Three Meditations on "The Messiah"

Christmas Festival

The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
   that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
   double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
   make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
   and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
   and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
   and all flesh shall see it together,
   for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1–5)

The Revelation of the Lord’s Glory

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of the Lord has spoken, even though Psalm 19:1 says that the heavens are telling the glory of God every day. All you have to do is look eastward on a morning like this to see that psalm fulfilled. The heavens are declaring the glory of God every day, and yet Isaiah says there is coming a day when the glory of the Lord will be revealed in such a way as it’s never been revealed before.

Then he says that what will distinguish the revelation of glory on that day is that all flesh, that is, every single person, will see it together. No more solitary Moses on Mount Sinai saying, “Lord, show me your glory.” No more solitary Ezekiel with the wheel in a wheel. No more solitary Paul being taken up into the third heaven of ecstasy. Every single person on the face of the globe, together, will be stunned by the glory revealed from the Lord.

Now when is that going to happen? How can that be? It comes from the mouth of the Lord in Matthew 24:29–30 that it will be this:

[T]he sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

The glory of the Lord Jesus will be revealed and all the tribes, all flesh, will see it together. For some it will be a great day of mourning as they hear the words, “Behold your judge.” For others it will be a day of unspeakable joy as they hear the words, “Behold your God.”

I want you to think about this for just a moment very seriously. If Christianity is anything, it’s the proclamation that Jesus Christ is stronger than Satan and stronger than evil. And that one day he will triumph over all his enemies. Nothing establishes me and gives me the strength to press on in the ministry like this confidence. I am absolutely confident that someday Jesus Christ will be totally, utterly, gloriously triumphant over all evil and Satan in this world. And that’s what stabilizes me, when I, in the ministry, sometimes I feel as though I’m going to drown in a sea of evil.

I wish I could persuade you this morning that the glory of the Lord is going to be revealed, because I fear that there are so many who are toying with minor glories that are going to go out like a candle when the sun rises on this world. I fear that there are so many who love the world, who are in bondage to the pleasures of sin, who are following the prince of the power of the air, and will be cast into the lake of fire when the glory of the Lord is revealed. I wish I could persuade you and make you feel inside what this chorus is singing this morning; that the glory of the Lord is going to be revealed someday and all flesh will see it together, either to mourn forever or to rejoice forever. But first, before the glory of the Lord is revealed in that way, he must suffer many things and be handed over to the chief priest and the elders and be killed (Luke 9:22). In order to do that, he had to be born. And was born of a virgin.

The King in His Beauty

The dawn, the rising of the glory of the Lord, was the first coming of Jesus. The high noon of the Lord’s glory will be the second coming of Jesus, and that sun will never set. It will stay at high noon forever in the kingdom. Those who are there will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43). It’s the same sun whether you see it on the horizon or at high noon. On the horizon, you are able to look at it, just like I did as it came up over the freeway this morning. I actually looked at it this morning, but I couldn’t look at it now, nor will I be able to look at it at high noon. It’s the same sun either way.

Jesus came softly at first, so that he could be looked at. We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14). And you see in him if you see him in the Gospels as the man, Jesus Christ. He is someone you can behold now, but it’s going to be the same Christ when he comes again in glory.

The next song that will be sung is from Isaiah 9:6 contains the character of this child as he was in a measure on the earth, and as he will be infinitely when he comes again.

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.

Now what makes this Christ so glorious in that verse is that those four designations correspond in their manifold excellencies and in their combination of strengths to my needs and yours. Don’t they? Let’s see if they do. I’ll mention how they correspond to mine.

First, he is a counselor, which corresponds to my need for advice, counsel, and guidance. Then, he is mighty and that corresponds to my need for strength and power to lead the life that pleases the Lord and to be protected and strong against the evil and the force of the opposition in this world. Next, he is a father and that corresponds to a need that I believe every human being has for a firm and gentle hand upon them for guidance, discipline, care, and provision, especially if you’ve never known it. Finally, he is peaceful, and that corresponds to the deep craving I have to be free of trouble and to be free of agitation and upheaval.

But what makes these four things so extraordinarily glorious is not merely that, but that the counsel is wonderful counsel. It’s not like any counsel you’ll get in this world. No preacher or counselor can come anywhere near the wonder of the counsel you will get if you go to Jesus Christ, asking for counsel. He is a wonderful counselor. You will be stunned with wonder at the counsel of Jesus.

And his might is divine — mighty God — which means there’s just no greater might. There’s no power in this world that could come against you that God is not 10 million times stronger than, and the creator of. He is mighty and it is divine might. He has God-like might for his people.

And his fatherhood is everlasting. I didn’t realize when I jotted this down that I’d be standing before this funeral bouquet. You will never give a bouquet like this to God. You’ll never attend his funeral. He will never grow old. He will never get senile. He will never write a will that only comes into effect at his death. He will never orphan you. The fatherhood of God is rock solid and everlasting.

And his peace is princely peace. It’s not the flabby, insecure, fragile peace like we know. It is a peace that is governed. The government is upon his shoulders. That will be so different from all the governors we know today. The peace will be a princely peace of absolute security and everlasting firmness. The glory of the Lord has risen upon us. The noonday is not yet, but we have seen enough in the rising of this sun to know that it will be glorious and it is coming.

Needy for the Whole Savior

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 (Luke 2:10-11).

Now what will make that good news to you this morning? The only thing that will make it good news is if you feel the need for a Savior. And so I want to ask you, do you feel the need for saving? Do you feel like there’s something that needs saving inside of you? If you’re content without him, if you don’t feel the need for him, then you don’t have him. He comes to those who call upon him from need.

But we have to be more specific than that because there are some who want him to save them from a bad relationship; they want him to save them from financial trouble; they want him to save them from sickness, but not from sin. And he isn’t yours if that’s the way you want him. To want him to save you from the trouble of your life but not the sin of your life is not to want the Savior who will come. The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people…” from what? Their sins (Matthew 1:21).

But we have to be more specific here too because there are a lot of people who say, “Well, of course I want to be saved from the penalty of my sins. Of course, I want to be saved from the consequences of my sins and not be destroyed, cast away, and rejected. Of course, I want to be saved from my sins.” And they miss the whole point that he came not just to save from the consequences of sin, but from the corruption of sin. There are so many people — it’s a curse on the evangelical church — who want to be saved by a sin forgiver but not a sin destroyer. They want to welcome Christ and use him as a sin forgiver but they refuse him as a sin destroyer, even though the Bible so plainly says in 1 John 3:8 that the Son of God came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, namely sins.

To want the half Christ of a sin forgiver and reject the other half as a sin destroyer, and then to expect to go to a whole heaven is totally without warrant from the Bible. It’s a strange thing abroad in the church today. He is a glorious savior. He is an absolutely all-sufficient and totally adequate savior for your needs, but he is not anyone’s savior who does not want him as a whole savior. If you don’t want deliverance from your sin by this Christ, he isn’t your Christ. He comes to those who want him as a whole Christ, a biblical Christ, a King.

We’re closing the service today with songs. The first one of which is an invitation and I want to extend it now with my own words. Oh, that I could persuade you to come and worship the whole Christ! What a mockery it is in the church when people bow and worship a half Christ. They worship a Christ who is not the biblical Christ, who has no footing in Scripture, and who is a figment of our imaginations. And we get all excited about deliverance from the penalty of sin while we cherish the power of sin and the pleasures it brings. We don’t want a new set of pleasures that exceed the old ones, fleeting as they are.

What a tragedy this is, as God must look down and see so many people in this state. Let it not be so at Bethlehem. Let it not be so in the last five minutes as we sing together. Let’s exhort one another to come and worship Christ the newborn King. The whole Christ, for he is worthy of a whole heart. Let’s give it to him now, as we sing together.