We’re seeing the impact that Jesus’ birth has had beyond those who lived 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Here’s a story about one of the first people to meet Jesus, when he was about 40 days old, and how he saw Jesus would change the world:
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
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 2:22-35 ESV)
This man, Simeon, was told he would not die until he had seen the Messiah – God’s anointed one – the true king of Israel. Now, here he was, a baby in Simeon’s arms. In this song or poem, he essentially says he can finally die happy.
But this isn’t just about Simeon. It’s not even just about his people, the Jews, even though t happens at a very Jewish occasion – the temple, with all its purification laws, etc. and a Jewish blessing.
You can see it’s much larger when Simeon says God is doing something about salvation for “all peoples” and specifically a light of revelation for the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well as Israel.
The child Simeon blesses will have an impact globally, eternally. Sometimes that will be wonderful, but other times he’s described as being divisive. Whether we like that or not, we can see Jesus has indeed been divisive – it’s hard to sit on the fence about Jesus – families, friends and other people groups have long been divided by their beliefs about him.
Question: How does the birth of Jesus divide people today? What thoughts might he reveal?
Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I introduced the idea of grace with a diagram. We will build on that now, so if you missed it, go back and watch Tuesday and Wednesday’s content.
You may be familiar with the Ten Commandments. They are an important part of the tracks that God has created for our lives, the guidelines that keep us from self-destructing.
Where did they come from? They are over 3400 years old. God led the Israelites out of danger and slavery, then gave the laws by which this newly freed people were to organize their life together. Of all these laws, the Ten Commandments come first and take most important place.
In a few minutes, please watch the attached video to hear the commandments in detail. But first we need to know purpose first, to understand the commandments in their proper place…lest you come away from this thinking that Christianity is all about following a bunch of rules.
A common misconception is to make “Obey God’s laws” #1 as if it could qualify you for a life of knowing God. Sometimes Christians communicate the rules like they are number one, having forgotten how they came to know the God who helps them keep those commandments. Knowing God qualifies you to try and follow these commandments…God is working in and through his followers to help transform their lives from the inside out.
This was certainly true for Israelites. God, in his love for the Israelites, saved them from slavery in Egypt by parting the red sea. Only once they were safely on the other side of the sea from the Egyptians did he give them the commandments, and call them to live by those commandments in thanks for the gift he’d given them.
The 10 commandments answer the question: “How can I live to thank the God who has loved me so much?” Not how can I behave to earn God’s love, or avoid his hate. Not how can I get others to live by my rules?
Take a quick run through these commandments.
The Commandments deal with two things:
Relationship with God
Relationship with One Another.
The last commandment is unique, since it talks about contentment. This one may seem a bit different from the others, and it is. The others focus on our outward actions, what to do and not do, while this one focuses on our hearts, what to want and desire, and what not to.
God is in the transformation business. He not only wanted to see the Israelites as a transformed society, but also to see the minds of all his created human beings transformed in this way.
The Bible contains many other guidelines, principles and laws. We don’t have time to go through them all here. Life is complex, and there is not a specific rule for everything. But these principles, the 10 commandments, or even just the 2 commandments to love god and neighbour, or the principle of grace behind them all, can apply to any area of life. I am happy to help you interpret and apply if you have a specific question.
Watch the 10 Commandments in the extra video.
Challenge: Show grace to someone today. Give them a gift they don’t deserve.
Reminder: Last week we talked about worship, and asked you to complete our online survey about worship here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8TS7K93
Reminder: Earlier in this series, we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.