Christmas Devotion - Day 2121-12-2018 | Matthew Campbell | YOUTH
READ Galatians 4:4-7 (Part 1)
Just over a year ago, I was walking around Tesco. As I was searching for different items, I couldn’t help but hear the screams of a young girl. She was probably about 5 years old and she desperately wanted a packet of marshmallows. Her mother, on the other hand, was determined that her young daughter wasn't going to receive these marshmallows, by gently telling her, 'you've already eaten a lot of sweets today. These will ruin your teeth.' The little girl, however, was having none of it. The more her mother insisted, the louder she would scream. I could tell that the mother was getting distressed and so, she called for the father step in.
However, the father had a somewhat more light-hearted approach in dealing with the situation. He looked his screaming daughter in the eye and jokingly said, 'If you stop crying and set down the marshmallows, I'll buy you a car when you're older.' As you can imagine, this didn’t stop the crying. And so, he tried again. 'If you stop crying and set down the marshmallows, I'll pay for your university fees in 15 years.' Again, no response. He looked over at his wife, seeking approval for what he thought was a funny joke. She, as you can imagine, simply rolled her eyes as their daughter continued to cry and stamp her feet in frustration. It didn't matter what else was on offer, she simply wanted marshmallows.
As I watched this rather entertaining set of events beside me in the shopping center, a couple of things were running through my mind. Firstly, I took a mental note for future reference of how not to deal with screaming children in a public place. But secondly, a small part of me was thinking, 'how foolish is this 5 year old girl.' All she could think about was the marshmallows. What her father was offering her was so much greater than the short term satisfaction of a packet of marshmallows. Of course, I quickly caught myself on and came to my senses - she's just a child. At her young age she wasn't making totally rational decisions. She doesn't have the mental capacity to understand what's at stake. She doesn't yet fully see the value of the things that were actually on offer to her.
So often, when it comes to humanity's relationship with God, we are just like this 5 year old girl in Tesco. We find pleasure in all these short term, temporal, earthly things. Yet, what we don't realize is that, in grabbing these pleasures with both hands, we are completely ignoring the far greater treasures that God, our heavenly father, is offering us. God offers us unbelievable spiritual blessings. Blessings so glorious that we couldn’t even imagine them. Yet, so often, in our folly and limited capacity, we choose the 'marshmallows.' We settle for quick fix pleasure in money, fame, sex, power (insert the blank for you). As CS Lewis says, the problem with humanity isn't that we are hard to please. Our problem is that we are far too easily pleased.' We settle for temporal pleasures when God offers us everlasting treasures.
As Paul writes these words in Galatians 4, he gives us a picture of some of the spiritual blessings that are ours because of the coming of Christ. These blessings, Paul wants you to know, are so amazing that they ought to win your heart and cause your grip on earthly thing to loosen. For the Galatians, these earthly things were rituals and religious practices which they thought would make them right before God. For you, these earthly things could be a whole range of different practices, items, people, etc. In the next few days, we will look at 4 blessings Paul reminds us are ours because of Jesus' coming to earth. I pray that these 4 blessings will cause your heart to be captivated by God, the gracious giver, this Christmas and, as a result, minimize the effect of Satan's temptation in causing you to opt for the 'marshmallow' this week.
The first blessing, according to Paul, that we have as a result of Christ's coming is 'redemption.' Look at verses 4&5;
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law..
What is the first blessing that is ours as a result of Christ's coming to earth? Redemption. Jesus came to redeem us! This is a word that we don't often use in our everyday language. What does Paul mean when he speaks of 'redemption?' Well, to redeem something is to compensate for its previous failings. For example, imagine you have a class test coming up and, in your previous class test, you got a terrible result. You might say something like, 'this next test will give me an opportunity to redeem myself.' In other words, you have the opportunity to compensate for your previous failings if you do well in the next test.
However, although we can redeem ourselves when it come to things like class tests; unfortunately we can not redeem ourselves when it comes to our sin. Why? Because God is holy and God is fair. A fair God would punish all sins. Our own performance can't out do our previous failings. Imagine a murderer stood before a judge in the courtroom and pleaded for innocence because his 'good works outperform his bad works.' That criminal may have given £100000 to charity and helped thousands of old ladies to cross the street. But what would a fair judge do? A fair and good judge would sentence him to prison for life. Where the law has been violated, punishment must be issued.
We, just like that criminal, have violated God's law. None of our good deeds could cause our good works to 'out do' our sin. We deserve eternal punishment. However, Galatians 4 gives us some really good news. There was someone else 'born under the law.' In other words, there was someone else who lived on this earth and was held to the same standard that you and I are. However, this one didn't fail. This one didn’t need redeeming. In fact, he came to bring redemption on our behalf. This person is Jesus Christ!
Through Jesus we have redemption! At Christmas we remember Jesus coming to earth. And It is because of his coming that we can be declared 'innocent' before the God who made us. What an astonishing act of mercy!
Questions For Reflection:
1) In what ways do you find yourself searching for 'short term pleasures' ahead of God's 'everlasting treasures?'
2) How would you explain the word 'redemption?'
3) If someone was to say to you, 'I think I will get to heaven because my good works outweigh my bad works.' Based on todays devotion, how would you respond to them?
Prayer for reflection
God, I confess that so often I seek short term pleasures in this world. All too often, I lose sight of your glory and get fixated on the things of this earth. In light of the redemption which you have won on my behalf, may the words of the old hymn be true of me today: Help me to 'Turn my eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace'