Our world is filled with sadness and the effects of sin. Watch the TV news and you will quickly see murders, wars, natural disasters, illnesses like AIDS and Ebola. So much suffering and so much hurt. This isn’t the way things are supposed to be.
Many look at the world and think that a loving God can’t exist with all of the suffering we experience. But if we walk through what the Bible teaches about God, sin, and His gift to us in Christ, we will see that God not only exists, but deeply loves us and desires to be present with His creation.
We see this in the beginning verses of the Bible. The first verse of the Bible opens with the famous words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The second verse teaches us that God is intimately connected with His creation: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).
In Genesis 2, God creates man and woman in a special way; making them from the dust and giving them the breath of life so they are able to live in relation to God. Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God and enjoyed a relationship with Him–until they disobeyed the only commandment God had given them. What did they do after their sin?
Genesis 3:8 says they “hid themselves.” This is intentional hiding. This is shameful hiding. Their shame causes them to hide “from the presence of the Lord God…” Although God’s presence was available to them in the garden, they rejected it. Sin separated them from God.
Isaiah the prophet wrote about this in Isaiah 59:2, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Sin is a problem for us today and has been a problem for every human to ever live. The lies, idolatry, selfishness, hatred, deceit, and every other sin earn for us the wrath of God and eternal punishment in hell, away from the presence of God.
But from the beginning of time, God had a plan to rescue sinners.
In the Old Testament, God dwelt among His people Israel in the desert in a cloud or column of fire, and later, the presence of God dwelled in the tabernacle and the temple. God could dwell within a sinful people because the priests offered animal sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. This was only temporary, because the blood of an animal cannot take away our sins.
This is where Christmas comes in. God’s plan from the beginning of time was to send One person to be both the priest to offer the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself to atone for our sins. The birth account of Matthew 1:18-25 shares much about the identity of Jesus Christ and the hope that He brings for sinners longing for God:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
We learn two very important things about Jesus in this passage:
1. It is part of Jesus’ very identity to save God’s people from their sins. The angel says in Matthew 1:21, “…you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The angel ties the name of Jesus with saving from sin, because Jesus means “Yahweh Saves.” The angel basically said, “You shall call His name ‘Yahweh Saves’ because Yahweh (God the Father) will save through Him!”
And that is exactly what Jesus was accomplishing as He hung on the cross–paying the sin price to redeem all who would believe in Him–to reconcile us to God and make us part of His family, adopted as Sons and daughters of the King. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
2. We also learn from Matthew quoting Isaiah 7:14 that it was prophesied 700 years before Jesus’ birth that He would be Immanuel, or “God with us.” The death and resurrection of Jesus ushers in an opportunity to enjoy true rest and joy in the presence of God.
Blog reader, if you haven’t trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ before for the forgiveness of sins, I urge you to think about all of the bad things you have done against others and against the One True Holy God and also think about the work of Jesus on the cross. Forgiveness of sins is for those who trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ to bring them to God. Pray to God and tell Him you’re sorry for how you have lived and for your sin–and ask for true faith to hate your sin and live a repentant life loving and serving God.
Below I will share three further thoughts about the presence of God, but before I do, I want to share two applications from what has come before and what will follow.
In the Christmas story, Luke 2:10-11 records the angel’s words to shepherds “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Let those words sink in.
God has sent a Savior to redeem the world from sin and death! We are to take joy for what God has done and what He has won for us like someone rejoices when they have found great treasure, because if we are in Jesus Christ, we have found the greatest treasure that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” and “kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
In addition to joy, I want you to see the love of God for you and to respond to Him in love and worship.
Three Encouraging Truths About the Presence of God
- God with us in Christ means that He understands what it is to be human.
The child born on Christmas lived a complete human life. He understands every part of human existence: from the deepest joys to the deepest pains.
He understands what it is to be man, be loved and love, be mistreated, to have hard work, to suffer, to be alone and abandoned by all of those close to Him. He understands the pain of losing a loved one, what it is like to cry, what it is like to be in such anguish that He sweat drops of blood.
He not only understands, but looks at His children with a heart of compassion. He wants to comfort us in our pain. The book of Hebrews says that we can cry out to Him in prayer because He understands our experiences and also intercedes for us before God the Father. This truth should comfort and encourage us to boldly approach the throne of God.
I’ve often thought–and heard others say–that it would be an amazing thing to have experienced the earthly life and ministry of Christ–sitting at His feet while He taught, witnessing miracles, and seeing His deep compassion for people. Wouldn’t you like to have experienced Jesus Christ in the flesh? Jesus said something startling in John 16:7, that it is better that He left so that the Holy Spirit would come.
- God is with us now by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said it was better for Him to go so that the Holy Spirit would continue the work He started and expand it all around the world.
God’s presence dwells with believers by the Spirit and God works through us by the Spirit to be His hands, feet, and mouthpieces to do the work of Christ and share the love of Christ around the world.
The Spirit comforts us during difficult times and shows us the love of God the Father for us. Romans 5:5 says, “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Spirit not only pours out the love of God into our hearts–no, He, just like Jesus, also intercedes for us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
We have already seen the love of God in offering forgiveness for sins and reconciling us with Him for eternity–we also see the love of God in the fact that two members of the Trinity are interceding for us!
How should we pray knowing God the Father will hear our petitions not just from our own mouths, but also from the mouths of His beloved Son and Holy Spirit?
“If God is for us, who can be against us!” (Romans 8:31).
But the good news of God continues.
- Believers will enjoy the presence of God for eternity.
One reason God created the world was to be with His people. We know the end of the Bible’s story and we see that our future will be with God for eternity.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
All suffering, tears, pain, and death will come to an end and we will enjoy the presence of our great God forever. This is only possible because two thousand years ago, a Child was born, God in the flesh, and this Child would live a perfect life and die for our sins on the cross. By the grace of God and through the work of Christ, we can enjoy the love and presence of God forever.
This Christmas, delight in the fact that God is with us.