Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas: The day the balance of power shifted irreversibly

A devotional by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate and a member of the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission

After rescuing Jacob's/Israel's descendants from slavery in Egypt, God brokered a covenant with them at Sinai, promising to be their faithful God if they would just trust and obey him. Thus, God's protection was dependent on the people's faithfulness. The trouble was the covenant required perfect faithfulness from every individual: thus it was too difficult for the people to keep, for sin reigned.

When God agreed to let the people have a king, the king became God's “vassal,” standing before God as the people's representative head. From that point on, God's protection was dependent on the king's faithfulness.
The trouble was kings, like commoners, were flawed, fallible and sinful by nature: they routinely let their people down, for sin reigned.

To solve the problems of sin and fallible kings, God promised “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7). Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of God, is HE (Matthew 1: 23). He was born a king (Matthew 2:2). He lived a sinless life of perfect obedience (Hebrews 4:15), thereby totally fulfilling the requirements of the covenant on behalf of his subjects. Then he died a king (John 19:19). As the “Lamb of God,” he paid the penalty for the sins of all who, through faith, would become his subjects (Matthew 1:21).

Having secured salvation, Jesus was then glorified by the Father who raised him to life and exalted him to the highest place. From “the throne of his father David,” this King Jesus now reigns forever, for “of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

“He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill [have supremacy over] all things.” (Ephesians 4:10 ESV)

The coming of Immanuel heralded the beginning of the end for the forces of evil that have reigned in this world. Though Jesus won the decisive battle over sin and death at the cross, the defeated powers have not yet been eliminated and are resisting their inevitable end with everything they can muster.

“They [the combined powers of the world] will make war on the Lamb [Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17: 14 ESV)

As violent persecution escalates, as Christian security deteriorates and as religious liberty declines globally – undeniable facts – it is imperative that we “take heart” (John 16:33), remembering that Immanuel's kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36) and “cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 13:26-29). We, who through faith belong to HIM, are eternally secure.

It is also imperative that we never give up. For it was out of love for the world that God gave his only son (John 3:16), so that through him all the peoples of the world might be blessed (Genesis 12:3). The times in which we live are times of immense spiritual conflict, for God is in the process of bringing down all false gods and defeated enemies (Psalm 110:1). Yet ultimately all idols will be discarded and the true Saviour, Jesus Christ, will alone be exalted (Isaiah 2:10-21). As the battles rage, the world's greatest need, though it rejects it, is that the Church, God's instrument of blessing, be upheld in prayer. It is only through the strength provided by our glorious and victorious reigning King Jesus – strength he gives in answer to prayer – will these ongoing battles be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5,6; Zechariah 4:6). Though she be assailed on every side, the Church must continue to preach the Gospel of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ, the hope of the world.

For the promise is this: the world will finally recognise HIM (see Isaiah 2:2-4; Psalm 22:27,28).

Yes, the coming of Immanuel marked the moment when the balance of power in the world shifted irreversibly! No wonder the angels rejoiced (Luke 2:8-14) – they understood!

May this knowledge – of who Jesus is and what happened at Christmas – lead us to rejoice AND inspire us to pray.

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” (Revelation 19:6b ESV)

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