The problem at Christmas part 2

“A bad father never has a good son” – Latin Proverb.

Researchers have shown that people who had bad or absentee fathers are: more like to be aggressive, more likely to be depressed, more likely to have self-esteem issues, more likely to try and use drugs, more likely to do poor in school and have an increased risk of suicide. There are parts of the brain that control cognitive thought and reasoning that never develop correctly and, in time, get developed in a destructive way. For girls, they often end up filling voids in their lives through bad or demeaning relationships. Often sex is a way to bond with a male figure in hopes it will keep them around. For guys they never learn how to treat women, deal with other men, leadership roles and many of those relationships can become abusive on many levels.  Some fathers are in the home, every night but never attend a game, graduations, plays and special moments. Many don’t know how to express love, simply express pride or value. Many children go through life trying to prove themselves to their father and that carries through to adult hood.

So why this sad introduction? Simply because last time we looked at Isaiah 9:6 and how Ahaz the king had a problem. The problem was solved both immediately and later in the birth of Jesus. The real problem we have is sin and that sin separates us from God. Sin causes death. The problem of sin was conquered at the cross. Well the verse we looked at last time has more to it.

Isaiah 9:6 – For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

The names in this verse tell us more about God and His son and remember this is a continuation of Jesus addressing our deeper problem. These names give us hope and confidence for the future and unfold the truth that He is the perfect fulfillment of everything our earthly fathers should be in our lives. Here’s the first name:

Wonderful counselor: Beyond understanding – beyond human understanding. Literally: wisdom with authority. As in: one who can determine the problem, understand the solution, sympathizes with the problem, empathizes with the problem and has the power to fix the problem.  See a friend or parent can sympathize, empathize and maybe know a solution but how often does a friend or parent possess the power, wisdom and authority to solve your problem? Not often. Friends and parents come from a biased point of view. Their council comes from the vantage point of limited understanding and solutions are biased based upon emotion. A friend can help you feel better momentarily but they can’t fully solve the problems you are going through. Their power and authority is limited. Jesus has the wisdom, power and authority over all things. He also understands your problems and situations deeper than any friend ever could.

Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He was the poorest of the poor, rejected, humiliated, mocked, tortured, spit upon and forsaken. His own family, nation and closest friends left Him. So what could you be going through that He has not Himself gone through? He is a friend that understands you, a parent who wants the best for you, a king who has the authority to deal with your problem and a God who has all power over your problem. When I am tempted- I should go to the one who was tempted yet sinned not. When I am hurting – I go to the One who experienced real pain. When relationships fail – you go to the one who had all His relationships abandon Him. Do so with the confidence that He is listening, understands and cries with you. Rest in the comfort that He overcame and provided a solution for your most important problem- sin.

The other names flow out of the similar thought. He is better than everything we can drum up to solve our own problems. A better counselor, a better god than those we create ourselves and a better father than even the best father your could hope for.

Eternal or Everlasting Father:  a protector and provider. One who does not withhold love. What greater love can a father show than to lay down His life for you? He will not leave you in hard times. He isn’t too busy for you. He is not embarrassed by a poor performance or grade. He is not ashamed of you in failure. You can’t wander away too far for Him to reject you. Fathers fail. Fathers sin.  Even good ones. Jesus does not. How comforting is that? Maybe you don’t have a father figure in the home. Maybe yours is jerk. Maybe he hurt you or still is. The father you need is found in Jesus. He is the ultimate provider. He is the ultimate protector. He is the one who cares for you deeper than any earthly father.

Prince of Peace: Back to where I started. Peace with God. Sin caused division/ separation. It causes strife in our relationship. That is solved at the cross. As Prince we rely on His decisions, direction and justice and we know that they are just and right for us.

So where do we go with this? How does this fit into your life? How can He council and father you? Well you have to have the desire to be helped and the desire to do what He says. In the Gospel of John (chapter 5) a paralyzed man desires to be healed but Jesus asked him a weird question: “do you wish to be made well?” Of course he did- right? But isn’t that us? Wasn’t that Ahaz? We want to be helped without the pain or implications it might mean? We want God to clean up our mess without dealing with the choices that got us there. Maybe it’s not a choice we made but a situation we are in. Can we ask for the power of God while rejecting the means of that power in our daily lives?

James 1:5-7 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

OUCH! Obedience doesn’t always make sense to your culture or your friends. In fact it’s often in conflict with culture. Perhaps that’s the point though. Back to the desire to be helped. Do you desire that – not like Ahaz but real and lasting help? I mean the choice between heaven and hell is a no brainer. But do you desire to be forgiven? It’s different isn’t it? Do you desire to be loved by a father who unconditionally loves you? Ok, then why don’t you let go of what’s holding you back? Fear? How well is it going on your own? This Christmas why not surrender to Jesus as Lord and let Him in your life?

If you want to know more about Jesus, forgiveness or what you must do to be saved. That’s what it really is. Saved from the punishment of sin. The Bible calls it Born again. Die to your old life and start new again. Maybe you need to talk through surrendering something in your life. Don’t hesitate to contact us or stop by any Friday at 7.

 

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.

O little town of Bethlehem by Phillip Brooks

 

Jeremiah Brown, Youth Pastor

Youth@northharford.org

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The Friday lesson we missed due to snow. Otherwise known as: “The problem at Christmas”

It’s 730 B.C. The King of Judah (Ahaz) is about to be attacked by Assyria. Generally attacked meant destroyed, conquered and those not killed were put into slavery. So Ahaz (the king, in case you lost track already in one sentence) is deciding what to do, how to strategize, who can he make allies with to help. In the middle of this quandary, God sends Isaiah the prophet. So Isaiah tells Ahaz (the king remember) that they will not be destroyed, God Himself will take care of this and he need not worry. Oh yeah, to seal the deal God will provide a sign as proof. Ahaz however says “no thanks, I’m good, no sign required.”  See Ahaz knew accepting the sign would lock him into obedience to God and he wasn’t really on board with all of that. Isaiah says too bad, you’re getting a sign anyway. Now the explanation of that sign takes a few chapters however one verse in particular (maybe two) we recognize and are familiar to us.

Isaiah 7:14 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (also in Matthew 1:23)

Isaiah 9:6 – For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

OK, so that’s nice but what does the promise of Jesus have to do with Ahaz and his problem? I mean there is a real army, a real threat and the answer is 700 years away? Maybe you go a bit further and say: “see, the bible isn’t relevant to me, its answers are future hopes and promises and I’m here right now and these promises are nice but they don’t help me now.”

Well, I’ll try to answer some of that. See in the Bible often there is prophecy that is answered now, some later and some both now and later. This story of Ahaz is the now and later. (Not the candy) Ahaz was delivered from his enemies and a partial prophecy was fulfilled. He would have a son and that son would be a good king. The ultimate and later fulfilment met his greater problem, our greater problem. So what is our real problem and how does the birth of Jesus solve it? I mean you have real issues, problems and concerns and God genuinely cares about them, has a plan for them and may even have a miraculous answer for them. But would a genie in lamp type of god solving our problems address the root problem in our lives? Would it be like treating symptoms without curing the real infection? Yes.  Ok, so how? And what does this verse show us about God’s plan and assurance for us?

The birth of Jesus reveals and deals with our biggest problem.

Our biggest problem isn’t parents, school, health, poverty, social injustice, depression or relationships. Those are real and 100% legitimate problems. Our biggest problem is sin and that we are terminally separated from God because of it. Wasn’t that the real problem of Ahaz? He had real issues, literally life and death but really his sin caused a separation that even he realized. That’s why didn’t want to lock in a sign and be obligated to obey God. Sin does that. You break fellowship and stay clear of God, church, Christians and even just good people because we instinctively sense that sin separation.  See that is why a genie god doesn’t work. All he would do is fix problems because we create new ones all the time.  Salvation wasn’t coming as valiant warrior defeating all enemies and situations that cross us. Salvation came as a child, born like we were yet every bit God in that little baby. He lived the sinless life were supposed to live and can’t. He took sin upon Himself and stepped into our place and took the punishment we deserve so we wouldn’t have to. He died in our place so that we only experience the shadow of death. God raised Him from the dead so that we could have eternal life free from sin, death and pain. See the root problem began to be solved when the Child was given. His substitution on our behalf releases you from the bondage of sin. Do we still sin? Yes but we are not captive by it. We are not dead in it and Jesus died for that sin so let’s stop the guilt because when we ask for forgiveness in faith…. It’s forgiven!  There’s no distance you have wandered that is too far to return. There is no horrible sin that you have done that can’t be forgiven. When God sees us, He sees Christ. So that sin is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are incapable of being righteous/ blameless/ guiltless before God because we wear this constant robe of sin but because of Jesus work at the cross we are clothed in His righteousness, His perfection and His innocence. Condition on that however. We have to choose Him. I mean we confess our sins, repent, believe in faith and follow Him as Lord. Look up Romans 10:9-10 for evidence.

For many of us, if we are honest, we want the genie god and the birth of Jesus and the Easter story are nice quaint stories. Meaningful and important – yes. But we want the now problems solved and the story is believable yet we’re not sure it fixes anything. Wasn’t that Ahaz’s problem? The root problem is sin correct? So let’s look at it like this. Could sin be a factor in your relationship with your parents? Your friends? School? Social injustice? Of course it is. Let’s deal with the real problem then. By the way I don’t mean that the problem you are experiencing right now is some kind of Gods judgment on some specific sin and He is punishing your health or relationships. But If He took away all of our problems and healed every hurt; the root problem of sin still exists. What you will find is that as we live free from sin many of those problems get easier, manageable, tangible and some might even get resolved.

Here’s reality: You are a sinner and God is sinless. This sin is an offense to Holy/ sinless God. The penalty or payment required for sin is death. Eternal death in a real and literal hell. Eternity in hell knowing you are forever separated from God. The good news (the gospel) is that God loved you, so much He demonstrated it by sending Jesus to die in our place. He would take upon Himself the pain and death we deserve so we no longer had to be separated from Him. That’s seen in the resurrection: God raising Jesus from the dead to live forever with Him. Nothing you did or will do is going to help you; it’s what He did for you. That’s why salvation is found in none other than Jesus. Our contribution was the sinning. His was the saving. A man named Fred Kornis once said something that has stuck with me through the years: “He had to come as He did to be who He was. He had to be who He was to do what He did. He had to do what He did so that we can have what He is – Life.”

Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.(1)

 

Next post will be the second half of the verse.  The names listed in Isaiah 9:6 give us hope confidence in Him as one who is able to save, willing to save and understanding of your current and future situation.

Contact me if you want to know more about Jesus, how you can have forgiveness and freedom from sin. 

Jeremiah Brown, Youth Pastor

Youth@northharford.org

Hymn reference: Jesus paid it all- Elvina M. Hall (1865)