The Significance of Advent

adventI admit that I love the fall holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Perhaps it’s because of the joys I’ve experienced in the past and still do experience when I gather with loved ones, sharing time, space, and meals. Essentially, we’re sharing our lives and for a particular purpose – gratitude to God for the work accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ.

That wasn’t always the case for me though. Before I was a Christian, the holidays served a selfish purpose for me. I was more concerned about being free from the responsibilities of school or work, and consumed with eating, drinking, being merry and getting gifts. I was a consummate  professional at being selfish. But that changed in 1998 when the LORD saved me and placed me in union with Christ.

This year, Advent season starts December 1st. Advent means “arrival” or “coming” and is the season that celebrates the coming or the birth of Jesus Christ. This is known as His First Advent. It also is a season that points to His promised Second Coming (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 3:11, 4:13-18).  Since becoming a Christian, this season of celebration is much more profound and special to me. It is a season that is well suited for sharing the gospel and reflecting on the greatest example of giving there was or ever will be. Of course, we should be sharing the gospel irrespective of holidays, but Advent rolls out the red carpet for gospel proclamation.

The coming of Jesus marked what some believe is the most significant event in human history. While His whole life was significant, including his death and resurrection, His coming marked a pivotal moment in God’s redemptive plan. The promised offspring (Gen. 3; Gal. 3:16), the Last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21), the True Israel and Son of God (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-14), the Promised King (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5; Rev. 19:11-16) came and dwelt among men to fulfill God’s Law in every way and defeat sin, thus securing eternal hope for His people.

To understand the significance of Advent, we must understand the coming of Jesus in light of God’s plan of redemption throughout human history.

Here is a great article providing an overview of the Bible, which gives us insight to God’s plan of redemption: Overview of The Bible

Desiring God has urecently re-released their Advent devotional, Good News of Great Joy, as a free PDF download.

May we all reflect on the significance of Advent and worship Christ, our Lord, Savior and King!

Grace & Peace,

d.

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50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |reason 4|

To Achieve His Own Resurrection From The Dead

Key TextsHebrews 13:20-21

The fourth reason Piper mentions why Jesus came to die was to achieve his own resurrection from the dead.

Jesus’s death accomplished His resurrection. Does that sound strange?  This rings of antinomy, yet there is a beautiful harmony in it.  However, to fully understand and appreciate the significance of this, we have to consider the nature of God, the Law and its demands.  God is the essence of all that is holy and perfect.  Consider the wisdom of Elihu’s words when he was counseling Job in Job 37.

 “Hear this, O Job;
    stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them
    and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
16 Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
    the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,…

Notice Elihu’s words at the end of verse 16. He calls God perfect. Now let’s consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.

48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

There shouldn’t be any question about the perfection of God. So since God is perfect, all that He does and says is perfect. His works and His words are a reflection of His nature. There is no incongruity with God.  Psalm 19:7 declares:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple,…

The law of the Lord is perfect. This reference of the law is the Law given to Israel through Moses, the Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy). In these revelatory teachings, God discloses Himself to His covenant people and how they were supposed to live as His witnesses in the world.  God’s purpose was to display His glory through His people as they lived according to His word.  There were rewards for obedience to God’s Law and there were consequences for disobedience to God’s Law (Deuteronomy 28).  To put it simply, the rewards for obedience were life and prosperity (not in ways we think of today) and the consequence for disobedience were being forsaken and death.

The Law rewarded life and prosperity for those who would perfectly obey it and it demanded death for those who violated it (Romans 6:23). The penalty of disobedience was severe because of the One it ultimately violates. Remember, God’s word (law) is a reflection of Himself. So to not do what God commands or to do what is prohibited is to sin against God himself and to defame Him.

What’s significant about Jesus is that He met all of the demands of the Law.  This is why He came to earth. He said in Matthew 5:17:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

(1) He perfectly obeyed the Law (positive satisfaction)

(2) He died as if He’d broken the Law (negative satisfaction)

In His living and dying, the Law of  God has been forever fulfilled never needing to be accomplished again. God is satisfied forever with the work of Christ. This is why reconciliation and favor with God is predicated on faith alone in Christ alone.

In matters of Christ’s death accomplishing His resurrection, Christ’s substitutionary death accomplished the penal requirement of God satisfying His wrath. Therefore, God raised Him from the dead vindicating His righteousness.  Christ died that He would be raised to display the full measure of the glory of  God!

Next Reason: Jesus came to die to show the wealth of God’s love and grace for sinners.

Grace &  Peace,

d.

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |reason 3|

To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected

Key Texts – Hebrews 2:10; 5:8

The third reason Piper mentions why Jesus came to die was to learn obedience and be perfected. At first glance this might sound a bit strange if you’re familiar with the fundamental doctrines of Christ. For the Scriptures declare that He never sinned and He is the Perfect Sacrifice for mankind. So how can we make sense of what it means for Christ to learn obedience and be perfect? Piper defines these issues in the negative, telling us what they don’t mean, and in the positive, telling us what they do mean.

Piper said learning obedience doesn’t mean that Christ had to learn to stop disobeying. For if Christ ever disobeyed the Father, He would not be our Perfect Sacrifice and He would be just like the rest of us – rebels. Piper goes on to say that Christ wasn’t getting rid of defects when the Scriptures say He was being made perfect through suffering. Rather, Christ was fulfilling all righteousness so that He could stand in our stead before the Father. Though Christ is by nature righteous because of His deity, as a man He practically fulfilled the Law, which we failed to do. There had to be a human to fulfill the Law of God for man to be accepted by God. Man must be seen as righteous before the Father. This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Jesus even spoke of His purpose to fulfill the Law in Matthew 5:17 and Luke 24:44

As a man, Jesus did what Adam failed to do – obey God. Adam brought condemnation into the world and Christ brought redemption. (Romans 5:12-21) Jesus is the Last Adam.

As a Son, Jesus did what Israel failed to do – obey God. Israel failed to be a light to the nations as God’s son, but Christ, the Son of God, is the light of the world. (Hosea 11:1-4, Matthew 3:17, John 8:12) Jesus is the True Israel.

This is all leading up to what Piper said at the end of the chapter: If the Son of God had gone from incarna­tion to the cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and his love, he would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man” (25).

Christ learned obedience and was perfected to propitiate the Father’s wrath and make us acceptable before Him. What love is this?!?

Grace & Peace,

d.

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |reason 2|

To Please His Heavenly Father

Key Texts – Isaiah 53:10, Ephesians 5:2

The second reason Piper mentions why Jesus came to die was to please His heavenly Father. Some might ask how can the death of the Beloved Son in whom the Father was well pleased (Matt. 3:16-17) be pleasing to the Father? Shouldn’t the Father take delight in Christ’s obedience to His will like parents delight when their children obey their loving statutes? This should raise the question – Was it the Father’s will for His Son to die? Did the Father sovereignly purpose the death of His Son? The answer is a resounding yes! One of the key texts tells us:

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;…

(Isaiah 53:10a, ESV)

But why did the Father purpose to crush His only Son and take delight in His death? I would argue that it wasn’t merely the death of Christ that pleased the Father, but rather it’s what His death accomplished. Some of those accomplishments are: the satisfaction of God’s wrath for our sin, forgiveness of sin, reconciliation to God, worship of God, the witness of the church, the proclamation of the gospel, missions, restored relationships, repentance of sin, peacemaking, etc. As great as all of that is, the main reason why the Father was pleased with the death of His Son was because it was a means of displaying God’s glory to the seen and unseen realms.

Jesus’ death was the means by which the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, justice, righteousness, sovereignty and holiness of God could be seen in a very unique way at the same time – at the cross. Ponder that. Though believers are the beneficiaries of God’s grace, the ultimate reason for the Father crushing the Son was to bring glory to Himself, but He is no egoist! Jesus willfully and obediently offered His life as a substitutionary sacrifice to save sinners for the glory of God. Jesus delighted in bringing glory to the Father.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

(John 4:34)

And this is why it pleased the Father to crush His Son.

It is only through that lens that we can understand how Christ’s life was a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2b cf Exodus 30:1-10).

For a further treatment on Jesus’ death being pleasing to God, read The Pleasure of God in Bruising the Son in The Pleasures of God, also by John Piper.

Next Reason: Jesus came to die to learn obedience and be perfected.

Grace & Peace,

d.

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |intro|

Last night, my wife and I started going through John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.  The main reason why I thought this book was worth reading, thinking about and discussing is that it focuses on the implications of the gospel.  When we hear the word “gospel” we probably tend to think of the good news that God has graciously, mercifully and lovingly reconciled sinners to Himself through Jesus Christ sparing us from His eternal wrath. We are right to think and rejoice over these truths. However, there is much more to the death of Christ than our justification. In other words, there is more to our salvation than our positional standing before God. There are practical results that flow from the Cross of Christ that are meant to be demonstrated in the life of each believer. In other words, the gospel is not only the power for salvation, but also for sanctification.  There is much more involved in the death of Christ than we often think of and Piper’s desire is to help us grasp that in these 2-3 page chapters. In his own words, Piper said,

“I have gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes. Infinitely more important than who killed Jesus is the question: What did God achieve for sinners like us in sending his Son to die?” (17).

That last sentence is the focus of the book.

I also think this book is fitting to read considering that the holiday season is near, which always poses the temptation to get us caught up into its commercialization and materialism traps.  It’s battle reading.  It’s also reading designed to increase our affections for our Savior as we consider the bounty of His work.

My aim is to provide thoughts about each chapter as they’re read.

Desiring God currently offers this book as a free downloadable PDFFree Book

Grace & Peace,

d.