“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. …” 2 Corinthians 5:11. New Years always falls at the coldest and darkest time of the year when most of us would rather stay inside than venture out, hibernating until late spring. Paul has just made the case that when we are at home in the body, then we are away from the Lord. And yet, as the world around us grows colder and darker spiritually, that’s exactly what have done. We’ve shrunk back into our comfort zones, interacting only with those who have already obeyed the gospel and compromising with those who can agree with a watered-down version of the gospel. Aiming to please ourselves rather than God, we deceive ourselves in our lukewarm state that we’re walking by faith and not by sight. We need to recover our “fear of the Lord” to pull us out of being at home in the body—for our own salvation first and then for the sake of the church’s influence and service around the world. But, it is through fear of the Lord—because being away from Him means eternal destruction—that we persuade others to avoid His severity and stay in His kindness (Romans 11:22). Fearing the Lord, who will you persuade this new year?
“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” Luke 2:10. To us who have been made a little lower than the angels, seeing the angel of the Lord with God’s glory shining around it might seem terrifying. The angel tells the unlikely shepherds not to fear, however, as it is only there to divulge God’s unlikely plan for man’s redemption: a helpless baby has been born that is the long-awaited Savior and laid in an unlikely place in an unlikely town. The only thing not unlikely was the messenger as angelos in Greek means ‘messenger.’ The same root word is used in ‘gospel’ or ‘good message,’ the Greek word, euangelion. And ‘good message’ indeed it was that the messenger of the Lord brought for “all the people,” good news of great joy that the prophets, carried along by the Holy Spirit, longed to look into but could only guess at. The most pivital moment in human history was entrusted to those who often had a poor reputation but would “go … and see” for themselves and then would tell others: light in jars of clay. They, in turn, would become God’s messengers. And now so are we. Are you God’s messenger for the good news?
“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” Revelation 22:17. In the 1744 hymn, “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” the faithful are encouraged to come to Bethlehem to behold the King, who was born as one of us in every way but who would never sin. Why? Washing His followers’ feet, Jesus told them that He was giving them an example that they should also serve in that same sacrificial way. You may, however, hesitate to come to Him when you see the example of suffering that He calls you to bear to truly be His disciple. Come to your own cross you are to shoulder. Why? Because you desire the living water that was bought by the only one who could buy it—but at such a terrible price! Come to Jesus, the perfect Lamb who was slain for our redemption, the only one worthy to do so! And as you come to the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, know that you are part of a body who live not for themselves but for their Savior. All ye faithful, ye citizens of heaven, do you come to Him, born this happy morning, to adore Him, Christ the Lord?
“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life’” Acts 5:19-20. This is the time of year that many speak of angels and their role in announcing Jesus’ birth before going back to ignoring their presence in the rest of scripture. In Acts 5, the apostles were arrested for preaching the gospel, and an angel opens their cell so they could preach the gospel. In addition to understanding the strength of God’s will over man’s, we can see another of the varied ways in which God uses these servants for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Instead of “Angels we have heard on high …,” what if we had songs about their other work: perhaps, “Angels who have opened doors …”? This happened again in Acts 12 when an angel rescued Peter after Herod had thrown him in prison. Notice, though, that the angel left Peter before the closed door of the church that was praying for him. The apostle had to knock to be let in. Jesus too stands at the door of our hearts and knocks as well, waiting to be let in. He won’t open it. We have to open. Will you let Him in?
“The LORD lives, and blessed by my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” Psalm 18:46. A quarter of century ago now, my family took a support trip at a time when our home church sang the song based on this verse a lot. Suddenly from her carseat in our van our active, older daughter in pigtails broke out in her two year-old version: “… and let the God of my salvation be exhausted.” God, we were sure, was fine, but her parents, trying to keep up with her, certainly weren’t! David, as the psalmist, describes the LORD as his rock, fortress, deliverer, and … savior. In his distress he called upon God, and the LORD answers because He is angry that His cherished child is in trouble. After describing his rescue and the loving way in which the LORD deals with him, David breaks out in praise for what He’s done for him—much like a two year-old with pigtales in a van on a long road trip who has no idea where she’s going or why. Instead, she just trusts her father to drive and take care of her while they take joy in each other. Is that the relationship you have with your heavenly Father as He includes you in the purpose for the trip He’s brought you on? Are you singing imperfect praise?