The One Word Difference

the rookieIn the 2002 movie The Rookie, Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) checks his pitching speed by pitching past a vehicle speed check; however, two of the lights which make up the numbers aren’t working. Instead of reading 95, the number comes up 75.  As he walks away dejected the camera swings back to the numbers and the two unlit bars sputter to life revealing the truth.   Those missing lights made all the difference in the message.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12

Every translation I checked uses the word “received” in this verse. It’s a powerful statement and it cuts a wide path through witnessing opportunities. So often we talk about Jesus—and that’s good. We talk about church—and that’s good. We talk about the love of God—and that’s really good. We may mention sin, and possibly the word “repent” and those words are really important, but this verse cuts to the chase. For me, this little word made all the difference. I was raised in a Christian home and in church, but that church did not “preach the Gospel.” When I say that, I mean that I never heard verses like: “Ye must be born again (John 3:3),” “But whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13),” and John 1:12. I honestly thought that they were Baptist terms and was shocked when I read them in the Bible for the first time.

So, when a friend sent me a Gospel tract and it dawned on me that I had believed as long as I could remember, but that I had never received Him, I did so that night. As I just read back over the tract, I realize for the first time the power of God’s Word! I always thought that the writer of the tract asked the question, “Have you ever asked Jesus to be your Savior.” IT DOESN’T! It merely quotes John 1:12! When giving my testimony, I’ve always said, “When the tract asked if I had ever asked Jesus to be my Savior, I knew that I hadn’t.”  

IT WAS NOT THE WORD OF MAN WHICH BROUGHT ME TO A SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST, BUT THE WORD OF GOD!

One little word: receive.

But as many as received him,

to them gave he power to become the sons of God,

 even to them that believe on his name. John 1:12

Notice the end of the verse: “even to them that believe on his name.” Hmmm. So… does this verse mean that someone can believe and not receive, which would mean he or she would NOT be a child of God?

That would be my testimony. I “received” Jesus as my Savior the summer before my senior year in high school. Did it make a difference in my life? Absolutely!  I shudder to think where I would be if I had not been saved—born-again—converted. I don’t think I would have ended up in jail or anything, but I believe my marriage may have failed, my kids’ lives may have shipwrecked, and I may have been a “successful” career person… and lost!

As we approach the end of another year, would you consider the state of your soul? Have you ever asked Jesus to be your Savior?  Have you “received” the gift of salvation? Are you born-again? Believe me, if you are, you will know it! Your life purpose becomes pleasing and serving your Savior. He is not only your Savior but your Master and best Friend.

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:13

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

* (FYI: the term “Cut to the chase was a phrase used by movie studio executives to mean that the audience shouldn’t get bored by the extra dialogue and that the film should get to the interesting scenes without unnecessary delays.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut_to_the_chase)

What did the Wise Men know?

It wasn’t until later in life that I learned all the misnomers about the Wise Men. I was a bit crushed when I found out that they didn’t visit the stable but probably came later. I didn’t believe it.  How could that be? I mean, every manger scene that I had ever seen included the Magi—three to be exact!

Perhaps the most important truth I have ever learned is this:

When a fact or source differs from the Bible, believe the Bible!

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

Well, that’s pretty clear! But why did God include them in the amazing true story of His Son’s birth and early life? Have you ever thought about how startling it must have been to have these foreign dignitaries ride through the obscure little town of Bethlehem, park their camels in front of Mary and Joseph’s house, and go inside? Interesting that Matthew does not mention Joseph. He was probably working at the time. Perhaps an errand boy was sent to fetch Joseph.

A crowd is now gathered outside his door as he enters. There is Mary, holding Jesus while three men (maybe more) kneel before their son, God’s Son, and worship Him! Amazing! The wonder and awe that surrounded this baby’s birth continue with their visit.

But why Wise Men from the East? We live in a time when eastern religions are becoming more and more popular. Their philosophies are attractive to the learned thinkers of our day because they are deep and appeal to the mind.

The Wise Men were thinkers. They were educated beyond the common man. It’s probable that they had studied Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato and other great philosophers of their time. ( Fascinating, that those three great philosophers were all born in or near the silent years between the Old and New Testaments.  God was “silent” and men spoke their wisdom!)

Every aspect of the Christmas account holds a message.

  • The shepherds—God’s Son came to the lowliest of mankind.
  •  Bethlehem—an insignificant village and tribe, yet the only place where Messiah could be born because Micah prophesied His birth location hundreds of years earlier (Micah 5:2).
  • And the Wise Men?

The coming of the Wise Men proclaims that all religions do not lead to God. These men knew the religions of the world and yet they made an amazing journey to worship the Christ child. They had researched the ancient writings and presented Him with gold: proclaiming Jesus to be the King of kings, frankincense: declaring Him to be the High Priest who alone could atone for our sin, and myrrh: signifying His astonishing sacrifice of death.  

So, the statement “Wise men still seek Him” has a resounding ring of truth. The first Wise Men had all the wisdom of the ages and yet what set them apart from all the other magi and sent them on their incredible journey? It was the condition of their hearts. They yearned to see “God in flesh” and put everything aside to do so. 

This Christmas, will you look for Him as well? Emmanuel—God with us! Oh, may that truth never get old!

 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23

The Rest of the Story

And the angel said unto them,

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,

which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;

Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,

\lying in a manger.

Luke 2:10-12

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?

this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven,

shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

 Acts 1:11

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Angels spoke directly to the shepherds and to Jesus’ disciples. These were ordinary people, not religious or political leaders. In the case of the shepherds, they were just out doing their job. You could say that they were in the right place at the right time! And the disciples were just ordinary people too; however, there is one difference between the two groups and their heavenly messengers: The disciples had come through an extraordinary event—the resurrection of Jesus Christ! AND they were watching their beloved Savior ascend into the heavens when the angels came to speak to them.

Both messages are full of reassurance. The Christmas angel comforts them with phrases like ‘fear not,’ ‘good tidings,’ and ‘great joy.’ This angel heralded the great news of a coming Savior to his astonished audience. The Acts angels question the disciples, asking them why they’re just standing there looking up. And then, they also give a wonderful message of reassurance: Jesus is coming back just like you watched him depart!

Just ordinary people with extraordinary messengers proclaiming the good news. The shepherds went to see; the disciples would soon go and tell. I encourage you to go and see the Christmas story with fresh eyes. Take the time to read it several times, and then you will be ready to go and tell because we have the rest of the story! Allow the Good News of the coming Savior to reassure you that your Savior is truly living within you. You ask me how I know He lives—He lives within my heart!

‘Tis the Season

christmas xmas christmas tree decoration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are many Old Testament verses about Jesus’ first and second coming but ten deal specifically with his birth. If there is anything that solidifies my trust and confidence in the Bible it is fulfilled prophecies. Here’s a short list of the above passages which foretold something about Jesus’ birth:

  1. Genesis 49:10—Christ would come through the line of Judah.
  2. Micah 5:2—Bethlehem would be His birthplace (Even though Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth).
  3. Isaiah 11:1—Christ would come through the line of Jesse.
  4. Jeremiah 23:5—Christ would be a son of David.
  5. 2 Samuel 7:16—His throne would last forever (really a double prophecy, but for us who are living in the church age, it is a great promise, especially as the days get darker).
  6. Isaiah 9:6—This is that wonderful verse which Handel used in his oratorio, Messiah. He would come as a child, and government would rest on His shoulders. (Although it may not be the direct meaning of the phrase, I can’t help thinking about the Mayflower Compact and our Constitution which is so firmly grounded upon biblical principles.) He would be wonderful, a Counselor, and don’t forget that His was, is and will always be the mighty God, the everlasting Father! AND, praise God, our Prince of Peace!
  7. Isaiah 7:14—born of a virgin.
  8. Numbers 24: 17*—Christ would come out of Jacob.
  9. Jeremiah 31: 1—One of the saddest prophecies in the Bible: the death of the children of Bethlehem by Herod.
  10. Hosea 11:1—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ flight to Egypt.

Can the prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming relate to His first coming? The following verse is one of my favorites. Jesus is standing before Caiaphas and the assembly of “all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes” (Mark 14:53). Jesus has kept silent to their questioning but now answers:

And Jesus said,

I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power,

and coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).

 

I suppose some may say that speaking of yourself in a future event would negate its genuineness, but for me it only adds credence because of Who is speaking. Jesus himself is telling us of his second coming.  We will see him sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is coming in the clouds.  His second coming is just as certain as his first, but here is a difference: in his incarnate state He did not speak of his first coming. But we can.

Will you tell someone about Jesus today? The Christmas season is a wonderful time to witness for our Lord. There are church programs to invite people to, special tracts to give out, and even Christmas carols playing in stores, giving us an opportunity for “a word in season.” What better season to witness of God’s great goodness than the season with a Reason!

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:2

 

*Very interesting that today’s Jewish leaders look to 2022, the year that a “new star or nova [which] is the product of the collision of two other astral bodies will appear in the sky due to the collision of two other astral bodies. Rabbi Yosef Berger, a rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, has proposed that the star is a fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy from the book of Numbers, in which a star precedes the arrival of an important military leader: ‘a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the borderlands of Moab, and the territory of all the Sethites” (NRSV Num 24:17)’”

Excerpt from https://www.thedailybeast.com/is-the-new-star-really-a-sign-of-a-messiah-for-israel