“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NASB)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (ESV)
What does Christmas mean to those of us who belong to the family of God? Today and always it is good to keep in mind that at Christmas we celebrate what God did to make it possible for us to join His family. Two verses, one from the Gospel of Luke and one from the Gospel of John bring to us today’s promises. The promised Messiah’s coming was fulfilled in person the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We read what the angel told the Bethlehem shepherds recorded in Luke. In John we read again of the light that Jesus was and brought to earth. Light which evil darkness is unable to snuff out. The world does not comprehend this light and so remains in darkness. It was not only the shepherds who needed a Savior. We needed a Savior too, and He did come to save us. Let’s remember what a great difference it has been in our lives, to have a Savior. Jesus has saved us from sin and from sin’s eternal punishment. And He saves us today from uncertainty, fear, and confusion. Let’s remember this promise today as we hear the words of our verse read.
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (NASB)
If we include the last instruction in verse 14 of this chapter, we learn to “be patient with everyone.” And so, the next instruction teaches us that retaliation is not an option for a Christ believer. Paul the Apostle, writing this letter to the Church in Thessalonica is keenly, from personal experience, aware of the normal reaction we have when others do us wrong. It does not matter who does the wrong, believer or non-believer, we do not repay a wrong with a wrong. This is so very different than what we learn from the world. “If someone hits you, you hit back, harder.” That is the normal way most of us might have thought. But our promise today can be found in the next three instructions. Let’s look at them in the reverse order given in the verses. Give thanks for everything and in everything – God wills that to be our pattern. We give thanks for everything by praying on a regular basis. Make prayers a practice and that is where we can honestly give thanks all the time. What will be the result in our lives, in our attitude, in our perspective on life? We will rejoice always.
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30 (ESV)
If looking to magnify something, how do we go about doing it? We have two options. Use a telescope which brings a really big things visually closer so we can see more detail clearly. The fuzzy dot in the sky called Saturn can be seen with its distinct rings. The other option is using a microscope which makes very small things⸺even those that cannot be seen with our eye, appear much larger than they are. A minute particle is made large enough for us to see detail clearly. In our verse today, David declares that he will “magnify God” with his thanksgiving. He does not mean that he will make a small God look bigger than he is. He does mean that he will make a big God begin to look as big as he really is. So, perhaps we are called not to be microscopes but to be telescopes. We magnify God and in doing that we bring him closer and more visible. John Piper says this; “The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as he really is.”
Thanks to DesiringGod by John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-magnify-god
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)
Our Father in heaven has done so very much for us. Our Bible verse today reminds us of one of His acts that has affected our lives in a meaningful way. That act is God’s creation of light in the very beginning. He is a God of light in many ways and our verse reminds us that He brings light into our hearts. Without the light of God in our lives we are filled with darkness. In the beginning when the foundations of the world were created, the dark world was lit up when God said, ‘Let there be light’. More exactly, daytime was distinguished from nighttime by the creation of light. Without light, there is only darkness. We can know how wonderful it is that we don’t have to live in that darkness or with it in our hearts? God has made his light shine in our hearts and it is a glorious light for us who have believed. Let’s be encouraged today as we recognize that God is a God of glory and He wants us to know of His glory. It is a promise that will bring light to our hearts and to our lives.
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,…” Ephesians 1:15-17 (ESV)
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letters to the people in the churches he had established, he would often fill the sentences with teaching and truth that run very long. In the first chapter of this letter, verses 3-14 and 15-23 are one sentence each in the Greek. The Apostle is sharing the reasons for the thanksgiving he offers on behalf of the saints in Ephesus. What Paul says about the Ephesians becomes a promise for us. He writes, “For this reason” which references what we believers possess and is every spiritual blessing—including election, predestination, adoption, grace, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, knowledge of the mystery of His will, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, and their inheritance—Paul now prayed that his readers might know God personally and intimately. Also, because of their faith and love for other saints, he continued to give thanks for them and makes more requests for them. Although some versions start a new sentence at verse 17, there is no break in the Greek. He asks God to give the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. These are solid promises worth our giving thanksgiving to God and love for each other.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Ephesians 1:3-4 (ESV)
Three times in this letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul uses the term “heavenly places.” The heavenly places are not often on our mind and yet as this letter tells us, this is where our real treasures are in Christ. We have received not one spiritual blessing but all spiritual blessings. God our Father has blessed us with riches promised and untold, particularly spiritual ones. The knowledge of God, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, eternal life are spiritual riches and blessings which no human reason or method has revealed to us, but only by the revelation of the Holy Spirit these promises are made known. Paul says that it was determined by God choice, by His eternal decree made before the foundation of the world. God chose us so that our sinful life might be wiped away by the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. All because of His love for us, He chose us, and not because of any goodness we produce through our actions, thoughts or words, we will and do stand before Him blameless and holy. It has been planned this way by God and there is no other way but by believing in Jesus.
“O God, restore us And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Psalm 80:3,7, 19 (NASB)
Consider when you find yourself at the end of a blind alley or perhaps the Dead End on a country road. What is our first impulse? We want to get out of there. We’re likely lost unless we intended that as our destination. God’s people were frequently at a dead end and perpetually needed help turning back. Repentance or restoration was a way back. That is the idea the psalmist was writing about in this Psalm. He calls on God three times to “Restore us O God.” He also is asking for God to ‘shine’ His face – that is, show favor so that the outcome would be salvation from their predicament. Israel in the Old Testament, was many times and many situations in this need. We are too, aren’t we? Like this psalmist we need a revival. If truly we seek revival, it comes when we promote the glory of God through our lives and church assemblies. The proper object of our Christian life is God’s glory. The church was made for this purpose, to glorify God; but it is only a revived church that brings glory to his name. Let’s call on our LORD God for this restoration..
“ As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” 1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV)
Two more of five exhortations are given in these verses. We looked yesterday at the first three; ‘prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope.” Two more in today’s verses make it clear that we need the first three which are strenuous mental preparation in order to take on what is ours to do in today’s verses. We are instructed to not be conformed to the evil desires that once were ours. What conformation are we to be on guard against? Wee, passions of our past sinful lives. Habits and activities which one occupied our time no longer belong. Not even being on the sidelines. In obedience to that we live lives that are holy. We know that absolute holiness cannot be achieved in this life, it will be ours in heaven and today it is ours to strive for. What we know does not fit or should not be part of our lives we can choose to be rid of it. Like Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,” That is the path to being holy because He is holy.
“ Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)
In the first chapter of 1 Peter we learn that as believers we are call to be Holy. We know the word Holy. Some of us sing songs about God being Holy. The various churches label places and artifacts as Holy. God in the Old Testament has the People of Israel build a Tabernacle for worshiping Him. In it was the Holy Place and deeper in was the Holy of Holies. Holiness is important in God’s way and revelation in the Bible tells us He expects us to live holy lives. In our verse today Peter gives us three of five ways to approach being holy. We are to prepare our minds for action. Get our thoughts in the proper order so we are to be sober-minded. This means to be in control of what goes in and what comes out. This means not to mess around with things that intoxicate our thinking and crowd out or blue the things God wants us to think about. The third is to set our hope on the promise of the grace we have and will receive when Jesus Christ is revealed. That’s an end time event we’re to be prepared for.
“ The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:29-30 (ESV)
Many claim the existence of gods other than the one God we worship. These other gods are created in someone’s mind and sold to many who do not know the true God. A created god is not the God of the Bible. Our God is not the same as the god worshiped in a false religion. The commandments in these verses came to us first from God through Moses in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). It is a foundational truth that we need to believe and hold dear and defend that God is One. There are no other gods in existence. Famous and influential people today, celebrities will tell you that there is more than one god and there is more than one way to “what you call God.” But there is not. The Lord is one. It does not take our belief to make that true. It is true because God said it and those who choose to believe it is no mistake. God has made Himself available, findable, knowable to those who seek him in faith believing. God promises that those who seek Him will find Him and those who ask for Him will receive Him.