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The Great Mystery of Godliness

The Great Mystery of Godliness

December 21, 2008 | Andy Davis
1 Timothy 3:16

sermon transcript


The Point of Christmas

So we turn this morning, 1 Timothy 3:16. Christmas time is here. I guess you didn't know that, couldn't tell, surrounded by the trappings of Christmas, surrounded by the joy of the celebration and all of the symbols that we are so accustomed to, but also surrounded by what I call the great beast of secularism that stalks our joy and our faith, secularism that statements - that are a declaration - that God, if he really exists, if he even exists, is irrelevant to our lives, that he doesn't matter, that he can be left off safely. And I stand here on the pulpit today to fight that. I think that God is the center of my life, the center of my glory and my joy, the center of my Christmas celebration. I want it to be the center of yours as well. And so I stand on one text this morning to do that, to meditate on the greatness of the coming of Jesus Christ and all that he came to do.

Now, many of our feelings and images of Christmas come from culture and not from Scripture. It is Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” 19th Century, Victorian England, top hats and lamplighters and figgy pudding and all of those things, the roasted goose. It's been a long time since I've had a roasted goose for Christmas, but there it is. Carolers standing on the corner in the streets of London, Ebenezer Scrooge stalking and muttering about humbug and all of those kinds of things, the ghost of Christmas past and present filling our senses with images from that era of history, or perhaps it's that famous poem. That - written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822 – “‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” Yaddy, yaddy, yaddy - you know all of that? Or Thomas Nast's famous depiction of Santa Claus as a heavy set bearded man with a big sack on his back, loaded with toys, a cartoon of which first appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1862. And some scientific comedian figured out how impossible I'd be for that man to get to every house, he calculated the number of milliseconds he would have to spend and the number of chimneys he'd have to descend and ascend, the speed of light would not be enough to get the job done in one night. Even if you gave him the full 24 hours. So that's how some people spend their time at Christmas time, calculating whether Santa could have done it or not.

It's traditions like Christmas tree, and Mistletoe, and red and green nutcracker sweet, which boggles the mind with sensory input, of people dancing and twirling and pirouetting and rat kings and all kinds of things flowing in, what images and then black and white movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It's a Wonderful Life,” and “The Grinch that Stole Christmas,” which isn't black and white, but probably should have been.  If we could just move it aside, as we finally discover that, you know, even if you take all of the toys away, you're left with little Susie Who and singing a song that no one can comprehend and we all feel good about one another, and that's the true meaning of Christmas. And then there are non-spiritual seasonal songs that assault our senses like “Let It Snow,” and “Silver Bells,” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” one after the other. I was on one station this past week, 12 consecutive songs that had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, one after the other.

All of this, it says nothing compared to the spirit of materialism that saturates us and that draws us away, that sense of covetousness and material desires that captured our hearts probably at a very early age. And it's really been hard to fight ever since, the desire for gifts and possessions, and you know the retailers know it very well. And so Christmas season begins earlier and earlier. I didn't know if you knew this, but we're actually starting the celebration with 2010, this one's not for this year, we're already, we've re-doubled, we've lapped ourselves, and it's already up to 2010 now, it starts way before Halloween in some stores. And there it is, as Andy once was talking about a touch of desperation this year, we're finding in the malls and the shops, desperation for materialism. I say that other than the sinful covetousness and materialism, none of these things are overtly bad, they're part of the physical life that God's given us the history and the culture, but they miss the point, don't they?

The point is that Jesus Christ is born as the unnamed angel announced in Luke 2 and Verse 10 and 11. "The angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people today in the town of David. A savior has been born for you, he is Christ, the Lord.'" That's the point. That's the joy. That's our hope, that Jesus is our Savior. And the Apostle Paul knew this very well, when so long ago, he penned the words of our text that you heard read already so beautifully today, "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, and was taken into glory."

Context of 1st Timothy

Now, the context of these words, Paul is writing to Timothy, his young protégé in the ministry, to instruct him concerning ministry in the local church. Paul is very concerned about the church that Timothy is pastoring - the church in Ephesus - he's concerned especially about false teaching, false doctrine, those that pervert the Gospel. In chapter three then, he establishes the character in ministry of elders and of deacons, elders especially entrusted with the doctrinal life of the church, and the summation of all of this is found in the words immediately preceding this morning's text. Look at them in verses 14 and 15. 1st  Timothy 3, "Although I hope to come to you soon, I'm writing you these instructions so that if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." He wants Timothy to know how God wants him personally to conduct himself as a minister of the gospel, watching his life and his doctrine closely, so that he can save both himself and his hearers. He wants Timothy to instruct the people of God how they should conduct themselves in God's household, in the church of the living God. Even more strikingly, he wants Timothy to uphold with great power before the people of God, what the purpose and role of the church is to be in this world, that is, that we are the pillar and the foundation of the truth. And we rightly say that the church is not a building, but a people called out by his name, by the power of the spirit of Living God, yet here he uses architectural imagery. We are the pillar of the truth, that which upholds the truth powerfully strongly. And it ordains the truth and adorns the truth with beauty, and so the people can look at it and see it, it's also the foundation of the truth that which supports and grounds the truth in this sin soaked and confused world.

It's something unchanging, something immovable, and that's something we need in this so-called post-modern world of ours. The people we live with, they're called post-modern, are deeply confused on this very issue that there really can be such a thing as spiritual truth. Absolute, immutable spiritual truth. Transcendent in the spiritual realm. Post-modernism then is the idea that if there is such a thing as absolute truth, it's impossible for any of us to know it for certain, unlike Pontius Pilate, then the post-modern person sits in judgment on Jesus Christ and says, "What is truth?" And then walks away as though there can be no possible answer, though the truth is staring him right in the face in Jesus Christ. Of course, post-modern physicists still believe in the unfolding of immutable physical laws by which they make their living, they hope that they're not changing constantly, hence their PhDs would be out the window, they'd have to go back to school, so they're counting on physics not changing constantly. Post-modern architects still understand that their basic architectural principles by which they build soaring buildings that will not collapse, post-modern surgeons still know where the liver is and where the heart is and the lungs are, and they don't confuse these organs or say it really doesn't matter. Well, they know what the truth is biologically. And it's the church's marvelous privilege to say that there is even more certain spiritual truth than any of these physical truths, and we are the pillar and the foundation of that truth.

That's our job. We get to stand up and proclaim to this secular world of ours that Jesus Christ is born, that he is the Son of God, and that he is the savior of the world. That is the truth. And so the Apostle Paul makes it clear, verse 16, "Beyond all question the mystery of godliness is great. He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world and was taken up in glory." The truth is that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, he is the focus of the angel's joyful announcement to the shepherds of Bethlehem. He is the truth for the world, and we have many statements about him.

First, it calls the doctrine of Christ, the mystery of godliness, and says that, it's a great mystery. And secondly, it says that God appeared in a body. And third, that he was vindicated by the spirit, and fourth that he was seen by angels, and that fifth, he was preached among the nations, sixth that he was believed on in the world, and seventh that he was taken up in glory, and these are the truths of the center of my Christian faith, and they will be the center of my celebration of Christmas on Thursday, just as they are the center of my life every day.

The Doctrine of Christ: The Great Mystery of Godliness

Beyond All Controversy

Let's look at them a little more closely. First, we begin with the idea of the doctrine of Christ, what is called here the great mystery of godliness, and it begins with an interesting statement, "Beyond all controversy," he says. Oh, there have been great controversies about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Satan has vigorously attacked the doctrine of Christ from the very beginning. From the very beginning, Christ's claim to deity is what got him killed. 1st John tells us that it is the focus of Satan's attacks in the church, that Christ has come in the flesh. And throughout the early centuries of the church, the doctrine of the deity and the humanity of Christ were the central battle ground.

In 190 AD Socinianism came along and taught that Jesus was a mere man at birth, but became the son of God at his baptism, he was adopted by God to be the Son of God. It's also called adoptionism, and it is false. Then in the third century, along came modalism the idea that there is one God who appears at different times: sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son, sometimes as Spirit, but just one God, of course. There is a big problem with that. Who is it that Jesus was talking to when he said, Father, and he would speak? And even more scary, who was it that answered him from Heaven? Modalism, again, a lie of the devil. And then in the fourth century, Arianism, the idea that Jesus is God, but with a little “g”, he's a created God, not Jehovah God, not the great God, but a lesser God. Arius taught this thing. Athanasius fought against him, he was the only one of all the bishops to stand against this, this subtle attack by the devil. It's a false teaching upheld even today by Jehovah's Witnesses that Jesus is a created being, a lower case deity. God raised up this man Athanasius and he taught the clear truth about Jesus, which is now the Orthodox faith, and it's captured in the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

Well, that's clear, isn't it friends? That's the Orthodox faith, but God had to raise up Athanasius to fight for every line in that dogma. And then in the fifth century, there was Eutychianism, the idea that Jesus had one nature, the divine nature, clad in the human body. Therefore, he really wasn't a human being, he just had kind of taken over a body, kind of like someone drives a robot or something like that, and again, this was rejected. One attack after the other, that Jesus was truly the Son of God, and truly the Son of Man, both at the same time. Friends, it's an incomprehensible mystery ultimately, but it is the teaching of our faith. There's been a river of controversy about the doctrine of the incarnation, but Paul says here in our text, that there is something "Beyond all controversy," beyond any controversy this, and "that is the mystery of godliness is great." The mystery that we celebrate at Christmas time is a great thing.

The Mystery: Not Something to Be Solved, but Revealed

Now, when we speak of this word mystery, it doesn't mean like it's something to be solved, like one of those Agatha Christie things or Sherlock Holmes, something like that. You know, those things are exciting. Those are a lot of fun. I love reading Sherlock Holmes stories or listening to them on tape, different depictions of them. Sherlock Holmes, the very embodiment of the modern scientific method applied to solving crimes, he specialized in careful observation of physical details, which gave him amazing insights into the circumstances that would surround some kind of a case or a person. He said, “By a man's fingernails, by his coat sleeve by his boot, by his trouser knees, by the calluses of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs - by each of these things a man's profession or trade is plainly revealed.” Or take this conversation between Sherlock Holmes and his friend, Dr. Watson in a case called The Sign of the Four, this is what Holmes said to Watson, he said,

“‘My observation shows me that you have been to the Wigmore Street Post Office this morning, but deduction lets me know that when you were there, you dispatched a telegram.’ ‘Right,’ said Watson, ‘Right on both points, but I must confess, I don't see how you arrived at it, it was a sudden impulse on my part, and I have mentioned it to no one.’ ‘Oh, It is simplicity itself,’ Holmes remarked… ‘So absurdly simple that an explanation is superfluous, yet it may serve to define the limits of observation and deduction. Observation tells me that you have a little reddish clay adhering to your in-step just opposite the Seymour street office, they have taken up the pavement and thrown up some earth which lies in such a way that it's actually difficult to avoid treading in it upon entering. The earth is of this particular reddish tint that is only found as far as I know, in that part of the neighborhood. So much is observation. The rest is deduction.’”

 So the key with Sherlock Holmes was careful observation and then logical reasoning. Friends, this mystery cannot be solved that way. Scripture precludes it; it's impossible. Jesus put it this way in Luke 17, verse 20 and 21, Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'there it is.'" God purposely conceals some truths from the human empirical method. They can only be known if he reveals them to us. And the Gospel and all of its mysteries, especially the incarnation of Jesus Christ is one of those things that had to be revealed or we would never have known it. And so it says in 1 Corinthians 1:21, "For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know him. God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." It was wisdom from God that we couldn't figure this out by inference and deduction and scientific reasoning. God has humbled us; we must have it revealed to us.

The Mystery: Not Something Irrational & Unknowable, but Rational & Knowable

But neither on the other hand, is this mystery like the post-modern mystery religions, even in some emergent churches, which are always talking about mysteries, mysteries, mysteries. And by that, it's like something we can never know or understand at all, this great mystery. New Age religious folks are talking about this. Speaking of mysteries, post-modern pastors intentionally seek to leave their hearers with more questions than they entered with, to befuddle them and to tangle up their minds with mysteries and questions, so that you just leave off all rational process and don't think anymore about anything, but just are caught up in the wonder and the mystery of it all, as though that's somehow a good thing. No, it's not that thing either. There were such mystery religions in Ephesus, it eventually came up into what is known as Gnosticism, where you had to have these secret keys of knowledge, and if you didn't have them then you couldn't figure anything out. It was a mystery religion, and Paul fought it at an early stage, and then later the church would fight it vigorously.

Now, this is instead a rational truth, that couldn't be known about God, but it must be revealed by God. And so Jesus is there at Caesarea Philippi with his disciples, and he said, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" And they had various options, but then he turns his gaze on his 12 apostles and he says, "What about you? Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter spoke for all believers when he said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Do you remember what Jesus said next? "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven." It's a blessing of direct revelation from God to the individual heart that Jesus is God in the flesh. And we can understand that although we can't reason out all of the implications. Within a few moments Peter was taking Jesus aside and rebuking him for saying he was going to die on the cross. You don't rebuke the Son of God, he never makes any mistakes. And so, that's a good example of how we can't fully unfold all the implications of the things that have been revealed to us. We still struggle with unbelief, but the fact is this is a noble mystery that can only be known if God reveals it directly to your heart, and he calls it here the mystery of godliness.

The Mystery of Godliness

Now, since everything in this list refers to Jesus Christ, I think this is speaking of Christ as godliness. Could either be one of two things. Either that Jesus was Godly - he was the very picture of godliness, the picture of piety, the picture of holiness in a physical body, it could be that, or the word sometimes means religion, and it could be the mystery of our Christian religion is great. Either way, he's speaking of the greatness of Christ coming into the world.

The Great Mystery of Godliness

And he says, "Beyond all question, beyond all controversy, the mystery of this godliness is great." This is a great mystery. Friends, it isn't just a great mystery, it's an infinite mystery, the mystery of Christ. It's great, not because it would take a super genius to figure it out, that's not possible. No, it's great because it concerns an infinite person, the person of Jesus Christ. That Jesus is God in the flesh, that's a great infinite mystery, that he in a little baby body is God the Creator. How can you figure that out? You could be pondering that the rest of your life and never fully understand it, that Jesus perfectly reflects the glory of the Father, and that if you've seen him, you've seen the Father. That's a mystery, that Jesus came to give us a great salvation by the shedding of his blood. That is a mystery, and it is a great mystery. The birth of the Son of God to a human woman. Beyond all question, beyond all controversy, this mystery is great.

Six Aspects of the Great Mystery of Christ

#1). He Appeared in a Body

And then he gives us six aspects of this great mystery of Christ. And the first that he gives us is that he appeared in a body. Now, the King James Version gives us, "God appeared in a body," and the modern translations take the word God out. Well, don't let that trouble you – the modern translations are from believers, the people that translated believe in the deity of Christ, the whole passage is speaking of the greatness of Christ. They are not denying that Christ was God, they're just saying that the ancient manuscript didn't have the word God in it; this doesn't change a thing. The fact of the matter is, he appeared in the body, and the Greek word appeared means was revealed, as light shining in a dark place. Revealed as he really was, but now in a body, and the whole flow of the New Testament was that Christ was truly God in a body, God appeared in a body, and the Verse therefore presumes Christ pre-existence, he existed before he took on the human body. He can say in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was born, I am." He's the eternal God who took on a body. Or as he said to Pilate – "Pilate said, 'You are a King then?' And Jesus answered, 'You're right in saying that I'm a king. In fact, for this reason I was born and for this, I came into the world to testify to the truth.'" Jesus chose to enter the world, and so this is the great mystery of godliness: that he was pre-existent God and he took on a human body. God appeared in a body.

 Now, many cults deny this central truth. 2 John 7, it says, "Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the Antichrist. The spirit of Antichrist then is denying that God came in the flesh." Islam denies this central teaching. They deny that Jesus is God in the flesh, they cannot conceive of this. They say that it was Judas that died on the cross, and that Jesus was just a prophet, a miracle-working prophet, yes, but just a prophet. The Mormons deny the deity of Christ, they say that he is a created being, the brother of Lucifer. Jehovah's Witnesses, as I've already said, deny that he is God in the flesh; they teach that he is a created being. So this is centrally attacked by Satan. He appeared in the body.

#2). He was Vindicated by the Spirit

Secondly, it says "he was vindicated by the spirit." Vindicated means to justify, to declare righteous, to be proven, to have spoken the truth. Jesus was vindicated as God by the Spirit of God. And Jesus, I think without question, is the most slandered and reviled human being in history. More people have slandered and reviled and thought blasphemous thoughts of Jesus than anybody that's ever lived. Simeon who greeted Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus at the temple, "said this to his mother, Mary, 'This child is destined to be, to cause the falling and the rising of many in Israel,'" listen, "'and to be a sign that will be spoken against so the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.'" Jesus is the sign that's spoken against, and amazing how gracious Jesus is to those who blaspheme him and speak against him and who did not understand who he was. Remember, as he's dying on the cross, he says, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." At the core of that statement is, they don't know who I am, or they never would have done this. And yet Jesus is so gracious to former rebels who laid down their weapons of rebellion against him and come into his kingdom, and so, he says in Matthew 12:31, "I tell you, every sin will be forgiven men, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men." The next verse: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven." How sweetly gracious is Jesus to forgive us all of that unbelieving blasphemy, when at last we finally come to faith in Christ.

The virgin birth by his mother opened her up to the charge of sexual immorality - the charge that Jesus was born an illegitimate son. The Holy Spirit vindicated Jesus by descending like a dove at his baptism, he vindicated Jesus by driving him out into the desert to be tempted by the Devil, and he made it through without a single sin, and then filling him with power to do great signs and wonders and miracles among the people. He vindicated him by the words he spoke, no one ever talked like this man. He vindicated him throughout his whole ministry by enabling him to do all of these things with great power by the Holy Spirit. He vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. This is the greatest vindication of all, the claims of Christ to deity throughout his life were brutally offensive to his enemies, culminating in his trial. When they said, "'I charge you under oath by the living God: tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God?' And he said, 'I am.'"  Well, that was a claim. They didn't believe it. And they killed him, he died on the cross, the Holy Spirit vindicated him by raising him from the dead, and so it says in Romans 1:4, that "through the Spirit of holiness, Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead."

So, the Holy Spirit vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead, and the Holy Spirit vindicated Jesus by coming in power on the day of Pentecost and moving the Apostles to preach boldly in Jesus' name. In Acts 2:1-4, it says, "When the day of Pentecost came, they're all together in one place, suddenly the sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." In Acts 2:36, Peter said this, "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this. God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,” vindicated by the spirit of God. The culmination of Peter's Pentecost sermon, "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other Apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"

#3). He was Seen by Angels

Thirdly, "he was seen by angels." Angels are created spiritual beings - they're not omniscient. They need to learn the Gospel just as much as we do. It says "Even angels long to look into these things," 1 Peter 1:12.  Angels are constantly watching human beings - watching us right now. We can't see them, but they exist in the spiritual realm, and they were especially watching Christ. They watched his whole life. They were there when he was born, the shepherds were there tending their flocks, and the angel appeared and announced that the Savior was born. And then suddenly a great company, the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest. They were there at his birth.

They were there when he was tempted in the desert. Angels at the end of that time came and ministered to him. The angels watched all the way through his life. They ministered to him in the Garden of Gethsemane, when great drops of blood came out and he was fit to expire at that moment, and angels came and strengthened him so that he would be able to go to the cross for you and me. Angels were watching Jesus as he stunned them by pouring out his blood on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of human beings. They watched in amazement as God the Father poured out his wrath on his only begotten son, he, our substitute, and they saw all of that, they watched. They listened as Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And as he breathed his last and spoke those wonderful words, "It is finished, Father into your hands, I commit my spirit." They watched all of that, and then they were there as the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. One angel even got to move the stone back, so we could all go in there and see it. That Jesus is gone, he's not here. They got to announce, "Why do you," look for the dead, or "the living among the dead? He's not here, he's risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay." They were there celebrating. The angels watched all of his life, he was seen by angels.

#4). He was Preached Among the Nations

Forth, he was preached among the nations. The mystery of godliness is great, and what's amazing to me as a pastor and a preacher is that God's entrusted to people like me, the ministry of reconciliation. I would think that if we go back a step, was preached by angel, would have done a better job. What do you think? That the angels would go out there and preach, but that wasn't God's will. Instead, he has entrusted to the church, the ministry of reconciliation, and we get to preach in the nations all of these truths, we get to be the pillar and foundation of the truth in the world.  He was preached among the nations. "You will receive power", he said, "when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth."  When we go out today into the Liberty Street Apartments, I'm going to be thinking about this verse, that the Spirit of God is going to be indicating Jesus through my preaching among the nations, that they get to hear the Gospel. It's amazing to me. The Gospel advances this way.

#5). He was Believed on in the World

And fifth, was believed on in the world; even more amazing is that sinners like us can believe something like this. I mean, that God took on a body, that he had hair and nails, and flesh and blood and capillaries and all that stuff, that God took on a body and that he died, he was dead on the cross. God dead on the cross as the enemies say. God dead in the tomb for three days. How is that? It seems foolishness. When Paul took this message and preached it in Athens on Mars Hill. After they heard about it, "they sneered," utter contempt for a message like this, couldn't believe it. But yet there were some there that believed.

He was believed on in the world. The Holy Spirit of God has kindled in us a faith that can never be quenched. He's believed in the world, the Gospel, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. And through that Gospel, Roman Centurions, like Cornelius, and Praetorian guards like in Philippians Chapter 4, members of Caesar's household, and perhaps even a Roman Emperor, Constantine, bowing before Jesus and acknowledging that he is God in the flesh. That's amazing. Ruthless barbarian tribes from Germania, or the Norseman, the dreaded Vikings, that some of them would actually lay down their weapons and bow the knee to the Prince of Peace and believe in him. Astonishing. That men and women in Japan and China would see in Jesus, not western pollution, but the God of all the world, even of Asia. And brothers and sisters in Christ from Japan and Korea, Vietnam, China, are there testifying. They believe these same things. The cannibals in Irian Jaya would give up their idolatry and wickedness and become Christians. That atheist Marxist professors, that Maoist terrorists, that genocidal African warlords, that suicidal heroin addicts, forsaken, starving orphans, that bored alcoholic CEOs, that former Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animists and others have actually turned away from all of these lies and found life in Jesus' name.

#6). He was Taken Up in Glory

He was believed on in the world, and finally he was taken up into glory. As he prayed in John 17, Father, I want the glory that I had with you before the world began. "He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." And once he passed beyond physical view, he was welcomed into Heaven by the angels and ushered right to his rightful place at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and he sat down on that throne. And since that time, God the Father in his zeal has been making his enemies a foot stool for his feet. And from that throne, he will come back and will enter our world again to set up his eternal kingdom. He was taken up into glory. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great.

Application: Diving Joyfully into the Mystery

This is the Mystery of Christmas

What then is the application for us? Dive into the mystery. All I've been doing with you this morning is just taking each of these six truths and ruminating over them, meditating on them with you. Take them home, take each one like a cherished diadem and look at it. Stare at it. Dive into this mystery. And trust in it.

Stand on these Truths

I'm aware of the fact that at Christmas time, people come back to church, haven't been in a while, wonder if they're going to be welcome. You're welcome. You're welcome to be here. Jesus Christ has come to save sinners. The Apostle Paul said, "Of whom I am the worst." Find in Jesus your savior, and clear away all that secular stuff. All of those secular things, all the movies and the songs, the Christ-less songs, and all the shopping and the decorations clear it away and focus in on this. The mystery of godliness, that is great. He appeared in a body, focus on that, and on Jesus Christ who died for sinners like you and me.

Purify Your Christmas

And for the rest of us, can I just urge that you keep Christ the center of this time. I mean, you have to do physical practical things, have your quiet times, every day. Saturate your mind in Christ. As you go shopping - as shop you must - as you go shopping, keep in mind that all of these gifts are as nothing compared to the gift of the only begotten Son of God. Speak of it with your relatives, you're going to be brought together, perhaps with non-Christian relatives. Talk to them again, don't give up hope they're still alive, even at a late stage, they can still believe in Jesus. And for us as a church, let's continue to commit ourselves to preaching these doctrines, the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

Final Story: A Church Loses its Message, and Its Soul

I read a story, John MacArthur told, and I'll close with this, of an old church in England, there was a sign in the front of the church that read this, "We preach Christ crucified." But after a time ivy grew up, and obscured the last word. Thus, the motto became, "We preach Christ." A little while longer, the vine grew up a little bit more, and all that said was, "We preach." Wasn't long before the entire sign was obscured entirely and the church died. I think that that vine represents that encroaching secularism, that encroaching unbelief, that can eclipse a testimony like this church. God has lit a lamp in this church and set it up to be a light in this community. Let's preach Christ crucified. He appeared in a body, he died on the cross, he was vindicated by his resurrection. He ascended in the glory and he's at the right hand of God. He's coming back some day to judge heaven and earth. Let's preach those things.

Close with me in prayer.

Other Sermons in This Series

God With Us

December 17, 2006

God With Us

Matthew 1:18-25

Andy Davis