Saturday, December 26, 2009

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..."

Prophets had long foretold the advent of the Savior of the World. There may be people who read this who question, and very rightfully so, the need for a Savior. From what exactly do you or I or anyone need to be saved? And if it is assumed that we must be saved, why or how does a certain person save us? These are very valid questions.

It is possible that if you are someone who has these questions and if you ask these questions to others, especially to other Christians, you may find a negative reaction. You may even find that people look at you as though you are uttering blasphemies, or showing irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred. As if to say to you, "How could you possibly question the need for a Savior?"

No one should be made to feel evil for trying to understand one of the most important ideas in all of Christianity. There are answers to these questions. In this post I will touch on them briefly and will engage in a more thorough discussion of them in a future posting. My intent is not to belittle people's questions or ideas, but to hopefully help provide answers to questions that at some point in our lives should stir within all of our hearts and minds.

On December 25th of each year a special event in the history of humankind is remembered, honored, and celebrated. The event is the birth of a baby, a special baby, a baby unlike any other before or since. It is the birth of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned, the coming of a Savior was foretold from the foundation of the world and ever since by prophets. God the Father spoke of this in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14-15). Jacob prophesied to his sons of the coming of one whose right it is and that He would come through Jacob's lineage (Genesis 49:10, 24). Moses prophesied to the Israelites of a future Prophet to whom they should listen (Deuteronomy 18:15). The psalmist speaks of the future crucifixion of the Savior (Psalms 22:16; 34:20). Micah prophesied that the birth place of the Savior would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

The prophet Isaiah most notably prophesied of the birth of the Savior.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Immanuel is translated in Hebrew to mean "With us is God" (See also Matthew 1:23). Isaiah continued his prophesy.
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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9
Later Isaiah gave a description of both the Savior's outward appearance to the world and the inward spiritual power and authority He would possess.
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5
So why all the prophesies? Why was it so important that this little baby Jesus be born? What was His purpose? Why is it said that we need to be saved? My response is that these answers are not simple, but they are plain. What I mean by this is the answers are easy enough for a child to understand, but the details behind them are so beautiful, lofty, and inspiring that only through the Holy Ghost could one learn them all. As I said, I will briefly touch on these subjects here, and in future postings go into further details.

To understand why we as human race need a Savior and what the purpose was of the Savior, we must understand the nature of our relationship to God. There is a reason why we call God "Father." God is literally the Father of all human beings (Malachi 2:10, Acts 17:28-29, Romans 8:16). Our lives existed before we were born into this world through our earthly parents (Job 38: 4, 7; Jeremiah 1:5). We lived with God, our Father, in heaven. He wanted to give us, His children, the opportunity to become like Him.

God's plan involved sending His sons and daughters, you and I, to earth so that we could obtain a body and be proven to see if we would keep God's commandments (Genesis 1:26-27; John 15:10; Revelation 22:14; Romans 8:16-17). Lucifer or Satan was not always the devil. Lucifer was also a spirit son of God. He rebelled against God and His plan. There followed a war in heaven, which resulted in Satan being cast out of the presence of God along with 1/3 of the spirit sons and daughters of heaven who followed Satan and rebelled against God. They were cast down to earth without receiving bodies of their own to tempt us and try to prevent us from keeping the commandments of God (Isaiah 14:12-20; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4-13).

The most important part of God's plan revolved around how to be able to bring us back into His presence. God knew that when we came to earth we would be tempted and that at times we would not obey the commandments of God perfectly (Romans 3:23). When we disobey God's commandments we commit sin (1 John 5:17). The problem is that once we have committed a sin, we are no longer clean or worthy to return to God's presence (Psalms 140:13; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46). In essence as soon as we sin in this life, we are doomed. Knowing this, God prepared a way to overcome the effects of sin by providing a Savior, His son Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, free of sin. He obeyed all of the Father's commandments perfectly (Hebrews 5:8-9). The law of justice demands that if a law is broken, a punishment must be paid. If someone who committed no crimes and broke no laws of God paid the punishments of all broken laws and commandments for everyone then that person would then have fulfilled all the demands of justice. In essence, that person could then determine what requirements would need to be met for the person who had originally broken the commandment or law. This is also called extending mercy.

Let me use an example with which you might be able to relate. Let's say that one of your children broke a neighbor's window. Justice will demand at the very least that the window be replaced and perhaps a punishment of an extra amount of money be paid to the neighbor for the inconvenience that was created. You know that there is no way that your child will be able to fulfill all that is now demanded because of the requirements of justice. So in place of your child replacing the window and paying the extra penalty for the inconvenience, you have the ability to fulfill these demands for your child but with the understanding of your child that you will then set the terms of what your child will need to do as a consequence of their actions. It is agreed upon and you fulfill to your neighbor what is required, they can demand nothing more. You then outline to your child certain rules that he or she must follow that will help prevent the child from breaking another window and that the child will have to go without an allowance for a period of time. While this will not be easy for the child, it will be possible. You have set a standard that is achievable by your child and have been able to extend mercy without robbing justice.

This is the role that Jesus Christ took upon himself. He paid the price of our sins, something we could not do on our own and still hope to be able to live with God again, and gave us His requirements to follow, which makes it possible to return to God's presence. This is known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The central doctrine of the gospel is what is known as the atonement (Romans 5:11). This means the reconciliation of God and humankind as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ. In some way that is incomprehensible to us, Jesus paid the price of our sins while in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42) and during his crucifixion at Golgotha (Matthew 27; Mark 15; John 19).

The world needs a Savior because we all fall short of holiness due to our sins. This prevents us from being able to return to God's presence and live with Him forever. Jesus Christ is the Savior because he paid the price of our sins and gave us His gospel which if followed will allow us to live with God forever. This is the reason why prophets had long foretold of the coming of the Savior. This is the reason why we reverence and remember His birth still today.
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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17
I am so thankful for the Savior of the World, my personal Savior, even the Lord Jesus Christ. I love Him and seek to keep His commandments. The price He has paid for my sins is unimaginable. I echo the words of Isaiah and reverently marvel, for truly unto us a Son was given.

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