"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: When His mother Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit.19And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly.20But as he was thinking this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means Savior], for He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent them from failing and missing the true end and scope of life, which is God]. 22All this took place that it might be fulfilled which the Lord had spoken through the prophet,  23Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel–which, when translated, means, God with us. 24Then Joseph, being aroused from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him: he took [her to his side as] his wife.   25But he had no union with her as her husband until she had borne her firstborn Son; and he called His name Jesus." (Matt. 1:18-25 Amp.)

Note the underlined emboldened phrase in the Amplified translation of Jesus: "the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means Savior" (Joshua or Jehoshua = "Jehovah is salvation" or deliverer) and the phrase: "He will save His people from their sins." The OT understanding of God's salvation or deliverance was that God would deliver His people from their enemies as seen in the exodus from Egypt and the removal of all their enemies in the Promised Land through God's leader Joshua. So the Jews expected Jesus (Joshua) to deliver them from their present enemy Rome. But that is not what God promised them at the birth of Jesus or even in the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah seen in Isaiah 53, Daniel 9 and other OT prophecies about the Messiah. But God promises something else as seen here in Matthew 1:21: "He will save (or deliver) people (who trust in Jesus) from their sins." Or to put it another way, at His first coming Jesus does not promise us to deliver us from our wicked enemies but to deliver us from our wicked selves, from the evil within us (indwelling sin) which is our greatest enemy by far because it separates us from God now and forever. "Such people (unrepentant and thus un-forgiven sinners) will pay the penalty and suffer the punishment of everlasting ruin (destruction and perdition) and eternal exclusion and banishment from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." (2 Thess. 1:9) "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things." (Isa. 59:2-3)"O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? 25O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord!"  (Rom. 7:24-25)

Yet, like the Jews in Christ's day we too can wrongly expect Jesus to deliver us from our enemies instead of responding to His costly forgiveness of the sin and evil within us by forgiving our enemy. "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors.  14For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses." (Matt. 6:12; 14-15)

The meaning of this passage is not that God will withdraw His justification (salvation) from us if we have un-forgiveness toward our enemy. Our sin debt for salvation is paid once and for ever. But as we sin as believers we need to daily confess our sins (1 John 1:9) and thus experience God's forgiveness. But if we don't forgive those who hurt us God will chasten us for the sin of un-forgiveness as seen here in Matt. 6 and especially in Matt. 18:23-35: "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants.  24When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000], 25And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made. 26So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything. 27And his master's heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt.28But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe!29So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all ! 30But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt.31When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master.  32Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to. 33And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you?34And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed.35So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses."

God calls us to more than just forgiveness of our enemy; He calls us to love and serve them: "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.21Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good." (Rom. 12:20-21; also see Luke 6:27-36) In fact he calls us to even more; He calls us to become increasingly more and more like His Son.

Be conformed to the image of His Son: So how do we respond to Jesus' first coming as believers? We forgive others as He has forgiven us and, more than that, like Jesus we become servants of God and serve God's people just as our Lord did: "Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].  4Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. 5Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] 6Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God, God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. 8And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!" (Phil. 2:3-11; also see Phil. 3:10-14 and Rom. 8:29 regarding God's goal to conform us to the likeness of His Son.)

‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Cor. 15:19) But here is where the hope of Jesus' second coming must be anticipated because His second coming is what brings us motivation and hope to live a sacrificial life of servanthood now in this life: "He (Jesus) for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:2)  "Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name." (Phil 2:9)  "I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward." (Paul in Phil. 3:14  "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory (majesty, splendor) of His Father with His angels, (His second coming) and then He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done." (Matt. 16:27)  "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Rev. 22:12)

["Although Scripture frequently encourages us to pursue reward with God, it tells us little about the nature and content of that reward.  I believe the principal reason for this is that in our present state, we are limited in our capacity to grasp the real nature of heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 2:9).  But we can be well assured that they will be worth any temporal sacrifice to gain.  In my own theological reflection, I currently think of four areas that appear to be related to rewards. 1) The first of these is greater responsibility in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 16:10-12; 19:17-19).  Believers will evidently be granted different spheres of authority based on their faithfulness on earth.  2) The second area has to do with reflecting and displaying the glory and character of God.  "And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:2-3; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:40-41; 2 Corinthians 3:13-18).  We are not called to glorify ourselves but to receive and display the glory of the majestic perfections of the infinite and wondrous God of all creation. 3) The third area of rewards relates to the nature and depth of our relationships with people in heaven.  I believe there must be some continuity between the relationships we develop with people on earth and the corresponding relationships we will experience in heaven.  There are always consequences to relational intimacy and distance; those who have developed rich relationships with people through other-centered love and sacrifice will be enriched by those relationships forever.  As Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica: "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation?  Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy" (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).  Similarly, in the parable of the unrighteous steward, Jesus exhorts His followers to "make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9).  That is, when we nurture relationships by leveraging our temporal assets of time, talent, and treasure into the spiritual good of others, there will be people who will welcome us into heaven.  In addition, Paul comforted his readers by affirming that in the resurrection, they would once again be with the people they loved who have died in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  The more we love and serve others in Christ, the richer our relational rewards. 4) The fourth area relates to our capacity to know and experience God.  Just as there is a continuity between earthly and heavenly relationships with the people of God, so those who cultivate a growing appetite for the experiential knowledge of God in this life will presumably know Him better in the next life than those who kept God in the periphery of their earthly interests.  As A. W. Tozer put it, "every Christian will become at last what his desires have made him.  We are the sum total of our hungers.  The great saints have all had thirsting hearts.  Their cry has been, ‘My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?'  Their longing after God all but consumed them; it propelled them onward and upward to heights toward which less ardent Christians look with languid eye and entertain no hope of reaching."  I can conceive of nothing more significant and compelling than the beatific vision of the living God, and if our capacity for this vision relates to faithfulness in this life, every other concern should pale in comparison. Since there will be a day of reckoning, we would be wise to order our lives with this truth in mind." Ken Boa – Conformed to His Image}

From Philippians 2:14-16 Ken reminds us in his excellent DVD, The Decline of Nations, how we are to live now in light of Jesus' second coming.  "Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." The character we are called to: "blameless and pure, children of God without fault" ; in the midst of our culture:  "in a crooked and depraved generation"; our calling: "in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life"; in view of Christ second coming: "on the day of Christ."

As believers in Christ we can so easily forget the incomprehensible wonder of God becoming a Man.  And we can also easily forget all it cost God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to deliver us from evil (our deep sinfulness and rebellion against Him) and thus not respond with awe and humble obedience as we await in hope His second coming in glory. The following song helps me remember both His great salvation at His first coming and the hope of one day seeing Him face to face for all eternity! May we live each day in the hope of that Day!





Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am.

Mark Lowry wrote the lyrics and Buddy Green wrote the music.

As you consider year-end giving please pray with us for God's on-going provision for this ministry. Our 2011 contributions are approximately 30% below our budget. If you feel led to partner with us you can do this by  mailing your donation check to: Reflections Ministries –  One Piedmont Center, Suite 130, Atlanta, Ga. 30305-1501 marked ‘for Len Sykes' ; or for on-line giving go to  and click on Reflections/donations and scroll to Len Sykes. Thank you.


This entry was posted in Len's Mens Fellowship. Bookmark the permalink.