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About this series
The Hope of Christmas
Hope has tremendous power - the power to heal, to help you keep going, and to inspire! 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote to the people of Israel who needed hope: "For unto us, a child is born, unto us, a Son is given. The government will rest on His shoulders and He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The hope of that message was for them then, and it's for us today! In this series, Chip reminds us that Jesus is all those things. Those are titles God gave Him and titles He claimed. If you need hope, join Chip for these messages. You'll be comforted, encouraged, and inspired!More from this series
Christmas is one of those seasons that I see as a paradox. For some, it is like joy, family, happiness, little kids, presents, traveling to see grandparents, great food. Just, it’s an awesome time of year.
And for others, it is one of the most sad, painful times of the year. For many, it will be the first Christmas that they have had without the dad or the son or the wife or their grandfather that died. For others, it will be the first Christmas that, after many, many years of marriage, you find yourself divorced. For some, it will be kids, they can’t get back, you won’t see them. For others, it will be the clock ticking and you have longed to be married and it’s one more Christmas you are alone.
What is your biggest fear this Christmas? We have talked about our hope for Christmas, what we wish and our expectations, but what is your biggest fear? And I would like to move beyond the level of, Well, I’m really afraid I didn’t get the right present for so-and-so, okay? Let’s move on.
If you really were honest with yourself, we all have fears. And fears are almost always a hypothetical thing that might happen in the future. What is your fear this Christmas? Is your fear you won’t do well by yourself? Is your fear that there will be a big family squabble? Is your fear that maybe this will be the last Christmas with someone that you love because it is stage-four cancer? Is your fear that your marriage isn’t working and this might be the last one that you’re married? What is it? Maybe it’s more macroscopic. Maybe your fear is like: What has happened to the world?
Or maybe you’re a future thinker and you’re thinking, Well, what is going to happen to my kids the way the world is going? Or my grandkids? Fear paralyzes us.
When God came to the earth to save us from our sin, He also came to deliver us from our fears. And so, He wasn’t just a Wonderful Counselor and a mighty God. He is Eternal Father. In Hebrew, literally, that’s “Father of Eternity.” There is no confusion here. It’s not like Jesus is Eternal Father and there is God the Father. It’s that Jesus is the Author, Creator of life, the Sustainer of life, and He is the One who will father or prepare us for eternity.
And when you get eternity really cleared up well, the worst thing that can happen in this life is you die. And if there is an eternity that is real, that Jesus has prepared, it does amazing things for your everyday fears.
Interestingly, the very last night when Jesus was with His closest friends, the disciples, they were scared to death. They were paralyzed with fear. Their future was completely uncertain. They had sung a hymn, He had washed their feet, they had taken the Lord’s Supper, He was telling them all these crazy things like, “I am going to die.” Hours later, He would be arrested. He would be beaten to a pulp. They would watch Him hung upon a cross. They would all be people that are going to get arrested as His followers.
And on the very last night, He takes on the role of the Father of eternity and He wants to anchor their hope in something that can never be shaken. And He wants to do that for you and me.
Turn in your Bibles, if you will, to John chapter 14. And here we have Jesus as the Father of eternity. Relieving their uncertainty, giving them hope in the midst of a world that is far crazier than ours right now. He says to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Don’t fear, don’t be uptight. “Believe in God, believe also in Me.”
And then notice where He goes. Where does He relieve their fears? “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself,” and notice the purpose clause, “that where I am you may be also.”
A good Father does four things. You read the Old Testament, New Testament, or psychology. A good father provides for his family, a good father protects his family, a good father instructs his family, and a good father listens and takes care of the hurts and the needs in the process.
And so, He is telling them: “I am going to provide for you. I am going to a place and I want to be close to you.”
Notice the assumption, “And you know the way to where I go.” I have been teaching for three years. “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you do know Him, and have seen Him.’”
Now, think about this. He has been teaching them for three years. He has modeled it. They have been through the Old Testament text. They have watched miracles. He has raised people from the dead. He has prepared them. He is going to turn over the mission of God to, probably the youngest one was maybe seventeen or eighteen years old and the oldest maybe twenty-three, twenty-four, maybe twenty-five years old. These are young men. They matured much earlier in those days.
And this is the last night and He is assuming by now: you get it. You’ll understand really who I am, where I am going, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
Notice, “Philip says, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ And Jesus said, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still don’t know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His work. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe Me on the basis of the works that I do.’”
Now, here’s what I want you to get: He expects them to get it. Yes, He is the Wonderful Counselor. Yes, He is obviously the Mighty God. He does miracles that no one can do. He has claimed to be God. He has taught them: “I am the way, I’m the truth, and the life.” John 1:18 says, “No man has seen God at any time, but Jesus has explained Him.” Literally, the word: He exegeted Him. He, “If you have seen Me,” He says, “you have seen the Father.”
And it’s the last night. And they don’t get it. He is wanting to give them hope, He is wanting them to know: Look, you don’t have to be afraid because no matter what you go through in this life, I have prepared a place for you. And all the promises I have made, they are going to come true.
Why didn’t they get it? What – this is the last night. Why didn’t they get it? What part of who God really is didn’t they understand? And before I go there, could I just tease your thinking just a bit to say: why don’t we get it? What I am going to suggest is that they had a warped view of God. A very warped view. That they grew up in homes like we grew up in homes. And they got an idea about what a father is like from their fathers. And their fathers were imperfect just like ours were.
And I can tell you that the imprint that a dad has, for better or for worse, is huge on a child. Moms and dads both have major impact, but in all the sociological research, I wrote a thesis on this. The dad has the major impact in a child’s moral development. And the father has a major impact on a child’s sexual identity. The mother, father have about equal impact in terms of their self-concept, or self-image.
And so, we get this warped view of what God is through our dad and through our parents. But there is also a culture. We live in a culture. There is lots of ideas about God, right? You have a god, I have a God, you have your god, I am okay, you’re okay.
Well, it was even worse then. I did some research, actually, that I had never read this before. And I found some research about some documents that tell us the view of God during the time when Jesus came to earth.
The Jewish concept of God was based on a traditional interpretation of the law and not the teaching of the Old Testament and the prophets. The concept of God is that He was very, very far away, He was abstract, transcendental, but you couldn’t touch Him. In fact, when the – as the culture changed and the Greek world changed, the Old Testament was translated into Greek so the common people could read it more easily in about the third century B.C. And when they translated from Hebrew to Greek, three or four of the major passages where God has contact with men, like when Moses goes up on the mountain, the Hebrew talks about him seeing God face-to-face. They change it. They actually change it and say, “Well, he went up on a mount.” Or, when God came down with Abraham in Genesis 18, it says, “It seemed as though…”
Their concept of God was He was so far away, so distant that He was a law-keeping, rule-maker, but you could never be close to Him. That’s how these Jewish boys grew up. But it gets worse. There was a group called the scribes and the teachers. And the scribes removed God from all contact with man. And their view of God was not only unscriptural, but not even spiritual.
Can you imagine as a little boy or girl growing up, this was their – this was how they pictured God. He is pictured in the Talmud of Jerusalem as the great Rabbi. This is God. God studies the law three hours each day and He observes the ordinances. He keeps the Sabbath. He makes vows and on their accomplishment, He is released by the heavenly Sanhedrin.
Can you imagine thinking that is what God is like? Thus, the external ceremonial concept of religion at last took complete possession of the future world. If through a mesh of its enslavement to the letter, even around God Himself.
The prophet’s spiritual concept of Jehovah was lost. The glow of lovingkindness, which beheld the face of God faded utterly away. Their only remained in Judaism of that day a Being who was called the Holy One. Interesting, perhaps, to a scribe, but whom no one could really love or get close to.
So, what did Jesus do? He came to explain the Father. He explained it to them, but here’s the deal. He wants to explain it to you. Every problem that you have and I have and they had goes to this one core issue: we have a faulty view of God. Your warped, misconceptions, as innocent as they may be, as sincere as they may be, whenever you’re wrong about what God is like, it impacts every relationship.
It impacts how you think. It impacts all your relationships with others. It’s how you view yourself. Some of you have a God, it’s almost unconscious that He is so hard to please, it doesn’t matter what you do, you can never measure up to it. And you live with constant guilt. Constant guilt.
For others, you have a God that you are afraid of. And you live with fear, fear, fear. And all you’re trying to do is manage all the stuff and, How do I do more right and what about this and what about that?
The God of the world that we live in, in some places you’ve got to make pilgrimages and pray five times a day or seven times a day or give this or do that. And there are lists of rules and rules and rules and rules that basically people have no idea who the God that made the earth is.
But Jesus came to let you know exactly who God is. Now, here’s – we are going to go on a journey. And it might be a very profound one for many of you. Because what Jesus did for those disciples that gave them hope, He is going to do for us.
Instead of all those things that I just read, Jesus took them back to the truth, the Word of God. And He showed them in the prophets and in Moses and from the psalms: this is who God is. And then He gave them a snapshot. He told a parable where He says: this is what God is like. And He actually called Him a Father in Luke 15. And He tells them a story that this is what God like that absolutely blew their mind, would be unlike any Father they have ever, ever experienced.
And then later, when they heard Him and had this – saw the intimacy of how He prayed – He taught them to pray and use some words that they would just think, It’s blasphemous. You could never talk to God like that.
And so, here’s the journey I want to take you on. I want to walk you through an Old Testament picture of God and show you how Jesus modeled every aspect of it.
Would you turn to Psalm 103? Psalm 103. It’s one of the classic psalms. And in the first five verses, it’s a call to remember. “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not one of His benefits.” It talks about: He heals all your diseases, He forgives all your sins, He renews your youth like the eagle. It’s just this picture of: let’s remember how good and kind and loving God is.
And then if you skip down to verse 7, it says, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.” If you’ll remember, His acts were mighty. The parting of the Red Sea, the manna. His acts were powerful. There was a fire by night and a cloud by day and it moved. There was water out of the rock. They saw all those acts and, yet, almost all of them didn’t believe.
And, yet, Moses said, “I don’t want just the benefits or the acts of God. I want to know Your ways.” Remember, he prayed, “Show me Your glory.” I want to know You. I want personal, deep interaction. And in verse 8, what we have is God beginning to reveal His ways, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as David says this phrase and it’s repeated all through the Old Testament, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness.” That’s like a canopy of: you want to know what God is like in a sentence?
The other prophets will say this. It will be throughout the psalms. The minor prophets will say this. If you want to know: what is God really like? He is compassionate, He feels, He cares, He is gracious. The root word: He is generous. He is slow to anger. He is not down on people. He is not rigid, He’s not distant, He’s not unapproachable. In fact, He is abounding. It’s a picture of overflowing like water flooding out of something. He is abounding in steadfast love and it’s this key Hebrew word called chesed. It’s a loyal covenant love that you are bound to someone and love them regardless and no matter what.
And then as though he wants to explain what this God is really like, he says, “He won’t always strive with us,” verse 9, “or keep His anger forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, or reward us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those of us who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us. For just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. He is mindful of our frame, our frailty, our humanity; that we are merely dust.”
And in that picture, you have a picture of God and God the Father that is one hundred and eighty degrees different than what all these good Jewish boys, following Jesus for the last three years, have ever, ever understood.
And what Jesus did with His life was He modeled the compassion, the graciousness of God.
And so, what I want to do for you, I want to take you on a little journey. I want to walk through those verses and I want to just quickly show you the God that those disciples began to understand and then the anchor of hope that He is a Wise Counselor, that He is a powerful God, but He is also – He’s the Father of eternity that you can trust for this life and for the next.
Verse 8, he says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in kindness.” The word compassion – remember when Jesus saw the multitudes? He came down and He saw the multitudes and the text says in Matthew 9, “And He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” And it says “compassion,” the Greek word is splagchnon. It’s something, literally, from the bowels.
It means, you know that deep in your gut when you feel something like you feel so sorry for someone it almost, something happens down deep in here? That’s this word. But unlike our concept, it’s not empathy. It’s not like, “Oh, I really feel bad for you.” Biblical compassion is you feel it and you always act. Every time the text says Jesus has compassion, He acts. So, He teaches them first, then He feeds five thousand.
And then He talks about the Old Testament manna and then He says, “I am the bread of life.” And so, He is helping them see: that was the Father. A good father does – what? He delivers out of Egypt. He provides the manna. He protects from evil.
And so, what does Jesus do? He is in the synagogue as He starts His ministry and He opens the text of Isaiah and He reads about the Messiah and then He sits down and says, “It is fulfilled in this day.”
He is claiming to be the Messiah. And there is a demon possessed man, and He cast out the demon. He delivers – the first act – He delivers. He is powerful. And then He feeds five thousand, and how many – remember? Twelve baskets to represent the twelve tribes. “I have come to provide for My people.” Remember? Everyone had as much as they wanted to eat and there were twelve baskets left over.
Then He feeds four thousand and it’s in the Gentile, the Greek area. And there are seven, the perfect number. I came. I am compassionate. I care. I am gracious. You can have as much as you want. I am not down on you. I am slow to anger. I am patient. I care. I am abounding.
If you could fathom that God is like that, that He is your heavenly Father, and if that made it from your intellect to your psyche to your emotional imprints, your life would be completely different. Your fear level would dissipate. Your anxiety level would vaporize. Because the Creator of the world is your personal, Wonderful Counselor who has supernatural power, who is going to guide you as the Father, through eternity, and promises to take care of you. And then in the next verses, what we see is how Jesus modeled this through His life.
Notice, “He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger.” The word strive in some translations is chide. Literally, it is: He won’t accuse you and bring you into court. You might just jot down: “He is merciful.”
Are you ready for this? When you mess up, when I mess up – right? And we do – what this is saying is He doesn’t want to punish you. If there is any way that He can delay justice or take you off the hook or not give you what you deserve, that’s His desire. He won’t always strive with us. He won’t bring us into court. Nor does He keep His anger forever.
Unlike some of those people that are problem people in your life, God doesn’t hold grudges. Can you imagine if you could just get out of your mind: His arms aren’t crossed. He is not down on you. He doesn’t remember the stuff that you did and remember that big mistake and when you were younger. And, gosh, that abortion you had or that unbiblical divorce over there or no one knows about this thing that you did here that lives in the back of your mind. Whoo. He doesn’t strive. He is just. He is holy. But His heart’s desire is to forgive, to care.
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to iniquities.” There are times I could try and visualize in my mind what it would be like to be Peter or John or James and have this picture of this rigid, distant, pretty angry, upset God that you’ve got to do all this stuff and no matter how you do, you can never live up to it. And living with this guilt and then this Jesus comes along and He does these miracles.
And then He gets tested and the religious leaders want to kill Him and so they set a trap. And a woman is caught in adultery, and figure this one out, like, what are you, just walking around? “Oh, wow, we’ve got an adultery situation here.” It was a trap. And they caught them, but only one person ends up at Jesus’ feet. Remember the woman? Thrown at His feet.
And Jesus, so, is He going to break the law? The law says she should be stoned. And Jesus, in His winsome wisdom as the Divine Counselor says, “I didn’t come to break the law. I am going to fulfill it. And so, those of you here without sin, pick up the stones and you start. You fulfill the law.”
And it says the older ones began to walk away. Because if you’ve been around for a while and you have even a remote level of honesty, you realize you have sinned a lot. And they left. And then everybody left.
“Woman, where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you?” No. “Neither do I.” He doesn’t deal with you according to your sin or reward you according to your iniquities. Is He just? Yes. “Now, go and sin no more.” Is that the God that you serve? Or do you have stuff stuck in the back of your mind of what you did last week or last month or last year or ten years ago? And somehow thinking, in my warped view of God, especially in the early years – I am doing better – in the early years, when I would sin and really mess up, it was like, I just would – I had to punish myself for at least two days. I feel terrible, I feel terrible, I feel terrible.
And then I don’t want to go to church because those Christians just made me feel more guilty. And so, I would try to do some good things and, like, Okay, I’ll read double the chapters as normal. Right? I’ll read more of the Bible, maybe I’ll give someone some money. And, am I okay now? I had such a warped view of God. It was a complete performance orientation. I had no idea that when you have a broken spirit and a contrite heart and you just own your stuff and say, God, I have got no excuses. I blew it. Will You forgive me?