Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Jesus’ Promotional “Brochure” Includes Phrases We’d Like to Rewrite

If you were creating a brochure to attract people to your church, which of the following phrases would you include?

“Join our church and …

… you will endure suffering.”

… people will hate you.”

… your family may become your enemy.”

… gruesome death is a real possibility.”

… your life will no longer be your own.”

It’s doubtful that you’d include any of those phrases in a church brochure, and even more doubtful that you’d visit a church that featured any of those sentences on their brochure. It would seem like an awful place to attend.

This, you may think, is why you leave the advertising to the professionals. What you want to emphasize when following Jesus is the cool worship music (an amazing lead singer, a killer drummer and two bass guitars), the amazing children’s department (filled with crafts, games and a tender, loving staff), the amazing facilities (complete with shuttle service from the parking lot and a coffee bar that would make Starbucks envious) and, of course, a dynamic preacher (when he’s not out speaking at some event with exciting names like Catalyst or Passion or Momentum). Above all, we love everyone – everyone is welcome to come and be whoever they are.

That’s what a church brochure should be about, not crazy phrases like suffering and hate and enemies. Certainly nothing about giving up your life or dying a gruesome death.

You might be thinking, that’s not the brochure I read. That’s not the Jesus I signed up for.

It’s true that Jesus didn’t use one of those phrases as an advertisement for following him – he used all of them!

Surely that can’t be true, can it? You might be thinking, that’s not the brochure I read. That’s not the Jesus I signed up for.

Let’s take a look at just a few examples of what Jesus told his disciples and followers.

Matt. 10:34-36:  “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Mark 10:34-35: “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.

John 15:19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.”

John 16:33: “You will have suffering in the world.”

Matt. 5:11-12: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.”

In all likelihood, if you’re part a large nondenominational evangelical church or a denominational mainstream church, the only time you’ve ever heard words like hate, suffering, enemies, persecution and gruesome death were during Easter services – and they only applied to what Jesus went through.

Those just aren’t good selling points for a church, so why would Jesus include them in his “brochure?”

Well, for starters, Jesus told the truth and he knew this would happen. And he knew that people who truly followed him, who chose to live in the kingdom of God, would no longer be subject to the whims and desires of the world – the world run by the Prince of Darkness. Satan will do whatever he can to stop Christ followers in their tracks, and suffering, persecution and the threat of a horrible death are good ways to do that.

He wants people who are totally sold out to his way of doing things.

And finally, Jesus isn’t messing around. He wants people who are totally sold out to his way of doing things, who will follow him no matter where he takes them, who love him above everything – and everyone – else in the world.

Fortunately, Jesus also added plenty of positive phrases to his brochure for those who repent and follow him. He says we’ll be blessed when we endure these things. In John 16:33 he tells us, “Take courage! I have overcome the world.” He says that no one can snatch us out of his hands. He promises us eternal life, starting now. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” he said in John 10:10. He promises that his Holy Spirit will live in us, to guide and comfort us. We will have 24/7 instant access to the Father.

The negative and positive thoughts meet up in Jesus’ illustration of the kingdom of God being like a priceless treasure in a field, or a priceless pearl in the market. The kingdom of God, he said, is a treasure worth giving up everything we own, including our lives, to obtain.

Priceless treasure. Peace. Abundant life. Comfort and guidance. Now that sounds more like it.

But we can’t separate those words from the others. Christ promises that we’ll have both.

The question for most of us is, Am I willing to endure the negatives in order to gain the positives?

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Watch What You ‘Drink’: You Can’t Trust Everything That’s Preached, Even When it’s by Famous Megachurch Pastors

Suppose you’re at your favorite health food café to grab a healthy yet delicious smoothie. You watch as they toss in some kale, some acai berries, pineapple and mango chunks, maybe a few chia seeds – and half-a-dozen rat droppings. Then they turn on the blender and whip up your smoothie.

Do you still drink it? I mean, most of that stuff is still really healthy, right? Or do those six rat droppings pretty much ruin the whole thing?

I thought of this illustration after watching a recent three-part sermon series called Aftermath by megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Stanley, the son of renowned preacher Charles Stanley, leads North Point Church near Atlanta. With about 30,000 attending weekly services, it is one of the largest churches in the country.

As a person with the gift of teaching, I know that teaching God’s word is a weighty responsibility. In his epistle, James tells us that teachers will receive a stricter judgment – Jesus’ principle that to whom much is given much is expected. So I don’t take it lightly when I find myself in disagreement with someone eminently more famous than myself, especially when much of what Stanley says in the series is very healthy and needs to be taught in the church. It just feels like a few twisted bits of thinking could ruin the whole drink.

I don’t believe that Stanley is deliberately trying to mislead people. In fact, his intention is to bring more people to Jesus. But some of things he says don’t match up with scripture. This could be a case of “what I meant to say is not what I said, and what you heard is not what I thought I said.” Communication is difficult. Still, I think some of these issues need to be addressed.

So let me dissect.

The healthy components

New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant – Stanley’s main point is that as Christians, we are now under the New Covenant of Jesus’ resurrection rather than the Old Covenant – the Sinai Covenant, the Law of Moses. This is absolutely correct. Jesus said he came to fulfill the Old Covenant, which means we no longer have to try to do so. Paul tells us often, but especially in Romans, that we are no longer under the Law.

The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and that we are no longer under.

Goodbye Ten Commandments – Like kale, the least appealing ingredient here may be the healthiest. I have said for years that the debate about whether the Ten Commandments should be in schools or government buildings is silly. The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and that we are no longer under. I’ve referred to them as the preface to the Law; Stanley calls them the table of contents to the Law.

By that I don’t mean that it is suddenly OK to murder people and commit adultery. It’s that we are under a New Covenant that more succinctly sums up what the Law said – Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor like you love yourself.

No mixing and matching – Stanley correctly says that we can’t try to keep part of the Old Covenant, like the Ten Commandments, and meld it into the New Covenant. Nor can you “fix” the Old Covenant by adding pieces of the New Covenant – this was the point of Jesus’ illustration of cutting a piece out of a new garment to patch up an old garment. We must leave the Old Covenant behind and begin living by the New Covenant.

Our faith is not based on the Bible – This one may be a little trickier to digest, like chia seeds. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the Bible. It means that our faith is based on God, not a thing. However, the Bible is vital. It is our means of discovering God and deepening our faith.

Chocolate chips or rat droppings?

There are a few murky areas in his sermon series that make me a bit unsure whether he’s saying what it sounds like he’s saying.

Old Covenant = Old Testament – At times, Stanley seems to equate the Old Covenant with the Old Testament writings. He states that we need to spend more time reading the New Testament and less reading the Old Testament – although in my experience, most Christians already spend little time in the Old. In fact, if you moved Psalms and Proverbs to the New Testament, many Christians would never read anything to the left of Matthew.

I would go so far as to say that it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ redeeming work without reading and understanding the Old Testament.

The entire Old Covenant is contained in the Old Testament, but the Old Testament contains far more than the Old Covenant. All 39 books, in some way, point to the coming savior. I would go so far as to say that it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ redeeming work without reading and understanding the Old Testament. In fact, without the Old Testament, we wouldn’t know about our need for a Messiah, and would have no way to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Angry God vs. Loving God – Stanley seems to resurrect the old idea that the God of the Old Testament was different from the one in the New Testament. That was the old, angry God who didn’t offer any grace so we want the new God who loves everybody.

What I believe he was saying is that God had a different agenda in the Old Testament – establishing the Jewish nation above others in His love and care, while in the New Testament, his love and grace is for all the nations. But I think it’s easy for someone to hear in his message that the Old Testament God was different – angry, vindictive, morally imperfect – than the all-loving New Testament God.

And now, the rat droppings

Grace didn’t exist in the Old Testament – Stanley, while pointing to the word Grace on a video screen, said, “See, when you read the Old Testament, when you read the Old covenant, when you read the story of Israel, when you read the prophets of Israel, you don’t see much of this. It’s ‘I will if you will,’ that’s God’s contract with the nation.”

If you don’t see God’s grace and unfailing love oozing from the Old Testament pages, you’re not trying. Starting when He made clothes for Adam and Eve right after they sinned and ruined His creation to His repeated rescuing of Israel from the hands of their enemies to the promise of a Messiah, God’s grace has been at work since the beginning of time and up to the start of the New Testament. The grace found in the New Testament isn’t something new, it’s a continuation of His grace, just now extended to everyone.

The first century Christians didn’t have a Bible – Stanley says, repeatedly, “The first century believers didn’t have a Bible and couldn’t have read it because most of them couldn’t read, and they couldn’t have because there was no Bible as we know it until the fourth century.” He goes so far as to say that the first century Christians were just making up things as they went along because they didn’t have any Scripture or writings.

Yes, it’s true that the biblical canon, containing the books we know today as the Bible, wasn’t created until after Constantine’s conversion in 312 A.D. But the Old Testament books were already in place by the time of Jesus. And it’s true the disciples couldn’t order a Bible and have it delivered the next day through Amazon Prime. But the Scriptures were well known to them, read in the synagogues and repeated frequently.

About 10 percent of the words in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament.

Scripture certainly was important to all of the New Testament writers – about 10 percent of the words in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament. When Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 that all Scripture is inspired by God and equips everyone, he was referring to the Old Testament. Jesus frequently quoted Old Testament Scriptures.

In fact, one of Stanley’s examples of why we can focus on the New Testament instead of the Old Testament is Peter’s first two sermons in Acts 2 and 3. He completely ignores the parts of those sermons where Peter quotes extensively from the prophet Joel, David and Moses. He never mentions Stephen’s lengthy sermon on his deathbed in Acts 7 that tells the Old Testament story with many verbatim quotes from the Old Testament.

So to say that the first century believers didn’t have scriptural backing is wrong. They knew Scripture and relied heavily on it.

The Old Testament is not infallible – Stanley calls this the Achilles heel of our faith that will make us vulnerable to the attacks of atheists. With one click on the computer, he says, we can find those attacks on whether the Old Testament is true and whether it is moral. And it’ll be our children and grandchildren who will discover this horrible secret and quit believing.

“As Bible goes, so goes our faith. And if all of it’s not true then none of it can be trusted. It’s a house of cards.”

He states that the new atheists “have attacked persuasively and effectively the credibility and the morality of our Bibles,” then adds later, “If the foundation for your faith is an absolutely true book, good luck with that against this kind of onslaught.” And then he adds, “But I have some great news: The foundation of our faith is not a cleverly cobbled together group of manuscripts.”

He implies that it isn’t important to believe in the Old Testament stories because all that’s important is the resurrection of Jesus.

While he never quite comes out and says that he thinks parts of the Old Testament aren’t true or credible, he doesn’t offer one argument in favor of it all being true. He doesn’t refute any of the arguments of the atheists. This isn’t just in this sermon series, either; he has hedged against this in a number of other sermons and interviews. He implies that it isn’t important to believe in the Old Testament stories because all that’s important is the resurrection of Jesus.

Ironically, he then goes on to say that the reason we can base our faith on the resurrection of Jesus is because of Jesus’ own words and the eyewitness accounts – which, of course, are found in the Bible. But if the Old Testament isn’t to be believed, why would we believe the New Testament?

No more requirements – Stanley argues, correctly, that circumcision is no longer a requirement among males to belong in the Christian church. This was decided almost 2,000 years ago, so that’s hardly new news. But he then goes on to say that basically God requires nothing from us anymore except to just believe in Him.

“Your covenant (the New Covenant) is practically irresistible because it’s this simple: God loves you so much that he spent hundreds and hundreds of years getting the world ready to send one person into this world that could pay for your sins. And all he requires from you, it’s not even ten things, it’s one thing, that you would acknowledge what he’s done for you and that you would live this out.”

True, God no longer requires a foreskin to show our faith – but now He wants much more. He wants our whole life. In Mark 8:34-35, Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.”

Jesus sounds like it requires much more than just acknowledging what he’s done.

Everything is easy – By far the most troubling part of Stanley’s message is this: That he wants “to make it easier and easier for people to embrace faith.” He repeatedly says things like this, even says that this is painted on his church’s walls. His contention is we shouldn’t make it difficult to follow Christ.

But you know who said it is difficult to follow Christ? Jesus.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” The easy road? That leads to destruction.

Jesus said, in Matt. 24:9, “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.” Doesn’t sound too easy, does it?

Jesus said, in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

His faithful followers in the early church were beaten and killed in horrible ways. In many countries even today his followers are beaten and killed in horrible ways.

Is it easy to follow Christ? Not at all. And we should quit trying to make it easy.

Difficult? Absolutely. Easy? Not at all. But Jesus, Peter and Paul all said the response we should have to all of this difficulty is to rejoice. It is in and through these difficulties that we truly begin to live in God’s power.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was killed by Adolph Hitler because of his faith in Christ, warned that we must never settle for cheap grace – a grace that costs us very little. Cheap grace doesn’t change people’s lives. Instead, he said, we must strive for costly grace.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has….Costly grace is the gospel that must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Is it simple to become a Christian? Absolutely. It is a free gift of grace. But is it easy to follow Christ? Not at all. And we should quit trying to make it easy. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s wrong and just because something is easy doesn’t make it right. Quitting school is easy, finishing a degree is difficult. Living on welfare is easy, working for a living is difficult. Getting a girl pregnant is easy, being a real father is difficult.

Yes, as Stanley says, we need to quit trying to make people live by Old Covenant Law. Yes, we should stop judging non-Christians by Christian standards. Yes, we should reach out in love to everyone. Yes, we should stop imposing man-made traditions and regulations on believers. And yes, we should stop trying to live the Christian life on our own strength.

But we cannot fall for the heresy that the Christian life is easy because Jesus said it won’t be. Easy never changed the world. Only people who commit their whole lives to Christ, as the apostles and early believers did – and many others throughout history did – have and will change the world.

To believe anything else, no matter how healthy the rest of the ingredients, is rat droppings that poison the whole drink.

The Real Joy to the World Keeps Us Joyful All Year Long

Joy to the world! It’s a popular expression at this time of year as we focus on celebrating the birth of Jesus.

We sing about joy in song, post it on walls and send it in Christmas cards. Joy is all around us. Right?

Unfortunately, not always. The holiday season, from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, can be a tough time for many people. (Although it is frequently reported that suicides increase during this time, statistical analysis shows that the rate actually declines right before Christmas.) People dealing with their first Christmas following the death of a loved one, losing a job, dealing with exes and step-children during the Christmas week, going into debt to buy gifts, negative family situations – all of these and more can leave people feeling anything but joyous at the holiday season. This is even true for many Christians.

So why doesn’t the joy from the Christmas carols translate into real lasting joy?

For starters, many people rely on their circumstances or their relationships to bring them joy. At this time of year, they also hope to derive joy from the songs, sights and traditions of the season.

According to scripture, we can be full of joy even when our circumstances are less than ideal.

They are, however, confusing happiness with joy. Happiness depends on things going well for us. But according to scripture, we can be full of joy even when our circumstances are less than ideal.

Jesus and the apostles often talked about joy in the midst of persecution and suffering. Jesus endured the suffering of the cross because of the joy he knew would result from it (Heb. 12:2); the Macedonian churches exhibited great joy during affliction and deep poverty (2 Cor. 8:2); the Hebrew churches accepted with joy having their possessions seized from them (Heb. 10:34); and Peter urged his readers to rejoice when suffering for Christ (1 Peter 4:13).

So if not the circumstances, where does the Bible tell us to find our joy? Surprisingly, it’s not in the birth of Jesus, which is when we most commonly think of joy. Not that we aren’t to rejoice at his birth – the wise men were overjoyed beyond measure when they saw him, and the angel told the shepherds that Jesus’ birth signaled great joy for the world.

But other than the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ birth is never mentioned again.

Instead, we read that we derive joy from entering into the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13:34), serving God faithfully (Matt. 25:21), the repentance of sinners (Luke 15:4-10; Acts 15:3; Rom. 4:7-8) and living out our faith (Phil. 2:2; 1 Peter 1:8-9).

Jesus’ birth was the promise of joy; his death and resurrection were the fulfillment of it.

Primarily, though, our joy is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this fact that makes our salvation possible, gives us our entrance into the Kingdom, empowers us to live out our faith and offers us hope for eternal life after death. Jesus’ birth was the promise of joy; his death and resurrection were the fulfillment of it.

Notice that the death and resurrection is a fact. We don’t hope that Jesus will die for us and then be raised to life. It already happened, in a specific time and place, nearly 2,000 years ago. It validated everything Jesus said and did.

And because it already took place, we know that we already have all the things Jesus promised (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Since that is true, we can live life in great joy, no matter our circumstances. Whether we have abundance, health and are surrounded by loved ones, or we’re persecuted, destitute and bereft of close relationships, we still have the same source of joy anchored in a fact that already happened. That source of joy can never be revoked or taken away from us.

People and situations will eventually disappoint us. Jesus never will.

That is so much better than relying on circumstances or relationships as a source of joy. People and situations will eventually disappoint us. Jesus never will.

The fourth verse of the hymn Joy to the World says, “He rules the world, with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and wonders of his love.”

The wonder of his love is not just that he came into the world, born in a stable, but that he died to cleanse us of sin, and rose again to give us new life in him. That truly is joy in our world.

Jesus’ Birth Came Earlier Than Tradition Tells Us

In a few weeks we’ll celebrate the birth of Christ – some children will even innocently celebrate it as Jesus’ birthday. But there is still an element of the unknown about the exact date when this event happened. About the only thing we’re certain of is that it definitely did not occur on December 25, in the Year 0.

For starters, there was no Year 0; in fact, there was no specific dating system then. Dates back then were measured by the year of a king’s reign, which would have varied from country to country. The Jews currently do have a specific dating system that puts us in the year 5778, which would have Jesus’ birth around the year 3760. But even this has a flaw, since the Jewish calendar doesn’t line up exactly with our current calendar.

The dating system that we use today was divided into two periods – B.C., or Before the birth of Christ, and A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for the Year of the Lord, meaning after his birth. This dating system came about long after the fact, in about 525 A.D. although it wasn’t widely used until 800 A.D. In this dating system, we have the year 1 B.C. followed by the year 1 A.D. – no Year Zero. So, at best, Jesus would have been born in 1 A.D. But that is also not the case.

Herod died in March or April of what we now call 4 B.C., meaning Jesus was born at least four years Before Christ.

We know that, according to Matthew 2, that King Herod was still alive when Jesus was born. Herod died in March or April of what we now call 4 B.C., meaning Jesus was born at least four years Before Christ. Hmmm.

But it may have been even earlier. We don’t know when the wise men from the East visited the baby Jesus. While some have speculated it could have been up to two years after his birth, Matt. 2:8 suggests that he was still in Bethlehem. Since Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth (Luke 2:4), it is likely they would have made their way back home within a few months after the birth.

We also don’t know how long the wise men stayed, or how long it took Herod to figure out that they’d tricked him. Long enough, it seems, for Joseph to gather his family to flee to Egypt. Herod ordered the slaughter of all boys in the area ages 2 and under “in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men.” That does seem to indicate that Jesus may have been a toddler by this time, or it may mean that Herod just wanted to make really sure he got the right kid.

But what day was Jesus born on if he wasn’t born on Dec. 25?

So, at the very least, Jesus would have had to have been born at the very beginning of 4 B.C., but more likely in 5 B.C. or even as early as 6 or 7 B.C.

But what day was Jesus born on if he wasn’t born on Dec. 25? Since the shepherds were in the fields with their flocks at night (Luke 2:8), the angelic visitation would have occurred between April and October (the other months would have been too cold to keep the sheep out at night). Some scholars have used the knowledge of the priestly cycle of service to determine when John the Baptist was likely born, and then been able to extrapolate from that a date for Jesus’ birth. The best guess currently is that Jesus was born sometime in the last half of what we now know as September. If that was in 5 B.C., he would have been around six months old when King Herod died, or 1-1/2 if he was born in 6 B.C.

The first record of a Christmas celebration is Dec. 25, 336 A.D.

So why has Dec. 25 been recognized as the day for Jesus’ birth? No one knows for sure. For the first 300 years the early church didn’t celebrate his birth at all, focusing instead on his crucifixion and resurrection. The first record of a Christmas celebration is Dec. 25, 336 A.D., ordered by the Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity.

Dec. 25 may have been chosen because it coincided with pagan winter solstice celebrations, or aligned with the Jewish Hanukkah festival. Early Christians speculated that, based on the date of Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary conceived on March 25. That meant that if her pregnancy went exactly nine months, he would have been born on Dec. 25. Eastern churches, however, calculated that he would have been born on Jan. 6 and celebrated Christmas on that day. Some groups, like the Amish, still celebrate Jan. 6 as Old Christmas. It is also the 12th day of Christmas.

Over the years, Dec. 25 became a convenient time in Western Europe and America to celebrate Christmas because it was too cold to engage in any farming. They had more time to plan a celebration. For many people today in northern countries, the cold and shorter days mean more indoor time, so it is still a convenient time for celebrations.

We’ll all feel very blessed this year as we celebrate the Savior’s birth on Dec. 25. But if you really want to get Jesus a birthday cake, the more realistic time to do so would be around September 25. And add four or five candles since he was born at least several years before 1 A.D.

Jesus’ Suffering Started Long Before the Cross

It’s the beginning of December, the time of year to remember the suffering of our Lord.

Wait, what did I just read? Did this guy accidentally post an Easter column by mistake? This is the season of joy to the world, of peace on earth, of angels and shepherds, gold, frankincense and myrrh. It’s the season of the birth of a beautiful baby, not of a grown man being cruelly crucified to a cross.

True. But let me ask this question: When did Jesus’ suffering begin?

Before answering that, let me start with a sort-of parable – suppose you have been selected to be the savior of the earthworms. You are zapped into the body of an earthworm, although you still have access to all your human senses, thoughts and memories. Your mission now is to tunnel daily through the dirt, bringing the words of salvation to the earthworm population. Eventually you are sacrificed on a cruel hook and dropped into the water, where a large fish swallows you, and the earthworms have their salvation.

At what point do you think your suffering would begin? Only when the hook pierced your body?

No, I think your suffering would begin the moment you left the world of humans and entered into the earthworm body. Still being fully aware of your humanity, it would be humbling and true suffering to now be confined to a body that had so little mobility and ability.

He entered the confines of not just a human body, but an infant human body.

Jesus was fully God, a partner in the creation of the world, with all the power, omniscience, glory and other aspects of the Father. And then he entered the confines of not just a human body, but an infant human body. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t walk and he had to depend on someone to change his diaper. We can’t begin to imagine what kind of suffering that was for him.

Even when he became an adult, he was still shackled to the most basic of human needs for food, shelter, sleep and bowel movements. He was tempted in every way we are, with pride, lust, anger and fear, yet successfully overcame succumbing to any of them.

Jesus had to endure the plodding simplicity of the humans around him – even the wisest, most educated human being was little more than a doddering fool in comparison to his wisdom. Even in his last hours on earth, he had to face the inevitability of human death, even though he was immortal God.

This is how Paul described Jesus’ sacrifice in Phil. 2:6-8:

“(Jesus), existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—even to death on a cross.” (HCSB)

There is no doubt that Jesus’ birth, eventual death and his resurrection gave us the opportunity to experience joy and peace on earth. We can celebrate that birth with joy. But I think it is good for us to remember how much that joy cost God the Father and God the Son. It’s when we realize that Jesus willingly placed himself in a position of suffering in human form because of his great love for us that we can truly rejoice in the true Christmas spirit.