Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sermon- 12/23/07 - Mission Initiated - Christmas 2007

Mission Inspired

Mission Impossible—assignment received, then self destructs

The mission didn’t start in Bethlehem, it started according to John 1:1—“In the Beginning”—in the heart of God—remember a couple of weeks ago that the Crucifixion an wasn’t Plan B—it wasn’t a MacGyverism Improvisation. God knew

God lost something in the Fall—something He desperately wanted back.

Because of sin God was No longer able to walk among His precious & prized creation. Ephesians 2:10 describes you and I as “God’s workmanship”—the work of His hands—from the word Poeima—where we get the word Poem—God’s Masterpiece—where He is writing the story of our existence into the universe. Humanity is precious to Him

And that precious creation which He was able to walk and talk with was put on the other side of a great chasm of separation due to some of the very creative power He had given them—moral awareness of right & wrong and the Freedom to decide.

Imagine DaVinci never able to look upon the Mona Lisa after completing it because it blinded him. Imagine Shakespeare never able to read or listen to another one of his sonnets because the words poisoned him. Imagine your pride and joy—something you worked hard for, something you built or restored being off limits.

We are so much more than any thing or item to the heart of God—He considers you and me, His masterpiece.

There in the garden, He was able to walk and talk with us as you or I would walk with our spouse, with our friend—take a leisurely journey together for no other reason than the fact that you enjoy their company.

Sin disrupted that, it broke that—His holiness and aversion to sin made it humanly impossible to fix—we couldn’t just shout out a quick, “I’m sorry” and God come back with “Hey, no big deal. Just forget it ever happened… same time tomorrow?”

No—Our Sin is a Big Deal—the Great Chasm of Separation that is too great for us to overcome—doesn’t just hurt you and me—it grieves the Heart of God. It is possible to grieve the heart of God

PS 78:37 their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.
PS 78:38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
PS 78:39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.
PS 78:40 How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland!

Ezekiel 6:9-- how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols.

Ephesians 4:30-- 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

We grieve His heart—
While that is a barrier to us—the great thing about God is that it won’t stop Him—the Barrier was not something He would just Snap His fingers at and fix

God is unwilling to Reestablish this Relationship like I Dream of Jeanie—a quick painless blink of the eyes and—poof—it’s all better.

No—this was too serious for that—a battle had to be fought—you and I were now held captive in the kingdom of darkness, slaves again to fear & sin, Satan & death—

Picture the Kingdom of Darkness with a great gate—like the Black Gate from the Lord of the Rings.

Can you picture God walking up to the door, knocking softly and saying, “excuse me, I’m really sorry to bother you Satan, but can I please have my valuables, my masterpieces back?”

The Mission was a Call to Battle—it was a fight to regain and restore captured men and women—

The heart of God was and is willing to fight for you and me. In the Beginning—God knew our Redemption, our Reconciliation, our ability to freely and without fear walk the journey of faith & life would Require an Invasion.

I typically envision an invasion as a huge number of soldiers storming a beach like at Normandy in WWII.

But God did not send an invading Army, He sent only One invader—His Only Son—

Now if you’re going to send One Soldier into hostile territory, behind enemy lines what do you think that soldier should look like?

Captain America
Incredible Hulk
We don’t get a soldier trained for battle even an enhanced Patriot, we don’t get a super-strong creature or even an alien Superman

We get THIS—(picture of Mary holding baby Jesus)a Tiny Baby with no skills in Jujitsu, no Advanced Infantry Training, no Special Ops, no Hostage negotiation—I mean, this baby looks totally harmless—

And yet the arrival of this child is the first knock that shatters the gates of the Kingdom of Darkness

This arrival we typically call the Incarnation—

John 1:1—In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 14—And the Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

We read the words of:
Matthew 1:20—“an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

MT 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

That sounds so nice, we can get so easily lost in the cuteness of it all. But I noticed something when looking back at that moment in Isaiah. Immanuel does not come for the nation of Israel in the calm of the night—Immanuel comes as the Deliverer, when all hope is lost, when the enemy is at the gates.

While Isaiah 7 is the well known introduction of the term Immanuel, ch. 8 describes the invasion of Assyria it this way. 8:8-10-- Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!"
8:9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

The Arrival of Immanuel is a time of Battle—of the Victory of the Lord. It is the plan and salvation of Immanuel that will win the day.

True Restoration—True Freedom—True Rescue

To be what God had created you and me to be—not only enjoy walking beside us, but living within us. That little baby that we celebrate at Christmas is the Key to our Creator once again enjoying the closeness of the Garden, and that little baby is the Key to a Secure Future with our Creator that can never be broken or lost again.

He willingly laid aside all that He was and became a Flesh, became a Human Being in order to accomplish it all--

What exactly did God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity lay aside?
Jesus laid aside Eternity, and He laid aside Omnipresence—being everywhere at the same moment and confined Himself to an infant body bound by time and space

He laid aside Omnipotence—All Power, and Omniscience—All Knowledge—and limited or emptied Himself into a body that didn’t have the power to feed itself, that couldn’t move from one place to another unless someone else carried him.

PHP 2:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
PHP 2:7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
PHP 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!

Laid aside the “very Nature of God” which was already His and
Laid aside the right to be Served as King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Laid aside His immunity to death
He didn’t come fully formed ready for battle, He didn’t come with all the training, no big muscles, no advanced infantry training

God did not see fit to place Jesus among a team of highly trained operatives, not a military outfit that could train Him in the art of battle--but 2 young newlyweds, a few animal activists and a few animals. Instead the heart of God was moved to Initiate our rescue with Innocence, Holiness and Helplessness. “The foolishness of God is sure wiser than man’s wisdom

In spite of this helpless appearance, our Hero had—according to Colossians—“all the fullness of deity liv[ing] in bodily form.”

Even in that infant—there was power—there was Promise, there was Hope.

It doesn’t seem like the best way to mount a rescue, but for God—it was ideal because Jesus being born, gained something from this infiltration to the kingdom of darkness.

What did Jesus gain? Flesh and Blood untainted by sin—that’s what the Virgin Conception and Birth was for.

He gained an opportunity to walk among us without us running and hiding.
He gained an opportunity to share in our sufferings, endure every temptation, yet be without sin.
He gained the ability, not just to tell us about the love of God, but truly demonstrate it with action, by dying for us, dying in our place, receiving the punishment that we deserved.

The Mission was Accepted and Initiated and the Hero of the Human Race was born on that simple Christmas morning.

And it was and continues to be a moment worth praising God over.
Even God’s Mighty Warriors—the angels in all their glory—praised God over this:

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth—peace to men on whom His favor rests”

And when the shepherds went to Bethlehem to see what the angels announced—they too Praised God.

The Word—God Himself—was made Flesh—shared in our Humanity—walked among us and Restored the Possibility of a Journey and Walk of Faith—by holding to His mission of the Cross—By Demonstrating Victory in the Resurrection—

and so our Savior, born that first Christmas—is able “to save completely & forever those who come to God through Him”

When the time came—the baby was born to restore and make possible a life of faith and a close walk with God—the Mission was initiated to accomplish that.

Initiated not with Grandeur, posing or a show of force—but with simplicity and a show of love.

Luke 2:6—“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

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