Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Presence of Jesus Turns Fear into Joy

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10)

Excerpt from “The Joyful Presence of God” – 2010-12-19
The night Jesus was born some shepherds who were not far from the stable where Mary and Joseph were staying, found themselves face to face with an angel, who said to them: “Fear not.” In the first chapter of Luke we read of an angel saying the same to Zechariah and Mary (verses 13 and 30). I’m sure we all would experience some degree of fear if suddenly the darkness of night was filled with glorious light and we were confronted with supernatural being - as in the words of J. Vernon McGee: “When the supernatural touches the natural it always creates fear.” The truth is any sinner here on earth would fear the presence of a holy God. Even as Christians we will fear because while we may be saved, we are not yet fully sanctified. When faced with God we will fear because we still have sin in our hearts and lives, Hebrews 10:31 tells us: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

But even though it would natural for fallen sinners to fear the presence of a Holy God, God sends word this morning that we are to, “Fear not!” In Hebrews 2:14-15 we read that Jesus came into the world and went to the cross for us so “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." In Christ we no longer need fear death – nor do we need fear anything that might happen to us in our journey through life on earth. Jesus said: "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart (“Fear not!”); I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The message of Christmas is that Immanuel (“God with us”) has come – and we need not fear death or anything in life because God is sovereign over all things, and His presence is “with us” and within us in the person of Jesus Christ. The Word of God proclaims this truth: "Fear not for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will help you; I will strengthen you; I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness . . . Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall wear . . . Cast all your anxieties on God because he cares for you . . . The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid? . . . The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” We need not fear because Jesus came to replace fear with joy. Faith in Christ is about joy. This is more than just the joy of being rescued from the deadly consequences of our sin – but even more so about an abundant joy we can know through a deep, intimate relationship with God in Christ. Jesus said: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11). This doesn’t mean that everything in life will be joyful, but rather that in the face of struggle, trial and suffering – and even death – we can know a joy in God through Christ is superintends any struggle or trial or suffering or death we are facing. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he told the Philippians and Thessalonians to "Rejoice always, and again I will say rejoice." Always? Yes, always! Even with tears of grief and pain; "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing," Paul would say (2 Corinthians 6:10).