Intro. Lights are being strung, lists are being made, presents are being purchased, cards are being sent, the malls are crowded, the family get-togethers are being planned as the world again prepares to celebrate the most significant event in the history of man. That day almost 2,000 years ago when God sent His only begotten Son into the world to redeem man from the penalty of sin. This was a supreme manifestation of God's love for fallen man, and it inspires us to give special gifts to those we love. The expressions of joy, love, and peace have become the hallmarks of Christmas. The angels proclaimed the good tidings of great joy, God has manifested His love in sending His Son to bring peace on earth and good-will to man. Let us look at this event in the light of the Holy Scriptures.
I. WE ARE TOLD THAT IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.
A. Something went askew with God's creation, and the earth became without form and void.
B. God redesigned the earth as a place for man to dwell, creating the right environment and conditions that man might enjoy this beautiful planet hanging out here in space just 93,000,000 miles from the sun.
C. Then God created man in His image and after His likeness and placed him on this planet that he might enjoy fellowship with His loving creator.
1. It was God's intent that man should know Him, love Him, and worship Him.
2. So He created man with the capacity and desire to know God, to love God and to worship God. These capacities separated man and made him far superior to the animal kingdom.
D. Something then went askew with God's plan for man as he disobeyed God and defied the authority of God over his life.
1. Man had been given almost total freedom, there was only one restriction placed upon him, and that was the fruit on the tree in the middle of the garden.
2. God had warned that to eat of that tree would insure death.
a. First and immediately, spiritual death, the separation of man from fellowship with God.
b. It would later bring physical death.
c. The lure of reaching the ultimate of the human potential was more than man could resist. So in spite of God's warning, he ate of the fruit, and we read, "By one man, sin entered the world and death by sin so that death passed on to all man for all sinned."
3. God who is absolutely holy could no longer be one with man who was now polluted and cursed by sin.
4. Thus the divine intention and purpose for man was foiled.
E. The earth was no longer the paradise that God intended it to be, and man was no longer living in fellowship with God but had become an enemy of God, in rebellion to His holy demands.
1. Man was now being ruled by his own body appetites, rather than by God.
2. Mankind thus became mastered by greed, and selfishness. He disregarded the commandment to love God supremely and his neighbor as himself, and he began to lie, steal, cheat, fight, hate, and destroy. All of this that he might satisfy his own lusts. In the book of James the question is asked, "Where do the wars and fights come from? Do they not come from your own lusts?"
F. There came a time in history that the conditions became so bad, violence so prevalent, that man was in danger of destroying himself off the face of the planet. God destroyed that world of wickedness saving Noah and his family.
G. The Bible tells us that another day is coming when God is going to again destroy those that destroy the earth.
H. God has always been slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He has never been willing for man to be destroyed, but He desires that they change from a life controlled by their sinful flesh, and live a life controlled by the Spirit.
II. GOD'S PLAN FOR REDEMPTION. Peter speaks in our text of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.
A. The situation.
1. God had pronounced the sentence of death on those who sinned.
a. Spiritual death, or separation from God. "The hand of the Lord is not short, that He cannot save, neither is His ear heavy that He cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God."
b. This also includes physical death as the penalty for sin.
c. Thus all mankind was under the sentence of death for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one.
2. God was obligated by His righteous justice to mete out that sentence of death upon all men.
3. God loved the world and still desired to live in intimate fellowship with His creation.
B. God in His determinate counsel, decided to send His only begotten Son into the world to take the sins of the world upon Himself, and to suffer the penalty for sin, so that He might offer to those who would, the opportunity to live in obedience to His will and know the joy, peace and love of God in their lives.
1. God spoke to the prophets in the Old Testament about this plan, and they thus wrote hundreds of years before the birth of this child in Bethlehem.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace, and of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end."
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones: they look [and] stare upon me.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken.
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:
And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only [son], and the end thereof as a bitter day.
III. THE PURPOSE OF HIS COMING, TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR SIN.
A. When that little child was born in Bethlehem, there was an unseen shadow of a cross that fell upon the manger where He was swathed and lying. His purpose of coming into the world was to save those that were lost.
1. This salvation could only be accomplished through His sacrificial death. Remember His prayer in the garden as He had come now to the final hours before the cross. "Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me."
a. If what be possible? The redemption of mankind.
b. If man can be saved by any other means.
2. When His disciples recognized that He was the promised Messiah, the first thing that He said to them was that He must go into Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes, that they would kill Him, but He would rise from the dead on the third day. This came as a shock to the disciples, and they recoiled from the idea.
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death,
And shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify [Him]: and the third day He shall rise again.
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Ye know that after two days is [the feast of] the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
4. At the passover feast when He offered the cup to His disciples He said, "This is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many."
5. In John 10:15
He said, "I lay down My life for the sheep."
6. He knew the cost for coming into the world to redeem man from his sin, but because of the love of God for man and His desire to restore fallen man, He came, was born in a manger, already sentenced to die. But through His death, many now live.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The story of God's love is not fully displayed with the birth of the Christ Child in Bethlehem and the angelic visitation to the shepherds and the coming of the wise men from the East. But we must see the Son of God hanging on that cross to fully understand just how much God loves us. Life, joy, peace are now possible for man who was alienated from God because of sin. The price has fully been paid for your redemption. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.