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About this series
What Child is This?
The Baby that Changed the World
At Christmastime, if we think about Jesus, most people focus on Him as the baby in the manger. Have you thought about what it took for Him to leave the splendor of heaven and come to earth in the form of a human baby? And if He did that, that He and His Father had specific purposes in that grand plan? Chip gives a very clear explanation of who Jesus is and who He wants to be in our lives. If Jesus really is God, and if He really did come to die for our sins, have you considered that maybe there’s something He wants from us? Chip helps us understand what that is, but he takes it further to explain that there are lots of things God wants FOR us!More from this series
“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree, and a census that should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his hometown to register. So Joseph went up to the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem to the town of David, because he belonged to the house and the line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloth, placed Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.”
Children all over America will dress up in bathrobes and tell this story on little wooden stages in tiny and small churches. Some churches will bring in animals and have live nativity scenes and, literally, I’ve been through them, have thousands of cars and in the Midwest, they will shiver in the cold as they pretend to be Mary with live animals.
And currently, there is conflict among council members in cities and places where they are still trying to figure out whether it’s legal to have that nativity scene on government property.
All those things happen when you hear this story about the little baby and the manger. And the reason is because it raises a big question. And there are a lot of different opinions about, Who is that baby in the manger?
Here’s the conflict: Some would say He is a mythical character. Others, a historical figure. Is He a created being or is He the Creator Himself? Was He born of just human parents or was He born of a virgin? As Jesus, would He grow up to be a great teacher, or as the Author of Truth?
Was He subordinate to God? Did God create Jesus and He is “The Son of God,” but sort of like a junior partner in the universe? Or is He equal with God? Is He a divine ideal, as New Agers would say? “The Christ in all of us.” Or is He one who bodily rose from the dead?
Is He a great religious teacher and leader? Or is He the Lord of all? In that day, there was a lot of conflict about who this itinerant preacher was and who this baby was. And today, there is still a lot of conflict.
And so the apostle Paul would write to a group that was a young church in Colossi and he wants to explain very, very clearly, Who exactly was the baby in the manger that grew up to be the rabbi named Jesus – who we sit now, two thousand plus years later, and realize the entire history of the world was transformed when that little baby grew up?
So here is what we are going to do. We are going to take our second look at Christmas, but we are going to look at Christmas from heaven’s perspective. We said we want three questions that demand an answer. The first one is: Why did He come? The second question is: Who is He?
Colossians chapter 1, beginning at verse 15. And follow along. He says of this baby, prior to even coming to the earth, he writes, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Speaking of Jesus, “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.”
As far as time goes, “He was before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have supremacy. For God was pleased to have all the fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
Now, we talked last week about the apostle Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, directed by God, to speak truth – he seems to have a unique ability to have a lot of commas and a lot of run-on sentences, which at times makes it a little difficult to figure out, What in the world are you really saying?
And I’d like to suggest that there are maybe four questions that we ask of anyone to discover who they really are. I had a meeting in Atlanta so I had to fly there just quickly and then come back, just there a couple nights.
And on the way out, went out of SFO, and sat next to a guy named Frank. And I realized that he was very open, very friendly, we just hit it off. And I realized I asked him four basic questions. I didn’t know him so I asked him, “So, where are you from?”
And pretty soon, Frank, because he had a little bit of an accent and he said, “Well, I’m from Switzerland. I actually grew up there, went to the University of Zurich,” and then he talked about he works for a company here but it’s German based.
And then I just said, “So, what do you do?” He goes, “Well, I’m a chemist.” I said “Really?” I said, “Well, where did you do your training?” And he talked about where he got his PhD. And then I said, “Well, in your company, what kind of role do you have? What exactly do you do?” He goes, “Well, I’m in the research department and I have to fly and I make these presentations.”
And then finally, we really got talking and I did work and he did work and then pretty soon I said, “So, are you going to stick around America?” Because he had lived in France and other places and he talked a little about his life and his company and talked a little bit about his girlfriend, and they had been together about fifteen years.
And I said, “So what are your future plans?” And he said, “You know, I’m not really sure, but we have been together fifteen years. I’m thinking maybe we should get married.” I said, “That sounds like a good plan.”
And here’s my only point. When you want to find out someone’s identity, we unconsciously just ask some very basic questions. And I think it’s interesting, when you study very carefully Colossians chapter 1, verses 15 through 20, the apostle Paul answers those four questions and tells us exactly who Jesus is.
So the first question, “Jesus, so, where are you from?” This Colossians church, all these people, these false teachers came in and they are saying this and they are saying that. So where is Jesus from?
And the apostle Paul says, “Let me tell you where He’s from. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the firstborn over creation.” The word image here, we get our word icon. That’s the exact word in Greek.
Hebrews chapter 1, verse 3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”
It’s making the invisible, visible. If you would take a piece of clay, soft clay or even Play-Doh, and then if you take a coin or something that had a lot of impressions on it, and if you pushed it very hard into the Play-Doh or the clay and then you carefully lift it off, what you have in the Play-Doh or the clay is the exact image of the reality of the substance.
And he is saying, “That’s what Jesus is.” He is not just a representative or a reflection, He is the exact representation of God Himself.
Second, then, he says, He is the firstborn. Notice it’s over all creation. And don’t let the word firstborn, there are a couple of different Greek words and it gets a little bit technical, I won’t go into it. But the firstborn here has the idea, not with time, but with rank and honor.
It’s like when David talked about his son Solomon, he called Solomon his firstborn. Well, Solomon wasn’t his firstborn son. Solomon was the highest in rank and order of all of his sons because he was going to be the king.
And so He is called the firstborn. He is the highest, He is the first, He is the preeminent. And so we learn the truth is that Jesus is the physical revelation of the invisible God.
So, “Where did You come from?” From all time and eternity, Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word,” John says, “and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him and nothing came into being that wasn’t created by Him.” And then, if you skip down to verse 14 of John chapter 1, he says, “And the Word was made flesh and,” literally it’s, “He tabernacled,” or, “dwelt among us. And we beheld Him as the only begotten from the Father, full of truth and grace.”
And then it says, “Jesus,” or, “the Word explained Him, the Father, full of truth and grace.” And I just love this picture. You want to know where He came from, who He is? Jesus made the invisible God, visible.
In fact, Jesus, by His own lips would say, “If you have seen Me, you have seen,” – remember? “the Father.” That’s what He said to His disciples. Co-equal, co-existent, co-glory and worshipped. And so the response is this: We can know God personally.
And you know what? Do you realize how many people, do you realize how many people have no idea? That the whole point of the baby in the manger was God wanted you to know that He came and took on human flesh and would grow up and here was the point: That you could know Him personally. That your relatives could know Him personally. That God would talk to you and speak to you and direct you and care about you and love you.
Those Colossian Christians were being taught a lot of wild things like, “That could never happen.” There are all these steps you have to go through and worship of angels and there are all kinds of days you have to follow and food you can eat and things you can’t do. And the apostle Paul says, “No, no, no. This Jesus, that baby in the manger, He is the exact image and representation of the invisible God. He is the firstborn and highest in rank before there was anything or anyone. And He wants you to know that He loves you.”
God loves you so much He sent the Second Person of the Trinity to live this life so that if you want to know how God thinks, how He acts, how He feels about poor people, look at Jesus. How He responds to people that are really repentant when they blow it, how did He respond to the woman at the well? How does He respond to arrogant, religious people who think they’ve got it together? Look at Jesus with the Pharisees.
You want to know what God is like, just look at how Jesus speaks and talks and responds – just read the gospels.
The second question when you want to get to know someone isn’t simply, “Where are you from,” but, “What do you do?” And Jesus had a very interesting job description. It says, “By Him all things were created.”
In your notes, just circle the word all. And just let that sink in. Not some. Not partial. “By Jesus.” What do You do? If we were doing an interview. “Excuse me, sir, I’m a reporter. Could You tell me what you do?” “I create everything.” “Well, could You expand on everything for us, sir?” “Well, how about this? Like, things that are in heaven or things that are on earth. Things that you can see or things you can’t see.”
“Well, what do You mean by that?” “Well, you can’t see bacteria, you can’t see DNA. I created that. You can’t see galaxies that are billions and billions and billions of light years away. Well, I’ve got news for you. I created that too. I created everything. In fact, if you go into the invisible world of the angelic world, of the demonic world, thrones, dominions, powers, or authorities,” they were being taught about all these angels and He goes, “I am over all of that. You don’t get to Me through anything or anyone. I am all powerful, I created all of that. In fact, I existed before all things. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
All things were created by Him and through Him and you might just jot down Romans 11, verse 36, because he will go on to say, “All things were created by Him, all things were created through Him,” and then he will say, “they were created for Him.”
See, you know what God’s agenda is for us, as a church and literally for every Christian all around the world? When we think about the baby in the manger, when we go to a little program and the kids have the bathrobes on, when we see a live nativity scene, when we read the paper and hear about this government or that government and all the stuff that keeps coming back to the manger and the little baby and, “Who is He?” God wants, this year, for something to click and move you out of the cute story or, “Isn’t it nice,” or, “I love that music,” or, “Let’s here, together, ‘Away in a manger no…’” It’s a great song, but He wants you to know that He made all that there is, that the eternal God of the universe was before all things, and the Jesus that we worship didn’t exist, first, by coming into a baby, but He eternally existed as co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
And He chose to leave the glory of heaven and all the angels, being in very nature of God, and He would take on human flesh so He could be fully God and fully man and live a perfect life to reveal what the Father is like and express His love for us.
And so, notice, He is before all things. And not only that, He holds all things together. I think I heard recently that, I’m not exactly sure, but the earth is going around the sun at sixty-five, sixty-six thousand miles an hour. It’s spinning like crazy. We’ve got all these molecules, we’ve got all these bodies, we’ve got all this gravitational pull. Some invisible “glue” is holding everything together, by the Word of His power. And the Scripture says it is Jesus.
The truth is Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. Boy, talk about someone worthy of worship! Jesus is the Creator and the Sustainer of everything. Our response? We can trust Him completely, fully, about everything.
Now, let’s just do the math on this. If Jesus, at this moment, has created all that there is, He is that powerful, that all-knowing, that all-wise, and each moment of every day, simply by His Word and the nature of being God, He holds all things together. Do you think He is powerful enough to hold your life together?
Can He hold your life together when the report on the biopsy is cancer? Could that Jesus hold your life together when you’ve got the deepest struggle in your marriage you’ve ever had? Maybe infidelity comes in and someone makes a big mistake?
Could He hold it together when you have a rebellious child? Could He hold it together when you lose your job or lose your house? Could He hold it together when the whole of your future is uncertain? Am I going to get in the school? Am I ever going to get married? And what about this and what about this? Will we ever be able to have children? Do you think He has the power to hold it together? Or do you just worship a nice, little ideal? “Away in a manger.” Or, Jesus, isn’t He sweet?
That’s not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe.
And what He asked of everyone when He walked upon the earth, and what His Word asks of everyone after He is gone, is He has one agenda for your life and it’s in the form of a question: “Will you trust Me?” Period.
If we would ask Jesus, “So what is your role? You’re the Creator and the Sustainer. You’re the physical revelation of the invisible God.” He would say, “Well, that’s with regard to the physical creation. Let me tell you about this other creation. This is something really special. This is the creation of what I did. It’s called a spiritual body. It’s why I came and it’s called “The Church.” So let me tell you who I am. Not just with the physical world, yeah, I made it. But I made something else. I am the head of the body, the Church. I am the firstborn from the dead, the first resurrected, in order that I might have supremacy or first place in everything.”
The word head here means both source and authority. He says, “I am the source of the Church and I am the authority. I am the CEO, I’m the Lord, I’m the Master, I died for these people. When they trusted Me, My Spirit, the Holy Spirit, has come into their lives, and now the expression of My body isn’t Me walking around. It’s them. God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, taking up residence in regular human beings, and I am the head of that group of people.”
He’s not talking about a building, He’s not talking about a local church. He is talking about every single person in whom the Spirit of God dwells, that you are born again, you’re a follower of Christ. He goes, “I am the head.”
And then He says, He uses this word again, “I am first in rank, I am the firstborn.” Now, He wasn’t the only person, right? In the Old Testament, you had people who rose from the dead. Lazarus in the New Testament, you had people rise from the dead.
When He says, “I am the firstborn in the resurrection,” He is the first who is resurrected and will never die. And the first with a resurrected body and 1 Corinthians 15, Paul teaches in the same line, “Because He rose you will rise with Him.” But He is the first to rise in a way that will be just like you will rise with Him for those who believe.
And so what is the truth here? The truth is Jesus is Lord over the Church and the response is we must obey Him and would you underline: fully? We must obey Him fully.
He is not content at all to be sort of on the pantheon or the salad bar of multiple God choices, which is how things work. “You know, I like, a little Bahá’ì here, a little Christianity here, maybe a little Buddhism over here. I’m just going to eclectically take what I sort of believe and what I like about different things and there are parts of the Bible that are really good and parts of what Jesus said are really good and I’m going to selectively obey what I think is best for me.”
And, see, when you really do the math on that, and this is how people live, this is how even a lot of Christians live, “I’ll do that. I’m not going to do that. That command, that’s a pretty old fashioned command. I just don’t think I’m going to do that one. And, by the way, it’s pretty costly, could be pretty painful, there might be a lot of risk. So I am going to obey this and this and I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to do that.”
You know who becomes God? The person who decides what’s right and what’s true and what you’re going to do is the person who becomes God and the idol that we worship is ourselves.
So we basically say, you don’t think about it this way, and we slide into it. But, “I know better than You about relationships. I know better than You about the future. I know better than You about sexual purity. I know better than You about ethics in business. But these things sound pretty good and, of course, I want great relationships and I want to have a great relationship with You.” It’s called “selective,” or “partial obedience.”
And statistically it is killing us. I mean, it’s killing us. It’s killing us because when non-Christians meet Christians who selectively obey, what they realize is, I don’t want any part of that. You say this but really you’re living that.
It’s killing us because when we don’t obey God, you know who loses? We do! It’s His good, acceptable, and perfect will. There is always a hard process. You find a great athlete, I will tell you, a great musician, a great artist, a great businessperson, if you asked them, “What does it take?” “Oh, clear focus, strategy, discipline, it’s hard, you pay a price, you invest, and…”
Well, that’s how God made life to work. And that’s really not a whole lot different than, “I’m in a new relationship,” just like a marriage to a person and you learn to communicate and you learn to put the other person first and you learn to work through issues and you don’t give up. And what happens? Difficulty, ups, down, difficulty, ups, down. But pretty soon, you have this deep, rich relationship. And the same thing is exactly what happens in our relationship with God.
But what so many of us do is we get to the point, Oh, that’s a hard one! And so right now, about fifty percent of all Evangelical believers in the United States between the ages of eighteen to thirty, currently live with their boyfriend or girlfriend and say, “I agree with all of Christianity but I just don’t think this ‘not sex before marriage’ could really be, I mean, it’s the twenty-first century. Give me a break.”
Or we have about thirty percent of our teenagers who probably have never heard a whole lot different, it’s no worse sin than any other sins. But about a third of our teens in our churches think that same-sex unions are okay, as long as people love one another.
See, at some point in time, someone “calls the shots” who is Lord and God and Jesus said, “That’s Me. I am the head, I’m the firstborn, I am the Lord,” and here’s the thing, “I love you.” Trust is hard, but it’s only hard if you don’t believe that God is the Creator and the Sustainer and He is worthy and He really has your best in mind. I have never yet met anyone who has made really hard, faith decisions to do what they know is right, not out of some formula, If I do this, God will do this, but out of relationship to not break God’s heart, [who regretted it.]
And usually there is a front-end cost and some pain and some difficulty. And then there is this amazing reward. Because God loves us. Jesus said this to His disciples: “Those of you that have My commands and keeps them, those are the ones that love Me,” John 14:21.
But He said, “That wasn’t the end.” He says, “Then I will come with My Father,” and I love the old version of this, “and We will make Our abode with you.” In other words, the presence of the Son and the presence of the Father, by the person of the Holy Spirit, “We are going to take up residence in you and We are going to flood you with the reality of Our love and Our kindness and Our power and Our holiness and We are going to transform you from the inside out.” See, that’s why the baby came in the manger – fully man and fully God.
I remember early in my Christian life, because I have been a master at selective obedience, actually, and rationalization, it’s a gift I have.
And so I was living this way and I remember reading through the Old Testament and it was maybe my second time through and it’s a pretty thick section, so it took me a while. And I had never read the Bible growing up.
And there was this kind named Saul and he’s handsome and big and strong and God made him the king because the people asked for it. And so he has a couple victories and then God gives him this really tough assignment and he is supposed to eliminate everything – the animals.
And he feels a little peer pressure and so he rationalizes and instead of killing all the animals he decides that, Well, I’ll make them a sacrifice. And he selectively decides what part of God’s command he is going to obey.
And I’ll never forget Samuel the prophet comes and he says, “Saul, man, what are you doing? This is God. He said, ‘Do this.’” “Oh, I obeyed Him! I obeyed Him! I obeyed Him!” And then there is this line, I have it underlined in my Bible in some funny color. And Samuel says, “If you obeyed Him, what is this bleating of the sheep that I hear?” And then he turns around and goes, “Well, I wanted to save the sheep because I am going to make a lot of sacrifices to God and I’m going to do a lot of good things and I am sure He is going to appreciate it.” And Samuel says, “You do not get it, with God. With God, obedience is always better than sacrifice.”
He doesn’t want your stuff, He doesn’t want your time, He doesn’t want your money, He doesn’t want your religious activity. He wants you to obey.
And I remember reading that, thinking, I think my selective obedience days need to come to an end. And maybe I need to give God my girlfriend life and my basketball life, my ego life, and my future and just trust that Someone who came and took on human flesh and made everything and sustains everything could probably figure out to give me the best woman, the best future, and in my perverted little mind, the best basketball.
If you could but believe how good God is. And what Paul is trying to help these Colossians who are being bombarded like we are in our day, he said, “I want you to understand, Jesus is the physical revelation of the invisible God. I want you to understand this Jesus is the Creator and the Sustainer of everything! And I want you to understand He is Lord. He is Lord, rightfully, over all the Church. And so you can know Him and you can trust Him and you’ve got to obey Him.”
And then the fourth question is: What are your goals? It sounds like a silly question to ask God, but if you would ask Jesus, “Why did You become fully man and fully God? What was the goal? What was the game plan? What were You trying to accomplish?”
And He would say, it was, “… the Father was pleased to have all His fullness,” it literally means, all the fullness of deity, “dwell in Him.” And why? “To,” underline that word, “reconcile,” – what? “reconcile,” bring together, “all things to Himself.” Well, what do you mean by, “all things?”
“Things on earth and things in heaven.” That’s the “why.” The word reconcile, literally, is: you know what it’s like, you’ve had a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend and you get reconciled. I have had, on a handful of occasions, people who have divorced and they get reconciled and I have had the chance to remarry them.
Or people that are separated, or you can be reconciled with your boss, you can be reconciled with a friend, you can be reconciled with a mate. But here’s what reconciliation is. You go from adversaries to friends. Heart to heart connection. You become friends. Things are right now.
And in a fallen, evil world the purpose and goal of Jesus coming to the earth was to make right or to reconcile everything on earth or in heaven. But did you notice? It doesn’t say, “Or under the earth.” There are some things that are irreconcilable. There is a third of the angels that followed Satan. And there are people that have come to this earth and been given offer and opportunity and say, “I want nothing to do with God.”
To which God, in His dignity says, “You can have your own way. All your time on this earth and forever and ever and ever, I will not force Myself. This is a love relationship.”
And notice He describes exactly how He did it, “Having made peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” When Christ died, this little baby grew up, and He hung upon a cross and when He hung upon a cross – your sin, my sin, the sins of all people and all time – were placed on Him and He became our sacrificial substitute and God the Father looked down from heaven, and for the first time ever, looked away because your sin and my sin were placed on the substitute of Christ and He became sin, a sin offering, on our behalf and peace occurred between us and God. And what we could never do for ourselves, Christ accomplished.
He covered or atoned for our sin so that all people have been made savable. It doesn’t mean all people are saved or all people will be reconciled, because God doesn’t force Himself. But all people have been made savable. The offer is: Your sins, the good news of the Early Church was not, “Do A, B, C, D, and E and then God will love you and forgive you.” It was, “God has already forgiven you by the death of His Son, proved it by the resurrection. Do you want the free gift of eternal life?”
“As many as receive Him,” John would write of Jesus, “as many as receive Him, to them He gives the right,” or, “the authority to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.” It’s an amazing offer. That’s why it’s called, “good news.”
The truth is, Jesus is the sovereign King of time and eternity. See, He is going to reconcile all things to Himself. And there is a coming day when this earth will come to a close and the reigning King will come. And not just the temporal heaven, but there will be a new heaven and a new earth and the new heaven will come down on this very physical new earth, and He will reign as King forever and ever.
And here is your response: You will reign with Him. Those who have trusted Christ, by faith, who His Spirit comes in and indwells you, and as you follow Him and He changes your life, this God has a plan and the plan is bigger than just now. You will reign with Him forever.
And what that does is it changes the lens by which you look at everything. See, we are Americans. We want everything now. Instant gratification. We want great relationships now, we want the business to go now, we want our kids to be great now, we want everything – now, now, now, now, now.
Godliness, patience, endurance, life-change, character happens by people who understand: I live in time but I am made for eternity. I am going to prioritize and make decisions and trust and do what counts for eternity, not just now.
It changes your perspective. See, everyone today is, “I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait.” Or it’s fear, fear, fear. This might happen, that might happen. As though, like, okay, this little, seventy or eighty years you get, like, okay. What if some really bad things happen but you’re really right with God? And you live forever and ever and ever? And what you do now, even if it doesn’t all work out the way you would like it to for the present, actually sets you up for something that is better and better, longer and longer, and forever?
When I was in Singapore, I learned something, and later in China, that they think differently than we do. They think about time completely differently than we do. For Chinese it’s like, “Yeah, we’re going to do this in a hundred years. We feel like this is going to work out.” They actually think and plan that way.
A hundred years is nothing. It’s a vapor. It’s nothing. You will reign with Him. And how you will reign will be determined by how you walk now.
If He is the image of the invisible God, if He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, if He is the Creator and head and Lord of the Church, in order that He might be supreme or first placed in everything, in every galaxy, in every relationship among humans and angels and visible and invisible, here’s the only question I have: Doesn’t it make sense that the baby in that manger that was fully man and fully God, who lived to be Jesus and died and rose from the dead, and sits at the right hand of the Father and holds all things by the Word of His power, wouldn’t it make sense for Him to have exactly the same place in your heart and your life and priorities that He has with everything else? Doesn’t it?
And you know what I love? What I really love about Jesus and the Bible, and I could explain everything I have said to an eight-year-old who could completely get it. Because, see, the common people heard Jesus gladly. And so He is the King. The question is: Is He your King? He is the Lord. The question is: Is He your Lord?
He sustains the universe. The question is: Does He sustain your life? And you know what? It starts with a step and the step is: No matter what it means, no matter what it costs, since You are who You say You are, I am all in.