Saturday, August 20, 2016

And All Jerusalem

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1-12)

I was reading this passage to my little ones, and the doctrines of grace just came flooding out so clearly, that I had to share.  Remember the acrostic TULIP.  It is

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

You are wretched sinner, but God chose you before the foundation of the world, died on the cross for you, and now his Holy Spirit has brought you to faith and repentance in Christ, and he will never lose you from his grasp.  This is a beautiful message of redemption that should give peace to all who hear it.  This passage from Matthew also gives amazing encouragement to our hearts today when we read it, because

1) Wise men from the east are gentiles, born in the flesh outside of God's covenant people, and yet he has included them in the new covenant in Christ.  God has chosen people outside of the lineage of Abraham and has died for them.  They are sheep that were originally outside of the fold, but they have now been included in the fold, just like you and me.  The Holy Spirit has filled them with an irresistible grace that has brought them in search of Jesus.  We, too, when we are converted, seek Jesus with all of our hearts, and we find him in the pages of scripture.  We follow the star of the word of God to where it leads: the Christ of the Bible and no other.  We know Jesus through worshiping him in truth and love.

2) The unbelieving world is outside the covenant of grace, and it becomes troubled when it hears about Christ.  Notice the words "and all Jerusalem with him."  This isn't the rejection of Christ by one depraved individual.  No, this is the whole community of people who believed themselves to be inside the covenant.  All of Jerusalem was troubled. We know from scripture that many Jews came into the new covenant by faith, but many did not.  Here we have all of Jerusalem standing in for the unbelieving world.  Likewise, our current world--the secular world and the false church--not only rejects Jesus but tries to figure out how to do away with him altogether.

3) The false church attempts to flatter the people of the new covenant, so that many will fall away.  Remember from Daniel 11: "Many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white..."  The wise men are flattered but they withstand the temptations.  Likewise, the false church attempts to sway true believers to its side, but we persevere.

4) Although we are wretched sinners, when we lay hold of Christ, we rejoice exceedingly.  He has saved us from our sins.  We are forgiven!  Our only true response is worship!  We lay our gifts--ourselves, our souls and bodies--at his feet as an insufficient sacrifice.  It's all we have, it's tainted by sin, and yet God accepts it on the merits of his son. 

5) God keeps us from falling away himself.  The wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod.  Likewise, God's spirit within us keeps us from aligning ourselves with the false church.  Our ears become stopped to the syrupy sweet words.  Our hearts withstand all temptations to save ourselves by our own efforts, and we only make any move toward Christ because God has drawn us out of our selfish grave clothes like Lazarus hearing the powerful words of his Lord and Savior: "Come out!"

6) Finally, Christ shows us the way to live.  It is narrow and difficult, but it leads to our own country.  The wise men were shown a safe way back to their country, and that country is owned and ruled by Christ.  It was a place once excluded from God's kingdom, but now it is included, while his own city of Jerusalem has rejected him.  Likewise, God sets up his residence in the hearts of the faithful, who have been chosen from before time began, and he lives there forever.  He changes our wretched hearts of stone into palaces of light, worthy of holding him.  His blood washes away all of our sins, and we fall to our knees in thankfulness due to his irresistible grace.  Finally, we persevere to the end, because his will is all-powerful, and not one of his children will be lost.