This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)
Christ is Still Present with Us
Pastor Charles Spurgeon encourages: “Since Christ our King who is risen and reigning was once an infant, I may go to Him and He understands me, even if my cares are little, trivial, and infantile.” Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to pray for us. Christ is generous and He gives mercy and and grace to help us in our time of need.1
You may already know the Christian message, but many of our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors do not know Christ’s history and do not follow Him by faith. So it is our privilege to keep bringing Jesus’ unchanging gospel to an ever-changing world. We do this in word and deed, teaching, counseling, evangelizing, and doing acts of mercy. We do this for people one-to-one and in groups. We lovingly help them become Christ’s disciples and help them trust and obey the Lord day by day. That’s the only way to true freedom!
We won’t find Christ in the creche anymore or on the cross. But we encounter the Living Jesus through the Bible’s infallible words, worked into our heart, mind, and life by the Holy Spirit who wrote the Scriptures. We can hear, believe, and sing to the Living Jesus by faith. So let’s devote ourselves to serving our Lord afresh this holiday season and in the coming year. Let’s be co-laborers with Christ to bring others to Him.
His Name is Immanuel
Immanuel is one of Jesus’ many titles in Scripture, telling of His role in bringing God’s presence to human beings. The Hebrew name Immanuel mans “God is with us.” That title for Jesus was foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.2 Matthew uses this title for Christ in chapter 1 of his Gospel and then takes another 27 chapters to flesh out all that this means. “Matthew provides the comprehensive context by which we see all God’s creation and salvation completed in Jesus, and all the parts of our lives (work, family, friends, memories, dreams) also completed in Christ.”3 Why not read Matthew’s Gospel again over the next few weeks and take notes? Then you can get help with your questions from someone who knows Christ better.
Jesus is fully God and fully human in one person, because only God can forgive and blot out our transgressions through Jesus’ doing and dying. We’ll never know how much it cost to put our sin upon Christ’s cross. God is so loving and gracious to send His Messiah. Aren’t you glad Jesus came? Let us be trusting and following Him as our Lord and Savior.
This builds on our previous post, Jesus our Immanuel.
Here is another practical way that Christ is present with His followers now as we stand near the end of one year and on the edge of a new one.
Jesus Shepherds Us
Isaiah 40:11 says “Christ tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Jesus is both a powerful ruler and a gentle shepherd. There’s no contradiction. The Lord’s strong arm rules and protects us. And He also cherishes His followers and treats us tenderly.
In the New Testament, Christ says: I am the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep….My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.4 The Lord loves us, treats us kindly, and sacrifices Himself for us. Jesus is gentle, not hard with us and wisely equips us to practice prudent behavior, doing what is right, and just, and fair.
Elisabeth Elliot said: “If God is my Heavenly Father and Jesus laid down His life for me, isn’t it reasonable to assume that He knows a whole lot better than I do what’s good for me? How can we be angry at God? Our Heavenly Father wants nothing but the best for us.” Since this is true, let us adjust ourselves to God’s unfolding plans for us, instead of expecting Him to do things our way.
Without Christ as Shepherd, We Are Hopeless
In Paul Miller’s book, The Praying Life, he notes how Psalm 23 falls apart without Jesus. If we don’t have Christ we will be lacking everything we need; we will forfeit God’s pleasantness and peace; the Lord will not refresh our soul or guide us along the right paths. If we don’t have Christ, the Shepherd, we will be fearful when we walk through dark valleys; no one will comfort us and protect us from our foes; we will forfeit God’s goodness and love following us; and we will not dwell in the Lord’s house forever.
Paul Miller concludes that without Jesus, we are left obsessing over our wants in troubling times and paralyzed by fear of enemies (human and Satanic). No wonder so many people are so cynical. Both the child of God and the cynic walk through hardship. The cynic focuses on the darkness. God’s child focuses on Jesus our Shepherd. Then we have joy and peace.
Worship, honor, power, and blessing, Christ is worthy to receive:
Loudest praises without ceasing, Right it is for us to give.
Help us, bright angelic spirits, Bring your sweetest, noblest lays (songs);
Help to sing our Savior’s merits, Help to chant Immanuel’s praise.5
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for being so dependable, reliable, and worthy of our trust. You loved and guided even before we came to follow you and you will be with us all through life, even during darkest times. And you will be with us even when we die, so that death has no sting and the grave has no victory. Until that day, help us to live for Christ, shine for Christ, and point others to Christ our Immanuel. Amen.
Notes (various translations): 1 Hebrews 4:16,7:25. 2 Isaiah 7:14; Matt 1:23. 3 Eugene H. Peterson, The Invitation, p. 161. 4 John 10:11,27. 5 Excerpt from the hymn “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus” by John Bakewell.