13]Jesus did not come into the world to find dying people in order to attend their funerals. He did not come to find lost people in order to help them know where they were as they died in their sins. He came to seek the lost, and save the lost.
          The apostle Paul, once a strong adversary of the Lord Jesus Christ, but transformed into an ambassador of the salvation that is in Jesus Christ, explained things this way, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”[14]
          Paul wanted us to know that Jesus came to save sinners, and that he was not pointing his finger at other people when he said that. Earlier he had been part of that squad of religious elite who saw themselves as righteous, and the people who came to Jesus as “sinners”.[15] Once he discovered his own sinfulness in God’s eyes, he felt like he had been the “foremost” of all sinners. If there was going to be a hall of fame for sinners, Paul would be the worst of all. No wonder he would endure so much danger to tell people about what Jesus came to do.
          Fifth, Jesus does save sinners. Jesus not only came, and he not only came with the intention to save sinners, but he procured the solution to sin that would save us out of sin. The wages of sin is death, so Jesus died our death for sin. God’s word puts so beautifully when it declares, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[16]
          This is the ultimate tradeoff. Jesus comes into a world of dying people, and he dies their death for sin. Now the world is offered the righteousness of God in place of their unrighteousness, the life of Jesus Christ in place of their death. Jesus, “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,”[17]and we are now invited to come to the Father through faith in his Son.
          There are many other Bible passages flashing into my mind, assuring me of the work Jesus has done, and the good effect of this work on those who receive his gift. However, it all began with Jesus’ willingness to come, his willingness to live in a sinful world that was so degraded from the way he originally created it, and his willingness to lay down his life for his friends.[18] He came, and people have been benefiting from his coming ever since. 
          This morning, our Canadian Parliament came under attack by a gunman who killed a Canadian soldier on his way to entering the building. Around the world, religious leaders are calling their followers to kill anyone who does not share their beliefs. I much prefer Jesus’ way of coming into the world to die for his enemies! However, death is a constant threat for us all, with the corresponding spiritual death all the more haunting. The world has never seen anything rival the work of Jesus Christ to save us from that death.
          In my earlier post, I misquoted the words of the song, “Joy to the World.” I printed, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” While that is true, and the song of joy rings from this truth, the wording of the song really states something fuller and richer than the past tense. Isaac Watts wrote, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” The “is come” reminds us of the permanency of Jesus coming, and the “It is finished”[19] nature of his work.
          In a wonderful expression of God’s gift to the world, we read of the coming of Jesus Christ in this way, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[20] The fact that God wanted people to be his sons, his children, and that the Son of God was willing to lay down his life to make it happen, calls for much more than an annual celebration of good cheer. It calls for a life that fully receives and experiences Jesus’ life.
          While all the material details of Jesus’ first coming happened in the past, Jesus still “is come,” and is still calling people to come to him.[21] What was announced about his coming is still true: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[22]

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[2] © Public Domain, Joy to the World, pub.1719, Isaac Watts
[3] Luke 2:1-20 is the historical description of Jesus’ birth, and events surrounding this glorious event.
[4] Romans 3:23
[5] Romans 6:23
[6] Isaiah 7:14
[7] Isaiah 9:6
[8] Luke 1:5-80; Matthew 1:18-25
[9] Luke 2:1-20
[10] Matthew 2:1-12
[11] Luke 2:22-38
[12] Mark 2:17
[13] Luke 19:10
[14] I Timothy 1:15
[15] Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-16
[16] II Corinthians 5:21
[17] Galatians 1:4
[18] John 15:13
[19] John 19:30
[20] Galatians 4:4-5
[21] Matthew 11:28-30
[22] John 1:4-5