Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 5: When the Good News Gets Even Better

A thought about "saving" the oppressed Jewish people: It is difficult to go into any oppressed culture and have people be receptive to "being saved" because they naturally think in terms of "level of offense" rather than the "condition of the heart."

The Glory of God appeared before the shepherds...what was the "Glory of God"? Was it an extremely bright light and some sort of mystical presence?

The Glory of God had not been seen by anyone on the earth in almost six hundred years. During the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness, the Glory of God appeared as a cloud by day to shelter the Hebrews from the sun and fire by night to keep them warm. The Glory of God had last been seen by Ezekiel in a vision when he was held captive in Babylon. Solomon's temple, where the Glory was then residing, was burned to the ground by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Before its destruction, God allowed Ezekiel to see the Glory depart from the temple, move to the threshold of the temple, then move to the eastern gate of the city, then over over the Mount of Olives, and go back to heaven (Ezek. 9-11). The Glory of God had not been seen by any human being for almost six hundred years. Is it any wonder the shepherds were so frightened?

Shepherds made up the bottom rung of the social ladder. They were considered untrustworthy, and their testimony was not valid in a court of law. How interesting that God chose these men to be the first Jews to see the Messiah. Why would anyone try to fabricate something like this?

Many scholars believe that the "cloths" were actually burial cloths used for wrapping a deceased body in preparation for burial. That being so, the uniqueness of the sign would have been the burial cloths, not the manger. The sign would point to the fact that this child was "born to die". But Dr. Ken Bailey, an expert on Middle Eastern culture, asserts that the significance of the wrapping cloths was that it actually freed these simple peasants to do what the angel had said. He states that these simple shepherds would never have felt comfortable entering the home of a person or family of royal lineage. Since the baby was wrapped in these common strips of cloth, these men would identify the family as peasants, just as they were. The cloths gave the shepherds the green light to feel welcome, and it also made a statement that the Messiah will open the doors of salvation and acceptance to everyone, regardless of status, gender, or nationality.

Therefore, there is no ______________ for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). condemnation

(What an awesome thing is that?!)

Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as _____________ as snow (Isaiah 1:8). white

One day all believers will stand in God's presence ______________ and with ___________
(Jude 24). faultless, joy

On the sidebar of page 23: "Our identity does not come from what we have done, whether good or bad. Our identity comes from what God has done on our behalf."

Because we seldom read these passages except during the euphoria of the Christmas season, it is easy to miss the critical impact of what is implied as well as stated. Do you find it interesting that the angel links peace with God's favor? It makes sense, but it should make you nervous if you view it the way most of us have been taught. Let's illustrate: Answer the following questions as honestly as you can:

As God looks at you, is He pleased with what He sees? Yes, I believe He is!

How would you rate His pleasure with you on a scale of 1-10?
I'd say maybe a 7 or 8

What was the basis for the number you wrote?
My rating was based on the fact that I am faithful to Him, that I try to share Him with others including raising my children to know about Him, that I believe firmly in His grace saving me....

Does your number reflect (a)your behavior or (b)who you are as a person? B

Unless we are firmly convinced of our identity, we will never be able to adequately deal with temptation. We will see this clearly in the life of Jesus when He is baptized and then goes head to head with Satan himself. God spoke at His baptism, saying,"This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." This was as much for Jesus' sake as for the crowd's. The assurance of who He was would have been crucial when Satan questioned His identity as the Son of God.

Some scripture about the people who know Jesus:

I am a ____________ of Jesus Christ
(John 15:15). friend

I have been made ____________ (Col. 2:10). full

I am ________________ for all time
(Heb. 10:14). perfected

I am _____________ and ____________
(Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22) holy, without blame

I am totally ________________ (Col. 2:13). forgiven

I am __________ in His sight
(Isa. 43:4). precious

I am the _____________ of God
(2 Cor. 5:21). righteousness

I am a ______________ (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2). saint

If the glory of God is now present in the life of the believer, how can we ever again think of ourselves as worthless?

Question: Are you a (a)sinner saved by grace or (b)a saint?

I consider myself a sinner saved by grace!

Which of the above reflects more humility, a or b?

I initially thought a, but as I read on in this lesson, found out that b is the better answer! Why is this?
Because sins are what you do, not who you are! Who you are is a saint who sometimes messes up. To see yourself as a saint is more humble because it has nothing to do with anything you achieved or earned. You didn't make yourself a saint or even come up with the title. God did!

Why is understanding what the angel said to the shepherds so critical? If you do not believe God is pleased with you as a person, you will spend the rest of your life trying to make yourself pleasing to Him. There are not enough verses you can memorize, Bible studies you can attend, or sins that you can avoid for you to ever feel disillusioned, cynical, and dissatisfied with everything about your life and will never understand or experience peace. How can a believer be at peace if he or she can never do enough to achieve God's favor? It's impossible!

The Glory of God returned to earth as the shepherds stood in awe. During His time on earth, the Glory resided in Jesus. When He ascended into heaven the Glory of God left with Him, but the Glory later returned at Pentecost (Acts 2). Where does the Glory of God now dwell? (Col. 1:27) in us!

How can a believer have the living God take up residence inside of him and still be determined to define himself by the sins he commits rather than by the Glory that lives within him?