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Peace, Love, & Joy | Messiah of all | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 8 of 27 | December 7, 2019

The visitation from the east, at the manger, highlights two important points: one of Christ, and the other of men. Firstly, it highlights Christ’s universal Messiah-hood. In the account of the Apostle Matthew, it was the Wise-men from the East, who first acknowledge Him as King. (pg. 23) Clearly, pointing out the message to us – later generations that Christ is for both Jews and Gentiles alike. Secondly, and most interestingly, the visitation highlights our limitation in grasping God’s glory without divine help. I want to make two further remarks here:

  1. So, the last shall be first, and the first last. (Mat 20:16, KJV) The Wise-men were chiefs of foreign courts. They were culturally, ethically, and religiously different from the Jews. Apart from that, they were people of different geography. And interestingly, these were also the people that the Jews considered unclean. (Henry, 2) Yet, it was in the divine will of God to choose them first in the adoration of the King. Piper notes, it was in Matthew’s divinely inspired desire – to establish that Jesus was/is Messiah and King of all nation. (pg. 13) And so, the wise-men came and “presented unto him gifts” (Mat 2:11, KJV) as was customary in the East, to honour and respect a King with gifts[1]. (John Gill) Interestingly, Matthew Henry here notes: this was their way of saying that they have admitted His Kingship. And I quote: “We are come to worship him. They conclude he will, in process of time, be their king, and therefore they will be times ingratiate themselves with him and with those about him.”[2]
  2. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Mat 16:3, KJV) The Jews were a chosen lot of people. They were granted prophesies for the coming Messiah. But it is interesting how, at the time of birth the Jews had already settled comfortably with their sins. And they were no longer, (really) looking forward to any miraculous conception of a Saviour in the human form. Yet, at the same time. Their eastern counterparts, whom they considered unclean, learned and discern, not just the coming, but the birth of the Messiah. (Mat 2:1-12) How ironic it is that the Jews who pride themselves as learned, clean, and chosen could not discern the signs of the times. And yet, how easily, its unclean counterpart did. Indeed, this is grace extended to humanity that we witness through the birth of Christ – the last became first.

Yes. Christ is King. He is a Messiah to all men alike. But won’t it be a great loss, if we who are born in a Christian community would miss Christmas like the Jews? Let us pray that Christ would grant us, the same Grace that He granted the Eastern wise-men, the wisdom to understand the scriptures, and the strength to obey His lead. May we, never be the people whom the Apostle John wrote of as: He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. (Jn 1:11, NKJV)



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

Peace, Love, & Joy | Peace to those with whom He’s pleased | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 7 of 27 | December 6, 2019 |

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” – Luke 2:14 (ESV)

Who are the people that God is pleased with? The scripture says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6, ESV) The faithful are the ones who believed in Him and received Him. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:11-13, ESV) It is interesting, how these languages are in the past tense, like we discussed in the earlier devotional. Another reason is, predestination. We find that in Jesus’ own words. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” (Jn 17:5-10, ESV) In other words, these are people whom God has predestined in His divine election. (Eph 5:1) We know of their election by their faith. And we know of their faith by their believes. And therefore, these are the people whom Christ is pleased; and so, these are the people to whom he rests His peace.

Interestingly, this also means there are also a lot of people who won’t partake in this peace. It is those people who did not receive Him. (Jn 1:11) These are people who are in darkness. Jesus spoke: “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word… Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (Jn 8:43, 47, ESV) The Apostle John spoke of this in advance. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (Jn 1:5, KJV)

But a majority of us who are professing Christians will hardly associate ourselves with the people who do not hear the Word. Because, we associate having faith with baptism, Church attendance, or the fact that we identify ourselves as Christians in the society. But the scripture leaves no grey area for such false confidence. The peace that Jesus talks about leaving on this earth, is specifically for His disciples – people who glorify God by obeying His Will, and in seeking Him in righteousness and Holiness. (Jn 14, 14:27)

The Word of God, indeed is a blessing for the elect and a judgement for the reprobate. But where do you and I stand? Will peace be ours? Let us seek His grace, that He would raise us up as His faithful servants.  

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

Peace, Love, & Joy | What He Willed to do | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 6 of 27 | December 5, 2019

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)

YHWH moved the government to situate Joseph and Mary, so that Christ could be born in Bethlehem. We always celebrate such divine power, and Sovereign rule of God in that narration of Christmas. But ironically, we also learn that Joseph and Mary failed to find an inn. The skeptic in us is quick to question: if God is so sovereign how come He failed to arrange an inn? Or perhaps, why choose a poor couple? Why wasn’t Christ born in a more influential family? These questions are quite similar to the ones we raise for own sake as well. God if you are so powerful why do you let bad things happen to me? John Piper answers: “the question is not (about) ‘what God could do, but what he willed to do’”. (pg. 9) Of course, there is nothing that God cannot do. But if indeed, He did everything – no purpose, no prophesy of His, would have been fulfilled. We won’t have received salvation, and God wouldn’t been glorified. But it is for our sake, that the KING and LORD of all Creation willed to be born among the lowest of low, and suffered everything a human being could suffer. And in all of these, He showed His divinity in demonstrating blameless obedience to the Father. Why? So that His righteous life could be a substitute for our sinful life – so that salvation could be secured for us.

Similarly, the sufferings we endure in our lives, aren’t just something God allowed, but is something that He has ordained it. “Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” (Ps 66:8-10, ESV) God allows our suffering for our sanctification – so that we could be conformed to His image. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:8-11, ESV)

But this suffering is a peculiar kind of suffering. It is not the suffering of breaking up with your lover, or that your children are disobedient, or that your business has failed, or that you’re not popular, et cetera… and so on and so forth. This suffering is not the one born of personal folly over personal worries. This suffering that the scriptures are talking about is a suffering that comes from godly sorrow. This is a suffering of the saints – it is the pain of pursuing Christlikeness amidst a Christless world. (2 Cor 7:10)

Summing up. It is true that there is a fair share of suffering allotted to us in our godly sojourn. But the good news is – Christ, who is called Emmanuel – is with us. (Mat 1:23) He not only overseas our sufferings, He also pleads for us for the times we fail (Heb 7:25). And not only that, He also strengthens us so that (2 Cor 12:9) we could endure till the end. So, the next time when the skeptic in us questions God’s sovereignty in our sufferings: let us remind ourselves – it is not about what God can do, but what God wills to do. It is in His will that He chooses to sanctifies us, and conform us, to His image – so that we could be saved.  

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