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The Message of Christmas: Redemption

Christmas is a study in contrasts. The light of the world shines in a world of deep darkness. A child born in obscurity who will reign over all. A message of hope announced to outcasts on the fringe of society. Perhaps the most shocking contrast is that the child was born to die. The manger sits in the shadow of the cross.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 points a prophetic portrait of the Messiah as the suffering servant. Through five stanzas of three verses each, the prophet describes the inconspicuous, unappreciated servant of the Lord who will suffer and die for the sins of the world. Stanzas one and five speak of his exaltation, two and four address his rejection, and stanza three highlights the redemption he provides.

This is perhaps the best-known section in the book of Isaiah. It is widely quoted in the New Testament. Most of the passage concerns the suffering and rejection of the Messiah, but the main point is that his suffering will lead to exaltation and glory. The passage is at the heart of the gospel message.

Stanza 1: Exaltation—Though unrecognized, the Messiah will be successful (52:13-15).

The servant will act wisely in accomplishing his mission on the earth. As a result, he will be highly exalted.

By earthly standards, Jesus was not attractive when he was on earth. During his trial and crucifixion, he became so disfigured that people will repulsed by his appearance. Yet it was his extreme suffering that gave him the power to cleanse us from our sins.

In response, people will be struck dumb. They will stand in slack-jawed amazement.

Stanza 2: Rejection—Though unimaginable, the Messiah was rejected (53:1-3).

So few people will believe the message about the servant. So few will acknowledge the message as coming from God. The responses will move from simple astonishment to outright rejection.

People might say pleasant and complimentary things about Jesus. They will praise his ethics and his teaching. They will proclaim him a good man and a prophet. They will say he has the answers to the problems of society. However, they will not acknowledge that they are sinners and deserve punishment, and that Christ’s death satisfied the justice of God and reconciled us to God.

Stanza 3: Redemption—Though we deserved the punishment, the Messiah took it on himself (53:4-6).

The servant is characterized by grief and sorrow, but they are not his own. God was not punishing him. Instead, he was bearing the consequences of our sin.

The essence of sin is going your own way, rather than God’s way. The tendency of sheep is to follow others, even to their own destruction. Humans are no better.

We are fortunate that we have a shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, namely you and me.

Stanza 4: Rejection—Though innocent, the Messiah silently submitted to suffering (53:7-9).

Sheep are submissive when being sheared or slaughtered. That is the picture of Jesus as he quietly submitted to his death because he knew it would benefit those who would believe in him.

If his life ended with the grave, his heroism would have been admirable but futile. The empty tomb proved that there was more to his death than anyone realized.

Stanza 5: Exaltation—Though the Messiah’s death appeared a tragedy, it was part of God’s plan and would result in victory (53:10-12).

The suffering and death of the servant was clearly God’s will. None of this was accidental, it was all intended. His suffering was a guilt offering, but not for his own sins, but for those of the people. Still, God made him prosper.

His suffering led to life. Because his substitutionary work was completed, he now can justify those who believe. His bore our punishment so we would not have to die. Because of his sacrifice, he can now make many righteous.

Isaiah gives us a multi-faceted portrait of the message of Christmas. Jesus Christ is the child who brings hope to the world (9:1-7). Jesus is the king who will establish a kingdom of justice and peace (11:1-16). Jesus is the shepherd who delivers his people (40:1-11). Jesus is the savior who died for our sins (52:13-53:12).

Celebrating Christmas is as easy as A-B-C. Admit you are a sinner. Believe the gospel that Christ paid the penalty for your sins. receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

Give thanks for the Savior who was born in Bethlehem and who died that you might be forgiven. Celebrate the Son!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 21, 2014. It is part of a series on The Message of Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

 

Retirement planning

After meeting with our investment advisors recently, we might want to consider this.

Shoe - retirement account

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in Finances, Fun

 

Wheeler Family Christmas letter – 2014 edition

Wheeler Family Christmas letter 2014-1

Wheeler Family Christmas letter 2014-2

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Family & Friends, Photos

 

Awana Christmas Party 2014

With last night being the final Awana meeting for 2014 at First Central Baptist Church, we had a Christmas party with songs, Bible stories, games, crafts, and treats. It was another fun evening of learning more about Jesus. Thanks to all our faithful leaders who helped make it happen. Celebrate the Son!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in First Central Baptist Church, Fun, Photos

 
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God’s power on display

manger-cross - Oswalt quote

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Christmas, Quotes

 

There is no RIGHT way to do evangelism

When it comes to sharing one’s faith, one size doesn’t fit all. There is not just one right way to do it. The methods of evangelism are as different and plentiful as there are personalities. While we are to share Jesus with those around us, the way we do it can be varied and creative. Dave Earley makes this point in his book, Evangelism Is …: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence.

My friend, Paul, has the spiritual gift of prophecy. His preferred way of evangelizing is boldly speaking to strangers on busy street corners. Every Friday night he hits the streets and attempts to engage lost people in conversations where he can proclaim biblical truth. Patti also has the gift of prophecy and uses it to debate atheists and Muslim students at her state university.

Sandy has the gift of servant. She is amazing at fixing meals for people who have been ill or who have family members in the hospital. Sam also has this gift.

Tom is a teacher. He works hard to get his coworkers to join him every day during lunch for a brief time of Bible study. Tim is also a teacher, but he is most comfortable dialoguing with spiritual seeks on chat boards over the Internet.

Elle is an encourager. She is gifted at encouraging lost people to come to church with her. Ernie also is an encourager, but his style is to encourage lost people to take the next step and cross the line of faith.

Grant is a successful businessman and a generous giver. He has personally given the money to build two orphanages in Africa. Jacob and Ashley also have this gift. They save up their money every week so they will have to the funds to give and evangelize. Every Sunday they look for single moms who are visiting their church. Then they offer to treat them and their children to a nice lunch afterward. Over lunch they discern the young ladies’ spiritual condition and look to share the gospel.

Leah is a leader. She completely organized the five-year-old children’s ministry of her church so the teachers and helpers have reached all the children and their families with the gospel.

Marc is skilled at showing mercy. He goes out every Friday night to the homeless camps downtown. He feeds the men and takes them blankets, coats, and firewood in the winter. As a result he has shared the gospel with most of them and has seen several come to Christ.

All of these people do evangelism in different ways in accordance with their God-given spiritual gifts. All are active evangelists, and God has blessed their efforts.

How do you share your faith?

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Books, Evangelism, Quotes

 

The Message of Christmas: Comfort

December is a season of expectation. But as we know full well, expectations do not always match up with reality.

We look forward to a sumptuous holiday meal with all the trimmings. We’re disappointed when the store is out of cranberries or the turkey is overcooked. We expect we’ll find a close parking spot at the mall so we can get in and out quickly and grab the perfect gift. We’re frustrated when we are waiting in line with 900 of our closest friends who all want to purchase the same item. We want an 8-foot beautifully decorated tree for under $50. We’re discouraged when we wind up with a refugee from a Charlie Brown Christmas pageant. We take our kids to the mall to get a Hallmark-worthy-Christmas-picture-with-Santa. We’re depressed when the picture reveals Santa’s weary face and the kids are crying.

At times like this, we desperately need the comfort that is found in the message of Christmas. Isaiah 40:1-11 reminds us that Jesus Christ brings a message of comfort and hope to those who are discouraged and disillusioned. He forgives our sins, reveals his glory, keeps his promises, and carries us during times of trial. Jesus Christ is the shepherd who delivers his people.

We can take comfort in knowing that God forgives our sins (1-2). Isaiah 40 is written to Israel while she was in exile in Babylon. The people felt defeated, bitter, and disillusioned. God sent a message of hope that her punishment was complete and he had forgiven her sins. God’s compassionate forgiveness is an act of divine grace that brings comfort to his people.

We are to prepare ourselves to receive God’s presence (3-5). God comes to us in the wilderness and desert of our lives. Our part is to get ready to receive him, because right now we aren’t ready. We are to confess our sins and remove the barriers that keep us from God. When God comes, his glory will be revealed to the entire world.

Life is short, but God is dependable (6-8). Outside my window are barren trees. The leaves turned color in the fall and dropped to the ground. During the winter, they appear lifeless. Like grass and wild flowers and leaves on trees, people are temporary. In contrast, God never fails for his word endures forever. Knowing that God keeps his promises brings comfort to us during times of difficulty.

Jesus is the shepherd who delivers his people (9-11). God is pictured as a tender shepherd who carefully carries and leads the weak and helpless members of his flock. His arm is strong enough to defeat his enemies in battle, yet gentle and loving enough to carry his weary lambs. This is the good news that we are to shout to everyone around us.

I take away four principles from this passage; four instructions or commands that we are to practice:

  • Comfort others with the message of forgiveness. The bad news of Christmas is that we will never be good enough to earn God’s favor. The good news is we don’t have to. God has pardoned us and forgiven our sins.
  • Remove any barrier that prevents someone from seeing God’s glory. We should aspire to be road graders for Jesus, making it easy for people to hear about him and believe his message.
  • Tell your friends that God can be trusted. We are to cry out that God keeps his promises and he never fails.
  • Shout the good news about Jesus to those around you. He is the shepherd who delivers his people. That is great news indeed.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 14, 2014. It is part of a series on The Message of Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
 
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