Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Truth of Christmas

     As I was reading my Bible yesterday, I came across a wonderful, clear sermon which Paul spoke to men of Israel as well as Gentiles who worshipped God.  It was such a clear message that it bears reproducing it here.  The passage comes from the book of Acts 13:16-41  in the NIV version.
     "...Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!  The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; He made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power He led them out of that country, He endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, He overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to His people as their inheritance.  All this took about 450 years.
     After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.  Then the people asked for a king, and He gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.  After removing Saul, He made David their king.  He testified concerning him: ' I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'
     From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised.  Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.  As John was completing his work, he said: 'Who do you think I am?  I am not the one.  No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.'
     Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.  The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning Him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.  Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have Him executed.  When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.  But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  They are now His witnesses to our people.
     We tell you the good news; What God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.  As it is written in the second Psalm:  'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' ......
     "Therefore my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses. Take care of what the prophets have said does not happen to you:  'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe"  ( Acts 13:16-41).
     Paul speaks clearly to those assembled by relating their own history of God's intervention on their behalf.  He does it so succinctly that it is hard to miss.  Reminding people about the glory and provision of our heavenly Father is like giving a cold cup of water to a thirsty man on a hot day.  We are a forgetful people.  We need a strong reminder.
     As the Apostle traces the story from the Old Testament, we see how God's plan has been woven into history all along.  This is the beauty of the Bible.    It is as relevant today as it was when it was written.
     God's plan was for both the Children of Israel and the Gentiles to come into relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the message of Christmas that we are forgiven of our sins when we believe in Christ.  He came that we might have eternal life.
     My prayer at Christmas is that many who are reading this will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, for believers I pray that we can tell others this good news as simply as the Apostle Paul did in this short passage.  May God give us the boldness to proclaim this message of salvation.  It is the best Christmas gift we can give another.  Selah!

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