Monthly Archives: December 2020

Jesus Changes Everything

The Apostle Peter is a very unique character in the Bible. He was one of the early disciples of Jesus, and is sometimes referred to as the disciple who lived with his foot in his mouth. Peter was always acting first, and thinking later. Sometimes that is a great quality to have, but other times, it can get you into trouble. As erratic as Peter tended to be, he was a man who experienced the grace of God in a completely transforming way. He was the one who denied Jesus three times, but repented, was forgiven by God, and became a devoted follower of Jesus who was eventually martyred for his faith. He understood very personally and very deeply that Jesus changes everything.

Peter wrote two short letters in the New Testament. His letters were written to Christians who were suffering, and who were scattered all over due to the persecution they were facing. As he wrote to them, he wanted them to know that following Jesus was worth whatever trial they were facing. He wanted them to know who Jesus is, what He offers, and how following Him changes every aspect of their life for the good. In the beginning of Peter’s first letter, there are three things he speaks of that reveal how Jesus changes everything. It is these three things that remind us what Christmas is truly all about. 

First, Jesus changes everything by giving living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 tells us that God’s mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, there is nothing too great that He cannot conquer. For those who have embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there is a hope He brings to our hearts that is not dead, but is alive. Jesus gives us living hope.

For many, the Christmas season can be difficult. Some people, like my family, have lost a loved one, and this time of the year brings great grief. The only encouragement and joy we have comes from the fact that we will see our Christian loved ones again. Because of what Jesus has done, not even death can overcome or separate us from one another. Christians have a living hope because we serve the Living God. I pray we never forget that!

Second, Jesus changes everything by giving an eternal inheritance. Peter also wrote in his letter that, in Christ, believers receive an eternal inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” He went on to say, “In this, rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials.” This is a great encouragement to any Christian who is struggling. For the Christian, this world is as bad as it will ever get. God’s eternal Kingdom is much greater and much more excellent than anything we could ever imagine. Christians can rejoice in their trials because their trials are producing for them an inheritance that will never fade or perish.

Finally, Jesus changes everything by giving inexpressible joy. Peter went on to say, “Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible…” It is as if Peter was saying, “Yes, you will have to suffer for a while, but it’s worth it. Keep your eyes on Jesus and He will fill your life with inexpressible joy! Not cheap happiness, not fleeting emotionalism, but deep-rooted joy that only comes in Christ.” This Christmas season, do not pursue joy, pursue Christ, who will bring you joy. Life can be hard, overwhelming, and stressful, but God wants to fill your life with His presence, and as the Psalmist said, “In His presence, there is fullness of joy.”

As you ponder this, remember that Jesus changes everything. He gives us a living hope, the promise of eternal inheritance, and a joy that is inexpressible! Merry Christmas!

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most known Psalm in the Bible, and the most known verse in that chapter is probably verse four which says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” This verse brings tremendous comfort to Christians who are dying, family members who have lost a Christian brother or sister, and those believers who are walking through hard times on this earth.

If you studied Psalm 23, you would learn that everything in the six verses of this Psalm stems from verse one, which says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” As you might know, sheep are really helpless animals. They are totally dependent on the shepherd to lead, care for, and protect them. This why the Bible compares Christians to sheep. Left to ourselves, we can do nothing. The good news is, if we belong to the One who is self-sufficient, inexhaustible and utterly unchanged by time, we will lack nothing. God, the all-sufficient One, is sufficient for us. This is the main point of the Psalm, that with God, we have all we need. 

As I looked at Psalm 23:4, there were four things that stood out to me. I pray they encourage you as they have me. 

First, Christians will walk through valleys. I like what C.H. Spurgeon says, “To walk, here, indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed. The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his pace.” When I read this, it reminded me that the Christian, who truly walks with God, is not in a hurry nor a standstill, but moves at the right pace, with the right faith, and keeps the right perspective. There should be no alarm for the Christian. That is not to say that Christians will not have struggles, for we will, but rather that as we walk with the Lord in this life, we grow stronger and deeper in the faith with the One who walks with us. 

Second, Christians should fear no evil. The Psalmist does not say, “Walking in the valley, but through the valley.” That is a very important prepositional difference. To get to the “light,” if you will, you and I must walk through the valley of darkness. The truth is, knowing what awaits you when you die helps you understand how to live. This is why Christians can “Fear no evil.” Psalm 23:4 does not call it the valley of death, but the valley of the “shadow” of death. Why? For the Christian, in the valley, death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Someone has wisely said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, so we will either focus on the shadow or the light. I love what C.H. Spurgeon says, “Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore, be afraid. Death is but a shadow, and the valley is simply something we walk through.”

Third, when Christians fear, they must remember God is near. As you probably know, one of the most used commands in the Bible is “fear not,” or “do not fear.” Since God knows we are prone to fear, He reminds us over and over why we are not to live in fear. It is in the valley where we have questions. Questions like, “Is God still in control? Is evil going to harm me? Will I be swept away?” It is in these moments we must remember that there is only a shadow in the valley, and our God is greater than anything we face. Jesus is the Light of the world, and the Shepherd’s presence is the answer, the remedy to our fear. Jesus, our Great Shepherd, traveled through the valley of the shadow of death and came out triumphant on the other side, and so too shall we.

Finally, God provides what we need in the valley. The Psalmist says, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The Shepherd will protect, defend, and lead us! We are, therefore, safe in every possible way. God defends us and walks with us down every road, including the roughest ones. We need God in death,because He is the only One who gives us eternal peace and eternal hope. We also need Him in life, because life can feel like death, and He helps us overcome all we face. Truly, He is all we need, and because we have Him, we lack nothing.

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