Tag Archives: sin

Sin’s Stench | Bible Gleanings – October 3-4, 2020

Sin’s Stench

He darted like lightning towards the house, retreating from a battle apparently lost—my dog, that is. One night a few weeks ago, as my dog went out to relieve himself, he encountered a skunk that had defended itself and won. The putrid odor that enthralled him was more nauseating than anything I’ve ever smelled before. It would not surprise me to find out that the biblical writers accidentally left out the part about hell reeking of skunk spray.

Needless to say, we broke out the big guns. We used the most potent dog shampoo in our arsenal and gave him a rigorous bath. Most of nature’s tear gas was on his face, so we had to flush his eyes and massage his snout with suds to eliminate the offensive odor. The skunk was still winning, however, for the foul stench remained. “Cover it with something that smells better,” I thought. I thought wrong.

Out of options, we purchased some skunk odor eliminator and applied it as well. The repulsive tang lingered for days, so the bathing and cleaning had to carry on. The dog hated the whole cleansing process, of course. Many times he tried to jump out of the tub to escape. Sometimes it was difficult or unpleasant, but it had to be done. He had to be cleaned up for his own good (and for ours).

As sinners, we carry a stench far worse than the sulfuric fumes of a skunk—namely, the odor of sin. The Lord God smells sin from heaven and it is described in Scripture as an unpleasantly-smelling smoke in His nostrils (Isaiah 65:5). However, on the day of your conversion God gave you a bath. He washed you by the cleansing blood of Christ and the spiritual washing of the Spirit (1 John 1:7; Titus 3:5).

Since you are not in your final state, the scent of sin will stick around. Therefore, God’s process of cleansing will continue until you wear a robe of white in glory. Sometimes it is unpleasant or hard to bear when God scrubs you of sin’s smell, but that’s the only way it can be eliminated—you cannot wash yourself or cover the smell of sin. Sometimes He uses means of cleansing us that are undesirable: discipline, trials, rebuke, correction, and so on.

But don’t jump out of the tub, friend. God always cleanses you for your good. Let God cleanse you each day and even ask Him to do so (Psalm 51:2). Yield to His continual cleansing so that you may spread a pleasing fragrance to those around you, “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). And rest assured that, no matter how many times you get sprayed by sin’s stench, the Lord will wash you every time you come to Him.


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it will be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

Ready to Fight | Bible Gleanings – September 26-27, 2020

“If people wanted to fight me in the garage, then bring them on, and I will fight them in the garage,” said Ryan Garcia, a lightweight boxer from La Jolla, California. Garcia is among many boxers who are training for the ring despite most televised boxing being put on hold due to the coronavirus. According to the New York Times, Garcia and other boxers are disciplining themselves without missing a punch, and sharpening their skills so they will be prepared for the day when they step into the ring again. Garcia, who lives with his parents, installed a heavy bag and reflex bag in his parents’ garage to keep his punches sharp. The living and dining room areas were cleared out so he could hit the mitts with his father, and practice his techniques as though he were in the ring. Garcia understood that you can never win a fight without preparation. That’s why he did everything he could to train for and win his next one.

Likewise, as a Christian, you will be defeated in your fight with sin, the world, and the devil if you neglect spiritual training. The Bible says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:12‬). You are in the ring every day, wrestling up close against the opponents of God and godliness. In one corner, stands the flesh—the old sin nature that seeks to subdue you and make you its slave again: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12). In the next corner is the world that aims to mold you after its pattern and entangle you in its system: “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:12a; see also 1 John 2:15-17). And in the last corner is Satan, the adversary whose desire for your spiritual destruction is insatiable: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

A corrupt flesh, a dominating world, and a busy devil all stand ready to take you down. The key to winning against them is spiritual training and preparation. You must keep your spiritual muscles strong and stay in shape. Therefore, diligently watch out for deceiving temptations and keep your fists clenched against them. Remain in the place of prayer with your Father to stay alert for spiritual danger (Matthew 26:41). Wear the right protective gear, the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). Wield the word of God as a sword to defend yourself (Matthew 4:4-11; Ephesians 6:17). Are you ready for your next fight?


Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it will be posted for reading here.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

Too Close! | Bible Gleanings August 8-9, 2020

Too Close!

Like most people, you probably enjoy the comfort and security of a hotel room when on vacation. A quality room with a plush bed and coffee maker are the closest you can get to home when you’re away from home. However, if you get a kick out of getting as close to danger as possible, there are plenty of options out there. If you’re vacationing in Zambia, you can sleep in a glass igloo surrounded by elephants, giraffes, and wild dogs. Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia is just the place. They offer eighteen chalets in the exotic thicket of South Luangwa National Park. If you like tree houses, you can book your stay in a transparent capsule on the side of a mountain in Peru. Thanks to Skylodge Adventure Suites, you can sleep on a cliff in a see-through capsule which is accessible only by zipline. Maybe you’re the type that loves water. No problem! You can reserve your own bubble room sixteen feet below sea level at Manta Resort in Zanzibar. At this resort, guests are guaranteed a private underwater room complete with a butler who comes to you by boat. Yes, for a hefty price, you can forfeit all safety and security and turn your next vacation into a near-death experience!

Some people like to live on the edge—it’s inherent in their nature. As a matter of fact, inherent in your nature is a desire to get close to the edge—the edge of sin. As sinners, we try to bend the rules and camp on the cliff when it comes to violating God’s commands. More often than not, we flirt around with sin and see how close we can get when we should be getting as far away as possible. Because of our sin nature, we love to play with fire and come as close as we can to the fiery dangers of sin.

Think about all the biblical characters who destroyed themselves by coming too close to the edge. Adam and Eve lingered near the tree which God forbade before eating its forbidden fruit. Lot camped on the border of the detestable city of Sodom before going full speed down a path that wrecked his life. Samson dilly dallied in Gaza before going into a prostitute which defaced his once-honorable legacy. David watched from his palace as Bathsheba bathed before committing adultery with her.

No matter how thrilling it may be to our sinful nature, coming close to the edge always leads to destruction. The bill for sin always comes due. Instead of testing the limits, God calls you to flee from sin as fast as possible. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). Flee from sin and its danger. Don’t make your reservations in places that’ll get you closest to it (1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).


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Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

Day 9: The Gift of God

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 6:23

Where did the Christmas custom of giving and receiving gifts come from? Many speculate that it is an imitation of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wise men gave to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). It is also possible that the giving of gifts models the historical Saint Nicholas who gave gifts to poor children. Whatever the historical roots of tearing open presents on Christmas day, it serves as a fitting reminder of God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus. It is not a mistake that the word of God calls this a gift.

Eternal life is a gift, as Paul says in Romans 6:23. This conveys several things. First, it is given to you and is supposed to be accepted. God extends eternal life to you and you are supposed to receive it. Second, it cannot be earned—that’s why it’s a gift. You can’t work for or earn it. Third, as all gifts are an expression of life, so it is with God’s gift of eternal life—He gives it because He loves you.

All gifts have a cost and so does this one, except the cost is not paid by you—the cost was paid by God when He sent His Son to purchase eternal life. Eternal life comes freely to you because it was paid for by the death of Christ. Have you received this gift of eternal life by trusting in Jesus as your Savior? Nothing would be more of a gift to God than that you receive the gift of eternal life that He is offering to you.


profile pic5Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie, Aries, and Dot.

Review: Finally Free by Heath Lambert

The use of pornography is a prevalent problem today among nearly every group of people—men and women, teens and adults, and believers and unbelievers. It has devastated hundreds of people, wrecked marriages, and even destroyed lives. Many great minds have put forth an abundance of resources about pornography and its devastating effects—books, self-help articles, and documentaries. Frankly, the amount of information on the internet about pornography is innumerable. But Heath Lambert’s work is refreshingly distinct. This book is not a book about pornography—this is a book about overcoming it. Lambert is an experienced counselor and a wise teacher who knows about the gripping power of pornography. In Finally Free, Lambert offers a persuasive and compelling case for incapacitating the sin of pornography through the grace of God in Christ.

Summary

The premise of the book is simple: believers who struggle with the sin of pornography can overcome it through the grace of God. Lambert begins the book by taking the reader to the start of the road to sexual purity—beginning where one should begin in overcoming sin: the grace of God. God’s grace is the foundation in the fight against pornography (and all sin). The grace of God both forgives and transforms, Lambert argues, and the grace of forgiveness and transformation are exactly what sinners engulfed in pornography desperately need. He contends that God’s grace to change a person is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy a person. At the same time, Lambert does caution readers that if they are drowning in pornography, they should read subsequent chapters and immediately start implementing the radical measures he describes in order to overcome pornography.

Flowing from the Bible’s teaching about grace, Lambert then unfolds eight grace-empowered strategies for overcoming and defeating the sin of pornography. This is the main part of the book and in it (chaps. 2-9), he asserts that pornography can be defeated through biblical, practical, and radical approaches. Lambert explains that Christians can use godly sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, spouses, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Christ to overthrow the grip of pornography. Each of these emphasize that overcoming pornography requires strategies that are thoroughly biblical, intensely personal, and sometimes hurtfully sacrificial. But they are all worth it and all empowered by the grace of God.

The book concludes with a stunning and encouraging call to holiness and hope. In the conclusion, Lambert compels readers to holiness and purity but also points them to the hope in Jesus Christ as they wage the battle against pornography. There are other features of the book that are extremely helpful in the battle with pornography. One is the practical suggestions found at the end of each chapter. Lambert lists three or four proactive ideas for how to employ the strategy explained in the preceding chapter. Another great feature of the book is the appendix—Lambert offers much help for people who know others who are struggling with pornography. One final feature which is excellent are the many testimonies laced throughout the book. At every turn, Lambert has included real-life stories of shame, defeat, and even victory that both warn and encourage the reader.

Interaction and Evaluation

Lambert’s approach to this book is the only approach to take—overcoming sin by God’s grace alone. I found that regularly and refreshingly helpful. In previously counseling others, I have often heard very self-dependent statements like, “If only I could quit this,” or “I swear that I am not going to do this again!” I struggled with pornography long ago and I said those exact things. Lambert has pointed out why focusing on “I” will always result in failure. We must focus on Christ and the grace He gives in order to overcome pornography or any sin, for that matter.

I have also found that the failure of many other books on pornography is that they only give you information about pornography. They try to tell you how bad pornography is, but not how to overcome it. Certainly, we need to know how bad it is—which Lambert himself explains. But struggling Christians need more than information—we need transformation. And this only occurs by employing the grace-empowered strategies outlined in the book. There is sufficient application in this book—I don’t think Lambert could have applied the teaching of Scripture more than he did.

Conclusion

Finally Free is aimed at helping people become just that—finally free from the choking grip of pornography—finally free to live a life of joyful purity. For those engulfed in this egregious sin—you don’t need to try harder and you don’t need to have better intentions. What you need is the grace of God and Heath Lambert will point you right to it. He shows you what tools you can use in this fight and how you can stay on the path to victory. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone else, Lambert offers the most biblical, practical, and urgent solutions for becoming finally free from pornography.

Buy on Amazon here. 

What Does the Bible Say About Sickness Being a Result of Sin?

You’ve been sick before – I guarantee it. You might be sick right now. I’m sure your loved ones have had their share of sickness as well. You probably have loved ones who have suffered or passed away from sicknesses and disease, or there might be someone you love who is currently sick. But what does the Bible say about sickness? More specifically, what does the Bible say about sickness being a result of sin? Let’s found out.

First, let us define sickness. For the purposes of this post, we will use the word sickness in a general and broad sense to describe any state or instance of being ill. Sickness can mean being in the state or condition of illness. That could be having a cold, the Flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or anything else that is abnormal for a healthy human being. But sickness can also mean instances of sudden ailments such as having a stroke, a heart attack, or anything other event that would not be normal for a healthy human being. Sickness is real and both Scripture and experience confirm this. I state that because there is a “Christian” group which has existed for many years who believe and teach that sickness is not real, but an illusion. The proponents and adherents of Christian Science believe such, and that belief is demonstrably false and destructive.¹

Second, in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. The question concerns whether or not sickness can be a result of sin, and in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. That is, all sickness is a result of sin’s effect. The reason for the existence of pain, sorrow, ailments, sickness and even death is because of the effect of sin on the universe. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, the world became cursed and corrupted. Therefore, anytime you have sickness (of any kind), it is because we live in a fallen and corrupted world which is awaiting its renewal (Romans 8:19-21). One day the world will be made new and there won’t be any sickness at all (Rev. 21:4; 22:3), but as long as we live in a world cursed and corrupted by sin, there will be sickness. Most of the sickness we experience is merely a result of sin’s curse, because our bodies are fallen. Sickness occurs most often not because God is punishing or disciplining us, but because of the condition and world in which we live.

Third, some sickness is the direct result of sin. It is a possibility that sickness comes as a result of having committed sin. Unfortunately, there are some old fashioned fundamentalists who believe that every time you get sick is because you’ve sinned against the Lord, but the Scripture simply doesn’t teach this. It does teach that sometimes sickness can be a result of sin in our lives. Sickness can be the result of committed sin in three ways: 1) Sickness can be the following consequence of committed sin, 2) sickness can be the way God disciplines you when sin is committed, or 3) sickness can be what God uses as a means of judgment. Let’s talk about each of these individually.

  1. Sickness can be the consequence of having committed sin. By this I mean that some people get sick as a consequence of their actions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Lord is punishing or disciplining them, it’s just reality taking place. Someone who gets blackout drunk cannot expect to be healthy and well the next morning! Or if you constantly eat junk food you’re not going to be healthy. If you don’t take care of your body, you will succumb to sickness more often. Sometimes sickness is merely eating the fruit of your deeds. Fruit is a result of what is sown, and what kind of fruit you eat depends on what deeds you have sown. When you commit certain sins which will inevitably affect your health, you are the reason why sickness was brought upon you.
  2. Sickness can be the discipline of the Lord. Sickness is one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline of His children. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will get our attention. We have an example of this in Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The Corinthians were misunderstanding and abusing the Lord’s Supper, namely, observing it in an “unworthy manner” (v. 27). Because they wouldn’t stop doing so, Paul says, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (v. 30). God disciplined the believers there through weakness, illness, and even death. Another example of this is found in Psalm 6, where David prays a prayer of repentance. Apparently, he had committed sin. He doesn’t say specifically what it was, but it was obvious he was suffering from it. And one of the ways he was suffering was physically. He expresses in the psalm symptoms of an illness, which he appears to say is the Lord’s discipline. In v. 1 he acknowledges that God is disciplining him, and he notes that his “bones are greatly troubled” (v. 2), and that he is “weary” and “weak” (vv. 6-7). Although he doesn’t specifically say that he was physically ill, he certainly was not physically well. As a form of discipline, God allowed for him to experience great pain and it was probably some form of illness. Clearly, God can use sickness as a severe form of discipline upon His children. For determining whether or not your sickness is God’s discipline, look to see if you have unrepentant sin in your life or a pattern of serious sin. The reason I say that is because sickness is usually one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline. If He’s already tried to get your attention through other means and you still haven’t repented, He may resort to a more severe method of discipline – sickness.
  3. Sickness can be the means of the judgment of God. Finally, sometimes sickness can be the way God executes judgment upon an individual or individuals. Let me clarify at this point: the words judgment and discipline are not the same. Judgment refers to God’s punishment of sinners, discipline refers to God’s fatherly discipline of His children. And sometimes God will use sickness as manifestation of His judgment on the nonbeliever. There are several examples of this in the Bible. One example is in Exodus, where God caused a plague of “festering boils” to come upon the Egyptians in an effort to free His people from slavery (Exodus 9:9). Granted, boils aren’t an illness like a cold or the Flu, but they are in the category of physical ailments like illness. Another example is in Daniel, where God smote king Nebuchadnezzar with mental illness, changing his mind into “the mind of an animal” (Daniel 4:16). The king completely lost his mind and began acting like an animal (v. 33). When God deems it necessary, He will use sickness and other physical ailments as means of judgment.

Sickness is real and it exists because of sin’s effect on the world. It may or may not be the result of committed sin. Sometimes sickness is circumstantial because of the world we live in. Sometimes it is consequential – the direct result of your actions. Sometimes it is God’s discipline, meant for your repentance. And sometimes it is the means which God chooses to use to execute His judgment.

There are two more important matters I want to note in passing. The first is a pressing question often asked when talking about the subject of sickness: why are some people healed of sickness and others are not? The overarching answer is simply this: it either was or wasn’t the will of God. If God wills something, it will occur. If God doesn’t will something, it will not occur. And whatever God wills will always be for His glory. So, healing may or may not be God’s will for an individual who is sick. Why sometimes it is His will and other times not, we cannot know for sure. It is certainly not because an individual didn’t have enough faith. Some proponents of the health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel,” say that the reason why Christians don’t experience healing is because they didn’t have enough faith – their faith was the reason God didn’t heal them. Such a teaching is man-centered, non-biblical, and false. For believers who are sick, there is great hope even if they don’t receive healing. God uses physical ailments for His glory (see the story of the blind man in John 9), and believers can cling to the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Those who do not believe cannot hope in that promise, for they are not those who “love God,” and they are not “called according to his purpose.” The second thing worth noting here is the obligation that Christians have to care for those who are sick. Scripture tells us that we should visit the sick (Matthew 25:36) and pray for them (James 5:14). It reveals much about our love for the Lord and for the brethren when we fulfill those responsibilities.

What Does the Bible Say? is a question and answer series which seeks biblical answers to pressing questions.

  1. George Shaw Cook, “The Remedy for Illusion,” Christian Science Sentinel. www.sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/50tfglv60w (accessed June 16, 2018).

26219980_2002699353334045_1898487006197556984_n.jpgBrandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife, Dakota live there with their dog, Susie.

The Invincible Kingdom of Christ (Psalm 2)

The following sermon was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, KY on the 26th day of February, 2017:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2).

Introduction: Jesus is an Invincible King

Something unique about and exclusive to Christianity is that we worship and serve a King. Not just a King, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Yes, we worship Christ who is our Shepherd, Savior, Prophet, Priest, Mediator, and Lord. But something that distinguishes us from other religions is that it isn’t just a man we are worshiping. He isn’t just a good man, or even just a deity, or a God-like being—Jesus Christ is a King. He isn’t an enlightened man like Buddha, He isn’t a prophet visited by an angel like Muhammed or Joseph Smith (Mormonism). He isn’t among a host of other gods, as in Hinduism. He is a King greater than any religious figure. And He is a king greater than any political figure, greater than Caesar or any government, administration, or president (Acts 17:7).

He is the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17). He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Jesus Christ is a King and His kingdom is invincible. When Jesus appeared the first time, His kingdom was inaugurated—His first coming marked the beginning of the coming of the kingdom of God, His rule and reign on the earth. When He came the first time, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven—that’s when the administration of Jesus took over! He dominates, rules, and reigns in the world today through the Holy Spirit which He and the Father have sent to the world to carry out His purposes.

So it is clear from Scripture that the kingdom of God is invincible—and not just because the Spirit of God is here today accomplishing the will and purpose of God. It is invincible not just because Jesus is ruling in the hearts and lives of millions across the world. The chief reason that the kingdom of God is invincible is because one day, Jesus is coming back to finish what He started. One day, the King of Kings will return to gather in all His sheep, conquer anyone who stands in His way, and dominate the nations so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). He will come to rule, He will come to reign, He will make war and will dominate all nations, and conquer His enemies. And while this gives great hope for the church today, it also highlights the foolishness of anyone who might seek to revolt and fight against Him.

Scripture says that when He comes, those who are in rebellion against Him will mourn and wail—they will be put to shame, because they won’t stand a chance against Him. It is foolish and deadly to be against Jesus because, while we don’t know the day or the hour of His second advent, we are always one day and one hour closer! But oh, the folly of those who reject Him—oh the absurdity of those who are unsaved and the dangerous ignorance of those who revolt against Him! It is foolishness in the highest degree to reject Jesus because His kingdom is absolutely invincible, impenetrable, and it is impending—getting closer and closer to the time when Jesus will conquer all. And that’s the thrust of the second psalm we have before us. We’re going to see in this psalm that it is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus. This is a call to both nonbelievers and believers alike. Nonbelievers need to take refuge in Christ to avoid the terrible fury of God’s wrath, and we as believers need to continually take refuge in Christ daily so we may overcome sin and have our eyes fixed on the day when He comes again.

The psalmist writes this from an observer’s point of view and speaks of a great rebellion, and a greater king who will conquer all rebellion. The psalmist speaks of the nations of the world who are revolting against the kingdom of God, how God will conquer them all through His king, and ultimately through His Son. And the psalmist invites all who read this psalm to trust in this King who is the Lord Jesus Himself. We will see in this psalm:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)
II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)
III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)
IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Let us look now at the word of God:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)

First of all, we see in vv. 1-3 that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. It is absurd to rebel against the Lord, thinking that you can overthrow His sovereign rule. The psalmist expresses here that the apostates are fools to plot a revolt in order to be liberated from the rule of God and His anointed one. Listen to the underlying tone of foolishness in the way the psalmist describes the world’s revolt against the Lord:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us” (vv. 1-3).

The psalmist opens this psalm with a question: “Why do the nations and the peoples plot in vain?” (v. 1). He sees the nations and peoples of the world plotting and raging against the Lord, and asks why.  You can even hear the concern in his voice in the way he penned v. 1—he views the nations’ revolt against the Lord as absurd, foolish, and stupid. And this idea leads the psalmist to ask, Why? Why would the nations do such a thing, he asks. Of course, “the nations,” in this psalm (and the Old Testament), are those who are outside of God’s covenant family. They are Gentiles, apostates, those who are outside of the faith—those who are pagan, worshiping other gods like Baal and Molech. These are not nations which worship the true God. It is said that these nations “rage,” and “plot in vain,” meaning they are restless, raging, and conspiring to do evil. They are upset about something, restless about something. And even this far in to the psalm the psalmist views their rebellion and revolt as absolutely foolish: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? Don’t they know they are planning destruction for their own selves?

Notice also, their raging now leads to plotting. In v. 2, they move to greater action than just raging and being restless: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Now the psalmist tells us what the apostates actually do in an attempt to carry out their revolt against the Lord and His anointed. The kings of the earth come together and the rulers come to take counsel together—they meet to discuss what they must do. They draw up plans, prepare weapons, train their armies, enlist their generals, locate their targets, and prepare reinforcements. They are meeting together to conspire a great revolt, a great rebellion. But it is not against another army, not against another nation, not to conquer land, not even to conquer the world—they plan a revolt “against the LORD and his Anointed.” That’s why the psalmist views them as dimwits, and it’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Why would you revolt against God? He is all powerful, all-knowing, all-present and who destroys His enemies.”

But that’s the focus of their rebellion—they rebel and revolt against the Lord God of heaven and earth, and they rebel against “his Anointed.” The anointed one would be the king of Judah—likely David at this point. Those who ruled God’s people were considered anointed—set apart by God Himself for His purposes, namely, to carry out His rule and reign among the people. Often you will see David saying things like, “[God] shows steadfast love to his anointed” (Psalm 18:50), or “the Lord saves his anointed” (Psalm 20:6). Statements like that are references to himself because he was the anointed king who ruled in Judah. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “anointed” here is masiah, which sounds a lot like Messiah, who is truly God’s anointed One. We know that the true Messiah is Jesus, God’s Anointed One. Keep that in mind for now, we will say more on that later.

And finally in v. 3, we have the goal of their plotting. The reason they are angry, the reason they are plotting, the reason they are planning a revolt against the Lord and His anointed king is this: “Let us burst their bonds apart, and cast away their cords from us” (v. 3). They want to separate the bond that exists between the Lord and His anointed king, for if they can get the Lord out of the picture and have the king by himself, they can be victorious in their revolt. So they first want to “burst” apart the “bond” between the Lord and His anointed. Secondly, they want to be liberated from both the Lord and His anointed! “Let us . . . cast away their cords from us.” They want to be free from His restraints on them as well.

So all throughout this section (vv. 1-3), it is clear that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. And that is the first thing the psalmist tells us about King Jesus and about His invincible kingdom. It is very clear from what we’ve just read that it is deadly, foolish, and even audacious to revolt against the Lord—but let’s not make the mistake of leaving this passage in the dust of ancient time, because anytime we sin, we are declaring a revolt against the Lord as well! This idea of attempting liberation from the rule of God has been mankind’s central problem since the beginning – and it never ends well. Adam and Eve took the fruit because it was a “delight to the eyes,” so that they “could be like God.” The real sin was not mere disobedience, but idolatry of their own selves. They wanted to be like God, and they didn’t want the rule of God over them. And this is what happens when sin is committed. It is saying: “Let me be free from slavery to God!” It is declaring an insurrection upon God—declaring independence from God, saying by our actions that we do not need Him. Sin isn’t a mistake, it isn’t an accident, or a blooper. Sin is a willing revolt against an invincible King. And the utter foolishness of it is seen in that, when we sin, we are standing upon the very ground which God created and sustains – having a beating heart, breathing lungs, and a working mind – all of which are completely owned and operated by God! Sin is foolish, for we are using what God has created against Him. Sin is deadly and audacious foolishness.

Since the Fall, we have been in a revolt against God and His rule—it is deeply threaded within the very fabric of our existence to rebel against God and His dominion over us. We want to rule, we want to be in control of our lives and our decisions. The only solution to this problem is to have God be Lord over us again—and this happens through the gospel. This happens as God uses His anointed King Jesus to conquer the rebellion in our hearts and have us joyfully submit to Him by His grace. But even as believers today, when we sin against God it is a revolt. Do you view your sin that way? Pray that God would help you view your sin as a revolt against Him. We could certainly use more help in viewing our sin for what it really is. And the more we are sanctified through the word of God, as the Holy Spirit applies it to us, we will naturally view sin as “exceedingly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). Our distaste for sin should continue to grow, so that anytime we come in contact with sin or a tempting situation, we will see it as a bitter poison. If your distaste for sin isn’t growing, it’s because you don’t view it as an attempt to overthrow the rule of God on your life. It is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation.

II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)

But how does God respond to this? Does God get enraged with anger at their revolt? Does He open up battle plans on a table? Does He worry about the well-being of Israel and Judah? Does God stop their revolt because of the threat it poses to the kingdom which will one day bring forth the Messiah?

Not only is God not bothered, but He laughs:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill” (vv. 4-6).

God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. The psalmists notes that God is unaffected by their revolt and responds with laughter, terror, and confidence in His appointed king.

The psalmist says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” God laughs at them. God scorns and laughs—He is unchanged by their conspiring and plotting. God is He who sits in the heavens—He is in control of all things and He is far above them. He could wipe them out in a second. The ground upon which they stand could swallow them up to Sheol at any time—just as soon as God gave the command for it to do so. So of course, He laughs. 

Not only does He laugh, but “The Lord holds them in derision.” He views them with contempt—a scornful laugh comes from His throne as He sees apostates attempting to throw off His rule over them. The one who sits in heaven is the Master of the universe—He isn’t bothered by a tiny spec of humans on one planet in His universe who attempt to overthrow His rule.

Secondly, God terrifies them by His word. “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury” (v. 5). Instead of being terrified, God terrifies. God speaks and terrifies them when He speaks. Isn’t that amazing? What God does in response to their revolt and uproar is He speaks. When He speaks, the peoples are terrified by His words.

What does God speak? He says, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v. 6). This is the most interesting verse in the passage, in my estimation. I mean, you might expect God to say, “I will make an end to you,” or “My judgment shall quickly come upon you.” You would at least expect some other pronouncement of judgment on the nations as retribution for their plotting against the Lord! Instead, God Himself points to His established king as the very thing that should terrify the nations. What terrifies the nations of the earth is that God has installed His king. The king is God’s solution to the world’s revolt against Him.It is the establishment of this great king that should terrify the nations, it is this king who “is set on Zion, my holy hill.” “Zion” or Jerusalem, was God’s chosen dwelling place. That’s why it’s referred to here (as many other times) as His “holy hill.” Zion is God’s territory—it is the city which God had sanctified by His presence. God wasn’t limited by a city or a hill, or a temple—but He chose to carry out His rule in the world through Israel and through Zion. Zion is truly then, God’s “footstool.”

The nations were right to feel terrified, for God would empower any king who sat on the throne of David—it’s what God promised. The rebellious nations stand no chance against a king who has God on his side. God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. What is so great about this king? Well, let’s look at vv. 7-9 for that answer.

III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)

We’ve seen the revolt of the apostates and the response of God – notice now the rule of God’s anointed. Listen to the psalmist in vv. 7-9:

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

What is it that makes this king so great? Because he is God’s anointed who will rule all the earth. This anointed King is God’s Son who will rule the earth by His might. The psalmist interjects to explain the decree which God has spoken to His anointed king-Son and the promises included in it.

The psalmist reaches back into the past and declares: “I will tell of the decree,” meaning it was one which was previously spoken. And it is likely that this decree is a retelling of the decree which God spoke to David in 2 Samuel 7,

“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (vv. 8-16).

In this decree, God promises David that His throne will go on forever. God will be a father to him, and David would be to him as a son. It is this decree which David is recalling, and it has many implications for the Messiah who is truly God’s Son, and who will also sit on David’s throne. And the psalmist is saying here, “I remember this exact decree, and here’s what it said.”

So in this decree, notice first the identity of the anointed in v. 7. “You are my Son,” says the Lord. The anointed king is God’s son. God would father King David as He loved and disciplined him, but this also looks forward to Christ who is God’s Son, His only begotten. Secondly, notice the rule of the anointed. In v. 8, the anointed king is promised worldwide rule and his kingdom shall extend to the ends of the earth: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” God invites the anointed king to just ask of Him and He will make Him the ruler of all the earth. The anointed king will have the nations, the very nations who have rebelled against him—he will have them as his heritage. The ends of the earth shall be his possession. In reality, this worldwide domination points beyond any earthly king because David, Solomon, and all other kings after them failed to do this. It doesn’t mean God’s promise had failed—it means that Someone greater would one day fulfill it completely. And notice finally how this anointed king will conquer all things: “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” He shall break them, and dash them in pieces like pottery. Certainly the might of this king is very great! Again, it is clear that the dominion and rule of this anointed king looks beyond any earthly king. The language used here is elsewhere used in the Bible when talking about God and His judgment, His wrath, and His power. No earthly king will make the ends of the earth his possession. No earthly king will destroy his enemies like pottery—but a heavenly King will. Any nation or person that rebels against this Davidic King, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ—He shall one day be conquered. One day Christ will fulfill completely what is spoken of in this psalm—He will return and claim what is rightfully His, He will dominate the nations. The psalmist is recalling it now as his confidence that his enemies will not prevail over the kingdom of Judah, but it is also a confidence in the future installment of the King of kings who will wipe out all who stand against Him.

Believe it or not, Jesus Christ will one day rule over the United States of America. Some folks like to say that the USA is a Christian nation, but just wait until He comes. He will one day rule in the poorest places of India, He will one day rule over any tyrant such as Kim Jong Un. He will one day terminate ISIS and terrorist groups from the face of the earth. He will one day make every nation, tribe, and tongue His inheritance. He will one day rule and reign from the east to the west, from the north to the south—for He will diminish His enemies with a rod of iron, and He shall break them like pottery smashed on the ground. Revelation 6:15-17 says that this day will be so severe that people would rather be crushed by boulders than to face Jesus: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Sorry if you don’t like it, but this is who Jesus is—a conquering King. He’s not some sissified, needy Jesus who is just begging you to come to Him. He is a judge called Faithful and True who will one day return to bring all things to their rightful place. And for believers today, this speaks much to how we deal with worldliness, worry, persecution, and perspective. If Jesus is coming back to conquer, then this carries many implications as to how we deal with problems in the world today. Here’s a few things Jesus’ return in this psalm means for us today:

1. We should avoid worldliness at all costs. There is no logical sense in building up earthly possessions and being concerned with worldliness, if Jesus is going to make a new world. Certainly, obsession with accumulation of possessions should be avoided because you can’t take it with you after death, but even more so because it will all be destroyed! Jesus warns us about this in Matthew 6, saying that we should not exhaust ourselves in worldliness because there will one day be no world such as the one we are in (Matthew 6:19-21).

2. We should not worry about anything earthly. We have no reason to worry, because everything will one day be in dominion under the rule of Christ, the King (Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6-7). Why worry about things of the earth, when one day, there will be no things of the earth?

3. We should be joyful in persecution. We know nothing of real persecution in the United States, but what persecution we do know – bring it on. Kill us, persecute us, do what you want – you aren’t slowing Him down from destroying you. We as believers literally have nothing to lose. We are soldiers in battle waiting for our king to return—even if we die on the battle field, He is still coming (2 Tim. 3:12).

4. We should have a heavenward perspective. Those of us on Jesus’ side should earnestly look forward to that day when He returns (Titus 2:13). We should have a perspective looking towards heaven, as we wait for Him to return in the same way He was taken up (Acts 1:11). But for those who don’t know Him, look toward Him in repentance and faith! If you do not, your fate is so terrible and dire that no description in language can capture what you will suffer.

This is the rule of the anointed and nobody will be able to stand in His way.

IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Finally in this psalm we see a recommendation from the psalmist to those who revolt. The foolishness of their revolt has already been explained in this entire psalm. A man is a fool who revolts against the Lord because He has an installed and powerful King, His anointed one, who will conquer not only those who rebel, but the whole world. So then, the kings who revolt should be afraid, they should abandon their rebellion, they should be terrified that God has a mighty, invincible king who will conquer them with one swipe of a sword. So, the psalmist gives them a warning:

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (vv. 10-12).

It is clear that the only appropriate response to God’s king is service and submission. The psalmist concludes with a warning for the apostates—they should serve and submit to the Lord. First of all, he exhorts them to be wise and be warned. They would be wise to heed the warning of this psalm. “O kings, be wise,” he says, and “be warned, O rulers of the earth” (v. 10). Instead of foolishness, the wisest thing to do would be to view this decree as a warning, and heed it with all their might. Secondly, they are exhorted to serve the Lord: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (v. 11). They should serve Him rather than seek to subdue Him. And they should “rejoice with trembling,” taking pleasure in God while fearing Him for who He is. And finally, they are called to take refuge in the Lord Himself. Now this is where the psalm is at its highest peak. They are exhorted: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Embrace the Son if you are among those who revolt against the Lord and His anointed! Embrace Him or face Him! Notice this is the Son of God, indicated by His powerful wrath and the capitalization of the word son. Obviously, this is no ordinary king, if His wrath is quickly kindled. This is a Son who can be angry, cause His enemies to perish, and have His wrath stirred and kindled. They would be very wise to embrace Him. The psalmist concludes with a final invitation saying, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Instead of revolting foolishly, take refuge in Him! 

Let me encourage you, if you are not submitting right now to the lordship of Jesus Christ, these are His terms of peace – take refuge in Him right now. Surrender to Christ if you haven’t—instead of revolting against Him, take refuge in Him. Turn to Him right now.

Conclusion: He Is Building a Coffin For Your Empire

Flavius Julianus was a Roman Emperor for a short period of time, and he was known for reinstating pagan worship which had been abolished under the rule of Constantine. With great fury, Flavius opposed the followers of Christ and he viewed them, in his own words, as “powerful enemies of our gods.” With fanatical resolve, he sought to remove Christianity from the face of the earth. But he never realized the stupidity of his endeavor. Still, history records that Flavius persecuted many Christians and took the lives of many who stood for their faith in Christ. One day Flavius was taunting a Christian believer named Agaton, in an attempt to entertain some of his friends. With so many Christians being put to death, the emperor asked him, “So, how is your carpenter of Nazareth? Is he finding work these days?” Without hesitation Agaton replied, “He is perhaps taking time away from building mansions for the faithful, to build a coffin for your Empire.”

Agaton was right—centuries have passed and the Roman Empire has risen and fallen, but only one kingdom has withstood time, persecution, bloodshed, heresies, splits and divisions—and it is the invincible kingdom of God, ruled by King Jesus. And the Son of God still takes time away from building mansions to build coffins for those who reject His lordship. This is a rebellion you don’t want to be in.

It is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus.

Do you understand that you sin is a revolt against God? Do you view it that seriously? If not, pray that God would help you to see that way. As you get more into the word, by His grace, God will increase your hatred and sorrow for sin. Are you expectantly awaiting the return of Jesus Christ? Is the promise of His return affecting your perspective on worldliness, worry, and persecution? And do you know Him today as your Savior and Lord? Are you taking refuge in Him this day? If not, realize you are a sinner, turn away from sin once and for all, and place your faith in Jesus Christ. He is a conquering King whose kingdom is invincible – don’t reject His lordship over you, lest you wind up in a coffin He has prepared for your empire.

QUESTION: Is it a sin to doubt your salvation?

A few years ago, a young man in our youth ministry asked me a stunning question. It was stunning because it just wasn’t a question I had prepared for. It wasn’t controversial, hotly debated, or impossible to answer – it was just different. I believe it was after our Wednesday night Bible study, and we were talking about spiritual matters when he asked me, “Is it a sin to doubt your salvation?”

He struggled with the assurance of his salvation at the time, and so he asked me if it was a sin to doubt your salvation or to have no assurance of salvation. You may have wondered about this as well. So, is it a sin to doubt your salvation, or to struggle with assurance? 

The answer: It depends. It really depends on what brought about the doubt in the first place. What places doubt into the category of being a sin is dependent on what is causing the doubt itself. In other words, to determine the sinfulness of doubt, you need to find out where the doubt is coming from. The Scripture does command and imply that we should seek out assurance of our own salvation, and to rest in that assurance (John 3:36; 5:24; 8:31-32; 10:28; Hebrews 6:4-6; 1 John 5:11-13). If we are not discovering and believing those truths, we are being blatantly ignorant of the word of God. So in that sense, it would be sinful to doubt salvation which you already have because you are failing to seek out those Scriptures which concern assurance, and then gain assurance by reading and believing them.

However, if your doubt arises from a noticeable contradiction in your Christian lifethen that is a good doubt to have! That is, if you see no evidence of salvation in your life whatsoever, then that’s a logical and good doubt to have. If you are doubting whether or not you are truly saved because you see no evidence from your life of salvation, then truly your doubt is good! If there is apparently no life change, then you have great reason to doubt your salvation. Why would you believe you are healthy when your body demonstrates that you are sick? And why would you believe you are saved when your life demonstrates that you are not?

Consider what the apostle Peter says in his second letter. In the first chapter, he lists off a range of godly qualities that should be present in our lives, if we are true believers. He names things such as “self-control, godliness, brotherly affection, love,” and many others (vv. 5-7). And listen to this—Peter says that the reason we should see these godly qualities in our lives is “to make your calling and election [salvation] sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (v. 10, KJV). In light of this, I then said to the inquiring young man, “The life you’re living should be enough evidence to confirm your salvation. If you see no transformation, you never had salvation.”

Keep it in mind that sometimes true believers do backslide – true believers fall into a backslidden state time and time again, but never totally nor finally. For those that believe, they will persevere until the end, never losing their salvation (John 6:37-47; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:28-39; Eph. 1:13-14; Phil. 1:6). And just as true is the fact that believers lapse in and out of certain sins from time to time, which may cause a true believer to have doubt or lack assurance. Thankfully, God will give us grace to move forward on His path as we seek His strength and power to do just that. But if you don’t see any transformation in your life, if you see no evidence that you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), then you can be sure you have no salvation.

Assuredly, it is no such sin to doubt a salvation which you do not have – perhaps it is the Holy Spirit convicting you of what is your own reality. It is a good thing to doubt a salvation if you have no reason to believe you have it! But it is certainly sinful to doubt a salvation which you do have. If you are a true believer, your life will demonstrate that. If you are doubting, endeavor to discover the reason for your doubt. Is it personal sin causing doubt? Is it lack of time with the Lord which is causing doubt? Is it ignorance of Scripture’s teaching on assurance?

The Historic, Messianic, and Humble Birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-7)

This message was originally delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on the 9th day of December 2015:

Christmas: A Christ-Celebration

Christmas is a pretty big deal. It’s the biggest celebration of the year with decorations of lights, Christmas trees, wreaths, garland, candles, ribbons, and much more. It is a time of buying, wrapping, and giving gifts. We have foods that celebrate Christmas and colors that celebrate Christmas. There is even an entire genre of music dedicated to celebrating Christmas. And while it is true that the majority of the celebratory elements of Christmas have pagan origins, it doesn’t mean Christians today can’t celebrate Christmas. John Piper said recently,

“So my counsel is to give all your efforts to making your children as happy as they can possibly be with every kind of surprise that is rooted in the true meaning of Christmas. Let your decorations point to Jesus. Let your food point to Jesus. Let your games point to Jesus. Let your singing point to Jesus. Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus.”¹

In any case, we should celebrate during this Christmas season. What happened Christmas night has never happened before, and there will never be anything like it again. It was the day that Jesus entered into human history. Christmas at its epicenter is a celebration of Christ. In fact, that’s what the word Christmas actually means. It is made up of two words: Christ and Mass. Christ meaning Messiah, and mas or Mass meaning a celebration or festival. Christmas is a Christ celebration. 

But why celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus entered into human history. We will see in our passage of Scripture for today exactly why we should celebrate. In this passage, the author of the third Gospel gives us a brief account of the day that Jesus entered the world. It is the Christmas story which is found in Luke’s Gospel, and it is cause for great rejoicing. We will see that the birth of Jesus was historic, messianic, and humble. And we will see the great implications this has for God’s plan of salvation. So let’s read the text:

The Text: Luke 2:1-7

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

I. The Birth of Jesus Was Historic (2:1-3)

First, we see that Jesus’ birth was historic. There were certain historical circumstances surrounding His birth and entrance into human history. There were actual events, also recorded in extrabiblical literature, which God brought about by His sovereignty. They were things which God orchestrated to ensure that Jesus would be born fulfilling the requirements for being the Messiah. Listen to vv. 1-3:

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town.”

Luke is describing the historical circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. He says that Caesar Augustus issued a decree for all the world to be registered. This decree was for the purpose of assessing taxes. It was tax time, and Caesar decreed that everyone in the Roman world be registered for this taxation. This registration for taxes was for “all the world,” that is, all areas of the world under Roman rule. For the Israelites and the people of Jesus’ day, this was their whole world – Rome dominated most of the territory. The Romans were mighty in power then and they continued to be many centuries later of course. But God was mightier in power, and He used this decree for His own purposes (as we shall see later).

Apparently, this was the first taxation when a man named Quirinius was governor of Syria. According to history, he was an administrator and a soldier who was usually victorious in his battles. And in v. 3 we read that everyone was submissive to this taxation: “And all went to be registered, each to his own town.” This taxation required Jews to travel back to their ancestral homeland. They would have to go to their own city to be registered. So in order to obey the law, Jews would need to go back to their homelands where they were born and raised to register for the taxation. It is important to take note of this because Mary is about to give birth, and she is not in Bethlehem where Jesus was supposed to be born. Micah 5:2 promises that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” If Mary gave birth to Jesus anywhere else, then Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah. He must fulfill what had been previously spoken about Him. You see, Mary was apparently in Nazareth with Joseph. Nazareth was her hometown: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:26-27a). Mary is about to give birth to the supposed Son of God, but they are in Nazareth. If her water breaks in Nazareth, then the Christmas story no longer exists, there can be no Messiah, and God’s promise would have failed; the people of Israel would need to keep waiting for the real Messiah. That’s why the taxation is so pressing for making sure that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem—Joseph would have gone to his hometown to register for the tax. And where would he need to travel in order to register for the tax? Bethlehem. That’s what we happening next. Joseph goes to Bethlehem with Mary right before she gives birth, and ends up giving birth to Jesus in the exact place where the Messiah was prophesied to be born.

So what we have in vv. 1-3 are the historical circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. He was born in real time just like any of us. We were all born at a certain year, when a certain president was in office, when certain things were taking place. If a baby were to have a biography written about his birth today, it might go something like this: “__________ was born when Barack H. Obama was president in 2016, nearing the end of his presidency because Donald Trump won the election.” Jesus was born in history. God was moving Caesar to issue that decree so that Jesus would be born in His prophesied birthplace. God was using history for His story.

II. The Birth of Jesus Was Messianic (2:4-5)

So we’ve seen that the birth of Jesus is historic (2:1-3), but secondly we see that Jesus’ birth was messianic. He was born under several circumstances that would make Him the Messiah. We see in vv. 4-5 that the baby in Mary’s womb would be the long-awaited Messiah who would save God’s people:

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”

Luke now focuses on the family of the child to be born: Mary and Joseph. They leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem, because that was Joseph’s hometown. Joseph is compliant with the decree, and goes back to his ancestral hometown to register for this taxation. And he takes Mary with him on his trip. The mode of transportation is not stated—either they walked, rode donkeys, or took a caravan up to Bethlehem—but in any case, he and pregnant Mary went to Bethlehem.

It is interesting to see that Luke emphasizes messianic themes in describing their journey towards Bethlehem. They went to the “city of David,” and Joseph was “of the house and linage of David.” Why even point that out? Because somewhere down the line, Joseph is related to David. If you were in the lineage of David, it was considered royal—a privilege. David was Israel’s greatest king, and for those who knew the Old Testament, they would have known that the Messiah was prophesied to come from David’s family. He would be born in David’s royal lineage. The Messiah would be the seed of David, He would be David’s great grandson. Listen to these clear testimonies:

“And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13-14).

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-2).

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jer. 23:5-6).

It is palpable that this Messiah-Redeemer-Savior will be born in David’s royal lineage. And who would be Joseph’s son? Jesus. He wouldn’t be Joseph’s son by intimate conception, but he would be his son by divine conception. If Joseph marries Mary, then Jesus would be born in David’s royal lineage.

So, they leave Nazareth and are now in this place called Bethlehem, which is the city of David. They went because this was Joseph’s city—he was of the “house and lineage of David.” They still weren’t married, for Luke says that Joseph went with “Mary his betrothed.” Their marriage had not yet fully consummated. They were still only pledged to be married.

Now, she was not required to be registered with him, but she goes with him anyway. Of course, no couple would want to be separated at such a crucial point in their relationship. So they went together to the city of David to register for the census. Jesus’ birth was about to be messianic. If He was going to be born in Bethlehem, He would be the long awaited Savior who would suffer for sin and bring salvation to God’s people.

III. The Birth of Jesus Was Humble (2:6-7)

We have seen that the birth of Jesus was historic (2:1-3), and that the birth of Jesus was messianic (2:4-5), now finally we shall see that Jesus’ birth was humble. He was born under very humble conditions—as a helpless baby in a manger. Luke concludes the narrative of Jesus’ birth in this way:

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

When they arrived in Bethlehem, it was time for Mary to deliver. She was having contractions, and her water broke. They had better find a local hospital, or an inn (which was a public motel), or somewhere to give birth to the Son of God. They had better let everyone know what’s about to happen. They better roll out the red carpet. But they didn’t—none of that happens.

Jesus was born in very humble circumstances, as a helpless, crying baby in a manger. The time came for her to give birth, says Luke, and she gave birth to her firstborn. Jesus is called here her “firstborn son,” signaling that He would have all the benefits of an inheritance. The firstborn son was always given the family inheritance. That is yet another important detail suggesting that He would receive the benefits of Joseph’s royal lineage. It also indicates that she would have other children after Jesus was born (see Matthew 13:55-56).

Once He was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths. These were pieces and strips of clothes bound together, believed to keep the limbs of a child straight. They were wrapped around newborns to help their limbs grow correctly. And she laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the public motel, the inn. The manger, which was an animal feeding trough was the first King-size bed there ever was. This was not a bright and beautiful night, as depicted by many of our Christmas cards today. It would have been dark, smelly, and unsanitary. The birth of the Son of God doesn’t get any more humble than that.

If God has been sovereignly orchestrating the circumstances surrounding the entrance of Jesus into human history, then why didn’t He have a royal place for Jesus to be born? God was clearly working behind the scenes to get Caesar to issue a decree. He was obviously ensuring that Mary and Joseph would be in a relationship, and eventually go to Bethlehem – so why didn’t God prepare a royal throne upon which Jesus could be born? Because the manger was not outside of God’s sovereign decree.

God chose that manger as the place for Jesus to be born. It was a demonstration of His humility—God became a man and took on flesh. Though He was God, He took nothing for Himself—not even an appropriate birthplace. Paul expounds on this in Philippians when he writes,

“Though he [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

Conclusion

The birth of Christ was historic, messianic, and humble. Just as God has been in control of this world since the beginning, God was in control of the circumstances surrounding His birth. The entrance of sin in the world didn’t throw off God’s plan of salvation – His plan to eradicate sin happened through the entrance of Jesus in the world. Rome’s crucifixion of Jesus didn’t throw off God’s plan of salvation – God’s plan of salvation in Jesus started with a decree issued from Rome. Having no royal place to be born didn’t thwart God’s plan of salvation – He was laid in a borrowed manger at His birth, and He was laid in a borrowed tomb at His death. In God’s sovereign plan, there was a time for Jesus to be born and there was a time for Jesus to die.

God came to earth that wonderful Christmas night so that He would grow up, live the perfect life, and die in our place on a cross, satisfying God’s wrath against us because sin. Then he would raise from the dead on the third day, and anyone who trusts in Him can be saved and have eternal life. Let us celebrate this historic, messianic, and humble Jesus this day. Let everything today be a Christ-celebration.


  1. “Rethinking Santa,” article by Tony Reinke on December 13, 2013; accessed December 24, 2016. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/rethinking-santa