Tue, Dec 25, 2018

Christmas 2018 Romans 16:25-27 The Mystery of the Incarnation!

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CHRISTMAS 2018

ROMANS 16:25-27

THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION!

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Romans chapter 16 as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

            I know some of you are wondering why in the world are we going to Romans chapter 16 for a Christmas message! But, as you will see, there is good reason.

            Now think about this time of year, how busy we all get. And it is easy to lose sight of what this time of year is all about.

            And please understand that I am not saying our busyness is all bad. We have commitments, gatherings, and many other things that there really is nothing wrong with. The problem comes when we let these things block out what the true meaning of Christmas is. And that can happen very easily.

            We see it with the Black Friday feeding frenzy or sales that happen the day after Thanksgiving and now, some even start on Thanksgiving. That is not a good thing and sometimes fights even break out!

            Again, we need to be careful that we don’t miss what this is all about. It truly is not about the gifts we give but the one that has been given to us by Jesus Christ, it is the greatest gift that has ever been given, and it is eternal. This gift will never fade away. It will never rust or fall apart. It is always age appropriate. And it is a gift that keeps on giving!

            Now I also realize that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but we celebrate His birth because we know He was born. Ture, we don’t know the exact date that He was born.

            But, make no mistake about it, Jesus was born!

            But we need to understand, as we look at our nation today, it is very secular and the meaning of what we celebrate here has been lost. And even Christians can get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this time of year.

            Let me show you what I mean. We are told,

            If the following story were not true, it would surely be unbelievable. It is true, however, as you yourself will agree when you have read it.

            There was once a great king. His love for his people knew no limits. Although the kingdom was very large, the king knew every person by name. Everything the people of the kingdom had was a gift freely given by the loving king.

            So, to show their love and appreciation to the king for all he had done for them, the people decided to have a great celebration to honor his birthday. Everyone agreed it was a marvelous idea. Preparations for the celebration were very elaborate. No expense was spared by the people. They adorned their homes with lights, decorations, and expensive ornaments. There were parties, dinners, and celebrations throughout the kingdom.

            All the people brought gifts for their friends and family. Many of the gifts which the people gave each other were quite expensive, involving considerable indebtedness. In fact, the people spent more on the birthday celebration than they spent at any other time of the year.

            Many who were not citizens of the kingdom, and who did not even know the king, joined in the celebration. Their celebration of the king’s birth was marked by excessive drinking. Since they did not know the king, they invented a good-natured, fat fellow in a red suit. He laughed a lot, but never said anything. But that didn’t matter because they were too busy celebrating to listen anyhow.

            The great day of celebrating his birth finally arrived, and some of his people did come bringing gifts and thanking him for his goodness to them. But to his dismay, most of the citizens never came to his house at all on the day of celebration. And the gifts brought to the king by those few who came were very meager when compared with the gifts they had given themselves.

            For the most part the people said they had been so busy with all the celebrations and personal plans that they had forgotten about the king. Several said they had thought of him, but really could not work it into their schedules or budgets to come see him or bring a gift. A few were known to be quite put out when it was suggested that going to the king’s house or remembering him with a gift was important.

            Those people who did come to his house and who brought their loving gifts were welcomed and blessed by the king. But when they had gone and he was alone again, the king fell to thinking of the vast numbers of his people who had forgotten and forsaken him. How could they have forgotten? Had he not loved them all? How could so many of his beloved people who had found the time and money for shopping and feasting and partying and decorating and all sorts of celebrations - how could they possibly be so thoughtless, so ungrateful or selfish? Did they not know that he, too, had feelings? Was not the purpose of the birthday celebration originally planned to honor him?

            When the king was alone, pondering these questions, he felt the tears well up in his eyes. And in his loneliness, he wept.

            One thought brought some hope and consolation. Even though they had forgotten him, he had not forgotten them.

- A Treasury of Bible Illustrations

 

            I know, some of you are thinking that this is not a true story, but it is! You see, it is played out every year at this time when people are too busy to celebrate the birth of their King, their Lord, their Savior, Jesus Christ!

            When you look at what is happening here in America with what we believe about the Bible, not only secular people, but those who call themselves Christians, it can be very disheartening!

            Let me share this with you because what we believe about Christmas, what we believe about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is very important. And yet, what we see happening is the dismissing of this and in doing so, we are taking Jesus right out of the picture! It is no longer Christmas for some, but Xmas! Again, taking Christ right out of the picture when it truly is all about Him!

            Listen to this report. We are told,

            More Americans are embracing the holly, jolly, cultural parts of Christmas and shedding the holy and religious aspects.

            While Christmas remains as popular as it has been in past years, a Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday suggests the way Americans celebrate the holiday is slowly shifting toward the secular. 

            Researchers found that a growing number of U.S. adults believe the religious parts of Christmas are being emphasized less in American society - and many aren’t bothered by the change. In addition, the number of people who believe in key aspects of the Christmas story - such as the virgin birth and the wise men bringing Jesus gifts - is declining. Significantly, even a small percentage of self-professed Christians are doubting these biblical narratives.

            Pew found that 46 percent of adults surveyed this year said they see Christmas as more of a religious holiday than a cultural holiday, down from 51 percent in 2013. Most Millennials who celebrate Christmas think of it more as a cultural holiday than a religious one (44 percent, compared with 32 percent).

            Tom Krattenmaker, who writes about religion in public life and authored Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower, told HuffPost that the poll findings may reflect the growing number of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated.

            “As more Americans drift away from religion in general and Christianity in particular, it stands to reason they would take a more secular approach to the holiday,” Krattenmaker said.

            One of the most striking parts of the survey explored how Americans feel about the story of Jesus’ birth as it is described in the Bible. Pew found that most Americans still believe in key elements of this biblical narrative - that Jesus was born to a virgin (66 percent), that he was laid in a manger (75 percent), that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gifts (68 percent), and that an angel announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds (67 percent). But the share of people who profess belief in these biblical events is declining. In 2014, 65 percent of Americans believed all four of these elements. This year, 57 percent said the same. 

            Some of this decline can be explained by the increasing number of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated. But there’s also been a small shift within Christianity itself. Researchers found that the number of Christians who believe in all four elements declined from 81 percent in 2014 to 76 percent this year. White mainline Protestants were particularly doubtful about these stories. For example, the number of white mainline Protestants who believed in the virgin birth dipped from 83 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2017. 

            Mike McHargue is a Christian author and podcaster whose work often touches on the topic of doubt within Christianity. McHargue told HuffPost that he finds the shift within Christianity was both inevitable and encouraging. For him, it means that people are stepping away from thinking of the elements of the Christmas story as scientific facts - which is not how Jesus’ followers in the first century would have understood them anyway.

            “Both Protestants and atheists share the same basic modernist frame to interpret religious claims,” McHargue said. “Though they come to oppositional conclusions, both elevate reason as the primary means of discerning truth. That’s a great way to make iPhones and spacecraft, but a weak way of illuminating the experiential part of humanity’s consciousness.” 

            Instead of obsessing over details of the Christmas story, McHargue said people should be asking different questions - why did the gospel writers tell the story in this way, who were they writing for, and what does all of this reveal about humanity’s search for meaning in the 21st century?

            “In that way, it encourages me that people can let go of such vigorously defended ideas and still identify as Christians,” McHargue said. “It means they’ve found something more powerful in the story of Jesus than a set of facts or a first-century mythology.” . . .

            The holiday remains widely popular. Nine of 10 Americans said they celebrate Christmas, nearly the same as in 2013. Many still plan to gather with friends and family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (82 percent). And about half plan to attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, a percentage similar to the 2013 responses.

            Krattenmaker said he’s glad Americans aren’t abandoning the holiday. 

            “Christmas can be fun and meaningful, even if you aren’t religious,” he said.

- https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/christmas-without-religion_us_5a3299b3e4b0bb42ac170ca9

 

            I find it interesting that this article says that “Americans aren’t abandoning the holiday.” And that is true. But they are abandoning Jesus, for they left Him out of this day that is supposed to be about God becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us, the INCARNATION!

            Again, this is vividly illustrated for us. We are told,

            Not long ago, a professor of psychology in one of our great universities gave a word suggestion test to his class of 40 students.

            He instructed them to write the word “Christmas,” and all the class did so.

            “Now,” said the professor, “right after the word ‘Christmas’ write the first thought that flashes through your mind regarding that day.”

            When the papers were turned in, such answers were given as “tree,” “holly,” “mistletoe,” “presents,” “turkey,” “holiday,” “carols,” and “Santa Claus,” but not one had written, “the birthday of Jesus.”

            As there was no room for the baby Jesus in the inn, there is no room for Him today in the celebration of Christmas.

- A Treasury of Bible Illustrations

 

            My prayer, as we go through our study this morning, dealing with the Incarnation, is that we would make room for Jesus in our lives and rejoice in what He has done for us!

            And that is the title of our study here this morning, THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION!

            So with that said, let’s begin reading in Romans chapter 16 beginning in verse 25 and let’s see what the Lord has for us as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

 

ROMANS 16

VERSES 25-27

            Now this word mystery used here in verse 25 is not like our English word that speaks of something that is hidden and we can’t know what it is about. This word speaks of something that was hidden in former times but now has been revealed to us.

            And this truth is not something that human intellect could discover, it is something that has been revealed to us by God!

            What is this mystery that Paul is speaking of?

            It is the mystery of the Incarnation, of God becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us!

            Yes, the birth of Jesus Christ, His life, death and resurrection are a part of the historical record. But there is much more to it than just historical facts!

            You see, it is also a spiritual truth that God, through the Holy Spirit, has revealed to our hearts.

            It is not just head knowledge, it is heart knowledge, you might say!

            But think about this for a minute, because, many times we read these things and they go in one ear and out the other. We don’t think about what took place here!

            How can an infinite God, take upon Himself a tangible form, in the likeness of sinful man?

            That is what the Incarnation is all about! And that is exactly what has happened. God became flesh and dwelt amongst us!

            Listen to what John tells us in his Gospel, chapter 1 beginning in verse 1, where we read, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

            John starts out by saying, In the beginning was the Word. And the idea here is that the Word, Jesus, existed before creation or even time!

            The verb was in the Greek is EN and it is in the imperfect tense and it means that the Word always existed. There was never a point when He came into being!

            In other words, what John is saying is this, “When all things began, the Word already was.”

            What about when the earth was created? The Word existed!

            What about when the angels were created? The Word existed.

            I may not understand how that can be, but it is what the Scriptures teach!

            Now I realize that there are those who try to deny the deity of Jesus and say that He was a created being, but that is not what the Scriptures tell us. You see, no matter how far back in time you go, Jesus was there, He was there before time began! 

            And that goes along with what the Scriptures teach. We see that in Micah 5:2, in speaking of the birth of the Messiah, But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The one to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. 

            That phrase, from everlasting speaks of being beyond the vanishing point or that He is eternal! The Word is eternal for He is Almighty God.

            Now this Greek word that is used for word is LOGOS and it speaks of a collection of ideas or words.

            For example, ancient Hebrew editions of the Old Testament change Exodus 19:17 (Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God) to “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet the word of God.” In the mind of the ancient Jews, the phrase “the word of God” could be used to refer to God Himself.

            In saying that, look at how John 1:1 could be translated here. “In beginning was continuing the Word, and the Word was continuing with God, and the Word was continually God.” Jesus is Almighty God, that is what John is trying to show us!

            And, not only is Jesus eternal, but He has always been with God the Father. You see, there is only one God who is manifested in three distinct persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. 

            That phrase, and the Word was with God can be literally be translated, “the Word was continually toward God.”

            They were equals, God the Father did not create the Word because the Word always existed as does the Father and they saw eye to eye! They were equals!

            Also, not only is Jesus eternal, not only has He always been with the Father, but He is also God, as I have said.

            But do the Scriptures teach us that Jesus is Almighty God and not just “a god” as the Jehovah Witnesses try to tell us? You bet they do!

            In Isaiah 42:8 we are told, I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. God is not going to share His glory with anyone, not even a lesser god, if there was such a thing, and there isn’t!

            I do love what we are told in Isaiah 44:6. We are told that there is only one God manifested in two distinct persons, and in other parts of the Bible we see that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. What does Isaiah say that makes Jesus Almighty God?

            We read in Isaiah 44:6, Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.’ 

            This is so clear to me and hopefully to you. First, we see God the Father or Yahweh the King of Israel.

            And then we see Jesus, the Word, God the Son as we are told, His Redeemer the Yahweh of hosts! You see, not only Yahweh of Israel, but there is the Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts! 

            I think it is very clear that it is not saying that God the Father is the Redeemer as it reads, And his redeemer, the LORD of hosts. I do love how clear that is unless you reject it and then you have to come up with all kinds of crazy ideas of what this means! And believe me, they do!

            And if you are still struggling with this or are unsure, we see God the Father call Jesus God in Hebrews 1:8-9. Paul put it like this as he quotes out of the Old Testament, But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’

            Now if you want to deny that God the Father has called Jesus God and not “a god” you have bigger problems!

            You see, in John 8:24 Jesus said, Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

            The “He” was added for clarity, but it is not there in the original. It should read, if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.

            In other words, for those who reject the deity of Jesus Christ, they will die in their sins. Thus, this is very serious, it is a matter of life and death!

            I don’t see how you can come to the conclusion that Jesus is not God unless you come with preconceived ideas or you have other material besides the Bible to deceive you down that path. It is very clear; Jesus is God, the second person of the Holy Trinity! 

            As one writer put it, “The simple sentence of verse 1 is the most compact and pulsating theological statement in all Scripture. Jesus was always existing from all eternity as God, in perfect fellowship with God the Father and (though not mentioned) the Holy Spirit.” (R. Kent Hughes, John, p. 17)

            Not only that but we all see that Jesus is actively involved in creation, just as Paul tells us in Colossians 1:16-17, For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 

            Not only did Jesus create all things, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:1-2), but He also holds them all together. 

            Now, what happened to the Word? We don’t have to guess, because John tells us. In John 1:14 we are told, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

            The Amplified Bible puts John 1:14 like this, And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. [Isa 40:5.]

            In other words, Almighty God took on a body of flesh to pay in full the penalty for sinful man. And the reason being is that our sin separated us from God and Jesus, being the Mediator between God and man, has restored that fellowship through His atoning work on the cross of Calvary!

            This mystery, that was hidden in the Old Testament, has been revealed to us! This babe, born in a manger is Almighty God!

            And what we see here in John 1:14 is we see humanity added to His deity, God became flesh and dwelt or tabernacled or pitched His tent among us, the Incarnation!

            In Matthew 1:22-23 we are told, So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Matthew is quoting out of Isaiah 7:14.

            Of this word, “dwelt” Clarke tells us, “And tabernacled among us: the human nature which he took of the virgin, being as the shrine, house, or temple, in which his immaculate Deity condescended to dwell. The word is probably an allusion to the Divine Shekinah in the Jewish temple.”

            They beheld His glory! And, I do think John is speaking of that Shekinah glory that filled the Temple.

            And Paul, in regard to the incarnation, said In I Timothy 3:16, And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

            We also need to keep this in mind. Yes, the Word or Jesus is eternal but there was a point in time that He became flesh and dwelt among us!

            And I am so thankful that He is full of grace, unmerited favor towards us; and truth, I don’t have to fear about being led astray by the Word, by Jesus.

            When He says in John 14:6, . . . ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ I can believe it because it is truth and that truth is seen in the grace that HE extends to us! 

            Let me give you this perspective in regard to the Incarnation. We are told,

            In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey shares an episode from his youth when the concept of “the Word becoming flesh” dawned on him with profound meaning:

            I learned about incarnation when I kept a salt-water aquarium. Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task. I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulfa drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow. I filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal, and exposed it to ultraviolet light.

            You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one emotion only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them.

            I could not convince them of my true concern. To my fish I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction.

            To change their perceptions I began to see would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and “speak” to them in a language they could understand.

- Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion

 

            God became flesh to show us the way to eternal life, and the way to eternal life is only found in Him. That is what Jesus said in John 14:6. Remember what we read, . . . ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’

            Now, let’s look at Romans 16:25 a little more. Paul said, Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.
            What we see here is that Jesus is able to establish us, and that Greek word for establish means, “to make steadfast, to cause us to stand and to keep us from evil.”

            I like that. That is what Paul says in I Thessalonians 3:13, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

            You see, once we come to Christ, once we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are secure in Him. Nothing can move us from that relationship with Him.

            How do I know that? Because Paul told us that very fact in this verse here in Romans 16:25. We lose the impact in the New King James Version, but listen to what the King James Version has to say, Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.

            In other words, Jesus has the power to not only save us but to keep us saved! Once we are in the faith, once we are saved, nothing can take us out of His hands!

            That is exactly what Jesus said in John 10:25-30, Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.’

            Jesus gives to us eternal life and that means exactly what it says. And I realize that there are things that try to pull us away from God, but here’s the thing. If God is God, and He is, and He has created all things, and He has, do you really think anything that He created is more powerful than He is? Of course not!

            Thus, we are secure in Him. This babe in a manger was Almighty God who became flesh, dwelt among us to pay in full the penalty for our sins and we are secure in Him!

            And here is the gospel message! It is as Paul said in I Corinthians 15:3-4, For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

            The Gospel means “good news” and it could be any good news but the message of Christ’s life, His death and His resurrection from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins is great news in a world that is dark, discouraging, without hope many times!

            What Paul received from the Lord here in Romans chapter 16 and in I Corinthians chapter 15 is the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is seen in His death for our sins.

            As Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary the sins of the world were placed on Him. 

            It is as Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 

            He was buried in a tomb as Isaiah 53:9 tells us, And they made His grave with the wicked - But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.  

            And He rose from the dead on the third day all in fulfillment of what the Scriptures said.

            Now where in the Old Testament does it speak of the Messiah, of Jesus being three days in the tomb before He would rise from the dead? There are several places we could look at but I will give you a couple to show you that the Old Testament does speak of the resurrection of the Messiah!

            Jesus tells us that in one of the books of the Old Testament we see this spoken of. In Matthew 12:39-40 He said, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

            So Jonah’s experience in the belly of the whale was a type of Christ and what He would do, rise on the third day!

            Peter, on the day of Pentecost tells us in Acts 2:25-32 as he quotes out of Psalm 16 for this illustration, For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 

            The Jews believed that after four days in the tomb the body was corrupted and thus, Jesus rose on the third day! 

            The Old Testament is filled with illustrations, pictures of the Messiah rising on the third day and yet, for many, they don’t want to be bothered with the truth, they are happy where they are at, but they won’t be happy where they are going if they continue to reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

            And now listen to what Paul said in Romans 16:26, but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.

            This truth, this mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament has be revealed to Paul, and it has now been revealed to us.

            And it is great news for us, but not for us alone. You see, once we have received that Good News, the Gospel message it is not for us alone. We are to share it with others, let them see the Good News that God has given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ!

            And this truth is also, . . . according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience, to the faith. In other words, now that we know the truth we are to follow the Lord, obey Him through faith!

            And through all of this, in all that God has given to us, we see that He gets the glory as Paul tells us, To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 16:27.

            In the Greek this phrase is followed immediately by the words through Jesus Christ.This indicates that the wisdom of God is displayed supremely through Christ (cf. Col. 2:3). And the way it is written, we once again see that Jesus is God. And, according to the Greek text the benediction then ends with, to whom be glory forever!

            Let me share with you this wonderful birth of our Savior and we will be looking at Luke 2:1-20, where we are told, And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

            In other words, the mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament has now been revealed to us through the person of Jesus Christ. Almighty God who became flesh – the INCARNATION!

            In the city of David was born our Savior, Jesus Christ! It is exactly what man needed. Man was condemned in his sin, and he did not need someone to condemn him more. What he needed was someone to save him from his sin and that is what God the Father sent, His Son, Jesus to save us from our sins!

            It is the best gift that has ever been given and it is an eternal gift. You think about the gifts you get each year and sometimes they last a year, sometimes 6 months, sometimes just a few days, and if you were anything like me as a kid, it was just a day!

            But look at what God has given to the people of this world and yet, they reject this wonderful gift. Let me put this into perspective for you. We are told,

            There was a gift for each of us left under the tree of life 2,000 years ago by Him whose birthday we celebrate today.

            The gift was withheld from no man. Some have left the packages unclaimed. Some have accepted the gift and carry it around, but have failed to remove the wrappings and look inside to discover the hidden splendor.

            The packages are all alike: in each is a scroll on which is written, “All that the Father hath is thine. Take and live!”

- A Treasury of Bible Illustrations Copyright

           

            If you have not received the free gift of eternal life that is only found in Jesus, I pray that you do that here this morning. It is the greatest gift you will ever receive, and like I have said, it is a gift that is eternal.

            All you must do is repent of your sins, ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of your life, and you will enter into that relationship with Him for eternity!

            And for us, for those who have come to Christ, may we never lose sight of the everlasting gift that was given to us.

            Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundations of the world. In other words, before He created us, He knew what He would have to do to save us. He would have to become flesh, dwell among us, and then go to the cross of Calvary to pay in full the penalty for our sins.

            He is the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world! May we thank Him for the wonderful gift that He has given to us.

            And I will close with this, the words we looked at this morning from Paul here in Romans chapter 16, and this is from The Amplified Bible, Now to Him Who is able to strengthen you in the faith which is in accordance with my Gospel and the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ (the Messiah), according to the revelation (the unveiling) of the mystery of the plan of redemption which was kept in silence and secret for long ages, But is now disclosed and through the prophetic Scriptures is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, [to win them] to obedience to the faith, To [the] only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One)! Amen (so be it).

            THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION!

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