December 25th – Evening Advent Reading

THREE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. —1 John 3:7–8

Ponder this remarkable situation with me. If the Son of God came to help you stop sinning—to destroy the works of the devil—and if he also came to die so that, when you do sin, there is a propitiation, a removal of God’s wrath, then what does this imply for living your life? Three things. And they are wonderful to have. I give them to you briefly as Christmas presents.

1. A Clear Purpose for Living

It implies that you have a clear purpose for living. Negatively, it is simply this: don’t sin. “I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). If you ask, “Can you give us that positively, instead of negatively?” the answer is: Yes, it’s all summed up in 1 John 3:23. It’s a great summary of what John’s whole letter requires. Notice the singular “commandment”—“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” These two things are so closely connected for John he calls them one commandment: believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. That is the sum of the Christian life. Trusting Jesus, loving people. Trust Jesus, love people. There’s the first gift: a purpose to live.

2. Hope That Our Failures Will Be Forgiven

Now consider the second implication of the twofold truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins. It’s this: We make progress in overcoming our sin when we have hope that our failures will be forgiven. If you don’t have hope that God will forgive your failures, when you start fighting sin, you give up. Many of you are pondering some changes in the new year, because you have fallen into sinful patterns and want out. You want some new patterns of eating. New patterns for entertainment. New patterns of giving. New patterns of relating to your spouse. New patterns of family devotions. New patterns of sleep and exercise. New patterns of courage in witness. But you are struggling, wondering whether it’s any use. Well here’s your second Christmas present: Christ not only came to destroy the works of the devil—our sinning— he also came to be an advocate for us when we fail in our fight. So I plead with you, let the freedom to fail give you the hope to fight. But beware! If you turn the grace of God into license, and say, “Well, if I can fail, and it doesn’t matter, then why bother fighting?”—if you say that, and mean it, and go on acting on it, you are probably not born again and should tremble. But that is not where most of you are. Most of you want to fight sinful patterns in your life. And what God is saying to you is this: Let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. I write this to you that you might not sin, but if you sin you have an advocate, Jesus Christ.

3. Christ Will Help Us

Finally, the third implication of the double truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins, is this: Christ will really help us in our fight. He really will help you. He is on your side. He didn’t come to destroy sin because sin is fun. He came to destroy sin because it is fatal. It is a deceptive work of the devil and will destroy us if we don’t fight it. He came to help us, not hurt us. So here’s your third Christmas gift: Christ will help overcome sin in you. 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” Jesus is alive, Jesus is almighty, Jesus lives in us by faith. And Jesus is for us, not against us. He will help you. Trust him.
.

Prayer – Jesus, on this Christmas morning we PRAISE you. While our praise is only partial, you make it whole. Our life is hidden in you. There are no gaps in your mercy. Thank you for loving us even when we fail. Teach us to celebrate you even when we don’t feel qualified to do so. Thank you for advent. Thank you for Christmas.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 24th – Evening Advent Reading

THE SON OF GOD APPEARED

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. —1 John 3:7–8

When verse 8 says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil,” what are the “works of the devil” that he has in mind? The answer is clear from the context. First, verse 5 is a clear parallel: “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins.” The phrase “he appeared to…” occurs in verse 5 and verse 8. So probably the “works of the devil” that Jesus came to destroy are sins. The first part of verse 8 makes this virtually certain: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”

The issue in this context is sinning, not sickness or broken cars or messed up schedules.

Jesus came into the world to help us stop sinning. Let me put it alongside the truth of 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” In other words, I am promoting the purpose of Christmas (3:8), the purpose of the incarnation. Then he adds (2:2), “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” But now look what this means: It means that Jesus appeared in the world for two reasons.

  1. He came that we might not go on sinning;
  2. and he came to die so that there would be a propitiation (a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God) for our sins, if we do sin.

Prayer – Jesus, we celebrate you with freedom. The full freedom of GRACE. You have set us free from judgement and wrath. As we prepare to rise in the morning, help us to lie down with peace. Knowing that you hold all things together, even if they seem to be in chaos.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 23rd – Evening Advent Reading

GOD’S INDESCRIBABLE GIFT

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. —Romans 5:10–11

How do we practically receive reconciliation and exult in God?

One answer is: do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least in part, make the portrait of Jesus in the Bible—the work and the words of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament—the essential content of your exultation over God. Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ. In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, Paul describes conversion two ways. In verse 4, he says it is seeing “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And in verse 6, he says it is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, and we have God in the face of Christ. Practically, to exult in God, you exult in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ.

And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5:5 says. So here’s the Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 10), and not only did God enable us to receive that reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11), but even now, verse 11 says, we exult in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping—the indescribable gift—as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our exultation in God. Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don’t put it on the shelf unopened. And don’t open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures. Open it and enjoy the gift. Exult in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure. .

Prayer – Jesus, We EXULT you! You are before the foundations of the world. You are surpass the value of all the trappings of this season. Our hearts are tugged daily, but you satisify beyond our thirst. Thank you for your love. Thank you for redemption.  

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 22nd – Evening Advent Reading

THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. —John 20:30–31

I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed—that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power. You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and so spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God. How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to his glory and his story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.” The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,”

he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read (John 18:37). O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you. I pray for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God. One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ. These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.

Prayer – Jesus, we believe, but only in part. We see, but only in part. You are the author and pefector of our faith. We cry out for your spirit to transform every part of our life, that we might woship you beyond our expecetations. That we might worship you as God! 

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 21st – Evening Advent Reading

THE BIRTH OF THE ANCIENT OF DAYS

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” —John 18:37

This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’s life on earth, not the beginning.

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born. The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person—not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus—existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one—namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days”.

Prayer – Jesus, we praise you and thank you. We praise you because you are GOD eternal. You have existed before the foundations of the world and hold all things together. We thank you because in your infinte wisdom, knowledge, love and mercy you thought of us. You considered us and covered us. While we were running you rescued us and restored us to yourself.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 20th – Evening Advent Reading

CHRISTMAS SOLIDARITY

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. —1 John 3:8

The assembly line of Satan turns out millions of sins every day. He packs them into huge cargo planes and flies them to heaven and spreads them out before God and laughs and laughs and laughs. Some people work full-time on the assembly line. Others have quit their jobs there and only now and then return. Every minute of work on the assembly line makes God the laughing stock of Satan.

Sin is Satan’s business because he hates the light and beauty and purity and glory of God.

Nothing pleases him more than when creatures distrust and disobey their Maker. Therefore, Christmas is good news for man and good news for God “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). That’s good news for us. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). That’s good news for God. Christmas is good news for God because Jesus has come to lead a strike at Satan’s assembly plant. He has walked right into the plant, called for the Solidarity of the faithful, and begun a massive walk-out. Christmas is a call to go on strike at the assembly plant of sin. No negotiations with the management. No bargaining. Just single-minded, unswerving opposition to the product. Christmas Solidarity aims to ground the cargo planes. It will not use force or violence, but with relentless devotion to Truth it will expose the life-destroying conditions of the devil’s industry. Christmas Solidarity will not give up until a complete shutdown has been achieved. When sin has been destroyed, God’s name will be wholly exonerated. No one will be laughing at him anymore. If you want to give a gift to God this Christmas, walk off the assembly line and never go back. Take up your place in the picket line of love. Join Christmas Solidarity until the majestic name of God is cleared and he stands glorious amid the accolades of the righteous.

Prayer – Jesus, you are enough. This advent season we celebrate your victory over sin. You have done everything, nothing is left to be done. We ask that your truth would shepherd toward peace in a season of haste.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 19th – Evening Advent Reading

CHRISTMAS IS FOR FREEDOM

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

Jesus became man because what was needed was the death of a man who was more than man.

The incarnation was God’s locking himself into death row. Christ did not risk death. He embraced it. That is precisely why he came: not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). No wonder Satan tried to turn Jesus from the cross! The cross was Satan’s destruction.

How did Jesus destroy him? The “power of death” is the ability to make death fearful. The “power of death” is the power that holds men in bondage through fear of death. It is the power to keep men in sin, so that death comes as a horrid thing. But Jesus stripped Satan of this power. He disarmed him. He molded a breastplate of righteousness for us that makes us immune to the devil’s condemnation. By his death, Jesus wiped away all our sins. And a person without sin puts Satan out of business. His treason is aborted. His cosmic treachery is foiled. “His rage we can endure, for, lo, his doom is sure.” The cross has run him through. And he will gasp his last before long. Christmas is for freedom. Freedom from the fear of death. Jesus took our nature in Bethlehem, to die our death in Jerusalem, that we might be fearless in our city. Yes, fearless. Because if the biggest threat to my joy is gone, then why should I fret over the little ones? How can you say, “Well, I’m not afraid to die but I’m afraid to lose my job”? No. No. Think! If death (I said, death—no pulse, cold, gone!)—if death is no longer a fear, we’re free, really free. Free to take any risk under the sun for Christ and for love. No more bondage to anxiety. If the Son has set you free, you shall be free, indeed!

Prayer – Jesus, teach us not to fear. To enter everyday as a divien gift. We long to live our lives free of fear. That the highs and lows of life might be understood as your plan unfolding in our lives.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 18th – Evening Advent Reading

THE CHRISTMAS MODEL FOR MISSIONS

“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” —John 17:18

Christmas is a model for missions. Missions is a mirror of Christmas. As I, so you.

For example, danger.

  • Christ came to his own and his own received him not. So you.
  • They plotted against him. So you.
  • He had no permanent home. So you.
  • They trumped up false charges against him. So you.
  • They whipped and mocked him. So you.
  • He died after three years of ministry. So you.
  • But there is a worse danger than any of these which Jesus escaped. So you!

In the mid-16th century Francis Xavier (1506–1552), a Catholic missionary, wrote to Father Perez of Malacca (today part of Indonesia) about the perils of his mission to China. He said, The danger of all dangers would be to lose trust and confidence in the mercy of God… To distrust him would be a far more terrible thing than any physical evil which all the enemies of God put together could inflict on us, for without God’s permission neither the devils nor their human ministers could hinder us in the slightest degree. The greatest danger a missionary faces is to distrust the mercy of God. If that danger is avoided, then all other dangers lose their sting. God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand. As J.W. Alexander says, “Each instant of present labor is to be graciously repaid with a million ages of glory.” Christ escaped the danger of distrust. Therefore God has highly exalted him! Remember this Advent that Christmas is a model for missions. As I, so you. And that mission means danger. And that the greatest danger is distrusting God’s mercy. Succumb to this, and all is lost. Conquer here, and nothing can harm you for a million ages.

Prayer – Jesus, teach us trust. Guard us from asking this in safety. Grant us the assurance to ask this with wreckless confidence. The assurance that you will teach us the safety and sanctuary of your salvation. Regardless of your methods. We want to trust you, for in trusting we will find intimacy.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 17th – Evening Advent Reading

THE GREATEST SALVATION IMAGINABLE

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” —Jeremiah 31:31

God is just and holy and separated from sinners like us.

This is our main problem at Christmas and every other season. How shall we get right with a just and holy God? Nevertheless, God is merciful and has promised in Jeremiah 31 (five hundred years before Christ) that someday he would do something new. He would replace shadows with the Reality of the Messiah. And he would powerfully move into our lives and write his will on our hearts so that we are not constrained from outside but are willing from inside to love him and trust him and follow him. That would be the greatest salvation imaginable—if God should offer us the greatest Reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and joy possible. That would be a Christmas gift worth singing about.

That is, in fact, what he promised. But there was a huge obstacle. Our sin. Our separation from God because of our unrighteousness. How shall a holy and just God treat us sinners with so much kindness as to give us the greatest Reality in the universe (his Son) to enjoy with the greatest joy possible? The answer is that God put our sins on his Son, and judged them there, so that he could put them out of his mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time.

Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”

Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means the sins are gone. They do not remain in God’s mind as a basis for condemnation. In that sense, he “forgets” them. They are consumed in the death of Christ. Which means that God is now free, in his justice, to lavish us with the new covenant. He gives us Christ, the greatest Reality in the universe, for our enjoyment. And he writes his own will—his own heart—on our hearts so that we can love Christ and trust Christ and follow Christ from the inside out, with freedom and joy.

Prayer – Jesus, make this our thinking. Work your grace from the inside out. Do what we cannot do for ourselves. Give us an desire that is both satisfied and unquenched. Transform our hearts to be fixed on you. We ask this for your namesake. 

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy

December 16th – Evening Advent Reading

GOD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL SETBACK

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” —Philippians 2:9–11

Christmas was God’s most successful setback.

He has always delighted to show his power through apparent defeat. He makes tactical retreats in order to win strategic victories. Joseph was promised glory and power in his dream (Genesis 37:5–11). But to achieve that victory he had to become a slave in Egypt. And as if that were not enough, when his conditions improved because of his integrity, he was made worse than a slave — a prisoner. But it was all planned. For there in prison he met Pharaoh’s butler, who eventually brought him to Pharaoh who put him over Egypt. What an unlikely route to glory!

But that is God’s way — even for his Son. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Worse than a slave — a prisoner — and was executed. But like Joseph, he kept his integrity. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9–10). And this is God’s way for us too. We are promised glory — if we will suffer with him (Romans 8:17). The way up is down. The way forward is backward. The way to success is through divinely appointed setbacks. They will always look and feel like failure. But if Joseph and Jesus teach us anything this Christmas it is this: “God meant it for good!” (Genesis 50:20).

You fearful saints fresh courage take The clouds you so much dread Are big with mercy and will break In blessings on your head.

Prayer – Jesus, all things work together for your namesake. But “backward” and “down” are difficult to endure. The Christmas season offers us many ways to comfort. Help us to find our comfort in you, regardless of how “backward” or “down” things might feel.

Prayers by Christ Fellowship
Advent devotional material provided by Desiring God ministries – Good News of Great Joy