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25 December 2012

Three Christmas Presents

The Good News of Great Joy Advent eBook by John Piper can be downloaded here.

Today's Scripture: 1 John 3:7-8

Ponder this remarkable situation with me. If the Son of God came to help you stop sinning—to destroy the works of the devil—and if he also came to die so that, when you do sin, there is a propitiation, a removal of God’s wrath, then what does this imply for living your life?

Three things. And they are wonderful to have. I give them to you briefly as Christmas presents.

1. A Clear Purpose for Living

It implies that you have a clear purpose for living. Negatively, itis simply this: don’t sin. “I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

If you ask, “Can you give us that positively, instead of negatively?” the answer is: Yes, it’s all summed up in 1 John 3:23. It’s a great summary of what John’s whole letter requires. Notice the singular “commandment”—“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” These two things are so closely connected for John he calls them one commandment:
believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. That is the sum of the Christian life. Trusting Jesus, loving people. Trust Jesus, love people. There’s the first gift: a purpose to live.

2. Hope That Our Failures Will Be Forgiven

Now consider the second implication of the twofold truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins. It’s this: We make progress in overcoming our sin when we have hope that our failures will be forgiven. If you don’t have hope that God will forgive your failures, when you start fighting sin, you give up.

Many of you are pondering some changes in the new year, because you have fallen into sinful patterns and want out. You want some new patterns of eating. New patterns for entertainment. New patterns of giving. New patterns of relating to your spouse. New patterns of family devotions. New patterns of sleep and exercise. New patterns of courage in witness. But you are struggling, wondering whether it’s any use. Well  here’s your second Christmas present: Christ not only came to destroy the works of the devil—our sinning— he also came to be an advocate for us when we fail in our fight.

So I plead with you, let the freedom to fail give you the hope to fight. But beware! If you turn the grace of God into license, and say, “Well, if I can fail, and it doesn’t matter, then why bother fighting?”—if you say that, and mean it, and go on acting on it, you are probably not born again and should tremble.

But that is not where most of you are. Most of you want to fight sinful patterns in your life. And what God is saying to you is this: Let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. I write this to you that you might not sin, but if you sin you have an advocate, Jesus Christ.

3. Christ Will Help Us

Finally, the third implication of the double truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins, is this: Christ will really help us in our fight. He really will help you. He is on your side. He didn’t come to destroy sin because sin is fun. He came to destroy sin because it is fatal. It is a deceptive work of the devil and will destroy us if we don’t fight it. He came to help us, not hurt us.

So here’s your third Christmas gift: Christ will help overcome sin in you. 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” Jesus is alive, Jesus is almighty, Jesus lives in us by faith. And Jesus is for us, not against us. He will help you. Trust him.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

24 December 2012

The Son of God Appeared

The Good News of Great Joy Advent eBook by John Piper can be downloaded here.

Today's Scripture: 1 John 3:7-8

When verse 8 says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil,” what are the “works of the devil” that he has in mind? The answer is clear from the context.

First, verse 5 is a clear parallel: “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins.” The phrase “he appeared to…” occurs in verse 5 and verse 8. So probably the “works of the devil” that Jesus came to destroy are sins. The first part of verse 8 makes this virtually certain: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”

The issue in this context is sinning, not sickness or broken cars or messed up schedules. Jesus came into the world to help us stop sinning.

Let me put it alongside the truth of 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” In other words, I am promoting the purpose of Christmas (3:8), the purpose of the incarnation. Then he adds (2:2), “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

But now look what this means: It means that Jesus appeared in the world for two reasons. He came that we might not go on sinning; and he came to die so that there would be a propitiation— a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God—for our sins, if we do sin.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

23 December 2012

God's Indescribable Gift

The Good News of Great Joy Advent eBook by John Piper can be downloaded here.

Today's Scripture: Romans 5:10-11

How do we practically receive reconciliation and exult in God? One answer is: do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least in part, make the portrait of Jesus in the Bible—the work and the words of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament—the essential content of your exultation over God. Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, Paul describes conversion two ways. In verse 4, he says it is seeing “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And in verse 6, he says it is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, and we have God in the face
of Christ.

Practically, to exult in God, you exult in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5:5 says.

So here’s the Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 10), and not only did God enable us to receive that reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11), but even now, verse 11 says, we exult in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping—the indescribable gift—as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our exultation in God.

Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don’t put it on the shelf unopened. And don’t open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures.

Open it and enjoy the gift. Exult in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

22 December 2012

That You May Believe

The Good News of Great Joy Advent eBook by John Piper can be downloaded here.

Today's Scripture: John 20:30-31

I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed—that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.

You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and so spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.

How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to his glory and his story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”

The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read (John 18:37).

O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you. I pray for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.

One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.

These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.

 Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

21 December 2012

The Birth of the Ancient of Days

The Good News of Great Joy Advent eBook by John Piper can be downloaded here.

Today's Scripture: John 18:37

This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’s life on earth, not the beginning.

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.

The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person—not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus—existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.

Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one—namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days.”

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org