When Hope Was Born

Jonathan Daugherty

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Ever since I was a little boy I have felt the excited anticipation of Christmas day approaching. There were the traditions of church services, singing carols, drinking eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course), and lots and lots of wonderful food. The sights, the smells, the sounds ‘ they all filled my heart with a sense of wonder and joy. And then there was the Baby.

Ah, the Baby Jesus. Could any other image bring such innocence and purity to the season? This perfect child, conceived by God’s Holy Spirit, and born to the young virgin, Mary.

Can you picture this holy, yet unusual, scene? A city bustling beyond its capacity, a young couple tired from a long journey, an innkeeper with enough mercy to provide a stable, and a night sky filled with twinkling stars awaiting the moment ‘ the moment God becomes a man. Words like peace, joy, and awe come to mind. And in my Christmas nostalgia I smile and take another sip of eggnog.

For many, this is where the season ends. A pleasant nativity, festive music, and all the sweet food you can eat. Christmas has become all about a feeling. But is there more to it? Did something else happen that cool, dark night in Bethlehem? Is there more to the story than the marking of an annual holiday?

Yes! Hope was born that starry night. Jesus, though a baby, was also the eternal king, our hope of glory. He came, not to mark off a holiday on the calendar, but rather to set captives free from the shackles of sin, shame, and despair. He was born to offer hope to you and me, broken sinners in need of a savior.

What I have come to appreciate most about the Christmas season is remembering that Jesus’ birth was only the beginning of the hope to come. In His birth was the anticipation of the hope that would eventually be realized only through His death on the cross. And by His death (and subsequent resurrection to new life) we were offered hope of freedom from our sin.

Did you know that hope really isn’t hope if what you hope for is never realized? Let me explain. The definition of hope is to desire with expectation of fulfillment. If you hope for something with a sort of fingers-crossed-one-eye-closed-toss-
fairy-dust-over-my-shoulder-while-chanting mentality, you aren’t really hoping; you are wishing. Hope has a certainty to it. This is why we can confidently place our hope in God, because what He says He will do, He does! We can expect Him to fulfill His promises.

God said to Abraham, ‘You will have a son.’ At 100 years of age, Abraham had a son.

God said to Noah, ‘A flood will destroy the earth and only those on the ark will be saved.’ It rained forty days and nights, and everything was destroyed that was not on the ark.

God said to Moses, ‘You will deliver my people from Egypt.’ Moses delivered God’s people from Egypt.

Time and time again throughout Scripture God tells His people what He will do. And time after time He keeps His promises. God does what He says He will do. This assurance that He keeps His word helps us to place our hope, our expectation of fulfillment, in Him.

He also makes some particularly powerful promises to you and me.

John 10:28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

We have hope that nothing (no cause, no opponent, no addiction, nothing!) can remove God’s salvation from us through Christ. Do you believe God will keep His word?

Romans 8:1-2Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (NIV)

We have hope of a life free from shame and self-hatred because we have a God who erases the penalty of death we owed by covering us with the life of Christ. God is not ashamed of you. Do you believe God keeps His word?

2 Peter 1:3-4His [Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

We have hope of walking in purity and wholeness because God has given us everything we need to experience His power to live free from this world’s wickedness. Purity is possible for every man. Do you believe God keeps His word?

What is blocking you from having hope?

What lies are pulling you away from the truth that you can expect God to do what He says He will do? Hope in God is not wishing. God promises to finish the good that He started in you. (Phil. 1:6) Will you believe Him to do it and stop resisting His leading?

Christmas is a special time of year for me. And not just for all the peripheral festivities that adorn the season. It is special because I am once again reminded that it was at Christmas when Hope was born.

May the Hope of the world change your life’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.

What Makes Recovery Christian?

Lance David

For many Christians the idea of addiction recovery seems a touchy-feely, self-help, unchristian thing. With terminology that includes, “Higher Power,” “sponsor,” and “12 steps” recovery can be unfamiliar and possibly threatening to some Christians. It is certainly possible to do recovery- submitting to the program and to a higher power and experiencing sobriety- without following Christ. But this does not make recovery anymore unchristian than non-Christian couples remaining married until death does them part would make marriage unchristian.

For something to be unchristian it would have to be contrary to the gospel. Even though the terms may seem foreign to some Christians, the key principles of recovery highlight significant realities of that are contained in the gospel.

The first reality is that all of us are a mess. You may hide it or I may be in denial but that will not change the fact that we are both broken. This is the essential entrance exam both for Christians and those in recovery. The context for recovery is realization of the prodigal who knows that he has been fighting with pigs for sustenance. When a person does not view himself as a mess, he is more like the older brother who has all the riches at his disposal but remains aloof and on the outside. Jesus said, “It is not it the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 NIV). It is tragic that many in the church today do not deeply understand and appropriate this, instead resembling Pharisees rather than repentant sinners. Those truly engaged in recovery, on the other hand, grasp this reality very well.

A second reality of recovery is that I am responsible for this mess. Neither recovery nor the gospel allows a person to wallow in the blame game of victimhood. No matter how a person has been sinned against, he is responsible for his response. Even though others have sinned against me, recovery only begins when I begin to struggle and repent of the character flaws that have developed as a result of my resentments. Jesus captured the essence of this idea with the admonition, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).

A third reality is that the path to healing in recovery must be done with others. Meetings, fellowship, support and sponsors all demonstrate that in recovery healing does not happen alone. Unfortunately, this is an aspect that most of us in the church in the western world have abandoned. Even with small groups, men’s groups, accountability partners, Promise Keepers and other seminars, most men remain terribly isolated from others- especially when it comes to our problems. We have been taught that it is not masculine but weak to be a broken mess. But to be isolated denies the reality that we all have blind spots that can only be exposed to us by other people. Furthermore, relationships provide the context for change in that just as we all get hurt in by unhealthy relationships, healthy ones heal. Sanctification and recovery do not take place without community.

A final reality of recovery is that it must include a recognition of and submission to a spiritual reality. Of course, as Christians, we recognize that the only “higher power” is the one true God revealed in the bible. However, the generic language of recovery makes the steps palatable to those who are not convinced of this truth. The twelve steps of recovery reveal a very spiritual agenda. It is one that includes submission, confession, repentance, reconciliation, and deep character change. These demonstrate that an addict’s core problem is a commitment to self and not addiction per se. Only by submitting to the One greater than self can the addict and the run of the mill sinner experience true inner healing.

The essential feature of anyone’s recovery that makes it Christian is the person who is in recovery. Christ did not come to give us principles, a system, a cause, rules or many of the things that we have perverted his message into. Christ came to bring us back into relationship with God. Left to our own ingenuity, we have found so many different ways, including addictions, to run from him. The story of the gospel is the story of God’s recovery of the human race to himself.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

More Tools In The Battle: Part 3 of 4: Wash EACH OTHER’s Feet?

David S. Mackey

Unless you take the position that washing some other guys’ dirty, stinky feet could be one of the biggest ‘turn-offs’ in history, what could feet possibly have to do with being strong in the battle?

In review, the premise of these articles is that part of winning the Battle is to leave the false intimacy of sexual acting out and pursue the true intimacy of loving God and others with our whole being.

Many tools/facets of True Intimacy with God and others are found in the ‘Each Other’ passages of the New Testament. ‘Each Other’ messages can help us build True Intimacy, with God and others.

Jesus’ primary message was to ‘Love Each Other’ or ‘Love One Another’, in a kingdom way right now. Loving others will be a powerful, maybe THE powerful tool, towards fighting this Battle by building True Intimacy. The ‘Each Other’ passages are actions which are to be actions of love, and actions of love build true intimacy. When True intimacy destroys false intimacy the Battles are WON!!!

SERVING and FEET WASHING

Some church communities actually have foot washing ceremonies as part of their worship activities. Most of the church has taken the more symbolic meaning in John 13 and understood Jesus’ intent as being to serve others. In fact Jesus says that this is why the Son of Man came’ to serve.

In Galatians 5:13 the ”each other’ phrase ‘serve each other’ is found. Peter also tells us to serve in 1 Peter 4:10 and throughout the New Testament the message continues. We are called to serve each other.

Back to John 13 and Jesus example of serving by washing his disciples’ feet we find some significant meaning. History tells us that it was the custom, in the times of Jesus’ walk on earth, for people to have their feet washed when they entered a home. Actually, it would be the house servants who would do the washing. More specifically, among the servants, it would be the servants of the lowest status who would do the washing.

So Jesus was not just saying be just any servant but he even modeled taking the position of the lowest servant when you serve. If you think about it, there was good reason for this task to be delegated to the lowest position. People in that day wore open sandals and walked in pretty dirty conditions. The dust and sand would be bad enough but consider all the animals and their deposits made also in the walking area. So people who come walking in off the street would have REALLY dirty feet.

The message of Jesus and the New Testament is to serve each other even to those with the lowliest possible need.

Could this possibly have anything to do with fighting the Battle? I say absolutely.

As has already been said in this series, taking the focus off ourselves and on to others will give us strength in the Battle. A focus on others needs and moving to serve those needs is an even greater distraction to the temptation all around us and it is a distraction from the temptation within us.

Remember the acronym HALT BS? Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Bored or Stressed. While serving others it will be hard to be focused on Anger or Loneliness or being Bored which are 3 common triggers toward acting out.

What about how we feel about ourselves? Hasn’t it been the case that in our acting out we feel pretty lousy about ourselves. Our goal in serving others should not be to make ourselves feel good but the truth is that serving others will make us feel better about ourselves. In Christ, we are ‘new creatures’ we should think and feel good about who we are in Christ. Serving will reinforce that truth. Serving will build us up, it will encourage us. Serving will put us in touch with love’ loving another and being loved. Serving is the ultimate esteem builder.

The kind of service we are called to is part of intimacy. Washing another’s feet seems like a pretty intimate activity. As with Encouragement, it does involve looking more deeply into people and seeing their struggles and needs. Serving puts our focus more often on others, take the focus so perpetually on ourselves and builds up who we are in Christ.

Can you see this as yet another tool in the Battle? What difference would your Battle be if you were focusing on the needs of others? How would you feel about yourself if your focus were on others’ needs and not your own desires.

The Battle needs to be fought on many fronts, using many internal and external tools. Serving others though an external tool will internally change and strengthen your heart giving you strength in the Battle.

Serve Each Other!

For more insight or help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.