For my Sunday school lesson this past Sunday, I decided to take a look at the Christmas story from the perspective of the Old Testament. It was really a focus on the role of prophecy leading up to the birth of Jesus. But prophecy doesn't just mean a foretelling of future events; it's really just any message given from the Lord. We see the prophecy, as a foretelling of a future event, of Jesus' birth from the prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and Hosea - about the virgin birth (Is. 7:13-14), that He would be from the line of David (Jer. 23:5-6), that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that His would be a kingdom of no end (Is. 9:6), and even that He would be called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). But we also see the prophecy, or message from the Lord, from the angel to Mary about her conception, from the angel to Joseph about taking Mary as his wife, and from the angel to the shepherds about the birth of the Savior. We see it again when the wise men are warned to not return to Herod, when Joseph is told to flee to Egypt (fulfilling the prophecy in Hosea 11:1), and when Joseph was told it was safe to return but only to Nazareth.
The most significant prophecy though comes from Isaiah 53. Matthew references this passage when he says that the prophets of old said the Messiah would be a Nazarene, which is odd because no Old Testament prophet specifically uses the word "Nazarene." So how could that be a prophecy of old? Well, at the time of Matthew, the connotation of the Nazarene is someone who is unworthy, lowly, and inferior. We see that in Nathanael's comment in John 1:46 when he says, "What good thing could come from Nazareth?" How does this relate to Isaiah's prophecy though? Let's read what Isaiah 53 says:
And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment...He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked – But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth...My righteous Servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities...He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made the intercession for the transgressors.
The incredible prophecy of Isaiah shows us that the Savior would be the "Nazarene" as Matthew succinctly stated. However, Isaiah's words don't stop with the amazing miracle of a birth, they lead directly into the prophecy of the death of the Messiah for our iniquities. And only now can we really see what the Christmas story is about. The world will say that Christmas is about presents, and loving kindness, and family gatherings and good cheer. The church will say that Christmas is about the nativity, the shepherds, the angels, the miraculous conception and birth in a stable. And while that is true, if it were only that, then we would just have another amazing miracle worked by God for a virgin to conceive and prophecies to be fulfilled. For us to really understand the wonder of the Christmas story we have to understand WHY that birth happened in the first place. And that is revealed in Matthew 1:21:
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from His sins.
That was the point. He came here out of His Kingdom to be born a man so that the world would be saved from their sins. That is the Christmas miracle - and it is all because of Easter. This was God’s plan to save His people from their sins. Jesus was born into this world for one purpose. So that He would be beaten for your transgressions, and by His stripes you would be healed. He made the intercession for your sin.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Jesus said it Himself in John 3:17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
That is the true meaning of Christmas.
I came across this story (and here) a few weeks ago, but thought it was still very relevant. Jordan Wooley, a seventh-grader in Texas, was given an assignment where the students were to identify what statements were facts and what statements were myths. One of the statements was that God exists. The “correct” answer, according to the teacher, was that the existence of God is a myth. However, Jordan believes in the God of the Bible so she answered the question that the existence of God is fact. She’s now having to defend her position on the existence of God, not only to her teacher who marked her answer wrong, but before the school board.
Now, I am all for a “religious studies” class that instructs the students on different world religions and what they believe. In fact, I believe that to be a very important thing for people to really understand the doctrine of different religions. But this was an English class! This wasn’t an open discussion on understanding what a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, or an atheist believe for their religion. This was simply the teacher dictating her religion of atheism to her students--and failing them for disagreeing. The irony is that this teacher’s atheism offends more than just the Christian student, even though it was only the Christian student who dared to stand up for her belief. Declaring that God’s existence is a myth should offend the Muslim, the Jew, the Hindu, the Mormon, and the Jehovah’s Witness. Would the school board have reacted differently if the teacher had failed one of those students over this question?
I am saddened to see this young lady put in this position, pitted against her teacher and school board over what she believes. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon in an increasingly secular world and secular mindset. We can’t be disappointed in this girl standing up for her faith in God. What we can be disappointed in is that no one had armed this young lady with real arguments for her to have confidence that God exists. The only defense she was able to give was that the “Bible says so” and that people have died and come back. There are so many solid reasons that she could present to her teacher, the school board, and her classmates to give them the confidence that there truly is an Almighty God that created and designed us! Unfortunately, no one had taught her these things, and no one else was there to stand beside her in this either.
There are many lessons to learn from this incident. Learn from this seventh-grader who, without a theological degree, dared to stand up for what she knew to be truth in the face of great criticism, from her teacher, the board, and fellow classmates - the friends she said she has lost now. Learn that the battles for the minds and hearts of our children are being waged well before adulthood and college. We cannot continue to put off addressing these questions until they are “older.” Jordan was being taught by her teacher that God is a myth—and she is only in seventh grade. It is never too early to begin teaching our youth the reason for their belief. Learn from the question that was asked, and decide if you and your children are prepared. Are your children able to answer those questions in front of the world of academia? Is your faith built on a solid foundation to withstand the criticisms from the media or from a college professor or from a distinguished colleague?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the fight has been brought to us in the world of intellectualism and we must prepare ourselves to battle there. We don’t have a choice about what kind of battle this will be – the world has chosen that. We now have to choose whether we will appropriately arm ourselves for the fight. Are you learning how to defend your faith in this fight? #DefendtheFaith
Welcome to Defend the Faith Ministry! I am so excited about the launch of this new ministry. The creation of Defend the Faith Ministry was not something I initially set out to do, but it has been a result of the amazing journey God has placed me on. Being an engineer and working in the aerospace and defense industry, I’ve encountered many technically-minded people who prefer to trust in things that have a logical and rational foundation. I continually witnessed their deep-rooted skepticism of the claims made by religion in general and the Bible in particular. For many of those people, it led ultimately to a rejection of the Bible. Though I had been a Christian since my childhood, I wasn’t quite prepared to answer their questions; things like does God exist? Is there an afterlife? Are all religions the same? I knew that Christianity was truth, but how was I supposed to explain that to someone else that had such challenging and foundational questions? I needed a way to bring thinking minds into faith in Jesus, to merge the intellectual with the spiritual.
Well, I started doing some research on my own. It became my passion to find those answers not just to solidify my own faith but to help others see that there is reason and truth behind the Christian faith. And what I found was a whole world of evidence that confirmed everything I believed about the Bible – its reliability, its authority, its revelations about God and Jesus.
But that wasn’t the end of my quest. There was now this urgency in my heart to share those answers with others – those around me that were lost and those around me that were other believers! I wanted them to have those answers too so they could be ready when they faced those questions. We have reached a time now that the church can no longer neglect its responsibility to prepare the believer to navigate through all the competing ideas and philosophies the world offers. Schools, media, and society are peddling the idea that science trumps religion, that the Bible is out of date, and that all religions are equal. The church must begin educating and preparing its congregation to counter that kind of ideology. So I did just that. I started teaching these apologetics truths (using reason and logic to defend faith) to the youth at my church. And that grew into adult classes across the community, across other denominations, and across cities. It has been so amazing to see the truth of God confirmed to so many people!
I am now even more excited to see the next step in this. I have been given the wonderful opportunity to take those lessons and publish them in a book through Cross Link Publishing! Teaching Others to Defend Christianity is the result of that effort to educate others on those foundational truths to Christianity. It is laid out to progress the reader from belief in no god (atheism) to belief in Jesus Christ. It shows how we can logically move from one position to the next without having to leave our intellect behind.
Teaching Others to Defend Christianity is for individual study, but it is also written so that it can be used in leading small groups – Sunday school classes, discipleship groups, church studies, youth retreats, or even homeschooling curriculum. It is suitable for groups of all types, from youth to college to adults, from women to men. There are many books available that will give apologetics information but not many that can be directly taught from. Each chapter is a one-hour class session so that over a course of only six weeks you can see the logical progression from atheism to belief in Jesus Christ.
It is already being used to reach people of all ages and backgrounds—from twelve-year olds to eighty-five-year olds, from students to stay-at-home mothers to men in retirement. It is my desire that people everywhere are able to take these foundational truths and teach them to other believers and to unbelievers so that we can all increase in our confidence and faith in Jesus Christ. Teaching Others to Defend Christianity was written to give you the confidence and tools necessary to accomplish that!