The Mystery Revealed

With the holidays still fresh on your mind, take a moment to think back through a lifetime of occasions and special moments. Can you remember the gifts that touched you most deeply—the ones that planted a lump in your throat, ushered a tear from your eye, or emptied the words from your lexicon? Personally, I think of the log cabin quilt Peggy stitched for me while we were engaged and the sleeve of golf balls my son, Matthew, bought me to celebrate the first time I shot under 50 for nine holes of golf. Though these expressions of thoughtfulness had little in common with each other, love enwrapped them both

It is one thing for a kindness to melt our heart from the outside; it is an entirely different thing for a gift to become our heart from the inside. Sound too fanciful? It happened. In fact, God prepared the world for its eventuality, prophesying through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you . . .”1 Yet as we learned in last week’s post, the mystery of the prophet’s foretelling was “kept hidden in God”2 until the chosen moment of its revealing.

Then at just the right time and in just the right place, there came the Man from God telling his small band of disciples, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven …”3 He lived perfectly and spoke powerfully; He taught authoritatively and healed amazingly; He served humbly and forgave wholly. And hours before He would be hoisted up on the executioner’s cross, He prayed to His Father on behalf of everyone who would ever believe in Him, “that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.”4

And therein, said the apostle Paul, lay “the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations, but now disclosed to the Lord’s people.” For to people of every nation, wrote Paul, “God has chosen to make known . . . the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”5 The Son of God, in whom eternal life exists is now life in us eternally; and just as “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” so also “in Christ [we] have been brought to fullness.”6

This is the long-hidden mystery of God—once concealed and now revealed: He has made us one with Himself, our lives are fully and forever enwrapped in His, and no one can ever separate us from Him. Our new heart is His heart; our new life is Christ, our sure and certain hope of glory.

Father, how deeply you must love me. Let me never be deceived into thinking anything less. Thank you for the gift of Christ in me. May I live freely and confidently in Him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

1 Ezekiel 36:26
2 Ephesians 3:9
3 Matthew 13:11 [NASB]
4 John 17:22, 23
5 Colossians 1:25-27
6 Colossians 2:9, 10

Today’s post is part two in a three-part series. Click here to read last week’s post, “The Mystery Concealed.”

The Mystery Concealed

In over 30 years of marriage, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually surprised my wife at Christmastime. This is because Peggy is astonishingly observant and I am hopelessly obvious. One year, however, Peggy’s sewing machine reached the point where it had become as much hindrance as help, and she resigned herself to the fact it was time to replace it. I tucked her comment away in my mind, and that fall, shopped for the one that—considering both functionality and price—offered the best value. Purchased then on lay-away, the gift remained hidden at the store while I paid on it incrementally over time with cash. It was only when Peggy was in the maternity ward, resting up from childbirth, that I redeemed the package, wrapped it, and surprised her with it on Christmas morning! (And that’s what it takes for Mr. Slick to pull off a surprise around here.)

It is amazing to think about how intentional and personal God was in giving the world its first Christmas present. He knew exactly what we needed, He planned His gift from ageless age beforehand, and He kept it well hidden until the right time for it to be revealed. He even readied us ahead of time, foretelling His plan through His prophets, though they themselves couldn’t figure out the mystery or its time of delivery, despite their greatest efforts to do so. “Concerning this salvation,” writes Peter, “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing. . . . It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you.”1 God was thoughtfully preparing a people for acceptance and belief, even while keeping His means of grace a mystery. How did He hide it so well? “The mystery . . . which was not made known to people in other generations,” writes Paul to the early church, “was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”2 What present could possibly be so big that it had to be hidden in God himself? What gift could be so valuable as to be held safe and secure in Him whose riches are unsearchable? What benefactor could be so patient, preparing the world through His prophets, orchestrating events in His sovereignty, and concealing His treasure until “the fullness of time”?3

In next week’s post, we’ll unwrap this present and behold together “the mystery” kept hidden for so long. Until then, we marvel at a God who cares about us so much that He goes to eternal extremes to show it. That in itself is a mystery to ponder.

Father, as we approach Christmas Day, inspire us to stop long enough to try to imagine the depths of your love for us. As we give and receive our gifts this year, may we also do so in selfless love. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is hope.

1 1 Peter 1:10-12
2 Ephesians 3:4, 5, 9
3 Galatians 4:4

Freely Giving What We Cannot Buy

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10, 11 (NIV)

What was it again that the angels brought to the shepherds that first Christmas Eve? New sandals? New staffs? New robes? No, they brought none of these, not even a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion. To the shepherds, the angels unveiled something of far greater value than anything money could buy—the Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the One promised through the ages and now with us for eternity.

Two thousand years later, we still celebrate Christmas by giving and receiving gifts. It can be a season of surprise and joy, and it can just as easily be a time of disappointment, such as when we can’t afford to buy what we want to give or when our gift goes unappreciated. But have you ever noticed that the best gifts we ever receive are the intangible ones that touch us inside? They show up as acts of kindness and expressions of goodness, and they often come when we most need them and least expect them. It’s the genuine smile igniting in our heart the warm glow that spreads, in turn, across our own face. It’s the beautiful tone of the encouraging word that sets our soul to song. It may be the unexpected deed of a stranger or the dependable help of a neighbor that restores our depleted supply of hope. Like the announcement of the angels, these acts of love cannot be bought, but only given; they are free, yet also priceless.

There is something curious, yet consistent, about these intangible gifts of the soul: we cannot contain them; they overflow from the inside out, and we eagerly give them away almost as quickly as we receive them. Isn’t it true, for instance, that we love others most freely when someone has done something loving for us? Don’t we give most generously after someone else has first selflessly given to us? Aren’t we most inclined to offer encouragement when we’ve been uplifted by the affirming words of another? And when are we ever more forgiving than when someone has forgiven us for our own mistakes?

This is the gift of Christmas. Jesus, the Son of God, came to take upon Himself the punishment for all our sins; He loves us that much. God calls us to draw near to Him and to live life in His presence with confidence and joy; He forgives us that much. When we trust in His forgiveness of us—and in His love for us—we are free to flourish in life, free of guilt, free of shame, free of fear; we are encouraged. And as we experience in ourselves the love, forgiveness, and confidence we receive from God, it is then that we freely give these same priceless gifts to others who journey this life with us and all around us. There is nothing people need more than these, and it costs us nothing to give them.

This Christmas, enjoy the meal, and enjoy the gifts, including the most valuable ones—the ones we cannot see, yet treasure the most.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christ in me is freedom.