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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Have You Room for Jesus?

“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.”

- Luke 2:7

Are you in the Christmas spirit? This past presidential election was pretty withering. If you’re your candidate won you might be more inclined to be in the Christmas spirit. If your candidate lost, you might be packing to leave the Christmassy confines of the good ole US of A. There are new gadgets out: a Three-D pen, new IPhone 7, ionizing sports water bottles, compact wallets, and tactical space pens are all the rage. But if you’ve become infatuated with some new gizmo maybe the frenzy to buy gifts threatens to crowd out Christmas and the Christmas spirit. Even Christians can get caught up in the rush to spend rashly. Atheists have a new promotional drive this year they are calling “Skip Church this Christmas.” They are promoting the idea that you don’t have to be religious to celebrate Christmas; you can just gather with loved ones, eat a big meal, and share gifts, all without Jesus. There are a lot of reasons people choose to shut the door on Christmas. Some may go so far as to shut the door on Jesus. Have you room for Jesus?

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. In the Gospel of Luke it states, “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.”  (Luke 2:7).

Theologically this speaks of the incarnation of Jesus. It speaks of the humiliation of Jesus. And it speaks of the providential workings of God to carry out His redemptive plan in Christ. But there are other down to earth revelations intertwined in the incarnation of Christ. They speak to our present state of affairs; especially this year.

God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that we don’t readily understand. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:7-11). 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 cannot 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? (I’ve seen what such “stables” look like. They are dark and dingy; only a poor needy family would resort to birthing their baby in such a place.) 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 plan can be opposed to His plan. 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. We are limited and finite in understanding. He is infinite and all knowing. It’s always best to trust the LORD; even when we don’t understand.  And, at the risk of turning people off with a political statement, I would say to those who are disgusted at the election of Donald Trump to be president to take a step back and consider that maybe God is at work in this. I would say that to my liberal friends. I would say that to “never-Trumpers” too. God’s ways are not our ways. He is always at work. And maybe, just maybe, God is planning a great big Christmas present for us and our nation. We can only hope and pray.

God is able to accomplish His will even when all seems lost. Mrs. A. E. Gadsby of Niagara Falls, Canada, 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. All seemed lost in terms of that letter ever reaching its destination. But a favorable tide floated the package unerringly 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).

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, then surprisingly (to us not God) 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). God works His providential ways in spite of human free will. Human free will is no great obstacle to our sovereign Lord.

Because of human free will there was an innkeeper who had no room for Jesus. 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. God unfolds His plan bit by bit. As we follow His lead we begin to see. Sometimes the full plan won’t be seen until glory. Through it all, no matter what, the best plan is to, trust in God, hope in God, love the Lord and let Him bring to pass His good plan (Romans 8:28). 

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 that would have disqualified Him 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 and chaos. It starts in the stampedes of Black Friday, continues on the chaotic cyber Monday, and rushes on through Christmas and then the after Christmas returns and even better sales period of shopping. 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.

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. To discover His will we have to surrender ourselves and our own agendas to Him and His will (Romans 12:1-2).  Don’t be so quick to give up your heaven sent dreams and life visions. Sure there may be some obstacles, but seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s a holy season. What God shuts won’t be opened. What He opens won’t be shut. Learn in the Spirit to discern between the two (cf. Isiah 22:2; Revelation 3:7-8).

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: “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.”  (1 Peter 5:8-9). You’ve heard of wolves in sheep’s clothing? There are also wolves that look like reindeers, maybe even elves, and dress even in a jolly red outfit. Santa is bogus! Keep Jesus Christ in Christmas.

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. We have seen our own version of the slaughter of innocents through the cutthroat evil wicked genocidal acts of ISIS and its sleeper cell demons. We look at such evil and it tempts us to allow the spirit to be punched out of us. The enemies’ objective is to make sure there is no room for Jesus in your life. He is ruthless and merciless in this effort. Don’t let him succeed! 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. Cultivate spiritual sensitivity to how Jesus might want to use you to help others make room for Him.

Not everyone has room for Jesus. Jesus states, “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.” (Rev. 3:20). 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. Some are too angry to let Him in. Some have so many opinion points that they can’t get close to others and others can’t get close to them. It’s not always about your “points” or opinions. Yes, we are to speak and obey truth. But if all we do is lay out points and legalistically order obedience, well, there is little Spirit in that. Truth spoken and obeyed by a child of God must be done in love (Eph. 4:15). That love is the true spirit of Christmas. Some are too proud and busy caught up in self-love and worshipping themselves to let Christ in. 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).

Do you have room for Jesus this Christmas? 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?

Admit you have sinned against God’s holy law and deserve eternal damnation (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Remember, the severity of sin is not measured by merely the sinful act, it is measured by Whom the sin is ultimately against. If I have a snowball fight with friends and hit one of them it’s no big deal. I can pummel them mercilessly and it’s still all in fun (even if I’m secretly getting some revenge – well I’ll leave that up to God to determine.) But if an elderly senior citizen happens to be walking by and I hit them, it’s much more serious. And if I happen to hit a police officer, I’m in trouble; that snow ball becomes a weapon under the law and I’ll be hauled off in handcuffs; not so innocent anymore. And let’s just say the president of the United States just happens to walk by and gets in the way of one of my snowy fastballs, well, I’ll be swamped by secret service officers and doing time in a federal prison before you can say “Merry Christmas.” Any sin is ultimately against God Most High, Creator of the universe, Almighty Holy God! Therefore, any and all sin is a serious offense (Romans 3:23; James 2:10; Galatians 3:10).

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. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). That is the greatest Christmas message of all. And we should to acknowledge that truth before God and in the sight of humanity (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10).

Ask God by faith to forgive you of your sin based on your accepting what Jesus as Savior has done for you on the cross (Romans 6:23; 5:8).  When you do this God will forgive you and the Holy Spirit will indwell you providing you a second birth; a spiritual birth (John 3; Romans 8:9-11). You must be “born again” as Jesus said, if you want to enter heaven.

Advance in the Spirit (who is now in you) and depend on God to help you bear spiritual fruit and live for Jesus. God knows us and knows who easily we are tempted to sin. He promises to show us a way around sin so that we can stand up to every test (1 Cor. 10:13). That is true for the “little” temptations as well as the “big” ones. What causes people to stumble varies greatly, but God’s promise to all is to show them how to overcome and march through to victory.

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? Have you room for Jesus? That’s the question before us right now. Have a meaningful Christmas and make room for Jesus!


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