God's End Game - Part 15
Published February 24, 2019 at 10:45 AM
Listen to from God's End Game - Part 15 Online.
Content Copyright Belongs to Pleasant View First Baptist Church
If you’ve been with us a while you know this, but just in case you’re joining us for the first time, let me remind you that we are in a series called “God’s End Game.”
We’re trying to figure out what God is up to with us and the world, where all this is headed. We began by looking at the beginning of the game in Genesis, where we discovered our origins (and all that exists), and why things are the way they are now.
Ours is a good world gone bad because of sin, Adam and Eve’s, and ours, as their offspring. Sin has corrupted every corner of the universe, but even worse, it’s given all humanity dark hearts, which caused a separation between us and our creator.
Last week we learned the way God deals with his good world gone bad, the way sinful man is made right with him is not works or the keeping of the law (religion). It’s faith; it’s by believing in His promises.
All the promises of God are bound up in a person, Jesus Christ.
So ultimately the way God deals with his good world gone bad is not some moral code or belief system or philosophical pursuit; it’s with a person named Jesus.
Now we get somewhere in figuring out what God’s up to. Now we see the big play in what God’s going to do in setting things to rights with this world, this universe, and most importantly with us.
The arc of God’s End Game is coming into view.
***ILLUSTRATION of the arc of God’s plan
The apex of this arc is the coming of Jesus.
God’s plan revolving around Jesus has three telescoping parts, one flows from the other.
It begins with the INCARNATION.
It climaxes with the CRUCIFIXION.
It carries on with the RESURRECTION.
Our tendency is to tune this out for two reasons. One, we’ve heard about them so much over the years we think we’re already familiar with them. Two, those are theological words reserved for seminary classrooms and what-not.
We’ve come to hear Pastor Brad today, not Professor Shockley.
I hear you. But more often than not, we don’t know what we think we know, and what we do know, we could know a lot better and be the better for it.
I got turned onto photography when I was a teenager. My first camera was a Kodak 110 film camera. It was shaped like a brick of chocolate. It took awful pictures (you had to have developed).
I cut grass and raked leaves until I could buy a real Pentax camera that had interchangeable lenses. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked. Man was I hooked. I bought books on photography. I read magazines. And I got pretty good, because it’s pretty much all I did.
My senior year of High School Minolta came out with the one of the first autofocus cameras: The Maxxum 7000. I thought it was too expensive and gimmicky.
Well, the week before my graduation, my dad asked me in passing if I’d heard of the The Maxxum 7000. And went into this big speech, because I was so knowledgeable and all, about how I’d never have one. There was no way the camera could focus better than I could.
I learned on graduation day why dad had asked me about the Maxxum 7000. My parents had went to a camera shop and asked for the best camera they could afford for their son. That’s what the guy suggested. They said I could take it back.
I didn’t, because after giving it a chance I realized, hands down, it the best camera ever made. I loved it. It was amazing. I even won a photography contest with that baby.
I didn’t know what I thought I knew about that camera, and when I learned what I should have known about it, I was the better for it.
So stay with me here. You probably don’t know what you think you know about all this, and learning more about it will make you the better for it for sure.
Today we dive into the first part of the apex of God’s plan for fixing this world:
INCARNATION - God taking on human flesh, becoming a man, and living a life in perfect fulfillment of God’s law.
It would be great if it were Christmas-time right now, because we will start with a classic Christmas text in Matthew’s gospel. He packs so much into this first chapter. In verses 1-17 he traces the lineage of Jesus back to Abraham, who, if you remember, is the father of faith. Then he jumps into the birth narrative…
Matthew 1:18–23 (ESV) — 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
This is the third time already that Matthew refers to Jesus this way in the first 18 verses of his gospel: Jesus Christ.
Christ is not his last name, it’s a title. It means “the anointed one” and Matthew’s use of it points directly to on OT figure called the Messiah, a future deliverer who would save God’s people and usher in a time of prosperity. Matthew is saying Jesus is that Messiah.
That’s easy for us to accept because most of us probably grew up in Sunday School hearing that. But in Matthew’s day, it was a radically bold thing to say about Jesus of Nazareth, because he didn’t exactly fit the bill of what the religious leaders were expecting in a Messiah. He born without a pedigree, of poor parents, and from a hick town in the back woods of nowhere.
18… When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Stop. That’s huge. Matthew is telling us Jesus’ birth was miraculous. He wasn’t conceived the normal way. God’s Spirit was responsible for Mary being with child.
19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The greek Name Jesus is related to the Jewish name Joshua or Yeshua, which means God saves. The angel takes us straight back to the beginning here. God’s good world went bad, we went bad, because of sin, and Jesus has arrived on the scene to deal with it.
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”
Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah, who, hundreds of years before had prophesied about the virgin birth of a baby whose name would be “God with us” among many other names.
In what way would God be with us? That’s worth thinking about. God can be with us…
In the OT, you often see God’s Spirit come upon someone like Samson or David and they accomplish great things.
Now whenever we tell someone we’ll be with them in spirit, it doesn’t mean much. But when God’s Spirit is with us, that’s a big deal.
God can be with us…
In a human manifestation.
In the OT, God manifested himself in human form to engage with people, like Abraham (emphasis on manifested and form). He even ate food in this form somehow. But that form was him condescending to us. It was him, but it wasn’t really him.
Which brings us to a third way God could be with us. He can be with us…
Like just show up in person. Not in Spirit. Not a manifestation. But be there for real. There’s a problem here, one Moses discovered. He wanted God to reveal himself as He is, in all his glory, to show up for real…
Exodus 33:20–23 (ESV) — 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
One Bible commentator writes of this account…
“The reason for this restriction was very simple: If Moses were to see a complete revelation of God in his eternal being, it would be so overwhelming that it would destroy him. God is absolute in his perfection. Moses was a finite, fallen creature, and as such he could not see God and live. No one can. As Augustine said, “no one living in this life can see him as fully as he is.” God was willing to show as much of himself as Moses could bear, but there were limits. Some things are beyond our capacity to know. Moses could not see the absolute character of God as he is in himself.”
God can be with us in Spirit. God can be with us in a human form. And God can be with us for real (but it’ll kill us).
Which of those ways was Isaiah talking about? Which was Matthew talking about?
Well, there’s a fourth way God can be with us. One the prophets never saw coming even though it was hinted at from the very beginning. When God was cursing the serpent he said…
Genesis 3:15 (NIV) — 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Who is the offspring God’s talking about, the offspring that deals with the devil? We know he’s a “he” and he’s born of a woman.
And when God was making a covenant with Abraham he said…
Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
We’ve already looked at this, remember? God told Abraham that he’d bless all the families of the earth ever to exist through him, through his descendants.
Then we have that Isaiah prophecy.
Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) — 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Which brings us back to Matthew. He saw something Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Isaiah, as well as all the other prophets, didn’t. He saw a fourth way God could be with us.
God could be with us by actually becoming one of us!
Conclusion: The way God deals with his good world gone bad, the way God provides for sinful man to be made right with him is to actually, literally, really become one of us.
God didn’t try saving us by being with us in Spirit.
God didn’t try saving us by being with us in some human manifestation.
God didn’t try saving us by showing up for real as He is, thankfully because we’d all just disintegrate in his glory and holiness. Though this is what we deserved.
Jesus is actually God showing up in the flesh to save us and redeem his good world gone bad.
This is something we would have never thought of! This is something the prophets would have never thought of.
They knew enough of God’s plan to know that a Messiah would come. They knew enough to know he’d suffer and die for his people. They knew enough to know he’d deliver them. Peter says of them…
1 Peter 1:10–12 (NIV) — 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
One fellow says of this text, the “main point… is that we should be amazed at the greatness of our salvation and that this greatness is shown by the fact that prophets of God and angels of heaven long to look into it.”
Hear me, folks, prophets and angels longed to look into God’s plan for saving the world, but I’d be willing to bet neither ever dreamed the Messiah would be God showing up in the flesh.
That’s why what Matthew wrote about Jesus in his gospel was radical, revolutionary. That’s why what John wrote about Jesus in his gospel rocked the ancient Jewish and Greek world (which we’ll cover next time). And it’s just as revolutionary, just as radical, just as world rocking today as it was 2,000 years ago.
Why? I love the way CS Lewis put it, because “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
Some news is the kind of news you must respond to.
Like when you’re sitting in a. Crowded theater and some yell, “Fire!”
You can embrace it and live.
You can deny it, reject it, and die.
But you can’t just ignore it, be indifferent to it. Your fate will be the same as the one who just plain rejects it.
We’ve got a lot more to look at when it comes to the incarnation. But just from what we’ve seen today, this truth, this part of God’s plan in making things right in his good world gone bad requires something from us.
It’s the kind of news that requires a person to respond to it.
There are only two ways.
You can reject it.
You can embrace it.
But you can’t just write it off. That’s the same as rejection.
The way you and I are made right with God is not works or the keeping of the law (religion). It’s faith; it’s by believing in His promises, promises bound up in Jesus, God come in the flesh.
How will you respond?