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This Same Jesus

December 16th, 2016

This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11b)

Jesus is the indispensable person of Christianity. Christianity is not so much an ethic, philosophy, or morality as it is an encounter with Jesus Christ Himself.

It is especially important at Christmas time for us to consider this truth and to align our lives and our hearts to love Christ. Christmas as the world celebrates it seems determined to demean Christ to merely a babe, and to place more emphases on shepherds and wise men, even reindeer and snowmen, than on Christ.

What does the Bible say about Christ?

He is the indispensable element of creation: John said plainly, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul wrote, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).

He is the One toward whom all the streams of history run: Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). Paul wrote, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – In Him” (Eph. 1:10 NKJV).

He was the essential element of Apostolic preaching: The apostles in their evangelizing and preaching never ventured away from Christ. He was essential for the Christian message. As Peter preached at Pentecost:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Acts 2:32-33)

Paul also as he gave testimony before Festus and Agrippa placed Christ front and center in his message saying, “That the Christ would suffer, and that He would be the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23). In every sermon and in every element of the Christian faith, the apostles presented Christ as the solution for the problems of the world and the indispensable Person for the salvation and new life of the individual.

He is the living center of the Christian faith and of the Christian life: Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21), and:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

It is through Christ that we are saved, and it is in Christ that we live victoriously. He is it that has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat. 28:19-20), so He is the One to whom and through whom we pray, and He is the One in whose power we preach and witness and resist temptation in our lives. It is His Spirit who indwells us (Rom. 8:9) and in Him we may live victoriously.

All the affection of our hearts should be directed toward Him. All the strength to live the Christian life should be derived from Him. All the good ambition of our soul should be intended to please Him. And all the hope and anticipation for eternity should be invested in Him. We trust in Christ because we know Him.

When we speak of trust, we speak of something more of the heart than faith or belief. We must know God to trust Him. We can believe based on a rational argument. We may have faith by an act of the will. But trust is of the heart and implies experience, knowledge, and encounter. So trust is especially meaningful for us when we come to Christmas. Unless God starts the encounter and reveals a personal aspect of Himself we cannot truly trust Him. We may have intellectual belief and choose of our wills to obey and have faith, but trust, that is based on God’s revelation of Himself, was not possible for most of us until Bethlehem.

There were some in the Old Testament, like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Daniel, who learned to trust God, but the process was long and gained through many different experiences and personal revelations. But in the simple gospel accounts, even children can come face to face with Jesus. As we read:

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:5-6)

At Christmas time, do not leave Jesus in the manger, but embrace Him as the living Lord of scripture and the One in whom and through whom your life consists.

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