Are You Having a Good Day?

I’ll bet you’ve been asked this question or a question like it in the past week. Have you ever wondered how to answer? It seems a bit superficial for a believer to base their evaluation of a day just on how circumstances have worked out so far, right?

My wife and I worked with our kids when they were single-digit ages on what they meant when they said they were having a good day. How did they know whether it was a good day or not? As you could expect, often their criteria for having a good day included things like playing in the McDonald’s play-place or not having chores around the house.

I asked my six-year-old daughter one time if she could have a good day even if she got in trouble at school or if lunch wasn’t one of her favorite meals? She thought about it and said, “Maybe… if I got to go to a birthday party later that day too.” Her answer was different in the details, but not much different in the thought of many Christian adults. We evaluate whether it’s a good day or not by whether life goes as we planned that day.

My wife works in the student life office at the Bible College I teach at, and she has had opportunity to have this conversation with some female college students. She’ll ask them what makes a good day. Some have been surprised by the question; they’ve never thought about how God might define a good day. Recently a student answered Laura that a good day is a day when she gets all her to dos done. My wife wisely pointed out that if that’s your criteria, you are setting yourself up for failure because rare is the day when we get to check off all of our jobs.

So what’s a better evaluation? Well it can’t be based simply on fortunate circumstances. That’s how any unbeliever would evaluate their day. I like what the Apostle Paul said.

2 Corinthians 5:9 (ESV) So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Our ambition is supposed to be summed up in pleasing God. So it’s a good day if you can go to bed knowing that you pleased God that day.

So how does one please God?

  • Did you rest in Christ’s righteousness or did you try to earn favor with God through your work? (2 Cor 5:21) It’s an easy temptation to think our spiritual disciplines earn us God’s blessing. And since we’ve served God and worshipped God that morning, shouldn’t he make our day go the way we want it to? But the only reason God can bless you on your worst day or your best day is because you have Christ’s righteousness. Did you live today believing that?
  • Did you love your neighbor or did you have tunnel vision on your own problems? (Mt 22:34-40) I get very self-focused when trouble comes my way. Yet Jesus doesn’t tell me to love my neighbor only when my plans are thriving. During Christ’s worst physical suffering on the cross, he was able to specifically and practically love his neighbor (Jn 19:26-27). It’s often my closest neighbors—my family—that get ignored at best and blamed at worst when my plans are falling apart.
  • Did you trust God’s sovereignty or did you fret because your plans were thwarted? (Rom 8:28-29) This is the ground zero of pleasing God. Do you live what you believe? Do you hold your plans for the day with open hands allowing God to change them? Can you make plans and also think, “if the Lord wills…” (Jam 4:13-17)?

If you can answer those questions positively for any day—no matter how much suffering you experienced or how severely someone sinned against you or how many plans went up in smoke—then you had a good day.

So, are you going to have a good day today? Are you going to please God? I pray so.

What Grace Does God Give the Humble?

Someone told me recently that God has been humbling him through some circumstances of his life, and I told him that’s a good place to be because God gives grace to the humble. So he asked, “What does that mean? What does grace look like for the humble?”

My reply came from 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6 where both authors make the same claim by quoting Solomon, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor” (Prov 3:34 ESV).

Occasionally when I’ve had this conversation I think that the questioner imagines grace to be a quasi-material substance that washes over us when we grow in humility. Kind of like a Gatorade bath for a winning football coach or being slimed on a Nickelodeon game show. But that’s not what grace for the humble is.

So what does it mean that God gives grace to the humble? What is that? Doesn’t God give grace to everyone on earth? After all, the sun shines on the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45). Yes, He does. This is God’s common grace—a way that he is good to all humanity. Further, we know that God has special grace—saving grace—for those that are his—those that believe the gospel (2 Tim 1:9; Eph 2:8-9). So are Simon Peter and James saying that God has even more special (specialer?) grace for those believers that are also growing in humility? Yes, God does.

Speaking about James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 John Frame says, “God gives additional gifts of grace to whom he has first given the grace of humility. …God loves his people unconditionally; but he also loves them more and more, in response to their obedience. The same may be said of grace.”[1]John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013), 245 n25.

So what is this grace that comes only to the humble? I believe there are three types of grace God gives in response to humility.

The Grace of Honor and Vindication

The very next verse in 1 Peter claims that at the proper time God exalts the humble (5:6), and this is consistent with other Scripture passages that make the same claim (Mt 23:12; Luke 18:14). But lest you and I expect it immediately let’s remember that Peter was writing to suffering Christians, and it’s likely that he meant vindication and honor in the next life. That would be the “due time” of 1 Peter 5:6. So while it’s possible that God honors the humble today, you probably should plan on it being when Christ comes again. But it will happen; God promises it.

The Grace of Intimacy and Closeness

A second way that God gives grace to the humble is that he offers closer fellowship with Himself. This is also consistent with Scripture.

Isaiah 57:15 (ESV) For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (cf. Psa 119:132)

This type of grace is clearly seen in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 because it’s contrasted with God opposing the proud or resisting the proud. God keeps the proud at arm’s length which means the humble are welcomed into intimacy and closeness. This fits the context because James 4:8 tells us that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us. So the humble are granted nearness to God. That’s grace.

The Grace of Empowerment and Enablement

The third way that God gives grace to the humble is he grants them the power to obey God, to please God, and to do the good works he has planned for us (Eph 2:10). The Apostle Paul agrees when he claimed “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor 15:10a ESV).

So when you are humble, when you are growing in humility, God gives you a greater ability to obey him. He grants you power to please him. Those that are humble actually recognize this as a wonderful gift because they genuinely want to please God in the power he provides. The humble don’t try to please God in their own strength; they know they cannot. Instead, they depend upon God’s grace and God grants it to them abundantly.

So you’re not getting “slimed” or “Gatoraded” by grace when you grow in humility. At least not literally. No, you’re getting something far better. God rushes to the humble. God might exalt you. He will definitely give you deeper intimacy, and he undoubtedly will grant you the strength to take the next obedient step for his glory. And those graces from God are joy to a believer.  

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isa 66:2b ESV)

References

References
1 John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013), 245 n25.

Speaking Truth in Love

Or Why I Prefer Ephesians 4:15 over Romans 15:14

Romans 15:14 (NASB95) And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.

This verse has been foundational to biblical counseling ever since Jay Adams was instrumental in restoring counseling to the church. It has been important for several reasons. One was its emphasis on laypeople [1]Paul is addressing the average Christian in the passage, not pastors or other professional ministers. being able to admonish or instruct each other. Jay Adams taught from this verse that counseling was not the domain of a professional class. The average church member should be able to take God’s Word and counsel other believers from it.

A second reason for its importance is based on the actual word translated, admonish, in the verse (νουθετέω). Early on it was called Nouthetic Counseling [2]Jay Adams was less than enthusiastic about it being called this, but he felt that since every counseling system eventually is named, he would like to name it rather than letting its detractors name … Continue reading because of this Greek word in Romans 15:14. It’s a wonderful Greek word, but it tends to communicate a sterile, firm, confrontational expression of biblical truth.  

νουθετεῖν, however, describes an effect on the will and disposition, and it presupposes an opposition which has to be overcome. It seeks to correct the mind, to put right what is wrong, to improve the spiritual attitude. …It does not mean “to punish,” but through the word to cause the appeal to the moral consciousness to gain a hold over men and bring them to repentance and shame, so that punishment is superfluous.[3]Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vols. 5-9 Edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 Compiled by Ronald Pitkin. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, Vol. … Continue reading

There are other Greek words that could have been used to communicate a more nuanced definition of biblical counseling. For example, parakaleo (παρακαλέω) means coming alongside someone, to encourage or comfort. It could be symbolized as teammates comforting each other after a loss where noutheteo might be pictured as a coach “admonishing” the quarterback after an interception.

This verse has had an outsized impact in the biblical counseling movement for good reasons. Even today the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s podcast is called 15:14 because of the significance of this verse. I like Romans 15:14, and have pointed many to it over the years.

However, I think another verse has all of the benefits and more of Romans 15:14; therefore, I think it better explains biblical counseling.

Ephesians 4:15 (ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

This verse occurs in a context where the Apostle Paul is describing how the church functions. In verse 11 we find that God gave gifted people to the church—they are spiritual gifts, but Paul relates them as gifted people, not just gifts. Then in verse 12 we learn that the immediate purpose of giving gifted people that minister the Word to the church is so the saints are equipped for the work of the ministry.

Then we’re taught at the end of verse 12 through verses 14 and 16 that the church is built up and protected from error by these gifted people and us exercising our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church. The entire point of verses 11-16 is how the church is built.

In that context we’re taught that we should “speak the truth in love.” God’s people grow through proclaiming truth in love. Some think this is more than just speaking truth in love. In fact, one person translated it as “truthing” in love because it’s more than just speech. it’s also conduct.

This combination of truth and love is exquisite, and I think a better foundational verse for biblical counseling. It has the advantage of also being addressed to laypeople. The average Joe Christian is supposed to speak the truth in love and thereby help the church grow.

What happens if we have truth, but no love? We are offputting, harsh, probably unkind. What happens if we have love, but no truth? We are accepting, compassionate, but ineffective. We don’t actually help anyone. Eph 4:15 has all the advantages of Rom 15:14 plus a clear emphasis on communicating truth in a loving way.

Any claim to speak the truth without love is not really speaking the truth. Any claim to love without the truth is not really love. Love is not indifferent to truth.

Growth for you and me means having difficult conversations about spiritual truth because we love people. Any claim otherwise (e.g., I don’t have a personality that can do difficult conversations) is just an excuse for staying immature.

And when truth in love happens we grow. “Grow up in every way” means every way maturity should characterize us.

So what is the biblical counselor doing when counseling? Rightly understood he or she is communicating God’s truth in love. This means we don’t take the edge off of biblical truth, but we do communicate it with compassion, patience, grace, and mercy. We are not disinterested in the person in front of us—their struggles, history, hurts, concerns, weaknesses, and failures. So we point them to Jesus with kindness. That’s “speaking the truth in love.” And that’s what makes Eph 4:15 a great summary of the counseling task.

References

References
1 Paul is addressing the average Christian in the passage, not pastors or other professional ministers.
2 Jay Adams was less than enthusiastic about it being called this, but he felt that since every counseling system eventually is named, he would like to name it rather than letting its detractors name it. Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970), 52.
3 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vols. 5-9 Edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 Compiled by Ronald Pitkin. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, Vol. 4, Page 1018, 1020. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976.

Decaeuxarista [Deca-eucharista] 2021

Every year I develop a list of 10 reasons I’m thankful for each family member, and I try to share it by Thanksgiving, but it’s normally Christmas. I call it my Decaeuxarista–I’m not a Greek scholar, but it’s my attempt at making up a word that means Ten Thanks. It’s good for me to intentionally think about why I’m grateful for each family member. This is the list I shared with them this year. My kids are all adults now, and they still look forward to it–and its unique title. 😉 May it spur you to appreciate your family.

Laura[1]I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names. I think they prefer that.

  1. You are easy to like. You have an easy-going nature and earnest spiritual passion. I’ve always known that, but now I have more evidence since in your role as Assistant Dean of Women you are very popular with the college girls. They all love you.
  2. I love that you are willing to do hard things to spend time with your family. Backpacking in WY is probably the greatest recent example. You did it just because I enjoy it. Not many women of any age will do that.
  3. You are the peacemaker in the family. You want us all to be right with each other. It bothers you when we aren’t, and so you work with us sinning family members to lead us to repentance and reconciliation.
  4. Your absence of fear of man has blessed our family many times. You’re willing to ask questions when I would rather you didn’t, but you persist and we are blessed. On our vacation you asked if we could bring a cooler of snacks on the rafting trip, and I was sure they would say no. They said yes. That’s just one example.
  5. You are teachable; you are still growing spiritually. You’ve told me at least twice that moving to Ankeny has been beneficial for your growth in ministry skills. You’ve taken two college classes just to get better at mentoring girls. You sat in class next to girls that were less than half your age because you have a teachable spirit.
  6. You are the most thoughtful person in our family. You plan and save and shop for your family all year long. You make Christmas very special because you care about what gifts you give. I’m always encouraged at how well you know me and the kids when we get our stocking stuffers on Christmas morning.
  7. Your care when I am sick (and when the kids are sick and they are around) is legendary. You are so compassionate and kind. You think of all the little things to ease our discomfort. You jokingly said, “If Momma gets sick, this family is going down.” It’s true! We need you.
  8. Actually, you “Mom” very well. You are constantly up and taking care of business, getting stuff done for your family. The kids notice it when we’re all together. The rest of us stand around not knowing what needs to be done, and you just take care of things.
  9. You make all our family times so warm and fun. You especially serve at those times. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks you have been baking and comforting and encouraging all of us. You’re the first to jump up and get something for someone. You make home so homey.
  10. Part of making our home so comfortable is your design and decorating. I would probably never hang anything on the wall, and they would look cold and unfriendly. You, however, have a gift—you get the right furniture (always at a reasonable cost) and lighting and paint and wall hangings, etc. so that the house is welcoming. And you change it up regularly. You have an eye for making our home warm and comfortable, and you’re always thinking ahead on changes we can make. We’re in the smallest space we’ve been in since seminary, and it still somehow fits well when our kids visit.
  11. You know I appreciate spending time with you and you will purposely do work in whatever room I am in. You intentionally organize your day so we can be together more, and I love it. You’re my best friend, and there is no one I would rather be with.

Daughter

  1. You are sensitive to people that might be on the outside of the popular crowd. You will speak up if someone is speaking ill of someone not present. You lock on to people that are being ignored. It’s a way that your love looks most like Christ.
  2. You still call me when you need help. I got called in class when you locked your keys in your car on the first day of school. Of course that was an urgent need, but you also ask for help with your taxes, friendships, job decisions, etc. You are open to advice and counsel. In fact, you look for it.
  3. You intentionally show affection to family members. You still hold my hand when we walk together or when we sit together. You still hug your family members. You’ve never been ashamed of expressing affection. Your family feels very loved because of that.
  4. You are exceptionally careful with money. You are paying your way through college, and you make sure every purchase is necessary. You have almost completed three years without any student loan debt. But you still are generous with family and friends. Money doesn’t control you.
  5. You share the gospel. Mom told me that you have given homeless people at the U some cash or a gift card and a gospel pamphlet. You have witnessed to friends of yours on campus and at work. You care about your Muslim friend and atheist friend at the U coming to Christ.
  6. You work hard in school. No one is watching over your shoulder anymore, but you keep on plugging away. Mom and I don’t get concerned about you living independently because you are so responsible.
  7. You are a grateful person. You don’t expect us to pick up the check or pay for your gas when you come down to see us, and when we do, you appreciate it.
  8. You give up your own tastes (like K-dramas) and watch whatever the family is watching. You have eclectic media tastes and while you would appreciate it if we enjoyed them with you, you never expect it or demand it. You willing give up your preferences for the rest of us.
  9. You’ve always been the child that climbs into the back of the minivan no questions asked and no complaints given. You’ve never had any seat expectation except that you will take the one that no one else wants. That’s a wonderful servant heart.
  10. You have always been the least needy child. Not that any of our kids are needy, but you have always been independent and self-sufficient. You don’t expect us to serve you. You just assume that you will have to figure any problem out (although you still get advice), and you don’t have any expectation that we are responsible to “save” you. You just trust God and move forward.
  11. You are really good at making time for people. You are as busy as any other college student, but you make sure that you take time for lunches, coffee, phone calls, and other touches with family, but also with so many friends. Even though they don’t always reciprocate, you invest the time to build relationships.

Son

  1. I love how you take care of your mother. You are always happy to see her. When she visits you, you are generous. I’m glad you love your mother so well. You are kind to her.
  2. You don’t love money as far as I can tell. You have been generous with all of your family members through the years. You bought your sister a laptop; let your brother use your Mustang; helped another sister get a car and bought gifts for Mom and me. I’m glad you use money to show love; that’s a godly view of money.
  3. You think earnestly about Scripture. I’m glad you read and consider Christian books. You’ve gone to a conference with me and also on your own taken a Biblical Counseling introductory course. I’m glad you work at understanding theology and biblical application.
  4. You love people. That’s why you enjoy social events with friends. You’re great with people because you enjoy being with them. You invest in people.
  5. I like that you are a good friend. A person that has you as a friend is blessed. You will pursue relationship and communication. You will say hard things to them if they need it.
  6. Your sense of humor is a joy to me. I fancy myself humorous, and I like that we can riff off each other. Your humor is not hurtful or unkind, which is more mature than mine was at your age. In fact, your humor often helps defuse a stressful situation.
  7. You have grown a lot in self-discipline. I’m sure the Navy helped with that, but it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). You’re more consistent in your spiritual disciplines.
  8. You have a good study ethic. You enjoy learning new things, and you have lots of interests. You’re always surprising me with your latest interest—plant-based diet, backpacking, guitar, minimal support running shoes, etc. You study things thoroughly. You don’t tend to be impulsive. Actually, maybe that’s a better way of describing it. You’re not an impulsive person which means you’re not the Proverbial fool. I’m glad you are prudent and consider things deeply.
  9. You care about growing spiritually. You willingly did a book study with your brother and I on Sunday nights. You were honest and transparent. You talk to your parents about spiritual things. You want to please God in your growth.
  10. You are committed to attending and serving in church even though a military job with its deployments makes that difficult. You pursue a gospel-centered church at every location—even if only there for a week, and then you forge friendships and serve enthusiastically.
  11. You are a gracious person. You tend to react to others outbursts or braggadocio with grace. You don’t tend to respond to anger with anger. You’re easy to be with because you soften the prickliness of others.

Son

  1. Your focus is a strength. You picked up golf and have focused on getting better. You’ve improved a ton in just over a year. You are never half-hearted in anything you do. You don’t understand why someone might do something without enthusiasm because you regularly give 100%. You take that same focus and discipline to all areas of life.
  2. I admire your confidence. You might not always feel confident, but you regularly radiate confidence to those around you. That’s an encouraging gift—especially if it’s coupled with a deep dependence upon God.
  3. I’m glad you are so involved in your church and in Navigators. You want to learn more about God and His Word. You serve in your church while at the Academy, and you love your weekly Navigators Bible study. You have a hunger for righteousness.
  4. You are efficient with your time. You definitely get more out of your time than the rest of us. You don’t waste time. Even in high school you could get your homework done quickly. It seems intuitive to you how to study efficiently and that has helped you in college. You are wired to redeem your time.
  5. I’m glad you have told other students at USAFA about your faith. You told them the good news of the gospel. You want them to know Christ, and you’re taking some opportunities to exalt Christ in their eyes.
  6. You have gotten more edifying with your talk. You say kind things to all of us that show a growing faith in Christ. At times while growing up you have struggled with your words, but you have grown immensely in the past few years.
  7. You are physically disciplined. You’ve decided to prepare for a half marathon and I don’t doubt that you will be ready. You don’t normally sleep in, and you exercise regularly. It’s good stewardship of your body. There’s virtue in doing hard things, and you love doing hard things.
  8. You have a regular, weekly schedule for calling your siblings. They look forward to your calls. (You also call your Mother on Sundays and she loves it!) You schedule time for your family because you love them.
  9. You prioritize time in God’s Word. You finished your Annual Bible reading by the end of October. I’ve seen you many times getting your daily reading and daily devotions in. You have stopped an activity to make sure you get time with God. I’ve seen it.
  10. I’m thankful for your growing kindness toward and appreciation of your mom. This was not always true of you. You have sent your Mom some texts in the past few months that are especially kind and grateful. God has changed you.

Daughter

  1. You are willing to be stretched. You taught English for two years, which is your love, but now you’re teaching Algebra. It has pushed you out of any comfort zone, but you are learning and growing and being teachable.
  2. Your willingness to leave one job for another one in a different state is pretty remarkable. It’s an evidence of your growth and maturity. You have always been very cautious—even when learning to ride a bike years ago. 😉 Now you take risks to pursue God’s will. That’s maturity.
  3. You don’t embarrass easily, and Mom and I have tried. 😉 Your struggle with fear of man doesn’t tend to be with public embarrassment and that’s such a welcoming trait to others.
  4. You are growing in your struggle with the fear of man. You think about it when you make decisions for your class. You are getting better at making hard decisions that you know might be unpopular but that are right.
  5. You are affectionate with all your family members. I still get good hugs as do the rest of the family. You’re not embarrassed to let people know by your actions that you love us.
  6. You defend your family more fiercely than probably your parents do. I admire that you are not scared to confront others that slander your family. Your friends know that you love your family much. They get tired of hearing about us from you because you talk about your family A LOT. 😉
  7. You’re very relational. You pursue friendships in your church with all ages. You had friends that were children, young adults, and even senior adults when you lived in SC. You have friends everywhere you’ve been because you like people. That is a great trait for a believer.
  8. I’m thankful that you aren’t tempted to find your worth in social media likes. You don’t spend much time on that. You rarely post. You much prefer IRL relationships rather than social media distant ones. That is a huge temptation for your age group; I’m glad that it seems much less tempting for you.
  9. You read a lot. I mean a lot! There are many your age that waste hours and hours on trivialities, but you would rather curl up with a book. And some of those books are actually good! 😉 Reading is more valuable than watching media and you definitely prioritize reading.
  10. You come close to your Mom in thoughtfulness. You think about others throughout the year, and you have gift ideas for them. You don’t just buy a gift to check them off your list, you like to make sure the gift suits them.

References

References
1 I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names. I think they prefer that.

Stop Being Fearful; Start Being Joyful

In college I had a professor that summarized the message of Christmas as “Stop being fearful; start being joyful.”[1]Thanks Dr. Doug McLachlan! This is from Luke 2 where the angel tells the shepherds not to fear, and he also brings them good tidings of great joy for all people (2:10). I’ve remembered this Christmas summary ever since then.  

In the midst of the busyness of this season, it’s hard to find time to consider Christ, isn’t it? Probably most of us have thought at one time or another that this time of year is so busy that we almost dread it. We’ve taken this special time of the year when we could consider Christ and we’ve made it so busy, so crazy, so frantic, that we don’t consider Him.

And it doesn’t help that our world has some suggestions for the message of Christmas.

  1. It’s a commercialized, trivialized story we see on TV specials or read in Instagram posts.
  2. It’s the story of every Christmas movie at this time of year—families overcoming their differences and getting together for a special day.
  3. It’s a time when we celebrate a fat man in a red suit who sneaks down chimneys at night. 😉
  4. It’s a time when we try to have warm feelings towards our fellow man.

But I think my professor summarized it far better than any message the world gives us.

Stop Being Fearful

Clearly the shepherds are being told not to be afraid of the angel standing before them and the brightness of the glory of the Lord (2:9). They’ve never seen anything like this. Fear would be a natural response in these circumstances. However, it’s an unnecessary response.

Maybe fear is the natural response to your circumstances. You’re uncertain about the future. Life in 2021 hasn’t gone as you expected it to go. But like the Shepherds on the night Christ was born, your fear is unnecessary.

Because of that babe in the manger, you and I don’t have to fear. Why? Why is fear the wrong response to your circumstances? For the same reasons that joy is the right response to Christ’s birth.

Your biggest need was not financial. Your biggest need was not relational. Your biggest need was not emotional. Your biggest need was not health. Your biggest need was your estrangement from God because of your sin. And the birth of Jesus took care of that (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus came so that He could die as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. The Bible tells us that all people are sinners and that their sin separates them from God.

Romans 3:23, 6:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.... For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But because Jesus was born, lived, died for your sin, and rose again, you can have peace with God.

Colossians 2:13–14 (ESV) And you, who were dead in your trespasses [separated from God] and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us [you couldn’t keep God’s law.] with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [You were guilty, but God nailed your sins to the cross.]

Peace is a great quality to have. It’s a good state to be in. It only comes through Jesus Christ. In fact, you and I can have peace in the midst of swirling circumstances.

Like the angel commanded the shepherds, you can stop being fearful because Jesus came to take care of your sin.

There is so much to fear in this world. Because of Jesus, I don’t have to fear financial collapse, war, environmental ruin, terrorism, aging, health issues, the future, viruses, or even my own death. I can stop being fearful.

Start Being Joyful

Our world is not very joyful. Oh we could find some people at a bar or someplace today having a good time, and I’m sure they would say that they are joyful. But biblical joy doesn’t come from outside circumstances (Jam 1:2).

One of the greatest American humorists ever to live was Mark Twain. In his day, he really made people laugh. However, in his personal life he was plagued with depression and sorrow. When his daughter Jean died, Twain reportedly said to a friend, “I’ve never greatly envied anyone but the dead. I always envy the dead”

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11, ESV). Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is… joy (Gal. 5:22, ESV). God wants to develop inside you a joy that flows out as a result of your relationship with Him.

Joy is a divine gift of God to believers. First Peter 1:8 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (ESV).

Just like we are commanded not to fear, we are also commanded to be joyful. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. again I will say, rejoice” (ESV).

It’s been 2000 years, but I still believe you can stop being fearful and start being joyful because of the incarnation of Christ. That baby in the manger is the answer to our fears and the source of our joys.

Merry Christmas!

References

References
1 Thanks Dr. Doug McLachlan!
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