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Stewardship: He owns it all (Genesis 1:26-31)

The First Proclamation of the Gospel

Throughout the Old Testament, we read prophecies of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. His coming is first foretold in Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

It’s the first time the Good News is mentioned in the Bible. Right after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, God immediately revealed His plan to send a Redeemer, His Son, to offer salvation to a sinful world.

Can you see the promise of Jesus in this passage? The phrase “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman [symbolizing all of humanity]” describes the coming, longlasting struggle between good and evil. “You shall bruise his heel ” refers to Satan’s attempts to defeat Christ, the woman’s offspring. “He shall bruise your head” foretells Christ’s victory over Satan when He defeated death.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley, is one of my favorite Christmas carols. In the original version, Wesley refers to that passage of Scripture:

Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home; Rise, the woman’s conquering Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Since the beginning of time, Satan has been out to steal, kill, and destroy us. He desires for you to follow his evil, destructive, and deadly path. He repeatedly attempted to defeat Christ during His 33 years on earth, and I am sure Satan thought he had the final victory when Christ took His last breath. But when Jesus rose from the grave, He conquered death and defeated Satan. Remember, Jesus came to give life to you and me:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it  bundantly.”—John 10:10

Whether you are dreading this Christmas season or excitedly anticipating all it brings, keep in mind that Christ stands in victory. Don’t let Satan rob you of the joy of the season.

Christmas is the time when we remember that God’s Son was born—born to live so that He could die for you. What a precious thing to celebrate! What are you doing to take time to appreciate and focus on the gift of Christ this Christmas season?

By Cissie Graham Lynch

The Legacy of Faith

God’s Grace in Human Disgrace

Jesus is our Eternal God

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [Jesus] was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  John 1:1–3 

If you were to sit down and write a book, how would you begin? Would you start by introducing yourself, letting the reader get to know a bit about you and what you hope to accomplish for them? That is precisely how many books of the Bible begin. But, the Gospel of John is not like many other books of the Bible. 

The opening of John’s Gospel reminds me of a drag race. I grew up in a family of motor heads firmly committed to classic American muscle cars. My pops is currently restoring a classic Chevy. One uncle was a stock car driver, and I spent nights growing up hearing the engines roar from the pits. My brother is a stock car driver as well. 

There is very little that matches the thrill of being behind the wheel when a race starts and the force of gravity throws you back into the seat as the car lunges forward from a standstill. John’s letter starts like that. He opens by echoing Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning…” The point is that the same God who made the world has entered the world and brings with Him new beginnings. Everything and everyone, including your life, can get a fresh start and new beginning with Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is our eternal God. That is the basic point of the opening lines of John. Before anything was created, Jesus existed. Jesus is not a created being, but rather our Creator God. He was with God the Father in eternity past and “was God.” That last line is as clear as the Bible could possibly be about the deity of Jesus Christ as God. If Jesus were at your company holiday party, He would have written “God” on His nametag. It’s that clear. By referring to Jesus as the eternal Word of God, the Bible is here showing that Jesus is the hope and longing of both Hebrew and Greek cultures, which dominated that day. For the Hebrew, God’s speech and action were one and the same. If you know the biblical account of creation, it says over and over that God spoke creation into existence by the sheer power of His Word (Genesis 1:3, 6, 11). This is because God’s Word is all-powerful and nothing can thwart or stop it from accomplishing its goal (Isaiah 55:11). 

The Greeks living at the end of the first century also clung tightly to their proud heritage, a philosophical one extending from Heraclitus, to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and a host of philosophers, poets, and playwrights. At the fountainhead of Greek philosophy was Heraclitus whose image could be found on the coins in Ephesus for several centuries following his death. In his three-volume work, On Nature, Heraclitus taught that the world was created by fire and maintains an intricate balance between constant flux and overriding stability. He illustrated this point by penning the now-famous claim that a person never steps into the same river twice because of its constant change. For Heraclitus, the creation of the world, the ordering of all of life, and the immortality of the human soul were all made possible solely by the word (or logos) that was the invisible and intelligent force behind this world. Also, it was the word through which all things were interrelated and brought into harmony, such as life and death, good and evil, darkness and light, and the gods and people. For Greek philosophy, the key to all understanding began with understanding the Logos. John’s point is simple, no matter what you want to understand it’s always good to start with Jesus! 

John begins his book with Jesus Christ. How can you begin your day with Jesus Christ this year in such things as Bible reading and prayer? How can you start your week, finances, and relationships with Jesus Christ this year ?                                                  

By Mark Driscoll 

Seven Things God Hates

“There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers”. (Prov. 6:16-19).

God hates sin in any form, but Proverbs 6:17-19 lists seven that are especially loathsome to Him. First is haughty eyes (v. 17), which pictures a proud and arrogant person with his nose in the air and his eyes uplifted. The pride in his heart is reflected in his mannerisms.

Pride is perhaps listed first because it is at the heart of all rebellion against God—beginning with Lucifer himself, who cried out against God, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14).

God also hates a lying tongue (v. 17). Men often toy with truth, denying or distorting it to gain some supposed advantage. But God can’t tolerate deception of any kind. He expects us to live according to His truth.

Third, He hates murderous hands (v. 17). That speaks of people whose hatred and greed are so strong they will kill rather than be denied what they want. God created life and established its sanctity. That’s why He ordained that murderers be put to death (Gen. 9:6).

God also hates a wicked heart and malevolent feet (v. 18). Sometimes people fall into sin inadvertently. But these people carefully plot their sinful activities, then hurry to execute their plans.

Finally, God hates a false witness and a divisive spirit (v. 19). Bearing false witness is telling lies about an innocent party. That can obstruct justice, destroy a reputation, and even destroy a life. A divisive spirit is one who creates divisions where there should be unity.

Those sins characterize unbelievers, but Christians aren’t immune from them. So be on guard not to stray into attitudes and actions that God hates.

By John MacArthur

Your Kingdom Awaits

A few years ago, a mall had a marketing slogan: “Your Kingdom Awaits.” Whoever came up with the phrase was a brilliant theologian and deeply understood the condition of the human heart.

Since the beginning of time, the lie of the Enemy has been this: ultimate joy and satisfaction is found when you build your own kingdom. In the Garden, Adam and Eve believed that they were able to build a greater and more satisfying kingdom than the Kingdom of God.

When the Serpent said, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5), he was inviting them to a false existence where they could be most high and rule unchallenged.

Every day, just like with that mall slogan, you and I are invited to build our own kingdom. But we can’t blame the retailers and advertising agencies. It’s only ever first because of the sin inside of us that we are attracted to the evil outside of us.

So where are we at risk of building our kingdoms in the situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life? Let’s open the Bible to find a few examples. Remember, “these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6).

  1. Pleasure and Comfort (Numbers 11)
  2. Schedule and Organization (Exodus 32)
  3. Position and Power (Luke 22)
  4. Affirmation and Approval (Galatians 2)

Let me say it again: pleasure, comfort, schedule, organization, position, power, affirmation, and approval are not unimportant in the Kingdom of God.

But beware. All too often, these things can become the driving motivation in our lives, and the foundation on which we build our own personal kingdoms.

Today, let’s pray and ask for protection:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

By Paul Tripp

The Source of Wisdom

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7, ESV et al.).

Everyone needs a new beginning with God. That is why we receive the gospel. We want what only God can do for us, and the fear of the Lord is how we receive it. The fear of the Lord is both a doorway and a pathway. It is a new beginning, and it never ends.

What then is the fear of the Lord? It is not a cringing dread before the Lord. The fear of the Lord is openness to him, eagerness to please him, humility to be instructed by him (Prov. 15:33). The fear of the Lord is a willingness to turn from evil and change (Job 28:28). The fear of the Lord is surrender to his will (Gen. 22:12). The fear of the Lord is one way we love him (Deut. 6:2, 5). Reverence toward God, perhaps surprisingly, builds our confidence and flows out as a “fountain of life” into everyone and everything we care about (Prov. 14:26, 27). It takes us to a place of maturity where no one has to follow us around with a tedious list of do’s and don’ts. We are motivated from deep within.

 

– Ray Ortlund Jr. in Proverbs

Advent Fixes What Is Broken

Could you get any more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words than these?

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5, ESV).

It’s clear from Genesis 6:5, and it’s clear if you watch the news today, that something is deeply broken with the human race. Even people who don’t believe in the Bible would agree that something is wrong, and that people need help.
But what’s the problem? And how do we fix it? There are two commons lies that we all believe.
The first is this: “I’m one of the good guys.” It’s easy to read Genesis 6:5, and it’s easy to watch the news, and remove ourselves from the problem. “I’m not as wicked as those other people. Look at my track record – I have a long list of helping people and doing good!”

For the Christian, there is some truth to that logic. Because of the sacrifice of Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of sin in our life has been broken. That means we now have the ability to reject wickedness. We do have pure thoughts, pure motives, and pure intentions. In some ways, we are exempt from the diagnosis of Genesis 6:5.

But at the same time, we must always remember that our purity is the result of grace, not the natural condition of our own heart. We must also remember that while the power of sin has been broken, the presence of sin remains.
And so, while we are positionally righteous before God, our corrupt hearts still commit sinful deeds, and our intentions are certainly not pure all the time.
We still are part of the problem.

There’s a second lie we believe: behaviour reform will fix what is broken. We tend to think that all our world needs is a harsher justice system, a little faster police response, and a new election to replace corrupt politicians. Yes, God established law and order for the benefit of society, but the Bible never once proposes that the lasting solution for the human condition is more law.

On the contrary, the Bible teaches that what humanity needs is radical heart change. Genesis 6:5 and the rest of Scripture teaches that “the heart” is inherently evil and needs replacing. You and I can’t change our own heart, nor can any law or institution put in place by man.

The only way you and I will be rescued is by a transformed heart, created in us by God (Psalm 51:10). This is why we celebrate Advent. Jesus Christ came to earth to fix what is broken: the human heart. This December, celebrate the work of the Messiah and the new heart you have because of his birth, death, and resurrection.