Peace, Love, & Joy | LOGOS | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 22 of 27 | December 21, 2019

Once I naively asked my pastor, what is the difference between me and God? I mean, I am going to live forever after I die. Aren’t I? And so, it is just a matter of heaven and hell. So basically, I am eternal too, just as God. To my then adolescent mind, I held the perfect argument against God. But my pastor dismantled my whole argument in one amusing sentence. He said, “you have a birth date, but God does not”. I laughed. And quickly dismissed myself from his sight.

The Apostle John terms Christ as LOGOS – the definitive principle of life. John writes, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1, NLT) In other words, Jesus was born on earth as a man. And we celebrate his birth every year. So, yes. He has a birthday. But John says, He does not have a birth date. Because, prior to existence itself – He existed. Another thing we celebrate on Christmas is His Kingship. Christ is King. Right? But His Kingship did not come after His resurrection. His Kingship did not come after Christianity was founded. No. Christ was already King. Because He is LOGOS. Therefore, when Pilate confronted Him – Jesus replied, I came so that the world would know its King. (Jn 18:37)

It is amusing, how limited our rationality is. But it is encouraging beyond reason, that Christ our LORD is King in all in all. His Kingship predates us. His sovereignty predates us. And most awesomely, His Kingdom predates us. How fortunate – oh how fortunate we are – that He came to grant us adoption into a family, that is older than the ancient. How blessed are we, that Christ granted us fellowship into a community, that predates the whole of existence? What do we have to worry? What ails you? How dare we, that we let this world steal our joy, when Christ – the Alpha and the Omega – has promised to be with us and never leave us – until we taste the glory of eternal life together with Him. Praise YHWH!   


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 (xvii) December 16: An Unlikely Route to Victory (xviii) December 17: Freedom & Joy Secured in Him (xix) December 18: Pass Me Not (xx) December 19: Overcoming the Power of Death (xxi) December 20: Salvation Unites Us

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 | 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