As I write this, it was just two days ago at my local church that we had our kids do a little drama of “the Christmas story.” Most people have at least a vague understanding of this story; certainly my generation heard Linus read it on “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” At my church, we had kids playing shepherds who heard that the Son of God was born in the town of Bethlehem, the angel who made the announcement to the shepherds, Mary (the mother of Jesus), Joseph (her husband to be). There were readers narrating the events by reading passages from the Bible, and of course the main character, Jesus, was played by a plastic baby doll lying in a manger.
Jesus is Eternal
Most of us know these events but not as many realize that when Mary gave birth to Jesus – that was not the beginning of His existence. Jesus’s birth was when God the Son became flesh, Let’s look at the description of Jesus, here referred to as “the Word,” one of His many titles, at the beginning of the book of John:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
The Word Made Flesh
Let me skip past some real good stuff to verse 14 and get to John’s description of “the Christmas story,” which is worded differently here than the descriptions we are more accustomed to hearing in the other Gospels:
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Okay, so the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. One natural question one could ask is, “why?” Allow me to take a long route and giving you a two-part answer to that question by giving you a brief commentary on John 1:1-3 and 14 (with verses 12&13 to be thrown in later).
“In the beginning;” the beginning was when God created the physical universe. Before that there was no time; time is a creation of God who has no beginning and no end. Notice that Jesus “the Word” existed before time, so He has no beginning and no end; in other words, He is eternal.
“We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father,” Here in verse 14, is one of the reasons that God the Son became flesh and lived with us, “we have seen His glory.” He transformed from a Spiritual being to a physical being so as to reveal God to mankind in a way which we could relate and understand: they saw Him, they touched Him, they heard Him, they saw Him model a perfect life that God desires us to have…. Praying to the Father, serving and loving others, having “grace and truth.” The title used in the Gospel of John “the Word” suggests that He reveals God. How do you best know somebody? Is it by looking at their appearance? Is it by reading a description of them in a book? Or, is it by hearing their words? The words a person speaks reveal their thoughts and their heart. Jesus is “the Word of God” in that He reveals who God is. Jesus came to earth, into a world full of people who had been separated from God because of sin, people who didn’t really know God because of sin, and He revealed to them a spiritual God in a physical way that they could understand. That is one of the reasons that “the Word became flesh.”
Intermission – take a deep breath, stretch out and prepare, because the conclusion of this story is radical!
Jesus is the Way to the Father
Another reason that Jesus came and dwelt among us is described in verses 12-13 of John chapter 1:
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Jesus left the spiritual realm and His spot “at the right hand of the Father,” and became flesh (human) so that “those who believed in His name” might “become children of God.” Let me personalize that for you. Jesus came, so that YOU might become God’s child. He came for you! After you let that soak in for a bit, let’s examine what it means to be a child of God by examining how we understand that relationship. Think about your child:
- How did he become your child? Did he do some work in order to earn that title? No!
- If he does something wrong, does he lose that title? No, it is something he was born into, not something he earned. He received the position as your child when he was born – it was not something earned.
- Moreover, how secure is his position as your son? If he messes up – can it be declared that he is no longer your child? Of course not!
- Does he have to perform to a certain level to keep his position as your child? Of course not!
- Do you love him less when he does wrong? No.
- Do you love him more when he does well? No.
- Do you turn away from your child because he is too much work? Well…. No.
Questions Danny, questions… what is the point? Well, I’m glad you asked. A child has a position that is not earned or deserved, it is who you are. A child is loved by his parents – he or she does not have to work to earn that love. You might say it is “unconditional love.” A child, no matter what happens, is always a child to his or her parents. Nothing can ever change that. Employees get hired based on qualifications, and fired if they do wrong. Children just are; children represent their parents because it is who they are. Notice that John 1:12 doesn’t say that Jesus came so that you might become an employee of God. Jesus came so that you could be called a child of God!
You Can’t Earn Salvation
You Stay with me, I know this is beginning to resemble a book. I love talking about Jesus! Suffer with me through a quick review and summary of sin: Sin blows up relationships. Sin has that effect on our relationship with God, it separates us from a perfectly holy God. Sin makes us feel guilt, shame and even makes us want to avoid God (hide from God – if that were possible). If you are like most people, you have things in your past that riddle you with guilt and shame. So what do we do? Often times we try to work harder and become a better person, a person that is more acceptable to God. And what are the results of our work? Frustration, more guilt and more shame. Trying to work your way to God is a whole lot of labor, and it is fruitless. Remember Romans 3:23?
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
This time pay attention to the later part of the verse. Work is frustrating and hard because, well…it is never enough! We, even giving our best efforts, will always fall short of the glory of God. And if we look real closely, somewhere deep inside, we know it.
Trying to work your way to God, realizing you are separated from God, these are helpless, hopeless feelings for people who were created for the very purpose of knowing and relating with God! So here is how Jesus gives us the right to become children of God:
- He lived a sinless life. Jesus was absolutely guilt free according to God’s law.
- He took on all of the sin that the world has ever known or will ever know (He bore our sins).
- When He took our sins, He received just punishment for them. In other words, the natural consequences of sin were laid upon Him. We think of the cross as physical torture (and it was) but the worst part of what happened to Jesus was that God the Father separated Himself from Jesus as He was bearing the sins of the world. When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was feeling the presence of God being removed from Him, the natural separation of a holy God from sin. My sins…. Your sins…. Every bad action you have taken, every bad thought, every inaction that was inappropriate…. Every big, small or in-between wrong thing you have done or not done was viewed by God, declared “guilty” and then the price was paid for by Jesus.
- When sin was paid for, Jesus received the consequences separation from God, and death. In other words, after His work was complete, He rose from the grave, and now exists once again at the right hand of the Father.
The bullet points above are the work Jesus did which pave the way for you to become a child of God. That is the payment for a gift He purchased for you. If you had to work for it, it wouldn’t be a gift. This is a gift that is already paid for, already purchased, and it is being offered to you. It is up to you as to whether or not you wish to receive it. It has been and is being offered to you. The gift of salvation. It is yours if you wish to receive it.
It’s Your Choice
You receive this gift by saying “Yes” to Jesus, which means you are saying “yes” to God. “Yes” I want to receive forgiveness for my sins. “Yes” I trust in Jesus and Him alone for my salvation. I trust in the work He did for me! “Yes” I want to belong to God, and change my identity to child of God. “Yes” I want to live in a relationship with God – FOREVER (that is how long this relationship lasts…it is not just for your time in this world).
If you say “Yes” to God, you have no reason to feel guilt or shame because the things that make you feel that way have already been judged and punished! You are free! Free from sin, guilt, shame and free from the idea that you have to work or achieve some sort of standard to please God. Jesus did all of that for you!
Your life from this point forward is free from guilt, shame and the law (do’s and don’ts as requirements). Those are exchanged for relationship with God. Now, your life is a love letter back to God saying “Thank you.” Your “good works” are not to earn your position or make yourself acceptable to God. Your “good works” are a response to what God has already done in you and for you!
YOU can make this decision for God – at church (when people walk forward for the invitation). You can make it with someone else (a pastor, a friend). Or you can make it by yourself (at your desk, in your kitchen, in your bed before you go to sleep). But know these two things:
- It is about your heart and saying “yes” to Jesus / God.
- He chose you first; you are responding to Him.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can clarify further.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Romans 10:13 …for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
World – In the Bible usually means mankind in his fallen state (separated from God).
Jesus – The name Jesus in the Hebrew literally means God is salvation.
Gospel – Means “Good News” as I said earlier; but also refers to the first four books of the New Testament – which are biographies of Jesus. “The four Gospels” are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Born again – To receive the new life that is offered through Jesus. To be a new person who is legally free of sin. Other similar terms: saved, received salvation, born of the Spirit, to name a few.