He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33 ESV)
When Jesus came to earth, he came to establish his kingdom. This is no ordinary kingdom. It is hidden in the hearts and lives of those who belong to Christ. When Jesus came, he came to set up a rebellion against the kingdom of this world; the false kingdom of the enemy. C.S. Lewis states it well in one of my favourite quotes:
Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.
Let us not get caught up in becoming too comfortable in enemy occupied territory. Remember, God has us here for a mission, which, in the details, can look different from person to person. But the call to all God’s people is to love and obey Him, love others and live a life that demonstrates the holiness given to us by God through Jesus Christ. With the power and love of Christ, we will conquer the enemy and reclaim creation with Christ!
Some notes from Enemy Occupied Territory published on April 8, 2010
When God sent Jesus into the world as a human, he was sending his only Son into a dangerous situation. God knew the world would reject Jesus. He knew they would whip him and beat him and crucify him. And yet, out of God’s great love for his people, he sent Jesus despite the danger.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world… As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-16, 18 ESV)
These were the words of Jesus the night he was betrayed. He was praying for his disciples because he knew they would be hated by the world. Just as Jesus entered a dangerous world for the sake of God’s people and for the purpose of glorifying the Father, so we are sent into the world at the risk of being persecuted. The gospel is dangerous. We risk losing friends, money and worldly security when we put our faith in Christ.
What is even more dangerous, however, is not putting our trust in God. We are told not to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear He who can destroy both the soul and the body (Matthew 10:28). When we put our trust in God, any fears of this world are stilled. Our hope is in the One who will give us a glorified body once this body has been destroyed. The Christ-child who we celebrate this Christmas is how we have that hope!
When Christ came the first time 2000 years ago, God fulfilled his plan to make a new covenant with his people (Jeremiah 31:31). This new covenant also includes all people who will follow Christ. This means we can enjoy God forever.
The second advent of Christ is still coming. He is now living in heaven with his perfect body. And when he returns to be our king, we will be made new, just as Christ’s body was made new after his resurrection.
Only those who believe that Jesus died for our sins can look forward to this second advent. For the rest, the return of Jesus will not be good news. Pray for those who do not believe.
I really like the analogy John Piper gives regarding the coming of Christ:
Here’s an Advent illustration for kids (and for those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like). Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and seeing that it’s really her?
That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest. That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.
Up until Christ came to earth, the sacrificial system and the law in Israel were but a mere shadow of the real thing to come. It provided God’s people with a hope and a sense of security, but it was not meant to provide ultimate fulfillment.
As we enjoy celebrating Jesus Christ, we are celebrating the fact that we are living in an age of fulfillment. We have the very presence of Jesus Christ, not just a shadow.
Hebrews 2:14-15 is a summary of Christ’s work from the time he came to earth through to his crucifixion. By coming to die, Christ defeated the power of death and the one who has power of death. A result of this work is that those who have faith in Christ no longer need to fear death.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)
If you struggle with fears about death, consider that Christ died so that we would have hope in life after death. The life that awaits believers in Christ is a glorified life, full of the richness of what God intended humanity to experience. Thanks to Christ’s obedience to God’s plan of salvation, we can be free from fear.
There is much more to say about this passage, and I would like to encourage you to read what John Piper wrote in his devotional for today. If you have not yet downloaded his Advent devotional ebook, you can download it from the Desiring God website.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
(Luke 1:51-53 ESV)
When Christ came to earth, he came with a mission: to set things right. For those of us who call Jesus our Lord, we are called to do life differently than what comes naturally. We are born with proud and selfish hearts. I have seen this in my own children right from when they were old enough to reach out and grab something out of another child’s hands. The only thing that changes as we get older is that we develop more sophisticated methods of grabbing things from people.
Christ came to call people to humble service in his kingdom. This means we give instead of take. We help instead of hurt. We are grateful instead of being grumpy.
This is not the way our human nature works, but with God’s help we will be able to take on the character of Christ. This Christmas, let’s make a conscious effort to honour the high call of Christ to be humble servants of others.