What Child is This? (Luke 2:22-40)
Simeon was a man who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would live to see the day that Christ would arrive. Think about how amazing that must have been?
How would you feel if you knew that scripture would be fulfilled in your lifetime? How would you feel knowing that you would live to see the second coming of Christ, and the establishment of His Kingdom on Earth?
How would you be impacted if that which you believed in your entire life was suddenly real, tangible, and right in front of you?
All of these were realities to Simeon, who in Luke 2:22-40, was overcome with his excitement and lifted up his praises toward God. In his and Anna’s praise, three observations are made:
- Jesus is the Christ.
- Jesus is Salvation.
- Jesus is Redemption.
The Christ is the Anointed One, the Chosen One, the Messiah. In scripture, God made multiple promises to Israel, and He made many promises to us. Each and everyone of those promises would be fulfilled by the Christ. Simeon identifies the Christ as Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus is Salvation. It’s His very nature, and it’s even in His name. The name “Jesus” literally means “The Lord is Salvation.” Jesus gave His life on the cross to save us from our sins, from darkness, from hopelessness, and to bring in everlasting life, and eternal reward.
Jesus is redemption. Redemption means to be liberated from bondage by the payment of an outstanding debt. We were in bondage to sin and condemnation, but Jesus liberated us by paying our sin-debt, that we may go free.
Simeon’s words are deep and profound. Check out Life Point’s worship service, posted above, and learn more through Pastor Leland Acker’s message on “What Child is This?”
Seeing God pt. 1
Job both had it all, and lived a life that honored God. The Bible tells us that he was immensely wealthy, had thousands of livestock, hundreds of servants, and a good family. More important than his material wealth, Job was described by scripture as a man who was “perfect and just, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”
If anyone deserved the continued blessings of God, it was Job. Yet, God allowed Job to lose everything. Why?
In Job 42:5, after having gone through so much suffering, Job said to God, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now I have seen you with my eyes.”
That was the goal God set forth from the beginning. God used everything Job endured to transform his faith to where God was more tangible to him.
In Job 19:25, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and will stand upon the earth at the latter day.”
Job’s use of the word “redeemer” is interesting, because it usually referred to the process of being purchased out of a debtors prison, or debt-driven servitude. Job, until chapter 1, had been a rich man. He wasn’t a man sold into a debtors prison. Yet, here, he refers to his “redeemer.”
Job used that word because he understood that life was not about the wealth and experiences he had in this world. Life is about what happens in the next. He was looking forward to the Lord coming, and redeeming him from this life to the next. He had this faith prior to losing everything, and losing everything refined this faith as the book progresses.
Everything God does, He does to bring us into His presence. Once we understand and trust that concept, our life’s experiences take on new meaning.
The first step in this is to understand our redemption. Listen below as Pastor Leland Acker discusses what a redeemer is, Who our Redeemer is, and what we’ve been redeemed from.
Liberated (Mark 5:1-20)
In Mark 5, Jesus travels to the land of the Gadarenes, where He meets a man that was possessed, not by one, not by two, but by a legion of demons.
This man was in as bad a shape as anyone can get. Scripture tells us that he cried out night and day, that he cut himself with the rocks, and he lived among the tombs. Safe to say, the man was in total agony.
We don’t know how the man came to be possessed with a legion of demons. Demonic possession is not something you catch like a virus. You can randomly catch a cold, or pink-eye. However, you don’t randomly catch a demon.
Demonic possession is something that happens when you give Satan space to work in your life, and we have at least one example in scripture where a man was specifically possessed by Satan. It was Judas Iscariot in John 13:27, who had Satan enter into him after he decided to betray Jesus for a payoff. Multiple demonic possession often comes by trying to battle demons without the Lord’s power.
The lesson we learn is the dangers of sin and rejecting Christ. Sin promises endless pleasure and freedom. What it actually delivers is agony and bondage.
So, here we are in Mark 5, and this man is completely degraded and destroyed by the demons in his life. Perhaps you understand what that’s like. Perhaps you don’t.
Either way, we know that this man was powerless to help himself, and he was powerless to deliver himself from the demons. In fact, when Christ showed up, all he could do was throw himself to the feet of Jesus in hopes of receiving the mercy of Christ.
Likewise, when we are beset by sin, all we can really do is throw ourselves at the feet of the Lord and trust His mercy and grace.
At that point, Christ commanded the demon to come out of him. This man could only trust in the grace and mercy of Christ, and Christ rewarded that by liberating him from the demons.
You see, when we come to Christ, He does not demand that we do certain things to obtain His grace. He simply rewards that faith by giving His grace.
Once this man was liberated from his demons, he wanted to go with Jesus wherever He went. He wished to follow Jesus, learn from Jesus and serve Jesus. This should be the response of every redeemed child of God.
Instead of welcoming him to the team, Jesus commanded the man to go and tell everyone back home what the Lord did for him. Likewise, Christ wants us to lead others to faith by sharing our testimony.
The message of liberation in Mark 5:1-20 is one of blessing and encouragement. Take a listen, and then share Christ with others.
God Doesn’t Ride Shotgun
Does God seem distant? There may be a valid reason for that, and we might be the cause.
Manasseh, king of Judah, probably committed one of the biggest acts of blasphemy in the history of mankind. He commissioned a carved statue of the heathen idol Asherah, and placed it in the Temple of the Lord (2 Kings 21:7). It was this statue that the Lord referred to as the image of jealousy in Ezekiel 8.
Asherah was a goddess whom the people worshipped through sexual immorality. To make room for the placement of this statue, the altar of the Temple had to be moved aside.
In Manasseh’s mind, there was probably a valid reason for doing this. Many historical scholars believed that Manasseh helped spark an economic boom in Israel by obtaining a “most favored nation” status from the Assyrians. In order to attract Assyria’s favor, he led Israel to worship multiple false gods, including Asherah, who was regarded as the wife of Baal. However, economic gain is never an excuse to rebel against God, and God always deals with this behavior severely.
Manasseh was later arrested by the Assyrians, was treated severely by them, and was only reinstated after he repented and called out to God.
Yet, the damage of his behavior was done. The image of jealousy remained in the Lord’s Temple, and the altar had been moved aside.
Think about how this act violated the Lord’s presence, and the purpose for His Temple. The Temple was a place for people to go to pray, to seek God’s deliverance and guidance, and to be reconciled to Him.
It was a place of repentance, and a place where worshippers sought atonement for sin. The altar was the place where the lambs were sacrificed for sin. Every act of that sacrifice symbolized what God would do for His people through Jesus Christ.
The lamb was tied to one of the four horns of the altar. Those horns represented God’s judgment. So, that lamb was tied to God’s judgment upon us. He took our place there. That lamb was then slain, and its blood was the price paid for our sin. That blood would be collected and sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant on the day of atonement to show God’s redemption of us from sin. That blood was also placed upon the horn of the alter, showing that the Blood of the Lamb covered God’s judgment for our sin.
Likewise, the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world once and for all. Furthermore, the blood of Christ also covered God’s judgment for our sin. It was with this in mind that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” as he introduced Christ in John 1.
Once the lamb had been slain, the body of the lamb was placed on the altar, where it was cooked, and then eaten by the worshipper, and the priest. The fat was left on the altar to be burnt up, symbolizing God eating His portion. That step in the sacrifice showed restored fellowship between man and God, a friendship and a family relationship that bonded man with God.
The Temple, and more specifically, the altar, was where man went to repent and be reconciled to God. It was where man went for assurance that His sin had been paid for.
Yet, Manasseh had moved that altar to make room for the statue of Asherah, a goddess worshipped through sin and immorality. It was such a betrayal to God, that He later told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8 that He had been driven from the sanctuary of the Temple. God’s presence was no longer there.
Had the altar been moved for any reason, it would have been a sacrilege. God’s redemption of man would have been de-emphasized for the flavor of the month. However, to move the altar for the image of Asherah, was to move redemption out of the way in favor of licentious sin. This is an all out rebellion against God, and was the closest man could have come to spitting in His face.
Therefore, God’s presence was no longer in His Temple, leading the elders to say in Ezekiel 8 that the Lord had forsaken the earth. (That’s Old Testament for, “God seems distant.”)
So, if God seems distant, maybe it’s because we moved Him out of the way of our desires. Maybe we moved His altar from the temple of our heart to the back recesses of our heart in order to make room for something more pleasing to us… whether it is merely something of the world, or whether it is all-out sin.
However, God does not move to the back. He does not ride shotgun. He is either front and center, in the driver’s seat, or He is gone altogether.
So, if God seems distant to you, examine your heart, and see where your priorities are, and what your spiritual condition is. Then, repent, pray to God for restoration, and welcome Him back to your life.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
The circle of life used to be a straight line, and the daily struggle didn’t exist. Such was life in the Garden of Eden, as God prepared a perfect place for man to dwell with a plentiful food supply, an automatic sprinkler system, no bad weather, and no problems. Adam and his wife, who would later be named Eve, were to enjoy the garden to its fullest, eat as much of the fruit as they wanted, and to do light gardening work as they desired. (Irrigation was covered, and there were no weeds, thorns or pests, so all work was recreational.)
In this perfect world, there was no death. Adam would not die. He would be allowed to live to see what his children, grandchildren, etc, would become. He would live to see what his work would produce. He would live to see the society he would build. It was perfect.
There was one stipulation. The tree in the midst of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was off limits. This was for two reasons. (1) God wanted man to obey, love and worship Him by choice, and (2) God did not want man to experience the evil he knew Satan already had planned for His creation.
Therefore, God warned Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Adam likely did not have any concept of death. Prior to his sin in the garden, there was no death. Adam had never mourned for his dog who died, had never suffered that separation from a close loved one, and had never experienced lost fellowship with God. He had no concept of death. However, if God warned against it, it must be bad, and therefore the tree of knowledge of good and evil must be avoided.
The Biblical meaning of death is separation. Separation of soul from body. Separation of man from God. The day that Adam ate the fruit, his soul wasn’t separated from his body, but he was separated from God. Death happened. And death, both the separation of the soul from the body, and the separation of man from God, happened the day Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.
Since that time, man has sinned, and his sin has become progressively worse. Man has become ever estranged from God. Man rebels against God, His word, His law, His design. As man does this, things on earth get progressively worse. Adam didn’t live to see a great society built. He lived to see the world become so bad that God decided to destroy it with the flood. (Adam didn’t live to see the flood, but he did live to see the conditions that led to it.)
Sin separated man from God, therefore man died, and sin reigned. And so it was.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The death prescribed by God in Genesis 2 went beyond physical death. It also meant an eternal death, an eternal separation of man from God, where God was no longer man’s Father and Provider, but rather man’s judge, jury and executioner. Sin brings death. Death brings judgment.
Yet, God loves us too much to leave it at that. Romans 5:8 says “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The death Christ died was the death brought on by our sin. The death Christ died was the death we deserved. The death of Christ on the cross was not a mere physical death, from which the Lord could easily heal Himself. It was a separation… His Spirit from His body, but moreover, His separation from His beloved Father.
As Jesus hung on the cross, saying, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” He was not merely shouting out in agony. Neither was He sad that God “turned His back on Him.” Jesus cried, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” because the relationship had changed.
The perfect union between God the Father and God the Son had been converted to the relationship of judge and executioner. Instead of lovingly comforting His Son, God was now judging His Son, and pouring out His wrath on Christ for all the sin of the world. This was done to satisfy the requirement for death, so that man could be saved from God’s wrath, if man repents and believes.
Out of all the cruelties that Christ endured on the cross, the hardest part was enduring the wrath of God.
Pastor Bobby Sparks of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, Tex., who also heads up the Tabernacle ministries, says that on the day of the crucifixion of Christ, man was given one “hour” to do unto God has he pleased. Pastor Sparks then points out how man treated Christ with more cruelty and shame than has ever been dealt to any other human being in history.
The cruelty of the Romans, the scourgings and beatings, the mocking of the crowds, merely demonstrated the evil and sin within man’s heart. It was the wrath of God poured out onto Jesus that settled our sin-debt, cleared us from guilt, and makes reconciliation with God possible.
Jesus Christ died that death, so we don’t have to. Yes, we will one day close our eyes as our soul leaves our body. However, we do not have to suffer an eternity separated from God. Are you willing to trust what Jesus Christ did on the cross for your salvation? Do you trust the Lord? Then turn from your sin and follow Him.
May God bless you.
Gospel Week: Celebrating the Central Theme of Christianity
This is the one thing that all people seek. Redemption.
It is romanticized in literature, sought through accomplishments, and desired for lifetimes. Redemption.
Redemption is often called by different names: liberation, validation, triumph. At the heart of these desires, however, is redemption.
Last weekend, millions across America celebrated Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters. Woods’ first Masters victory in 11 years, coupled with his recovery from injury, personal failures, and controversy, prompted many in the media to hail his “redemption.”
Redemption was a theme interwoven into the NFL careers of Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians, whose careers had been sidelined due to firings and trades, then re-ignited when they were signed by the Arizona Cardinals, before making it to the NFC Finals.
The word, “redemption,” may not be used, but it has captured the hearts of writers, poets and artists. Redemption is celebrated in songs, such as Aerosmith’s “Amazing,” fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” and countless movies and TV shows. Every story about the aging athlete seeking one last championship, every story about a child seeking a long-lost parent, every story about a businessman seeking one last deal, or the advocate seeking one more victory over Wall Street, is a story about a protagonist seeking redemption. Redemption is a theme of every rags-to-riches story, and every story about overcoming loss.
We frame it in so many ways, but at the end of the day, all we are really after is redemption. And true redemption cannot be found in one last championship, one last victory, or in a dream come true. No matter what victories we score in life, we will never receive the fulfillment we seek, unless our redemption is a Spiritual one.
And that’s what Christ purchased on the cross for us.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds the Corinthians in verse 1 that they have received the Gospel, and it is the reason they have standing in God’s Kingdom. He then reminds them that the Gospel is the basis for their salvation. Essentially for them, and for us, the Gospel is the source of our hope for the future, our hope for eternal prosperity in God’s Kingdom, and our hope that all that is wrong will be made right.
Then, in one of the most important things ever written, Paul defined the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul wrote:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
How did Christ purchase our redemption? He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day in fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the price for our sin. 1 John 2:2 says that He is the propitiation for our sins. A propitiation is a payment made to God to atone for sin. A propitiation cancels a debt owed as a result of sin. To make this payment on our behalf, Christ gave Himself, and was nailed to the cross, and gave up His life.
In doing this, Christ not only paid our debt, but He also removed the stain and guilt sin left on our lives (Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”) Essentially, the old has been washed away, and all things have been made new. New life, new Spirit, new us, new hope. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Revelation 21:5, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 4:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Historically, churches have commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross on “Good Friday.” (In all actuality, He was likely crucified on a Wednesday, but that’s a story for another day.) On Easter Sunday, we celebrate His resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, Paul wrote that the Gospel is how Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. He then spends the rest of the chapter defending, and advocating, that Christ rose again from the dead. When you see how adamantly Paul argued that the resurrection happened, you will understand not only how important this doctrine is to Christianity, but also how much hope it gives us.
As Phil Robertson once said, “A dead savior can’t do much for you.” However, a living Savior advocates for you and opens the doors of Heaven for you.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us His victory over death, which will also be our victory if we know Him as Savior. And that’s true redemption. To be rescued from the pain of this life into an eternal life with no pain, to be transformed from the old you into a gloriously new version of you, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness is the ultimate redemption, and that is truly what we celebrate, not just every Easter, but every Sunday as well.
Come join us for Sunrise Service, 7 a.m. Sunday, April 21, 2019, at the Early Visitors and Events Center at 419 Garmon Dr. in Early, TX.
Inside the Throne Room of Christ (Revelation 4-5)
If one is rushing through the book of Revelation to get to the “good stuff,” one might miss the amazing thing that happens in Revelation 4. The Apostle John, imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos for spreading the word of God, has been invited into Heaven. Not only has he been invited into Heaven, but He has been invited into the nerve-center of Heaven, the throne room of Christ.
As John is conveying to us everything he saw as he entered into the throne room of Christ, it can be easy for us to get lost in all the precious stones, gems, and spectacular sights of that place. For example, how does one interpret verse 3, which says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald?”
What’s interesting is that the things John sees are not only brilliant and spectacular, but are symbolic as well. As John looks upon the One sitting upon the throne, he sees a being that looks like jasper and sardine stone. While this speaks to the glory of Christ, there is also a deeper meaning. Jasper and sardine stone are both red. Isaiah 1:18 tells us that the color of sin is red. The color of the blood of Christ is red. When you look through a red lense, that is, these precious stones and the blood of Christ, the redness of sin is cancelled out.
Thus, as the Bible says in Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Surrounding the throne is a rainbow, which you might remember is the symbol of the covenant God made with Noah to never destroy the world with a flood again. Right there in front of Christ is a reminder of His grace and mercy.
In the secular world, in the business world, we tend to decorate our offices (our throne rooms, if you will,) with the things that we are most proud of… the things which are the most important to us.
When you look into the throne room of Christ, you see symbol after symbol of our redemption and salvation. What does that tell you about the Lord’s passion for you?
The people who had moved into the land were tolerant of the Israelites who returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but once construction began on the Temple, conflict broke out.
In this message, we evaluate why the people of the land opposed the construction of the Temple, and how that correlates to Satan’s opposition to our daily lives today. This chapter illustrates how Satan actively opposes you and tries to sabotage you as you try to live out God’s purpose for your life.
The Art of Redemption
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
For some, it means validation. For others, it means to be set free. For others, it is the chance to go back and correct a wrong, or to try again after a failure and achieve success.
While these elements can accompany the Biblical meaning of redemption, true redemption goes much further. When the Bible tells us that God redeemed us through Jesus Christ, it tells us that he did more than validate us, set us free, or give us a second chance.
Biblical redemption carries with it the meaning of restoration.
In Old Testament times, slavery was a practice used to settle debt. If a man was in debt without any hope of being able to repay it, he could be sold into slavery. In order to make this dark practice more humane, and in order to teach us about salvation, God wrote into His law several provisions that would free slaves, one of which was redemption.
If a man were sold into slavery for, say, $50,000, and his brother learned that he had been sold into slavery, his brother could go to his master and buy his brother back. The slave master was obligated to sell the slave back to his family at the price he paid, without collecting a profit.
That process was known as “redemption.” The man would return home, a free man, no longer a slave. He would be reunited with his family and be able to farm his land and work his vocation. He was redeemed. He was restored.
Notice that the redeemed man did not become a slave to his brother who had purchased his freedom. Notice also that the man no longer owed the debt. He was completely free, and his life was restored. What an amazing feeling that must have been.
Scripture teaches us that, just like Old Testament slaves were redeemed by their families, God has redeemed us.
Just as that man in the Old Testament was sold into slavery, owing a debt he could not repay, we begin life as slaves to sin, owing a debt we cannot repay. Just as the brother of that man in the Old Testament purchased his brother out of slavery, Christ purchased us from sin, paying our sin-debt by giving His life on the cross.
And just as that man in the Old Testament was reunited with his family and set free, Christ has restored our lives and set us free. Restoration. Without it, there is no true redemption. Freedom. Without that, there is no redemption, for if you have not been freed, you have not been redeemed. You’ve merely been sold.
Therefore, when Christ redeems us, He has made us free indeed! Then, He begins the process of restoring our lives by transforming us into the persons He intended on being.
This concept is illustrated in countless ways in scripture. The redemption Christ offers us teaches us a few things.
First, we should accept the redemption. A man in the Old Testament who was set free could choose to remain a slave. Or, he could take his freedom and return to his family. Have you accepted the redemption offered by Jesus Christ? Have you turned from your sins and trusted Him for salvation? Or do you cling to your sins and trust your servitude?
Secondly, the Biblical concept of redemption rules out the notion that any works are necessary to achieve salvation. The Old Testament slave who was redeemed by his brother owed his brother nothing for his redemption. Nothing. Obviously, he should have been grateful and expressed his gratitude, but as a matter of obligation, owed his brother nothing.
When Christ redeems us, we owe Him nothing for our redemption. Obviously, we should be grateful and express that gratitude in obedience and service, but we have no contractual obligation to Christ in exchange for our redemption. This means that any religion that teaches that one has to live holy, be baptized, speak in tongues, be a faithful church member or give tithes in order to enter Heaven has no understanding of true redemption.
Any religion that teaches that salvation can be lost does not understand redemption.
When Christ redeems you, He sets you free, and you have eternal peace and security from Him that cannot be revoked. Learn to rest in that assurance, and serve the Lord with gladness and not fear.
And finally, this redemption teaches us about how much God loves us, and how priceless we are to Him. A man in the Old Testament would have to love his brother very much to make the financial sacrifice to redeem him from slavery. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin.
The world may have rejected you. Others criticize and judge you. You may feel like society has marginalized you and cast you out of the gates of the city. However, God loves you, sees the things which make you unique, gave His Son to redeem you, and has a place for you at His table. Will you turn to Him?
God paid the price for your redemption. That redemption becomes effective when you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.
May God bless you today.