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Tag Archives: the Messiah

An Invisible Christmas Gift

The commercialization of Christmas in the 21st century has blinded minds from an invisible gift. If you can escape from the advertisements of cars, diamond rings and other high priced items, Christmas is not about buying and exchanging gifts that many can’t afford. Rather, the mass of Christ is about accepting a promised child, the Messiah, who came to save you from your earthly imperfections.

I indeed baptize you in (with) water because of repentance [that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins]. But He Who is coming after me is mightier than I, Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire, Matthew 3:11.

One of Jesus’ disciples records a conversation between John the Baptist and Jesus in the passage above and below. At this point in the first century, many sensed that John was the Messiah in waiting. When approached with this notion, John corrected this misnomer, explaining that he is merely preparing the way. John uses baptism to illustrate the difference between his ministry and the promised One to come.

But John protested strenuously, having in mind to prevent Him, saying, It is I who have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? 15 But Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him, Matthew 3:14-16.

The purpose of any baptism is a public expression of an inner faith. While John’s baptism was centered around confession and forgiveness, Jesus promises an invisible gift in John 16:13. What his disciples did not understand at the time, this gift would transfer power from priests to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11. You won’t find this gift under a Christmas tree. Rather, when you find Jesus, access is gained, Romans 5:1-5, with a goal of keeping is step with the Holy Spirit daily. May 2020 be a year where the Holy Spirit awakens your soul to this invisible Christmas gift.

by Jay Mankus

Unwrapping the Theology of Christmas

The word theology simply means the science of God. Understanding theology isn’t always easy, but to grasp the true meaning of Christmas you have to make one presupposition. Since Old Testament prophets write about the coming of a Messiah, human beings need to acknowledge their need for a Savior. The presupposition individuals must make is that you can’t save yourself. Without this realization, Christmas is just another holiday as a Savior is not sought out.

As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. 11 No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! – Romans 3:10-12

In the passage above, the apostle Paul drives this point home to members of the church at Rome. Referencing an Old Testament prophet, Paul explains that no one is perfect. No matter how highly you may regard yourself, every day, week, month and year people stray from God’s law. Regardless of what disciplines, focus and safeguards are put into place, sooner or later you will break, cut corners or deviate from commands in the Bible.

For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23.

The best way I know to unwrap the theology of Christmas is through an illustration I learned from Evangelism Explosion. The passage above is part of a diagram using the Grand Canyon. Human beings are on one side of the canyon and God is on the other side. However, Jesus is offered as a free gift, dying on a cross to save mankind from sin. Those who accept the gift of eternal life through a personal relationship with God have access to cross this canyon by faith. This invisible bridge is in the shape of a cross. The moment Jesus was born, salvation and eternal life was made possible, 1 John 5:13. May these words sink in as Christmas Day approaches.

by Jay Mankus

When People Are Divided

Disagreeing over religious beliefs is nothing new.  During a trip to the region known as Galatia, comprised of four cities, Paul and Barnabas swayed half of their audience.  Unfortunately, those who opposed the gospel consisted of Gentiles, Jews and political rulers in the town of Iconium.  Instead of asking Paul and Barnabas to politely leave their town, a plot was devised to have them stoned to death.  Apparently, one of their advocates overheard this plan and helped Paul and Barnabas escape.

So Paul and Barnabas stayed for a long time, speaking boldly and confidently for the Lord, who continued to testify to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders (attesting miracles) be done by them. But the people of the city were divided; some were siding with the Jews, and some with the apostles, Acts 14:3-4.

This wasn’t Paul and Barnabas’ only brush with death.  Devout Jews often responded to the good news about Jesus Christ with anger, fear and resentment.  The thought that the Jewish faith was no longer solely God’s chosen people was too difficult to accept.  Thus, Jewish religious leaders regularly turned to violence to stop the Jesus movement from spreading.  The book of Acts is filled with attacks upon apostles who boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 1:3.

The only thing that has changed in the past 2000 years when it comes to religious divisions are the responses by those who have rejected the gospel.  You see if the gospel is true, people have to change their lifestyle to conform with biblical teaching.  However, if you reject the Bible you can continue on your current path.  Instead of publicly beatings or stoning, social media have come up with creative ways to punish those who don’t share a secular worldview.  Today, Christians are banned, censored and demonetized for sharing biblical beliefs.  Despite these unpleasant experiences, believers must dust themselves off, get back up and keep sharing the good news about Jesus Christ like Paul and Barnabas.

by Jay Mankus

The Greatest Temptation

Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter, Matthew 26:40.

When the Son of God spoke in the first century, eager followers flocked to hear his teaching.  Afterward the needy, poor and sick lined up, pushing their way to the front, hoping for a miracle.  To a certain extent, the twelve disciples became complacent, taking their access to the Messiah for granted.  During special occasions Jesus left nine disciples behind, confiding in his inner circle composed of James, John and Peter.  During his greatest temptation, surrendering to religious leaders to be beaten, crucified and left to die, Jesus urges his disciples to pray late into the night.  An hour later Jesus returns to find his trusted leaders sleeping.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Disappointed, Jesus addresses the unseen battle going on within the human body.  The Spirit is willing to yield spiritual fruit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Unfortunately, these traits often lose out to a weakened flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, by giving into temporary pleasures.  Way too often the events of Eden in Genesis 3 are re-enacted daily with forbidden fruits replaced by modern delicacies.  While current readers can take Jesus’ advice at face value, all but one disciple were about to abandon Jesus in his greatest time of need.  John, the one whom Jesus loved is the only disciple who doesn’t go into hiding.  Only one man put Jesus’ words into practice.

He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.

Jesus was a victim of a mob mentality, innocent of the charges made against him accept of course for being the son of God.  Overcome by emotion, Jesus pours out his heart to God the Father in prayer.  If this was any other person, justification would be made to not go through with this sacrifice.  However, without Jesus’ death, there would be no forgiveness, left to rely on Old Testament animal sacrifices.  Realizing this fact, Jesus submits to God’s will, surrendering early Friday morning.  While there will always be new temptations that arise and attack your soul, the greatest temptation is to reject God’s will for your life.  May you find your purpose on earth using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide.  From here its up to you to apply Matthew 26:41 so that you will keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

 

What If Herod Got His Wish

The older I become, the more I find myself playing the What if Game.  What if this happened instead of that?  If this went my way or if I waited a little longer, would the outcome have changed?  While I was pondering several possibilities, a thought popped into my mind.  What if King Herod got his wish, finding the Messiah; then killing Jesus to remain in power?

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him,” Matthew 2:7-8.

While churches across the country and throughout the world will sing about a Silent Night, this great event could have been marred by tragedy.  The Magi could have sought to please King Herod, returning to his palace, directing him to the exact location of this child.  Yet, divine intervention persuaded these wise men to do what was right, taking an alternate route back home.  Meanwhile, the Lord spoke to Joseph in a vivid dream, prompting an immediate departure for Egypt, to escape Herod’s sword.  If not for these actions, the Messiah would be no more.

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.  When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,   where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” Matthew 2:13-15.

If Herod got his wish, the world would be doomed.  Sure, depending upon where you live, there are some safe places that exist.  Yet, without the completion of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, there would be no hope.  The last 2000 years would have been like The Game of Thrones with one person after another doing whatever it takes to reach the throne.  Thankfully, this what if scenario was stopped in it’s tracks by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If God has the power to intervene like this past historical event, imagine what the Lord can do today within hearts and souls eager to serve God.  I’m not sure what will happen next, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

by Jay Mankus

 

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