As we approach Christmas this year, I have been thinking about the “glory” that attended the coming of Jesus to earth. As I have been occupied with this theme, the larger context of darkness and light throughout Scripture has caught my attention.
The earth that God created was “without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). That condition is followed by God commanding; “Let there be light, and there was light” (1:3). Light in the form of sun and moon were both given to “rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness” (1:17). Take note of that; light is to rule over darkness! How it does that is seen in the person of Jesus.
In that way, Jesus came as the “true light which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). This light was foretold by Isaiah the prophet; “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). This came as great news to the part of Israel called Zebulun and Naphtali; “there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (9:1). According to Simeon, that light was also glory in the person of Jesus (Luke 2:32).
Today there are people who walk in darkness because the light of Jesus has not yet reached them. Does this concern you? I am very concerned that there are persons all around me and around the world who walk every day in darkness because they have not heard the gospel. The purpose of this ministry is to mature and equip the Church to see the light and know the glory of Christ so they will be sent out by the Spirit with this message to the ends of the earth. Then “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
There are moments on the pages of Scripture that cause me to think deeply, and then worship. I was looking at Simeon coming into the temple in Jerusalem. On this particular day, “he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus…he took him in his arms and blessed God” (Luke 2:27-28).
That moment would have had no meaning if Simeon had not been under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. It would have been like any other Jewish male child brought by their parents, except the righteous and devoted life of Simeon prepared him for this moment. He was a servant the Spirit was free to use for prophecy of this child and the blessing of His parents.
As under the control of the Spirit, Simeon knew what He was holding. “My eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentile, and for glory to Your people Israel” (2:30-32).
To see and hold the Son of God was the pinnacle of Simeon’s life. What would be the pinnacle of your life? What would make you feel that your life is full and complete, and it was now time to leave this world? I have often wondered how my life would end. Would it be filled with the glory of Christ because I am living under the blessed filling of the Holy Spirit? That is what I want others to see when I go home – the glory of Jesus!
Many of us in the Church have had experiences that led to recommitments and new promises, and most of them fizzle out over time. Down the road, there may be another awakening, but the same cycle plays over and over. This is part of our weak human condition. I want to inspire all of us with reminders that we can be maintained in devotion to Christ until the end.
Yesterday we looked at the shepherds who paid attention to the vision of glory and announcement that Jesus the Savior had arrived. So clear and real was the message they saw and heard that they wasted no time going to Bethlehem and finding Mary, Joseph and Jesus. What were they going to do after that brief visit to the manger? Would they go back to their flocks and life be as usual?
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:20).
This string of events could not be forgotten, nor could these men be the same ever again. The glory they saw generated glory and praise in their hearts that had to be expressed. It was the natural result of following the path that started with the vision given them by the angel.
What would God do through each of us who have been saved by the message of the gospel if we were to “glorify and praise God for all” He has done for us? There are persons God has placed in your path that need to hear your story of Jesus. Are you going to keep it to yourself? Prepare yourself to tell them by “glorifying and praising God for all” He has done!
We left off yesterday with Luke 2:16; “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). Let’s continue with verse 17; “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
Mary and Joseph had already been told by the angel what would take place, and it all happened as they were told. The message from the shepherds was just confirmation of what they already knew.
What is my point? Someone is waiting for you to tell them about Jesus and what He has done in your life. It may be that they have heard the gospel before, but need confirmation from someone that is a living proof of being directly impacted by the glory of Jesus – the gospel.
No one could stop these shepherds from sharing the good news. What they heard and saw, changed forever their lives and their future. When I watch some ‘professing Christians’ put many other priorities ahead of Jesus and never tell others what He has done for them, I wonder whether they really understand the glory of Christ’s coming to earth just for them?
I desire that the full impact of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension begin right now to transform how you see Him! The shepherds only saw His incarnation and were captured by its glory. You and I are on the other side of all that has taken place through Jesus’ life. This is unspeakable glory! Why would we not want to tell others the impact it has had on us?
The closer we get to Christmas, the more our attention is drawn to the birth of Jesus. The challenge we have is being able to discern between what exalts Him in our minds and lives versus those things that are mere worldly celebrations. What is the difference?
God gives us the difference. Though the audience that waited and expected the Messiah to appear was very small, God made sure there was no mistake in identifying His coming. Let’s take the shepherds out in the field as an example.
“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 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 2:9–10).
There is a threefold notification of this event that brings together divine presence, divine glory, and divine joy. To add an even greater sense of importance to this event, we see “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest” (2:13-14). Heaven is so ecstatic with joy that all these features of God’s presence and heavenly beings appear at the same time for this special announcement. No wonder the shepherds headed to Bethlehem.
Such a proclamation requires “haste” or “to hurry with energy” (2:16). When they “found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger…they made known the saying that had been told them” (2:17).
Where is this “haste” or “to hurry with energy” with us? Perhaps we have been distracted by all the ‘lights’ of this world and not the blaze of glory in the Person. When HE captures our attention we will make “haste” to tell others who have never heard the news.
Have you ever taken time to think about one Divine Person seeking to glorify another Divine Person? This is clearly what Jesus says the Spirit will do for Him. “He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14). This is not unusual. Consider Jesus’ words to the Father in His prayer.
“When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You…And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:1, 5).
There was a mutual seeking and giving of glory between the Father and the Son because they shared glory that is unique to the Godhead. It was there with them in past eternity, but in a sense was temporarily set aside so Jesus could become a man for the purpose of redeeming mankind back into a relationship with God (see Philippians 2:6-11).
Jesus made it very clear that while He was in this human condition, He did not seek His own glory; “Yet I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge” (John 8:50). Said a different way; God the Father seeks glory for His Son and will judge all who refuse to give Him glory He is worthy of. “Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2:9-10).
Unity in the Godhead is perfect! The problem is with us. So often we place ourselves and things before what belongs to Jesus. Listen to the Spirit and He will change your priorities.
In addition to all we have already said about the Holy Spirit and why it is better that Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father, we have more reasons to be thankful the Spirit is here, dwelling in believers. These purposes, or functions, give us a direct connection with the ascended Jesus.
“He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13–14).
There is no excuse for Christians not knowing what is to come. While many get side-tracked on dates when Jesus will return, which are in the Father’s control, the Spirit has documented in Scripture “the things that are to come” and what we can expect to happen. In fact, the Spirit “will declare” them to us as often as we need Him to so we do not forget.
Remember John 14:3; “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus was building expectation in the disciples and us so we would not get too comfortable living in this world. We must always have a very light hold on the things of this world, but a very firm grip on what is eternal. We need to ask the Lord this question; ‘how can I hold what you gave me so I use it to contribute to eternity and Your glory?’
This is how the Spirit wants to work in your life and mine. The more we focus our energies and resources toward spreading the gospel to the unreached (those who have never heard), the more we are working on eternal things and the increase of Jesus’ glory. Let the Spirit declare the glorious things of Jesus to you.
At times in Scripture we are given unique glimpses into the workings of the Godhead – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In John 5:18-19, Jesus told the Jews that God was His Father and He “can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing.” What an amazing look into the interdependence of the Trinity.
Going back to the verses we looked at yesterday, we see the dependence of the Spirit on Jesus for what He says to us. “When the Spirit of truth comes…He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” (16:13–14). THAT IS GLORIOUS!
How should this unity impact the way we think, live and work? Is this just some idea in Scripture that is nice to read, but has no affect on us? I have never heard, in my memory, any preacher speak on this subject, but I believe it is crucial for us to consider.
Since this unity exists between Divine Persons, should that be the model for the Church who has the Spirit of God living in them? My answer is an absolute YES! No wonder Paul urges the church at Ephesus to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). This is not an instruction that is optional because it represents what God is!
How would this principle change your attitude toward the authority that has come to us through the Word of God? How would this divine example change our relationships in the Church? You must answer these questions for yourself.
We want to continue looking at the advantage we have in Jesus ascending to heaven and the Spirit being sent to be with you and dwell in you (John 1:16-17). This ever-present divine person will keep expanding our love for who Jesus is — things that we would never understand if it had not been for the Holy Spirit. Think about the three verses below.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12–14).
The “many things” really means, “a great number of things.” In other words, the rest of our lives can be spent in letting the Spirit keep unfolding what Jesus wants us to understand. Another reason why Jesus could not tell them everything was that their minds and hearts needed “the Spirit of truth” to give them understanding and guidance “into all the truth.” Without His working in us, we will never grasp truth.
Tomorrow we will address the rest of these verses. But for now, let us be thankful that Jesus sent the Spirit to be our Helper.
In talking to some believers who know the story of Jesus’ birth and life, they say; “if only Jesus was here again. Things would be so different.” Would they? As we read the gospels, we see how personable Jesus was with people; meeting their needs, healing their diseases, caring for their loved ones, and even raising the dead.
The fact is that from the beginning of time, God always wanted a close relationship with mankind. Even after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought on themselves and the rest of humanity the consequences of sin, God still wanted to talk with them. His feelings for them are expressed in this question; “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). He knew there was a way to restore the relationship.
Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, many Christians feel they are left to struggle on their own with only the Bible and what they hear at church. Is this true? J. D. Greear makes a point that all of us need to think about.
“The Holy Spirit tends to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. Most Christians know He is there, but they are unclear about exactly what He does or how to interact with Him. Yet something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told His disciples it was to their advantage that he go away — if His departure meant the Spirit came…the Spirit’s presence inside them…would be better than Himself beside them.” (Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You, Zondervan, 2014, page 13). (See John 16:7-11).
The presence of Jesus can’t be any more real than walking with the Holy Spirit in you. We just need to ask Him to show us and speak to us through the Word He left – the Bible. He is here!
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