Pray for your pastor when he is “bogged”

As a preacher I found this statement from James Boice interesting and familiar:

Haven’t you felt that kind of discouragement yourself when you were in the middle of a particularly demanding job? I have. I often feel it when I am in the middle of writing a sermon. In fact, I have a term for it. I say to myself that I have “bogged,” meaning that I have bogged down. It is because the process of preaching a preparing a sermon is mentally and emotionally draining, and I frequently reach a point at which I no longer want to go on. If when I am felling like that I should receive an additional threat from outside, the combination of tiredness and fear or anxiety could easily make me stop what I am doing. We can fight against one enemy on one front, but it is hard to fight against two (or more) enemies simultaneously. (Nehemiah, 55)

The only thing I would change about this statement is that instead of often I would say weekly there is a point in my sermon prep in which I feel bogged. I hesitate to say this because I hate when pastors over dramatize their work, but it is hard to describe the mental, emotional, and spiritual energy required for faithful preaching. Sermon prep is very draining. The reality is that every pastor knows exactly what Boice is talking about. Each week the preacher must expect to press through the bog to get to the pulpit.

I say this as encouragement to those of you in the bog this week. You are not the only one who is tired and frustrated. As a Tom Hanks character once said, “it’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.” Or, in a slightly more spiritual vein, the God who called you into His service will sustain you as you discharge your ministry.

I also want to exhort those who will be spiritually fed on Sunday because your pastor endured the bog. Please don’t make the bog thicker for him. Sure, you might have genuine complaints. I know for a fact that if you are reading this you have an imperfect pastor (especially if you’re from my congregation). But, more than likely, you also have a pastor who genuinely loves you even if he imperfectly demonstrates that love. Can you imagine if everyone in the church expected you to be all things to all people? Misplaced expectation can add layers and layers of mud to the bog of sermon prep. So does opposition. In fact, disunity and opposition are like pouring bags of cement into the bog. You can virtually guarantee an insufficiently prepared sermon by stirring up strife in the congregation.

So what can you do to help you pastor through the bog? Most importantly, you can pray for your pastor this week. Pray for his faithfulness, purity, courage, & illumination. When you get done with that, pray for wisdom, power, and love. At the same time, you can support him as a brother in Christ. You can do him a great service by treating him and his family (Don’t forget his family!) like friends not enemies. Don’t expect for him to possess every spiritual gift or preach like your favorite celebrity preacher. Appreciate the way God has gifted him and edify him so that he will be faithful in his preaching.

I am thankful to be the beneficiary of kind support such as this, and I can’t tell you how many times the Lord has used my congregation to pull me out of the bog.

If God is speaking to you, don’t listen…

God has spoken. God has revealed His truth in the Scripture definitively, clearly, inerrantly, infallibly, and sufficiently. There is a subtle and subversive danger in listening for another word, impression, or impulse. For one, the Bible doesn’t command us to look for more. Seriously, think about. Where in the Bible are we commanded to follow the private leading of God?  But there is an even bigger danger. You are probably listening to yourself not God. Daniel Doriani explains,

Uncontrolled meditation has few safeguards. Those who mediate hear many voices, not all of them divine. Recent readings and events weigh heavily. Worse, our hearts deceive us. Sinful desires and petty grudges contaminate our meditations. We are too blind to our ego, too ignorant of others’ needs, too prone to legalism, too dedicated to our own agendas to justify trusting our subjective impulses. The prowling mind can find evidence in almost every passage that what it wants, God ordains.

(Daniel Doriani, The Nature of Application, 28)

So how do we control our meditation and avoid this danger? By meditating on the object word of God found in the Bible. If God is speaking to you apart from the Bible then stop listening, because it is probably your own desires formulating the message. Don’t listen. In fact, stop looking private messages all together and join the Psalmist in saying, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Ps 119:7)

Kent Hughes on Holiness in the Christian Life

If your life is characterized by a pattern of conscious sin, you very likely are not a Christian. If some of your most cherished thoughts are hatreds, if you are determined not to forgive, you may not be a true believer. If you are a committed materialist who finds that your greatest joys are self-indulgence — clothing your body with lavish outfits, having all your waking thoughts devoted to house, cars, clothing, and comforts — you may not be a Christian. If you are a sensualist who is addicted to pornography, if your mind is a twenty-four-hour bordello — and you think it’s okay — you may very well not be a Christian, regardless of how many times you have “gone forward” and mouthed the evangelical shibboleths. Election ultimately results in holiness, but the process begins now. Are you concerned for holiness? Are you growing in holiness?

 

(R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990], 25-26)

What is true holiness… or what isn’t it?

Here’s J.C. Ryles’ reminder:

True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is much more than tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our own favourite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us. It is something of “the image of Christ,” which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings. (Rom. viii. 29.)

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 5

The Glory of God in the Christian Life

What part does the Glory of God play in the Christian life?

  1. The Glory of God is The Divine Purpose for the Christian life. (Eph 1:6,12,14; Ez 36:22-23).
  2. The Glory of God is The Eternal Plan for the Christian life.   (Eph 3:20; Rom 1:25; Rev 5:13).
  3. The Glory of God is The Daily Priority for the Christian life (1 Cor 10:31; 1 Cor 6:19-20)

The Glory of God “is what gives meaning to our existence: God is putting His glory on display, and it is our unspeakable privilege to participate in that demonstration and to savor the joy of it without ceasing.” (John MacArthur, “The Reason for Everything”, Expositor, issue 2, p. 13)

Introducing Ephesians (Eph 1:1-2)

Ephesians is the ideal place to build upon your faith. In the book of Ephesians, we are taught the essence of the Christian faith. We see in the clearest terms what it means to be a Christian, and what it looks like to live like a Christian. We are instructed on the faith of the church, as well as the function of the church. Nowhere are these truths as concisely laid out as in the book of Ephesians. Martyn Lloyd-Jones referred to Ephesians as “The distilled essence of the Christian religion.” If Romans is Paul’s version of a systematic theology, then Ephesians is his “Basic Christianity.”

All that being said, the book of Ephesians cannot be studied without some difficulty. At times, the book can be controversial, saying things about election and submission that are hard to hear. At other points it can be confusing, testing the limits of our finite brains in understanding divine truth. And, almost all the time, it can be convicting, pushing us to grow our love for the Savior.
Some of the challenges of Ephesians can be overcome simply by making some proper introductions. Whenever I preach in a new place, I always take a minute to introduce myself and my topic. If people know who and what they are listening to, it is usually easier for them to listen. The same is true in Ephesians 1:1-2. Here Paul provides a proper introduction for this letter:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2, ESV)

In these verses Paul provides an introduction that tells us quite a bit about where we are going with this study, and he helps us see why we should listen. Specifically, Ephesians 1:1-2 provides 3 introductions that will help us better understand the rest of the letter.

 

I. The Pastor of Ephesians (v. 1a)

We find the first introduction at the beginning of verse 1 where we are introduced to
the Pastor of Ephesians:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God . . . (Ephesians 1:1a, ESV)

From this it is clear that Paul wrote Ephesians. To deny the Pauline authorship of this letter is to deny the inerrancy of Scripture. However, Paul is more than just the author, he is also the pastor of this letter. When Paul wrote to Ephesus he did so as their pastor. For two years he had served in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Listen to Paul’s description of that time:

”You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to
you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there. (Acts 20:18-22, ESV)

It was a dear time for Paul, and even after he left, the people remained dear to him. That’s probably why Paul sent his protege, Timothy, to pastor in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). All this is a reminder, as you study the book of Ephesians you are studying the heartfelt words of a pastor to his people.

 

A. Authoritative Pastor

Paul’s authority as a pastor extends well beyond the city of Ephesus. Paul has the credentials to speak authoritatively to us all. He is “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” The word apostle literally means “sent one.” It is an official emissary; an authoritative representative. In this case, Christ Jesus is the One who did the sending (cf. Acts 9:1-19). As a result, his teaching, along with that of the other apostles, is the foundation of our faith (2:20). This means that as we study the book of Ephesians, the words of this pastor are authoritative in our lives. The apostolic authority of Paul demands personal accountability from you. When Paul speaks in Ephesians, God speaks.

 

B. Providential Pastor

The fact that Paul spoke with divine authority is remarkable, but it has nothing to do with how remarkable Paul was. Paul was not an apostle by his own merit or ambition. Actually, his merit and ambition took him in the opposite direction (cf. Phil 3:1-8). Paul’s appointment was the result of the gracious will of God. He was an authoritative pastor because he was a providential pastor. This should resonate with all of God’s people, since everything we have received, including blessings and salvation, is the result of God’s gracious will.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12, ESV)

If Paul was a providential pastor, then we are providential Christians, here by the will of God. This also means that the words of Ephesians are providential words, here by the will of God. As we study this book, we must remember that these are the words God has for us. I don’t know where you are at in life now, or where you will be throughout our study, but I do know that God providentially provided the Pastor of
Ephesians to write these words for you.

 

II. The People of Ephesians (v. 1b)

In addition to introducing us to the pastor of Ephesians, we are also introduced to the
people of Ephesians:

. . . to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 1:1b, ESV)

There is some question about these words since certain ancient manuscripts omit the words “in Ephesus.” Some replace Ephesus with another city and others simply leave it blank. Additionally, Paul mentions very little, if anything, personal in this letter. One can’t help but wonder why, since he was writing to his beloved brothers in Ephesus. So what do we say to this? Biblical scholars have come up with a solution I think is the answer. Paul wrote Ephesians to be a circular letter that would be passed from church to church, and he gave the Ephesians the honor of being the first to receive it. This was a very strategic move on Paul’s part. Ephesus was the ideal city from which this letter could be disseminated throughout the region. It was the third largest city in the Roman empire, with over 200,000 people. Bolstering its importance, Ephesus housed the temple of Artemis (Diana), a leading god in Asia Minor. Paul intended his letter to arrive in Ephesus and spread throughout churches in the region. The real people of the book of Ephesians are the people of the church. Paul is writing to the church at large, all Christians in all ages. Notice the terms he uses to introduce the church.

 

A. People who are saints

Paul refers to the church as “saints”. The saints are the church, not a different class within the church. “Saint” is Paul’s normal way of addressing Christians (1 Cor 1:1; Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1). In fact, every time the word is used in the NT it refers to ordinary Christians. It has nothing to do with Catholic veneration or a class of “holier” Christians.
The word “saints” literally means “holy ones”. This is what God has chosen the whole church to be, not just an elite group within the church.God called the nation of Israel to be His holy people (Ex 19:6), but through their own human effort they failed. Only some Israelites were truly saved and made holy (Rom 9:6). This is not the case with the church. The difference is that now we have the call of God (1:4) and the work of Christ (5:26-27) to make us holy. The entire church is made up of saints — “holy ones”.
Our sainthood does not depend on the veneration of man, it rests in the victory of Christ. How else can we explain the fact that Paul called the Corinthians saints, twice? This doesn’t mean that as saints we will not be holy. Sainthood doesn’t depend on fruit, but it does produce fruit (5:3). Christ positionally and practically makes us His “holy ones.”

 

B. People who are believers

The next term Paul uses to introduce us to the church is “faithful.” The word used here can refer to “faithfulness” or “believing.” It is either having faith or being faithful. In this case it should be understood as having faith. Literally, Paul is talking about “believers.” He is not talking about faithfulness to God, but faith in God. This serves as a reminder that to be a part of the church you must believe. Apart from personal faith in the Gospel you cannot be saved and you are unequivocally not a part of the church. Heritage, attendance, giving, serving, or anything else, apart from faith, cannot make you a part of the church. Paul makes this explicit in chapter two:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)

Apart from faith you are not a part of the church, because the church is made up of believers.

 

C. People who are “in Christ”

Notice the final term Paul uses to introduce us to the church. He refers to the church as those who are “in Christ.” Grammatically, this term modifies both “saints” and “believers.” We are only saints because we are in Christ. We are only believers because we are in Christ. Our holiness is sufficient because in Christ we have His holiness. Our faith is all that is required, because we have His faithfulness. The church is the people who are “in Christ.”
Theologically, what we are talking about is union with Christ. This is the relationship between a believer and Christ from which every benefit of salvation is derived. This is our identification with Christ in the Divine economy. There is no doctrine more vital to our salvation, and more important to the book of Ephesians. Paul refers to it 16 times in 6 chapters. This doctrine will become clear as we progress through the book. For now, notice how it functions here. The church is those who are in Christ. These are the people of Ephesians—those for whom it was written.

 

III. The Point of Ephesians (v. 2)

We find the third introduction of this passage in verse 2. Here we see the point of
Ephesians:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2, ESV)

This verse is a general greeting for a general epistle. Paul was not writing to address a specific problem or deal with a false teaching. His subject, like his greeting, is general. Paul begins with the most basic Christian themes, grace and peace, and shows how they relate to the Christian life. As we noted above, Ephesians is the essence of basic Christianity. Paul wrote this to instruct the church on the basics of faith and practice. It contains what we are to believe and how we are to live. In fact, this is the way the book is structured. The first 3 chapters are on the faith of the church and the last 3 chapters are on the practice of the church. In this book we learn what it means to be saved into Christ’s church, and then how we are to live as Christ’s church.

Conclusion: 
Ephesians 1:1-2 provides a proper introduction to the epistle. It introduces the pastor of Ephesians, Paul. It introduces the people of Ephesians, the church. And it introduces the point of Ephesians, the basic faith and practice of the church. I trust these introductions will help you receive the truth God has for you in Ephesians. May the Lord “take His truth and plant it deep in us.”

The Angels’ Perspective of Christmas

Introduction:

Angels play a significant role in the Christmas story. We see this even in the way we celebrate Christmas and the traditions that we keep. Every Christmas pageant I have ever been to had angels and almost every Christmas carol says something about the angels. But, even with all that, have you ever stopped to consider the angels’ role in Christmas? We know that they were there when Christ was born, but have you ever thought about Christmas from the angels’ perspective?

We know that the angels were more than a little bit interested in what was going on. In fact, 1 Peter 1:12 says that they longed to look into these things to try to figure out when and how they would happen.

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12, ESV)

From the very beginning they had been watching to see how God’s plan would unfold. How did they respond when the biggest part of God’s plan, Jesus, arrived? What did the angels see on that first Christmas? What was their perspective on these things? These are the questions that I would like to answer for you.

We are going to look at the Christmas story from the perspective of the angels. In order to do that, we are going to look at all the passages in the Gospels regarding the birth of Christ that mention the angels. Specifically, I want you to see 3 “things” the angels saw that first Christmas and in the process, we will also get a glimpse of Heaven’s perspective of Christmas.

I. The Angels Saw a Promise (Luke 1:5-25)

Luke 1:5-25 reveals the first “thing” the angels saw a Promise. This is significant because the entire OT could be summarized by the word promise. God has promised to save the world from the pervasive effects of sin and the first of these promises is found in Genesis 3:15,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)

The last of these promises is found in Malachi 4:5-6,

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6, ESV)

God had promised that a child would be born who would undo what Satan had done. The people would know this was happening because God would send a forerunner to prepare the way. That’s the last promise of the OT, and in Luke 1, the angels saw this promise being fulfilled:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now when he was serving as a priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and bring to you this good news. And behold you will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” (Luke 1:5-25, ESV)

A. Promise Announced

Zechariah and Elizabeth were a godly aged couple who were never able to have children. Now, God had sent an angel to tell them they were going to have a son and that this son would fulfill the promise of Malachi 4:6. The angel even quoted the prophecy, which as a priest Zechariah would have known. The angels saw it happening and God allowed them to announce it.

B. Promise Confirmed

As sure as the angels were, Zechariah doubted. As if it weren’t enough to have a messenger from God meet you in the Holy of Holies, Zechariah asked for a sign. This shocked the angel. Remember, the angels had been looking into this very promise. Plus, this wasn’t just any angel, this was Gabriel. His name means “strong one” and his job is to sit in the presence of God and do whatever God tells him to do. You might say that he serves at the pleasure of God. In spite of this, Zechariah still had doubts.
God responded to Zechariah’s doubt and, through Gabriel, He confirmed the promise by causing Zechariah to be mute. That was the sign that Gabriel was telling Zechariah the truth. God temporarily silenced Zechariah so that he could quietly watch God fulfill His promise. That is exactly what God did; that is what God always does. God always does what He says—He always keeps His promises. The angels knew that and, in this case, they also knew that God was fulfilling more than just a promise to a barren couple. This was the promise of a forerunner and it meant that the Christ was soon to follow.

 

II. The Angels Saw a Son (Luke 1:26-38)

In Luke 1:26-38 the angels saw a Son. This must have been exciting for them since they had been looking for it since God’s promise in Genesis 3:15,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)


The seed of the woman had come and that woman was Mary.

A. A Son of Mary

God sent the angel Gabriel again to announce to Mary that her womb would be used to fulfill the promise. As a father of three girls I think just the fact that she is having a son is miraculous. But this wasn’t just any son, this was Jesus. He would be the Son. This is an incredible announcement to Mary and it is also a reminder to us that Jesus became fully man when He was born of Mary. Elsewhere the apostle Paul describes it with these words:

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7, ESV)

Can you imagine the angels’ astonishment to see Jesus become a Son of Mary? Remember, He wasn’t just a son of Mary.

B. A Son of God

Jesus was also the Son of God. As Gabriel tells Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” To be the Son of God􏰀Most High􏰀meant that He was equal to God. For example, I am the son of a Shirley. What does that make me? I am a Shirley. When the angel said that He was the Son of God, he was saying that Jesus is God. Specifically, Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. This is important because only God can give eternal life (Acts 17:25). Jesus confirms that He can give eternal life and He is God in John 10:28-36,

“I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the father’s hand. I and the father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for your blasphemy, because you, being man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the son of God?’” (John 10:28-36, ESV)

As all of this was unfolding, the angel Gabriel was sent from heaven to confirm that this Son was both God and man.

C. A Son of David

This son was also a Son of David. As Gabriel put it, “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.” David was the greatest king in OT Israel. God promised him that one of his descendants would sit on an eternal throne as king. Now, as the angels looked on, Jesus fulfilled that promise. When the angels saw the child lying in the manger, they saw Him for who He was, the King of Heaven. As the song reminds us, “Hark the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King.’” This was the message to Mary that night. God sent Him, not just for Mary, but also for us, so that we would know that Jesus is God. He became man and He will rule as King forever in the Age to Come.
This, however, leads to a problem. There is no one who deserves to be a part of this Kingdom. This is a perfect kingdom and no one is perfect. Worse than that, our sin—our violation of God’s perfect standard in attitude and action—deserves wrath, not entrance into God’s kingdom. Thankfully, this is not all the angels saw on Christmas.

III. The Angels Saw a Savior (Matthew 1:18-25)

In Matthew 1:18-25, the angels also saw a Savior–

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he q called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25, ESV)

God sent an unnamed angel to Joseph to help him see that this Child was a Savior, not a curse.

A. A Savior from a Virgin

Joseph was having an especially hard time believing that Mary’s conception was a virginal conception. This can be hard for us to believe as well. From our perspective, we’ve never seen something like this: the creation of something apart from natural causes. For the angels, though, it was not hard to believe at all. Remember, they were there for most of creation (Job 38:7). They saw God create Adam apart from natural processes and now they were seeing the same thing with Jesus. Plus, the angel was sent straight from heaven to declare this. God told him to say the Child was to be born of a virgin. For the angels, this was not only possible, it was promised.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, ESV)

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, born of a virgin. Why? Why did He go to these great lengths to come? He came to be a Savior.

B. A Savior from Sin

Notice what the angel says, “She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) His name would be Jesus, which means YHWH saves. This name would become the only name by which a person can be saved (Acts 4:12). And notice that He saves from sin. He didn’t come to save you from poverty or hardship. He came to save you from the penalty of sin. What is the penalty of sin? Death. Physical death eventually and spiritual death eternally. Jesus came to save you from eternal death by dying Himself.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, ESV)

In addition to giving his life, He rose from the dead and defeated death. This is how Jesus saves from sin. Jesus in the manger only saves from sin because He became Jesus on the cross.

Conclusion:

This is what the angels had been looking for for so long. Now it was all happening. The angels saw the Promise, the Son, and the Savior. That is what they saw and what they were sent to announce. They provide us with heaven’s perspective on Christmas. The question is, How do we respond? The answer to this is given in one last Christmas passage:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news if great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among those with
whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14, ESV)

The angels, by example, show us how to respond to the birth of Jesus. We respond by worshipping the God of Heaven, not materialistic gratification—especially at Christmas. We respond by seeking the peace of Heaven. This is not a trite or temporary Christmas peace, although the holiday has a way of making peace. In 1914, British and German armies agreed to a Christmas truce on which they celebrated together. But the next day, they picked up arms to kill one another. This is not the kind of peace the angels are singing about. This is a peace between you and God that comes by repenting and believing in Jesus. This peace—a true Christmas peace—guarantees that God will never pick up arms against you because Christ has borne your punishment for you. That’s what Christmas is about. And it is what the angels point us to.