Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Praying for Revival

Praying for Revival

Understanding what is necessary for spiritual revival is greatly confused these days.  In Habakkuk 3:2, the word “revive” is from the Hebrew word chayah (khaw-yaw’).  The word can mean to breathe life into something dead.  It can also mean to restore to a former state.  It can mean to nourish, recover, repair, or make whole.  It can also mean preserve alive. 

1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. 2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:1-2).
It would seem that the context requires this latter meaning for “revive” – to preserve alive.  Habakkuk is praying that God would preserve a remnant of faithful Jews to continue as the remnant of the nation of Israel for the nation’s future restoration, thereby preserving national Israel as God’s chosen people.  Habakkuk is clinging to the promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant, which extend into the Palestinian Covenant (the land promises) and the Davidic Covenant (the Kingdom Promises of the reign of a descendant of king David, i.e., Jesus the Christ).
We must remember that these promises to national Israel are not transferred to some ambiguous entity call the Universal or Catholic Church as Replacement Theology wrongly teaches.  Neither do these promises extend to any other nation on planet Earth, including the United States of America.  These promises to Abraham are to the nation of Israel and that nation alone!  In John 4:22 Jesus said, Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”  Isaiah spoke of this preservation of national Israel through salvation by grace through faith in Isaiah chapter forty-nine.  The means of this preservation of national Israel is clearly Messianic in nature.  In other words, preservation would be through salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of redemption in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
When anyone prays for revival, there must be a commitment of that individual to live in such a way as to be a living testimony to the truths of God’s Word.  There must also be a commitment by these individuals to live separated from worldliness, paganism, and the licentious, pornographic lifestyles and practices of idolatry.  Then, there must be an equal commitment to proclaim the message of redemption through faith in the finished substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Simply said, praying for revival is a radical commitment to God that involves being and doing what God says to be and do!  When God revives, He does it through the faithful remnant He has already revived. 

1 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far {clearly a universal proclamation intended to be heard by all nations}; The LORD hath called me {refers to Jesus} from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. 2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; 3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel {as embodied in Jesus the Seed of Abraham; Galatians 3:16}, in whom I will be glorified. 4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him {restoration of Israel during the Tribulation time}, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth {the extended promise of God in the Abrahamic Covenant; “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed,” Genesis 12:3}” (Isaiah 49:1-6).

This latter part of the Abrahamic Covenant extends to all nations of the Earth, including the United States of America.  For almost two centuries the United States has enjoyed the blessings of being a Christian nation.  The foundations of this nation were carved out of rock with the sweat and courage of a people willing to risk their lives for one simple thing that we usually take for granted - the freedom to worship God the way they believed was right without fear of persecution or death.  Most fled Europe to escape the Roman Catholic death squads of the Inquisition and even the religious persecution of other State Churches with the hope of having a Free Church as opposed to a national Church (denomination).  There were many struggles to establish these rights even in the new colonies.
Most people are almost completely ignorant of the role that early Baptists had in the struggle for separation of Church and State, which essentially was intended to keep the new country from adopting a State denomination and keeping the government from interfering in the internal affairs of churches.  As a result of ignorance of those early struggles, Christians have allowed the reinterpretation of separation of church and state that meant the government should be neutral regarding the establishment of religion.  This did not mean that the government should not have religious influence upon it regarding policy and establishment of laws.  Of course such an interpretation of the First Amendment is ridiculous and relatively new in the politics of our nation.  Laws governing people are based on values established through religious and moral principles.  Although all religions were free to worship as they saw fit, the United States of America has historically been anchored to the inspired Christian Bible for its moral ethic and Rule of Law.  This is an historical fact!
Habakkuk 3:2 is an appropriate Psalm to be sung by faithful Christians in the last days prior to the second coming of Jesus.  Christianity as a whole is almost completely compromised.  Church is almost unrecognizable in the context of for what it was ordained of God – “perfecting the saints, for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  Repentance is seldom preached, holiness is seldom mentioned, and practical sanctification is seldom sought by believers.  Few believers understand that “fellowship” with God is essential to being used of God and “fellowship” with God requires total surrender of the will to God’s will.  Therefore, there are very few professing Christians whoever experience the power of God’s grace flowing through their lives in order to touch the world in an effective way for the cause of Christ.   

These Laodicean churches grow in size and wealth, but know nothing of genuine Christianity.  There is little wonder, that in Revelations 3:20, Jesus stands outside of this type of church knocking to seek admission.  The real Jesus is not welcome!

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous {zeal to affect- the intent is a striong desire to change} therefore, and repent {change the way you think, and therefore the way you feel and act}” (Revelations 3:14-19).

The opposite of “lukewarm” is “zealous.”  Spiritual wealth and spiritual maturity are commodities that are measured by how a person responds to the many temptations, difficulties, and choices of life.  The world tries to ensnare Christians with varying nuances of false doctrine and various levels of worldliness.  However, Satan is never content with any level of corruption.  He constantly seeks to draw believers with subtler nuances of false doctrine and different levels of worldliness.  The sad thing is that almost any level of false doctrine or worldliness corrupts the believer making him unusable to God.  God spent forty years purging false doctrine and worldliness out of Israel before they would have the kind of faith that would follow Him to conquer the Promised Land. 
 Satan has used the same tactics in churches as he used with king Balak in Numbers chapter twenty-two in getting God to chastise the children of Israel.  Knowing God would not remove His blessing upon Israel while they remained faithful, Balak was taught by Balaam, the unfaithful prophet, to simply tempt the children of Israel with the sexual enticements of his pagan women until the men of Israel were living in sin and God’s blessing was withdrawn.  God has not changed.  God has not diminished His value of right doctrine or His values defining personal faith or personal holiness in any way. 
What we are seeing in our nation today is the result of a national segregation policy towards Christians and their influence in government.  This is an exhibition of extreme prejudice and segregation.  This nation’s Judeo/Christian heritage has been attacked at its very roots.  Every year another generation of young people graduate from government schools having been indoctrinated into the neo-neutralism of Secular Humanism and Naturalism.  Christian beliefs are almost completely eradicated from national discussion of values and ethics.  Under this censorship, if people must have Christian values and beliefs, they must keep them to themselves.
 Discussion and the free exchange of religious ideas and beliefs is now taboo and politically incorrect.  Religious beliefs have been relegated to the basements and backrooms, but certainly not welcome as part of public debate on matters of policy and law. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do (Psalm 11:3)?”
The question of David in Psalm 11:3 is answered by Habakkuk chapter three. What should Christians do knowing the religious foundations of our nation have been destroyed, that God’s blessings are being withdrawn, and His judgment is eminent?  The answer is simple.  The righteous (those truly saved) should live righteously and be light in the midst of darkness!
 Habakkuk chapter three is a Psalm intended to be sung by the faithful remnant of Jews during the coming captivity of the pending Chaldean curse.  The word Shigionoth (shig-gaw-yo-naw’) is understood by some to mean a wandering song that details the errors of Israel that brought them to the predicament of God’s chastisement.  As we face the pending judgment of God upon this nation and the present withdrawal of His blessing, as Christians we need to be a constant reminder of why we are where we are and a continuing testimony of faith to a world quickly losing hope.  This is what the righteous do when the foundations of biblical truth are undermined and their stability destroyed. 
A Shagionoth psalm intricately weaves together the elements of the fear of God and faith in God.  To know the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man is to live in awe of God accompanied with worshipful rejoicing for the grace of His mercy to us.  True believers understand they live over their heads in the grace and mercy of God.  We must honestly learn to fear God for what is going to happen to this world.  Fearing God in this way demands that we must be willing to make some extreme sacrifices to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  If we are not willing to make these extreme sacrifices, we cannot honestly say we believe the Word of God and fear the Lord. 
 A Shigionoth (shig-gaw-yo-naw') Psalm is both a song of prayer (faith) and a song of lamentation.  A lamentation is a remembrance of what brought a people to their present dilemma resulting in deep sorrow and remorse.  A lamentation is a spirit of broken repentance before God while understanding why He must deal so harshly with people who call themselves His children, but live as if He does not exist.  There can never be genuine revival without genuine lamentation.  The prophet Jeremiah exemplifies the spirit of what defines genuine lamentation.

1 How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! 2 She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. 3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. 4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. 5 Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. 6 And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer. 7 Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths. 8 Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. 9 Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself. 10 The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation. 11 All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile” (Lamentations 1:1-11).

Each of the five chapters, or five lamentations, of the book of Lamentations is a call to remember, or remind Israel of her failures and why she was in Babylonian captivity.  The point of each of the five Lamentations is that we cannot expect God to revive and restore without genuine repentance and remorse for our failures.  

Throughout the lamentation of Habakkuk chapter three there is the continual permeation of both praise and confidence in God.  In other words, the psalmist excepts God’s chastisement upon the nation as a necessity communicating his intent to trust in God through whatever happens.  Habakkuk makes no accusations against God’s judgments.  Habakkuk knows that Israel deserved the chastisement she received from the hands of the Lord.  The faithful remnant of all ages must be consciously aware of God’s prophetic promises regarding His pending judgment in the pending future unfolding events of history.  

However, Jeremiah 13:12-17 reveals that although God MUST do as He said He would do in chastising Israel for her willful disobedience and spiritual fornications of idolatry and it practices, God weeps over having to do so.

12 Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine {the wine bottles represent the leaders of Israel.  The intent here is symbolism of the drunken responses of chaos and disorder as God withdraws His protection and instruction from the leadership of Israel.  Filling with wine is the opposite of the filling of the Spirit in Scripture; Ephesians 5:18}: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine? 13 Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD {God now explains what He means}, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness. 14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them. 15 Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. 16 Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. 17 But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’S flock is carried away captive” (Jeremiah 13:12-17).

The purpose of the lamentation psalm of Habakkuk chapter three is that it was to be incorporated into the regular part of the Temple worship as a continuing reminder to the faithful remnant (only the faithful remnant continued to frequent and participate in Temple worship). 
The emphasis of Habakkuk chapter three is the redemptive power of God.  When a believer thinks redemptively, his mind escapes the temporal existence and transcends this present world with all its trials and difficulties.  This psalm leads the believer outside of this world into eternity in his thinking. 

When the faithful remnant learns to think redemptively, they learn to praise God for their salvation and for the relationship they have with Him.  Therefore, the psalm becomes a psalm of praise even while facing pending calamity in their pending captivity.  Habakkuk chapter three is the present conditions of a society written on the backdrop of their past (cause and effect).

Habakkuk 3:1 tells us this is a musical prayer of faith and trust.  When the foundations of a society seem to be crumbling and falling away at your feet, people need faith in something or Someone beyond themselves.  This is the purpose of God’s chastisement.  He wants people to look to Him, to know that He is the source of the judgment, and return to following His commands.

Therefore, true Christians (God’s faithful remnant) should learn to praise God as He removes the destroyed foundations that have been undermined and corrupted by a corrupted society.  Picking up the pieces of broken lives is an opportunity that never would have existed in a society pre-occupied with chasing an elusive dream of happiness in Materialism and Hedonism.  Both of these false ways are foolish pursuits of some ambiguity known as happiness through pleasure. 

The character of this song of prayer is more than a petition to God.  This psalm includes many elements of prayer such as praise, thanksgiving, remembrance, repentance, and adoration.  Great prayers warriors are those who have learned to frequently make statements of faith reminding themselves of what God has done in the past.  They learn to increase their faith by basing their hopes on the history of God’s past dealings with His children and the world.
We live in a world much like Habakkuk’s in similar circumstances and with questions similar to those of Habakkuk.  Why does God allow some societal practices to go unjudged?  How can God tolerate the continuing murder of millions of innocent babies each year?  How can God allow a society to continue that endorses and promotes perversions like homosexuality?  How can God allow the blasphemy and heresy continually being preached by apostates?  Why doesn’t God revive His Church? 

There is one essential truth necessary to establishing a national and world view and is the answer to all of these questions: God will always purge before He blesses.  The primary attitude of prayer essential to the purging of sin from a society is the humbling of the believing faithful remnant before God (Habakkuk 3:2).

This is the humble recognition that a society deserves what it is about to receive at the hands of God and accepts what is about to happen knowing the remnant is part of that society.  In this attitude of prayer, there is no petition to God that He reverse His judgment, but rather there is a recognition that God is absolutely just, and that the judgment is deserved and necessary before revival can take place.

In Leviticus 26:1-39, God clearly reiterates the conditions of the “blessing and the curse” in the Mosaic Covenant with the nation of Israel.  We must understand that the Mosaic Covenant was made only with the nation of Israel, not with any other nation in the world. 
 In Leviticus 26:40-46, God give three requisites before God would return blessing to the nation of Israel and restore it.  From other prophecies of God, especially the book of Revelation, we know that what Leviticus 26:40-46 describes will not happen until close to the end of the seven-year Tribulation and the second coming of Jesus. 

40 If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; 41 And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: 42 Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. 43 The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD. 46 These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 26:40-46).

1. They must repent, which is always the first pre-requisite to forgiveness
2. They must humble themselves by recognizing they are getting what they deserve
3. They must accept whatever punishment God determines necessary

Although these three essentials to revival are applied in this text to the nation of Israel, they are universal principles for revival and restoration.  These three things are essential attitudes of prayer in that they take our eyes off of the problem, and from ourselves, putting our focus upon the justice of God necessary to set things in order.  When this takes place, we return our minds to the realm of spiritual truth, holiness, and righteousness of God.  Our feet should follow thereafter!

Without this repentant humbling of ourselves before God, we continue to see sociological problems only in relation to ourselves and, in so doing, we tend to put ourselves on a pedestal of rightness with God separating ourselves from responsibility for the existing conditions of our society.  The reality is this society is in the condition it is in because Christians have failed to fulfill the Great Commission.  Our world is not in the condition it is in because Christians have failed in their responsibilities as citizens of this nation, but because they have failed in their responsibilities as citizens of Heaven and servants of the living God.
Abortion is not the issue in the fall of our society.  Neither are pornography, homosexuality, divorce, or any one of a hundred other things upon which people put blame.  These are all just symptoms of a deeper corruption of men’s minds and hearts.  The fall of our society is due to the fact we are a nation that has forgotten God.  There is no greater falsehood than faith in man’s ability to reform himself or earn his own salvation!

11 Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water? 12 Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. 13 So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish: 14 Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web. 15 He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure” (Job 8:11-15).

          If we want to return this nation to a place of blessing, there is only one way to do that.  We must begin to teach people to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.  Regardless of what happens to our society, our responsibility remains the same.  We must bring people to salvation and disciple them to be followers of Jesus Christ.  If we are not doing that, we are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, December 21, 2015

MAGI: The King Makers

The King Makers

The darkness of the ignorance of God and His will permeates society to its very core.  God said in Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”  Jesus was born into the spiritual darkness created by apostate Israel and the harsh, brutal paganism of the Roman Empire.  Almost every satellite province of the Roman Empire was ruled by a terroristic despot who protected his own self-interests above the welfare of his subject.  In most of the provinces, the citizenship were mere slaves of the Roman Empire taxed exorbitantly so as to provide for the opulent and ostentatious lifestyles of their ruling despots.  This was the world into which Jesus was born.

“1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child {not bref’-os, which is translated ‘babe’ in Luke 2:12, but pahee-dee’-on, which is a ‘young child’ or infant toddler} with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures {chests}, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way” (Matthew 2:1-12).

Knowledge of spiritual truth is intended to introduce the believer into a spectrum of the experience of that spiritual truth.  In other words, God gives us a vision of spiritual realities about which we would otherwise not be knowledgeable so that we can enter into that spiritual reality in a very practical way through faith.  This is true regarding the birth of the baby Jesus.  Understanding the spiritual depth of the truth of the incarnation of Jehovah into a human body opens our understanding of a spiritual reality into which we can enter through the door of faith in the redemptive purposes of that union of God in man.  To be knowledgeable about the birth of Jesus is to know the practical reality in the purposes of God in our personal salvation from our own condemnation.  With that purpose in mind, every person becomes personally invested in knowing and appreciating the purposes of God in the birth of the Saviour. 

Knowledge of the purposes of God in the incarnation of baby Jesus should result in rejoicing and worship just as it did in Matthew 2:10-11 in the lives of the Wise Men.  If we have knowledge without rejoicing and worship, we are in a spiritual vacuum that lacks the spiritual experience of Who is before us in baby Jesus.  I am afraid that much of what is involved in the celebration of the birth of the Saviour is void of the rejoicing and worship that should be the natural outcomes of that knowledge.  In such cases, we have removed a very special spiritual truth regarding the Person of Jesus from the celebration we call Christmas. 
The baby Jesus was born into a hostile and wicked world.  The historical backdrop for the birth of the Saviour was a particularly wicked time in Israel’s history.  The King of Judea was Herod the Great (47-1 BC).  He was a Gentile (Edomite or Idumean) appointed to power by Rome.  He began his political career as the governor of Galilee at the age of twenty-five years old.  He was appointed King of Judea because of his success in collecting taxes for Rome.
The point is that the world, and Satan as the “god of this world,” is hostilely opposed to everything about Jesus, including His birth.  In other words, the satanic world in which we live is by the very nature of its existence antichrist.  We do not advance the cause and purpose of Christ by simply pointing that reality out to the world.  They could care less if Christ has been taken out of the celebration of Christmas.  They do not want Him there in the first place. 

The people of this world do not want Jesus in Christmas because they do not know Who He is and why He was born.  It is not their job to keep Christ in Christmas.  It is the job of the believer.  We do that by living the teachings of Jesus every day of the year.  We do that by prayerfully seeking to bring people to know Jesus the way we know Him.  Perhaps this is the problem; we can only bring to people to know Jesus the way we know Him.  Perhaps our knowledge of Jesus is just so superficial that the Christ-life is never reproduced in our lives so that the world can see Jesus.  True Christianity is always evident Christianity!
At the time of the birth of Christ, Herod the Great was in the declining years of his reign (probably about 14 BC to 1 BC).  Christ would have been born probably about 2 or 3 BC.  Herod the Great just had his two favorite sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, put into prison because he believed they were involved in plots to overthrow him.  They were put to death by strangling after a trial.  Three-hundred other people, considered to be their friends, were executed as well.  The last years of Herod’s life were lived in constant turmoil with his own sons because of their attempts to overthrow him and take his place.  It was into that historical turmoil of Herod’s life that Jesus was born.
Modern Christianity wants to live without any theological tensions.  Modern Christianity wants to give Christ a makeover that will somehow make the message of redemption more palatable to sinners.  The satanic obfuscators of the Gospel want to take away the offensive nature of the Gospel in that the true Gospel of Jesus exposes sinners to their own corruption and therefore their own condemnation.  The good news of Christ is pointless if it is not applied to the reality of a sinner’s sin and condemnation.  There are none more hostile to the Gospel than those thinking they are good enough in themselves and have earned eternal life.  These are the type of people that crucified the Saviour.  They crucified Him because the messages He preached offended their self-righteous opinions of themselves.

“13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:13-15).

The point in the narrative of Christ’s birth is to expose the hostility of this world to the cause and purpose of Christ’s birth.  In this historical narrative, we see the satanic influence of worldliness being used in a very evil manner trying to thwart the purposes of God in His provision of redemption through His promised Redeemer.  This certainly manifests the futility of the foolish attempts of creatures, even fallen angels, to think they might somehow keep God from doing what He says He will do. 

From Matthew 2:1-12, we can understand that hundreds, if not thousands, of infants born in Israel were slaughtered by Herod’s minions of evil during this two-year span of time.  It is difficult even to comprehend such evil and such selfishness.  Yet, we live in such a world today where women without consciousness of their own evil can murder their unborn children.  The evil is that we have a society that condones such wickedness. 
Shortly before Herod’s death (about 1 BC), the Magi came to Judea searching for the new born King of the Jews.  These “wise men from the east” carry further historical significance to Herod’s slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16).  The Magi were originally a hereditary priesthood who offered animal sacrifices to an un-named god.  They believed in God, but were not privy to the revelations of Himself through the Scriptures given to Moses and the prophets.  The natural tendency for people without theological anchors to the inspired Words of God is for their beliefs about God to morph into various level of abstraction. 

The words “wise men” in Matthew 2:1 are the translation of the Greek word magos (mag’-os), from which we get the English word Magi.  These men were Gentiles whose religious practices intermixed and integrated various forms of paganism.  Although occultist in their practices of divination and Astrologists, they were essentially monotheistic and many of their beliefs and many of their religious practices paralleled those of the Jews.  By the time these men appear on the pages of sacred history, the Magi had evolved into a very powerful group of men.  They held leading positions in a constitutional council known as the Megistanes whose duties included the election (or deposition) of a monarch.  Therefore, they were considered to be divinely appointed king-makers.  Uniquely God used angels to announce the birth of Messiah to the simple Shepherds and the simple Shepherds to announce his birth to the rest of Israel.  God used Gentile king makers to announce the birth of the King of the Universe to the king of Israel and to the rulers of Israel.  God’s ways are beyond our understanding.  He always seems to work outside of the ways we might think He would work. 
Their coming in search of this new born King of the Jews must have struck fear into the heart of the corrupt, wicked, and vile King Herod the Great who lived in constant fear of being overthrown.  They would have come with all the pomp of their position, traveling with a large armed force to protect them.  Had Herod tried to take them on in battle, he would have risked war with Parthia.  Instead he took his usual avenue.  He just decided to eradicate the opposition by having all the children under two years old who had been born in Bethlehem slaughtered.
Apparently about two years had gone by since Herod’s initial contact with the Magi (Matthew 2:16).  That is why he had all the children two years old and under, “according to the time” (Matthew 2:16) that he had talked with the Magi.  In Herod’s corrupt, arrogant heart lay the pride of power.  He would do anything to protect that position of power, even to the extent of having his own sons killed.  He certainly did not see a problem with murdering hundreds of babies to insure his reign would not be interrupted.  From Matthew 2:1-12, we see two extreme examples.

*      We see Herod the taker.
*      We see God the giver.

All sinners are takers by nature.  It is part of our fallen natures.  From the degree of our corruption in this area of our character will flow the degree of our selfish demands.  The idea that it is “more blessed to give then receive” (Acts 20:35) is foolishness to the corrupted mind of a taker.  The spirit of Christmas is giving, but that seems to degenerate more each year into a season of getting and taking.
The so called Christmas spirit is merely normal Christianity.  Focusing on God’s example, the example of giving, Christmas is the time of the year we celebrate the birth of the Saviour.  We cannot separate the word Saviour from the love of God and the giving of God out of that love.  The purpose of God gifting His incarnate eternal Son to humanity is substitutionary sacrifice.  This complete act of selflessness epitomizes the meaning of the word love defining it in ways never before imagined.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

We cannot separate the word Saviour from the love of God and the provision of the free gift of salvation to “whosoever will.”  The purpose of the birth of Jesus is the sinless life of Jesus the God/man.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (II Corinthians 5:21). 

The purpose of the sinless life of Jesus is the sinless sacrifice of Jesus to propitiate God for our personal sins and the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).  The purpose of the propitiation of God for our sins is so that God can gift God-kind righteousness in the justification of the believing sinner as the gift of salvation. 

“8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Therefore, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of extreme self-sacrifice (love and giving).  The spirit of Christmas is the desire to be a blessing to someone and is about being others-minded.  The Magi brought their “treasures” to baby Jesus and gave Him “gifts” (Matthew 2:11).  Before they gave, these powerful men (who caused kings to tremble) humbled themselves (“fell down”) and “worshipped Him.”  Their gifts were mere tokens to express the sincerity of their worship.  What gift can we give to God from the things He has created or we have created?  They understood that this little baby, lying in the animal’s feeding trough, was God’s gift to the world - a Saviour.  The only gift that is acceptable is to humble ourselves before Him in adoration and genuine worship. 

“8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

“For unto you” is the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6; “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  I find it remarkable that of all the people to whom God could have sent “the angel of the Lord,” it was simple shepherds.  In framing a mental picture of the event described in Luke 2:9-11, it is not that the “angel of the Lord” simply appeared in the physical world.  What took place was a momentary window of sight and sound into the realm of God’s glory.  “The “glory of the Lord” is the visible Shekinah of God that lit up the night with an unimaginable brightness.  The shepherds were told they would find their redemption gift all wrapped up in “swaddling clothes” and lying in a manger.

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

What a remarkable place to find the greatest gift ever given to anyone.  The eternal Son of God was not only born into a hostile world intent on His death.  He was born in humility and poverty.  The God Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and gives of the abundance of His love, took on Himself a body of flesh and was born in humility and died in humility.  He did this to give us the gift of salvation and to teach us a new way of life - giving of ourselves.  Once we understand this, every believer should sing at the top of our lungs from the roof tops with the chorus of “heavenly host” to the glory of God.  Through that open window of sight and sound to the eternal realm of God’s existence, the shepherds heard the angels in Heaven lift their voices to God’s praise. 

“13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14).

Jesus is the personification of God’s “good will toward men.”  If we really understood the magnificence of the gift of God in Christ Jesus, our song services would be filled with joy and rejoicing.  We would shout out “glory to God in the highest” from the bottom of our hearts overflowing with gratitude.  The songs of praise would burst forth from our hearts through our mouths directed to the glory of God.
Often we sing words put to music with little praise from our hearts and even less comprehension of the wonders of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.  If we really understood our dilemma, without God’s gift of a Saviour, we would better understand the wonders of that gift.

“6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

 “While we were yet sinners,” prideful, hostile, God hating, takers of whatever we wanted without any consideration of the consequences, “Christ died for us.”  The little baby boy, born in a manger, was born to die for us, to be our Saviour and to be God’s gift of salvation.  In that gift are many gifts.
  • In God’s gift of salvation, the sin penalty (death) is fully paid.
  • In God’s gift of salvation, the believer is restored to a position of righteousness before God.
  • In God’s gift of salvation, the believer is “born again” of the Spirit of God, removed from the condemned family of Adam and becomes a child of God.
  • In God’s gift of salvation, He promises resurrection and glorification to all believers.
The key words here are gift and believe.  Salvation is free to anyone willing to put their faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished through His death and resurrection and acknowledge His Lordship (Romans 10:9-10).

“24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this” (John 11:24-26)?

“Believest thou this?”  God gave from His heart the most precious of gifts.  He gave His only begotten Son.  He gave because He loves us.  He gave His best.  He gave Himself.  You can be saved if you will trust in the finished, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  “Believest thou this?” 

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.