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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Christmas Calvinists | Main | God gives no rewards for being boring »

    The Spirit of Christmas: "O Tidings of Comfort and Joy!"

    "O Tidings of comfort and joy," many will sing so happily at Christmas to declare that believers have rest from sin and have found salvation in Jesus Christ ("God rest ye merry gentlemen..."- -and believing ladies, too, of course!). Let us thank God for the Holy Spirit and His ministry that makes this comfort and joy meaningful and real as He teaches us about "Immanuel, God with us" in the Person and Ministry of Jesus Christ.

    In Luke 2:21-35 we have the Old Covenant time period meeting the New Covenant fullness of the times. In this overlapping time and fulfillment of two eras, we are called to behold the glorious work of God's Spirit in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Just a few days after Jesus is born in a lowly manger, the Lord graciously grants a righteous man named Simeon an opportunity to behold with his eyes, and embrace with his arms all of the hopes and longings of the Old Testament people. Simeon lived every day with hopes that one day he would see the fulfillment of God's Word.

    The Holy Spirit is Christ-centered; He is focused on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Believers who have been regenerated and led by the Spirit (like Simeon) are also Christ-centered; our lives are lived focused on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. How should we understand this focus on Jesus this Christmas?

    How do we learn about the work of the Holy Spirit and see His focus on JESUS in Luke 2:21-35:
    1. The Holy Spirit gave circumcision to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
    2. The Holy Spirit gave the Law to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
    3. The Holy Spirit gave the inspired word of God's promises to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
    4. The Holy Spirit gave hope of forgiveness to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.
    5. The Holy Spirit gave Jesus Christ to God's people to teach them about their need for a change of heart before Jesus.
    6. The Holy Spirit has given the Church and the Sacraments to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus. (Continued...CRB)

    ESV Luke 2:21-35: And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

    Let us focus on the work of the Holy Spirit as He points us to Jesus Christ the only hope of our salvation.

    1. The Holy Spirit gave circumcision to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.

    Jesus Christ is circumcised. Eight days after Jesus is born, he is taken to be circumcised and called "Jesus" (Luke 2:21). As heir of God's promise to Abraham, Jesus would undergo circumcision for His people.

    This reveals to us the important of Joseph and Mary's faith, particularly the faith revealed in the Old Covenant time of redemption. In having Jesus circumcised, Joseph and Mary are being obedient to God's Law, and placing the sign of the covenant promise on Jesus' foreskin.

    Circumcision was an outward sign that pointed to an inward reality. Through circumcision the Holy Spirit taught that God's people were consecrated unto Him for service, and if they disobeyed and turned away from God, they would be cut off from God's visible Church (or people). This outward sign pointed to a spiritual reality that the Holy Spirit would perform in one's heart.

    In the fullness of the times, Jesus would be consecrated from His birth to live perfectly before God, according to God's perfect standard of righteousness revealed in the Law, and he would be cut off and cursed for our transgressions. The Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus would not only be circumcised, but Jesus would make clear the meaning of circumcision in his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

    2. The Holy Spirit gave the Law to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.

    Jesus would fulfill the Law of Moses. Jesus was submitted to the teachings of the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22-24) as a child born under the Old Testament economy or redemptive-historical time period. Jesus would submit to the Law through Joseph and Mary his parents.

    Jesus would also have the fullness of the Spirit of God to fulfill the Law. This reminds us that Jesus did not come in the fullness of the times to abolish the Law but to fulfill it; what the Law was powerless to do, in that it could not make sinful man holy, God did, in the sending of His Beloved Son (Matt. 5:17-20; Romans 8:3-4).

    3. The Holy Spirit gave the inspired word of God's promises God to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.

    Faith, Righteousness and Devotion to God are evidences of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives, and they are fruits of believing God's Word of Promise. In Luke 2, we are told that there was a righteous and devout man named Simeon who had been longing or waiting with great expectations the Consolation-Comforter of Israel (Luke 2:25). The Spirit of God had told him that he would see the Lord's Messiah (Christ) before his death (Luke 2:26).

    Simeon was righteous because of the work of the Holy Spirit in His life. Simeon was righteous and devout in that he had a righteousness given to him by God because He believed God's promises. Simeon was devout in that He was consecrated to God in his service and worship.

    We know that Simeon as a faithful Israelite would have had the outward sign of circumcision, but by his righteousness and devoutness of actions toward God and man, he revealed that His heart had been regenerated-changed by the Holy Spirit. Only by the work of the Holy Spirit can a man be made righteous. It is not Simeon's outward sign that make him righteous, but the Spirit's work in His heart.

    We see Simeon's righteousness in his waiting on God's Word to be fulfilled; he is waiting on the Consolation of Israel, the Comforter of Israel, spoken of in Isaiah 40:1-5:

    ESV Isaiah 40:1-5: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

    God had told His believing people that through faith in Messiah, there would be great comfort or consolation. Consolation or comfort in Luke and Isaiah mean the longings, or hopes of Israel for peace with God (and this promise is for all who believe, Luke 2:32).

    Isaiah's prophecy is a revelation from God's Spirit that mankind will be made right with God, and that there will be forgiveness of sins through faith alone in Messiah.

    Look at a few of the promises of Isaiah: 1) Comfort is spoken with tenderness to God's believing people (Isaiah 40:1); 2) Her warfare or time of waiting on the full revelation of God's promises will come to pass with Messiah (Isaiah 40:2a); 3) Her iniquity will be pardoned and she will receive double for all her sins; and 4) the glory of the LORD shall be revealed.

    All believers in the Old Covenant would know that this revealed promise of God from Isaiah was a "Messianic Promise". This was God's promise to send the son of the woman to crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15); this is Messiah, Abraham and Sarai's greater son, Rachel's greater son, Ruth's greater son, and David's greater son who would be born to redeem God's people for all eternity.

    Because of the work of God's Spirit, Simeon believed God's promises, and he received Jesus as the consolation-comforter of Israel who would live perfectly according to God's Law, and die under the curse of God's judgment on the cross for sinners.

    In Jesus Christ is found consolation-comfort before God, and all who believe have their sins and iniquities pardoned before God.

    4. The Holy Spirit gave hope of forgiveness to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.

    In fact, Isaiah says that believers will receive "double for all her sins". What does this mean?

    This is the Spirit saying that there will not only be forgiveness of sins in Jesus, but a giving of perfect righteousness to all who believe. Jesus came not only to die for sinners and make forgiveness possible, but he came to be faithful to God's covenant, keeping the Law by loving God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself to earn a righteousness that could be given to all who believe, whether those who believe in the Old Covenant era, or the New Covenant era.

    We not only need to be forgiven of our sins (something needs to be taken away or subtracted), but we just as importantly need to be given something- -God's perfect righteousness imputed to us by faith alone in Christ alone through faith alone (something needs to be given or added to us). Believing mankind needs "double" for all their sins!

    Simeon as a righteous person, a part of the remnant of believers left in Israel who was still holding on tightly to God's promises, took hold of , and embraced (!!) the righteousness that God requires and provides in the Person of Jesus Christ.

    Simeon sees the Lord's salvation (Luke 2:30) with his own eyes, because of the powerful work of God's Spirit.

    5. The Holy Spirit gave Jesus Christ to God's people to teach them about their need for a change of heart before Jesus.

    What we learn in Luke 2:21-35 is that Jesus Christ is the long-awaited Messiah, or the "Lord's Christ' (Luke 26b). Jesus is God's Son and Son of Man who will be anointed with the Spirit of God to accomplish all that man could never do because of sinfulness.

    Jesus Christ would be anointed with the Spirit of God to live perfectly and to bear up under the curse of God so that all who believe might know the comfort-consolation of the forgiveness of sin and joy in His name!

    The Spirit of God had been at work from all eternity, and particularly in the Old Covenant era to point forward to Jesus Christ through signs such as circumcision, sacrifices, prophets, priests, kings, and places of worship, like the Temple.

    Here in Luke 2, we have the Holy Spiritual types meeting the anti-types or fulfillment of God's gracious revelation to His people!

    In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of circumcision as he was consecrated for perfect service to God on our behalf, and was cut off for our salvation on the cross (see Colossians 2:11-14). In Christ, all believers are circumcised and consecrated to God's worship and service.

    Jesus was the perfect and final sacrifice to atone for our sins and to propitiate God's wrath for us. Jesus was the long-awaited Lamb of God who takes away the sins of all who believe! In Christ, all believers are forgiven of their sins, and although they experience difficult times, Jesus promises:

    "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." - John 14:25-27

    Jesus was anointed as the Lord's Christ (or Messiah) to be the perfect Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus was the very Glory of God incarnate, and so He is the Temple, the very dwelling place of God (John 1:14-18). In Christ, all believers are part of Abraham's family, the True Israel of God, the very Temple and dwelling place of God, a holy nation set apart for God (Gal. 3:26-29; 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5. 9-14).

    But how do you respond to Jesus? Some would emphasize unbiblically inward realities of the Spirit's work apart from the outward signs, and some would emphasize unbiblically outward signs apart from inward realities. Some would emphasize circumcision, but not stress the importance of a circumcised heart before God; some would stress the importance of a circumcised heart while discounting the outward signs.

    Some today would stress baptism, but not a regenerated heart; some would stress a regenerated heart but not baptism.

    6. The Holy Spirit has given the Church and the Sacraments to God's people to teach them about their need for Jesus.

    In Luke 2, we see the biblical balance of the outward signs or Sacraments of God, and the inward realities.

    God in His grace gives to His people both outward signs and inward realities. Both outward signs and inward realities are part of the ministry of God's Holy Spirit. The Spirit uses outward signs like circumcision to point believers' forward to Christ and his work as we see in Simeon's life; the Spirit also regenerates, or changes our hearts so that we are not merely outwardly conformed to God's purposes in circumcision, but that we are from the heart changed.

    The Holy Spirit sovereignly changes us from the core of our beings: from our hearts. How we respond to Jesus reveals our hearts. The Holy Spirit says through Simeon (Luke 2:34-35):

    "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many...so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

    Throughout this passage we have noted the importance of the Holy Spirit's work in the Old and New Covenants. Has the Holy Spirit been at work in your heart? How do you respond to the Lord Jesus? If you reject him, you show yourself cut off from all of the promises of God; your best works and efforts for God will just condemn you (and you frankly know this).

    If you receive the Lord Jesus, it is because the Holy Spirit, the Great Teacher said: "Walk in this way" (Isaiah 30:21-22). If you see the Lord's Christ as Simeon did; if you embrace Him with great rejoicing, then the Spirit of God has made you alive, and you are a new creation in Him (Ephesians 2:1-4).

    Circumcision points to being cut off for those who reject Jesus Christ; circumcision points to and teaches us that those who receive Christ have already been consecrated, or set apart for eternal life in the presence of God. All of your greatest longings, hopes and dreams will come true when you dwell in the presence of God forever and ever! Amen.

    When you behold Jesus Christ, who do you see? Is he the Lord's Christ, and the salvation for both Jew and Gentile?

    Let us give thanks for the gracious work of the Holy Spirit!

    He is the Spirit of Christmas, that leads us to the manger to be comforted that God is with us, to follow him in His life to see a perfect righteousness earned for us, to be led to the cross to see him cut off and cursed for our transgressions, and to see the empty tomb where God has resurrected him and seated him with the Name above every name!

    And now, he lives with us. We have the Spirit of Truth, who continues to lead us into all righteousness and truth, taking from Christ and making it known to us through the Gospel of Grace! (see John 14:15-17). Jesus promises His disciples the Comforter, or the Consolation of Israel to live with believer eternally!

    Jesus was the Consolation-Comforter of Israel, but in His completed work and ascension to God's right hand to be our Mediator, he has sent forth Another Consolation-Comforter to be with us eternally!

    Be filled with Jesus! Be filled with the Spirit of God this Christmas. Know that you are filled to be consecrated and set apart to be righteous and devout and to serve and worship God in the True Temple all the days of your life!

    Jesus comes to bring the comfort-consolation of the Savior to all who put their trust in Him and believe! JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME!

    REJOICE!

    IN Christ's love,

    Pastor Biggs
    www.ketoctin.org

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    Posted by Charles Biggs on December 22, 2010 11:00 AM

    Comments

    I just got through reading your sermon/lesson and I thought it was VERY GOOD!! I think we need to be constantly reminded that Jesus does both--"subtracts and adds"--by His active and passive obedinence. Again, thank you for this sermon/lesson.

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