How are you going to stand with Jesus when vast numbers of other people are moving away from Him? Pastor Colin talks about what it takes to have a faith that lasts.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)
Last week we looked at the sweep of God’s promise in the Old Testament, and we ended by asking the question: Who can do all this? Only God can deliver what God promises.
That brings us to the glorious truth that we celebrate at Christmas. God became man in Jesus Christ. God came to us to fulfill His Own promises.
The New Testament says this beautifully “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Today, the whistle-stop tour runs through the Gospels. Our title today is “Christ Fulfills the Promise.” We’re going to pick up seven Scriptures that will give us the big picture of all that He has accomplished.
“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God…’” Luke 1:35
The New Testament affirms three central truths about our Lord Jesus Christ: He is God, He is man, and He is holy.
He is God
The angel announced that Jesus would be “The Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), and “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is described as “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). That’s the meaning of the name “Immanuel.”
John describes Him literally as the “speech of God made flesh” (John 1:14). God spoke the promise in words. And when His Word was made flesh, then His promise was delivered. I’m thankful that He is God, because only God can deliver what God has promised.
He is man
“The… one to be born will be called the Son of God…” (v35)
Christ is born as we are born to live our life, die our death, and to take up our cause. He comes to us and stands with us to act for us. He is God because only as God can He deliver the promise. He was man because only as man can He deliver the promise to us.
He is Holy
“The angel said ‘The holy one to be born with be called the Son of God…’” (v35)
Here is something that has never been seen before in the history of the world, nor will it ever be seen again: A man who is holy by nature, a man who belongs by right in heaven, a man who, because He is God, has the capacity to bring men and women into the place where He belongs.
The union of God and man in Jesus Christ (in the incarnation), opens the door of hope for us. God cannot die, and man cannot overcome death. John Calvin, putting these two together, said:
“[Christ] coupled human nature with divine that, to atone for sin, He might submit the weakness of the one [nature] to death; and that, wrestling with death by the power of the other nature, He might win victory for us.” 
That’s what Christmas is about. That is the purpose of the incarnation. The birth of the Holy One of God led to the perfect, sinless life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil…” Luke 4:1-2
The first step of Christ’s public ministry is to confront Satan and triumph where Adam failed. Satan tempted Eve and Adam three times in the garden, and here Satan tempts Jesus three times. The parallels are obvious. But don’t miss the differences.
Satan came looking for the woman and the man in the garden. Christ goes after Satan in the desert—led by the Holy Spirit, to seek confrontation and victory on our behalf.
Adam faced temptation in a garden, with food all around him. Christ faced temptation in a desert, where there was no food and He was hungry.
This rematch has a completely different outcome. Where Adam failed, Christ triumphed. This is of huge significance for us: Adam’s failure brought misery in every human life! He passed on the effects of His failure to all who derive their life from him. By nature we belong to Adam who failed. We came from him. We share in his failure, so that the Bible says we are all “under sin” (Romans 3:9).
Christ’s triumph brings hope! Just as Adam passed on the effects of his failure to all who derive their life from him, Christ passes on all the effects of His triumph to those who draw new life by faith in Him!
By grace and through faith, we belong to Christ who triumphed. We share in His triumph so that the Bible says of those who are in Christ that we are “under grace!” (Romans 6:14). “As in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
O loving wisdom of our God, when all was sin and shame
A second Adam to the fight, and to the rescue came.
Oh wisest love, that flesh and blood, which did in Adam fail
Should fight again against the foe, should fight and should prevail. 
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14). I want you to notice what happens next. You cannot understand what is going on in the world today, unless you understand what happens next.
There’s a long list of Scriptures here and I could have added many more because this theme runs right through the Gospel story.
Jesus inaugurated His ministry saying “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…” (v18). Then Luke goes on to record Jesus’ teaching. I want you to notice the response:
“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to thrown him down the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” Luke 4:28-30
They were furious. The ministry of Jesus Christ, who comes to our aid, was rejected at point one. In chapter 6, Luke tells us about an occasion where Jesus healed a man whose hand paralyzed. It was an amazing miracle, but notice the response:
“But they [the Pharisees] were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus…” Luke 6:11
You might expect them to sing a hymn and go home. But that’s not what happens. “They… were furious” (v11). Whenever the Son of God comes to town, people get mad.
Jesus went to another area—the Gerasenes—where a man had terrorized the community with violence. Local authorities tried to restrain him by locking him up in chains, but the man’s strength was so great that he broke them. He lived out on the periphery of town among the graves, a threat and a menace to the whole community.
Christ cast demons out of this man. Then people in that community saw the man who had been an absolute terror, sitting dressed and in his right mind. What do you think happened? Luke records:
“Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left…” Luke 8:37
They did not want God that close.
The Gospels record this pattern of the rejection of the Son of God who had come into the world, building until in chapter 23 the crowd is calling for Jesus to be crucified:
“They kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate appealed to them for the third time: ‘What crime has He committed? I have found no grounds for the death penalty in Him.’ With loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.” Luke 23:23
You cannot read the Gospels without coming to the conclusion that we live in a Christ-rejecting world.
We live in a Christ-rejecting world. You cannot understand the world in which we live until you grasp this: “[Christ] came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
When natural disasters happen, people say “Why doesn’t God do something about that?” When He came and calmed the storm, we rejected Him.
When a gunman goes into a high school, we say “Why doesn’t God do something about that?” When the Son of God came and cast out demons, we said to Him “Go away!”
When cancer comes, we say “Why doesn’t God do something about that?” When He came and healed the sick, we rejected Him.
“He came to… His own and His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him… He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:11-12
You cannot understand the world or the newspapers today, unless you understand this.
Here’s our position as Christian believers in the world: We live in a Christ-rejecting world, with all its sin and death. But we belong to a Christ-exalting family, with all its life and joy. We experience both the pain of this fallen world and the hope of all who are in Christ.
While the world is rejecting Christ, something else is happening…
Jesus went up a mountain with three of His disciples:
“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” Luke 9:29
How bright is a flash of lightning? They saw the glory, the brightness, the splendor of the Lord Jesus Christ that angels see in heaven, and that one day every human eye will see.
But then there was something else: “Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus” (Luke 9:30-31). Moses and Elijah had lived and died hundreds of years before. Now they appear in glorious splendor and they’re talking with Jesus!
Then a voice spoke from the cloud saying “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him” (Luke 9:35). Listen to Him because He can bring you from this fallen world that rejects Him into His glory. Here’s how:
Everything in the perfect life of Jesus leads up to this central point—His crucifixion—in which He lays down His life for us.
Our sin reached its full horror, and found its most awful expression at Calvary. We had disobeyed God’s commands. We have all done that, and it has been so throughout all history. Now we were crucifying God’s Son.
If ever there was a moment when God’s judgment had to fall on the human race this was it. But we saw this amazing truth last time, how God in His great mercy finds a way to divert the judgment due to us to another place: The curse falls on the ground not on the man. The sinner’s death is on the lamb that is sacrificed, and not on the sinner.
As the soldiers were nailing Jesus to the cross, He said:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
When Jesus said this He was isolating Himself under the judgment of God. He knew that the judgment of God had to come that day, but He cries out to the Father “Not on them. Let it fall on Me. Let me be the place where your judgment falls.”
That is what happened at Calvary. The punishment due to your sin was poured out on Jesus. Christ became the lightning rod for your judgment. Forgiveness is released to you through the suffering of the Son of God and His death on the cross for you.
That’s not all that happened. Heaven is opened through His suffering and death on the cross. Two thieves were crucified next to Jesus. One of them said in his last moments:
“‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:43
Suddenly this man, who had lived a life full of wretched decisions, for whom the world held nothing, found that because of Jesus he was about to enter the greatest joy a human being can ever know.
This is the promise of Christ for you: Through His cross—forgiveness of sins and heaven opened. Why in the world would you back away from Christ when in His hands He holds such gifts?
Luke records how a group of the women went to the tomb, and it was empty. They hear the good news:
“He is not here. He has risen!” Luke 24:6
Later, when the disciples are together “Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have’” (Luke 24:36-39).
Jesus asks them “Do you have anything here to eat?” (v41). They gave Jesus a piece of fish, no doubt wondering what he would do with it. Luke says “He ate it in their presence” (v43).
This isn’t some kind of spiritual experience. This is Jesus… alive! This is resurrection life—life in all its fullness. Christ has gone through death, triumphed over death, and come out of death into resurrection life!
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: ‘The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.’’” Luke 24:45-47
Notice what is to be preached—repentance. In other words, if you would have everything that Jesus holds in His hands, you must completely change your mind, your stance, your whole position towards Jesus Christ. Repentance means that you separate yourself from the world’s opinion of Jesus and take your stand with Him.
It means coming to Jesus Christ, maybe for the very first time saying:
“I’ve been wrong about you. I thought you were hard and demanding, now I see that you are full of grace and truth. I thought that you were out to condemn me, now I see that you came into the world to redeem me and bring me to everlasting life. I thought my life was for me to live as I wanted; now I see that it is yours, to be lived for your glory. By your help, I will walk in your ways.”
Forgiveness is also preached. That means Jesus Christ embraces you in love. He enters your life through His Holy Spirit, and all the promises of God are yours in Him. That leads to the last thing…
“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” Luke 24:50-51
Christ ascended into heaven. The last glimpse they have of Jesus is Him with His hands raised, blessing them. This points us to the marvelous future for all who are in Jesus Christ. When you are “in Christ,” everything that is His becomes yours. You will, sooner or later, share in all this is His.
Christ’s sin-bearing death becomes yours
When you die, you will not carry your sin and guilt into your death, because he carried it into His death for you. You will never know what it is like to die a sin-bearing death.
Christ’s risen life becomes yours
He shares His life with you by the Holy Spirit. When you enter into death, you will share in His resurrection life forever and ever.
Christ’s glorious ascension will be yours also
He ascended to the right hand of the Father. So will you!
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive… will be caught up together with them… to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
You will see His glory, and like Moses and Elijah you will share in His glory, if you are in Jesus Christ.
- You will fully reflect the image of God.
- You will be delivered from the curse of evil
- You will share the joy of this life with people from all nations.
- You will walk with God without fear and without shame because you have been redeemed by the sacrifice of the Holy Son of God.
- You will live this life under the blessing of Christ’s rule in His kingdom that is established forever.
- You will love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and you will love your neighbor as yourself.
- You will rejoice forever in this new life from the grave that is yours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
No wonder Paul says that all God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ Jesus. Through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).
 John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 2, chapter 12, paragraph 3; http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.xiii.html
© Colin S. Smith
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