2

Kingdom of Heaven

Yesterday we looked at repentance, and how Jesus expected repentance as He brought the Kingdom to His people.

One thing we looked at yesterday tweaked my spirit a bit.

We read,

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. - Matthew 11:20

It seems that Jesus expected repentance as a response to miracles.

Let’s read on,

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you. - Matthew 11:21-24

Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. As we observed yesterday, it came with a call to repentance.

It also came with miracles.

Don’t miss this.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. - Matthew 4:23

When Jesus brought the gospel, He brought a message of deliverance for the whole man, body, soul and spirit. He came bringing life—shalom—whole life—abundant life—to all who would hear and receive Him.

When He came to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even His adopted home town of Capernaum, He brought healing, just as He did throughout Galilee, Jerusalem and all Judea.

Do you think it took Him by surprise that these great cities of Galilee did not repent?

Why does Isaiah 53 call Him the Man of Sorrows? This is it right here. Because light walked into darkness, and darkness put out the light, rather than risk exposure. It broke His heart.

The kingdom of heaven had come near to them, and them rejected heavenly citizenship to hold on to the fleeting pleasures of this life.

How is it with you? (Yes Ben, I’m looking at you.)

First—have you turned from your own path to The Way and followed after the One who brings life?

Next—do you bring the good news with the expectation that God will confirm the word preached with signs—wonders?

Finally—do you expect to see repentance. Do you call for it? Do you nurture it either in those to whom you are preaching, or in your own life?

Lord, teach me to preach the good news, as I go, in such a way as to foster repentance, and please bring signs and wonders as the word goes forth. Thank you for the promise of Your presence as we go and preach.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for stopping  by. Sorry this was a bit of a ramble today.

Be a blessing today,

Ben

5

Kingdom of Heaven

When you start digging into the concept of the kingdom of heaven, the first thing you hit your head on is this:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. - Matthew 3:2 & 4:17 NASB

The first two times the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ comes up it’s linked to repentance.

The first is John the Baptist and the second is Jesus the King.

Clearly when Jesus came on the scene He brought the kingdom with Him. Wouldn’t you agree? I know—that seems obvious.

But it’s striking to me that with the approach of the kingdom there comes the need for repentance.

John stood on the banks of the Jordan in the wilderness and called the nation to repentance. Once John was in prison Jesus took up this message and began preaching that same sermon all over Galilee and the regions there-bouts.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. - Matthew 4:23

Though we don’t hear Him say it on every page, we know He kept up this message, because in Matthew 11 we read,

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. - Matthew 11:20

What is Repentance?

Today’s wisdom, when it hears the word repent, quickly marks it out and writes in ‘change your mind.’ Others might tell you repentance is sorrow and tears at an altar. But I’m not sure either is a big enough definition for repentance.

Paul gives us a definition for repentance that will turn sorrow into victory, because repentance preps you for the kingdom of heaven.

Check it out:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. - 2 Corinthians 7:10

First notice that there is a difference between sorrow and repentance. Tears at the altar are supposed to produce repentance. Notice this phrase too—'sorrow that is according to the will of God.' There are some circles in the church where you’d be tagged a heretic for simply suggesting that God would will sorrow at all.

But sorrow over our own sin, which leads to repentance and then to salvation—that is the will of God without a doubt. It's the very core of God's will for all men and women.

Let’s read on,

For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:11 KJV

It’s almost a recipe for repentance:

  • Sorrow
  • Carefulness
  • Clearing
  • Indignation
  • Fear
  • Vehement Desire
  • Zeal
  • Revenge
  • Victory—Freedom

In my mind, when Jesus starts out the Beatitudes with,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:3 NASB

He’s talking about this repentance that runs so deep in your heart that it purges every inch of you, inside and out. This poor spirit that sorrows over the sin in his or her heart and life gains entrance to the kingdom of heaven.

We’ve got to stop thinking of repentance in negative terms. The only thing that we lose when we repent is the hold hell has on our heart.

There is life available—life in the kingdom of heaven. And you don’t have to wait till you die to get in.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

For more detail on repentance you might want to read this article:

Repentance - the Path to Victory!

BenHeadshotThanks for coming by,

Keep the light on!

Ben

5

By Carl Heinrich Bloch (http://masterpieceart.net/carl-heinrich-bloch/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly. - John 4:18 NASB

Ok – wow Jesus – now your just showing off.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus exposes the obvious sore spot in the Samaritan Woman’s character.

Yes – I get that she had to own her sin in order to gain life – there needed to be a platform for repentance. I get all that. But check this out.

By exposing the full breath of her failure and then offering her life, no one can ever convince her that she is not good enough for God.

When satan comes (and you know he does) and tells her that she is not good enough – “You call yourself a Christian?” “If God knew about your past and the things that tempt you, He never would have offered you eternal life.”

When Jesus exposes all her sin and the full extent of her failure, He takes away any future use of that failure as a weapon against her. [Tweet this] He is demonstrating to her that nothing can separate her from His great love.

How is it with you? You know [I know you do] that Jesus knew every thing about your past and your tendencies, your temper, your weaknesses, your fears and your failures, before He ever chose you. Before He whispered in your ear “come, follow me, my son” or “I have loved you with an everlasting love, my daughter” he forgave you completely.

Don’t let satan have that foothold.

Be free of that today.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Shine

Ben

12

Path

I had the opportunity to speak at an evening of worship which carried an overall theme of repentance. This is not the first time I have shared this revelation, but I find it at the core of my ministry on an on going basis. Of course every time I get ready to share it, the Lord deepens the message in me, and shows me a new area to work on. Sometimes it frustrates me that I am such a work in process, but then I read The Book, and find that I am not alone.

Anyway – all that as a way of introducing the basic message. I hope it blesses you, and sets you on the road to freedom.

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Repentance – the Path to Victory!

When you think of repentance, what comes to mind?

Most would probably describe confession as an apology. It is often the way we use the word in church circles.

Some go to the actual definition of the word, changing your mind.

These are both fine, since language is what it is.

But today, I want to give you a new way of thinking about repentance.

Repentance is a personal war on sin.

It is a war that God calls you to.

You will know you have been given this ‘call to war’ when you sense a deep sorrow over your sin.

I am not talking about feeling guilty or getting depressed.

I am not talking about weeping at a altar and

Repentance is a War on sin in your life.

Let me make this plain to you. You will never have victory over any particular sin in your life until you take up arms against it.

And today I am going to arm you for this war.

The first thing to understand is:

StrategyA war requires a strategy.

Check out what Paul tells the Church in Corinth

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NASB

You see – sorrow brings you to the point of needing to change – repent. Sorrow is not repentance – repentance is War.

And here is the strategy that the Corinthians used

EarnestEarnestness,

It’s time to get serious about getting the freedom God is offering. All repentance is a gift from God, and God would never give you a gift He did not want you to fully experience and embrace. But you will need to set you mind and heart on high alert if you ever want to lay hold on this marvelous freedom.

Vindication

The Greek word here indicates a verbal response to an accusation – I like to think of it as your declaration of WAR.

I recommend that you do it out loud – Declare war on the object of your repentance. Jesus spoke to trees, you can speak to the sin in your life. Put it on notice. Gossip, you are not long for this world! Bitterness, you are going down.

One more recommendation here; You should recruit others, someone or some folks to whom you can be accountable. Someone you can call when you just need to hear the word “no” in a voice other than your own, especially when the only thing you voice wants to say is ‘yes.’

IndignationIndignation

You have to get all your facilities on board – including your emotions – and it is appropriate to get angry here. No nation or people ever got free from the abomination of slavery without creating a public outcry of indignation – and that is what it is going to take in your life.

Fear of the LordFear

When you see how awesome a price God put on your freedom, how much he paid for you to be free from sin, there will rise up a fear – a concern for wasting the precious blood of Jesus.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. - Proverbs 1:7 NASB

Any true knowledge that makes a difference is experiential. True knowledge of another comes through intimacy, and this is a key component of this war on your sin. You must walk in intimacy with God.

It is in fact these besetting sins in our lives that undermine our relationship with the Lover or our souls.

Longing

How bad do you want to be free? Can you imagine life without the guilt and shame that always accompany this indulgence of yours? Do you have a deep desire within to be closer to Father?

Repentance_pptx 6Zeal

Can you stir up passion – no life and death battle will be won without zealous, passionate, persistent effort.

If you look at wars that have been waged without zeal, you see defeat or détente, but you never see victory. Contrast the Americans in Viet Nam, fighting for something they really did not care about, verses the way the colonials defended their homes and families in the American Revolutionary War, against the highly trained and organized British.

Avenging of wrong

There is this Avenging of wrong. God’s sneaky little (well big) plan is to set you free and then send you out with keys to set others free. [Tweet This]

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. - 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 KJV

Our biggest problem in this regard is we want to do this (help others get free) before we have dealt with it in ourselves. We want to be helping folks to pick specks out of their eyes, while mindlessly slamming around with a plank shooting out above our nose.

and finally

VictoryVictory

In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:11

Repentance results in victory.

So today, has God placed on your heart a sin that gets the best of you on a regular basis? You can be free.

Declare war on that thing.

Get Serious.

Get Angry.

See yourself free in the future.

Start doing battle today.

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Hey – by the way, if you are located in the north east in a not too unreasonable travel distance from North Jersey and would like me to come and speak to your gathering you can contact me via email: ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon

Ben

4

GreaterGlory

That’s the question Nicodemus asked Jesus when Jesus said this:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. - John 3:3

And again when He reiterates it in verse 7

Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' - John 3:7

Today, I am going to draw together from a number of places in the Bible what it says about how you can be Born Again.

First, let me be clear. The phrase Born Again has been used as though a Born Again Christian was a particular flavor of Christian, but that is not the case.

Born Again is just one of the ways Jesus and the Bible describes becoming a Christian. You can’t be a Christian and not be Born Again.

Some of the other terms for those who are Born Again in the Bible are:

  • Christians
  • Believers
  • Followers of the Way
  • The Body of Christ
  • The Bride of Christ
  • Followers of Jesus
  • The Flock of God
  • Redeemed
  • Saved
  • Sheep
  • Laborers in the Kingdom
  • Friends of Jesus
  • New Creations
  • Children of God
  • The Church
  • The saints

Becoming a Christian is sometimes referred to as entering the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.

So I will start with what Jesus says right here in John 3 when describing how to be born again to Nicodemus, but we will expand it a bit to include some of the things Jesus said about following Him, and some of what Paul said about the Christian too.

Paul is a really good source for this information since most of his writings were addressed to the Church (the community of Born Again people) specifically.

Back to John 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.

In the midst of this conversation, Jesus uses the word “believe” three times and then John comes back and repeats it at the end of the chapter just in case we missed it above.

The key verse of John 3, and perhaps the most familiar bible reference in the word, John 3:16 has oft been called the gospel in a nutshell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Right on its heals, Jesus lays out this staggering contrast.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. – John 3:18

And John finishes up the subject at the end of the page with his own contrast.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. – John 3: 36

Please notice in these last two verses we go back to the fact we have mentioned before, a man without Christ is both under condemnation and the living in the wrath of God.

Also notice in verse 36 the contrasting word to believe is ‘not obey.’ In the Greek it is apeitheō – where we get the word apathy. John contrasts believing and just doing nothing. Hear this, the wrath of God abides on those who hear the Word of God and just do nothing. This is why over and over in His preaching Jesus talks about those who hear and do, and James exhorts us to be doers of the word.

[Sorry – I am starting to preach – that was not the plan here]

So – the first thing we learn about HOW to be Born Again is to believe – trust in – obey Jesus.

Is there anything else to it?

Check this out:

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:14-15

When talking to Nicodemus it was just believe, but here we have another element.

Repent.

I have written and taught extensively on repentance and its wonderful power to bring us victory over sin, but let me here give a simple explanation of repentance.

The word simply means to change your mind, but Paul lays down some instruction on how to allow this change of mind actually transform your life.

Remember in Romans 12:2 that Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so repentance, or changing our mind, is the key to moving from the wishy-washy worldling you once were into the image of Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul tells us exactly how to repent:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

Repentance is not tears at the altar it is a passion for purity wrought over time until your body, mind and soul are free of that which once enslaved you. [Tweet this] Glory to God!!!

So we have repent and believe, is there more to being Born Again?

Let’s look at Romans 10. When I was a kid, a young man at the time taught me a simple way to remember this verse. He said it was dynamite! Spiritual TNT – Romans Ten:Nine & Ten (TNT)

…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. - Romans 10:9-10 (now that’s dynamite!)

This confess is not the same as telling someone you sinned. What is meant by confess here is simply tell someone you believe in Jesus.

This is why when we baptize folks we ask them to give their testimony before they go under the water. They need to confess with their mouth that Jesus is their Lord and believe in their heart  - in what? – in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Now we have Repent – Confess – Believe.

So Ben, are you telling me that if I DO these things I am automatically a Christian.

I could try really hard, even get passionate about beating my sin.

I could tell people about the fact that I am a Christian.

I believe all the things they tell me about Jesus, and for sure I believe He rose from the dead. Am I a Christian now?

Strangely enough – even though we talk about what you must do to be saved, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms, that it is not about things you can do.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9

You can’t by your own effort be born again, just as you had nothing to do with your first birth. You could not make it happen and you could not stop it.

You do get to choose to believe – to trust – but that is the extent of what you can do.

There are bunches more places we could go to look at this topic, but that is all I have time for today.

Tomorrow I am going to take one good long look at what this salvation is. And let me tell you, it’s a BIG DEAL.

Thanks for coming by today.

If you have never known Christ in this way, and want to, it’s not difficult, and you don’t have to wait till you get your act together (because that day will never come – I promise)

Today, if while reading this you felt a tug somewhere inside – that was the Spirit of the Living God inviting you to come – inviting you to be Born Again.

God is not willing that any should perish (die without Him) but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Repent today – start by telling Him you’re sorry for anything He brings to mind that has offended Him, then follow Him through that repentance. Put your trust in Him today, and tell somebody about it. (I would love to hear about it – either below or via email  - ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com)

Ben NelsonThanks for reading. I know these are fairly long posts, and I appreciate you taking the time to read all the way to the end.

Walk in the light today.

Ben

So, now that I have declared war let’s see what we have in the armory.

Paul tells us

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. - 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

For ages “spiritual warfare has been a topic that made many in the church a little squeamish with visions of exorcisms and bodily fluids, but this is not the warfare I am talking about today.

I want to introduce you to an extremely powerful weapon today.

Confession

First – let me be clear, I am not talking about going into a booth and telling a man of the cloth everything you have done since your last visit.

Danny Silk in his book “Culture of Honor” (everyone should read this – especially those in church leadership) uses the analogy of a bucket of paint. When our sin impacts people – it is like you swung a paint bucket around and some folks got splattered.

As to the question “to whom shall I confess?” the answer is: Look around and see who has paint on their clothes. They are the ones you impacted. There is usually not the need to make a public declaration of your confession, because by so doing, you are effectively spraying more folks from what is left in your paint bucket.

Understand, confession is not the same thing as repentance, but that is a topic for another day.

Confession is not saying – “I am sorry what I did hurt you.” Unless they were hurt by some act of righteousness, that is no confession. That is like saying I am sorry you were standing so close when I was flailing paint.

Confession acknowledges fault. “I am sorry I was stomping through that paint puddle and I am even more sorry because you were hurt by my selfish splashing.”

Confession has power that we don’t understand. The word of God declares confession to be a powerful weapon against our true enemy.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. - James 5:16

You see, according to the Word of God, confession both cleans you from all unrighteousness, and heals what has been hurt by your sin. Hallelujah!

Don’t underestimate this important step.

One further thing that I have learned recently is that in our confession – the script should not be “are we OK?” We should actually ask for forgiveness. This may seem silly at first glance, but this is war, and war is extreme! In war there are no short cuts. Here - try this:

Will you forgive me?

You may need to come back later for the answer, or they may never forgive, but that is not your part.

Obviously, in some cases, more than words are necessary. Make any reparations needed, but these two simple steps are power spiritual weapons.

I am sorry. Will you forgive me?

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

See you again soon

Ben

6

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photo credit: bloomsberries via photopin cc

In my sermon on Sunday [you can listen here] I made a statement, and my daughter Jess who is visiting from Oregon these days with her hubby, asked me about it afterwards.

The statement I made is that repentance replaces justice with mercy, and she challenged the idea that Justice is eliminated by mercy.

I see my mistake, and she is so right. How could justice be removed? Justice is a part of our unchanging God’s character.

It is in fact God’s just nature that made the incarnation necessary in the first place.

The sense I was going after in my sermon was that repentance moves us from a place of standing guilty in the eyes of God’s judgment to a place of innocence by applying the freely offered blood of Jesus as payment for our transgression.

But clearly my words got away from me.

The couplet from the hymn we were considering had it right.

Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.
[From Angels from the Realms of Glory - James Montgomery]

So, I humbly stand corrected, and am thrilled by the aspects of justice satisfied and mercy freely offered. I do love the story of the incarnation!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Walking in blessing.

Ben

5

First - let me say

HAPPY NEW YEAR - 2014  - We welcome you!

There - now that that is done, let me travel back in time a few days to last Sunday.

When you read the title of this post you probably said: Aren't we done with Christmas yet? - almost - I promise - at least here.

I had the privilege of preaching in my home church - Pascack Bible Church, in Hillsdale, NJ last Sunday, December 29, 2013 (I know - sounds like ancient history, doesn't it?)

Anyway - it was the last sermon in a series our Pastor, Chet Klope, walked us through this advent season, and I thought I would share it with you here.

Here is the link on our Church website to the audio of the sermon, and a place you can download it so you can take me for a walk as part of your New Years Resolution to move more.

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Angels From The Realms of Glory

Ben NelsonSpeaker: Ben Nelson
Series: The Songs We Sing As part of our Advent sermon series, “The Songs We Sing”, Elder Ben Nelson unpacks the deep meaning behind the powerful carol, Angels From The Realms Of Glory, including two lesser known verses.
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Below, for those of you who would rather read than listen is my sermon prep notes - the audio is pretty close, but this is not exactly a transcript.Once again - Let's walk together in blessing in 2014!
Ben

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Come and Worship 

Christmas is over. 

This year it seemed like a long haul, what with the Christmas commercials staring in September. Yes – September

No big surprise that yesterday my girls saw Valentine’s decorations in the Mall.

Many have eaten way to much. There was one 7-day stretch where I ate at 7 holiday meals/buffets, and believe me the 7 days were not the only things stretching.

Many have spent way too much.

I’m tired of the Christmas commercials.
I’m tired of the Christmas music playing in every store.
I’m tired of the ever-present Santas.
I’m tired of the elf watching my every move.
I’m tired of red and green.
I’m tired of the pine needles littering my living spaces.
If I hear one more rendition of “I’ll be home for Christmas” I think I might be sick.

So today when you walked into the sanctuary and the usher handed you a bulletin with yet another Christmas carol sermon… well, I get it. OK?

What I am defiantly not sick of is the story of the incarnation.

Paul captured its essence in one of my favorite passages in the Bible.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:5-11 NIV

Jesus is God. He always has been God.
There was never a day when He was not God.

But Paul tells us here He emptied Himself.

He took off His kingly robes

He set aside His omnis – Omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.

He did not lose them, He simply took them off, set them aside for a time. They still belonged to Him, and He still had access to them. There were times in His ministry when He slipped back into them.

On the mount of transfiguration recorded in Matthew and Mark He slipped back into some of His heavenly garments and Peter, James, John, Elijah, and Moses got a glimpse of His deity – His majesty – His glory.

In the garden of Gethsemane, as Judas and those who came to arrest Him approached, there was one moment when He stood up to “greet” them.

Do you remember how it went down? Jesus, out of the predawn mist asks the oncoming army, “Whom do you seek?”

The leader of the mob sent to arrest him called out “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus spoke again and the strangest thing happened. He said “I AM” and all six hundred of the soldiers, the high priests and temple guards – everyone – fell to the ground.

He clearly never stopped being God. But the scripture tells us He humbled himself.

  • He took off His royal robes and put on swaddling clothes.
  • He stepped down from His kingly throne and lay down in a manger.
  • The same mouth that uttered the words “Light Be” and exploded the universe into motion, now cooed and dr00led and spit up on His mama’s shoulder.
  • The same mind that informed Solomon would soon sit and learn from the Spiritual leaders as a young boy in Jerusalem.
  • The Captain of the Lord’s army, who lead Joshua into battle against Jericho, would soon be taken captive by a Roman cohort.
  • The same lungs that breathed breath into the dust of the ground and called forth Adam, would heave with the words, ‘it is finished’ and then be still for three days.
  • The same Christ, this same Jesus, who condescended to put on flesh, would again put on immortality, and ascended into heaven.
  • This same Jesus who talked baby talk and ate baby food will one day judge all men dead and alive.
  • This same Jesus who was mocked and scorned and crucified is the One before whom every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess.

And that is what I love about Christmas.

One thing that strikes me in the Christmas story is the worship of this King of Kings when He does not appear to deserve or even desire worship. And I am not just talking about doting parents and grand parents. The story of the incarnation is full of folks who stopped what they were doing and worshiped this tiny king in a tiny town outside Jerusalem.

The carol we are considering this morning walks us right through the list of worshippers in a beautiful progression.

Angels 

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

So it is a quiet night over Bethlehem. Smarter folks than I say it could not have been winter. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it happened on the day of some ancient Jewish feast. Perhaps Pentecost. The original feast of Pentecost or Shavu'ot – the feast of weeks.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no proof for this, and of course this is the day God chose to fulfill the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. But to the Jews it was the celebration of the day the Law was given. It was the day the Word became “stone.” What better day for the Word to become flesh.

Anyway, an angel shows up and starts talking to some shepherds. Next the sky is full of angels. (I wonder if it would have looked like a new star in the sky from far off in the east!– hmmm)

You see the angels, who had an inkling of what was actually happening, came from all over the earth. I wonder if every angel in creation came to see this great unveiling of God in flesh.

The angels have come to worship the newborn king.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Shepherds

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light:

Why shepherds?

Why not fishermen?

Why not tax collectors?

After all, that’s who Jesus picked when He was picking disciples. I don’t think there was a single shepherd in the whole flock.

But that night God sent the angels to tell shepherds.

Perhaps it was because they were the lowest of the low.
Perhaps it was because they were the most down trodden.
Or maybe it was because a thousand years earlier there was a shepherd boy who sat in these same fields under the these same stars and talked to God.
Perhaps it was because a millennium earlier Israel had a shepherd savior when they were faced with a giant problem.

I don’t know why God picked shepherds, but I know what the shepherds did.

They left their flocks and ran to worship Jesus.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Wisemen

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.

Again we must tweak the traditional Christmas story with what the Bible says. These “wise men” may not have shown up on the scene for up to two years, and for the record, we really don’t know how many came, just that the gifts listed were three, gold for His royalty, incense to depict the intercession He would make for us, and myrrh for the death He would die.

I know the Christmas cards have them arriving while Jesus was still in the stable, but the Bible tells us they came to “the house.”

One of the reasons I think it may have been as much as two years later is that after quizzing these magi, Herod had all the male children, two years of age and younger slaughtered based on the time these sages indicated.

Can you imagine this brutality? This is a part of the Christmas story we would like to forget, but it is not forgotten. Herod’s holocaust against the children of Bethlehem is recorded for all eternity.

Matthew 2:16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

How did these sages, from far off lands, know a king had been born to the Jews?

Well, this word Magi is not a word that the Jews would have used to describe anyone in their world. It seems to have had Babylonian origins and so many scholars believe these “wise men” were not from the Far East – aka the Orient – but rather they were from Babylon.

Babylon was the land of Israel’s captivity, and it was in Babylon where Daniel and his crew Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ascended from slavery to positions of honor, and Daniel in particular was given authority among the magicians and soothsayers.

It seems credible to me that Daniel would have told those in his circle of the promised Messiah. It was after all his great hope of deliverance.

So, these wise men, sages, soothsayers, whatever make their way from Babylon to Bethlehem and there they worship this child king.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Saints

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.

Next we come to Simeon and Anna.

Simeon was an old man who lived in Jerusalem, and had been told by the Holy Spirit that before he died he would see the Lord’s Christ.

When Jesus enters the temple on His eighth day to be consecrated, in accordance with Jewish law, Simeon speaks a wonderful prophecy over the child.

Anna was a widow who had been serving in the temple for decades, and now was eighty-four years old. As soon as she laid eyes on the child she began to rejoice and spread the news of the Messiah’s birth to everyone she saw.

These saints worship the child king.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

This is where our hymnal stops, but there is more to this carol. We will look at two more verses to bring it home.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.

You see, without Christ, this Messiah, this Savior, we are doomed to the hopelessness of life in slavery to sin, and the endless pain and suffering, the darkness and anguish of an eternal hell and separation from the One who so dearly loved us.

The solution?

Repentance

Repentance has a really bad reputation these days

What do you think of when you think of repentance?

Do you think of men in sandwich boards crying in the streets: the End is near!
Do you think of people weeping at an altar.
Do you think of guilty feelings.
Do you think of failure.
Perhaps you conjure up remembrances of childhood punishment.

Maybe you feel like repentance is nothing but an endless, useless saying “I’m sorry” to God and then getting up and falling right back into the same sin.

But in reality:

True repentance connects you with the mercy that paid the price God's justice demanded, and breaks the chains of sin.

Repentance is one of the greatest gifts ever offered by our Wonderful Lord.

Repentance – true repentance is a gift with a promise.

God gives repentance, and if we will accept this gift and walk through repentance from start to finish, in the end, we will have victory and freedom from that sin. The reason we continually fall back into the same sins, is that we never fully repent.

We just feel sorry

and guilty,

and go back for more.

Paul describes repentance in 2 Cor 7:10-11

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. –2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NIV

So then repentance breaks the endless cycle of sin and guilt and gives us the ability to live free and worship Him.

There is a moment when we begin this process with God. We come to Him with realization of our sin and our separation from Him. We see the doom of our current course, and turn toward Him.

The day of our salvation is the day we stand [or kneel] before Him and declare our need for forgiveness and our willingness to follow Him wherever He might lead.

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:

And so we have come full circle.

There will come a day, when not only those of us who choose to worship, but all creation, above and below will bow their knee. Remember where we started:

at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Phil 2:10-11

And so I close with an invitation to you

Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king

Don’t be one of those who bows only when there is no choice.

Join the angels, shepherds, sages, Simeon and Anna, and all those who call on the name of Jesus today in bowing your knee to Him.

It’s no mistake that you are reading this today. God is offering you the opportunity to bow before the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is offering repentance and salvation to you today.

Did your spirit jump when I said you could be free from that sin that keeps you chained? That was God offering you the gift of repentance, and the promise of freedom.

Do you wonder about where you will spend eternity today? Do you have a longing, a stirring right now within you to have relationship with Jesus?

Today is your day. Today is the day of salvation. Don’t wait one more minute. Don’t resist this opportunity.

Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ the Newborn King.

6

Many Waters - SoS header

Remember the old cereal boxes where there would be a secret message hidden on the outside of the box, and “magic” glasses enclosed so you could “decode” the secret.

lucky_charms_magic_glasses_-_Google_Search[Spoiler alert – I am about to give away the trick] They would print the message in red, and obscure it with blue ink, and give you red glasses to don in order to receive your “private” message.

The simple trick employed here is that when you put on the “magic” glasses, which were simply blue cellophane, your eyes could no longer see the blue ink, and so the red secret was revealed.

Today we hear the Shepherd King say to His Shulamite Bride:

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
And there is no blemish in you.

Song of Songs 4:7

Knowing that this is Jesus speaking to me, I wonder if He is wearing those red cellophane glasses. How can He look at me and not see the mess I have made of so many situations.

Doesn’t He see the people I have hurt with my sarcastic “whit” and sharp tongue?
Doesn’t He see the promises I have not kept?
Doesn’t He see the lies I have told, and the truth I have withheld?
Doesn’t He see the lust that lies beneath the surface?
My laziness?
My apathy?
My selfishness?

How can He possibly say I am altogether beautiful and there is no blemish in me?

Does Jesus really not see any of this?

Let me lay out one of those massive scripture tensions for you, and I think it will help here. This is actually one of those points where if you take one line of theology and run with it in either direction you will end up in error, so let’s see if we can get right in the middle of it, and push out toward the edges.

On one hand we have this truth:

He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we [us] might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus.] - 2 Corinthians 5:21 [bracketed text, mine]

God actually did make Himself a pair of sin colored glasses. Jesus had two “mount of transfiguration” days in His life on earth. Once with the boys when He met with Moses and Elijah to chat about the other, the day He was transformed into sin, so that the Father could look upon you and I and see Jesus.

So then, it is clearly true that when God looks at us He can no longer see our sin, right? How is it then that the Holy Spirit can so precisely convict me of the areas in my life where I am still entangled? If God forgot my sin, how does He lead me to further freedom by that wonderful path of conviction and repentance?

God knows us altogether, inside and out, and is aware of every fault, every sin, every shadow of turning that remains in us. His wonderful destination for us is, in fact, Christlikeness!

When the scripture tells us God will not remember our sin:

"They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." - Jeremiah 31:34

it is not saying He cannot remember, or He forgets, it is saying He chooses not to call to memory, or better, He does not remember it against us, or use it as an accusation.

When our accuser stands before God and says:

“Your honor, the defendant lied, and Your word says all liars must go to hell.”

Then your memory kicks in and says:

“Yes Lord, it’s true, I’m guilty as charged. I do in deed deserve to go to hell. I am not worthy to stand before you here today.”

God does not say “No he never told a lie, your both confused” Rather, the judge, that High King of Heaven, looks at His book, see the offence, and can clearly see that it has been blotted out, and obscured by the words “paid in full.”

Well – that is the way it plays out in my mind anyway.

Let me be clear here. I don’t believe we can hide behind a cardboard cut out of Jesus, and just continue to sin, counting on God’s forgetfulness to get us into heaven.

God is working in us to perfect us. The conviction of the Holy Spirit works to create a spotless bride for Jesus. He brings to mind the things that are broken in us, like my list above, and walks us through repentance so we can be free, and grow into the beauty that only He can see in us today.

Will you pursue the beauty that God can already see in you? [Tweet This] Will you run hard after Him with me today, and allow Him to create the spotless bride He sees?

Lord, I thank You that You do not hold my sin against me, and that You have a plan that culminates in Christ’s image in me. Lord, help me to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as You create in me a clean heart.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Come back again soon.

Ben

Note: For a look at how conviction and repentance leads to true freedom check out this article:  Repentance – the path to Comfort

6

Sometimes cousins can be really different. Here I am showing my age, but do you remember the Patty Duke show? Two teenage cousins who looked exactly alike, but were different in every way – one wild and free, one poised and governed by self control.

The Bible gives us a set of cousins who are likewise considerably different.

'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. - Matthew 11:17-19

How can these two men, John the Baptist and Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of man, how can they both be servants of the Most High God, and yet be so different?

That’s what the disciples of John wanted to know, and that’s what the Pharisees wanted to know.

There is one area where they were the same.

They did not dance to the world’s tune.

The world is always trying to get us to compromise what the Lord has put before us.

John came as the final chapter of the Old Covenant. His was the closing hymn, the final chord, of a grand mournful requiem. He came preaching and demonstrating the crushing weight of unrepentant sin, and demanding that men change, and then come to be baptized.

So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. - Luke 3:7-8

Don’t get me wrong, Jesus preached repentance too. I am not saying that repentance is not part of the Christian walk.

But unlike John, who dressed in an itchy shirt, ate bugs and cried in the wilderness, Jesus sat at the dinner table with all kinds of sinners.

There are two very different dinner tables we read of in the life of Jesus, Levi’s table, with tax collectors and sinners, and Simon’s table, with Pharisees and the religious elite.

These are the same two types of people that came out to John.

Neither group could influence either man.

They played the wedding march for John, but he preached a funeral message in the wilderness.

They played a funeral dirge for the Lord, and He drew them to a wedding feast.

How does the world’s tune influence you?

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to play the Christian life to the tune the world is playing, but I suggest to you today, that you tune your dial to the song of heaven.

What music would heaven have you dance to today.

Lord, help me hear from You what song You are singing over me, and let me live my life to Your rhythm. [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon.

Shine today!

Ben