The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Room?

From now until Christmas there will be a constant mad rush to buy, buy, buy, which will only be followed in the new year by efforts to pay, pay, pay (unless you buy into the plan that puts your payments off for an extended period of time – that only prolongs the agony). This is the season when people scurry about in the squalid frenzy to shop. Shopping and holiday preparations this time of year threaten to crowd out everything else in our lives. If you listen you’ll hear mothers pushing their children in shopping carts snap at their antsy (aggravating?) inquisitive children, “Be quiet! Don’t you know I’m shopping for Christmas gifts?” Or, “Shut up! Don’t you know I’m looking for gifts for baby Jesus?” Driving can be a hazard too as people have thoughts of a million things to do coursing through their minds. Obligation and fear of offending someone will drive people to get gifts. We’ll wrack our brains to make sure all our bases are covered and no one is left out.

All of this frenzy begs the question, “Will there be room for Jesus in your life to celebrate His birthday?” I mean, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It is His birthday (though December 25th is not supported by historical and scriptural evidence as being the actual birth date of Jesus – that’s another teaching). Many people eliminate Jesus from the season by avoiding the use of Christmas” and inserting, “Seasons Greetings,” and “Happy Holidays.” Even Christians can get caught up in the rush to spend rashly. If there’s no room for Jesus in your holiday season, it wouldn’t be the first time there was no room for Jesus. The first time He came there was no room for Him. I’d like to change that situation. I’d like for us to change our holiday season into a holy-day season, (which is really what the word “holiday” is supposed to mean). The birth of Jesus should be a holy time. The tool to bring this change is a verse from God’s word.

In the Gospel of Luke it states:

Luke 2:7 – “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

This verse about the birth of Christ contains three central aspects of the Christmas story that will help us get back to the holiness, the specialness of the season.

Incarnation - “And she brought forth her firstborn Son”

We should understand that God reveals to us in His word that Jesus preexists eternally and is fully God (John 1:1, 2, 14-15). The incarnation of Jesus does not make Him less than God according to clear statements throughout the Bible. The deity of Jesus is testified to and supported in numerous portions of scripture. One of my favorites is as follows:

• Romans 9:5 – “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

Christmas is about the historical account of the incarnation of God in Christ. Just think of it, God in the flesh. That really is an incredible thing. God of the universe; all powerful; all knowing; ever present; with us in Christ. God is not distant but is present. He’ll never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God wants us to know Him and has taken steps that we can know Him personally. The incarnation testifies to this truth. And indeed Jesus said the crux of eternal life is, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

Knowing God is the bottom line. You can talk about religion, ritual and a host of other things, but if what you do fails to help you know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, it’s for the most part worthless. In heaven there won’t be Catholics, Calvary Chapel people, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, or any other man made labels for people. In heaven there will only be those who have repented of their sins and through faith in Christ entered into God’s eternal life of knowing Him. Do you know Jesus? Examine yourself to see if you can answer that question with a “yes” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Humiliation –“and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger,”

Christ’s coming into the world testifies to the humility of Jesus; His willingness to come as a servant to do God’s will. We see this in such verses as:

• 2 Corinthians 8:9 – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
• Philippians 2:5-11 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

An interesting story is told about an 18th century incident:

In the fall of 1775, the manager of Baltimore’s largest hotel refused lodging to a man dressed like a farmer, because he thought this fellow’s lowly appearance would discredit his inn. So the man left and took a room elsewhere. Later, the innkeeper discovered that he had turned away none other than the Vice President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson!

Immediately he sent a note to the famed patriot, asking him to return and be his guest. Jefferson replied by instructing his messenger as follows: “Tell him I have already engaged a room. I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no place for a dirty American farmer, he has none for the Vice President of the United States.”

How many times do we similarly turn away the things of God and His plans because they are too “dirty” for us? What do you think about when you contemplate the humility of Jesus? Do you even think about that? You should. We are called to follow in the humble servant hearted steps of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). It is possible to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection. But I have learned that when I really get to know Jesus, it is in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). That’s the “dirty” part, the part where we have to get down in the dirt of life and serve the Lord. Have you thought about the humility of Jesus? What does it mean to you?

Providence and Stupification – “because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The last issue this verse speaks of is the providence of God. In Galatians we are told that the incarnation of Jesus was all according to a plan of God:

• Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

The birth of Jesus Christ is fulfillment of an incredibly miraculous plan of God to reveal Himself to humanity in His fullness in Christ (Colossians 1:15-19). His virgin birth and place of birth are among the details God testifies to in His word. When we consider the details of God’s providential planned incarnation it is really amazing.

Historically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. Two commentators make the following observations about the timing of when Jesus came to be “God with us”:

The proper time had arrived for both God and man. The time appointed by the Father and foretold by the prophets. It was a time of outward prosperity and inward corruption. The religions of the world were spiritually bankrupt, devoid of power to change men’s lives, and had degenerated into feeble superstitions and meaningless rituals.

This “time” was when the Roman civilization had brought peace and a road system which facilitated travel; when the Grecian civilization provided a language which was adopted as the lingua franca of the empire; when the Jews had proclaimed monotheism and the messianic hope in the synagogues of the Mediterranean world.

Prophetically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. There are a host of prophecies which foretell the birth of Messiah Jesus (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31-35). There are prophetic scriptures which foretell of Jesus coming eight centuries in advance! The coming of Jesus was in line with the timing of the removal from the Jewish religious leaders of the right to order capital punishment (Genesis 49:10), the prophesied forerunner (Malachi 3:21) and Daniel’s prophecy concerning Messiah’s triumphal entry (Daniel 9:24-27).

But the thing I find interesting, no, stupefying, is that with all of this planning it still says in Luke 2:7:

• “ . . . there was no room for them in the inn.”

Doesn’t that strike you a bit peculiar? The Bible tells us that God has a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3) and certainly the time was right for Messiah Jesus to be incarnated. God predicted through the prophets and laid out a perfect plan for revealing Himself to humanity. And still, there was no room for Jesus and His parents the night of His birth. Somehow it seems that with all that planning by God surrounding the incarnation of Jesus that He also would have planned for Him to be birthed in a suitable place. Did God simply forget or overlook this aspect of the incarnation? I don’t think so. I don’t think there was “no room” for Jesus by accident. I believe God wants to teach us something from this.

What do we learn from “no room in the inn”?

There are a number of things we can and should learn from there being “no room in the inn.”

First, God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that we often find stupefying, surprising, amazing, perplexing, even confusing. In Isaiah it states:

• Isaiah 55:7-11 – “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

In Romans 12:2 it tells us not to be conformed to the world. A reason for this is that God regularly works in ways that the world and even in the religious community can not relate to. The ways of God are nonconformist and unorthodox by secular and religious standards. Who would have thought that a single Teacher with an inner core of 12 rag tag disciples would turn out to be not only God in the flesh but the Savior of the world? Who would have thought the Savior of the world, God in the flesh, would be born in a stable because there was no other place for his mother to birth? Who would have thought this child would be the way the truth and the life and the only way to eternal life with God? God’s ways are not our ways.

Our problem is that our plan is often opposed to His plan. We fight and struggle and throw our tantrums before the Lord because we don’t get what we want. Like a spoiled child dissatisfied with their Christmas gift we pout and sometimes even shout at God for His decisions. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s plans may keep us from things we think are best for us. But God’s plan is always the best plan. He has only the best of intentions for us. If He says, “No,” to a request of ours, it is only because He has something infinitely and eternally better for us. Who would you rather depend on, someone (like yourself) who is finite, limited in understanding and capability, or Someone who is infinite, unlimited in understanding and all powerful, like God? I don’t know about you, but I’m going with God not me or you. Don’t throw a tantrum, trust the LORD.

God is able to accomplish His will no matter what. Like the story of Mrs. A. E. Gadsby of Niagara Falls, Canada, who in December 1940 mailed a Christmas parcel to her daughter in Prestwick, Scotland. The ship carrying the mail was torpedoed off the west coast of Ireland, but a favorable tide floated the package and unerringly cast it ashore on the beach of Prestwick. The contents were soaked but perfectly usable. The address was still legible and the package reached the addressee two days after Christmas. God has a plan and He will work it out come hell or high water (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Hope in Him (Psalm 42).

Second, God incorporates human free will in His plans. Human free will does not take God by surprise, but it does make for an interesting journey in God’s plans. Because of human free will Joseph in Old Testament times was sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned, forgotten for a time, exalted to the second in command in the Egyptian empire and ultimately used by God with all of his hardship, for God’s good purposes to preserve the Messianic line (Genesis 50:20). Because of human free will there was an innkeeper who had no room for Jesus to be born in. Because of human free will Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest and most trusted disciples. Yet God used all of this to bring salvation to the world through His Son. God uses human free will and because of that we can’t always see His plan at first. God unfolds His plan bit by bit in order according to His plan, true to His will. Next time you are confused and can’t understand what is happening, trust in God, hope in God, love the Lord and He will bring out His good plan (Romans 8:28).

Christmas can be a difficult time of year. Memories of lost loved ones are harder to deal with during this emotional time of year. Family tensions can run high, especially between saved and unsaved. Through it all remember God has a plan. Hope in the Lord and He will get your through (Psalm 37; 43; 44).

Third, obstacles don’t necessarily mean we are out of God’s will. What if Joseph and Mary said, “Okay, there’s no room here for us to have the baby, let’s go to the next town”? If they had done that Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem according to Messianic prophecy (Micah 5:2) and He would have been disqualified as Messiah. But they trusted in the Lord and made due with what God provided. There is no record of any complaints on their part. There is only a record of humble submission. Christmas is a time notorious for combustible complaints. God’s word tells us to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Maybe we should take action so that there’s room for Jesus but no room for bad Christmas attitudes.

Fourth, there is an enemy who wants to shut Jesus out. The devil wants to destroy Jesus and all who love Him. We see this in the slaughter of the innocents ordered by Herod (Matthew 2:16-18). Herod and many other people in history have been enemies of Jesus and His people. But the ultimate enemy of Jesus is Satan. Of Satan it is stated:

• 1 Peter 5:8-9 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). We have an enemy and he seeks to distract, deceive and destroy everything connected with Jesus. The enemies’ objective is to make sure there is no room for Jesus in your life. Don’t let him cheat you of the blessing of the presence of the Lord! Make a conscious effort to have meaningful devotional times with the Lord each day during this time of year. This will help you make room for Jesus each day. It will help you cultivate spiritual sensitivity to how Jesus might want to use you to help others make room for Him.

Fifth, not everyone has room for Jesus. Jesus knocks on the hearts of all people as it states in Revelation:

• Revelation 3:20 - “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Jesus especially knocks on the door of the church seeking to come in and fellowship. But not everyone has room for Jesus. Some have their own petty ideas or agenda to follow. Others are too proud and want to worship themselves rather than Jesus. And still others want to rule on the throne rather than have Jesus be Lord. When Jesus knocks, open to Him. He is the reason for the season. Don’t forget that. Don’t be cheated out of the presence of Jesus this Christmas (Colossians 2:8, 23).

Sixth, when we encounter obstacles we should follow the leading of the Spirit. Mary and Joseph were humble enough to follow the Spirit. They didn’t come to Bethlehem expecting to have Mary give birth in a stable. But that is where the Spirit led them and that is where they went. The Spirit will never lead in a way that is contrary to God’s word. In fact the Spirit most often leads us by the word of God (Romans 8:14). We discover God’s will by giving ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. Top discover His will we have to be dead to ourselves and our own agendas and alive to Him and His will (Romans 12:1-2). Get up and off of the throne of your heart and make room for Jesus! He alone is suited and worthy to be your Lord.

Seventh, do you have room for Jesus this Christmas? Jesus said:

• John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart right now. You may have never paid attention to His knocking but now He is getting your attention. Will you open the door of your heart and invite Him in? It’s simple:

Admit you have sinned against God’s holy law and deserve eternal damnation (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

Acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins upon the cross; He died in your place on the cross; He paid the penalty you deserved for your sins on the cross.

Ask by faith God to forgive you of your sin based on your accepting what Jesus has done for you on the cross (Romans 6:23; 5:8).

Advance in the Spirit (who is now in you) and depend on God to help you bear spiritual fruit and live for Jesus.

Perhaps you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior but there are still rooms in your house that you have yet to give Him full access to. Jesus is knocking on those doors to. He wants to go in and clean house. Will you let Him in? He wants to shine His light throughout your heart and life. Will you let Him in?

We can learn a lot from that short verse in the gospel of Luke. But the thing we need to consider is do we have room for Jesus in our lives, in all of our lives? That’s the question before us right now. Have a meaningful Christmas and make room for Jesus!

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