Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Be excited about Jesus!!"

Day #276

Scripture Reading:  Luke 3 - 4 ...

Day after day people lived and died for centuries as God prepared the world for the coming of the One promised since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden - the One who would defeat the power of Satan and raise those who were spiritually dead to life.  Nearly the entire population of the world lay in the darkness of false gods and superstition and the destructive power of sin.  Only a few, a remnant of the Jews, believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and were looking for the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior ... and even they did not understand that their worst problem was not the Romans but their own sin!

In reading the first two chapters of Luke's Gospel you are struck immediately with the supernatural events of Jesus' birth ... but then 30 years pass by.  Only one incident from Jesus' childhood is recorded by Luke in Chapter 2.  Then, silence, as the Jews - and the world ... waited.  Then, suddenly, "the Word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 3:2-3).  God's plan to save people from the coming judgment, when He pours out His wrath on mankind, would now begin to unfold in the brief ministry of John the Baptist.

Luke points out that John was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 40:3-5:  "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord ... And all mankind will see God's salvation."  In a few sentences Isaiah sees the entire plan of God, from John the Baptist to the reign of Jesus Christ when He returns in glory.  He could not have known yet about the cross and the intervening time when the Gospel would be proclaimed through all the earth, but the Spirit of God revealed to him that repentance was necessary to come to God.  Sinners could not come before a holy God ... they must turn (repent) from their sin and turn to God in obedience.  "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (3:8).

John warned the Jews not to count on their heritage:  "Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'  For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham" (3:8).  The people thought John might BE the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the KING! But John declared, "I baptize you with water.  But one more powerful than I will come ... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (3:16).  John was preaching good news, but he was not preaching ... GRACE!  He called them to turn from sin and offered a new life, but without the power of the Holy Spirit, people couldn't repent, wouldn't repent.

Then came Jesus, and as He was baptized the Father Himself testified, "You are My Son, whom I love; with YOU I am well pleased" (3:22).  Who was this Jesus?  Matthew had given the genealogy of Jesus through his earthly father, Joseph, but Luke now gives His genealogy through His mother, Mary.  Significantly, both genealogies meet at DAVID and lead through Abraham and Noah, all the way back to Adam.  Like Matthew, Luke validates Jesus' credentials to BE the promised Savior.  The promise was made to Abraham and passed through the centuries through Judah to David and through his line all the way to Jesus.  People who talk about Jesus as though He was just a random prophet do not understand the truth and significance of His lineage.  This IS the Messiah!!

Now the plan of God takes on a new level.  God had laid out the battlefield in Genesis 3:15 as He cursed Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her Seed and yours. He will crush your head and you will bruise His heel."  God declared victory over Satan immediately after he had tempted Adam and Eve.  Satan had won many individual and even national victories for several thousand years and he had never found a man he couldn't tempt ... but he had never met JESUS!!  As Chapter 4 begins we find another account of Jesus, full of the Spirit, being tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  Here comes Satan, waiting until Jesus was physically as weak as a man could be ... but not this time!

Jesus began His ministry by defeating the power of His enemy ... of OUR enemy!  This clash of Jesus and Satan would be played out over and over throughout Jesus' ministry, and is still being played out today.  But the Gospels declare Jesus' ultimate victory, which would come, finally, at the cross.  Jesus went to Nazareth and immediately declared Who He was by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 and saying, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (4:21).  The Jews who were there did not understand ... could not understand ... yet.  In the darkness of their sin they couldn't imagine that this man, whom they knew as the "son of Joseph," could be the Messiah - the answer to their greatest need.

How like that are so many still today? In spite of the testimony of all of Scripture and of those who are filled with His Spirit who know and declare that Jesus IS the Christ, so many ... so many still reject the testimony and continue in sin and face the coming wrath of God.  How sad!  But how thankful those who believe must be, that God has opened our eyes to behold Jesus as He IS:  the eternal Son of God, our Savior and our Lord!!

Jesus entered the war not just to fight, but to WIN!  He cast out demons and healed the sick.  When the demons declared Who he was, saying, "You are the Son of God!", Jesus "rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because THEY KNEW He was the Christ" (4:41).  Isn't that incredible and sad at the same time?  The demons knew who He was, but the people were blind ... they could not SEE!  Jesus had much more work to do before He went to the cross:  "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent" (4:43).

As you read these things praise the Lord and be excited as you read the testimony of Luke and the other Gospel writers.  It is Jesus' story, and as one of His followers, YOU become part of it!!

"Father in heaven, I rejoice that the One I know as my Savior and Lord is the Christ, the One Who has power over the very author of evil!!  Through the power of Your Spirit, Who now lives in ME, I rest in Your grace and declare victory over sin and death through faith in Him Who sits on His throne at Your right hand.  Empower me daily for service in Your kingdom, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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