Peace, Love, & Joy | An Unlikely Route to Victory | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 17 of 27 | December 16, 2019

He makes tactical retreats in order to win strategic victories.” – John Piper (pg. 33)

Wouldn’t the forces of evil celebrate when Jesus broke breath on the cross? They certainly would have. But that is the thing with God, His ways are higher than our ways – and His way to victory is through apparent defeat. “What an unlikely route to victory” Piper exclaimed. (pg. 34) Indeed it is. And these ‘tactical retreats to strategic victories’ is more apparently seen in Joseph’s life. He was first, disowned by his family, second, sold as a slave, third, wrongly accused, fourth, locked in prison. Joseph’s life is nowhere near to our definition of blessed. But little did we know, Joseph’s misfortunes were ordained by our Sovereign God to raise him as an authoritative figure. God raised Joseph up (in Egypt) to deliver Israel through famine. What looked like a lost life, was a divinely ordained ‘tactical retreat to a strategic victory’.

Piper notes: “But that is God’s way — even for his Son. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Worse than a slave — a prisoner — and was executed.” (pg. 34) “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Php 2:9-10, ESV) But most importantly, this is also what God desires from us; that we suffer along with Him to Glory. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” (Rom 8:17, NLT)

Albert Barnes writes, “It does not mean that we suffer to the same extent that he did, but we may imitate him in the kind of our sufferings, and in the spirit with which they are borne; and thus show that we are united to him.”[1] In other words, suffering with Christ is not a matter of degree or likeness to what Christ suffered for us. It is also not about repaying our gratitude to Him. But suffering with Christ is a practical demonstration of our unity in Him – that we think like Him, and be like Him; that we are thinking like Him, and being like Him.

Suffering with Christ is not about seeking conflict with non-believers, or with people who believe differently than you. Suffering with Christ is about those setbacks in life that comes with seeking righteousness, and holiness. In other words, this suffering is about pursuing godliness in a godless world. This suffering is about seeking and serving Christ, the Church, and His Kingdom in a world that despises Christ, the Church, and His Kingdom. The Apostle Paul echoes these sentiments in his letter to Timothy. I suggest reading the entire second chapter of his second letter. But I’ll quote a few scriptures from it here, to paint a brief picture of what I am saying. And I quote: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus… Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead… as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal… Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2Timothy 2:3, 8-13, ESV)

But why are we talking about something so somber as suffering during Christmas? Because trouble never takes an appointment to visit us. And if, we are truly of Christ, we ought to be ever expecting of such suffering. (Jn 15:19) We celebrate the birth of Christ, because He comes to adopt us in His family. “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.” (Gal 4:4-5, ESV) And since, we are adopted, we become His. And since we are His, we are also bound to suffer for His cause. But the crux, and the matter of all these points I am making is to tell you this: Yes. If we are Christ’s, we are bound to suffer. But we shouldn’t fret. Because, this suffering in God’s way, is the unlikely route to victory. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1Peter 4:12-13, ESV)


[1] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-8.html


Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy”


Read previous entries in this Series:

(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased (viii) December 7: Messiah of all (ix) December 8: Christ is Central in Christmas(x) December 9: Two Kinds of Oppositions (xi) December 10: Our Treasure (xii) December 11: Why Jesus came (xiii) December 12: Replacing the Shadows (xiv) December 13: Christ, the Real Thing, the Perfect Priest (xv) December 14: Making Transformation Real (xvi) December 15: Abundant Life

Peace, Love, & Joy | Abundant Life | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 16 of 27 | December 15, 2019

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 (ESV)

How ironic for Christ to say – He came to give life. Considering how, He is also the one who says, lose your life. (Lk 9:23-24) Let me explain. The life He is talking about in the first context, is well documented in its preceding verse. “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” (Jn 10:9, NLT) The life Christ is talking about (here) is eternal, and the context here is of salvation. Whereas, the life we ought to lose is one of worldliness. This is a life marked with the vain-glorious pursuit of mortal desires. “People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves” (Rom 8:5, CEV) “(and then) we are tempted by our own desires (Js 1:14, CEV) … then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Js 1:15, ESV)” Therefore, when Christ says, lose you life, He is saying, lose worldliness which is being deadinsin. It is the same reason why we also find Him addressing worldly people as dead. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” (Lk 9:60, ESV)

The reason why Christ calls for losing worldliness is not only because it leads to spiritual death. It is also because it leads to self-idolatry. Because worldliness prioritizes self-interest, and our self-centred desires above God. What YHWH demands from us, is an undivided devotion. Hence, the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20:3-5, KJV) The Psalmist, likewise, wisely pleads “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” (Ps 86:11, ESV) But more than that, the reason why we should lose our life is because Christ offered His. The reason why we should lose our worldliness is because, Christ offers an eternal life; and not just that – He offers an abundance of it.

Albert Barnes writes: “Literally, that they may have abundance, or that which abounds. The word denotes that which is not absolutely essential to life, but which is superadded to make life happy. They shall not merely have life – simple, bare existence – but they shall have all those superadded things which are needful to make that life eminently blessed and happy. It would be vast mercy to keep men merely from annihilation or hell; but Jesus will give them eternal joy, peace, the society of the blessed, and all those exalted means of felicity which are prepared for them in the world of glory.”[1]       

But one common hindrance to losing worldliness is worldly care. It is not only the pursuit of worldly interests that stumbles us, but it is also the matter of survival. What will I eat, drink, and wear? Where will I live? How do I take care of my loved ones? Et cetera. And these are all honest concerns. It is true, not everything is about conceit. But Christ says, “‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mat 6:25-34, ESV)

Christ came to grant us an abundant life. It would be a shame to lose such matchless offering. It is a life that we cannot afford by our own. Let us celebrate this offering. And meditate on it. Isn’t that why we celebrate Christmas? Let us pray and seek His face, that He would lead us from worldliness to godliness


[1] https://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/barnes/joh010.htm


Read previous entries in this Series:

(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased (viii) December 7: Messiah of all (ix) December 8: Christ is Central in Christmas(x) December 9: Two Kinds of Oppositions (xi) December 10: Our Treasure (xii) December 11: Why Jesus came (xiii) December 12: Replacing the Shadows (xiv) December 13: Christ, the Real Thing, the Perfect Priest (xv) December 14: Making Transformation Real

Peace, Love, & Joy | Making Transformation Real | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 15 of 27 | December 14, 2019

Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant… It means that God brings about our inner transformation by the Spirit of Christ.” – John Piper (pg. 29)

The birth of Christ is the full revelation of the glory of God. This revelation comes to us, as a real concrete reality – that we can live, breath, and be. Once, our forefathers struggled with the shadow of this reality, in rituals, forms and ‘types of Christ’. But Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, death and resurrection, replaced these shadows with Himself, and established the ‘Kingdom come’ – the real thing.

What this revelation ultimately means is that – this real thing, is made real for you and me. And we partake in this reality, by the transformation, or more appropriately – regeneration, the Holy Spirit does in us. This is the new covenant purchased by the blood of Christ.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant [this is the purchase of the new covenant], even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21, ESV)

God has raised a great Shepherd, and through Him, we are no longer in the condition where we have to wrestle with a superimposed law. No. YHWH declared, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33, ESV) And in the book of Hebrews we find, “I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds” (Heb 10:16, ESV) And so, in this new covenant we find, “Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will… which is pleasing in His sight”. In other words, Christ is not only the one who makes salvation a reality for us. But He makes, salvation a reality in us. Christ makes our transformation real, not by our own strength, but by the grace of God.

Piper writes, “So the meaning of Christmas is not only that God replaces shadows with Reality, but also that he takes the reality and makes it real to his people. He writes it on our hearts. He does not lay… salvation and transformation down for you to pick up in your own strength. He picks it up and puts in your heart and in your mind, and seals to you that you are a child of God.” (pg. 30) Praise YHWH! How amazing is that? And that is the literal transformation, He makes it real in the lives of His chosen ones. Have you experience such real transformation yet? Let us pray and seek such glorious ends to our lives.


Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy”


Read previous entries in this Series:

(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased (viii) December 7: Messiah of all (ix) December 8: Christ is Central in Christmas(x) December 9: Two Kinds of Oppositions (xi) December 10: Our Treasure (xii) December 11: Why Jesus came (xiii) December 12: Replacing the Shadows (xiv) December 13: Christ, the Real Thing, the Perfect Priest


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