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Reasons for the Incarnation – Redemption

Reasons for the Incarnation – Redemption  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Christmas means many things to many people, but the real meaning has been assigned by God.

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Text: Luke 2:1-20; John 3:16
Theme: Christmas means many things to many people, but the real meaning has been assigned by God.
Date: 11/30/14 File name: Incarnation1.wpd ID Number: 93
What does Christmas mean to you? That question will probably draw as many answers as we have people here this morning. To a child, Christmas often means receiving presents. For parents, it may mean the joy of watching children open those presents. It may be the one time of the year that a scattered family gathers together. To a business owner, it may mean taking inventory, hiring extra workers, and planning sales strategy for the coming year. For an educator it may mean preparing for Christmas concerts and programs or just looking forward to a break from the kids. For a church staff member, it can mean polishing up a music program, preparing special sermons, and visiting lonely people. For some, Christmas means returns, special holiday sales and shopping!
God has a different view of Christmas. To our Heavenly Father, Christmas celebrates incarnation! Incarnation is a term meaning ‘to enter into or become flesh.’ It refers to the Christian doctrine that the pre-existent Son of God—the second person of the Trinity—became flesh in Jesus. In the incarnation, the divine nature of the Son was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. This person, Jesus Christ, was both "truly God and truly man."
Te term does not appear in the New Testament, but the elements of the doctrine do. Most explicitly in a verse most of us memorized in childhood. If you know it, say with me John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The Nativity Story begins long before the conception of the Savior in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Apostle John tells us that Christmas begins in the eternalness of God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth,” (John 1:1, 14)
Why did God come in the flesh? Jesus once told a man by the name of Zacchaeus that the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost, (Luke 19:10). Jesus came to redeem us and to save us from our sin.
Redemption
Revelation
Reconciliation
Righteousness
Resurrection

I. THE INCARNATION MEANS THAT GOD DEALS WITH US IN UNEXPECTED WAYS

1. the Nativity Story shows us that God delights in doing the unexpected
a. He does not work in ways that we assume He should
b. each of us has our own set of agendas, and timetables, and reasons for doing things when and how we do them
c. we frequently expect God to work within the confines of our schedules and programs
1) our attitude is often, “God this is what I need you to do, and yesterday would not have been too soon!”
2. the really neat thing about God is that He almost always does more than we expect and He usually does it in wonderfully startling and unforeseen ways

A. GOD DID THE UNEXPECTED WHEN HE CHOSE WHOM HE DID TO BE THE PARENTS OF JESUS

1. the Nativity Story shows us that God chooses to work through the weak and nondescript things of this world
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” (1 Corinthians 1:27, KJV)
a. the word confound in 1 Cor. 1:27 means to shame down, or to put to blush
1) it’s the purposeful public humiliation of someone
2) the Scriptures tell us that God purposely chooses what the world considers nonsense in order to put wise men—or men who think they are wise—to shame
b. the worldly-wise assume they know how things should go, they assume to know how the real world operates
1) they assume this because they’re usually the ones in charge—they’re the ones who make the decisions, and expect everyone else to fall in line
c. in the real world we know who the power- broker s are, the movers, and shakers, and makers of culture
1) and it’s rarely the common man
ILLUS. In July 2013 George Alexander Louis Mountbatten was born. We know him better as Prince George, the thee-year-old son of Prince William, and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. His paternal great grandmother is Queen Elizabeth II of England. The moment he was born he was a Royal Highness. People will bow in his presence. Prince George will grow up living a life of privilege that we can scarcely imagine. Even if his parents bring him up as normally as possible, there is nothing normal about this child. Much of his life will be scripted and choreographed. He is third in line to the British Throne, and though that throne is not as powerful as it once was, he will be one of the movers and shakers and makers of his world. We know this because that’s simply how things are in our world.
1) unfortunately, God does not consult the rich or the powerful or the influential for advise about His decisions—He never has
2. worldly wisdom tells us that the couple whom God chose to serve as the earthly parents to the Messiah should have never been chosen
a. certainly, you would think that God would have selected a member of the current royal line sitting upon the thrown of Israel to be the progenitor of Israel's deliverer
1) that would have meant an heir of Herod the Great
b. if not a royal lineage, then surely a family of power, and wealth and notoriety
3. but whom did God choose?
a. He would choose a young, common girl from a small, insignificant village, in an insignificant part of Israel
1) Mary would bear the Son of God
b. He would also choose a carpenter to become the earthly step father of the one who would save his people from their sin
1) Joseph would be the man who would raise Jesus to be a son of Israel
c. together Mary and Joseph would mold and shape the child who was God’s Anointed One
4. Mary and Joseph must rank as two of the most surprised and surprising tools of God in all of history
1) if it were not for this event, their names, and their lives would be lost to history
5. the worldly-wise did not expect such a thing

B. GOD DID THE UNEXPECTED WHEN HE CHOSE WHERE HE DID FOR THE SAVIOR TO COME

1. God took the world by surprise in choosing to send His Son to be born as a Jew
a. the political power of the day was Rome
b. Rome was the military occupier of all the Mediterranean world, including Israel
c. if God was to send a savior into the world, surely that Savior would come through the most significant military and economic power of the day
2. the political and military occupation of their nation coupled with the general contempt Gentiles held toward the Jews made such a thing almost unbelievable to many
3. but not only would God’s Anointed One be a Jew, he would come from Galilee
a. Galilee was the “fly-over” part of Israel
1) it was rural, and the cosmopolitan aristocrats of Jerusalem sneered at their hayseed cousins
b. Galilee was full of Gentiles
1) their foreign accents grated on the ears of sophisticate Judeans
ILLUS. The fact that Herod had raised pagan temples and held pagan sports events in Galilee increased their scorn among fellow Jews.
c. as for Nazareth, that only added to the Jews’ contempt
1) it had the reputation for corruption that is illustrated when Nathanael responded to his brother, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
4. and yet, to this unprepossessing town came the Angel Gabriel to find “a man whose name was Joseph, of the House of David,” and “Mary, a virgin pledged to him”
a. the incarnate son of God would be born into a poor family, raised as a blue-collar laborer, in a suspect town, in a backwater province of Israel
5. the worldly-wise did not expect such a thing

C. GOD DID THE UNEXPECTED WHEN HE CHOSE THE PURPOSE FOR SENDING THE SAVIOR

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17, NIV84)
1. God sent His son to redeem the world rather than to restore the nation Israel
a. those Jews who expected the Anointed One to come as a military hero were confounded
b. those Jews who thought Messiah would be of royal and regal bearing were disappointed
ILLUS. Even John the Baptist was taken aback at our Lord's servant ministry and sent a messenger from prison asking, "Are you the one, or do we look for another?"
2. instead of coming as a military conqueror or a political boss He grew up learning the skills of a carpenter and ultimately became an itinerant preacher
a. rather than condemn the world that had turned its back upon Him . . .
b. rather than send fire and brimstone to consume a disobedient world . . .
c. God instead responded with saving love
3. what does this mean for you?
4. it means that God can still do unexpected and good things in your life—indeed He wants to
5. there is not a single area of your life where God does not want to surprise you with a multitude of blessings
a. what happens in a worship service . . .
b. what happens with you vocationally . . .
c. what happens with your families . . .
d. what happens through our church's ministry . . .
e. what happens to you in our educational institution . .
f. all these arenas are open to the surprising intervention and work of God
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, NIV84)

II. THE INCARNATION MEANS THAT GOD REALLY CARES

1. all of us have heard the time-worn cliché, "Actions speak louder than words!"
2. certainly this is true when we consider what God did on Christmas day 2,000 years ago
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

A. GOD CARES ENOUGH TO GIVE HIS VERY BEST FOR US

1. God did not choose to send an angelic messenger with a plan for better living
2. He did not inspire the writing of a self-help manual
3. He did not send some mortal prophet to enlighten us with noble thoughts
4. He did not send a philosopher to illuminate our minds with some profound wisdom
5. instead, God chose to send Himself in the form of a man named Jesus
a. in that from He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross
b. in that death, God proved His great redemptive love for mankind
Hebrews 9:14 "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"

B. GOD CARES ENOUGH TO OFFER HIS SON TO ANY WHO WILL ACCEPT HIM

1. we can easily understand God offering salvation through Christ to the deserving
a. we could comprehend it far more easily if God's redemptive offer was extended to those who were decent, honorable citizens who had earned it through their good deeds
b. that would make sense, because it is the good, and decent, and hard-working folks in this life whom we shower with earthly rewards
2. but God has done something beyond our understanding
a. He has done something unexpected
b. He has offered grace to all
1) to the Jew and the Gentile
2) to the slave and the free
3) to the rich and the poor
4) to the learned and the unlearned
5) to the seemingly righteous and the clearly unrighteous

C. GOD CARES ENOUGH TO COME TO WHERE WE ARE AND BE A PART OF OUR LIVES

1. there is a Scripture passage in the gospel of John that is difficult for us to grasp its meaning
John 1:14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, . . ."
a. the phrase and dwelt among us literally translates as “and dwelt among us as in a tent”
1) to a mostly urban society that lives in high rise apartments or rows of houses in suburbia, the idea loses much of its importance
2) but to a nomadic people whose history included so much wandering the concept was astounding!
b. quit literally it means that God pitched His tent in the middle of their encampment!
c. it would be as if God move into the house for sale next door
2. God chose not to stand aloof from the problems of His creation, but to become a part of that creation to more clearly understand
a. in the incarnation, God became fully human
1) when He got hungry, His stomach growled
2) when He cut his finger, it bled and it hurt
3) after a hard day's work, His joints ached
4) when he bore the brunt of insult His feelings hurt
3. to have taken on the pains of living and dying as a human, God must genuinely love & care for us
4. what does that mean for us?
a. it means that God believes each of you ought to have a chance at salvation regardless of birth circumstances, misdeeds, or the things left undone
b. it means that one of the most honorable men of our day—Pope John Paul 2—has the same opportunity to receive the grace of God as does one of the most notorious men of the day—O.J. Simpson

III. THE INCARNATION MEANS THAT GOD HAS ENTERED THE WORLD

1. the incarnation forces you to deal with God
a. you cannot evade it
Isaiah 29:15-16 "Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, do their work in darkness and think, "Who sees us? Who will know?" You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!"
2. Christmas reminds us that we cannot live life as if God were not around
a. He is here, in this world, through the presence of His Spirit, and the presence of His word, and the presence of His people
b. He confronts us and says, "I am here! Now, what are you going to do with Me?"
1) Mary faced the decision of whether she would cooperate with God in this great venture
2) Joseph wrestled with his natural feelings and chose to support Mary and accept God's will
3) the shepherds encountered the message of God in the fields where they labored
4) Magi in distant lands were challenged by the star in the heavens to come and see what God had done
3. the question is, what are you going to do with the claims God has upon your life?

A. IN CHRIST GOD OFFERS GRACE TO SET US FREE FROM OUR CAPTIVITY

“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28, NIV84)
1. the words highly favored can be rendered grace of God or endued with grace
a. the Day of Grace had come
2. the whole story of the coming into this world of the Only Begotten Son of God is a story of grace from beginning to end
a. he is Immanuel—God with us (Isa. 7:14)
3. God offers grace to set us free—to redeem us—from the sin and death
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” (Isaiah 61:1, NIV84)
a. since the Fall, the bible pictures mankind as the prisoner of the world, the flesh, and the devil
1) we are captive to them, and our will is in bondage to them obeying them always
b. but, as the prophecy in Isaiah tells us, the Anointed One will come, and he will proclaim freedom for the captives
ILLUS. Early in his ministry Jesus is in Galilee. He is teaching in the Synagogues, and everyone is amazed at his teaching. On a Sabbath day he is in his hometown of Nazareth and is invited to read from the Scroll of Isaiah. Unrolling it, he found Isaiah 61:1 and quoted it: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners," Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he told them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:20–21, NIV84)
c. Jesus came to redeem us—to set us free
1) the metaphor of redemption includes the ideas of loosing from a bond, setting free from captivity or slavery, buying back something lost or sold, exchanging something in one's possession for something possessed by another, and ransoming
d. this is what Jesus did for us on the cross
1) our redemption resulted from his rejection, humiliation, death, and resurrection

B. JESUS WAS AND IS THE CHRIST AND YOU MUST MAKE A CHOICE ABOUT HIM

1. the incarnation is more than a theological concept
a. the Christmas story is more than a bit of history
b. when the infant Jesus was born in that stable in Bethlehem it was nothing less than a visitation of God in the flesh to this world
2. most Americans believe that Jesus Christ was a historical person
a. most will even assert that He was the Son of God
1) but there seems to be great confusion over what that means
2) an amazing 40% reject his deity and believe that He was a sinner such as we
3. the Scriptures do not leave you that option
Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin."
a. either He was and is fully God or He is not
1) there can be no in between
4. Jesus considered who men believed Him to be of fundamental importance
a. at one point he even asked his disciple, this all important question: Matt. 16:13-16 “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, ‘‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” ‘‘But what about you?” he asked. ‘‘Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, ‘‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
ILLUS. C.S. Lewis, theologian and professor at Cambridge University in the 1940s and once an agnostic, wrote: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is . . . God: or else a madman or something worse."
5. some of you here this morning need to make a decision about Christ
a. some of you need to accept him as Savior
1) you need to repent of your sin and publicly confess Jesus Christ as Savior
b. others may need to totally surrender to His authority in your life . . .
1) you need to surrender your agendas, and your timetables, and your ways of doing things and allow God to guide you through His Word, and through His Holy Spirit and through His Church and His people
What does Christmas mean to you? It means that you always have a chance to allow God to do the unexpected in our lives. It means that we can know He truly cares for us. And it means that we cannot evade dealing with Him. Jesus Christ was and is the eternal God. How will you respond to Him?
The central theme of redemption in Scripture is that God has taken the initiative to act compassionately on behalf of those who are powerless to help themselves. The New Testament makes clear that divine redemption includes God's identification with humanity in its plight, and the securing of liberation of humankind through the obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection of the incarnate Son. This is what Christmas is all about.
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