God’s Glorious Attributes
END OF ALL MATTERS
By Rayola Kelley
We are coming upon the Christmas season. Every year when I reach this point, I stop to meditate about its meaning and importance. I guess one of the reasons for it is because of what I now understand about the real meaning of Christmas. After all, the first introduction to Christ that impacted me was the story surrounding His birth. It’s true that in my youthful ignorance Jesus was at best some figure associated to religion, while remaining in the dark about the significance of His birth. I thought His birth was sweet because of the events surrounding it, but I never understood what made His birth stand out among all of the births that preceded Him, followed Him and were presently happening.
The question I had to answer is why do we mark His birth, and why should His birth be so important to you and to me? Granted, I knew the story of Christmas because I heard the Gospel of Luke’s account of it at different times in my youth. I even remember acting it out at the church I attended which was a cult. We did it according to the story found in Luke. My brother was playing Joseph and I was playing some part I can’t presently recollect, perhaps the angel, but what I remember about that night so long ago is that someone forgot the baby Jesus, and my brother had to quickly improvise by throwing some garment that had been laying around at the girl playing Mary so that they could pretend there was a baby in it. My brother was quite good at such things and the story was pulled off without any real hitches, except later when the three of us were together, we started laughing at the chaos that occurred because the real star of the play was missing, but we had to quickly quiet down because the play was still going on.
This brings me back to why we celebrate Christmas. It becomes very controversial and you always have the few who look down on you if you dare celebrate it because it has “pagan origins and all the commercialism that surrounds it proves it.” If paganism is not a good enough reason to turn a critical eye towards those who would dare to suggest Jesus is the reason for the season, you are curtly reminded that Jesus was not born around Christmas time.
Personally, I avoid the traps, along with the snippets of judgment that are thrown my way because such debates are unprofitable in the end, which we have been warned to avoid in Titus 3:9. It is not unusual to find some aspects in different cultures that can be used to bring the reality of Jesus to seeking hearts. Let’s face it, even practices that are part of our worship services can become lifeless if we forget what they represent. It is for this reason we are to test the spirit behind what is being done, and avoid the pettiness of straining at a gnat while trying to swallow a camel (to prove a moot point) without any success (Matthew 23:24; 1 John 4:1). It is easy to miss the point of what is important and resort to judging because something does not line up to our religious narratives.
These debates simply cause strife and division and nothing is resolved in the end except frustration and irritation. The reason I avoid the debate is because I choose to celebrate the event of Jesus’ birth in my heart by putting certain meanings to what is considered traditional. After all, we are instructed to remember what we believe, and in the Jewish faith they had their feasts, prayer shawls, and their phylacteries that held parts of the Law to remember what Yahweh had established long ago (Deuteronomy 11:18-30; Proverbs 7:1-3; Matthew 23:5). Even though they had all of the religious practices to remind them, they failed to keep it a matter of the heart, and Jesus said of some during His day that they worshipped God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:1-8).
Granted, like the Christmas play I was in long ago, much of our culture leaves Jesus out of the celebration. There are some in the religious realm who might as well use a rolled up outer garment that appears to be the baby Jesus to cover up the fact they do not know or possess the real Jesus of the Bible. It could all be quite laughable except for the fact that the reason Jesus’ entrance into the world is of the upmost importance is because it is a matter of life and death.
I also realize that those who celebrate the Christmas story about Jesus’ birth may not believe in the Jesus of the Bible. There are some who think it is not important what you believe about Jesus’ identity; however, push the point with an individual who believes differently than you and you will find out how important it becomes to that person.
How important is it when you approach the subject of Jesus that you have the right Jesus? Let me put it this way by making it personal. How many of us would become angry if we found out that someone else was not only using our name but misrepresenting us? Perhaps, that person was using our identity to gain some popularity and position off the back of our personal accomplishments and sacrifices. We would cry “foul” and call the person an imposter. The legal term for an imposter is a fraud and the Scriptural term for such a fake, as far as Jesus, is “antichrist” (1 John 2:21-23; 4:1-3). With these facts in mind, tell me that it is not important whether others are presenting or promoting a fraud where the Person of Jesus is concerned, and that it does not really matter to the real Jesus because after all, “He is a good guy.” Jesus warned us that there would be many imposters imitating Him in the end days and we were to be aware of them (Matthew 24:4-5, 23-26). I also know that since all judgment has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus Christ will display not only disapproval towards all frauds, but His wrath will be wielded against them (John 5:22).
I hope those who think it is a light matter to allow, come into agreement with, and tolerate someone who believes in a different Jesus other than the real one in Scripture, are now shaking a bit in their shoes. Jesus made it clear that it matters who we say He is. He made this very point to Peter in Matthew 16:13-16 when He asked two questions, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” and the second was, “But whom say ye that I am?”
Peter gave the right answer, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is easy for some of us to answer this question without understanding the implications of what is being said. Jesus gives us the reason why some understand the real meaning behind Peter’s declaration as to His identity while others are totally missing who He is in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but by my Father which is in heaven.” Notice how the only way we can understand who Jesus is, is because it has been revealed from heaven to our hearts, which means it has been confirmed as being so in our spirits.
There is only one true Jesus, and we can only understand who He really is on a spiritual level through heavenly revelation and not an intellectual one based on personal logic. It is for this reason the way to heaven is narrow because it entails a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and not religious doctrine, theology or affiliation (Matthew 7:13-14). The way is not only narrow because we must get the person of Jesus right, but it will prove to be a hard way because it entails the work of His cross (redemption), the way of the cross (self-denial and crucifixion), and the result of the cross, total identification with Jesus in His death (price), His burial (of the old man), and His resurrection (of the new man) (Romans 6:3-7; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20; 1 John 2:6). Luke 13:24 puts it this way, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”
Now I realize I have dealt with this matter many times in past articles. But, as long as the debate as to who Christ is rages in the different religious arenas of the world, I will continue to emphasize and write about this subject. When Christians can’t even give a reasonable account as to who Christ is, or they are not even concerned that someone else possesses a counterfeit Jesus, I will keep challenging them as to who they say Jesus is, and as long as I have breath, I will do all I can to drill these fundamental truths into others (2 Corinthians 11:3-4;1 Peter 3:15). In fact, those who have been in my Bible studies for very long will tell you they are being brought back to this issue at different times to remind them of who we believe Jesus is as Christians and who He must be to us if we are going to be victorious saints. After all, Jesus is our foundation and we must establish all we believe firmly upon who He is and ensure we line all of our attitudes and conduct up to Him, His examples and teachings (1 Corinthians 3:11).
And, who is Jesus? Before He came to earth, He was identified as the Word in heaven and is Creator of all we see (John 1:1-3; 1 John 5:7; Colossians 1:15-19). We are told in 1 Corinthians 8:6 that by Him are all things, and we by Him. In other words, all things exist and function because of Jesus. As the Word, Jesus has been identified as God, and was the verbal, living testimony of God. We are told as the Word (logos) He framed the worlds with His word (Hebrews 11:3).
John 5:37 states, “And the Father himself, which hath sent me hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” The first thing we must note is that when the fulness of time had come for God to bring about His plan of redemption, Jesus was sent to earth to insert Himself into history, (Galatians 4:4).
The second thing we must recognize from this Scripture in John is that the Father bore witness of who He was. He actually did this three different times: at Jesus’ baptism, at the Mount of Transfiguration, and in John 12:27-32. In Jesus’ baptism the heavens opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him, followed by a voice from heaven introducing Jesus as His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased (Matthew 3:16-17). John admitted in John 1:32-34 that he was told that the one whom the Spirit descended on would be the Son of God. It is important to point out that there must be two or three witnesses to verify a matter according to the Law of Moses. The Spirit was the first witness as to Jesus’ identity and the Father’s introduction to Him as being His Son was the second witness and John the Baptist would become the third witness.
On the Mount of Transfiguration there were also three witnesses (Matthew 17:1-9). There was Elijah, the great prophet, Moses the great lawgiver, and once again the Father introduced Jesus as His Son. The prophets had clearly pointed to Jesus’ coming and the Law was a schoolmaster that pointed to our need for Jesus, and the Father was once again quite clear as to who He was (Galatians 3:24). Keep in mind, Psalm 2:6-7 states that the Father would introduce the Promised King as His Son; therefore, the Father’s introductions were necessary to fulfill the prophetic promises in the Bible. The three disciples were excited over Elijah and Moses but fell on their face in fear when they heard the Father’s voice.
When it was over, only Jesus remained and they were told to only share the event after His resurrection. Peter talked about being an eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty in 2 Peter 1:17, as well as hearing the voice that came from heaven. He followed this discourse with these words, “We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19). Peter was clear that even though the heavenly voice introduced Jesus, there is even a more sure word of prophesy that confirms Jesus’ identity, and that is His Written Word, which are full of prophecies concerning who He is (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The Apostle John gave this testimony of that incredible event in John 1:14, “And the Word was made 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.” In 1 John 1:1-2, the apostle made this statement about Jesus, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.)” We know that as the Word, Jesus was from the beginning pointing to His deity, and that His life, which is eternal, was manifested in a physical way, pointing to Him as the Messiah, the Promised One. Jesus later confirmed He was the Messiah in John 4:25-26 to the woman at the well. We know, according to John, if a person does not believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and that as deity, He came in the flesh, that person is of the anti-Christ spirit (1 John 2:22-23; 4:2-3).
This brings us to the last part of John 5:37 that states that they had never heard the voice of the Father or seen His shape. This simply means the voice that was heard by Moses in the burning bush and on Mount Sinai, the form that Abraham identified as Lord in Genesis 18 who was with the two angels, the appearance of Jehovah to Jacob in Genesis 28:12-15 where He introduced Himself, the appearance of the God of Israel in Exodus 24:9-10; the Captain of the LORD’S host that Joshua bowed before and worshipped in Joshua 5:13-15, and the Lord who was sitting on the throne, high and lifted up and His train filled the temple in Isaiah 6:1 was the WORD before He took on a body or in His pre-incarnate state. It is for this reason He was able to make this rightful statement that seemed blasphemous to the religious leaders of His day, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
It is clear that only a select few heard the voice of the Father, John the Baptist and the three disciples who would serve as witnesses as to the identity of Jesus, and that even the crowd present in John 12 thought they heard thunder or an angel but did not really recognize the Father’s voice.
This long introduction of Jesus brings us back to the significance of Christ’s birth. The New Testament clearly tells us who Jesus is but prophetically His identity in the New Testament was backed up by the Old Testament. Consider what term Jesus used of Himself when He asked Peter in Matthew 16:13 who do men say the Son of man is?
The Son of Man takes us back to the very first prophecy concerning Jesus, Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The first prophecy about Jesus identifies Him as the seed of woman. How important is this revelation? Hebrews 10:5 gives us this insight, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” The Word who was from the beginning had to take on a body to become the perfect, sinless Lamb of God who would be offered up as a sacrifice on our behalf. The Apostle John confirmed this when he said John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” and John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
We are told this about Jesus in Philippians 2:7-8, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Jesus took on the form of a servant and allowed Himself to be fashioned as a man in the womb of a woman named Mary. Hebrews 2:16-17 confirms this when it said He took on him the seed of Abraham to be made in the likeness of His brethren. Notice the words, “take on.” Imagine as God, our Creator, the Word came through woman in order to take on a body. Everything around His conception was miraculous.
Isaiah 7:14 confirmed that Immanuel, God with us, would take on a body and be born of a virgin, and Matthew 1:23 confirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy. In Isaiah 9:6 we are told that a child is born and a Son given. Jesus came into the world as a baby, but He was a Son given, sent by God. It goes on to identify Him as the one who would bear upon His shoulder the government as King and that His name would be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace, and once again we are reminded that He was given a name above all other names and one day everyone below, above and present will bow and declare that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
How many times have we quoted these prophecies and read the story of Jesus’ birth in church or a religious arena, but how many understand that God made His entrance into this world in the form of man? If we do not get Jesus right at His birth, we will not be able to embrace the salvation He secured on the cross. As Christians we can take for granted that Jesus is God Incarnate, but for those who do not understand the real significance of Jesus (The Word) coming in an obscure way as a baby so many years ago in order to die in a very public and cruel fashion as a man on our behalf, are missing the real significance of it. We, as believers, have the opportunity to use this particular time to proclaim the significance of His birth based on who He is. After all, many years ago the angels proclaimed this fact in a glorious way, the shepherds witnessed it and went out and told others, and those in the temple at His dedication acknowledged as much. And, the question is simple, should we do any less because we take issue with the day or the season in which we acknowledge it? It is easy to become rigid and legalistic about religious matters but we must make sure we are not doing it in order to cover up self-righteous attitudes of indifference towards those who are in darkness.
No matter the debate, the truth remains the same. The Lord Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of the Living God, was sent from above by the Father to redeem lost sinners. In Jesus, deity was clothed with humanity, and as man He would be given a name above all other names because, in the end, He would fulfill His mission as the Lamb of God.
As man, Jesus was born to die, but as deity He rose again and LIVES. As man He sits on the right hand of God as High Priest, and as deity He rules as Lord in the hearts of those who believe. And, in His deity, he will be coming back as King and Judge to put all enemies down and rule from His throne.
For me, this time of the year allows me to take stock and come back to center as to the significance of God coming by way of woman in order to die on a cross in my place. We can debate this fundamental truth based on technicality and legality. We can be judgmental towards those who outwardly celebrate Christmas while missing the fact that there are those who are upholding the significance of it in their heart, and are ever ready to testify of who Jesus is during such an opportunity.
I say let the debate rage, the judgmentalism condemn, and the nonessential pettiness take center stage, but as for me, I value this time. It is a time that gives me the opportunity to pause and realize that my precious Lord gave up the glories of heaven in order to take on humanity so that I can be made in the righteousness of God. In Genesis, Jesus was in the beginning and in the last book it ends with a glorious revelation of Him. This is what we celebrate, the Alpha (beginning) deity taking on humanity to become the Omega (end). As the end to all matters Jesus became the end to the Law to silence its condemnation on my life, the end to my hopeless plight, and the end of all useless pursuit. After all, Jesus is the fulfillment of all matters that constitute what is real life and godliness.
In remembrance of that first Christmas night, I just want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas as we choose to remember why the birth of Christ was so significant and how it continues to point us forward to the great work of redemption and His glorious return for His church.