Daily Light – Dec 31, 2020

The Dangerous Love of Ease 

Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

He couldn’t imagine life without his handkerchief. Not that he lived a life that required a handkerchief, mind you; it was the principle of the matter. He lived in his hobbit hole — his very comfy, fully furnished home in the hill — and had no interest in traveling into the untidy, uncomfortable, unpredictable unknown. 

As Christians living in the West, one temptation we face (often being unaware that we face it) is the temptation to become comfortable, cozy, content, altogether uninterested in anything that might threaten the repose we’ve constructed for ourselves. We live as Bilbo Baggins in the Shire of church history, largely tucked away from its many dangers and discomforts. We believe ourselves safe, as Tolkien wrote of the Shire in The Hobbit, so “swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles or dish-covers; and dragons are comfortably far-off (and therefore legendary).” 

With all of America’s remaining imperfections, we enjoy more freedoms, riches, luxuries, technologies than any people before us. We are the envy of ancient kings: We can travel across the globe in hours, our text messages and emails fly circles around their letters and messengers. We have mattresses, air conditioning, furnaces, meat with most meals, chocolate as a casual dessert, toothbrushes and deodorant, dentists and hospitals, morphine and antibiotics, and toilets. Even many in the lower class carry super-computers in their pockets. Starvation here is all but eradicated. Our poverty is not like historical nor biblical poverty. 

God has given much common grace. Added to his material giving, he has bestowed on us the ability to choose our governors, worship freely (more or less), and be tried under a justice system far superior to most nations, past or present. Even common Christians today wouldn’t easily trade places with the royalty in 1 or 2 Kings, and not just because we live under a better covenant. We are unspeakably prosperous. 

Dark Side of Prosperity 

Yet there is a dark side to prosperity. The love of wealth is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). That is why the wise man Agur, for example, prayed not to become rich, 

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8–9

He has learned from Israel’s history which played on repeat: first blessing, then forgetfulness, idolatry, discipline and exile, repentance. From the beginning, Moses warned the people of growing fat and forgetful: 

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 8:11–14

We see the same temptation at the end in Jesus’s epistles when he rebukes the prosperous church of Laodicea for their lukewarmness, 

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:15–17

The dark side of prosperity is that it can make us forgetful of its God or moderate in zeal toward him. 

Well-Fed by the Fire 

We face the peril of becoming flabby, uncourageous, and complacent pilgrims. Ease tempts one to love our luxuries and count radical living for Christ as “unwise” and “reckless.” Although I like to think I am more like Gandalf or Thorin — warriors who endure stone beds and scanty meals, biting weather and armed enemies for an urgent mission — I see in myself more pre-adventure Bilbo than I like to admit. When invited to go on an uncertain adventure, I, like him, say inwardly, “[I] have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” 

Yet this spirit is contrary to our Lord’s call. He has commissioned me (as every Christian) on a grand quest — to extend a kingdom, to rescue lost souls, to fight back shadows (and the dark spirits they hide). This adventure bids me to exchange handkerchiefs and comforts for hardships and crosses (Luke 9:23). He assigns me to sacrifice self to meet others’ needs, put what is earthly in me to death, confront brothers entangled in iniquity, count my life as cheap compared to his glory, stand against the likes of the world, the flesh, and Satan, and, should it come to it, to leave all behind and die for his name. Daily he beckons into the vast beyond — even when that is merely across the street to speak the gospel to my neighbors. 

When Christ comes like a thief in the night, how many of us will he find in our robes and slippers, sitting content by the fire, whispering to ourselves, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19)? I know I quietly hope, from time to time, that Jesus might be content to supplement an American life. That I need never be late for dinner. 

And by this fire, the dragon’s fierce persecutions, the imponderable rates of unborn executions, the peril of unbelieving neighbors, and the multitudes of lost souls tumbling from this world without ever hearing of Christ all seem comfortably far-off. 

Learn to Face Abundance 

How often do you recognize, let alone withstand, the temptations that come with plenty? The temptation of respectable worldliness? The temptation to love your life in this world? 

Few things flatten the virility of Christianity like halting along the way, making camp this side of the Jordan. To get comfortable. To get fat. To get entangled in civilian pursuits. To get away from serving for King and heavenly country. To lose sight of the mission, to no longer have the stomach for warfare. To be overly fond of our favorite armchairs and television shows. 

The application for most of us is not to pack up and move to Papua New Guinea (though it may be for some). We will not all go overseas and escape our Western Shire. Instead, most of us God calls to live faithfully in our circumstances. We must learn — and this is counterintuitive — how to face abundance. 

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12–13

We all can imagine facing lowliness and hunger and desperately needing the Lord’s help. But notice what other secret Paul needs to learn. He learned the secret to facing plenty. He needed help in the school of hard knocks and soft beds. And he learned the secret of how to abound without letting either corrupt him: he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. 

We might assume that there is no danger in a world that feels so safe. If no one is violently banging at the door, we assume we don’t need the same strength as poor or persecuted Christians. We do. We too need Christ’s strength in the prosperity we face. We need Christ and his strength to live focused on heaven, to risk reputation and fortune, and to make it clear in a land full of abundance, that we seek a better country — a heavenly one. 

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their daughter. 

Daily Light – Dec 30, 2020

More Bad News May Come 

Steadiness in a Year of Suffering 

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

At the end of a year like ours — with tens of millions infected and over a million dead, with rising political hostility and upheaval, with racial friction and distrust inflamed, with economic uncertainty and instability, with more devastating wildfires, with churches struggling to know how to respond — do any four lines in Scripture feel more relevant and precious than Psalm 112:7–8? The psalmist writes of the man who fears the Lord, 

He is not afraid of bad news;
     his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
     until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. 

When I came to these lines recently, I read them differently — more slowly, more curiously, more admiringly. Surely the writer faced worse news and fiercer trials than many of us have, even in a year like this one. Where did his fearlessness and steadiness come from? How does a man see the waves of a society crashing and churning, and hear the roaring winds of worse to come, and feel the swelling tremors of division and conflict, and still remain steady, firm, immovable? 

As we turn the page on 2020, not knowing what bad news may come in the next several months, how might God make our faith stronger, our joy more durable, our light all the brighter? What can we learn about spiritual steadiness from Psalm 112? 

Well of Steadiness 

The Hebrew word for steady — “His heart is steady; he will not be afraid” — is actually a passive verb meaning upheld. The same word appears again and again in the Psalms: 

The arms of the wicked shall be broken,
     but the Lord upholds the righteous. (Psalm 37:17

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
     and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12

Behold, God is my helper;
     the Lord is the upholder of my life. (Psalm 54:4

Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
     and let me not be put to shame in my hope! (Psalm 119:116

I lay down and slept;
     I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. (Psalm 3:5

Steadiness in the Lord is upheldness. It is not mere courage or patience or sobriety, but dependence on the upholder — the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving King over all. Steadiness comes from knowing who holds our life, from clinging to all that he has promised us in Christ, from trusting him to sustain us day and night whatever might come. 

If we want a steady heart in an unsteady world, among unsteady people, during unsteady days, we need to be upheld. And we need to know that we are upheld and will be upheld. Here in Psalm 112, God gives us at least three sure paths deeper into this divine, unshakable upheldness. 

Let Fear Breed Fearlessness 

First, the man upheld by God fears God. “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. . . . He is not afraid of bad news” (Psalm 112:17). The man who fears does not fear. Fearing God has made him suddenly and unassailably secure. 

How much of our instability over the last year has come from misplaced or imbalanced fear? To be clear, we have faced real fears — a life-threatening virus, extended lockdowns, shuttered businesses, lost jobs, raging wildfires, police shootings, violent riots, bitter politics, belligerent debates — all added to whatever each of us carried before our world was thrown into disorder. But a greater fear, by far, rises above every other: the awful and wonderful power and justice of our righteous Lord and Judge. If we fear how a virus or riot might harm us, we ought to fear all the more the one “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). 

But this fear of fears is a strange and wonderful phenomenon, for those who fear the most fearful one find a refuge, a sanctuary, a friend. “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him” (Psalm 25:14). Because the one they fear upholds them, the fear of the Lord becomes the safest place in all the world, the only truly safe place. Their fear makes them unusually wise (Psalm 111:10). Whatever fearful trials they suffer, they suffer them in the strong arms of his compassion (Psalm 103:13). They lack nothing (Psalm 34:9). And so, their holy fear breeds the surprising fruit of fearlessness. 

Let Obedience Fortify Courage 

The fear that drives out fear also inspires a resilient obedience. 

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
     who greatly delights in his commandments! (Psalm 112:1

He is gracious when others would be harsh and unkind, merciful when others would be cold and unforgiving, and righteous when others indulge and rebel (Psalm 112:4). He gives when others keep for themselves and does all that he does with integrity and justice (Psalm 112:5). He speaks, spends, and loves in ways sinners cannot explain because they do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:5). He obeys God because he delights to obey him. “In the way of your testimonies I delight,” he sings, “as much as in all riches” (Psalm 119:14). For him, the rules of God are finer than gold and sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:10). 

And obedience becomes a kiln for his courage, refining his boldness and dissolving his fear. It is an irony woven into reality that those who risk themselves in obedience to God are more secure and satisfied than those who try to serve themselves and save themselves (Matthew 10:39). And it is a tragedy everywhere in history that far more have preferred the awful perils of their perceived autonomy to the utter safety of obedience to God. 

Let Hope Light the Valley 

The man upheld by God knows whom to fear most, whom to obey when his flesh resists and protests, and he knows the one for whom his soul longs and waits. The fears of his present fade and dissipate next to the light of his future. 

He is not afraid of bad news;
     his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
     until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. (Psalm 112:7–8

His adversity will end, his enemies will fall, his triumph will come. Even when he is assailed by trials and sorrows, and those who despise God seem to be prospering, he knows that their fortune and comfort will be short-lived — and his never-ending. The certainty of victory, of a weight of glory beyond all comparison, makes this light momentary affliction shockingly bearable (2 Corinthians 4:17). The man of God receives bad news with confidence and even joy because he knows the good news that will one day engulf and wash away every terror that might be. 

Viruses will spread and be cured, elections will come and go, nations will rise and fall, but those who trust in the Lord — who fear him, obey him, and wait for his return — shall renew their strength. While others are weighed down with worldly concerns, “they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” When others are exhausted by their fears and troubles, “they shall run and not be weary.” When others give up and walk away, “they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). 

Our light will dawn not just after the darkness, but in the darkness (Psalm 112:4), until the darkness itself expires. Joy not only comes with the morning, but sustains us through nights of sorrow — until bad news itself is a faint and harmless memory. 

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis. 

Daily Light – Dec 29, 2020

The ABC’s of it…  (from dh)

As I enter what must surely be the last quarter of my life (now age 72 🙂), I find my heart’s desire is to increasingly help people find the truth about the meaning and purpose of life and living.   Today, more than ever, people are lost and groping in the vast space of darkness and deception coming from the many prevailing world views related to purpose and existence of life and being.  More than ever people seek truth and light and answers to their questions about ‘existence’ and ‘being’ and ‘why we are here and is there purpose to life’.  

And the most basic and important questions of all, for all, are: 

Is all of life and the universe impersonal.. 

If there a God, a Creator.. 

Does He have a purpose and design for all things..

Is He personal or impersonal..

Can He be known..

Can ‘I’ know Him..

How do I integrate my life with his purpose and design..

If we (you and me) say that our worldview is Christianity, does our view hold answers to the real questions?  How do we present our worldview to the people around us?  Does our worldview hold-up to absolute truth?  Do we really hold-to, understand, and embrace the Christian world view about existence, purpose, and design in how we live?  What do we believe about God, truly believe?  And why? 

I am hoping that in 2021…we can, together, explore the purpose and meaning of ‘being’…why are we here…does it matter.  Our objective is to know truth ‘so that’ we can present clearer light and truth to others ‘so that’ they may come to know the reason for their being and existence and life.  That they may have a ‘sure hope’ for their belief.  

So, hopefully, we will bend some of the subject matter of posts, writings, and material in Daily Light and Let There Be Light in this direction.

No God    No Peace

Know God   Know Peace

Daily Light – Dec 28, 2020

Evil Has an Expiration Date 

Article by Jeff Mingee, DMin 

It can seem odd, even wrong, to rejoice at someone else’s demise. But not so in every case. Moviemakers have often captured this moment. The plot line builds to an unavoidable conflict between two forces. The enemy you’ve come to hate has finally met his demise at the hand of the hero you’ve come to love. And when the enemy has been defeated and the smoke is still rising from the battlefield, there’s a moment when the good guys realize they’ve won and, battle-worn and bruised though they be, they raise their swords and cheer. 

In Revelation 18, John sees the fall of Babylon—the evil world system that has opposed God since Satan’s first deceiving whisper in Genesis 3. Immediately afterward, in Revelation 19, John hears the praise of heaven: 

The smoke from her goes up forever and ever. (Rev. 19:3

While the smoke of Babylon’s destruction is still rising, heaven breaks out in song. When Babylon falls into ruin, heaven leaps into rejoicing. So should you, Christian. It’s not folly to rejoice at the ruin of evil. The evil that has caused countless sins against you. The evil that has caused you to commit countless sins against God and others. 

Christian, evil’s influence on you has an expiration date. There will be a day when, once and for all, God pours out his just judgment on Babylon and makes his people “lie down in safety” (Hos. 2:18). On that day you will rejoice in full. This knowledge both increases our longing for that day and also empowers our obedience on this day. 

Increased Longing 

Babylon will fall. The scene John describes in Revelation 18–19 stirs in believers a longing for that day. This vision throws fuel on the fire of our faith and increases our yearning for the justice and mercy that will descend from God’s throne. When we see Babylon’s ruin and hear heaven’s rejoicing, our hearts are stirred. 

We hunger for the day we can sing with heaven that God has “avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Rev. 19:2). Martyrs like Polycarp and Jim Elliott wait (Rev. 6:9–11). Countless believers whose names remain unknown but who have suffered at Babylon’s cruel hands wait. But one day they will wait no more. 

So great is Babylon’s power and influence that her company includes the “kings of the earth” (Rev. 6:15; 17:2, 18; 18:3, 9; 19:19). The powers that be are under her sway. She has stretched her flirty fingers throughout “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Rev. 17:15). As Joel Beeke explains, “no nation, no class, and no generation is safe from the seduction and deception of this woman.” 

This isn’t just an American problem. It isn’t a problem just for one gender or ethnicity or socioeconomic group. Babylon has seduced us all. John confronts us with the scope of her evil influence. But he also reminds us that Christ has saved “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!” (Rev. 5:9). Yes, around his throne is a multitude no one can number! And we long for the day we’re all gathered there 

Sobering Warning 

Not only is Babylon powerful; her strategy is to seduce and deceive. She has enticed kings and inebriated earth-dwellers with her wine. Beeke warns, “Far more Christians have been slain spiritually by the seduction of this woman than by her opposition.” Such was the case with Demas, who began as Paul’s fellow worker but ended by deserting Paul, having fallen “in love with this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). 

There are many in our churches for whom Satan has begun to lay his traps, enticing their hearts with the pleasures of this world or the philosophies of this age. He is seducing them. The Puritan Thomas Brooks opens his powerful book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices with these words: 

Satan’s first device to draw the soul into sin is, to present the bait—and hide the hook; to present the golden cup—and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin—and to hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin. 

To borrow Solomon’s words, Babylon is the “forbidden woman” whose lips “drip honey” but in the end is “bitter as wormwood” (Prov. 5:3–4). Her seductive pull in this world demands the believer’s diligent obedience to King Jesus. This is why Paul warns us to let no one “take [us] captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). 

The justice that God pours out on Babylon is a sobering vision of the justice that will be poured out on us if we refuse to hide ourselves in Christ. Babylon, though her doom is sure, still entices and lures. She welcomes those who pass by. She promises rewards and hides the cost. As tempting as she is, Christ is better. 

Final Victory 

Babylon’s days are numbered. Therefore we can and we must reject her siren song, lest we partake of her ruin. 

A victory party is coming. With Babylon’s ruin to warn us and with heaven’s rejoicing to welcome us, we must resolve to walk faithfully with Christ, until at last we dwell with him forever. 

Jeff Mingee (DMin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the pastor of Catalyst Church in Newport News, Virginia. He also serves as a church planting strategist with the SBC of Virginia and helps lead the Hampton Roads regional chapter of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Forgiveness: A Risk Worth Taking (A Verse by Verse Journey through Philemon)Called to Cooperate: A Biblical Survey and Application of Teamwork, and a forthcoming book on exercising dominion in a digital world. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Newport News with their sons Aiden and Carter. 

Daily Light – Christmas 2020

Friends:   Jesus came to live among us not only to reconcile us to God…not only to give us the gift of eternal life…but to give us the means to be transformed into His image.  When we ask ‘Him’ to be our Savior, He comes to live inside us and it is ‘inside’ us, where He makes all of what He is known to us and with our cooperation He begins to reproduce a likeness of Himself into our character and qualities.  I call it the ‘great infusion’.   It is a lifelong process of maturation.  Because of Christmas…His willingness to come to earth and put-on human skin ..we can have new life…we can grow, and change, and mature, into the likeness of Jesus, the Christ, our Savior.  This allows others to see ‘His’ light and love in and through us and it is pleasing to God the Father.   

Today, let Him make you more ‘present’ for those around you.  Let them feel and see ‘Him’ in you.  He is your life. 


Daily Light – Dec 24, 2020

Friends:   A blessed Christmas Eve to you…..dh

The Untamed Spirit of Christmas 

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org 

Hidden away in an often-forgotten verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is an often-forgotten wonder of Christmas: 

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love. 

Christ came into the world not only as the Son of God, but also as the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47–49Romans 5:14). In Christ, we see humanity as we were meant to be: the perfect image and likeness of God, “crowned with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). More than that, in Christ we see redeemed humanity as we one day will be. The one who once was formed in the womb of Mary is now being formed in us (Galatians 4:19). And when he finishes stamping his image over the Adam in all of us, “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). 

This wonder then leads to another: as our second Adam, Christ lived a genuinely human life. He served, suffered, died, and rose not by virtue of his almighty divinity, but by virtue of his perfect humanity. As we sing in the hymn, he was “pleased as man with man to dwell.” 

And in order to fulfill his mission as a true man, he had to be filled with the Holy Spirit to the uttermost. 

Man of the Spirit 

Three times, Isaiah foretold that the coming Messiah would be the consummate man of the Spirit. In the words of the prophet, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:2). In the words of the Father, “I have put my Spirit upon him” (Isaiah 42:1). In the words of Christ himself, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me” (Isaiah 61:1). 

All our messianic bells should be ringing, then, when we hear Gabriel tell Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). From the very moment of Christ’s conception, the Holy Spirit rested upon him. 

Even more wonderfully, the Spirit never left him. Throughout the rest of the Gospels, the Spirit serves as Christ’s “inseparable companion,” as the church father Basil put it (Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 37). The great Puritan John Owen went further and listed ten stages of this inseparable companionship (Works of John Owen, 3:162–83). According to Owen, the Holy Spirit 

formed Christ’s body in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:35); 

sanctified Christ’s body and filled it with grace (Isaiah 11:1–3Luke 1:35Hebrews 7:26); 

grew Christ in wisdom and knowledge (Luke 2:4052; cf. Isaiah 11:1–3); 

anointed Christ (particularly at his baptism) with everything necessary for his messianic mission (Matthew 3:16–17John 3:34Luke 4:1; cf. Isaiah 61:1); 

empowered Christ’s miraculous works (Matthew 12:28Acts 10:38); 

led and upheld Christ in his ministry (Isaiah 42:449:5–850:7–8Luke 4:114); 

enabled Christ to offer himself up on the cross (Hebrews 9:14); 

preserved Christ’s body in the tomb (Acts 2:27; cf. Luke 1:35); 

raised Christ from the dead (Romans 1:48:111 Timothy 3:16); 

glorified Christ’s human nature (1 Corinthians 15:45). 

Therefore, as Sinclair Ferguson concludes, “From womb to tomb to throne, the Spirit was the constant companion of the Son” (37). 

Fully Human Holiness 

But if Jesus was (and is) fully God, why did he need the Holy Spirit to fulfill his mission? Couldn’t he have grown in wisdom and worked miracles, for example, by the power of his own divinity? Yes, he could have. But if he had done so, we would not be able to sing, 

Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love. 

In order for Christ to be our second Adam, he had to fight and win on the same battleground where our first Adam lost. The first Adam fell as man; therefore, Christ must stand as man — as one “made like his brothers in every respect . . . yet without sin” (Hebrews 2:174:15). No animal and no angel could undo our ancient curse; that task was left for a perfect second Adam. 

“If we are to be holy,” Ferguson writes, “that holiness must be wrought out in our humanity. This is what Christ has accomplished” (72). By the Spirit, Christ has become the forerunner of a new holy humanity. And now, by that same Spirit, he imprints his fully human holiness in us. 

Recovering Our Lost Glory 

Just before Jesus was betrayed, he told his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16–17). The same Spirit who filled Jesus is now with us — even in us (John 14:17) — forever. And as the Spirit of the risen Christ, “he takes the copy of Christ’s religious life in the Spirit and works those same affections and desires in us so we are truly Christlike,” as Mark Jones writes

In other words, the Spirit pours our humanity into the mold of Christ’s humanity — the mold he formed through his perfect human life. So, for example: 

He teaches us to address God as “Abba,” just like Jesus did (Mark 14:36Galatians 4:6). 

He clothes us with the very power of Christ (Luke 4:14Acts 1:8). 

He empowers us to put to death the deeds of the body so that we might be sons patterned after the Son (Romans 8:13–1429). 

He beckons us to “share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13–14). 

He unveils the glory of Christ so that we might be “transformed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). 

In the end, he will give us a body just like Christ’s (1 Corinthians 15:44Romans 8:11). 

The Spirit, who was the “inseparable companion” of Christ on earth, is now our inseparable companion — sent by the Son “to recover glory in us” (The Holy Spirit, 92). 

Spirit of Christmas 

Many casually mention “the spirit of Christmas” this time of year, often meaning little more than vague goodwill and tame niceness. But here we find another Spirit of Christmas, neither vague nor tame. He is, indeed, a living Spirit, a sovereign Spirit, even a dangerous Spirit — dangerous to all inside of us that is unlike Christ, and to all outside of us that is opposed to Christ. 

He is a world-invading, wonder-working, devil-spurning, sin-slaying, death-destroying Spirit. Power is his hallmark, and the glory of Christ his aim. Though invisible as the wind, he is mighty as the hurricane. And if his work at times feels slow, he will not stop until Christ is formed in us — until we no longer have need to pray, 

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place. 

So take courage, Christian. Christmas means more than Christ’s entrance into the world. It means his entrance into you. 

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live with their son in Minneapolis. 

Daily Light – Dec 23, 2020

Does the Virgin Birth Really Matter? 

Article by Greg Lanier, Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary 

The Advent season crescendos with the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary. Awkward conversations with children about the definition of “virgin” aside, this assertion — that Jesus was born to a young Nazarene woman, but not as a result of conjugal relations with her betrothed, Joseph, or any other man — is a central claim of Christianity. 

It is confessed in the Apostles’ Creed (“conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”) and the Nicene Creed (“he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary”). Yet the assertion goes even further back. 

Aristides (d. AD 134) attests that Christians in his day affirmed that Jesus “from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh” (Apology §2), and Irenaeus (d. 130) states, “The Church . . . has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith . . . [including] the birth from a virgin” (Against Heresies 1.10). 

It is vital, then, that we have an opportunity each year to reflect on this staggering, foundational fact of Christianity: Jesus — unlike any other human who ever existed — was born without a human father. 

‘Born of the Virgin Mary’ 

Where do we see this in Scripture? Let’s begin with the first part of the creedal phrase, “born of the virgin Mary.” 

Though the New Testament regularly teaches the full deity of Jesus, we cannot overlook the emphasis on his humanity. Paul speaks directly about how Jesus was “born of woman” (Galatians 4:4) and “born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). He also affirms that Jesus is a second and greater Adam (Romans 5:1419), and that he is “the man Christ Jesus” who mediates between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). John, Paul, and the author of Hebrews all similarly emphasize how the divine Son “became flesh” (John 1:14), “has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2), “was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16), and “partook” of “flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14). The human birth of Jesus is essential to the New Testament. 

But the second part of the phrase, “born of the virgin Mary,” is well-established in the Gospels. Luke’s account of Gabriel’s annunciation repeats “virgin” twice (Luke 1:26–27), and Mary’s response likewise emphasizes how she has not known a man (Luke 1:34). Gabriel gives telltale clues about the metaphysics of the virgin birth, in that the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” (Greek episkiazō) Mary (Luke 1:35). This verb is used elsewhere for the glorious manifestation of God on earth (Matthew 17:5Luke 9:34Exodus 40:35), implying that God’s Spirit is the active agent of the special creation of the human body of Jesus in Mary’s womb. 

Matthew is even more emphatic about the virgin conception of Jesus, beginning with the genealogy. Nearly forty times, Matthew uses an active verb (egennēsen) for how one male “begat” another male in the family tree (Matthew 1:2–16). Even in the four references to mothers (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba), Matthew still uses the formula of father-“begat”-son. 

But for Jesus, he abruptly breaks the pattern. Unlike before, he does not say that Joseph “begat” Jesus. Rather, he uses a passive form (egennēthē) to state quite precisely that Jesus “was begotten” not of Joseph, but “of” Mary (Matthew 1:16). And the use of the passive further means that Mary did not “beget” Jesus, but someone else. Who? 

Matthew answers in 1:18: “before [Mary and Joseph] came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Joseph is alarmed because he knows he did not impregnate Mary. To prevent a divorce, the angel reassures him that the child is “from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). And to avoid lingering suspicions about Mary’s virginity, Matthew confirms that Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth” (Matthew 1:25). 

Luke and Matthew repeatedly affirm the phrase “of the virgin Mary” from the creed. The fact that their narratives highlight different details (shepherds, magi, etc.) but are united on this point shows that the claim about Jesus’s virgin birth goes back even before them. 

How far back? 

‘They Shall Call His Name Immanuel’ 

Surprisingly, the virgin birth goes back to the Old Testament: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’” (Matthew 1:22–23). 

This citation of Isaiah 7:14 is well-known. Some have speculated that Matthew invented the virgin birth in order to fabricate a slam-dunk fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. However, as shown above, the virgin birth is so thoroughly woven into Matthew’s account that an Isaiah proof text is not, strictly speaking, necessary. So, what function does Isaiah 7:14 play in the story? 

Isaiah 7–8 deals with the threat posed by foreign powers to God’s people. Isaiah brings warning and comfort to Israel’s king, and central to these interactions are three symbolically named children: Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“the spoil speeds, the prey hastens”), warning of impending judgment (Isaiah 8:3–4); Shear-Jashub (“a remnant will return”), reiterating God’s promise of future restoration (Isaiah 7:3); and Immanuel (“God with us”), pointing to God’s sustaining presence (Isaiah 7:14). Isaiah provides such “signs” to Israel (Isaiah 7:10–118:18) to call them to trust in the Lord (Isaiah 7:98:13–14). 

Matthew’s use of Isaiah, then, is not a simplistic proof of a virgin-birth prophecy; rather, it suggests that God’s presence is now realized in the Christ-child himself. Such broader significance is confirmed by Matthew’s other Old Testament “fulfillment” citations in his birth narrative. When he cites the Bethlehem prophecy of Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:5–6), he conveys how Jesus is the shepherd-king bringing a new exodus

When he cites Hosea 11:1 (Matthew 2:14–15), he reveals Jesus as the ultimate “Son” — the embodiment of Israel — whom God delivers from Egypt. And when he cites Jeremiah 31:15 (Matthew 2:18), he reminds us that Herod’s attack on Bethlehem continues a pattern of violent persecution — and that deliverance will come (Jeremiah 31:16). 

In short, Matthew’s “Immanuel” quotation — viewed in its own context as well as in conjunction with his other Old Testament quotations — shows that the virgin birth of Jesus has redemptive-historical significance. As God enfleshed in the womb of a virgin, Jesus became the sign that salvation had arrived for God’s people. 

Stunning Advent 

Building on this, what can we say are the theological implications of the virgin birth? 

God keeps his promises. Matthew’s reference to Isaiah reminds us of the myriad ways Christ brings Old Testament prophecies to completion. Justin Martyr and Origen emphasized how this fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 proves the truthfulness of God’s word (Dialogue with Trypho 66, 84; Against Celsus 1.35). 

Jesus is truly the divine Son. The virgin birth plays a key role in helping explain how Jesus is God’s Son. The church fathers regularly argue that the lack of a physical, human father means that the only true father — the one who “begets” the Son — is the heavenly Father (e.g., Irenaeus, Against Heresies 19.3; Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.10.6). Perhaps Jesus himself recognizes this at age 12, when he rebuffs Mary and Joseph by saying he needed to be in “my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). 

Jesus is truly man, though not “ordinary.” The virgin birth of Jesus also helps maintain a tight balance: he is not only divine Son, but also fully man. His human substance is derived from Mary, so that he can be tempted fully just like us (Hebrews 4:15) and offer atonement through blood (Romans 3:25). Yet his lack of a human father frees him of “ordinary generation” from Adam that taints all with sin (Hebrews 4:15; Westminster Confession of Faith 6.3), so that he can offer atonement for the elect (Hebrews 7:27). 

Christianity is supernatural. Finally, the virgin birth reminds us that the bedrock of Christianity is the miraculous inbreaking of the triune God into creation. Christianity and bare naturalism cannot coexist. The virgin birth cannot be explained away. Either the Spirit conceived the Father’s incarnate Son in the womb of the virgin Mary — a unique datum of history — or we have no God-man as our Savior. 

Perhaps the best reminder of the ancient roots of this conviction is in Luke 1:43, when Mary’s relative Elizabeth greets her as “the mother of my Lord.” Mary is truly the human mother, and a virgin, at that. Yet the supernatural child in her womb is — even as an unborn baby — the divine Lord. That’s a stunning advent. 

Greg Lanier (PhD, Cambridge) is associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. His work on early Christology includes Divine Conceptual Metaphors and the Christology of Luke’s Gospel (T&T Clark, 2018), Is Jesus Truly God? (Crossway, 2020), and Corpus Christologicum (Hendrickson, 2021). 

Daily Light – Dec 22, 2020

The Story of Ruth and the Secret to Rest 

Article by David Shuman 

It’s been a long year. We’re physically tired, and we’re emotionally tired. Months of pain, loss, and uncertainty have drained us. We long for this pandemic to end and for justice and peace to prevail. 

Our weary souls ache for rest. 

The book of Ruth is perfect for this moment. It shows us where we can find—even in the midst of today’s turmoil—deep rest for our souls. 

Ruth’s Weariness 

The story begins with a woman named Naomi, who lives with her husband and two sons in Bethlehem. One day there’s a famine in the land, which is ironic, because Bethlehem means “city of bread.” Because of the famine, Naomi and her family move to Moab, historically an enemy of Israel. Eventually her sons both marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Sadly, after about 10 years, Naomi’s husband and sons die. 

There’s a lot we can relate to. Maybe, like Naomi and Ruth, you’ve experienced the tragic loss of a loved one. Maybe you’ve lost your livelihood from the economic impact of COVID-19. Maybe you recently moved because of what was happening around you. 

The story continues. Having lost everything in Moab, Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem when they hear the famine has ended. But in the ancient world, there weren’t many ways for women to provide for themselves. They arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest, and Ruth is able to glean in the fields of their relative Boaz, who turns out to be generous toward them. But when the harvest ends, Naomi and Ruth are back where they started, in the same poverty they’ve been trying to overcome for 10 years. 

Imagine how demoralizing that must have felt! Ruth is a young woman whose husband recently died. She’s in unfamiliar territory, literally. She’s alone, except for her one roommate, Naomi, and they have no way to meet their daily needs. 

They must have felt so weary. 

Ruth Seeks Rest 

Naomi asks Ruth, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (Ruth 3:1; cf. 1:8–9). Naomi has a plan for how to attain this rest. Having seen Boaz’s generosity, she hopes he will provide the rest they need. It turns out he is “a redeemer” (a close relative who can provide), so Naomi tells Ruth to propose marriage to him. 

Boaz accepts, but he first needs to ask permission from the “redeemer nearer” than he (Ruth 3:12). As a demonstration of his devotion to Ruth and perhaps even as a sort of pledge, Boaz sends off Ruth with a gift. He gives her six measures of barley, which might have been as much as 95 pounds

When Ruth returns home, Naomi affirms her faith in Boaz. She tells Ruth to wait. And the word used conveys the sense not only of waiting, but a worry-free attitude as she waits. Amid uncertainty, Ruth and Naomi wait for their redeemer to “settle the matter” and bring them rest (Ruth 3:18). 

The book of Ruth shows us that deep soul rest is possible even now if we, like Ruth, wait for the day of our redemption, trusting our redeemer to finish what he started. 

This part of the book of Ruth aptly describes the period in which we live our entire lives. 

Just as Boaz pledges to redeem Ruth, so God has promised to redeem us. In fact, Jesus secured our redemption on the cross. And just as Boaz sent Ruth away with a gift and pledge, so Jesus has sent us his Holy Spirit as a pledge (Eph. 1:14). But just as Ruth awaited final resolution, we still await the day when God will give complete rest. 

Our world is filled with all forms of unrest—sickness and death, injustice, volatility, loneliness, conflict. But the book of Ruth shows us that deep soul rest is possible even now if we, like Ruth, await the day of our redemption, trusting our redeemer to finish what he started. 

Ruth Receives Rest 

Boaz meets with the other relative who says he cannot redeem Ruth, “lest I impair my own inheritance” (4:5). So, Boaz redeems Ruth through a costly marriage, and Ruth gives birth to a child in Bethlehem. The baby’s name is Obed, which comes from the Hebrew word “to serve.” The women of Bethlehem say to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age” (Ruth 4:14–15). 

Generations later, the women’s prayers were answered. This son was the grandfather of King David (4:22), who secured rest for Israel against her enemies. And the ultimate answer to their prayer came a thousand years later, when another son was born to another poor woman traveling to Bethlehem. 

This child was from the line of Ruth and David. And as he was about to be born, a priest in Israel named Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:67–68).(Friends…read the last two paragraphs again…our great God is faithful and ‘He’ is our redeemer.  He has been and always will be moving the pieces around in the doll house of our life.  He is faithful!  dh)

Christ, Our Rest 

Jesus Christ is the promised redeemer, the true Servant of the Lord, whose costly marriage to his people—a marriage that cost him his life—restores our life and brings us rest. He gives us rest from our sin and striving, and he welcomes us into the security of his family. 

One day he will also remove every trial from our lives. He will transform our weak and weary bodies into new, glorious bodies. He will satisfy all our deepest needs and desires. 

If you trust in him, you can experience rest even now. If you place your confidence not in your own ability to control your life, but in this Redeemer—if you seek peace not in your circumstances, but in this Redeemer—then you can sleep at night no matter what the day ahead has in store, because your Redeemer has given you rest. 

As the psalmist says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you” (Ps. 116:7). 

David Schuman (MDiv, Westminster Seminary) is an assistant pastor at Exilic Church (PCA) in Manhattan. He met his wife, Meifung, on the steps of their church in Philadelphia, and they got married there shortly after. David and Meifung enjoy trying new restaurants and sitting in the park on a warm, sunny day. David is the author of numerous articles for The Gospel Coalition, Relevant Magazine, Sola Network, and Westminster Magazine. He and Meifung live in Midtown Manhattan. 

Daily Light – Dec 21, 2020

The Sweetness of Christ in 2020 

Taken from an interview with John Piper 

Precipice of Eternity 

As I look back over 2020, the most fundamental experience for me, which colors everything else and has shaped everything else, is the experience of sweeter fellowship with God, and with Jesus through his word, and through the mercies of the Holy Spirit. As I have tried to figure out why this is, I think the most persistent reason that I come up with is that I have lived this year as though walking along the precipice of eternity. 

COVID-19 means that floating around me in the air are invisible viruses that specialize in killing 74-year-olds. And then add to that: my city blew up last summer, and 1,500 businesses near my home were burned. And even through the election, buildings just blocks from my house were boarded up out of fear of what might happen with the election results. And as Noël and I have sat together in the evening, night after night, month after month, she would read to me the statistics of the thousands in Minnesota who are infected anew with the virus, and the numbers of how many had died and what their ages were. 

So, more than any other year of my life, this one has been lived with an almost daily consciousness of my mortality and the ease with which the entire infrastructure and social order could dissolve — all of this while causing us grief for so many who suffer. It sounds odd, I know, for me to say this year has been good for me when so many have died, so many suffer — I mean, not just suffer from the disease, but suffer economically. 

When all of that is taken into account, I have to say this has been very good for me — very good for me. A keen sense of my own mortality, and a realistic view of the inevitability of meeting Jesus face-to-face momentarily, perhaps, or quite soon, has had the effect, both privately and with my wife, and with others, of making the bread of heaven sweeter and the living water more satisfying. 

I just read, in fact, yesterday in John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” And I suppose I’ve read John a hundred times. Why would it be that now, just now in the closing of this year, that phrase “find pasture” would stand out to me as obvious and real and precious and sweet and a palpable reality? 

Jesus promises me that during the pandemic, if I come to him, and he becomes for me the single door to God, to reality, to life, to joy, then I’ll be like a sheep going in to his secure sheepfold, and coming out to graze in pastures of beautiful provisions and perfections of Christ — right in the very midst of the pandemic and the crumbling culture. So, in answer to your question, it’s been a sweet year — it has. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

Daily Light – Dec 18, 2020

When I am afraid 

From his morning study time, David Niednagel, Pastor and Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P method for his morning study time (study, observe, apply, pray). 

 Psalm 56  A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. 

1         Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; 

                        all day long an attacker oppresses me; 

2           my enemies trample on me all day long, … 

3           When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 

4          In God, whose word I praise, 

                        in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. 

                        What can flesh do to me? 

5          All day long they injure my cause; 

                        all their thoughts are against me for evil. … 

8          You have kept count of my tossings; 

                        put my tears in your bottle. 

                        Are they not in your book? … 

9                      This I know, that God is for me. 

10         In God, whose word I praise, 

                        in the Lord, whose word I praise, 

11         in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. 

                        What can man do to me? 

12       I must perform my vows to you, O God; 

                        I will render thank offerings to you. 

13         For you have delivered my soul from death, 

                        yes, my feet from falling, …   ESV 

In 1Sam 21:10 David was fleeing from Saul, and went to Gath, the hometown of Goliath, the Philistine giant whom he had killed. He was obviously recognized as the most hated man, and pretended to be insane to avoid being killed. Talk about “out of the frying pan and into the fire” – David was in a BAD situation! So what did he do? 

He poured out his situation and his feelings to the Lord – even putting them into this metrical form. It may not have been in final form, but he learned to put every situation into a song form, so he would remember it and so others could sing it too. I don’t know if he realized he was inspired or writing scripture, but he knew he was pouring out his heart to God and listening to God at the same time. 

Here, his main message was “When I am afraid, I consciously put my trust in You!”  He knew God was for him. He had been anointed to be king, so he knew God had a purpose for his life. In :10-12 he made four vows: He would praise God now in the time of danger, He would trust God, He would not be afraid, and He would later praise God in the public worship. 

Lord, I’m so thankful I have never had the persecution and danger that David did, but there are many times I have been anxious about things I could not control – and there will be more in the days ahead. Help me remember to do those same four things David did –1) praise you in the midst of it,  2) consciously put my trust in you, 3) give my fears to You because even though I am not anointed to be a king, I am bought by the blood of Jesus and appointed to re-present You in my world, and 4) give public praise to You for Your faithfulness. Use me to help others learn that when we cannot control the circumstances, we need not be controlled by fear, but we can trust You! Amen