Joy to the World – Pt. 3

joy-to-the-world.jpgThe third verse of this hymn, like all of the other verses, is rich with important biblical truth that we cannot afford to miss.  As Christians, we’re called to delight in God’s truth and understanding the content of verse 3 should cause us to delight in God.  Verse three says –

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Sins, Sorrows, Thorns and a Curse

This verse is describing what redemption looks like. Much like what Part 2 discussed, the world is presently under a curse because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Part of the curse, pronounced to Adam in Genesis 3 says-

17And to Adam he said,“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life, 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

After mankind’s rebellion, part of the curse described is creation working against man. No longer would Adam’s work as a cultivator of the ground be easy and bear plentiful produce. His labor would be painfully hard and the harmony between man and the rest of creation would be strenuous.  Like Adam, we live in a world where our work is often riddled with proverbial thorns, not often enjoyed nor yielding the “fruit” we desire.  In addition, the very ground that Adam was supposed to rule would ultimately consume him. That is our lot without a redeemer.  We are born into this life under God’s curse for Adam’s sin with death and eternal condemnation as our lot (Rom. 5:12,18-19). As stated in previous writings, all of creation is under a curse longing for a liberator.

Cosmic Redemption & Everlasting Joy

That liberator is Jesus.  During Christ’s earthly ministry He often stated that the kingdom of God had arrived, yet it wasn’t always understood nor was it fully actualized. His ministry not only consisted of teaching His Father’s truths, but He also demonstrated authority over creation (Mk. 4:35-41), over disease (Matt. 8:1-3, Mk. 5:21-34)  and over death (Mk. 5:35-43, Jhn 11:1-44). His ministry was to demonstrate the in-breaking of the kingdom of God and provide glimpses of victory over Satan and the effects of sin – especially on man. In essence, Christ’s victory in His death and resurrection reversed the curse pronounced in Genesis 3.

At the second coming of Christ, which will bring judgment for the unrepentant, also brings salvation for His people. No more will the effects of sin rule and dominate the earth nor His people. His redemption will be consummate as far as the curse is found.  God and man will be reconciled. Man and man will be in unity in Christ. The new heavens and new earth will be in perfect harmony with man. God’s dwelling place with be forever be with man on the earth where there will be everlasting joy (Rev. 21:3-4). Sin and sorrows will grow no more as they will be non-existent.

Why This Matters at Christmas

While this season looks back at the birth of Christ, it is imperative that we understand why looking back is crucial to what lies ahead. If there was no birth, there could be no death. No death of a redeemer means we’re still in bondage to sin, under God’s curse and fit for His eternal wrath.  Christ came to die for His people that they might live forever in peace and joy with God! His second coming will complete God’s plan of redemption that was planned from before the foundation of the world! 

Merry Christmas!

Advertisements

Joy to the World – Pt. 2

jtw2Part 1 of this series briefly introduced the history of this celebrated and widely known hymn. What I found amazing was that Watts never intended for this song to be a celebration of Christ’s first coming, but of  His second coming.  Nevertheless, when we consider every aspect of Christ’s ministry, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension and His return, the integration of these aspects is crucial and cannot be divorced from one another.  Therefore, during the Christmas season, it is entirely fitting to celebrate the  redemptive victory that Christ will accomplish.

The second verse of this hymn almost mirrors the idea of the first verse. It says-

Joy to the earth! the savior reigns;

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

The Call to Praise

The first verse of this song is a call to praise for the coming of Jesus.  Similarly, verse two contains praise, but for a different reason. Praise ensues because in addition to Jesus coming, He will rule all of creation and His kingdom will be forever (2 Sam. 7:8-13, Dan. 7:13-14).  

Reason for Praise

Unless we understand what is wrong with the world, we will not see the reason to be overjoyed about the coming and ruling of Jesus.  Genesis 3 tells us what went wrong with the world – man rebelled (sinned) against his creator and God cursed man and all of creation as a result. Instead of a harmonious loving relationship, man’s relationship with God was broken and the created order was subject to disorder as well.  As previously mentioned, the Scriptures remind us that although  we and creation groan as a result of the curse, there is hope.  Romans 8:20-24 says- 

“…the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.  

 In addition to that curse, the world is presently under the power of the evil one (1 Jhn. 5:19). Because of Adam’s sin, the devil is the ruler of this world (Jhn 12:31, 16:11; Eph. 2:2, 2 Cor. 4:4) So how will it be set free from this bondage to corruption? Who will do it?

There was an ultimate reason to Christ’s incarnation – redemption.  He came to destroy the devil and his works (Col. 2:15; 1 Jhn 3:8), absorb the wrath of God on behalf of His people (Isa. 53) and gather His people into a new family (Jhn. 10:11-16; Rev. 7:9-10)!  Christ entered humanity, lived as a man under the Law, and yet died as one who had violated the Law becoming a curse in the place of guilty man. And in His becoming the curse for us, He lifted the curse from all of creation. His redemption is cosmic! All of creation will one day be under the glorious rule of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that Psalm 98 pictures Jesus as the celebrated Savior (98:1-3), King (98:6) and Judge (98:9).  At the second coming of Christ, there will be no more disharmony and disunity between God and all of His creation.  While in exile, the Apostle John was given a vision from Jesus concerning the future. Revelation 21 says –

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Sin and its effects will be forever gone. There will be a new heavens and new earth unaffected by sin. God and man will be forever reconciled. Death, mourning, crying and pain shall forever be gone. All groaning (Rom. 8:20-24) will turn to triumphant praise! This is the hope we have to look forward to! This is why the song says –

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

All of creation will praise Christ eternally for his work of redemption from the curse and the works of the devil.

Our Response at Christmas

In light of this truth, may we rejoice at the birth of our Savior! Praise God for His indescribable gift! Rejoice because salvation has come and is coming!

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Merry Christmas!

The Distorted Image & Glimpses of Glory

If you’re a Christian, you believe in the doctrine of sin. You believe sin entered the world because Adam & Eve yielded to Satan’s (serpent) temptation transgressing God’s command in Genesis 3.  You believe in what is commonly known as the fall of man.  Genesis 1:26-27 tell us that God created mankind in His image. To be created in God’s image is to be created with the ability to image God in specific ways, but not in every way.  We were created to image God in essence and in function.  Like God, man is a rational and moral being. We were created with the ability to think, reason, emote, etc. As God is the Ultimate Authority, He tasked man to have dominion over the animal kingdom (Gen. 1:26) and to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). In other words, he called man to have authority over all creation as a reflection of His ultimate authority.  However, when sin entered the world, man fell from his right relationship with God, the state of innocence and the moral perfection he was created in.  Because of his sin, Adam and his progeny (that’s you and me) reflect a distorted image of God.

 imago dei

Lately, my wife and I have enjoyed watching a television program titled Undercover Boss.  Undercover Boss is a show that portrays CEOs or owners of companies who seek to gain some insight about the health of their companies  by going undercover as an employee. By interacting with other employees, the undercover boss has a ground level perspective to see if the companies’ objectives are being effectively and appropriately accomplished.  One of the catches of the show is that usually the employees have had or are going through some type of trial that tugs at the heart of the boss and the viewing audience.  At the end of the show, the undercover boss reveals himself to some of his employees and evaluates them based on their work ethics. Perhaps the climax of the show is not in the revelation of the identity, but the rewards given to the employees. The undercover bosses handsomely reward their valued employees with vacations, paid training, or large sums of cash (upwards of $100K) for personal improvement or enjoyment as an expression of gratitude. I admit, the reactions of the employees being rewarded so handsomely does something to me. In fact, my wife has been known to shed a tear or two.  We both are amazed at the extreme kindness of the givers (bosses) and at the reactions of the receivers (employees).  But why? Why do we both, and probably so many others, really enjoy that moment?  I believe in that moment, we are seeing glimpses of glory. Let me explain.

God is exhilaratingly benevolent and graciously gives from the treasures of His wealth (don’t think of money here) to His children.  Think of all the blessings we have in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).  God is a giving God and no one can out give Him (Rom. 8:32). So when we see acts of kindness exhibited toward others, even those who do not know the Lord, I believe we are seeing glimpses of God’s glory.  As I stated earlier, sin has distorted the image of God in man, not destroyed it.  Sure, the motives of kindness or philanthropic endeavors can be impure; I am well aware. Corruption has radically spread to all parts of us as humans, but man is not totally corrupt unable to do any good to others (Lk. 6:32-34) and unable to appreciate “good” when he sees it or receives it.

The good experienced in this sin filled and distorted world is a gift of God’s grace, which should make the unconverted curious about why good is good and its origin. It should also cause the believer to worship and long for the day when glimpses will become a full uninterrupted view as we gaze upon our Savior (Jhn. 17:24, 1 Jhn. 3:2).

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.