Sin, Sorrow, and the Joy of Christmas

The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year.  Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart.  Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are events that should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.

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If this was where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise?  Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.

evelyn-46598-unsplashChrist, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation.  Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

The Haunting Effects of Sin

The Haunting Effects of Sin New

In Jesus, there is hope even at the bottom of the darkest pit.

David thought it was over. His sin had been exposed, he had sought the Lord’s forgiveness, and it had been granted. A right spirit had been renewed, and a clean heart had been created. Then came the news that his child was gravely ill. As David was thrown to the floor in anguish, thoughts of his sin filled his mind. Months had passed, but now his sin had come out from hiding to remind him of his treachery against the God of the universe.

Years later another son of his rebels, and once again David is reminded of the sword that has been driven into his family because of what he had done. Another brutal reminder that he, at one point, actually thought he knew better than Lord of all creation. In his sinful nature, he desired something that the Lord had forbidden, but David ignored the law because he thought it would be better if things were done his way. Oh, but how that sin has haunted him. How many times he thought he was done with it. He had repented, he had been forgiven, but regardless of all that, it seemed to pursue him. Though it had no hold on his life, and there was no possibility that his sin could exact its wages from him, due to the redemptive plan and work of God, it was not going to let him forget.

It seemed to sit in silence for extended periods of time just to make David comfortable. Then as he would be going about his day, there would be those moments when something, whether it was something he saw or something he heard, gave his sin an opportunity to spring upon him and cloak his day with darkness by taunting him of his failures and reminding him of his foolishness.

You see, one or two moments of sin do not simply last for a season. Many times they have a way of coming back in little reminders which sink your spirits every now and again, and the fact that it comes on when you least expect it is what makes it all the more difficult. After it happens a few times, it can cause you to begin to look over your shoulder in preparation for it to happen again, until you feel it trying to stifle you in your Christian walk. It can even cause a hesitancy to step out into new areas in life because of what it might do when you reach the new territory.

As it did with David, sin has a way of robbing us of peace and joy. It can weaken, embarrass, and grieve us years after the indiscretion. On top of all that, as the enemies of God hear about it, they begin to rejoice, mocking the God we love because of what we have done. If you are toying with sin or considering spurning God’s loving standards to feed your flesh, you might want to think twice because what you do could linger for years to come.

Now if this warning comes a bit too late and you already know from experience that all of this is true, you must remember that the haunting cannot ultimately hurt you. Bear in mind that our sovereign God, who has taken your sin and bore its wages on the cross, has promised never to lose His child, and has promised that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him: even the haunting effects of sin. Though they can be troubling and painful, He is using all things to accomplish His purposes in your life. He will finish the work he has started in you, and with a little wrestling, He can change your name from Jacob, the heel-catcher, and deceiver, to Israel; the prince of God.

Ultimately, David never forgot his sin, but that did not stop God from calling him “a man after His own heart.” As king of Israel, the Lord has used his example to show the world His love and forgiveness, and that the Lord can use anyone in a powerful way, even those with serious failures in their past. Sin can haunt the repentant believer all it wants, but ultimately it cannot separate them from God’s love. Even though the enemy naively believes that he is going to stifle them by it, the sovereign God is using it to conform them to the image of His Son. Let us never forget that it was the haunting effects of sin that God used in David life, which caused him to draw up under the wing of his Lord, and through it birthed several of his Psalms which were inspired by the Holy Spirit and considered the very Words of God.

In an extraordinary way, the Lord uses the haunting effects of sin to bring his child to the point where we will no longer be able to be haunted by them. By using them to conform us to His image, not only will we avoid sin in the future, but when the accuser rears his head, we will understand that all his work is in vain, and the more he tries to afflict us, the more we will grow. Then, before long, Satan will be looking over his shoulder, because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

-D. Eaton

Longing for Home

For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. Gen. 49:18

In our text we see Jacob, who is coming to the end of his life, prophesying over his sons; the twelve tribes of Israel. As we read the text, we can see him propped up in bed weak from age, blessing his sons with perfect accuracy as to what God had planned for them. As he finished blessing Dan and was ready to bless Gad, we see a man weary of his travels in this world show his true desire, which was to end his waiting and be with his Lord.

Salvation had been his since God established a covenant with him. After that, there was never any doubt that Jacob had salvation, or that the promise would be fulfilled, but being saved in the land of our sojourn is not the same as reaching the land of promise. No peace on this earth, though it is wonderful at times, will ever compare to having our destination reached and our salvation complete.

Let us learn from Jacob, who at this point in his life was living comfortably in the land of Goshen. Jacob and his family had all they needed as they lived in Egypt’s finest land. This time of peace would have been a needed retirement for a man who, by God’s sovereign decree, had been through many rough waters, but even though he is in a pleasant land, we find his desire is to go home.

Waiting is never easy, even in our lands of Goshen, but God has promised to satisfy our desire. He has promised to complete the work He has started in us, but it is all in His time. What we do not want to do is become so comfortable that we forget we are waiting for something better, or to become so overwhelmed by affliction that we cannot see the Celestial City waiting at the other end of the dark valley.

Though some may have all the comforts of this world, and others may be in times of affliction, together we wait for this one desire to be fulfilled. Let us, in the middle of our God-given work, speak our deepest desire. Let us, whether we are in the land of famine or the land of plenty, make our longing to be with our Father known.

The world in all its pleasure,
Nor pain in all its measure,
Will change my one desire,
His salvation to acquire.

D. Eaton