Maximizing People, Minimizing Me, Magnifying Christ

“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:14–19 ESV).

See others for what they will become

The same apostle that wrote Romans 14 also wrote Romans 8. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29 ESV).

Every Christian someday is going to be completely perfect. Amazing. Awesome. This is our final state of glorification in eternity. There we will be completely Christ-like versions of ourselves. That’s a guarantee from God. Seeing each other as not-yet-perfect versions of what we will be is helpful in dealing with the immaturity and sinfulness we often see now.

What do you think when you walk past the very green bananas in the grocery store? Throw them away? No. What do you think when you see green tomatoes on the vine? Rip ‘em up? No. Those bananas and tomatoes are going to be really good someday.

As many of you know, basketball was a big part of my younger days. My teen years were during the ascendancy of Michael Jordan. To this day, I’m a sucker for those videos that pop up on social media: The Greatest Dunks of Michael Jordan; Top Ten Moves by Michael Jordan. I’ve seen them all before, but I watch them over and over. I also watch old videos of his days as a freshman at North Carolina. He was skinny. Made rookie mistakes. But I watch in awe because I know what he will become. I’m watching the early version of the greatest to ever play the game.

This is a helpful discipline in many categories of life. Are you in the early years of marriage? Your husband is like Jordan in his freshman year. Your wife is like Simone Biles at her second gymnastics lesson. You both are going to mature into better spouses for each other. Happy Valentine’s Day. How about parenting? When your 3-year-old is throwing a hissy fit in the checkout at Walmart, what do you think? Actually, don’t answer that. All parents have to look to the future with hope that the future version will be much more mature than the present hissy one.

This life skill is called Christian charity. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient and kind…. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (v. 4, 7). In this life, every one of us is disappointing on one level or another. But we need to see each other like Paul saw the Romans—works in progress. Progressively sanctified. And someday we are all going to be awesome like Christ.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

The Global Church and the Glory of God

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:7–13 ESV).

The more racialized our world becomes, the greater the opportunity for the church

The church in Rome was missing out on an incredible opportunity to display the power of the gospel to bring people together. They were dividing within the church along the lines of race and religious tradition. They were failing to love and welcome each other. Imagine if there was social media back then. What kinds of media posts and snarky articles might each side be promoting? Each side insinuating they were right and the other group in the church was wrong. Romans 14 shows they were argumentative, condescending, and self-righteous toward each other. In other words, they were acting like everyone else in Rome. And they were missing a powerful opportunity.

Are we missing an opportunity in our day? As a church, we are trying not to. Many years ago, we set a course to be an ethnically-diverse church. We presently have a Chinese Mandarin congregation. A downtown Gary campus. We have ambitions to minister to other Northwest Indiana ethnicities. Why? Romans 15. God’s glory. Christ’s gospel. Christ’s example. Welcoming into our hearts gospelized people who see some things differently.

But this requires a culture in our church of welcoming. Welcoming people with different perspectives and traditions and language and looks and stories. Not diversity on essential doctrines. But with all these other non-essential things, can you welcome those who Christ welcomes?

  • If your politics keep you from accepting a true Christian politically different from you, your politics are an idol.
  • If your skin color keeps you from accepting a Christian ethnically different from you, your ethnicity is an idol.
  • If your preferences keep you from accepting a Christian preferentially different from you, your preferences are an idol.
  • If your _____________ keep you from accepting someone Christ accepts, your_____________ is your idol and identity.

“Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (v. 7).

The kicker is that the world doesn’t have an answer for this, we do. Let’s not blow it! This requires each of us to conduct ourselves in a welcoming manner and collectively the culture of the church looks like verse 7. The gospel is the only power in this world to bring the ethne together.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

When There Isn’t Much Gospel at Home

Win Them Without Words so You Can Win Them With the Word

“…so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1 ESV).

Win? Win to what? Win to their own personal faith in Christ. Win them to the gospel. Peter is explaining a spiritual and psychological principle. Our walk speaks louder than our talk. Peter is certainly not saying that talk is unnecessary. The gospel is good news and must be shared verbally and explained. He is not promoting a speechless gospel. Rather, the human mind is very keen on perceiving hypocrisy. When someone talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, it calls into question all the talk. The vocal Christian at work who cheats his time or pilfers office supplies, his walk undermines his talk. At the same time, when someone walks their talk, it empowers their talk and makes people go hmmm….

Family is the ultimate up close and personal observation of talk and walk. No one knows us like our family. It’s very hard to fake it. Peter urges us to see our life with our family as a powerful missional opportunity for the people we love the most. Note the two categories of life-walk he highlights: “when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”

Respectful Conduct     Attitude

Pure Conduct              Actions

If you want to win your family members to Christ, the daily attitude you display will either enhance the gospel you profess or detract from it. Peter isn’t urging fake it to make it here.

We don’t put on false airs of spirituality. Rather, we live authentically in a way the unbeliever cannot do. Which attitudes unveil the gospel? The counterintuitive ones for humans. Servant-heartedness. Helpfulness. Care and concern for other’s needs. What does that all sound like? Normal agape Christian love! Thankfully, these are qualities that a genuine Christian is growing in naturally as the Spirit of God creates Christlikeness. That’s attitude.

The other is conduct. This is the moral trajectory of our lives. Never perfect but there should be a substantial difference in the moral life of a Christian and the other unbelievers in the family. This could and should be quite unnerving for them. They knew you in your party days but now…what’s gotten into you? Humble obedience to just the Ten Commandments should do the trick. Just those 10 will sufficiently say, Something is different in John’s life. Hmmm…. Christian conduct will definitely cause your unsaved family go, hmmm….

You may be listening today and your family is totally Christian. You might be thinking, I’m so glad my husband is already a Christian so I’m free to treat him badly. And you would be wrong. Peter isn’t urging an extraordinary Christianity here, he is encouraging a normal Christianity, flawed and imperfect, lived out by the gospelized family member.

If your family members are already Christians, ask yourself, if they weren’t a Christian, am I the kind of Christian husband/wife/sibling/child that would cause them to consider becoming a Christian? This is a call no matter what your status and we should all strive to live in our families in such a way that our walk and talk shouts the gospel.

If my spouse weren’t a Christian, would my life make him or her desire to be one?

If my brother or sister weren’t a Christian, would my life make them want to be one?

A reminder, the gospel isn’t good people living perfect lives. 1 Peter doesn’t say anything about being a perfect wife. In fact, it is in the moments of imperfection, disappointment, and disillusionment that Christianity shines the best because these highlight Christian love, covenant faithfulness, and forgiving grace. Conflict. Illness. Trials. Hurts. These are the moments when God’s gospel shines the brightest. Gospelize them and make the most of them.

A few weeks ago, a woman in our church shared with me her story. She wrote me an email, “My marriage had not been good for 29 years, but the last 3 years I gospelized my wifery….  It brought my husband to the Lord. He died 13 years ago. But I know that I’ll see him again.”

I wrote her back and asked her a follow-up question: If you could go back, what would you do different in the earlier years? I definitely would have prayed more. I would have been a more loving wife also. By loving, I mean kinder and gentler, more attune to his needs, and not so stubborn on my part. I think that the longer I was a Christian reading my Bible, the reality that he might spend eternity in hell was what made me get on my knees more. God changed me and I firmly believe that change in me is what brought my husband to the Lord. God is so good. He answered those many years of prayers.

That’s what winning unsaved family without words looks like. If you are reading this and your spouse is a Christian and you are not, you should know the deepest desire of your spouse is that you would trust in Christ as your Savior. It’s what he or she thinks about when they make a wish and blow out the birthday cake candles. It’s what they pray for when their head hits the pillow. It’s what they are quietly praying for right now. Have they been perfect or even close? No. But the gospel isn’t that God saves perfect people, it’s that God will save any sinner who repents of their sin and puts their personal trust in hope for salvation from God’s judgment in Jesus’ death for their sins.

Might the life of your Christian family member bring you even today to a point where you would trust in Jesus as your Savior today? Right now? There’s a family member whose heart is hoping you will. They love you and they want to spend eternity with you.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Gospelized Harmony in the Home

What unites a family is certainly physical DNA. But what unites a Christian family is spiritual DNA. Gospel DNA. Jesus-is-king-and-Lord-of-this-home DNA. Does this mean your kids all grow up and become missionaries or even Christians? Does this guarantee harmony? No. No more than it guarantees this in a church. Plenty of churches erupt in division. But if there is ever going to be sustainable unity, churches and families need a uniting vision and purpose.

What is the point of our family? When the gospel is the point and Jesus’ glory is the goal, the byproduct is that God provides spiritual resources and blessing in a home that is trying to serve him and glorify him. Displace God and enthrone education or your kids’ sports career as the functional god of your home and see what happens.

One tip here. Since this is so important, why not write out a purpose statement for your home? You may say, that sounds silly. Yet people do this all the time and hang banners in their home that say, Live, Laugh, Love. I would recommend you not get your vision for your family from Walmart. I got mine from Hobby Lobby. Well, then that’s different…. We are all for living, laughing, and loving. Feel free to keep that on the wall.

I’m encouraging you to aim higher. If not on the wall, certainly the wall of your heart. Joshua said it well, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 ESV). Or you’ve probably heard, love God, love people. Or Micah 6:8, “act justly…love mercy…and walk humbly with your God” (NIV) Our church’s statement is Bethel Church exists to make disciples whose lives are all about Him.

My brother in law’s family took this seriously and painted the list right on their wall in the stairwell where it would be seen every day (see picture at left). These need to be biblical, aspirational, and they should call your family upward to a higher love, God-honoring choices, and kingdom of God priority living.

How does this help with harmony? When you have the right thing as the main uniting thing, it allows diversity in a family in the lesser priorities. Now you can discuss but you don’t have to argue. The family zone is a safe zone to disagree. Discuss. Laugh. There can be differing opinions on music and the arts and politics and a host of other perspectives, yet we love each other. The gospel provides the glue. Get the foundation right and you tend to get the others right too.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Additional Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

The Gospelized Husband

The Qualities of a Gospelized Husband

Gospelized husbands aspire to love sacrificially: reenact the cross

By nature, men are utterly self-centered. And the women said? Amen. We are. Let’s admit it. A non-gospelized husband approaches marriage with the expectation of getting what he wants out of it. What do we want? We want you ladies to admire us as much as we admire us. Here is where marriage is a brick wall. Self-centeredness does not produce the wifely admiration we desire. It doesn’t produce amorous wives every night. It does the opposite, and creates many painful problems. When my core identity is me, my marriage and my wife are tools I use for sex or ego advancement or domination. If you marry a man whose character is formed around those priorities, your marriage is going to tank. Why?

“Marriage amplifies what a person is.”[1] Both good and bad. If you are a little selfish, in marriage, you’re a lot selfish. If you are a little grumpy, in marriage, you’re a lot grumpy. But it works to the positive, if when you are single, you are kind, in marriage there are a thousand opportunities every day to display kindness. If you are joyful, marriage provides many contexts for that joy to bless. Marriage amplifies what a person is. If that person is a man whose core identity is the gospel, marriage amplifies gospel qualities and puts them on display. That’s the point. Every marriage is a showcase, an amplification of who we really are.

If at the core of who we are, is a firm belief that I am a sinner saved by grace, that identity will shape my words and actions around the example of Jesus’ sacrificial love to the church.

Gospelized husbands take their leadership seriously: reenact servant leadership

Can anyone accuse Jesus of sloughing off? Being a couch potato Messiah? Of course not. His leadership of the church is without question. His leadership is not domineering or selfish. Rather, he leads by serving. He gave us the paradigm when he took up the basin and towel and washed the disciples’ feet. Spiritually, he has been washing our feet ever since.

For a gospelized husband, love and leading looks like serving. Yes, we believe the husband is the head of the wife. Says so in Ephesians 5. But that headship is a call to serve. This requires humility, something we men don’t naturally admire. This is the meekness of Jesus. Strength under control. Strength channeled toward serving the wife.

I have found this one of the greatest challenges of being a husband. It’s hard to do because my natural self wants to be served, not to serve.

Gospelized husbands are really good at forgiving: reenact justification

 If there is anything the gospel showcases it is the love of God to forgive us for our sins. Romans 5:1 (ESV) says, “Therefore…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The gospel is a message of peace and reconciliation. You would think a Christian marriage would be a perpetual peace treaty.

I have not found that to be the case. Marriage is a daily opportunity to be offended or to be offensive. These come in big and small ways. I could list my failures in this, but I don’t have time to list them all here. 😊

My point is that a gospelized husband whose core identity is the gospel of God’s forgiveness is going to be quite good at forgiving. Not perfect. Maybe not even awesome. But pretty good.

I’ve been married 8.5 years so my experience is limited, but the ability to forgive may be the single greatest skill needed for a healthy marriage. Communication is important. Having fun is important. Love and intimacy are important. But all of those require resolving conflict and forgiveness or you never enjoy marital blessings. You have to smoke the peace pipe nearly every day.

Singles desiring marriage, I don’t know what’s on your must-have list. Must love dogs. Must hate the Packers. Having been married awhile, I’d put “good at forgiving” in my top three.

Since marriage amplifies who we are and a gospelized man is a man who gets the amazing forgiveness God has bestowed to him, a gospelized husband desires to be quick to forgive and to not hold offenses against his wife. Wives, this goes both ways.

Can you see how the gospel provides the resources of character required to be a pretty good husband? I love this quote, “The gospel welcomes us to be honest because it offers divine aid for everything we would need to be honest about.” (Tripp)[2]

Christian husbands, you have in the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit in you, the very resources you need to succeed as a husband. Have you tried that? How about this week, in a fresh way, consciously think, the love of Christ? The service of Christ. The servant leadership of Christ. The forgiveness of Christ. God help me to reenact the gospel in my husbanding.

I can hear you say, but my wife, she ain’t like the church is to Jesus. Maybe I’ll start modeling Jesus when she starts doing her part. Did Jesus wait for the church to love him? Jesus loved first. It’s one more way to reflect the gospel. Love her anyway.

A word to the wives here. Your husband might be scared to death to try anything I’ve said here for fear of upsetting the status quo. He may fear your smirk or a sense that now you’ve won. If he is brave enough to try, could you be brave enough to accept his less than perfect trying? Don’t say, you didn’t say it right! Billy Graham would have said it differently. You took too long! I sensed some self-justification in your confession. To the doghouse you go!

Your husband is reenacting Jesus without being Jesus. He’s a flawed picture of our perfect Savior and you are a flawed picture of the sanctified church.

So, do your marriage a favor. Show your man some of the grace this week you want him to show you after next week’s message and you both will be blessed by a more gospelized marriage.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Douglas Wilson, Reforming Marriage (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1995), 34.

[2] Paul David Tripp, Lead (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 124.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

The Gospelized Family

The Family Verses of Romans

Unlike many of Paul’s other letters, in Romans he never teaches directly on marriage and the family. There is nothing like he does in Ephesians or Colossians or 1 Corinthians. But that doesn’t mean Romans doesn’t have something to say about family. There are two verses in particular and they happen to be back to back.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 ESV).

This verse is an all-encompassing statement of God’s purpose for everything and in everything. It’s all from him, through him, and to him. “Him” is Jesus. It’s all for his glory. It’s all about him. What in your family or home isn’t included in “all things?” Your family is for his glory. If you are married, your marriage is for his glory. When it’s not, then, as Romans 3:23 says, we are falling short of the glory of God. We are falling short of God’s intention for all things everywhere to glorify Christ. Every home, family, parent, child, and marriage is meant to be for his glory.

That ends Romans 1-11’s deep dive into the vertical gospel. God and man. Notice the enormous pivot in the next verse.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

This verse is the massive hinge of Romans. From the vertical to the horizontal. “By the mercies of God.” What’s that? The mercy of God toward us as sinners as described in chapters 1-11. What are we to do? Present our bodies as living sacrifices. This hearkens to the Old Testament Levitical practice in the temple of killing bulls and goats and placing them on the altar as a sacrifice or offering to God. They did so by the hundreds of thousands of animals over centuries. Yet, all that time, there was one thing all the sacrificial animals had in common—they were all dead. They were dead sacrifices.

Paul uses that powerful image and says that as Christians we now have the privilege of offering ourselves as living sacrifices. For an animal to be a temple sacrifice required a total commitment by the animal. It was all the goat or all the bull. All their body. All their blood. Now we as Christians, in view of God’s amazing saving grace to us, place all that we are on the altar to God. We are sacrifices who are still living.

“Holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Our acceptability before God is purely based on Jesus’ work on our behalf. We are holy and acceptable to God because of Jesus and his atoning death on the cross. Still, like the sacrificial animals, all that we are is to be offered entirely to God as worship. It’s a transformative truth when the lightbulb goes on for a new Christian that now everything in life is theology, everything is for God, all your life can be lived for his glory. Whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. Your whole life can be offered to God as worship.

But this is family month. My burden and the point of this whole series is that our homes and the relationships represented in the family are part of Romans 12:1. Could we read it this way?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your families as a living sacrifice, present your marriage as a living sacrifice, present your sibling relationships as a living sacrifice…which is your spiritual act of worship.

In this we must realize that of all the horizontal relationships the power of the gospel can transform, the closest ones represent the most challenging and the most rewarding. The most redeeming. The most sanctifying. The most God-glorifying. Is God glorified when we help the old lady we don’t know across the street? Yes. But he is more glorified when, in the midst of conflict, as an act of worship to God, we do the dishes. He is even more glorified when, in view of his mercy to me, I show mercy to a family member and forgive the offense against me. Why? Why would I do such a thing? The gospel. God’s glory. It’s all about him.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

God’s Gift: The Falling and Rising of Many

“And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 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 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed’” (Luke 2:33–35 ESV).

Imagine Mary, marveling but wondering, what did Simeon mean, a sword piercing my soul? She wouldn’t know for 33 years until she stood near Jesus as he hung dying on the cross. Makes you wonder if she thought as she looked at Jesus on the cross, now I know what old Simeon meant.

I want to draw your thoughts to one part of Simeon’s prophecy, “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many” (Luke 2:34). This is an interesting way to say it. We say the phrase the other way. The rise and fall. So many history books are written that way, the rise and fall of Rome. The rise and fall of the third Reich. I’ve been watching a biography series on Napoleon, which is the rise and fall of Napoleon. Napoleon rose to Versailles. Napoleon fell at Waterloo. The great kingdoms of history rise and then they fall. I’m unaware of any books about anything or anyone that are entitled, The Fall and the Rise.

Did Simeon just get it wrong? In his excitement about holding the Messiah, perhaps he simply misspoke. He got it backwards. You and I do that all the time. Some of us get paid to do it regularly in front of a lot of people.

Yet Simeon says that this Jesus will be the cause of the fall and rise of many. What does that mean?

From Guilt to Forgiveness

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:18–25 ESV).

Jesus’ Name Explains His Mission

“For he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). God names his gift to us, and in doing so, he gives us a hint of what and who is hidden in the wrappings of this little baby.

Have your kids ever tried to pry out of you what is wrapped under the tree? Please, Daddy, can you give me a clue? Just a hint? Just a little glimpse into what it might possibly be? Please Daddy?

God the Father, without our begging, gives us a very clear clue as to the nature of this precious gift. His name? Jesus. His mission? To save his people from their sins. His name explains his mission. Also…

God’s Gift Displays Our Need

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of receiving a gift that either we didn’t really want, or we already have. It’s a future white elephant gift. You know the look we feign on our face: Oh, thank you. How kind of you.

Have you ever been offended by a gift? What does the wife think when the husband gives her a present and it’s a subscription to Weight Watchers? Does that go over well? Or a wife who buys her husband a book entitled, How to be a Better Husband? The gift is saying something about the need.

In a much more serious way, what should we humans think God is telling us when the gift to us from above is a Savior who will save his people from their sins? By the very nature of the gift, we see from God’s perspective, our greatest need.

“There is a sense in which this statement is not only Christological in nature (in what it says about Mary’s child) but also anthropological, for it says that the Gospel’s readers, both past and present, are the kind of people who need a Savior!”[1] What a wonderful point. God’s gift indicates our greatest need. Our greatest need is forgiveness of our sins. Our greatest need is to be reconciled with a holy God. Our greatest need in a world of death is eternal life. So, what does God do? He sent a sin Savior. He gave us Yeshua.

If God had sent a doctor, we’d know our bodies were sick.
If God had sent a politician, we’d know our government was broken.
If God had sent a plumber, we’d know our pipes were leaking.
If God had sent a soldier, we’d know we were going to war.
If God had sent an architect, we’d know we would need to build.
But God sent a Savior.

If God had sent an electrician, we’d know our wires were crossed.
If God had sent a midwife, we’d know we were pregnant.
If God had sent a pastor, we’d know we needed a sermon.
If God had sent a teacher, we’d know we need some learning.
But God sent a Savior.

If God had sent a mailman, we’d know we had mail coming.
If God had sent a pilot, we’d know we were going on a trip.
If God had sent a chef, we’d know we were in for a feast.
If God sent a farmer, we’d know we needed food.
But God sent a Savior.

If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d think Christmas was about trees and toys.
If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d assume we and God were good.
If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d think our sins were no big deal.
If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d not be saved from our sins.
But praise God, God sent a Savior![2]

The one God sent shows us what we need the most. Sinners need a Savior. God’s gift perfectly corresponds to our greatest need.

There is one easily missed part of the angel’s words that may mean the difference between eternal heaven or hell for you. For he will save all people from their sins. Is that what it says? No. “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, emphasis added). Even here before Jesus was born we see the division that his life and ministry would create forever. His people. Jesus will later call this group his sheep. The apostles will call this group the elect, the church, the redeemed. The angel foretells a salvation that is particular. Or to say, Jesus is a Savior only to those who believe in him as the Savior from their sins.

This is where Christmas gets offensive to the modern person. Our culture likes sentimental Christmas and holiday Christmas and gift giving and receiving Christmas. Retail money-making Christmas. Days off from work and school Christmas. Salvation Army bell ringing and TV Christmas special Christmas. But the modern person rejects an exclusive Christmas and an exclusive salvation. This is certainly not politically correct. But when you are an angel of the Most High God, you don’t care what humans think. You just say it the way it is.

So, the lingering question from the words of the angel is not what Jesus’ name means or why he came, but are you included in “his people”? To receive the blessing of this gift from God requires a sinner to repent of his sins and turn to God by faith in Jesus as the Savior who died for our sins and who was resurrected for our eternal life. Then we become “his people” and then Jesus becomes God’s personal gift to us.

If you are a Christian, rejoice that when the angel said, he will save his people from their sins, 2,000+ years ago, an angel of God was talking about you.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Robert Stein, Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 1993), 108.

[2] Steve DeWitt

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

To You, from Above

A Gift for Whom?

Please note the pronouns here…

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12, ESV emphasis added).

Answering the question of why Jesus came and died and rose again is a question with a lot of right answers to it. He came to defeat Satan, he came for God’s glory, he came in obedience to his heavenly Father, he came to fulfill prophecy, and on and on we could go. But those are not the reasons the angels highlighted to the shepherds, are they? Angels are messengers of God. They told the shepherds exactly what God wanted them to say. There is a baby whose identity is Savior, Christ, and Lord. He is lying in a manger. But what you need to realize is that he has been born unto you, for you, and for all the people.

This echoes the emphasis of a famous prophecy of Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). To us a child. To us a son.

Here is where so many people miss out on the true gift of Christmas because they think salvation is transactional. I do something, and by me doing something, I get God to do something for me. I give you something, you give me something.

The Weak, the Strong, and the Way of Christ

The Strong’s Spiritual Duties in the Church

Bear with the weak and their struggles

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’” (Romans 15:1–3 ESV).

Bear with here doesn’t mean “put up with it.” Bear means “to carry it.” Help them carry the burdens of their weaker conscience. Share the weight of a weak conscience with them.